The world of electronic music has come a long way in the past two decades. Since the ’90s, DJs have become so identifiable that most of them have stopped putting ‘DJ’ in front of their name. DJs come and go, but one who has never left is Mix Master Mike.
A legend in the DJ world, coming to prominence in 1992 after winning the DJ Battle for World Supremacy, Mike struck it big when he became the turntablist for the Beastie Boys. He’s spun tunes through the age of compact discs, the rise of mp3s and iTunes, and shows no signs of stopping as the technological revolution brings us to the world of the Cloud.
“Technologies have changed everything so much, especially in the last ten years,” says Mike. “It has its good and bad sides. I mean, I miss record shopping, but it has allowed us simplicity and access, so it’s hard to say one way or the other.”
But with ease and simplicity also comes apathy. An entire generation of listeners forgoing the rich history of music in exchange for the What’s Hot Now. “I feel listeners are getting a bit lazy – not as a whole, but there are a lot of people who only take a passive role with music. Hopefully I’m wrong, but I see a lot of people just downloading music without much interest or reason. Things aren’t as wide open as they used to be.”
“Growing up, music was about exploring,” Mike continues. “We were explorers. It was a challenge to find something worth listening to, to be the one who found it and shared it with everyone … That’s the reason why I do what I do. I’m here for the education. I’m spinning all this music; bringing back the ’70s with the ’90s and new stuff; it’s a stew that mixes and ties all these sounds together so that people can experience it and learn from it and hopefully go out and explore. That’s education.”
Mike has maintained his passion and drive for over twenty years. In that time, he has become a three-time consecutive winner of the DMC World Championships, worked with musical greats such as Fela Kuti, and is credited with inventing the ‘tweak scratch’ technique. Still, he believes his best lies ahead of him.
“My career is based on reinvention year after year and it gets tiring. There’s never an end to this music thing. It’s a heavy addiction for me. But I love finding new ways of bending and shaping music. I am always trying to create my own path, and sometimes it makes me wonder, ‘Is what I’m doing a bit too crazy?’ But crazy is good.
“I mean, I discovered dubstep in 2007 and brought it out to the States and made my own concoction of it. And that’s what I love doing; I wanna find the new stuff or create the new stuff and tell everyone, ‘Hey! Check this out!’ And hopefully I create something relevant, because that is the ultimate goal with music: it’s to make something relevant, that lasts.”
Ultimately, Mike still believes in his craft, and that the art of DJing is as strong as ever. “Technology has made it easier to be a DJ, but DJing isn’t about the technology and knob-twisting. There’s enough knob-twisting going on already in the music industry. If you’re going to be a DJ, just be honest and make sure you’re about the music.”
BY DANIEL PRIOR