Name: Mike Storm
Occupation: Producer, DJ
Current Release: 14 Of The 19 Worlds LP is out via Symbolism.
Gear Recommendations: The Waldorf Microwave XT never lets me down. The Korg Opsix surprised me.
If you enjoyed this interview with Mike Storm, be sure to visit him on Facebook, and Soundcloud.
Next to his current release on Ben Sims' Symbolism, Mike Storm also recorded several EPs for Jeff Mills's Axis imprint.
[Read our Jeff Mills interview]
What was your first studio like?
When I was 14 years old I started some sample work with a tracker program on an Atari 1040STE. After that I started DJing and soon after bought a drum machine for using it into my DJ sets. This was a Jomox XBase 09. Direct after that I bought a Yamaha SU700 with which I made my first real tracks in combination with the drum computer.
Soon I stopped spinning records and bought another Yamaha SU700 to do my first live sets. That was the first basis to experience my tracks and play them live.
How and for what reasons has your set-up evolved over the years andwhat are currently some of the most important pieces of gear for you?
My studio has evolved over the years. You discover more and more looking for that special sound and come across machines that help you or not. This search will never end, but I now know in which direction I should look and try things out.
All my gear is important to me. Ultimately, there are definitely a few machines that are really important to me: the Roland TR909 for my drums and the Waldorf Microwave XT will never disappoint me. But again all my machines are dear to me and always give me what I want.
[Read our feature on the Waldorf Microwave]
Some see instruments and equipment as far less important than actual creativity, others feel they go hand in hand. What's your take on that?
Creativity comes from within. It is having the quality of being creative. Which you can learn. It is using your imagination to create something.
But an instrument influences it. Sometimes ist running into limitations, but they give you new ideas to implement. So it definitely goes hand in hand.
A studio can be as minimal as a laptop with headphones and as expansive as a multi-room recording facility. Which studio situation do you personally prefer – and why?
That's easy! For me a studio with a lot of hardware.
I still work out of the box and still produce my tracks without any editing or total recall, just straight forward recordings straight from the machines only.
The feeling you get with the instruments is something special to me. Like getting into the zone and becoming one with the machines. Even if I don’t make music, it's nice to be in the studio. It calms me down.
From traditional keyboards to microtonal ones, from re-configured instruments (like drums or guitars) to customised devices,what are your preferred controllers and interfaces? What role does the tactile element play in your production process?
All equipment surrounds me so that everything is within easy reach from my position. This allows me to work quickly and bring my ideas to life.
Like I said its all about getting in the zone. Then it’s no longer important what you have around you and it goes without saying. You know where you want to go
In the light of picking your tools, how would you describe your views on topics like originality and innovation versus perfection and timelessness in music? Are you interested in a “music of the future” or “continuing a tradition”?
My preference is music of the future, originality and innovation. So you also look for your tools for that.
Of course, I also stick to traditional tools that work well for me. That is how it all started for me and from there I started to develop myself further. Perfection is difficult for me, but a creation should always be better than the ones you already have made.
Most would regard recording tools like microphones and mixing desks as different in kind from instruments like keyboards, guitars, drums and samplers. Where do you stand on this?
I always find it difficult to purchase equipment that does not produce “sound”. But I know very well that these machines are necessary to achieve a certain goal.
The goal of making various machines work together is an endless process for me. Sometimes the instrument is not even the worker for me, but in combination with peripherals it is.
How would you describe the relationship between technology and creativity for your work? Using a recent piece as an example, how do you work with your production tools to achieve specific artistic results?
The possibilities and impossibilities of my machines give me creativity, Machines support your aims, but in the end they cannot replace creativity or ideas.
Technology is used in my creations, but not nearly to the extent that we use our own human rhythm and intuition to produce songs. This is how all my tracks from the album 14 of the 19 Worlds were made.
Within a digital working environment, it is possible to compile huge archives of ideas for later use. Tell me abit about your strategies of building such an archive and how you put these ideas and sketches to use.
I limit myself just to get into the process to make music. I don't spend hours or days making a sequence with a sound. No edits or total recall, just only basic recordings.
When I start, I have to finish it. That's why my music is not full of technical feats but only moments. So no sketches or archives. Technical limitations drive musical innovation.
How do you retain an element of surprise for your own work – are there technologies which are particularly useful in this regard?
Analog equipment gives my work surprises. It's like solar systems. Stars create pulsars, which are precisely timed radio pulses. They appear to convey a message. One thing leads to another, followed by another happening. Stars emerge, stars die and with them the pulsars. Like working with analogue equipment. Sounds emerge and sounds fade away. It’s all a natural process. I can’t control it.
Production tools can already suggest compositional ideas on their own. How much of your music is based on concepts and ideas you hadbefore entering the studio, how much of it is triggered by equipment, software and apps?
I always go into the studio without any idea. I often have a concept story in mind or written out to make music with it.
I am inspired by Sci-Fi sound. The thought process of the sound is created by triggering emotions that fit the story and lead to action. Sometimes there are actions that I cannot control and therefore each creation is a unique process. Thoughts are created and disappear just like stars and planets.
I translate these thoughts and emotions into music sequences and influence the mental state. Build order and sound development become a natural process that is definitely triggered by my equipment.
Have there been technologies which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?
No, not for my studio work, but it does for my live set. Where I used to take samplers and accessories with me, it has now made way for small synths like the Waldorf Blofeld, DSI Evolver, Korg Minilogue. and an RD-9 or RD-8. This gives me more freedom to perform my live sets.
To some, the advent of AI and 'intelligent' composing tools offers potential for machines to contribute to the creative process. Do you feel as though technology can develop a form of creativity itself? Is there possibly a sense of co-authorship between yourself and your tools?
No, not for me. I now have the freedom to do what I feel. AI will limit my freedom and get in the way of creativity. It will no longer become your own.
I think your music serves you the best possible way if you keep it to yourself.
What tools/instruments do you feel could have a deeper impact on creativity but need to still be invented or developed?
I can't look into the future, so I dont know.
But as a storyteller I can take the listener somewhere and the listener can place themselves in the story. Then boundaries are endless.