Bill Mike discusses new projects, working with Micheal Larsen, and Rock Camp for Dads
How does one begin a conversation with William Michel? The man, known to many as Bill Mike, has done so much it's hard to know where to begin. He's seen the music industry from nearly every angle, and has worked with practically every artist on the MinneWiki page.
You are originally from Ohio.
The 'Nati as we call it, Cincinnati.
What brought you to the Cities? Weren't you on the West Coast for a while?
I was. I lived out west in Los Angeles for five years, and I was definitely doing the music thing. Through some previous experience -- I had some tech experience -- I met a gentlemen from the Chicago area who was running sort of a tech business. It was a really unique, "roadie-for-hire", all encompassing business, and he was the drummer for the band Chicago, and he retired. His name was Michael Murphy. Anyway he got me into the tech business, and I started just by accident teching for the world's worst, most popular -- yet another pop theme for this interview -- my first gig was going to a soundstage and assisting Rod Stewart. It was horrible...
But I met a lot of people from Minnesota out there and moved back with a few people, just after five years. It's more of a synthetic environment out there, and I was kind of getting away from my original purpose, which was playing guitar and writing songs.
Is that where you met Dave King?
We did. We were in a band together out there called Gosh. We put in about two years, and then we just decided -- it was kind of cool synchronicity, ya know, there's a lot of natural disasters that happen out there for some reason; we went through some earthquake experiences, those were kind of not uplifting -- a year after that we decided to split as a camp, and we came back here and started doin' music in his hometown, and then I became a Minnesotan.
Lets talk about your new group, Saltee
Yeah! It started, well the cool thing about the Twin Cities that doesn't really, really exist in a lot of cities, as you know, is there's a great improvising music scene, or an improv scene, and what that does, I think, is connects a lot of people doing many genres of music, whether it be for their living or their pleasure, it keeps everybody really fresh, so if you have a really good improvising scene -- that means it could be people that are well known in the folk scene, or well known in the traditional jazz scene, or even the pop scene -- if you feel a little rusty or if you feel a little out of touch with your instrument you can get in touch with this network of people and just do what you're supposed to in music, which is spontaneously create and connect with that deep music power. It's a pretty organized scene here, and that's how that band started. We started jamming at the Rogue Buddha Valley. Good Lord! Rogue Buddha Valley? The Rogue Buddha Gallery. I don't know where that came from.
That's when Chris Koza reaches enlightenment.
Haha, classic! Anyway that's how it spawned. It's Carnage, and Carnage is -- a lot of people know who he is -- a fabulous emcee and beatboxer who is the Godfather of hip hop in Minneapolis, in my opinion, and Jacqueline Ultan who is a cellist, a fine cellist, in Jelloslave, and then myself, and the thing that's cool is that all of us subconsciously, covertly love metal. Carnage he's in the hip hop world but he loves metal, and Jacqueline is this fabulous, classically trained cellist with this immense background and is into rock 'n roll, and I'm just a grit from Ohio, you know what I mean? Truly, I'm a very simple man of very simple means. I come from Black Oak Arkansas and Blackfoot and Skynerd, so I love rock and I think we all love this powerful, hard, rock 'n roll and somehow we get to release some of that in Saltee.
Wasn't Micheal Larsen involved?
Yeah, through Carnage who toured with Eydea and Abilities a lot. It originally started out as "Hey man, can you master this project?" Because what people don't know is, Micheal, God he could mix and he could master. I would just listen to those recordings of all the records he did with his other bands, and I don't know man. He just had it, and he had all this cool gear too, this analogue gear. Anyway, all of the sudden it went from mastering to, "Boy, he's really molding the things we want to do." These were all live recordings, and they were great tunes but recording wise it was on the fly so it was super lo-fi, and he started making it this bigger, better thing, and that was literally a week before he passed away, so that never finished but we did have a few fabulous experiences with him in his basement studio watching him be a very intense, attentive, hyper-musical person.
So what's next for you?
Well here's the interesting thing, as I mature I realize that music is transient, so I haven't really been in the music scene for a year because I've been doing these cool rock camps for adults, and I just stumbled into that because I was teaching a few students and I was really gigging at the time -- tons of side work and my own band -- I was like, "Man these guys need a gig! They need that zest of a live group experience." There's nothing cooler in my opinion. A good gig is like winning the Superbowl, and you can't describe the feeling to people unless you're in it. It keeps you going. One good gig can keep you going emotionally for a month. So these guys were like in their 40s and 50s, and the kids were moving away to college. I wasn't trying to be a martyr by any means, but earnestly I was like, "Hey man lets get together!" And so we started doing the history of music decade by decade. We started in the 1920s getting into Leadbelly and Robert Johnson and all the Delta Blues; then moved into rock 'n' roll. I booked them this little outdoor festival, and they were so serious. They weren't f'in around. They were like, "We're gonna nail this gig, man!" They went for it, and it kinda just took off. I started doing these camps. Putting the guys together. It started with just five guys one month, and then ten guys would call me and I started booking them gigs. It was very casual. Everybody around me was like, "This is so cool man! There's nothing for adults over 40 doing rock 'n roll." And I went, "Really, there isn't? Why not?!" I was getting a lot of fulfillment out of it, so I started weeding out my side-man guitar work, which was really great but I've been doing that for 15 years, so I started putting a lot of energy in this, and saw a lot of positive results.
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