Q&A: Mike Swoop releases his debut
There are some things you just can't mess with. For instance, when you put organic jazz textures together with electronic dub beats, the groove is bound to be sick. If you throw in layers of percussion with Fela-style keyboards and mix it all together, you're onto something serious. On his debut full-length, New Love, local artist Mike Swoop does just this, and while he keeps things smooth and relaxed, the results are as funky and irresistible as you would expect.
Swoop's isn't a name most people are familiar with, but he's been producing for over eight years. He got his start DJing with Diametrix and performing at Dinkytowner's Battle of the Beats, even though he was underage. "It's hard to perform when you're young in general," he says. "Venues give you static for being young, so you're not generally surrounded by what's going on or really involved in it."
Nonetheless, Swoop, who grew up in St. Paul and relocated to Minneapolis in high school, worked his way up, opening for Twista at the MYTH as a few years back and collaborating with the likes of Big Quarters and Rhymesayers emcee Toki Wright, both of whom appear on New Love. Recently, he's made appearances at Fifth Element's Last of the Record Buyers.
Ahead of tomorrow night's release party for New Love, Gimme Noise caught up with Swoop to learn more about his background as a producer and the making of his first album, which sees him expanding on his hip hop roots with an eclectic collection of ambient instrumentals.
New Love is your first release as a solo artist. How did your background as a DJ and producer lead to this project?
When I started off with Diametrix, I'd say DJing was in the forefront of my mind, but that got left behind pretty quickly. I've done a lot of work behind the scenes, making beats and doing instrumental stuff, but I'm just kind of doing my own thing right now. I put this album out to let people know I like making songs, even if they don't have lyrics. Diametrix have enough stuff for albums but haven't ever released anything, so I decided to go my own route and work on an album in its entirety.
What was your method for recording? Do you build the songs around samples or do you have a preference for live instrumentation?
Definitely, I use samples for inspiration. But I try to do whatever I can to play my own instruments - bass, keys, lots of percussion like congas and bongos. I do drums when I can, although it's hard to do in a studio apartment. It's digital in the sense that I use ProTools rather than a tape reel, but I sample from vinyl - I never sample from anything other than vinyl. The goal of the project is kind of me getting myself to go whatever direction I feel inspired to go, delve into genres I wouldn't necessarily go if it was just hip hop. I'm not satisfied with just making a loop.
Do you consider your approach to be primarily that of producer, or are you influenced more broadly by other musicians?
I listen to a lot of jazz. I wouldn't say I'm a jazz musician, but I'm a drummer, and that's my thing if I'm in a band. There's a lot of stuff that St. Germain has done for Blue Note that I like. He's a house DJ but he also puts out a lot of down-tempo jazz, dub tracks with jazzy bass lines and breakbeat drums. I've also definitely been inspired by Benzilla and Medium Zach [of Big Quarters]. My style's not really a lot like theirs, but I like what they do with their samples; I like to have samples be in the foreground but use a lot of instrumentation.
Where do you see yourself taking this approach, particularly in a live setting? Will there be many samples, or will it be more band-oriented?
I don't really anticipate samples being a big part of it. I'd rather make interpretations of the samples, play classic tunes and beats to start with and then take it to another level, break it down and do more of a jazz or funk thing with it, Afrobeat or something like that. I want to keep going with putting records out as a producer, but I think my plan is to put out more projects as a band leader and as a drummer. Like I said, I'd consider drumming to be my primary instrument. I don't really see it as playing samples.
And what can people expect at tomorrow's show?
It's going to be similar to Last of the Record Buyers. Brandon Allday will be there, Franz Diego's the host of the show. I'll bring a couple sections of a song and break down where I came from on them. Basically, it's going to be a listening party but I'll also invite some people to play special songs that I've performed with them. They're not on the bill, but Toki Wright and Big Quarters will perform their songs from the album, and then we'll do some songs from their albums, too.
Mike Swoop plays a CD-release show at Sauce tomorrow night, Friday, February 5, with Booka B and Espada. 21+. $5. 9 p.m.
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