Interview by Parisa Eshrati
I had a chance to speak with electronic music producer Michal Menert in anticipation for his set at Gem and Jam. We discussed the reflective atmosphere of his new EP, the parallels between his paintings and music, maintaining a DIY attitude, and much more.
Your latest EP, Slow Coast, is mix that describes your feelings from traveling homeward on the Pretty Fantastics 2015 fall tour. The EP has a really reflective and nostalgic atmosphere to it, so I'm curious what you were reflecting on while creating this music.
I was reflecting on travel, on touring, on the life that I've been blessed with. Having changed the way I presented my music for the last tour was a huge undertaking, and until we started performing I had been so consumed by the details. When the process turned to presentation, I was suddenly flooded with thoughts that I had been ignoring. The result is Slow Coast coming from the overflow of everything in my life that I put off during a trip home on a strenuous but amazing tour.
What were the albums you were listening to and sampling on the road that helped develop that moodier sound?
We were all taking turns showing each other music, curating long drives via aux cable. So there was an eclectic blend of things we were all showing each other. A lot of what influenced these songs came out of ambient albums I've loved for long drives and hotel room insomnia. A lot of great pre-1980s funk and psych rock definitely played into the influences I was feeling.
There's a variety of jazz and hip hop samples in your music overall, are there other genres that you're interested in exploring for sampling?
I used to pull from a lot of jazz and soul, because that was what I was learning about 90s hip hop sampling. The last five years I've definitely turned my focus away from the familiar and dug for more obscure and smaller releases from the past. I've enjoyed blending all kinds of time periods, geographic regions, and genres. I'd like to delve more into Japanese and other asian styles because the scales and movements are amazing to me.
Since you're a record collector I gotta ask, what are some of your most prized records in your collection?
I have a series of polish jazz records that I love, and some rare first pressings of Western jazz, like Weldon Irvine's Liberated Brother. Mostly, my Polish records are my most cherished because I hunted for them, specifically, throughout the internet and in Europe, and found albums like The Quartet, which was hard to even pinpoint when discussing with shops due to the common and simple name of the record.
I wanna talk a little about your art. You started off doing graffiiti style art and were inspired by graphics from Thrasher. It seems you do a variety of styles now, including that really textured and colorful ghost series. Tell us about the evolution of your art - what styles have you experimented with and what do you currently resonante with the most?
I loved to draw, loved the graphic design in skate mags, and on skate clothing, decks, etc. Alien Workshop was one of the first companies that I was drawn to, and I used to copy their designs onto my notebooks in junior high. Graffiti also fascinated me probably through it's ties to hip hop, but being somewhat of a loner, especially in a town that didn't have much of a scene for hip hop and graffiti, it took meeting the right people who took me under their wing for me to start developing my technique and style. There's a crew, VM (Visual Music) who really welcomed me and encouraged me, writers like Eak One, Almost, and a bunch of others who I know by government name more than their monikers. Then in my 20's, I started messing with stencils, canvas, and started hanging with Zeke Derderian who also taught me a lot about acrylic painting, about canvas, about form and abstraction. I'm still learning. Every piece I paint is eye opening, usually there's techniques that I realize I should've employed that I try to apply to the next piece.
I feel like there's an interesting parallel with your music and your art. You were doing a lot of galactic scenes around the Space Jazz release. Do you find that there are any parallels between your new EP Slow Coast and the paintings you've been making currently?
Slow Coast was something I wanted to keep simple. I used a photograph from the last part of our fall tour, and I wanted that release to show more restraint than a lot of my other work where I get caught up in the snowball of ideas and imagery to the point I realized there's no way for me to materialize a lot of the ideas I've imagined perfectly. Space Jazz has a whole underlying story, which I kept secret so that I can articulated it properly with visual art. I'm still hoping I can tell the tale through a short comic book.
Initially, you had a guerrilla-style approach to promoting your music. I read that you used to reverse searching people's music interests on MySpace and send messages to them about your free album. Even though you have a bigger following now, I saw you still like to do some unique advertising like making scavenger hunts. Why is it important for you to keep up this DIY approach?
I think having to fight for things, push for things, even as you grow and the battles and struggles become different, keeps you grounded in a way. I like being a part of my music's story, just as it's a part of mine. Also, if I fall short of what I imagined, I can't blame another designer or artist.
Is this DIY approach rooted from your skate punk days?
I think it's more from years of being in DIY bands or crews. everything was done cheap, and personally by us, and I liked that. Being an independent artists on an independent label, it seems contradictory to rely, or be too dependent upon others doing most of the process. Obviously there's time constraints...factors that can force you to adjust the approach. Any idea has to be malleable.
Your label, Super Best Records, is somewhat of a homie collective. Do you actively seek new artists to sign onto your label or is it more reserved for artists that you're close with/people you discover on the road?
It's a big tornado of ideas, friends, styles, and I'm definitely trying to reach out to artists outside of the established crew or aesthetic. Mostly, I want to make it a diverse label with the common thread being good music that had thought and intention behind it.
You've gotten quite creative with your merch lately. You have Menert rolling papers, Menert Mule cannibus-infused ginger beer, etc. Do you have any other creative ideas brewing for your merch?
I want to make a recipe album. Each step is the length of a composition, so you have a sonic guide to your cooking. It's a dream of mine.
Last year was huge for you. You released 4 different projects: Half Color, Space Jazz, Pretty Fantastics, and Slow Coast Do you think 2016 will be just as active for you? What can we look forward to this year?
I hope to release even more this year, I have a project with JuBee, a rap project called Kid Again, which I'm excited about showing the world. There will be another Pretty Fantastic album, another Half Color release, and more solo production work a la Space Jazz. Plus, I have projects in the works with Eliot Lipp, Amp Live, and a lot of other very talented friends!