*(Interview was originally conducted in May 2007)*
All it takes is one spark of interest and before you know it, a mere pastime becomes an obsession. Sometimes this leads to a career in the chosen field. Other times it does not. For everyone who can maintain a job in the creative industry they set their sights on, there is another, for whom all the hustling, invoices, varying pay cheques and success become an impossible weight to carry.
Through a relentless drive to succeed in both music and design, Minnesota’s Mike the 2600 King has put in countless hours of time, dedication, energy and enthusiasm into quite simply making things happen all while making enough to live off. He has worked hard at developing a fresh, original and unique style that he can call his own in everything he does.
O: In terms of interests, what activities took up the majority of your childhood, teenage years?
Mike: Growing up, I was really into cartoons, video games, pro wrestling, and skateboarding. I was always into art and music, but never thought I would end up doing either for a career. I just kind of fell into studying graphic design when I was in college and got more passionate about it the more I learned about it. Most of my teenage years I spent, staying at home and learning songs on my bass, recording stupid songs on my 4-track, or playing Nintendo.
O: Tell me about the in famous wall in Minneapolis. How did the time spent there lead to getting further into DJ’ing for you?
Mike: You either mean the graffiti wall in St. Louis or the Mall in Minneapolis. I can talk about both if you want, but you probably want to hear about the Mississippi River flood - wall in St. Louis. In the late 1990s, some graffiti friends of mine helped organize this annual festival called Paint Louis, which attracted dozens of graffiti writers from all around the world to come legally paint this huge wall. At this event, I met the folks behind Life Sucks Die, a graffiti magazine out of Minneapolis. I became good friends with the guys who ran the magazine and started doing some design and writing for them, then eventually moved up to Minneapolis to work with them and start Burlesque of North America, our graphic design and screen printing studio. Did that answer your question?
O: For those who don't pay attention to stuff that's bubbling in independent music, design, run down some of the shows, nights you've rocked, the tapes, cd's you've made and the beats you do and the companies you've spearheaded / are a part of?
Mike: I started dj’ing while I was in college. I would sneak into the radio station in between classes, pull some records off the shelves, and taught myself how to mix on turntables. Some of my local graffiti friends, who were also DJs, let me spin with them at parties around town and then I started getting put on the bill at shows on campus’s and around St. Louis. After I graduated, I started doing more, regular nights and got more serious with making music, doing DJ battles, traveling to do DJ gigs, etc. In 1999, I finished a mix tape called Yars'Revenge that did pretty well. It was like classic rock breaks and funk with tons of scratching on it. I listen to it now and am like... "there is too much fucking scratching on this tape..." Turntable Lab sold a bunch of them and it started getting reviews in magazines here and there. I put out a few more mix tapes before graduating to the mix CD, the latest of which Heavy Session came out last year. It was a mix of funk breaks, psych rock, and rap, and other stuff. My dude Doug Surreal and I produced a bunch of instrumental Hip Hop tracks together, like some cut-and-paste joints, and released two of them on a 12" single in 2002. I did a remix of a song for this rapper from Chicago called Hi-Fidel that came out on a ‘7. Lately I have been doing these remixes of bass and club songs with music from console games.
O: What influences the direction that what you do in the mix, during a show or while constructing a beat takes? Are there particular factors that come into play?
Mike: For live sets, a lot of it depends on the crowd. If people are feeling more of the classic Hip Hop feel, I will stay in that neighborhood, but if girls are trying to get freaky, I will play more like Miami Bass and ghetto house.
O: Are you planning to sell those legendary brownies one day from the word of mouth birthday celebration for the legendary LA producer that you have held in the past?
Mike: I do not get down with that stuff, but I just go with the flow on Dre Day, because that shit is one of the best parties ever.
O: Why are you a fan of Rambo films?
Mike: Because the main character hides in the woods, whyles out and kills a bunch of people - what more do you need in a movie?
O: You know he (Sylvester Stallone) recently got convicted and charged with bringing muscle building hormones into Australia, claiming he didn't know they were illegal here.
Mike: I am sure his heart, was in the right place.
O: You're also a fan of the US comedy series Arrested Development. What episode is your favourite?
Mike: Season 3, the episode where they build the tiny town for the Japanese real estate investors and then have the big Godzilla fight in the backyard.
O: Run down some of the cool things you experienced, got to check out on your recent trip to LA?
Mike: L.A. is a dope city. I think it is too weird for me to live there, but it is always fun to visit. My brother lives out there, so I was out there seeing him. I had some great frozen yoghurt, I spun some 45s at Funky Sole, one of the best funk DJ nights I've ever been to. What else did I do? Oh yeah, my friend does some computer work for Disney, so he got us free passes to Disneyland which was really dope. I had not been since I was a teenager and had forgotten how fresh all of the design there is - like all the hand-painted signs and shit. Everyone else was taking photos of Mickey Mouse posing with their 4 year-old kid, while I was taking photos of trash cans.
O: Which graphic designers have had an influence on your designs for Burlesque of North America?
Mike: Some of my favorite graphic designers from the 1960s - early '80s are Herb Lubalin, Milton Glaser and Wes Wilson. My favorite designers right now are Steven Harrington, Parra, So-Me, Little Friends of Printmaking, and Delicious Design League.
O: Are there any words of wisdom you want to share to round this interview up?
Mike: Take care of yourselves... and each other. I stole that from Jerry Springer, but it is still good advice.
Buy a juicer so you can make your own juice at home. Do sit ups, enjoy nice weather while you can. Buy me a plane ticket to Australia!
Twelve Car Pile Up
Mike's My Space
Live Mixx Action set from March 2007
Buy the Things Kings Do, Vol 1 mix cd