"No one really listens to IDM over here," says Mike Paradinas from his home in Worchester, UK. "You just say 'stuff like the Aphex Twin', and they might have heard of him." It's a bold statement for Paradinas, who, along with friends and contemporaries like Richard James (Aphex Twin) and LFO, was one of that genre's defining artists in London's fertile dance music community of the early 1990s.
Paradinas' many albums as µ-Ziq (along with an ever-widening collection of pseudonyms such as Kid Spatula, Jake Slazenger, and Diesel M) reveled in IDM's sense of rhythmic complexity, but drew on an equally developed ear for expansive harmony. Classic albums like Lunatic Harness and In Pine Effect combined swirling gusts of melody with relentless breakbeats, achieving a perfect dualism between soft and hard sentiment.
µ-Ziq's newest album, the excellent Bilious Paths, finds Paradinas continuing to refine his sound while staying true to the original breakbeat mentality of his earlier work. "The album is a good bit less melodic [than previous work]," Paradinas notes. The empty space has been filled in by even more vicious breakbeats, filtered through seething, treble-charged distortion.
The evening of our interview, Paradinas seemed weary, bemoaning the record industry's many faults and hinting at being frustrated by a lack of time to work on his own music with the responsibilities of fatherhood and his popular label, Planet Mu. But when he found himself siding into negativity, he'd reverse direction with a self-effacing laugh or hopeful addendum. In fact, Pardinas' modest and unassuming demeanor caused me to forget at times what a pillar of the electronic music scene he is.
What's a typical day for you at this point?
Well I have two sons, who are one and seven years old, so at this point, I pretty much collapse from exhaustion on the sofa watching bit TV. But most of the day is taken up with running the label, which is frustrating, since most of the time I have free is in the morning, and music industry people tend to wake up at two, and get to work at four or five. Which is when I've got to collect my son from school. But it's cool.
Was starting Planet Mu the result of bad experiences in the past or just something you wanted to do?
It's just something I wanted to do. I've been pretty lucky: only Belgian labels have screwed me over so far. I was lucky with all the labels, even Virgin, you know? The thing about big labels is that however well intentioned the people are who run them, it's [up to the] shareholders. So they've got to make money constantly and more and more of the majors are hiring people who understand that, rather than people who want to release good music. None of the people who signed me are still at Virgin.
How do you handle the time commitment of running the label?
It's quite an easy job to do, really. The only frustrating thing is that in the music industry you have to spend money to make money. And when you don't have money to spend, you're sort of stuck several tiers down from the people who are making money.
Releasing my own album on the label will help it for the future. I tend to worry about the music first, and let the rest fall into place, hopefully. We're doing relatively very well, apart from Warp who seem to be doing ten times better than everybody.
So back in the day you were in some rock bands?
Well, pop bands, really. Funky.
Was there a particular event that lead from those early bands to your electronic work?
Well, I could do it on my own. I borrowed a computer off a friend instead of doing it on a four track. When I did my own stuff it was always quite weird in the band. House and acid came to England, and we tried to do it in the band, and it didn't really work. In the end it all sort of broke up. It was a non-starter, really. We were shit, basically.
I try to make music that has some intelligence to it. And by that I mean something that works on many levels. I work on the label all the time, but I hardly ever do music these days. It's OK with me as long as I can do a release every few years. I've done one track since I finished Billious Paths.
The new album sounds like you are using similar samples and loops from your earlier work but punching them through more varied effects. It sounds more metallic.
Yeah, I'm using similar breaks, but [on the earlier records] it's more EQ'd, a bit bassy. Here they're a little more punchy. It's for the dance floor, at least some of it… close-up, claustrophobic. It's done on the Mac, so that could account for the metallic sound, slightly more digital than the previous Atari/sampler records. It did go through plug-ins, which tends to make it sound crunched up and digital.
How will you translate this material on your upcoming tour?
Well, these ones, since it's all done on a Mac, I'll have to bring a laptop. So I'll be looking like a man behind a laptop on stage with no dancers or light shows or anything cause I might alert the authorities.
What other kinds of music besides electronic stuff do you listen to now?
Well it's all electronic music now isn't it? (laughs) Except for some world music I guess. I listen to electronic stuff I… that's all. Like pop music, garage and drum 'n bass.
And I heard you have 15,000 records?
Yeah, probably more! I haven't counted them… a hell of a lot. They're in the room I'm in now, my studio. All in boxes. I haven't looked at half of them since I moved south. Most of them are jungle 12", Detroit techno, and of course "IDM", which is what you call it over there…
No one says IDM in England?
No, only on message boards when they're talking to Americans!
So this is the first album fully on a computer?
Yeah, the others were all done on an Atari and MIDI. This time it's all on the computer. It took quite a long time -- four years -- to get used to it. It still takes me a lot longer to write tracks. But it all happened at the same time; doing the label, having two children, moving houses, and switching to computers. So it all added up. I don't get enough time to write, and it takes me a lot of time to get good tracks sometimes.
Where did you move?
Only about a mile, in Worchester, with room for the children. I used to live in London until '96 and I just couldn't afford to have children their because we could only afford a one bedroom place. My musician friends in London live in tiny places. All the others who are lawyers and bankers are doing fine.
Are you trying to raise your children as musicians?
No, they can do whatever they like. They both seem to like music. The older one plays the violin. He wanted to do that, and he seems quite good at it. Better than me, actually. I used to listen to Chaka Kahn, Prince. Early 80s. Paul Hardcastle, had a record called "19", this post-Vietnam thing. It was number one in every country around the world, I think, sort of electro-soul I guess. He writes music for TV now. That's where the money is.
You must've been offered things like that in the past.
Would you take it if you were offered?
Yeah, probably. But it always falls through. They say they'll use it but they always use something else. But it's not worth worrying about, really. (laughs) We could have an article called "Why Mike Paradinas' Music is Never Used in Films."
Yeah, I think that's what I'll call this article.
July 28, 2003