Mirko Vogel: “I think my brain likes a lack of formula.” Interview by Ruth Bailey


He was one third of Brisbane electro-pop trio, made famous in the early 2000s, Sekiden, but Mirko Vogel’s national prominence came once his association began with seminal Australian electronic act Cut Copy. From 2009, Vogel was an integral support to the international exports, assisting in production on their albums and performing as their touring sound designer for many of their national and international live shows. That was until about four years ago. Fatigued by the perpetual touring cycle he had fallen into (200 shows a year with five weeks back in Australia for recording), he and his wife Kirsty, decided it was time to pick up and move to London.

Once there (settled in Central London’s Fitzrovia district) the question quickly arose for Vogel, how would he continue to express himself musically? Equipped with a plethora of field recordings he’d made while on the road with the Cut Copy fellows, and possessing a penchant for creating something of his own, he set about beginning the mammoth task of developing his recent work – LP 1. Almost three years in the making, this album refuses to adhere to the obvious narrative structures characteristic of modern electronic releases, and chooses less so, to conform to the pop sensibilities that his days spent now as a commercial composer could have pushed him towards. Instead Vogel veered in an immersive, looping and cohesive direction for his recent set of tracks.

“It ended up being the antithesis of everything I have worked on. Vogel muses.

“It’s not a punk-pop synth thing, and it’s not dance music, it’s not commercial in any way. You can’t run to it, and actually it’s the complete opposite of my day job which is writing music now.” He continues.

“It’s interesting that it’s become the complete opposite of all the things that I’ve worked on. Which is good, I guess that’s what it should be. There is no cross pollination between my commercial enterprise and my human enterprise.”

Vogel’s intention had been to take a solid year to make his music, however he was acutely aware that he wasn’t even sure what his sound was, and reconnecting with that part of his mind was integral to the process and his eventual success.

“I worked on other people’s music for such a long time, I didn’t really know how to make my own new thing, and I wanted to take a year off and just learn what it is that that I even make with my brain. I really didn’t know,” a look of disbelief crossing his face as Cyclic chats to him via Skype from his apartment basement room – located now off Regents Park in Maida Vale London.

“I think for anyone who has some sort of creative urge, whether you make music, or you write or you make films there is a point where you want to try and find out at least what voice you really have. I think when you work for others you’re always sort of changing your voice a little bit to make it work for the people that are paying you,” he adds mindfully.

But, from the rough cuts of pieces taken from his travel, the point of assembly, flowed a frustrating five month journey. The voice of his inner critic encountered often; the loss of the entire set of tracks early on and the emotional dissent attached to the compulsion to pick up and begin again; all the while he was unsure what exactly the finishing point would look like.

“I think my brain likes a lack of formula, so the way that I had been writing my own stuff was that I make really long loops of things. If I can listen to the loop for like half an hour then I mean this is great. If my brain’s not zoning out then I feel like it’s a good piece to draw from but it’s not very immediate, and I think that a lot of the music that I make is like deliberately without beginning or end. It’s a thing (at least I can) listen to it for a long period of time. It doesn’t seem to have a distinct beginning and a distinct end, more of a snapshot of something that is going on.”

But to sit isolated with his compositions in front of the computer was not an option for Vogel so he decided to take his weird mind experiment out of its context and that’s when the ‘actual work’ began to take shape.

“I would make a whole bunch of stuff, I’d go through all of the ideas and work very very quickly and then I’d walk for hours and I’d walk all through London and along the Thames, go into galleries and just kind of try to put what I was making into some sort of outside context.

This exploration of his surroundings while listening to his looping layers of tracks delivering him a few helpful observations.

“I’ve realised that there is a lot of pattern repetition in the music that I make. I didn’t really realise that until I started walking around, I sort of took steps and see things repeat and things repeating in architecture on the street and all this, ideas, started to build in my head.”

With all the walking behind him a set of 20 quality tracks the result – that Vogel himself felt content with, the next step was determining what would be included in LP1. Rather than choose the tracks himself, instead he employed a democratic and algorithmically based approach. Sent to three or four of his closest music contemporaries each possessing a different musical sensibility and persuasion, Vogel got the objectivity he was seeking.

“Basically I wanted it to be like a committee. A committee of people who have lots of different opinions about things, all of whom I deeply respect and they’re amazing friends of mine. So I sent them all this music and asked them to tell me which tracks you like, tell me which tracks you don’t like, tell me which ones you are sort of on the fence and then I just correlated all the information.”

With LP1 available worldwide, the logical progression for Vogel, the original designer of live shows, is to turn his energies into bringing his music to life in a meaningful way for both artist and audience. With many hours of designing live shows under his belt now, he’s critical of what works and discerning in how he’s imagining the music will work in a live setting.

“I don’t want it to be a passive audience, I want it to be emotionally exciting and it sounds weird when I say it and I have a given it some thought…we live in such a crazy place (weird world at the moment) and we have this bubble mentality where we’re very encouraged to constantly be distracted – for better or worse, it’s just the reality of where we’re living, and i think it’s sort of the duty of music and art to take people out of reality and into a different place.”

LP1 is available now through Room 40.


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I find myself in a 'looping state of mind' more often than not.