Mike Paradinas, best known as µ-Ziq, is a key player that’s been shaping electronic music as we know it today, for quite some time now. From Tango N’ Vectif on the legendary Rephlex around ’93, passing by a brief project with Virgin that ended up leading into Planet Mu, one of the most recognizable and enduring labels that exist nowadays. He was behind the emergence of dubstep in early 00’s, and also footwork after that. But wait, he actually defined drill n’ bass too, and even before that he was one of the main names behind what was called IDM, but they just called it techno.
Before we keep naming genres and subgenres that were somehow linked to this prolific artist, we better tell you that Planet Mu just dropped its 400th release called ‘Challenge Me Foolish’, which is µ-Ziq bringing back some gems that were actually recorded (yet not released) over 20 years ago. A delight. We talk about that, and some other things too.
Cyclic Defrost: Hallo there Mike, please tell us where you are now and how’s everything over there?
Mike Paradinas: Hi, I am at my home in Hove (near Brighton, UK). Everything is OK, I am just starting work again after the long Easter weekend.
Cyclic Defrost: Talking about ‘Challenge Me Foolish’, I remember the time when you started upoading oldies to your Soundcloud account, at least one of them is on this album. How did this diggin’ in the vaults process start?
Mike Paradinas: I’ve always kept a good record of my recordings. Most of them are converted as MP3’s on my computer, so it’s not much work to go looking through them. It was actually Richard (D James) who said he enjoyed listening to me to upload some of my early material, perhaps because it reminded him of the early days of Rephlex. But later, when I was looking for the Mike & Rich DATs (so I could record the lossless versions) I found lots of unrecorded tracks from the 98-2000 period which I had forgotten about. Some of these tracks are on Challenge Me Foolish.
Cyclic Defrost: There are 5 collaborations with Kazumi here. How and when did you start working together? Was it on ‘The Fear’ in 1999?
Mike Paradinas: Kazumi sent me a demo tape of her singing hauntingly over my (Jake Slazenger b-side) track “Marks Made In China”. So I got in contact, it all came from that! The Fear was just one of many tracks we collaborated on during that period, as you can now hear.
Cyclic Defrost: It’s been almost 2 decades since these productions were recorded. And somehow the time to hear them feels just right nowadays.
Mike Paradinas: I’m glad you feel that they sound good in 2018! It’s just a coincidence that they’re coming out now – no grand plan. We had a gap where other Planet Mu artists hadn’t delivered their album(s), so I put this together to fill the gap.
Cyclic Defrost: How would you describe the present of Planet Mu?
Mike Paradinas: I try to keep myself excited by the music we release, and I think I (and most journalists?) do get bored of certain genres which get a bit staid after a time.
Cyclic Defrost: Did you ever had to struggle with not getting the label associated to just one thing?
Mike Paradinas: In the past we had this problem, yes. The label would get associated with Breakcore, then with Dubstep, etc. And sometimes the fans of the label wouldn’t follow us. I think nowadays people realise we’re quite a broad church, and I still know lots of music fans who’ve followed us since the early days of Capitol K or Leafcutter John and are still into our new releases such as Jlin or Sami Baha.
Cyclic Defrost: More than 10 years ago you said you were receiving about 50 demos a week, how many are you getting nowadays?
Mike Paradinas: It’s about 35 a week at the moment.
Cyclic Defrost: Being so active and producing such a wide range of exceptional music, I wonder if you ever had to face a lack of inspiration period, or blocking.
Mike Paradinas: Yeah, but I can just work on the label during those times :) I have been making music slowly over the last few years. I might be getting a new record together soon!
Cyclic Defrost: Which were your best experiences performing live?
Mike Paradinas: I liked performing in Barcelona at the Mira festival, and in Mexico at Mutek especially.
Cyclic Defrost: What was the hardest thing you had to overcome to dedicate yourself to the arts?
Mike Paradinas: Well, I didn’t see it like that exactly, but I have had it really easy. I grew up at a time when young people could take ‘the dole’ so I had money to live off while I made my music, and I lived in my mother’s house until 1995. My father never really approved of me making music, he wanted me to be a doctor, but when I made some money off it he was OK, but he was always bewildered as to why anybody would like, or buy my music.
Cyclic Defrost: I still remember when I found a ‘Mike & Rich’ copy in a totally unexpected place in Buenos Aires. Do you remember any great unexpected findings while looking for records?
Mike Paradinas: I did some crate digging in Buenos Aires when I was on tour with Björk, but I ended up buying loads of CD’s (for the tour bus, no room for vinyl) Eno, Cluster, Paul Schütze, that kind of thing…
Cyclic Defrost: What’s the latest great thing you’ve heard?
Mike Paradinas: Probably the new Jlin album :)
Cyclic Defrost: On different interviews you mentioned having an exciting time while listening to new music back in the 90’s, then again with dubstep in the early 00’s, and once again with footwork. Did this excitement happen again after that?
Mike Paradinas: To be honest, this musical excitement hasn’t really happened to me – with a scene – since footwork. However, I do like the Principe Discos stuff, especially DJ Nigga Fox. And SOPHIE too.
Cyclic Defrost: You once mentioned that back in the day artists like Aphex Twin or yourself were trying to create electronic music that the UK would be proud of. Do you see this energy happening today somewhere?
Mike Paradinas: Yeah occasionally I hear the creative spirit in full flow; I’m not going to name names though if I’m trying to sign them lol!
Cyclic Defrost: How do you see the scene in the UK nowadays? I remember reading different artists saying that things in the UK were somehow imported from other places.
Mike Paradinas: We still have a strong and exciting grime scene, but yes there were a lot of US influences in the last 10 years.
Cyclic Defrost: Would you agree that there is music that found the diagonal that sits between the dancefloor and sound-art galleries?
Mike Paradinas: I’m not really that interested in listening to music in a gallery myself, but some interesting things have surfaced recently.
Cyclic Defrost: Will there be new Heterotic releases anytime soon?
Mike Paradinas: We have talked about making some new music together, but it won’t be anytime soon, maybe next year.
Cyclic Defrost: What’s the latest thing that blew your mind?
Mike Paradinas: Flared trousers are coming back.
‘Challenge Me Foolish’ was released on the 13th of April 2018. You can find it here.