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An Interview with Mkaio

Mkaio Stars Snow Art

HUNOW: Your music feels very personal and like a lot of thought has gone into each piece. There’s never a moment where I found something that didn’t quite fit, do you set out to construct music like that or is that just how you do it?

M: I have been writing music all my life. As a kid, I used to sneak in to my Dad’s little studio and tinker around on his synth.  I would get two little handheld tape recorders and put together sounds and lines bouncing back and forth recording and playing, recording and playing.  It is in the process of trial and experimentation that these pieces come together for me.  Very rarely do I have a very specific idea of what a track is going to be.  Especially now, using samples, patches, loops and electronics, a song goes through a million variations until it becomes what I want.  It usually ends up being something I didn’t expect, but as I find and make new sounds and place them together, the song I want just evolves out of that creation.

HUNOW: Do you set about to write specific music or is it more of a process of ‘feeling’ the music?

M: I have tried before to write something specific. It usually turns out to be rubbish.  I feel it. I hear something and launch from that.  I will scour for hours looking for a tone or sound to fit the feel, and spend even more time looking for just the right synth patch, or just the right snare drum.  It’s not calculated as a product, it just has to feel right with each song or track.  And you have to just go with where the music takes you.  Some songs I plan on being instrumental, until you hear the melody line in your head, or have the lyrics sing their way right in to the song.  You can only write specifically to allow music to write itself.

HUNOW: I noticed that you incorporate beautiful cinematic art along with your music, do you feel the use of two mediums helps with the whole experience of listening to your music?

M: Absolutely.  Try to listen to music without it creating a vision in your head.  I always imagine a place, a situation, a feeling, something visual while I am writing.  Sound can transport your mind’s eye somewhere far from where you are temporally.  I dream of one day being able to actually film and produce my own videos for my music.  I feel like the work can be an amazing complement to each other, like how Sigur Ros, JacobTV, and Tycho, among many others, create an audio/video experience with their works.  jThree Concepts allowed me [to use] their art for StarsSnow, and Tom Clark for December Breeze. When I can find a piece to marry the music, I have been lucky enough to find artists willing to help me. Because I am NOT making any money from my music yet.

HUNOW: While listening to both Snow and Stars I really felt like I was supposed to be watching a film. It felt like the soundtrack to an amazing journey. Would you ever consider writing soundtracks for film?

M: I would love to do that.  I love when non-traditional composers add a new sound to the convention of film scoring.  M83’s score of Oblivion, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross on The Social Network, The Dust Brothers score for Fight Club and Damon Albarn’s score for Ravenous are all INCREDIBLE because they sound so distinct. They really can stand on their own, not just as background for a film.

HUNOW: One of the things I really enjoy about your music is the subtle use of recordings and ambient noise. The footsteps in the snow in Snow and laughter seemed to ground the song and make it feel more real compared to the transient feeling I got from Stars. What made you put these in?

M: I hear music every day in everything we do.  I hear a beat in the turn light signal. I hear rises and falls in a tree’s leaves.  Music is a shared experience just as life, and I want to ground my music in the every day.  Whether it is feeling the song Snow as I was walking down a snow-covered street, or hearing a thunderstorm behind my track and realising that was what the piece was missing, I feel that allowing the sounds of ambience into music gives it a life it doesn’t have in a digital tube mixer.

HUNOW: I really enjoyed the ‘Create’ section on your website, it’s quite a nice gesture to your fans, like giving something back and letting them create something for themselves after hearing what you’ve been able to do. Is giving back to your fans a big thing for you?

M: That Chillwave Creator took me a LONG time to create!  I am not a programmer, I am sure someone else could do a much better job than me. There is also a hidden page to create ambient music on my page in the Horizon area.  To me, music is something that is shared. I always say “Music is ours.”  We make it together, sometimes me composing and you listening, sometimes someone else composing while I listen.  What I write will affect someone else, just as their compositions affect me.  Music is something that is never taken away, won’t end as long as there is an airwave to carry the vibration. It really is ours and for every one.

HUNOW: If you were allowed to say one thing to every person on Earth, what would you say?

M: Every minute, every breath, every love in each moment is the only thing we have for sure.  So love them all, because eventually it does all end.

HUNOW: How do you personally feel that music affects the world?

M: Music is so universal. Every culture since the beginning of time has created music. Animals create music, for communication and for pleasure. Music has been known to affect even non-auditory life, like plants.  If it’s alive, music can flow through it, and everyone can appreciate any kind of music. Music can soothe or provoke. It can energise a dancing crowd, or put a baby to sleep.  It is one thing in life that everyone can appreciate, some form of sonic artistry, some form of music.

HUNOW: Do you think that your music has a specific message or theme or do you leave that up to each listener?

M: I have a vision in my mind for every track I write.  Sometimes people have a similar vision, sometimes it is very different. I try to paint sonically what I see, but if someone else sees something different, that is just another example of music affecting the world.  What I imagine from my experiences can be different from someone else in the world, since music is collectively “ours.”

HUNOW: It seems that ambient music such as yours is experiencing something of a rise recently, especially music that incorporates other forms of art. Why do you think that is?

M: I think that digital media has allowed us to experience art in a new way.  We no longer have to listen to what Clear Channel Inc decides is going to be a pop hit.  We don’t have to wait for the art museum to see a piece.  With Ultraviolet, we can watch indie movies before they can get into the arthouse theatre.  We can experience a collage of mediums, art, music, cinema, literature all at the same time digitally.

HUNOW: Finally, for the readers of HOLDUPNOW, what is the best piece of advice that you’ve ever been given?

M: The best piece of advice I have heard was: “Want it more.”  I worked for several years on my first record, and thought it was going to blow-up. It didn’t, it was basically a shoulder-shrug.  I have yet to find any commercial success, I still work my 9-5 job and write after work.  But anyone who is successful will tell you it won’t come easily. You have to work harder. You can’t give up. You can’t just hope. You have to want it more than anything else and never stop.  I don’t care if I only sell 2 copies of any record, I want what I create to matter to those two people.  Because music really is ours.

You can find out more about Mkaio by visiting his:

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About The Author

21 year old jack-of-all-trades. Currently hoping to be cryogenically frozen so I can pilot a space battleship in the distant future or at least be a Space Marine. Favourite things in the world include music, gaming, writing and the smell of victory.

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