Who is MIDIhead Anyway?

MIDIhead

Let us rewind several years to my youth
I remember hearing a song on the radio at the age of eight years old. It was a powerful song, and I felt it as the artist was delivering it to me over the airwaves. It was then that I recognized the power and influence that music has, and it was then that I first had interest in creating it. Recognizing music to be a conduit whereby it's wielder can do harm or use it for healing, I was desirous to harness the power of the latter. The problem however, was that I didn't have the tools at my disposal to do something about it. My family was very poor and thus we learned to get by with very little, caring about only the necessities for survival. I didn't have a musical instrument in the house until I was 12 years old. My mother had scraped up enough money to rent a piano from a local music store and began herself to teach me how to play. By this time I had so many scores in my head that I became very frustrated with playing songs like "Twinkle Little Star". Oh the limited patience of a child. Still, I pressed on, but unfortunately before I could get very far in my lessons, my father got laid off from his job and the piano had to go.

As the piano was being moved out of our apartment, my mother told me how she had witnessed a spark in me when I would try so hard to plink out my own original melody on the piano. So, desiring me to learn a musical instrument, she decided to enroll me in the middle-school band, playing the Clarinet. The Clarinet was much more affordable for my mother. Well, it turned out that I didn't like the Clarinet so much, and I was too young and naive to empathize with my mother's sacrifice for me. So her bratty son (yes me) revealed my boredom of this instrument, for it was not the sound I was seeking. No, it was synthesizer sounds that I was seeking as some of my favorite tunes at that time whether it was Depeche Mode, Yaz, Alphaville, or even Styx, I wanted to make music like that! However, a synth was cost prohibitive, especially during that time. So my mother asked her bratty son what I WOULD play. We went to a music store to look around and though my eyes immediately fixed onto a pearl drum kit, next to that kit was a little practice pad. Apprehensively, but lovingly Mom purchased that little practice pad and some sticks, and then enrolled me in a small drumming class that met after school. I took to the practice pad fondly and practiced often believing some day that I would have that Pearl drum kit. But as much as I wanted to graduate from the practice pad, my parents couldn't put a drum kit in our tiny apartment and the price of a kit was also prohibitive. It was time to shelf the dream for now and make a path to one day figure out how to get this music in my head, out. I wasn't sure how I would bring it to fruition, but I knew that before I could have the tree, I needed to plant some seeds. A couple of years went by that seemed like an eternity.


The Call
I had just turned 14 years old and was bored one night. A couple of friends were sleeping over and we thought it would be funny to call the local Hare Krishna radio station and mess with them. So I looked up the number in the phone book, dialed it and when a man answered I said: "This is agent Jones from the Internal Revenue Service and we’ve found a very serious error in your tax filing”. Thinking panic would ensue on the other end of the call, I was dismayed to find the man calmly conversing back and forth with me until by the end of the conversation, he had actually talked me into coming down to the radio station for an internship! Huh? What just happened? I was floored, scared to death and excited at the same time. I asked him if this was a trap to get me to come down and be handed over to police? He chuckled and said "you have a radio voice my little friend… why don’t you come down and get your voice heard on the radio instead of wasting your time on the phone playing jokes on people?” Cautiously I agreed, then begged my father to take me, and he agreed telling me to set a date and time. After hanging up the call, my father asked me how that all came about I had to spill the beanz. My father, while expressing disappointment in my prankster behavior, was now intrigued with the proposal, for it seemed to him that my victim was about to teach me a lesson, with love. Dad would take me on Saturday to the radio station.


The Radio Station

We arrived at the station on Saturday and knocked on the office door. A burly, Native American man with shaved head and short lock of hair on the back of his head greeted us with a warm smile. He wasn't dressed like a "normal" person, at least not to me. He was wearing a long yellow flowing robes that looked to me like pajamas. New Age music was playing in the background. "So, you’re Mike” he said with a look on his face that was somewhat mischievous. "It’s very nice to meet you finally in person! My name is Nichinah. It is my spiritual name.” said he. My father, protectively stood in front of me to greet the man and find out a little more about his request to bring me to the station. Upon finding Nichinah to be kind, and sincerely wanting to help me learn the radio ropes, he allowed me to continue scheduling appointments. "Come back tomorrow and we’ll get you reading some public service announcements!” said Nichinah. That summer, Nichinah taught me how to operate turntables, segue songs from cassettes and encouraged me when I screwed up... which was quite frequently! There were probably only 12 people listening to the station at any given moment anyway, so it was a perfect place for me to put on some training wheels. It wasn't long before I had my FCC license and was playing an hour long set of music from artists like Tangerine Dream, Phillip Glass, and Patrick O'Hearn. Not long after this experience, I felt it was time to see if the local commercial radio station would let me intern. I went down in person and spoke to the Program Director, who was happy to have me there to assist the DJ's with anything they needed, be it coffee, handing them carts (analog tape music cartridges that contained one song, or radio spot), taking requests, and transferring the music from off vinyl to carts. Every once and a while the DJ would get stuck in the restroom and I'd have to segue the next song. It was during this time that one of the popular DJ's I was assisting told me to focus on anything but a radio career. He said "Kid, the pay is horrible and you have to move around because it's rare that any DJ stays after a format change, management change, program director change, etc" He said it was great that I was learning the ropes, but told me to use this knowledge for "something else in my search for a music career". Eventually I began speaking live on air, and one time the station manager came to me and told me that I didn't have a "radio voice" and encouraged me to take a different career path. Devastated that he would be so blunt and so cold, I took him up on his offer, remembering what my favorite DJ had told me. "Probably just as well that this happened now", I thought. I never looked back on radio again.

The Mobile DJ

Toward the end of the summer, I saw an ad in the local paper for a "Battle of The DJ’s” and immediately thought that I HAD to enter. My father again, was kind enough to shuttle me to the hotel on the night of the "battle”. I showed up with my box of cassettes, loaded up with music that I liked. I found out pretty quick that night that radio is NOT like live DJ’ing. Needless to say, I got totally spanked. The crowd was astonished at how BAD my music selections where! While my segues were impeccable (not to be confused with beat matching which I learned later), that didn't matter on dance floor... it was what I was playing… and the hostility toward me was something I had never before experienced. After my gruesome train wreck was over, and the next DJ came on to save the night from my disaster, the organizer who put on the contest came up to me. He told me with a smile: "We almost didn’t let you in because you didn’t have the credentials, but kid, you’re 14 so we thought that it would be cool to at least give you a shot.” I smiled back at him, feeling much better. He then informed me that he’d be willing to send me with some of his seasoned DJ’s who could show me the ropes. I was ecstatic! Even though I had failed miserably that night in the eyes of the patrons, I won a special place in the organizer’s heart because of my youth, my positive attitude and determination, not to mention my exuding love for music. One of the DJ's who he sent me with on gigs was a 17 year-old, named Eric, who later came to be known as Diggabeatz, and one of my best friends. He's the one who later dubbed me with my moniker after witnessing how much I loved electronically produced music.

After getting some training as a mobile DJ, I began setting up my own gigs with schools and community centers. It wasn’t long before I began working with a friend at school to start setting up our own events in the reception center his father owned. I paid for radio spots and traded advertising for free pizza at these dance parties. We packed the place almost every time we threw an event, and it kept kids off the streets on weekends and out of trouble. Good times.


The Club DJ
As I turned 16 and could go to "high school night” at local night clubs, I decided to speak to one of the club managers about allowing me to intern. Since it was a risk-free arrangement and I had some credentials now to back me up, I got in, slowly proved myself, and began filling in while the DJ took a smoke break or needed to relieve himself. It wasn’t long before I was trained to operate the intelligent lighting system and choreograph the light shows each night. I came up with my own light color-to-sound frequency programming... not only did that keep me from being bored, but the patrons loved it! There is a lot to be said about lighting psychology and how it works with musical frequencies and colors. Done properly, a good light show can immensely enhance the vibe and energy of the music. I used to follow the really beautiful girls in the club with a bright, white ceiling spot from an Intellabeam while all the guys in the room would issue their cat calls. One evening there was a major shake-up at the club which landed the DJ in jail, and me at the age of 17 in the "main floor” DJ position. After a few nights of trial runs, the owners found me capable and offered me the job. I was elated, being I was still in high school AND the main floor DJ at a popular non-alcoholic night club. While my friends were broke and getting into trouble, I was having fun AND making money at the same time. Not to mention, it was never hard to get a date. ;)


The Band
I loved to DJ, but I wanted to make music, not spin other people's music. I still had songs in my head that begged to be written. My DJ career had taught me so much about music psychology and it was high time I put that knowledge to use. As a DJ, I was able to visualize a variety of cognitive and physical effects that different types of songs had on a collective mass of people. I continued to file this information away until such time as I could use it. Then one night, a patron came up to me with a cassette tape of his music and asked me if I would play it. It was early in the night and not many people had arrived at the club yet, so I gave the song a quick listen in the headphones and decided to entertain his prospect. A few people got on the floor and started doing the classic goth kid moves. After the song finished and the artist approached me, I complimented him on the music, and then said "...but the singer is not so great". He replied, "Yeah, that's me". Then noticing I had turned a shade of red, he added: "Funny you mention that because I moved here to go to college and I’m looking for a vocalist. Do you know of any?” Of course, I pointed to myself. And the guy stretched out his hand and shook mine. "Hi, I'm Adam". I offered Adam a challenge, telling him that if he gave me an instrumental track, I would write lyrics for it and come up with a vocal melody "in one week". He laughed and said, "If you can do that then you’re hired!" I came back a week later with lyrics and a vocal melody, and that was the start down my path as a music artist. Adam and I performed numerous times, and wrote several original songs, even coming immensely close to a recording deal via a DJ from Live 105 named Steve Masters (who had launched a few artists into the Rave genre on his label). But there was something missing... what about the songs in my head? Writing with Adam was great, Adam mentored me along the way and provided me with much needed encouragement but as a writing team it was clear that my role was as vocalist and lyricist. When Adam moved to Australia it provided the kick in the head that lead me to focus on the entire enchilada, as a solo artist.


Flying Solo
By this time I had taken out a loan to buy a keyboard, computer, and some recording software. I was writing songs like a lunatic, and quickly put together my first album which grabbed attention in the underground Synthpop scene. Better still, I was able to do this while working up at Sundance for Bob Redford. I would set up speakers, mics, projection, whatever was needed for the conference and then there would be nothing for me to do until later when the conference was over. So I had all this time to write and do so in an office studio with a view to the backside of Mount TImpanogos. Talk about continual inspiration! At this time, the electronic music scene was beginning to gain traction again. It was the late 90’s. After having been totally derailed by the Grunge scene. Synthpop rode the coattails of the rave scene, which re-started the engine for electronic music, and pop was again being fused into it. The industry called it "Electronica" which was a horrible label (probably decided on by a bunch of suits at a board room focus group session) to give anything fused with electronics a marketing buzzword. At this time, I was fusing trance (which was very popular then) with pop and in the summer of 1999 I was asked to perform for thousands of enthusiastic concert goers, as the opening act for Platinum selling synthpop artist, Alphaville. It was their first ever concert in America (a historical moment for Alphaville fans in the US). There was only one problem: because I wrote, sung, and produced my own music, I didn't have a live band... so I had to pull one together last minute that consisted of mostly family members and friends. But it wasn't a band that could tour, and I had already started a family so it would end up being one one of my final, big live performances. 


I moved to Los Angeles in the spring of 2001 and performed my last live concert at Synthcon in Hollywood, California. I had just recently released my album "Power Undiminished" and was awarded "Best Album of 2001" during an evening ceremony at The American Synthpop Awards. It was Information Society front man Kurt Harland who presented me with the award. So the guy with the Edward Scissorhands hair who I watched on MTV singing hits like "I want to Know" and "Walking Away" was now putting a mic in my hand asking me to give a speech. So surreal it was. However, performing live and releasing albums was not paying the bills for my growing family, so I shifted my focus on music for media application. Long story short, my wife was working at a prestigious private school as a preschool teacher. One of the parents struck up a conversation with her about needing electronically produced music and how hard it was to find anyone good who could do it. Shauna just happened to have one of my CD's on her and that's when a new chapter opened. My first track was heard in Fox's "Dark Angel", followed by music in a "Matrix Reloaded" movie trailer which opened the floodgates for TV shows such as "Access Hollywood", NBC's "Las Vegas", "CSI" series, "America's Next Top Model", "Prison Break", and "Dexter" among many others. I was also included in Konami's popular Dance, Dance, Revolution video game series which featured several of my remixes and original scores.


Designing Sounds
In 2007 I began toying with sound design. I purchased a portable digital recorder, got a RODE NT4 stereo mic, and began field recording. With those sounds I culled together, I created strange pads, textures, and drones. Then I began sampling synthesizers and creating my own downloadable loop and multi-sampled collections. All the while, I was still writing music for myself, friends, and a small number of fans. In 2009, my song "Fall Awake” was featured in Germany’s Beat Magazine as hundreds of readers remixed the song for a chance to win a Dave Smith Instruments MoPho synth. At the same time, Spectrasonics had me demoing with them in Germany at Musikmesse, which I did a few times, including the NAMM show afterward. In 2010 Apple’s iTunes’ website featured the iPhone application Looptastic (featuring my re-mixable elements) as a staff top pick. Designing sounds became a passion for me after I got my hands on Spectrasonics' Omnisphere™, and I first started using it for producing my own music. I found how easy it was to make sounds that fit my style and taste. I could make airy, dreamy sounds and contrast those with epic, aggressive ones. As I began creating my own collection of patches, I decided to start sharing them with the world. The results of my virtual knob twiddling can be found in the form of now 7 patch libraries: Fire Water, PULSAR, EDM Eclipse: Solar, EDM Eclipse: Lunar, Ascension, EDM - Ignition, and EDM - Fire which are distributed exclusively by ILIO.


I do continue to write original music and release a track here and there when I can. It's still something I have to do to keep the cares of the world from overwhelming me. Writing is my 'yoga'.


It is also because of a loving family, and a loving Father in Heaven that I have been able to pull any of this off. My path and those who helped to shape and mold me was not coincidental. There have been too many examples to disprove coincidence. I am grateful and humbled to be able to do what I love, while so many others in the world have to live under oppressive governments, constant hunger and thirst, and no knowledge as to their true potential because they are not allowed to even think for themselves. I dream of a day when all are free to live, to choose, and given opportunities to succeed (and fail). Thank you, to all of you who have taught me, supported me, and have inspired me. And yes, even those of you who have scuffled with me along the way. Thank you for softening my heart. ;)


In closing what has turned into my epistle, which few of you have even read to this point: I beg you to never take your gifts for granted, never squander your talents or hide them away. You have a purpose and a calling that is more significant than your human mind can comprehend. Your spirit, however CAN. With humility you will recognize the gifts you posses, and that these gifts are not for you alone, but to share with others... and in serving others with your gifts you will find joy. A joy far greater and everlasting than the temporary happiness that comes from mere fame and fortune, which fades away. If only all of us could serve each other, like the many diverse pieces of a beautiful picture puzzle clicking together, all human suffering would come to an end. It starts with the individual... yes, you.