Educator, sound designer and synthesizer obsessive, Mike Huckaby is one of the meanest DJs and producers in the Motor City, informed by a love for jazz and motivated by a benevolence to help fellow music-makers. Fresh off the back of finishing a new LP on his own Deep Transportation imprint, we chat about his favourite synthesizers, post-election landscape in Detroit and the influence of jazz on his work. That’s accompanied by an hour mix of records that, as he admits, goes “deeper and deeper” into his collection.
First, our usual ice-breaker. What’s your first musical memory?
My first musical experience was probably when my uncle would make my brother and I drum for hours. It was fun, but my brother took to it better than I did. But I can credit that experience and my uncle as the single influence for me being a DJ.
What have you been up to recently?
I just finished up my LP release on Deep Transportation, and now I am conceptualizing the next LP release which will be on S Y N T H this time. Now that I’m finished with the Deep Transportation LP, I can finish a couple of remixes I’m currently working on.
What new innovations in production or DJing technology are exciting you at the moment?
I just bought the Matrixbrute by Arturia, The Black Sledge 2.0 synthesizer, and I’m really interested in the Behringer Deep Mind12 synthesizer. The Matrixbrute is really interesting due its design, modulation capabilities and routings. I don’t think a synthesizer like it has ever been built before. The Sledge Black 2.0 synth is just an amazing overhaul of the original yellow sledge synthesizer. Its a great buy for the money and has a lot to offer. I love that synth. The Behringer Deep Mind12 synthesizer is just packed with features within it. Any producer needs to check that out. I’m pretty sure its the first synth built with wifi capabilities.
In previous interviews you mention mastering being something of an alien concept for a while in Detroit. Is sound quality becoming more important than ever in Detroit given the sound quality of recent LPs from artists such as Omar-S and Jay Daniel?
Yes it is. Everyone is conscious about mastering in Detroit. It’s literally the difference between life and death of your release. Releases are competitive against each other mastering wise alone, in addition to musical and production factors. So it can be assumed that everyone is not releasing material which isn’t mastered. Those days are long over in Detroit.
Many artists talk about Detroit as being an insular place which is great for working on music, have you been in the studio with any contemporaries from Detroit recently?
I work alone. I’m a one man army, so honestly, I can only assume what is being said about working on music in Detroit, or with somebody from Detroit. Most Detroit producers don’t have time for that due to traveling and doing gigs so much. The only time you really get to see another artist from Detroit is in the airport or abroad in Europe. I guess thats really a good thing.
What is the atmosphere like in Detroit since the US election? Has it given producers an extra motivation to express themselves through their music?
It’s not been good since president #45 was elected, but the magic and diversity from Detroit has been making a bad situation work for the good. People from Detroit adapt to a negative situation, and make the best out of it.
How do you see clubbing and dance music changing in the next 10 years?
Ain’t that the question. Honestly, I can’t be to concerned with things that far away.
Can you tell us a bit about the mix you’ve sent us?
I just go deeper and deeper within my own collection. I find a few new things here and there, but mostly I just stick to utilizing my own collection of records to put podcasts together. Records that came out five to ten years ago can be considered new anyway. There is so much music not being played from the past that makes that exist like that.
You state jazz as being one of your biggest musical influences, are there any contemporary jazz artists we should be keeping an eye on at the minute?
Jazz is, and always will be my biggest influence for producing deep house. However, I’m focusing on chord progressions from all genres of music now. I’ve trained my ear to find things that I like from uninteresting things. I often read about artist I don’t like as well. That how i keep a fresh perspective.
Widening the net to electronic music, what new / young DJs or producers are you into?
Dibiase and Tall Black Guy. I listen to hip-hop guys to lead the the way for creativity a lot these days. And then I just translate what they are doing, and how it could be used in a deep house situation. Man this is the key. I’m practicing alchemy in this way, and also doing that related to sound design as well.
What releases and gigs are coming up for you in the rest of 2017?
Looking forward to playing the Peckham Rye Fest, and Panorama Bar this weekend. There are always interesting gigs being offered to me so the excitement is always there.