5 Minutes With… µ-ZIQ

µ-ZIQ AKA Michael Paradinas is one of the premiere names in the field of electronic music and founder of Planet Mu Records, a label that celebrates their 20th anniversary this year.

μ-Ziq released his first records via Richard D. James (aka Aphex Twin) and his label Rephlex Records. Following a string of remixes of Aphex Twin’s work, Mike Paradinas and Richard D. James also release an ambient-techno album together entitled MIKE & RICH in 1996, also known as Expert Knob Twiddlers.

Paradinas’ first major-label release came later in 1994, after he undertook a remix project for Virgin Records: the Remix EP The Auteurs VS μ-Ziq for the britpop band The Auteurs. Virgin Records went on to grant Paradinas his own sub-label- Planet Mu, in order to release his own work and to develop similar-minded artists. Paradinas later broke with Virgin and in 1998 established Planet Mu as his own independent label. The label started releasing music by like-minded experimental electronic musicians, it’s earliest successes in this field being Paradinas himself, Jega, Capitol K, Hellfish & Producer and Luke Vibert. Since the early 2000’s the label has also tracked and reflected Paradinas’ love of British dance music, releasing one of the first Dubstep albums, Vex’d’s “Degenerate” and one of the first Grime albums, Virus Syndicate’s “Work Related Illness” both in 2005, as well as many 12″ singles by the likes of Benga, Distance, Boxcutter, Pinch and more. 

You’re an independant artist as well as the head of your own record label. Which comes first? Is it ever hard to find the right balance between the two?

I spend far more time running the label, I haven’t found much time to write music in the last 12 months. It’s all work though, it’s more difficult trying to balance work and family life.

You’re very heavily involved in the current electronic music scene. What are the key differences you can see within the industry since launching Planet Mu in 1995?

The industry and electronic scene are not the same thing. But money always rules the industry, maybe now it’s about how many views (real or false) you can get, how many followers you have. None of which seems to be about the music anymore. At least in the old days even major labels were run or at least staffed by people who had passion for music. And I am excited by the current electronic scenes, many talented musicians.

The label began as an offshoot from Virgin. How important was it for you to break away from them and start working independently? Do you think Planet Mu would be in the same position had you not have done this?

Well we didn’t really have a choice, they didn’t want to do it anymore, it was an experiment for them, one which wasn’t really that successful compared to the indie music they were pushing at that time. So the question was to either run Planet Mu independently or wind it up.

Are there any artists you’re particularly into at the moment? Other than those on your label that is…

Plenty: Holly Herndon, DJ Nigga Fox, Amnesia Scanner, Arca…

Planet Mu is said to have a huge part to in the Chicago footwork sound. Can you explain, for those that don’t know, what that is and where it came from? 

Chicago footwork is an evolution of House Music. House came from Chicago and through Dance Mania records evolved into Ghetto House (DJ Funk, DJ Deeon etc). Dance Troupes would do routines to house music and slowly the music changed to challenge the dancers more, it crept up in tempo, to 140, 150, 160 BPM and dancers would start having battles with each other in the circle. The music evolved to suit the speed and drama of these one-on-one battles. So essentially it’s a dramatic 160bpm house music with a syncopated sub-bass pulse and off-beat percussion falling in time with dancers’ limbs.

How does it feel to be releasing your own music again?

I’m always excited to be putting music out there. I’m currentlyuploading some very old music to my soundcloud https://soundcloud.com/mikep

Are there any key pieces of equipment you find yourself using regularly at the moment? 

I only use my laptop, logic 9. but i am very fond of the equipment i have used over the years. DX11, MT32, Roland D50. Hr-16, DR110, FZ1 etc.

Is there anywhere in particular that µ-Ziq draws influence from?

I grew up in Raynes Park in South London, so I would say there and the countryside of the south east. Obviously cultural appropriations as well.

How has Planet Mu changed in direction since it first started out?

We have tried to keep releasing music that excites us whatever the scene is like at the time. We started off releasing IDM (which I was producing at the time) through to break core, dubstep and footwork, and have nurtured many artists each with their own style, such as venetian snares, leafcutter john, rp boo and john t. fast. Artists who have sometimes created their own genre and inspired others.

Is there anything in the pipeline for µ-Ziq/Planet Mu that we should be looking out for?

I have an album called XTLP coming out on 9th March.

Finally, what can we expect from your performance at KoKo on Saturday night?

Playing a mixture of old and new tracks from my µ-ziqal career
Catch µ-ziq at KOKO this saturday supporting UNKLE Sounds, 8:58 (Paul Hartnoll) – Live and Neil Barnes [Leftfield]! Event Link