Mike Rish is an Australian DJ/producer who makes the soft, intricate, deep and progressive house sounds that – though often subtle in their own right – in the main call for a large dancefloor. A producer with a great range to his sound, his modus operandi is mainly geared toward the sort of dancefloor driven fare that’s long enamoured fans of the likes of Guy J and Sasha and John Digweed. As you might imagine from a description like that, he’s also a man whose name we’re expecting to see much more of soon.
With his latest LP, the excellent Interlinked, having just dropped, we thought it a good time to put some questions to the man himself, all the while we premiere his track “X” from the album.
Listen to the exclusive premiere progressive house gem “X” below and read on for what Mike Rish had to say.
Hey Mike, how are you, what have you been up to so far this year?
Hey! I’m doing well. It’s the tail end of summer is here so it’s starting to cool down a bit. It’s been quite busy for me in the studio as I spent January doing finishing touches on the album and now I’m preparing remixes and EPs for the middle of the year.
You are set to release your debut LP “Interlinked” on Ugenius. Can you tell us a bit about your relationship with those guys?
I met Jacob out one night whilst he was touring Argy, we got to chatting about music and I sent him and Tom some music a few weeks later and it kind of snowballed from there. I did a three-track EP in 2017 called “Strive” and all three tracks did really well in the charts. Then they asked for some more music and we always kept in touch after that. They’re both successful DJ’s and producers in their own right and actively offer advice about the scene which is very cool of them. I always wanted to put the album out on a local label, and after 3 EPs with the guys, I felt Ugenius was the right place. They’ve been incredibly supportive during the process and I hope that I’ve brought some value to the label.
Where do you start on a new tune? And how do you get into the mood to produce music?
That’s a good question. Very rarely do I have those moments where I have an idea in my head and can translate it into a song. A lot of the time I will be playing around and just come up with something. In saying that, I always think about the catalogue of music I have and if there’s a certain kind of track missing from that, and then try and create something. Sometimes it takes me a little while to get into the groove of things, but once I have an idea down I can churn out the finished product very quickly. Once I have that small loop or idea, the track kind of just comes to me and I know exactly where things need to be.
In terms of where you want to be with your music, where do you think you are right now? Is there a certain area you’d love to improve on?
I think I’m fairly close to where I want to be with my music. I’m definitely happy with where I am with it… But, I’m always trying to push my sound to have something ‘fresh’ sounding. It’s tricky because it’s hard to stand out as there are just so many amazing producers in the progressive house realm at the moment. Australia has some of my favourite producers in the world right now, and most of those guys support my music, so it gives me some hope that I’m doing something right haha. A lot of us are all friends too, so we are always sending demos and stuff to each other or working on collaborations. If there’s something I’d love to improve on, it would perhaps be being a little more patient with things.
In terms of seriously accomplished musicians, is there anyone in particular that you look up to?
I think Eric Prydz is hard to look past. The guy has had blended commercial success with underground notoriety. It’s amazing to see how he’s managed to have immense success across multiple genres and aliases within electronic music. I’m a fan of Guy J too, he’s always keeping his sound very fresh. Both of them make tons of music too, and their sets are usually filled with tons of ID’s that never get released. I think that’s a great way to keep your fans engaged too. If they go to your gigs and you’ve got a bunch of your classics blended in with a bunch of stuff no one’s heard, it makes the experience a little more intimate and personal for people.
How much do you think of your audience and the setting for the music?
Very much so. I try and think about how people will react to certain things in the arrangement and the sound design. Sometimes an FX sound you’ve never heard before can have a bigger impact in grabbing your attention than a floaty melody… I often think about the song I’m making in terms of what time of the night it is in a club. So I’ll be making something floaty and groovy if I have an opening set in mind, and something with a lot more “oomf” if I’m thinking about giving the system a flogging at 4 am.
Do you visualise crowds when making music? Or do you more make music for yourself first and foremost?
Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. It usually depends on how I’m feeling and what’s in my head. Making music is an outlet for whatever’s going on inside my head. If it’s a rainy day outside, I might write something a little melancholic…Same with the seasons… Autumn is like the gentle reminder that summers over and also engages that nostalgia / melancholic space inside my head. Winter is a bit more like “I’m going to write all these bombs, so when summer comes I can blow everyone away when summers back”. Usually, if I’m writing those “bigger” tunes, I will think about them being in front of me on the dancefloor and how am I going to help them forget about their problems and go bonkers to some prog. However, I will always write the stuff I like writing. I’ll never compromise my integrity in the studio.
Are you a gear head, a studio wizard, keen to spend hours in a studio, or are you more just about the end results?
I’m not really a gear head. I have a studio space with a couple of sets of monitors, and apogee quartet interface, a Prophet REV2 and a Virus TI2 Polar as far as hardware goes. But I could sell it all tomorrow and be satisfied with a laptop and a pair of headphones. I had a bunch of synths at one point but sold a lot of them because they weren’t being used. I’m not that nostalgic about my gear, and I’m quite cutthroat about it occupying space… If it hasn’t been used in 6 months, usually I’ll get rid of it. I’m not a collector of synths, they’re tools to help me make music. Maybe one day I’ll have a big room full of vintage gear, but making music is more of my interest than collecting synths.
You make progressive house, is that fair to say? Why is that the sound you love?
I’ve always been into progressive sounds. I was listening to Sasha and Digweed when I was a kid, unaware that it was Sasha and Digweed. I couldn’t tell you why I gravitated towards prog, but it’s stuck with me since I was maybe 10 or 11. My older brother went to a lot of the early “bush doofs” in Australia in the early to mid-90s and he was always showing me stuff. I remember when I was about 11 or 12 he showed me “Pacific State” by 808 State, which was a bit of a mix of everything. It was definitely house, but it had this proggy vibe to me, even though it was released in 1989. My older sister was in the clubbing scene in the 80s, so I was a bit spoilt for choice when it comes to electronic music with everything from Depeche Mode, Mr Mister, Nitzer Ebb, 808 State, Innercity, The Shamen, The Chemical Brothers etc. There was cheesy 80s music, and underground club music, all of which I still love to this day. One of my best mates is also just as obsessed with music as I am, and we’re very much into the same kind of music, so we’ve kind of fed each other’s passion for progressive house.
What did you learn about yourself and the world in the last year?
I learnt that I can be just as happy having very little money. Like millions of other people, last year was not a financially rewarding one for me… but I found that it didn’t actually bother me a whole lot. It taught me to be appreciative of what we do have because plenty of people lost a lot more than I did. I found myself just being happy to have my partner and our dog. Daily walks with our dog were the most exciting part of our day during the super strict lockdown we had, but I loved those walks. Helped me reset and then get back to work in the studio.
How did you stay busy, healthy, sane?
Like lots of other people, I learnt how to cook a lot more stuff! haha. I also spent a lot of time making music, and that really helped me develop my sound further. All I heard when they initially said 2 weeks lockdown was “2 weeks studio time”.
What goals, hopes and dreams do you have for your career?
Like any DJ or Producer, I have lofty ambitions of playing some larger festivals, time will tell on whether they will materialise. Goals wise, I’d like to be more active djing… I opted to set aside DJ gigs in order to focus on production during the process of putting this album together, and obviously, the last year has put the entertainment industry on hold. Getting onto the heavy hitter labels in the prog world is a goal of mine too, which is already starting to materialise which is great.
What’s next for you that you’re really excited about on a personal level?
Music-wise, this year is going to be quite a big one for me. There’s a 3 track EP coming out in June, a 2 Track EP with another label and a 3 tracker with another label too… There are also 2 remixes in the pipeline at the moment, and this is just the stuff that’s confirmed. It’s very rewarding and I do love being able to share my music with people and that people even want to listen to it is still amazing to me. It’s still a surreal feeling for me when people are asking me about ID’s of mine because I’m surprised people even care haha. Hopefully, I can keep up with everything!
Can you tell us three pieces of music or literature that have really inspired you over the past while?
- My favourite album of all time is called “Tryshasla” by an artist from the Netherlands called “Secede'”. It’s like listening to a fantasy novel and every time I do listen to it, I pick up a new sound that I hadn’t picked up on before. The attention to detail is astounding when it comes to sound design, and the soundstage is completely full, but not overbearing. It’s a very special piece of music that’s very close to my heart. I would listen to it every week without fail, and I’ve had it since 2005.
- I recently discovered this artist from Sweden called “Purl” who makes some really atmospheric techno. It’s closer to Dub Techno than it is to the Techno of today, but it’s very lush and it sets the mood straight away. It’s hard to describe it, but I’ve been including his music early on in my sets because it just fits perfectly.
– Jamie Stevens is a mate of mine and we send lots of music back and forth to each other every week. He shows me such a diverse but amazing range of music that all sits under that progressive house umbrella. He sent me one track last year which was remix he did for a Petar Dundov track called “Nature Of Nature (Jamie Stevens Deeper Version)” which I just fell in love with straight away. There’s another one he sent me recently that has just been on repeat for me. It’s not released, so I’m not sure if I can reveal the name of it, but it is just an absolute chugging weapon of a tune.