For those of you who don’t know Menert, he was born in Kielce, Poland and then moved to North America with his family. Growing up in Colorado alongside Derek Vincent Smith (aka Pretty Lights) the two played in several bands challenging and inspiring each other as they developed their musical talents. He co-produced the debut Pretty Lights album “Taking Up Your Precious Time”, and has collaborated with Pretty Lights in a handful of tracks since then. He also performs with Paul Basic under the name Half Color.
Menert’s affinity for musical discovery dates back to his youthful days of rummaging through his dad’s old collection of CD’s. Around 1997/98 he began playing around with recording samples in a program called Cool Edit Pro that his father originally picked up for their computer to record digital copies of old Polish and Russian tapes that never came out on CD. Menert’s main source of inspiration was built upon hip-hop influences however on an underfunded artist budget actual hardware for producing was hard to come by, until about 2001.
Axiom-Nation: You helped co-produced Pretty Lights’ debut album. How did you get into producing?
Michal Menert: I think it started with a curiosity for how samples were used in hip-hop. Taking that fundamental concept and expanding it by collaging several samples and adding instrumentation on analog synths, creating a hybrid of what producers like DJ Shadow was doing and the aesthetics of 70s synth fusion I grew up loving.
AX: Now, after years of touring, what do you think when you look back at all the work you’ve put into this?
MM: The whole journey is the destination to me, and starting out on the road has allowed me to appreciate this work a whole lot more. There is a huge group of people that share a like-minded view on life. So like, I grew up skateboarding and snowboarding, and the board culture embodies a lot of what I apply to my music: Doing it because you love it, not because there is money. There is a sacrifice, but this is a way to refresh yourself.
AX: Looking back, what sticks out from all your experiences with touring, producing — and essentially redesigning how music is distributed?
MM:I grew up idolizing deejays, emcees, and when I met them, they gave me hope to do what I want. I’ve been touring for fifteen years, so when I meet people that are younger than me, who are in the culture and in the scene, I see that lot of them can’t handle the tough times when it gets hard on the road. With how quickly people rise to fame now, you realize what integrity is in this scene. Now people like my music more because they are familiar with it because it has been around.
AX: You’ve performed live at many shows throughout the country as well as some kick-ass music fests; has there been a performance that stood out for any particular reason?
MM: Electric Forest was amazing, both for the atmosphere and the response I got. It was one of the best weekends I’ve experienced, in terms of performances. I got to see a lot of my friends and even collaborate with a bunch of them on the fly.
AX: What is your current opinion on the state of the music industry? Is there anything in particular that has caught your ear as of late or anything you feel needs to be done away with?
MM: Honestly I don’t listen to much modern music. I like Toro y Moi, James Blake, Tobacco, Blue Sky Black Death, Eliot Lipp and my label mates. But I spend so much time collecting old records and scouring them for either something that I want to listen to over and over or some bits to sample. Being around electronic shows all the time desensitized my inner desire to be bass’d to death.
AX: What inspires you to give your music out for free?
MM: It all applies to the same aesthetic. When I started giving music out for free, Derek and I had been in bands together for almost 10 years. It didn’t make sense to charge people for something they were going to rip off the Internet anyway. We were more concerned about the music being made, and then being heard rather than try to make a profit out of it. It was one of the most influential changes in our lives and we didn’t realize the effect of what we were doing. We didn’t know that Forbes magazine would write about this big shift in the music industry, or like Radiohead would steal the business dollar. For most people that put out music on labels, the label controls a lot of the content and has the final say. With us it’s obviously Derek and people from the label going ‘oh this is crap’ oh ‘this is too famous of a sample’ but we don’t censor the artist. Whatever you want to put out you don’t have to make hit songs. You can make what you feel like because the label’s not trying to make money off it.
AX: I understand that “Even If It Isn’t Right” is titled after the idea of going with your gut and doing what you think is right for you. How else does this philosophy apply to your life and where did you draw it from?
MM: It’s an idea that helps me justify everything that goes against reason but makes sense to me. Like putting out a flowing 27 track album at a time when people are hyped on singles, EPs and remixes. It’s also just a perspective about how things go. Even if it isn’t the right way, it’s the way things happen, and we can choose to focus on what went wrong or we can grow and learn from even the worst experiences. Mistakes and failures help us grow, yet somehow they’re the thing we most fear. It’s nothing new, the negative gives us perspective on the positive, and that’s golden. In a way it’s not as much what you think is right, because most of the difficult choices we face aren’t that clear and obvious. It’s more about owning your choices and the things that happen to you so that you aren’t wasting your emotions on unnecessary regrets and worries.
- Adam ‘Grizzly’ Epstein
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This classic track makes the creative block drift away..