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Mike Griego [Interview]

36 min read

Based in Buenos Aires, Mike Griego has carved out a unique place in the electronic underground. His exacting design, addictive grooves and avant-garde melodies have made for a transcendent sound that continues to unify dancefloors around the world. With a career that now approaches fifteen years and one hundred discography credits, Mike would have to be considered one of progressive music's elite artists, earning the praise of genre trendsetters Hernan Cattaneo, Lee Burridge and Nick Warren, among others. A meticulous discography reflects his choosy nature; with Replug, Sudbeat and Tale & Tone serving as the primary landing spots for his musical output. 2023 proved to be an impactful year for Mike, furthering his successes with the launch of his 'A Line In The Sand' imprint, a label which now not only serves as his primary home, but also offered up two of progressive music's most memorable releases of the year in 'Antidote' and 'Perfume'. 2024 has seen Mike continue to select his releases wisely, taking on projects from Afterglow and Clubsonica, while also releasing a new two-track showcase 'Trash Can', via A Line In The Sand. This week finds Mike making his debut on Flown Records with 'Deaf', alongside progressive phenom Kostya Outta.

Progressive Astronaut caught up with Mike to learn more about the release of 'Deaf', his background, nightlife in Argentina, A Line In The Sand, DJing and much more. Enjoy.

Hi Mike, thanks for talking to us today. How has your start to the year been so far and please tell us something interesting about your day today?

Hi guys! Everything has been amazing really, with my label and a couple of new releases which have been really well received and supported, can’t complain much at all.

Let’s look back on the first half of the year, what gig of yours has stood out the most and why?

Honestly I had a blast in Ecuador and Mexico, Bassick and Funk Club respectively, are both great night clubs, and the promoters are great friends. Can’t wait to visit again.

Now let’s look at tracks (not your own), what is a track which has come out this year that has impressed you the most and why?

Really amazing music coming out this year, but for me ‘Galactic’ by Robert Babicz. It’s been in my sets since it came out, even though it’s bpm is really high, it works perfectly at 123-124, and it just rounds up my sound when my set is peaking. Amazing, acid, outside the box production. Such a big fan of his sound!

Take us through a typical day when you’re not travelling, what does a day in your life look like?

I usually wake up early in the morning, have some eggs and bacon with mate, and start producing. Either an idea I got to start during the weekend or something new. Also, the mornings are really inspiring for me, I get a lot done.

How did growing up in Argentina influence your music taste and direction? Or did it all?

Well, the fact that Hernan, Martin and many other great DJs pushed to build and preserve the underground scene for me was key. I was exposed to early commercial dance music in the early 2000’s when it still had a lot of rock and pop infused to it. I still carry a lot from my rock and metal upbringing to my own tracks even today.

What are some of your best memories from first going to clubs? Were there specific nights or sets that really made you feel you wanted to pursue electronic music?

Definitely my first Moonpark and Creamfields 2005 and forward. Those events really made me fall in love with the scene, which was super different and so enthusiastic back then. Everybody was trying to explore and find out which genres they liked best. I got to see many great acts and DJs, such as The Prodigy, Infusion, Underworld, The Chemical Brothers and so on. Amazing times.

If you were a tour-guide for nightlife in Argentina, what would be the clubs you’d take the people to see and what local DJs do they need to hear?

The best club in Buenos Aires right now is ‘The Bow’. Big club, with big names. And if you want a more ‘intimate’ underground feeling, I’d definitely check out ‘La Biblioteca’. Super packed and amazing atmosphere. It’s great to try alternative music, because people are more involved and the feedback is great.

Being a Buenos Aires resident, how would you say the nightlife differs from Buenos Aires to the other major cities in Argentina? Or is there a difference at all?

Honestly, I think people in Buenos Aires are so cultured, they know everything about the nightlife, what’s happening, which Djs are playing, when and where! they speak about different genres and they really care about the tracklists. They get involved with passion, and they let you know if they liked the set or not. I think that’s the main difference, people get involved in the scene passionately.

When we ask most artists what is responsible for the popularity of progressive music in Argentina the overwhelming answer is Hernan Cattaneo, would that be your feeling also? And if so please speak on that, also to add to that, who else from Argentina inspired you when you first discovered the music.

It’s hard not to acknowledge Hernan’s contribution. He single handedly made Argentina one of the best, if not the best place to come and play. He’s a great portal for people of all ages to get to know electronic music, and since he has a broad taste, moving through different genres, it’s a great way to get a taste and then move on to what you really find interesting and compelling. In Argentina, Martin García made a great impression on me around 2008 and the unforgettable ‘Journey’ parties he use to hold at Pacha. But there were many other Djs from other genres that helped shape my taste for electronic music, like Zuker, Carlos Alfonsin, among others.

You’ve had a remarkable career which now spans the better part of two decades, with releases via Balance Music, microCastle, Replug, Soundgarden, Sudbeat and Tale & Tone, amongst others. If you had to pinpoint a track or release which had the most impact on where you are now what it would be and why?

Well it’s hard for me to pick one, but ‘The Fourth Dimension’ which I released in Sudbeat around 2013, just because it was my first EP in Sudbeat, an accolade that I had chased for a long time, ‘Mocca Sunset’ in Flow Vinyl, which was played everywhere, and more recently ‘Flying Doves’ in Replug, which was super popular a few years ago.

You have a new single ‘Deaf’ out now via Flown Records. Tell us a bit about the track and how it showcases your current sound.

It’s funny because, I named it Deaf due to the fact that I have some issues with tinnitus and ear fatigue, and as a way of coping with the situation, I gave it said name. It’s just a variant of the more clubby sound, techy, housey funky vibe, and added a melody just to make it more original.

There is also a great remix from Kostya Outta, I’m curious how involved you were in the remixer selection and tell us why Kostya was a good fit to re-interpret ‘Deaf’?

Me and Kostya have become good friends, and we both admire each other’s work. When Scippo proposed him as a remixer, I didn’t hesitate. He did a great job indeed, and he’s doing amazingly with his career as well. Well deserved, amazing producer!

Let our readers inside your studio for a moment, what is your current setup and what studio tools are featured heavily in your recent productions and more specifically on ‘Deaf’?

As for now, I’ve bought many synths, like the polyevolver from Dave smith, and the Prophet 6, but that track is all made with VSTs, since I made it a while back, when I still didn’t own all my synths. I don’t care about how you produce a track - if it portrays the idea truthfully, then it’s perfectly ok. I made more than half of my career with software synths. The studio I’ve got right now, is just for inspiration and quick access to modulation. A different more ‘instrumental’ approach, but equally as good.

You’ve reserved your music for a select group of labels over the course of your career, why did Flown Records feel like the right fit to add to your resume?

Emi and I have been friends for many years and even collaborated in some tracks that got support from John Digweed and Hernan, so It really felt natural to gift him music to release and also combine our audiences. He always supports my music as an artist and as a friend, and I really appreciate loyalty, specially in this cut-throat type industry.

You started your own imprint ‘A Line In The Sand’ about nine months ago, fifteen years into your production career. Why did last year feel like the right time to start your own imprint after all that time?

I had so many tracks laying there, which hadn’t found the right place, and my friend and co-owner Gian Luka (who’s also a great upcoming producer) suggested I should open my own label, and that he’d help me with the administrative part and a&r, tasks which are really time consuming.

Being a label owner, how do you decide which of your tracks you want to release there as opposed to shopping them to other labels?

 As for now, we are just releasing my own tracks, and a couple of cherry picked track from other artists that I really admire. It’s hard for me not to be a perfectionist and I really push to have a high standard. There will be a time for the label to become a bit broader, but for now we are really looking for original, unique, outstanding takes on electronic music. Most of the demos I get now are well produced but kind of the same formula over and over. We are compromised to bring a new and different sound but based on the foundational sound of progressive house that we really love. Tribal, deep, hypnotic, sensual. We don’t care about all the standards that songs are meant to fit into, we want to create some counter culture to bring the patience back. Everything seems to be so instantaneous and upbeat, we want to bring some gentler pace back to the genre.

You’ve currently only released your own music via A Line In The Sand. Will the label eventually be signing other artists and if so, what advice do you have for artists hoping to get signed on to your imprint.

We’d love to release any music, from any artist, as long as the music is unique and not a typical formula. We have no rush to fit any sort of standard or schedule. We just want to release amazing club music from diverse genres. As for now we are focusing on progressive oriented, but…different stuff is coming too.

Now let’s talk about DJing for a moment. You're one of Argentina’s most well known progressive house DJs, having shared the stage with top international talents for the better part of a decade, how would you describe your approach to DJing?

In the last few years it changed quite a lot, just because now 80% of my sets are comprised of my own productions, which brings a really special flavor to the sets. By that I mean, that people will only get to hear that sort of sounds when I play, because the other Djs won’t have all the unreleased and newest tracks. I believe this is the main reason why people chose to listen to one Dj over another. Yes, there’s the hype and marketing factor, but the experience and the music selection and universe is key.

Can you tell me a bit about how your work as a DJ and performing in front of big crowds has influenced your view of music, your way of listening to tracks and perhaps also, your work as a producer?

I produce every day mostly. It’s my goal to add as much as possible to the scene that I love dearly. These days, because of how music selling platforms work, producers just copy each other and that has made the scene a bit stagnant, even though there’s always great music coming out, for a new DJ, it can be a bit overwhelming. That’s why I believe the best way to make a name for yourself as a DJ is by having many of your own  productions included in your own sets. I’m obsessed with sound, mixing and everything related to music production. I enjoy finding out new techniques and different ways to achieve things, and that’s what makes me tick. I hope I can be better everyday by my own standards, and finish great music that touch people in their hearts.

How much prep do you put into the sets you play, or are they spontaneous for the most part?

I know my own tracks quite well already so most of my sets are completely improvised. However, the first two hours might vary a lot, depending on the venue and country I’m playing. I have to adapt usually, because some audiences are more patient than others.

Current Top five tracks in your sets?

1 - Mike Rish - Ahknaton

2 - Robert Babicz - Galactic 3

3 - Doc Brown - Shine

4 - Hard Won (DNYO Remix one)

5 - Gian Luka - Paradigm

If you are not DJing, producing or socializing at clubs, where do we find you? And doing what?

Either at the gym, lifting or somewhere eating asado.

If you could set up an event with a line-up of five artists of your choice, who would you book and what set times would you ascribe to the artists?

That’s a hard question!

1 - Ricky Ryan, one of the best Djs I’ve ever listened to. He plays a bit slower so I’d allow him to show us what he can do earlier in the night.

2 -Hernan Cattaneo could take the lead and drive us through a great set.

3 - Guy J. What could I say about him that hasn’t been said already. He could fit any line up and do it perfectly.

4 - John Digweed, who excels with avant garde music, always at the top of the futuristic sound.

5 - The prodigy. Love that band. Best live performance I’ve ever seen

Looking back on your career thus far, what advice would you offer to your younger self?

Don’t focus so much in what others do and just follow your dreams with passion and the certainty that when you do things with love and all your heart, there’s just nothing to fear.

If you were not a DJ/Producer what do you think you’d be doing with your life?

I’d be a sound engineer, does that count? Otherwise a translator or a chef

What TV series have you been enjoying recently and what are some of your all time favourites?

I haven’t been watching much tv. Series I really enjoyed are, Mr. Robot, Peaky Blinders, Game of Thrones, Seinfeld, Curb your Enthusiasm and Breaking Bad.

What can we look forward to from you for the rest of 2024?

More music on A Line In the Sand and hopefully I’ll be traveling way more. Maybe even close to you guys. Hope we can all meet and enjoy a night of beautiful music.

'Deaf' is available now via Flown Records: https://tinyurl.com/29nthkur

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