Interview by Jason Gross (September 1997)
After hearing In Pine Effect over and over, I was still marvelling at Michael Paradinas (aka u-Ziq, pronounced 'music'). I knew it was some of kind of 'dance music' that he was doing but it wasn't something that I would expect to hear at it a party- probably it was so stirring because it was my first taste of 'intelligent dance music' as it's called. Still, I loved whatever it was he was doing and wanted to know more about him. Seeing him at an in-store performance was fascinating if only to see him bounce back and forth between his mixers, drum machines, samplers and other electronic gadgets like a possessed technician. Any jerk who tells you that 'anyone can do this music' doesn't know or understood all the thought and timing and arranging that an expert like Michael puts into his music. If some of it all leaves me still guessing, it also keeps me coming back for more to marvel at how he puts it all together. He's more than earned all the praise heaped on him and his latest release on Astralwerks, Lunatic Harness, is another fascinating piece of work.
PSF: Could you talk about when you first got interested in music?
I can't remember really (laughs). I first started out when I was six on piano- that was just at home. I wasn't doing much before that. I wasn't really listening to anything, probably just what my dad played when he came home. When I was seven, my brother got a Beatles record and I guess that was the first record that I was into.
PSF: Do you think where you grew up effected your work?
Not really. I started out in South London, Wimbledon. Later, I moved to Straton, which is a much more urban area. After that, East London, Forest Gate, which is a rough area. I live in the Midlands now in Wooster, which is like the country. It's cheap there. I don't think my music changed at all because of where I lived.
PSF: When did you start with bands?
I started playing with other people around 1980/1981. I was into Human League, Heaven 17 and New Order later on. I'm still into the music I was into then. I had an organ and one guy sang and another guy played up-turned buckets for drums. That only lasted two years. By the end, we had a drum kit.
I had a new band in '84 with some other friends. We were called Blue Innocence but we didn't have a name until '85 when we did our first gig. I'd written some songs for the band. We also did rock covers like 'Johnny B. Goode,' 'Every Breathe You Take' and 'Straight Through The Heart' where I'd play deet-deet-deet on the keyboard all the way through. We also did some Beatles covers and got to be kind of psychedelic. That lasted up until '93. We made three demos tapes but never actually released anything on a label. By the end, club based techno music and acid jazz like EMF and Charlatans was taking over. We had our heydey in the around '89 to '91 but then nothing was happening for us.
PSF: When did you start doing your own work?
I was doing electronic music in tandem with working with the band around '85. I had a four-track and a synthesizer then. I was doing covers and playing around, learning to use them. By '87, I was writing my own songs, among them some good instrumentals.
PSF: What was your plan or idea behind doing this?
I didn't have any. I just made music. I can't remember where it came from even when I listen back to those tracks. It had a mad rock beat like the Beastie Boys. I wasn't really playing melodies, I started playing with delay times.
PSF: You were studying architecture before this?
Yeah, for about two years. It was the same time I was doing all of this. Because I spend so much time with the music, I didn't have enough time to study. The people at the school said I had to make a decision between architecture and music. They thought I was going to stay in school and give up music. I quit that around '93.
PSF: When u-Ziq started, Francis Naughton was working with you?
He was a bass player in the band. He was a few years younger than us. I invited him to the studio to do some tracks with me but most of the stuff was done on my own- that's what appeared on the first album(Tango N' Vectif). u-Ziq was basically supposed to be me and him. For the first album, it was mostly my tracks. Rephlex didn't chose many of his tracks but there were also a number of colloborations between us there. He started a track and then I'd finish it so there'd be one or two melody lines of his there. He did the most on 'Vibes' where all the melodies are his and all the drums are mine. His tracks were very jazz based and I couldn't do that sort of thing. It was all programmed in key base. All the other tracks are pretty much how he wouldn't have finished them so it's basically my record.
PSF: Why did he leave?
He went to college in Wales in '92 and said 'I'll leave it to you.' He was never really into it. I was always the one writing and making tapes. He was really laid back and didn't give a shit either way. He's nice enough- we still get along. He didn't have the same enthuasiasm that I did to do it as a living.
PSF: What do you think of that record now?
I still like it. The level of complexity of my new stuff isn't there but it's good.
PSF: Who was the next record, Bluff Limbo, different for you?
That was done very quickly afterwards. I had to wait about a year before Tango N' Vectif came out. I was getting more and more pissed that everyone else were released records and I wasn't. It was stuff that was recorded through '93 because the record was actually cut in January '93 (released August '94). Then in December '93, we cut Bluff Limbo for white labels (promos). They were around all year and then they released 1000 copies of black labels. They didn't bloody release it until April '96, three years after it was recorded. They could have released it at any time but they didn't and I couldn't make them do it. I did eventually get them to release because I served them with a legal notice- it said that if they didn't release it in 90 days, the rights would revert back to me. They did release it but it didn't get any promotion or anything.
PSF: That's terrible.
Yeah, it would have been great if it could have come out in '94. It didn't get any press or reviews when it came out though. I would have been in a lot stronger position at that time if it did get promotion. So now I have to crawl my way back. It's a good record though and it's out now.
PSF: In Pine Effect came from material over a couple of years, right?
Yeah, that was like odd stuff from after Bluff Limbo from '94 to '95. Some of it was from before that in '93. So I had to pick the ones I liked a lot from about 30 DAT's of material. I left my friends chose it where they said 'you got to put this on it' and some of it was my choice. I had a lot of trouble compiling it really and I don't think I succeeded in getting the order right. It's not a bad record but I reckon it could have been better. It's one of the ones that I'm not as pleased with as the other ones.
It works better on vinyl. It's got three extra tracks and the order's slightly different. On CD, it doesn't work because of the way it's organized. On vinyl, it's four tracks each on four sides. Side A is a journey, side B is a journey, side C is a journey and side D is a journey. It's four different things. On CD, it's two lumps of tracks that sort of work together but it doesn't quite work.
PSF: What about the work you've done with your Jake Slazenger project?
That was material from after In Pine Effect really. It was the more jazz-funky stuff that I had collected all together. It was still collected from all these DAT's that I had. I thought I could pull these songs from those tapes and put them together as someone else, this funky guy. They were all origianlly done as u-Ziq. I could have put them out as the next u-Ziq album. It's one of my favorite albums that I've released (Makesaracket). I think it's my favorite after Bluff Limbo. And I like the new one as well (Lunatic Harness).
PSF: What about the equipment you use for your work?
All the sounds come from the equipment. No need to say more. I've got a DX-11 which is an FM synth, which has defined my sound up to now. I also have a D-50. The combination between those two with loads of long reverbs which I overuse (can't help that, sorry) is my sound. That's what I've got and I'm used to using it. I'm a bit lazy in the way that I use the sounds. I used them all up on the DX in the last two years for when I needed them to play live. But soon I'll be finished with them after playing all of the old stuff live. I've got some new equipiment now but I don't want to say anything about that.
PSF: You do 'dance music' though it has fast BPM's and shifting rhythms. Does that make it a paradox?
It comes out from the culture of dance music in Britian. I was into acid house and into rock music as well (as are most people who are into acid house). It's a kind of a dance music but it just incorporates things from other people. I still see it as dance music in a way. It's not really functional dance music or club. It's dance music the same as the B-52's is dance music. I don't think anyone could play it in a club unless it was an underground place.
PSF: You prefer doing your work on your own in your studio?
I don't mind working with other people actually. I don't like working in a paid-for studio because it costs money. I like to save money and I've got my own studio.
PSF: Is that more personal for you also then?
You know how your own equipment works so you do it quicker then. I can't work all the time because I've got a one-year-old son now. Before I used to go and work from six in the morning to six at night. If I felt like working through the night, I'd do it. I'd also work through the night because the rates are cheaper then.
PSF: How have things changed for you being a family man?
I don't have as much time to make music. My time is taken up looking after my son. It's pretty obvious. I like to spend at least a few hours a week trying to do something in the studio. At least six hours a week. If I start up something, I really like to finish it and I'm allowed to do that sometimes.
PSF: What kind of effect did jungle (music) have on you?
I think it was the first music out of England that was really British street music from the dance side. It was British hip-hop. That was the kind of music that I started to listen to when I started clubbing after college. I listened to all the stuff being played on the pirate radio stations and that's what started influencing me to start making music.
PSF: What are your thoughts on the music of people you work with like Aphex Twin?
The new album (Lunatic Harness)is pretty simliar to Richard's. I like the ideas but hopefully it's not TOO similar. (laughs) I guess I could have waited longer to put out an album that was more worked out and less derivative.
PSF: How do you see yourself as putting your own personal stamp on your music then?
I think it's the melodies. The new record has so many things on it. I'm happy with it but it's definitely influenced by Squarepusher. He's been a big influence over the last couple of years.
PSF: What are your thoughts on the techno scene today?
There's a few good artists and then hundreds of bad ones. It's going in a lot of new directions, isn't it? You have Squarepusher and other artists doing things with break-beat, taking jungle as a point of reference. Then there's the German minimalists. Then there's the more dancey minimalist stuff like Jeff Mills. I like a lot of that as well. I guess I'll be doing more stuff like Squarepusher because I like that really.
PSF: Do you think live shows are a problem with presenting interesting visuals?
I have some video stuff and a person who does that but there wasn't the money to bring him over for this tour. We've got some sort of visual show and we're working more on it at the moment to get some original lighting elements into it. We've got videos to go with each song too. It's nothing new but it's something. Could you ask the question again?
PSF: I was of thinking of some complaints from people who think dance music live was always boring because it was just people pushing buttons.
Well, I was always totally straight when I was doing gigs and I guess it would be a lot better if I was on acid. (laughs) Then I might be a lot more animated and do something that people would look at. It's the only time I'm entertaining. If you want me to act the fool on the stage, I suppose that's what I could do. I don't think I'll be doing that though. It's not going to be me dancing and entertaining unless you want me to do a strip-tease or something. It's not a rock band and we're not performers.
PSF: You were talking up the record you did with Aphex Twin (Expert Knob Twiddlers) for a while. What do you think of it now that it's been released?
It would have been better if it had been released in '94. At that time, that style was something that no one else had done. It was an updated version of easy listening and funk. He heard my Jake Slazenger stuff and I heard some of his stuff that didn't come out ('Melodies on Mars'). We had wanted to do that for a while and that was just the tip we were on at the time. It wasn't like anything anyone heard before really. By the time it did come out, a lot of things came out like Carbon Trio and there was a lot of revived interest in easy listening. Neither of us was prepared for it. It was just a tiny little thing done in a flat in London by some friends of Richard's- the place is called Johnnie's. So it takes time for stuff to come out but I still like it. It's got some nice tunes on it. Some of my friends have said that it's their favorite album. I don't think it's BRILLIANT but I think we can do a lot better next time.
PSF: Do you have any ideas about this project?
Just that it'll be Rich and Mike and it'll be me and him. Other than that, I don't know. It'll probably be electronic.
PSF: What about the Auteurs remix you did?
I did another remix of them, 'Baader Meinhof' which came out with the Wire magazine on CD. There were a lot of Virgin artists on that as well. That track was really jungle-y but without as much melody- I think the melody was just his (singer Luke Haines') voice backwards.
PSF: Were some of the record company people unhappy with the results?
That's why they they called it u-Ziq Vs. The Auteurs when it came out over here. Everyone liked it except one bloke in Belgium who said 'I don't understand it' and didn't release it. The Auteurs liked it though.
PSF: Would you do another project like that?
Yeah, I'll just see what happens. I haven't been really approached by anyone to do a remix except Yo La Tengo ('Autumn Sweater'). I was asked to produce a rock band but it fell through and they didn't want to use me. The record company just thought it was a good idea. I'm up for doing something like that and make some money at it as well. But if it's someone I don't like who has loads of money, screw them.
PSF: So would you do like Richard (James) and produce people you hate?
No, that's just his perverse sense of humor. (laughs)
PSF: Were you supposed to do a remix for Happy Mondays?
No, that came from a story where a writer talked about a remix album of theirs and had an advance tape of it. I didn't have anything to do with it. I do like the new band Black Grape a lot.
PSF: You once said 'the creative side has nothing to do with personality'?
I don't think that personality has anything to do with the music that I make. Me and Richard create similar music but we're very different people. There's just some weird manic drive that keeps us going.
PSF: What's going on with your new label?
I'm starting up the Planet U label independently. We've got Jega from Skam Records doing two singles and an album. Boards of Canada will be doing an album. I'm going to be doing another colloboration with Aphex that should be out next year. There'll also be something with Speedy J. I've also got a compilation coming out, maybe called Meal Time, with Aphex Twin, my stuff and new artists from my label. That's all kind of stratch-type jungle.
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