Recording in Motion
Within most human cultures, the role of music is closely related to the emotional impact on its audience. When traveling to remote locations, the echoes of these distant lands function as primary colors for the painting of your own sonic artworks.
Nobody is more aware of this statement than the Prague-based producer MikkiM, who recorded the albums Offbeat Rhapsody in Jamaica, and Santiago while in Cuba, with local musicians. Offbeat Rhapsody won an Anděl Award – what is often referred to as a Czech Grammy – in the reggae and ska category in 2012.
MikkiM’s unique compositions are influenced by various global music styles. His main focal point however lies within the worlds of reggae and ska, a style he enriches through his own electronic vision. Throughout all six of his albums, he has collaborated with artists from across the world. It is in his studio, which resides in the upper levels of Prague’s infamous Cross Club, where the crossbreeding of all these international genres takes place, as if he was working in an experimental, hybrid laboratory.
In the live arena, MikkiM uses various guises, from playing with a band, to performing with Ableton Live alongside a set of machines. To date, he’s performed at various prestigious international festivals, including Glastonbury, Burning Man, and Boomtown.
Talking to the Czech producer, we asked him about the production techniques he uses while on the road, along with his tips and tricks and future plans.
Let’s start with the most important element of all – music. Do you prepare any tracks before your recording trips, or do they develop during travel?
Most of the tunes are already drawn up in the studio, consisting of bass, percussion, and a melodic part that when combined, illustrate the basic mood of a future song. I work on the arrangement soon after the singer completes his parts. Sometimes the vocal track doesn’t exactly match with my prepared melody and I need to rebuild the whole thing, and sometimes you just need to get rid of a good idea to keep the drive of the track alive.
When did you realize that this on-the-road recording philosophy was the best option for you?
It’s certainly not the most ideal option. I prefer the comfort of my studio and the relaxed recording vibe there. The process of collecting vocals on my travels is a challenge; one that enriches my tracks with stories I wouldn’t find here in Prague. For example my first recording sessions in the slums of Kingston brought a certain amount of adventure to the proceedings.
What does your recording setup look like?
I use my Dell laptop with Ableton live and a Rode NT microphone. This year I’m going to test out some new gear, including a compact sound card with a Solid State Logic pre-amp, along with ADAM Audio SP-5 headphones for monitoring, as I use a pair of A7X with a Sub8 in my studio.
How do you monitor and record efficiently in order to achieve such solid results?
During the recording session the most important factor is the well-being and optimal state of the artist. High-quality, closed-back studio headphones and a sound card with low latency are essential. The comfort and coziness of the singer is reflected in their expression and the overall quality of the recording. Last but not least, isolation from the surrounding noise is an obvious requirement for all studio work.
What are the most common technical difficulties you encounter on your travels?
Well for example, when your mic stand is broken in half and you need to replace it with your own hand and press record at the same time. Having a reliable recording technique which works for you is essential!
If you had the possibility to design an optimal portable studio tool that doesn’t exist yet, what would that be?
I would go for a set of portable wireless studio monitors and a foldable light mic stand. I didn’t find these anywhere on the internet, as I usually just buy my mic stands from a local shop.
Are you planning on going back to doing live sets or playing in a band one day?
Funny that you ask, as this year marks the 20th anniversary of me being on stage, and I am strongly considering a comeback with my machines. I’m definitely not putting our band back together however, although I still enjoy playing my guitars a lot.
What projects do you have coming up?
I am finishing my sixth album which drops in spring. The track list stopped at number 15, which means it would have been a double LP if released in the 90s!