Mike Callander is one of Australia’s most dynamic DJs, an innovative producer and renowned remixer. Beginning back in 2001, Mike’s techno club-night ‘Fokus’ gave him the platform to perfect his genre-bending approach to DJing – a style that’s both versatile and unique. Now, almost 2 decades later, Mike has performed and toured alongside just about every techno DJ to visit Australia. We caught up with him recently in his studio to chat about his recent involvement with Aussie acts The Avalanches and The Presets, and of course, to see what new toys he’s been tinkering with.
It’s been a busy year for you Mike, how was The Avalanches tour?
It’s been great, last year we did god knows how many shows, maybe 60 shows or more. This year in Australia was the wrap up of a very long tour. By the end, everyone was performing really well and all the bugs were ironed out.
Can you walk us through your roles in the shows?
As I’m an Ableton Certified Trainer, the guys asked me to get involved in building the live show with them. Though they’re not Ableton Live users themselves, Live is pretty much the standard for on-stage software if you need to run backing tracks, play samples and control things via MIDI. It was a really painstaking process creating a click track for Paris the drummer – the way The Avalanches put together their music is simply cutting and pasting samples – they’re not really paying attention to the grid or quantizing things very often. So they’re not sitting their going “let’s get everything on the 1, the 2, 3, and 4. They put their music together by feel. Then it’s really up to people like me to translate that feel, matching it up to the technological stuff.
Have you picked up any new gear lately that’s rocking your world?
I guess the MODEL 1 mixer has been a big change for me. It’s the first time I’ve ever wanted to own a DJ mixer, and I’ve been DJing for nearly 2 decades. I’ve never really had a nice mixer at home. I’ve always had just a shitty little mixer that would just allow me to have the records making noise. I wasn’t ever really thinking about performance ideas. But then I discovered the Model 1 – there are some inspiring features there that make me want to do more with DJing and production, as well as live electronic stuff.
It sounds like the MODEL 1 it’s at the top of your tour rig?
Yeah, I’m using that where possible for DJing and live shows. I did a live show at the forum last year supporting KOLSH and I had the Model 1 for the brain of my live show. It’s got a couple of return tracks where I’d hang some reverbs and delays then have synths like the SH-101 and various drum machines rolling through those, so that was kind of the control room.
It looks like you’ve acquired a fair bit of gear over the years. Have you re-discovered any of your older gear lately?
Yeah actually, the KORG Volca Beats! My wife bought that for me as a birthday present (shout out to the wife). It was a bit of a novelty at the beginning – I was like “this is a cool little box” – but more recently Kim (Kim Moyers of The Presets) and I started experimenting with it for one of our Zero Percent records. The percussion track on our record VOLUMES, is actually from the Volca Beats believe it or not. It’s been treated pretty heavily with a nice signal path. I discovered with the Volca Beats I can send that really dirty kick and snare to my Model 1 and with the drive circuit, I can really juice it up. It’s something that keeps finding its way back into the arsenal.
Rumour has it Zero Percent – your techno project with Kim Moyes of The Presets – was the result of a late night at Revolver Nightclub.
Yeah he rolled in with Michael Delaney, a dear old friend of mine who used to run the legendary Melbourne club Honkeytonks. After quite a few shots were had, I played the Green Velvet remix of Youth In Trouble by The Presets, which is one of my favourites. We just started bonding on that and that turned into a long drunken conversation about music, which in turn eventuated to sending tunes back and forth and then hitting the studio.
Did you have any involvement with The Preset’s new album?
Yeah the last track on the album, it’s called Until The Dark. The Presets sent that over to me just to get a different spin on it. It was already taking shape as a techno record and they’ve collaborated with a lot of producers on this last album, so they sent this over to me and they said “do whatever you want” and I did. I was shocked when they came back and said this is exactly what we need.
How did you go about writing Until The Dark?
All Ableton Live. They sent me the audio stems, as they use Protools in the studio, and I tried lots of things – lots of sampling, and really messing with what they sent me – really f**king it up. Then just sent them back a bunch of audio stems and we just managed it that way
You can join Mike Callander on the June 15 at School of Synthesis for a closer look at the Model 1 mixer from Play Differently.
Follow Mike Callander: https://www.facebook.com/mike.callander/
HERE TO HELL: http://heretohell.com/
ZERO PERCENT: https://www.facebook.com/zeropercent100/?fref=mentions