The sculpture of sound is often instinctive by nature. Some might say that a musician is born rather than bred, whilst others cite education as a catalyst for creativity. When it comes to Mihigh, it involves a strong personality, experience, introspection, experimentation and a particular hearing perception that helped him sculpt and define his own trademark, both as a DJ and producer. He is undoubtedly an artist with a signature sound - you feel he is in charge without having to visually check the dj booth.
Music defines Mihigh perfectly, distinguishing itself through a peculiar style of story in constant development. Being known and heard for treating the audience with dark flavored soundscapes and subliminal disguised but strong messages he manages to captivate from the beginning to the very end. Structure and flow are a hallmark feature of his selections, adding one more trippy, eerie minimal style on top of the other that creates a haunted sphere which is rich and quirky.
The passing time deepened his love for good music and led him to the founding of the label Midi Records Romania, a platform that promotes art and passion, focusing on quality and consistency rather than quantity. Melodrom, a second record label that followed, is putting a highlight on his collaborations with peers he resonates within the playground.
MRR’s Showcase at Club Guesthouse this December makes a special occasion to ask a set of questions to the mind behind the label. We take the time to look back at his career in a conversation which touches upon early influences and collaborations, his mixing philosophy, and his variously changing roles as a DJ, producer and labels curator. Mihigh - a straight-forward, self-reflective music passionate is going to reveal us his story and approach.
What are your earliest musical memories?
Dida Dragan, some Romanian tales, Disco music and the Depeche Mode cassettes.
What were the moments that lead you to want to become a DJ and producer?
I really liked dancing. Growing up in Cluj, I’ve started going out in clubs since I was 14 in places such as Bianco e Nero or Apollo. First I would go to places for my age and then I would continue in proper nightclubs - listening to ‘90s music such as Snap KLF, McHammer - music you could dance to from that era.
Electronic music came by later, when I was around 20. For this, I had to travel for a proper experience: to La Mania, Kristal or abroad. That was the time when I clicked, I liked it that much. I never thought I would do this throughout those years actually, only after 5-6-7 years of heroically dancing in the first row I gave it a first thought. Cristi - K.D. Chriss bought some players and started mixing so I also gave it a try and saw it goes smooth. From that point - you know how it goes - once you’re into it, you can’t stop doing it. I’ve never set it up a goal - to start mixing, to become a DJ or producer. Also, when it comes to production in the beginning I wasn't interested in this area, only afterwards it became a natural lead; and has the same trajectory as mixing - you can no longer stop.
This is how everything developed, evolved and connected - with an honest approach to everything I do. It’s also about the passion and drive of that age - everything happened at that time when you’re much more eager to learn, you’re more interested in what surrounds you, you learn fast and have patience, you’re very focused. I was confident and I trusted myself and it all came together, but I never really had a plan on how it should turn out. It wasn’t a task, I simply went with the flow, with the right approach: research-research-research and practice.
Going through the progression of your early stages in production, is there anyone in particular who taught you or influenced what you were doing?
I’ve always sought for help with friends on the same level of experience as mine, we’ve sent each others tracks and exchanged ideas. All of us have a lot to learn still, it’s an infinite playground, each works different and I wouldn’t be surprised if some have completely opposite ways or methods of doing it. Honestly, I haven’t taken the shortcut, I haven’t checked tutorials, everything was trial and error. Somehow it was better, somehow not - but I understood probably more than I sought to and I experimented a lot, even though it definitely took me longer. If you study you understand faster why, where, when and how to do things. But although it was a bumpy road, each trial leaves you with an extra thing learned. There are not many lessons to give, just learn your machines. I would love if there would be more creative people in Cluj into music production. The studio we are currently setting up will hopefully attract new people, instrumentalists, to broaden the circle and spice things up.
What do you think makes your sound design distinct?
The approach and most likely the modus operandi. I think no one invented the wheel, but you can still differentiate yourself by being honest in what your mind is up to.
What should we expect next from you in terms of releases? I’d love to hear an album coming from your side.
I’m also thinking about an album. The whole idea was to put together 6 tracks that are not necessarily recent, but they all add up as my favorite ones throughout the years and never got released. They all sound different because a different timeframe means distinct set-ups, but they definitely feel like pieces of me. I would also love to record more on the current set-up that doesn’t involve any computer, I’m quite content with the outcome but I think I could take more out of it. I have a modular that I feel I could understand and operate better than I do at the moment.
On another page, I will continue the Melodrom series with one or two pressings per year. The label’s philosophy is that each release is a collaboration between me and a friend, such as Vali [Lizz], Paul K, Asael Weiss, Arapu and so on - good music, with a different sound - we have hundreds of tracks already written. Nowadays, in a creative mood, dozens of tracks are produced monthly. Some of them got played already, people are asking for them to be released.
Moving on, how do you think your personality shapes your DJing?
Completely. In terms of approach and.. everything.
What is your goal when you DJ, why are you doing it?
The objective is to build a narrative that will make myself dance - maybe it sounds selfish, but it’s not. I can’t focus on other people, to play for them - I don’t play to please anybody. I just listen to what I play and mix and I’m very keen to build something, to have a structure. I’m not preparing the playlist from home, but the selection I bring with me is very important and carefully studied and everything there sounds like me, there’s nothing in between. I’m not trying or testing anything, I’m all in - each track sounds like myself. If you don’t know what you’re doing it doesn't sound well and you can hear it. You can make people scream if afterwards something is building up. If you make them scream and then they go for a break or leave the dancefloor, something's not right from my perspective. I would bore myself.
The place where you play gets you in a certain mood? How does Guesthouse makes you feel?
The selection is the same, but a lot of people told me that if I play somewhere I play like that, and elsewhere I play differently. Regarding that, considering that I don’t prepare my setlist from home, I will just go to my recently added folders.
Guesthouse is Guesthouse. By far the best contemporary club in Romania - and it feels like family on top of that. When it comes to GH, I’m always excited and in the mood to play there because the sound is super accurate and I know I can play anything and mix as long as I want, but I don’t think it influences what I play. It influences the mix, because the club is dark and you know - exactly how it should be. The booth and the sound are essential in this equation because they allow me to be free, to have no limitations. I’m very nicely treated everywhere I go, but there are few places that make me feel like home - that’s only Guesthouse, Zurich’s Club Supermarket and The Block - Tel Aviv. <3
Which of the two makes for a strong impression in your sets, the first track or the ending track of a set?
I usually start with a track or two that I’ve played intensely to figure out the sound and to start from a place that I want. So I’d pick the last one for a strong impression.
What’s your favourite recorded mix of all time? Can be yours or someone else’s :)
James Holden - Balance 005 [both sides], a CD from 2003.
You’ve started Midi Records Romania in 2014. How did this happen?
I wanted the music I play intensely and I highly appreciate to be represented by a record label. I wanted to release music that surpasses time, that is built around a story or idea and that leaves a footprint. For example, if you take them and play them randomly, on shuffle, you’ll notice that it gives you an organic feeling, they’re melodic, they fit well together, they have a common core. From my perspective, this is what a label is built around - having a direction and knowing what you do. Each release bonds with each other, the artists are connected, it’s like we’re looking at different chapters of the same book.
MRR has quite a distinctive aesthetics. What’s the connection between the visual art and music released?
The design concept was created together with Sani Stranski since I started the label, basically we’ve created a moodboard from the beginning. Each sleeve has a different story, while they add up to a few details that remain constant and act as a pattern. Sani is a man that I highly appreciate and respect, he is pure quality. He designs the covers for Melodrom as well, they’re obviously different because it needs a distinct personal identity.
What direction do you see the musical journey of your labels going in the future - are there are more genres you’re keen to explore, or artists you’d like to work with?
When it comes to MRR, for sure I wouldn’t go for another sound register. Each artist, if you take them separately, doesn't sound at all like the others, my taste acting as the consistency line, while my ears defining the sound. It’s a matter of taste. The artists are people that I know personally, and the music is the one that I want to transcend time. On the other side, at Melodrom I’m more open, there I’m eager to explore and play more.
What are some of the challenges and joys of running your own label?
The record label came naturally, maybe I’m privileged to be able to do this because not everyone can, but I don’t see myself as a big label curator, just an artist that knows who he is and everything I did seem normal from my side. I feel satisfied when after years of playing them and all the conversations around them morph into a physical format and they are played. The only shortages I met are with deadlines and timing.
Who do you consider to be the biggest contemporary newcomer talents and why?
As newcomers I’d mention Dragomir and Paul K. I receive lots of good music from other producers as well, but I don’t feel like recommending anyone if I haven’t actually met them or I haven’t seen the consistency throughout a longer period of time.
More mature than the above mentioned are G76 and Lizz, they already started getting recognition widely - are truly different and both have a special sound design - being close friends of mine I can talk about them. Lizz’s production is much more than meets the market, I’m aware of all his output.
Let’s close the deal with your favorite track released on MRR.
Sloppy from the two fingers from Zefzeed - this is really an all time favorite.
Written by Bianca Iulia
Photos: Kay Ross