Guest Contributor: Greg Bollinger
Michal Menert is a busy man. The California Producer is currently finishing up his second album with The Pretty Fantastics, co-directing music videos, planning a wedding, and releasing the follow up to his 2015 sample-based hip hop instrumental EP, Slow Coast 2.
And even with a million things going on, Menert recently found time to sit down with us to discuss music, wedding days, and life. Check out our exclusive interview below!
G: How’s 2018 been treating you?
Michal: “It’s been really great, having slowed down from being on the road to kind of work on music and be in the studio more. Then being able to play with the band and whatnot, it’s just really been fun. It’s the first year I’ve been playing bass live and just kind of singing at a lot of shows and it’s me performing a lot more than just doing laptop sets.”
G: It seems like you’re in a great place musically and spiritually, what do you accredit that too?
Michal: “Yea man it’s been a really, like we all have our faults and we all have our own demons and insecurities and shit like that but I’ve definitely found a more peaceful life out here in California and I’ve just been living around trees instead of people so it’s been cool kind of having that be the energy that I kind of get to coexist with you know.
G: So would you say living in California has affected the way you produce music now?
Michal: “Yes, California, and then also just not being on the road constantly. I’ve spent the last couple of years working on an album and doing these planetarium shows for Micky Hart from the Grateful Dead. Being engulfed with someone else’s vision for that long, you come out of it and just realize that time passes very quickly and it just kind of gave me a perspective and taught me a lot during that project.” I learn a lot but being able to have some time to just kind of catch back up with what I’ve always loved which is making my own music and kind of going down my own rabbit holes creatively. It reminds me of when I was working on “Dreaming of a Bigger Life”, I was working at Wal-Mart and I was on house arrest with work relief, so I had an ankle monitor and I’d go to work at like 4:30 and get off at like 2:00 in the afternoon. Go home and just pour myself into the music because it was like every chance I had a spare moment it made the time so much more precious. When you go on tour constantly you feel this pressure to be making music for the tours rather than making music for yourself.”
G: Where do you see yourself now compared to the Listen days?
Michal: “I think I’ve found the things I like about music. In most ways, I’ve been kind of self-taught and I, unlike a guitarist or a keyboardist or any of my bandmates that have studied their instrument and can use it as their voice. I hadn’t focused on one instrument, I kind of dabbled in little things here and there, keyboard, guitar, just enough to make noise but, I hadn’t gone into the complexity of real song. I now know how to guide it. That’s why I like playing bass because you can really move the song and the feel of the song with one note and it makes me not have to be a virtuoso on. It’s like the bass has strength and ability to conjure feelings not like the ability to shred on it. Not to say I don’t respect people like Thunder Cat!”
G: Is there a piece of equipment that has become indispensable in your repertoire?
Michal: No, not really. I’ve used MPC’s most of my life but it’s just more out of convenience though than necessity. It’s just been like the thing that’s fun to play, you can put a bunch of different sounds into it. Before I was playing bass it was a way to get my bass, sample, and percussion on there without stepping all over it and fucking up a part. I love my Wurlitzer, my Wurlitzer keyboard it’s amazing. I got it from a pawn shop in Fort Collins. I hauled it across the country. It’s called a Whitehouse.
G: I saw some video of you from Summercamp jamming out with Adam Deitch on the bass.
Michal: “Yea, that was awesome. It was such a privilege to be able to play an instrument with Deitch, I mean he plays with the best. For him to be down to participate with someone that is still a novice at the bass was really great. Definitely a highlight of the weekend for me, I’ve loved Deitch for a long time, he opened his world to me early on in my solo career when I was just a misfit.”
G: Tell us more about Slow Coast 2
Michal: “So I just finished an album called Slow Coast 2 that’s an instrumental kind of sample bass with different beat offerings because I feel like I haven’t put anything out in like 3 years so I wanted to kind of give people a bunch of different stuff over the summer so I’m planning on releasing a few different things here and there. I had Slow Coast 1 in 2013. It was the last album I put out. So basically this is kind of like a follow up to that. I did the first one mostly when I was touring with Russ Liquid on the west coast so it was kind of like a precursor to my coming here. Slow Coast 2 is me landing here and getting settled and taking on some of the vibes but still keeping my own vibes.”
G: I have to ask about the “Taking Up Your Precious Time” set at the Gorge last year during the Pretty Lights Episodic tour. That set was fucking magical. Can you tell me a little bit about how that came together?
Michal: “Derek and I were just kind of talking a few weeks before the show and he said wouldn’t it be dope if we did this and I was like, “ya it would!” I’m always fully ready for any conversation to be like “oh that would be just fucking awesome” but it’s never gonna happen. It just like grew through communication and just through his dopeness we ended up doing it and I’m forever grateful for it. He’s a friend of mine that was one of my best friends from childhood. He’s the best man at my wedding. I’m very fortunate to have a great life and I think that the connection that I had musically with Derek because we grew up together, it just, it’s one of those things that’s always gonna be there.”
G: So a sequel to that album is a possibility??
Michal: “Sure. Or like the next chapter for us. It’s like there are a whole lot of different ways it could happen or just, you know, we could Thelma and Louise it into the Grand Canyon you know.”
G: The people have spoken and they want the Michal Menert Cooking show.
Michal: “Ha! I basically just need to set up the GoPro in the kitchen. I’m gonna do a webcast and have to drive down to the local grocery store and use their wifi and upload it. But the isolation here Is well worth it.”
G: Desert island discs, what are the three albums you’ve got with you?
Michal: “Dark Side of the Moon, Songs in the Key of Life, and it’s hard to say which for the third. A lot of records are like, oh yeah, this is the one that changed my life when I was a kid but there are ones that I still listen to with the same kind of thing, you know. I think that maybe the Black Star album or if not that then a Madvillain album. That one’s like a really cool kind psychedelic hip-hop journey the way that it’s put together”
G: Best show in recent memory you’ve seen?
Michal: “Zoogma’s last show at Summercamp. That was amazing. They just put it all out there and it was like a midnight set so everyone had been playing all day and it was just one of those things that kept the energy going and you’ve been in the sun all day so your mind is kind of fried and you’re just kind of in a dreamlike state. It was their farewell Summer Camp show. So to catch that energy and catch them doing that it was awesome.”
G: You’re getting married, how excited are you guys?
Michal: “I’m super excited. I’m also very stressed because I procrastinate, I still don’t have my suit, I’m getting married in like 6 weeks and I don’t have a suit yet. I’m just, at the same time I know it’s all gonna come together. Most of it has come together. Everything else is, I just need a suit.”
Photo Credit: Cait Falc Photography