2birds is hitting the ground running and will soon be in full flight. Oakland-based producer Mike Stone is creating sound design that leaves my musical ear feeling like something unique is entering it. This is a prerequisite to me agreeing to prepare a blog post about an artist or release. The tunes I’m mulling over must grab ahold of me, get me physically moving and give my mind enough room to comfortably search about the composition for new combinations of sounds and rhythms. 2birds 4-track EP, Katani (Street Ritual), features moments just like that, where I bob my head and furrow my brow. LIS Exclusive Single release “C14” is a prime example. Kaytranada-like synth stabs morph into a funky, swirling electro-soul melange, like something Flying Lotus would lay down. I love following the rapid, glitched-out synth progression that turns to a warm piano, performed by Pete Egan, in the outro. There are a number of nuances in these tracks that jump out at me as I listen: the organic and morose trombone play of Daniel Wright and panning snaps on “Rustica”, and how the first half of “Seal the Deal” sounds like an acid jazz trio performing a trap cover. With such an elevated showing for his first release, 2birds won’t be flying under the radar for much longer.
I took a few minutes to pick the brain of the Wormhole Wednesday’s resident producer/dj, 2birds. Get to know him in the interview below.
[LIS] In the no-longer-new world of bass music and sound design, how do you set yourself apart?
[2birds] To me, in the grand scheme of things, I actually consider bass music new. The amount of novelty and expected novelty is pretty mind blowing and inspiring. It always makes me sad when people say music is all starting to sound the samem- it’s just not true! I think this is the best time in the world to be a musician. I have no interest to be ‘apart’ or a lone wolf, I want to do everything I can to be a part of this bubbling pit of creativity full of musicians honing their skills. Music is one of the last things that actually physically brings people together, and I want to keep it that way instead of being ‘apart.’
What inspires your productions?
I find that going to places outside of music for inspiration helps quite a lot! Neural networks, quantum physics, travel, comedy, even Mario maker Youtube channels. For example, travel helps get a perspective on how you are living your life and your judgments, as well as how differently other people think of music. It’s pretty difficult to remember that most people don’t live the same kind of life as you, especially as a musician.
Like most musicians, music is an outlet for me emotionally, so it comes from my past experiences, learnings, and practice. But it’s possible to break this down even further and look at things through a different lens, by learning about neural networks. Neural networks take millions of pieces of information and condense them into extremely small (50 meg) files. In the same way, those ‘Google Dream’ images are a peek inside that 50 meg file, a song is a peek inside your neural network that receives so much info from the outside world, your brain! I realized this is why I love old school hip-hop so much. When you hear a beat that has a ton of soul, like this one, you are really hearing a shadow of what is going inside someone’s brain in a real way.
This way of thinking about thinking has really helped me break cycles and try new things. It plays into so many things including practice, work ethic, and being realistic about how complicated your synth patches and effect racks are, so you can actually keep track of what the fuck is happening in your song.
How has the community in the Bay Area and at Wormhole Wednesdays helped you progress as an artist?
Mostly the fact that it is a community! I think that is something missing from many producer’s lives. Going out and actually talking and interacting with real people is such a huge deal, and is what keeps me going. In the past, I have spent lots of time working on projects alone, wishing I was around more people. I feel super lucky to be able to have that now.
Who are some of your favorite producers?
HERE is exactly what I have listened to since high school.
How were you introduced to music?
This is like asking how were you introduced to language. I don’t really think anyone has an answer; you basically have to ask how humanity was introduced to music. There are multiple theories, including that it was just a byproduct of language (which I don’t really believe ), communication, etc. I think it actually has its roots in humans wanting to express themselves, but maybe that is too romantic, especially considering how brutal it was for early humans. Is this a total troll answer? Not really sure haha.
What are some of your daily routines? What surrounds you and what is your atmosphere like?
I am pretty terrible at routine. My routine is already too much of a routine for me. I go between my extremely dead silent, quiet house in the woods to downtown San Francisco almost every day.
What is your current studio setup?
Dynaudio LYD-7s , hackintosh, slim phatty, access virus, midi keyboard (with the least amount of buttons that didn’t totally suck), and a hand built tube mic from a kit.
What is your current live setup?
I try to keep things as simple as possible. I found that realistically I can only really think about one thing at a time when I play live. I have a x1 and z1 traktor setup and that is it. I very much enjoy that these controls do not try to emulate a turntable and are willing to reinvent mixing music.
What is your favorite free VST and can you tell us about it?
Hm I don’t use very many free vsts. In general, like my live setup, I like design that is willing to work with the medium it is in. If you are on a computer, then use a design that works well with a computer. If you are analog, don’t try to be digital.
Link us to three of your most influential non-electronic tracks.
To be honest, these aren’t my “most influential” tracks. I have just been listening to a lot of music with these kinds of rhythms recently 😛
Favorite video game?
In high school I was pretty successful at making flash games, so I’m really stoked on what is going in the indie game community right now and where it’s headed. I just played this game called GoNNER I really like. It’s HARD as fuck. Hyperlight Drifter is another great one, but I haven’t had time to finish (I should do that). Just learned about Duck Game the other day and it looks fucking hilarious, but it’s PC only.
Do you survive financially entirely off of music or do you supplement your income by other means?
Hell no. I am breaking even and trying to have as much fun as possible right now. I would love to make a living doing music, but the sacrifices are too much for me at the moment.
How did you grow as an artist last year – what is your plan for the rest of 2017?
Currently, I plan on bringing my music to different mediums. Stay tuned, if I ever finish