Justin Michael Injects Pure Passion Into His Music [Interview]
Justin Michael has had quite the career thus far. He has worked extensively with some of music's biggest stars, including Bruno Mars and Kaskade. With his new single, "Follow You," being released through Trice Recordings (a sub-label of Armada) on Monday, March 24, it felt like the perfect time to speak with Justin Michael about his impressive career. Take a look at our conversation below.
(EDM.com = Mike Walkusky of EDM.com; JM = Justin Michael)
EDM.com: For the uninitiated, what's your career been like up until this point?
JM: My career has been both exciting and extremely stressful at times, but ultimately it's led me to the realization that "Success is a journey, not a destination." I signed with Ultra Records just over five years ago, and at the time I felt like I had made it to the big leagues. I could hardly believe that I was actually on the same label as Calvin Harris, Kaskade, and Benny Benassi to name a few. These were and continue to be some of the biggest names in electronic dance music, but I also realized that none of them were resting on their laurels or waiting for success to come to them.
It was a growing up moment for me when I realized that my real work had only just begun and there was still so much to learn. Every musician talks about the importance of "finding your sound," and after signing with Ultra I spent countless hours in the studio, harvesting all the sources of inspiration that I could get my hands on. There certainly wasn't a single 'aha' moment, but lots of small epiphanies about what moved my soul and really connected with me on a very deep and primal level enabled me to craft a sound that is uniquely my own. My career since then has been about finding other musicians to share that journey with and to collaborate on projects producing music that moves me and hopefully moves dance music lovers all over the world.
EDM.com: When Googling your name, "Bruno Mars" comes up quite a bit. What's your relationship with Bruno Mars?
JM: Growing up in the entertainment capital of the world, the "City of Angels", Los Angeles, California, I have always been submerged in a thriving music scene. There are so many talented people in this city striving to become something really great and they work extremely hard to inspire people with their art. About eight years ago, I was introduced to Bruno by some close friends of mine. Before I knew it, we were consistently working in the studio together and ended up becoming really close friends. We produced and wrote songs together like "Her World Goes On" and "Watching Her Move" on Ultra. I recorded and created some pop demos with him for his own music, and when times got tough we even made some commercial jingle's and some background music for a Brazilian yoga instructional video..Oops, was I supposed to mention that? Mr. Mars is definitely one of the most talented people I know, and I'm really proud of his massive accomplishments. He dreamed big and got what he deserves.
EDM.com: Which producers do you have a strong friendship with?
JM: Kaskade, Jerome Isma-Ae, Digital Freq, and Tristan Garner are a few of my really good buddies. I have known Ryan (Kaskade) for over 10 years now, and I feel very fortunate that I was able to remix a few of his songs in the past. I am also very happy for him because he deserves all of the success he’s experiencing. Its been a long upward road for him since his album "Its You, Its Me" and I feel extremely fortunate and blessed to be a part of his story. Keep rockin' it brotha!
EDM.com: What made you choose this career path?
JM: The money, the fame, and all those hot raver girls! Isn’t that what everyone wants? *Laughs* No, but sincerely, my fundamental love and passion for electronic music. I started going to raves when I was about 15 years old, and I just fell in love with the music, the scene, and the culture. I knew that I wanted to be a part of it in one way or another, so I worked hard for my first Technic 1200 turntables and started visiting the record stores in Hollywood almost weekly. After that there was no turning back...
EDM.com: Who are your biggest musical influences?
JM: Sir Mix-A-Lot and Right Said Fred rocked the mic and taught me all I know. Just kidding!
So many to name, but on the dance music side of things I would have to say Eric Prydz, Daft Punk, Steve Lawler, Sasha, and Kaskade to name a few.
On the rock side of things Nine Inch Nails, Tool, Bush, Foo Fighters, Muse, Nirvana, U2, Coldplay, and 30 Seconds to Mars. You can probably hear some of my influences in my previously released track "Young Forever," which I have been giving away for free on my SoundCloud page for the past few months.
EDM.com: Can you give our readers a description of "Rocktronica"?
JM: Futuristic rock made for every dance floor on this planet. ‘Rocktronica’ is my passion for rock music mixed with my innate love for progressive electronic dance music. Growing up I was a full time raver kid. I LIVED for all types of electronic dance music and the hidden underground scene it once was. However, I always had this alter-ego of mine that sort of kept me 'sane' in a sense. That alter-ego was my love and passion for guitar driven 90's grunge and vocally melodic hard rock. Funnily enough, I’ve always found myself listening to dance music and rock at separate times. For instance, I would DJ in my room for 6 hours a day, but whenever I was in a car - I would ONLY listen to my rock dominated CD collection. Later on as my production career started to develop I thought - why not take those two genres of music and combine their different elements to create something new - something fresh.
EDM.com: What have been your favorite moments as a musician?
JM: That single moment when after you’ve spent so many countless hours, days, weeks building and fine tuning your craft and you FINALLY get to share your creation with the world. Many artists say that they "make music only for themselves", and I agree that you should only be making what you feel when you're creating it. However, the real truth in my opinion is that we also make music for the world to hear… To inspire, to heal, and to bring happiness to everyone. This is the best feeling ever and also the main reason I do what I do.
EDM.com: What was the creative process like for your new single, "Follow You"?
JM: "Follow You" is the follow-up record for my newer collaboration project with Digital Freq. I have known DF for awhile now and we always kept in touch via Skype and Facebook. Over the past couple years we started collaborating some ideas and had our first song together, "The Way I Feel," which was signed by Tristan Garner's XtraLife imprint. The record did well and got support by some big guys including Paul Oakenfold, Chuckie, and Sick Individualsto name a few. So after that release, we knew we were onto something great and "Follow You" was eventually born. DF has electro sounds in his blood, and I am happy we were able to create something really fresh and inspiring together. I look forward to more projects with him.
EDM.com: Who do you want to collaborate with in the future?
JM: I would love to collaborate with Eric Prydz, Muse, Kaskade, Trent Reznor, & Gavin Rossdale to name a few! As an artist, Eric Prydz really inspires me with the way he builds his songs. I can tell he truly understands the meaning of storytelling through music, which is something that drives me as well.
EDM.com: Where is your favorite place to play?
JM: Club Womb in Tokyo was an 'unreal' experience for me and has been one of my favorite clubs in the world to perform at. When Japan throws a good party, the vibe is like no other place in this world. I feel extremely fortunate to have been able to experience it a few times now. On that note, I must admit that the scene in Japan has been suffering greatly the past year because of a law that makes it illegal for people to dance after 1:00AM. So only a few clubs are able to survive and sneak past this crazy law. There has been a petition going around, and I highly encourage people to sign it to make a difference. Life without an electronic dance music culture is impossible for me to even comprehend.
EDM.com: What should the music world be looking for from Justin Michael in the future?
JM: Rocktronica, Rocktronica, and more Rocktronica!
I have a couple new solo tracks that I am just finishing up now, and I've also been working on a follow up track with my good buddy Jerome Isma-Ae which is sounding really crazy!! I also have a couple other secret projects that I can't announce just yet….So please stay connected with me on my Facebook, Twitter, and Soundcloud for some exclusive sneak peeks and previews coming soon!