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Dark, uncompromising drum & bass from Metalheadz

2016 Jan 22     
2 Bit Thugs

We catch up with the Swedish-born Bristol D&B head as he prepares to finally release his long-awaited debut album

Swedish-born, London-bred, Bristol-based Mikal has been peppering us with his crisp, rolling bass since emerging on Nu Urban in 2007

Showcasing his slick skills on the likes of Shogun, Disfigured Dubz, Warm Communications and Utopia along the way, it was Goldie's hugely influential Metalheadz camp that really took him in and made him their own. The recently MBE-knighted bossman himself heralded Mikal as his "silent assassin" and teased us with the prospect of a Mikal artist album as long ago as 2010.

Well, the album took a little (read: a lot) longer than anyone expected, but on 5 February the prospect finally becomes a reality with Wilderness. And it's a decidedly dark reality, littered with molten lava drum arrangements, sheet-metal bass and stark sound designs that, rather than suggesting you get off your arse and shake it all about, physically pick you up and hurl you into the heart of the dance.

While Wilderness takes time to explore more styles than Mikal is usually known for - see for instance Segunda, his zouk bass collaboration with Buraka Som Sistema's RIOT, his James Brown homage JB's Groove or the grumpy, distorted halftime grizzles of Fear The Unknown - the full set is weaved in such a way there's a natural flow and connection between each cut.

It's the statement of intent we knew Mikal would eventually deliver. Here's how it all came together...

Three words: long time coming!

"It has been! This has been the plan right from the moment I signed with Metalheadz. I think it's what Goldie wants for all artists who sign with the label. It's what I love about being on Metalheadz: the lack of pressure. I've been able to spend years doing this.

"When I send things over, if Goldie feels something he won't hold back. I've had calls from him at crazy times like 3am or 7am! He's always got great feedback: if it's lacking or has too much of something then he'll say so, and he's steered me towards a lot of music I've never heard before to get ideas about melodies or parts or arrangements to develop particular parts on a track."

I hear you develop your tracks in a unique way: the drums and bass are often the final elements of the writing process, right?

"Yeah, that's right. I'm a lot more inspired by the atmospheres and moods of the track than the beats and bass. Not all of the time, but I often start with a pad or a melodic sample or synth line. It's focused around the melody - that sets the whole tone for everything that follows. I have been told I reverse-build by people before but it all depends on the track."

We're guessing this wasn't the case with JB's Groove...

"Ha, yes! That groove kicked it all off. Remember EPMD's The Big Payback? I've wanted to do something like that for years and put my own spin on it. I had no intentions of doing anything proper with it but it came together really quickly and Goldie loved it." 

How about Segunda with RIOT... we're guessing that wasn't written with the atmosphere first, either!

"No, it wasn't. I love his zouk bass style. Did you know he produced drum & bass long before he started Buraka Som Sistema? It's really interesting working with him: our beats are a bit faster than usual drum & bass at 180. Madly, we've never actually met, even though we've done two tracks together now. But he's actually coming over to the UK soon so we'll be working on a full EP eventually."

We'll definitely look forward to hearing that!

"Let's not get ahead of ourselves, though... right now, the full focus is on Wilderness. It's a pleasure to finally release it, I hope you enjoy it." 

Follow Mikal: Facebook Twitter

Wilderness is out on 5 February on Metalheadz





Tags: D&B, D+B, drum n' bass, drum + bass, drum & bass, Mikal, Metalheadz, Goldie, Buraka Son Systema