Famed turntabilist Mix Master Mike is best known as a producer and DJ for the Beastie Boys, but this Sunday the DJ born Michael Schwartz will be putting on a solo show at Blush nightclub. The 39-year-old chatted with with us last week about catering to a Las Vegas crowd and the art of mixing.
What can we expect from your set? Do you change it for the Vegas tourist crowd?
A lot of aggressive bass beats – a collage of songs that I love and songs that people love. It’s a party mix. I try not to cater to the commercial Top 40 stuff. But then there’s time you have to. You don’t want to play five songs that people don’t know. For me, I’ll play, two, three exclusive songs that are customized stuff then I’ll reel them back in with stuff they know. You go back and forth between worlds to keep them interested and entertained… You want to keep the floor packed at the same time. You don’t want to kill anybody’s mood.
Was it difficult for you to make the switch from traditional vinyl records to a computer?
Definitely. It took me the year after Serato came out to switch. You graduate to it after all the years of carrying big record crates. I’m not having to check in my valuable collection underneath a plane anymore, plus having to carry it is such a drag.
How are your custom Skull Candy headphones progressing?
Amazing. I had the opportunity to work with Skull Candy in coming up with the design and also the sound. They’ve been sending me over the test runs – amazing look, amazing sound. You’ll be able to use your iPods, your iPhones with it, as well as DJ with it. It’s really, really user friendly. It’s going to be packaged with my new CD called Plasma Rifle out in October. You kind of get a two-in-one thing.
Plasma Rifle will be your first artist album since 2004. Can you tell us a bit more about it?
“Plasma Rifle” is instrumental, break bass, hip-hop, dubstep, scratch music. It’s aggressive, it’s a sound assault in terms of weaponry—take a bazooka launcher. I have a mix CD coming out too and that’s pretty aggressive, as well. Everything’s come full circle. I’ve been touring for the past four years nonstop. I’ve been very excited that all my stuff is coming out. Everything is fresh and new: new Web site, new album, mix CD, and an iPhone application.
It seems like everyone in the DJing world has an app now. What’ll be unique to your app?
Mine, you can scratch with it; you can mix music with it. It’s a recorder, as well. You can record sounds and you can feed it into it. You can stand by a train station, record a train station, put it into my app and you can use it as a sound effect.
Has it been difficult to stay true to turntabilism when commercial music has taken over in a lot of the clubs?
Definitely. When I play my live sets, you take ‘em out, you reel ‘em back in. It’s a back and forth type thing. You gotta keep ‘em familiar in a sense these days. In music, there’s a lot of ignorance involved. For me, I think for the most part, people that go to clubs aren’t really there for the music. They’re not really music heads; the majority are there for a different reason. But for me, you’ve got to keep your integrity. I come from a hardcore hip-hop background. I’ll always be that to the bone, straight B-boy to the bone.
Is it frustrating to see new DJs come in with a laptop and use it to beatmatch and stand there the whole time?
No doubt, it’s definitely weird. I don’t want to knock it, but it’s weird. You get kids that think because they get Serato on their laptop, now they think they’re overnight DJs. But I don’t care, as long as you have integrity in what you do, then have at it.
For new DJs, how can someone learn to master the turntables as a musical instrument like you have?
Study the old videotapes. The old DJ battle tapes, the DMCs. … In order to know where you’re at, you’ve got to know where it comes from. You’ve got to know who DJ Herc is, Grandwizard Theodore, Afrika Bambaataa. You can’t just start; you’ve got to study your lessons in order to get in to it. … I want to keep it alive. Serato has made it easy. … For me, I like to make my own remixers. You’ve got to transition yourself from becoming a DJ to a producer. That’s what I was fortunate enough to do. It’s kept my longevity going. There’s different ways. Just stay true to who you are.
(Originally published in Las Vegas Weekly and at LasVegasWeekly.com)