It was 20 years ago today... Well, sort of today. I mean it might not have literally been today. It could have been in June. But, anyway, the point is that it was 20 years ago that Mike 'Mu-Ziq' Paradinas decided to launch the immense Planet Mu label. In the early days Mu was related to Virgin records- when it quickly transpired Virgin didn't have a scooby as to how to market freaked out electronic genius, Paradinas went it alone. 20 years on, with a back catalgoue rammed full of albums documenting the cutting edge of every important electronic musical development the world has seen, covering grime, jungle, techno, dubstep, footwork, electronica and beyond, and it's looking like he made the right choice. So with plenty to talk to Mike about, we thought instead, we'd just pluck a load of random facts about the year 1995, fling them at him, and see were we went. Finally you can learn his thoughts on Kanye at Glastonbury, the kind of phone his mum uses, and the exact reasons why he got punched in the head in 1995. Here we go.
So, seeing as it’s the 20th anniversary of Planet Mu I thought I would pull up some facts about 1995 and discuss them with you. You good with that?
Yeah, go for it!
It was quite in interesting year, 1995. It was actually the first year that the Internet was made available to the public-
Was it? I remember the first time that I went on the Internet was when I was at Mixmaster Morris’ house. I think that might have actually been in ’95.
Did it feel like a life changing experience?
No. But it was interesting because Morris was playing me some great records, including a Pierre Henry one, which I believe was later popularized because it became the Futurama theme. I remember him asking me what my favourite film was, and then we looked it up on the Internet. It was so slow though. It was slow for years wasn’t it – the way pictures used to come up line by line. I think it took about 15 minutes to come up and I didn’t quite see the point of it then, but I think Morris was an evangelist of it back then. I just didn’t see it; I’m not very good at that kind of thing, unless someone really explains it to me.
So you're not a big early adopter?
Uhh, it depends what it is. But I’m not really that big with technology no. Obviously I use it to make music but I just use what’s to hand. I’ve got an iPhone, but I waited until about the iPhone 3 to get one I think. I’m more of a second stage adopter I’d say.
So you’re not going to be a Google Glasses guy then?
Oh! Haven’t they cancelled that? Although I do wear glasses so people probably wouldn’t know.
So for all we know you could be recording strangers already.
That’s the advantage of it isn’t it. You can record everything without anyone realising. Although, if there’s a little camera on your glasses then people are probably going to notice that. But yeah, because the E.U. made it illegal to do it without peoples permission, I had heard that they’d cancelled the project for the time being, or they weren’t selling anymore of something.
I just find the whole thing terrifying to be honest. I’m not a technological adopter myself, so it’s not for me.
I don’t know. It’s a cultural change that I feel you’ve got to be born into. If you’re born into it, it’s pretty much the norm I suppose. My mum has got TV, and I think 1938 was when they really came in because everyone wanted one for the coronation, but she refuses to buy a cordless phone. She’s still got one of those old dial up ones that takes about 10 minutes to actually make a call.
She’s still got one of the ones with a rotary dial?
Yeah. A push button one stresses her out too much. Even though she’s had a hip replacement, she insists on getting up to go and use the phone. I guess it’s the little exercise that she does actually do so maybe it’s a good thing. She never even got a video player or anything like that. She won’t let me get a DVD player for her, or a computer, or anything like that. She likes me to show her pictures of everyone, which happen to be on Facebook, but she won’t have her own. It is definitely an age thing though. There’s a certain point in your life when you have to say, ‘that’s it, no more.’ Then you slowly die with everything that you know.
Are you at that point?
Almost. If I’m anything like my mum, then yes I am. My wife says I am… I can understand it though, the view of, ‘I’m sick of life and I’ve had enough. I don’t want anything new to learn.’
Although, maybe it’s just my mum. She never learnt to drive either – it was too stressful for her. She did try to learn as she had lessons. I guess certain aspects of my personality have to come from her, 50% genetically. Is that right? Do you get 50%?
Does that make you a believer in nature over nurture?
I’m both. You can’t have one without the other. But that’s interesting that you’ve asked that because obviously I do believe that genes do describe our personality. But then genes evolve into the future, and you can’t have genes without an environment to shape them. I mean, it’s obvious when you really think about it. There is no argument.
Talking of nature, there was something that I found quite interesting, and that was that '95, was the year that Rogue Waves were confirmed.
What is that?
A Rogue Wave is also known as a Freak Wave, or a Monster Wave - it's a spontaneous ocean surface wave that occurs far our at sea. They get up to 86ft, and were considered mythical until 1995 because they go completely against anything around them, surging up out of nothing. I thought that might be quite a nice metaphor for your label-
Hah! A freak wave?
Maybe an abnormal, killer wave.
Imagine being the fisherman or something to have seen one of these in like 1850, and then not be believed.
Apparently they reported quite a few of them.
It must be something to do with the butterfly effect, where lots of little things feed into this one big wave. I don’t really know to be honest with you!
So do you think our conversation right now could potentially be causing a freak wave and making a fisherman over in China be coming face to face with a 90ft wave?
Should we stop it? I feel a bit responsible now.
Well you’ve got a lot on your head. Who knows what butterfly effects you cause every day.
You can only do your best I suppose, can’t you.
I wouldn’t like to be a butterfly.
There’s a lot on the butterflies.
OK, another '95 fact - I discovered that an American guy called Sean Nelson went on a tank based rampage; he was ex-army and got addicted to methamphetamines, split up with his wife, went crazy and then broke into a local armoury. He used a crowbar to open up this tank hatch and then, and I like this, the tank involved only required a push button to start, there was no key.
That’s quite convenient isn’t it?
Remarkably so. He then went on a rampage that lasted 40 minutes.
That’s the sort of thing you expect Jeremy Clarkson to do.
Haha! As part of show, or now?
Now that he’s been fired. Maybe he’s doing it right now. He probably owns a few tanks.
He probably does. Do you think he should have been fired?
Yes.He’s a complete twat and he hit someone at work. That’s illegal. It was a white person he hit as well, so of course he’s going to get fired.
He called him an Irish cunt as well. I’m half Irish and I don’t’ take a great deal of offence, but I’m still thinking that he’s a terrible person.
He’s such a prick.
So you weren’t signing that petition to keep him on then?
Fuck no, I can’t believe people that do that. The Kanye West one upset me too.
It made me worry about the state on England to be honest.
Just, why the fuck? It’s just so racist. I couldn’t believe that people were defending it. Maybe Kanye does have a bit of an ego, but a black person is allowed to have an ego.
Apparently not though. The thing that I found really got me was the hoards of people that denounced he was talentless, purely based on nothing.
In the last 5 years I can’t think of anyone that has put as much into hip-hop as he has.
He’s also a fully trained musician. He’s been making stuff since he was 14 years old. He’s spent two decades writing music. What does he have to do? Really? So, do you listen to much hip-hop?
A little bit. Not a great deal.
Did you ever, and is it just a thing that you’ve lost track of now?
No, I never listened to a great deal, but I did listen to Kanye’s stuff from College Drop Out onwards. I’m aware of al the influences though, I have to listen to some to be aware of what’s going on in electronic music as it’s been one of the biggest influences in the last 15 years. Since the mid-90’s hip-hop has kind of begun to become more electronic again and I think that’s where the cutting edge of electronic music has been really.
Are you going to be going to Glastonbury?
I’ve never been, and I’m not going to be going. I don’t like festivals. I don’t like mud. I don’t like not being at home with my own bed. I can’t imagine anything worse than hanging around those sorts of people that signed that petition! Fuck it. I’ve never really enjoyed going to festivals. I mean, it’s okay when you play at them because you normally have some sort of backstage area, where you can chill out quietly or sit down – which is the kind of thing that I like doing.
How was Bangface then?
It was remarkably good. We stayed in chalets, which is much more civilised. I can cope with that. I found it quite stressful where there were crowds. I need to escape and have a little lie down every now and then. If I speak to people I find it quite draining.
You’re really not a festival guy are you…
No, exactly. Things like Bloc or Bangface though where you can chill out in your chalet and then go to a show for a little bit and come back are alright though. Unlike places like Glastonbury, where you have walk 5 miles to your tent.
I haven’t been for a long time, and out of sheer bloody-mindedness I sorted myself out a ticket because so many people were pissed off at Kanye, I just wanted to go and see him play., but to be honest, I hate camping and dealing with the elements. This country is not designed for outdoor entertainment.
I went to Coachella once, I think it might have been the first one, and it definitely makes more sense in that climate. You’ve got palm trees and the sun.
It’s nice. I think the only camping that I’ve ever done at a festival was at one called Phoenix Festival in ’94. It was in Stratford somewhere. I think I’d camped on a rock or something and I couldn’t sleep all night. Never doing that again. That was it in terms of camping.
I saw Boards of Canada’s first gig. Maybe it was ’95. Well, I was playing anyway… I think it was Autechre, Boards of Canada and me. I did see The Prodigy there. Actually, I think that was a different festival. Some day time thing in Stratford. I don’t think it was at Phoenix, it was some airfield in Stratford. I saw them with Collapsed Lung, that’s a name I haven’t thought about for a long time.
It’s strange thinking about them doing these live shows like 20 years ago. It was what could be seen as a Golden Era for UK IDM, I suppose you’d call it.
Well yeah, you did have to carry a lot of equipment. I think ’95 was also when the first laptops were starting to come out. Maybe between then and ’98.
How long would it take you to set up?
Well definitely longer than it does now, which is about 10 minutes. It used to take about 25/30 minutes to set everything up. It’s not really the setting it up though – it’s the carrying it there. I had all these metal synthesisers and samplers and stuff and 2 mixing desks. As well as this Atari computer that wasn’t really suited for playing live.
You must have had quite a few floppy disks too, as the DVD was only really invented a few years ago.
Oh yeah, everything was on floppies!
Have you still got it all?
No! Fuck that. I’ve just got a laptop now. I got rid of everything.
Presumably you saved everything though?
I saved all the music I made, but not the Atari files, no. I think the Atari gave up the ghost to be honest. Information on floppies never lasted that long either. You’d try to load them up a week or so after you’d save to them and it wouldn’t be able to read it.
Did you have anything like that happen when you were playing live?
All the time! I had to load a song from each floppy in between, that’s why I had a guitar pedal that I’d use to string out the end of the last track so that I had the time to load of up the next one. I’ve actually still got the guitar pedal here, a PF2.
Sometimes there can be a sense of nostalgia about the rough and readiness of stuff like that. Do you think that’s justifiable or do you think it’s just ridiculous.
Well, for other people yeah. There’s always a false nostalgia. There are a lot of people that are influenced by IDM now, and they’re going back and buying equipment that people may have used in the past. I can understand though, it makes sense.
When you’re looking for stuff to sign, do you care if something’s made on a laptop or if it’s made with certain kit or anything?
No. I’m terrible with equipment. I can recognise an 808 or a 909 but so long as the music excites me it doesn’t matter how it’s made. I never really ask people how it’s made. I’ve never been one to bother with equipment or gear; I just use the easiest thing. Having a laptop with Logic on it makes sense to me.
I find the idea of vinyl only DJ nights bizarre; because I love that I just walk about with a USB stick now. I’ve spent years carrying about records. Why would I want to do that again?!
That is actually the one thing I still do. I DJ with vinyl. I really enjoy it.
It kills your back though!
I don’t have to carry it anywhere. I DJ at home. I’ve got Serato though, so I think I’m going to have to set it up with my laptop and then I can just going around with a little USB drive.
The first time you do it, you’ll be walking in there and it’ll feel quite strange, but at the same time…
I do have a bad back so it would actually be quite helpful.
If you’ve got nothing else from this conversation, that at least maybe you’ve got the impetus to move over to USB.
Well, I knew I had to do it. It’s just finding the time. Because everything I have is on vinyl, so I’d have to convert it all to MP3’s. I could buy them I guess, that’s another option.
When I look back over the last 20 years, one of the things that I often think about is that since ’95, things seem to be rushing forwards so much and sometimes I feel that with this rush forwards, we’ve never actually caught up. I’m wording this terribly.
What I’m trying to say is that producers used to be obsessed with making sounds that no-one had ever heard before.
Oh, you’re talking about music. Right!
Well, just everything really. Just culturally; things like fashion, music and art.
There’s a lot of that sort of, cyber stuff about. I think there was this shop called Silverfish in London. It was a record shop and they had smart bars and things like that. People were reading William Gibson and that sort of thing.
Sometimes now I get the feeling though that people are more concerned with sounding, dressing or looking like the past, which was actually obsessed with the future.
Simon Reynolds has actually covered all of this in his book. It’s all to do with the proliferation of digital music. YouTube is a great example as you can now just listen to anything from any time, at any time. You used to be restricted by what was out at the time and what record shops could afford to keep in stock. Now though, you’ve got eh entirety of the last 60/70 years of music available on Spotify.
Have Spotify done a good deal with you?
No! I was actually just complaining about them. I was just trying to get the label verified, and they were saying that you can’t verify a label.
That actually brings me to my final point. Eric Cantona did his infamous flying kick at the start of ’95, which made me wonder if you’ve ever actually had to put someone under manners.
Is that football? I think I’ve heard of Eric Cantona.
You must remember it. Even if you don’t know football. He ran and jumped over a fence and gave a kung-fu kick to a guy that was sitting there.
Vaguely remember something. What was I doing in ’95?
You were starting a record label…
Yeah, kind of. Hah. I don’t really remember that… But have I ever had to put someone under manners?
Yeah. Have you ever found yourself in a physical confrontation with a stranger?
Have I ever found myself in a physical confrontation with a stranger? Haha. I’ve been hit, yes. I think it was actually in ’95.
Do you remember why they might have hit you?
Yeah, It was because I had long hair. He called me a fraggle and punched me!
Back in the good old days. Fucking hell.
Yeah. It didn’t hurt. I just got on a bus afterwards as I was just waiting at the bus stop at the time.
Where were you?
Forest Gate I think, East London.
I remember being younger and getting so much grief for my hair. I just had big hair, bit I don’t know if you still get it now when you’re a kid.
Well, my son has the same hair I used to have actually and I keep telling him to get it cut. He keeps complaining that he doesn’t have a girlfriend yet and I keep saying, ‘well if you get it cut you’ll get a girlfriend.’
Then he says, ‘Well I don’t want a relationship at the moment father.’
Why don’t you call him a fraggle and hit him?
Well, that’s illegal isn’t it.
We covered that earlier. I wouldn’t do that to him, he has to learn his own lessons.
I’m glad you wouldn’t do that to him to be honest! Does he already seem to have a use of technology that seems beyond you?
I don’t know. Probably. He does all these games, he’s really into gaming. He uses this thing called Steam? I’ve heard him talk about a goat simulator. I don’t know. These are just words I’ve heard.
I couldn’t tell you what a goat simulator was.
I think it is literally a goat simulator. You can be a goat on a computer.
That’s a form of entertainment?
I don’t know why young people do that. My kids aren’t really into music. Well they are but it’s more stuff like Ben Frost. What I mean really is they don’t make any music, they just play games.
Just to finish, I’d better chat about the label quickly. What have you got coming up?
We’ve actually got a bunch of Venetian Snares records coming out for Record Store Day, which is in about a months time I think. We’ve got an Drew Lustman album, aka FaltyDL. New Echoplex album has just been announced, that’s coming out in May. Then later in the year we’ve got our 20th anniversary compilation.
What was the deal with putting the compilation together? Were you surprised when you went back over stuff?
Yeah. I haven’t finished putting it together. That’s my next job really. I’ve got 540 tracks that is all unreleased stuff from the last 20 years that I need to whip into shape for this compilation.
Is there anything that you know is definitely going in there?
I think there’s some unreleased stuff from Vexed, there’s a remix by Remarc.
Yeah. A 2001 remix of Thunderclap that never made it out.
Amazing, Remarc stuff is always good.
Yeah, although he said he’s not pleased with that so he’s going to redo it. Jamie is actually working with us now.
On new music?
No, he’s actually doing A&R with me. He is working on new music but the EP is going to e coming out on his own label, Knives, that has only very recently been announced. I think we’re going to do another Kuedo album at some point too.