After a long and action-packed weekend..sit back, relax and let this squirrel do the talking (get your mits on this track).
DD: 2011 has been a busy year for you so far yes? What do you have in the works for the listeners out there?
MS: Hey! Yes 2011 has already spun itself into a whirlwind of activity and sounds. At present I’m finalizing and mixing down two Mr. Squirrel records, working with a good friend mastering an ambient album I recorded last fall that will be the beginnings of a new moniker, and am heartily along in writing the next record which will also be a new beginning and much deeper. Also some EP’s in there too…it’s profoundly busy now for sure, haha.
DD: Busiest squirrel around x). What got you introduced to electronic music? Did you know you wanted to produce your own music from an early age?
MS: Heheh! Well my first introductions to electronic music came over from both my dad who would bring back random records from business trips– he’d bring back everything from Antiloop to Speedy J (who’s “G Spot”) record was my first electronic record– and from my aunt, who whilst in school in London would supply me with mixtapes of Bjork, Talvin Singh, Beck, The Chemical Brothers, Tin Star (who I might be the last soul who remembers) and others along with ridiculous mix cassettes she’d get DJs to make on random club nights. It all expanded and mesmerized me as I continued discovering the astronomic span of emotion and tonality that electronic music offers. I started making mixtapes and the little band I’d recruited my little sister in as a young kid was soon setting one boombox up to play radio and song bits whilst recording those samples and guitar and sounds and singing with another boombox. Getting a computer soon got me into mashing up bits of tunes into “ideal” personal moments. Nicking favorite bits from the jazz and techno and funk and rock, disco or whatever tunes that moved me deepest and lovingly rearranging. Eventually that ear training process led to writing my own tunes.
DD: Sounds like it’s been a very long and rewarding process for you. What keeps you motivated, putting your own productions out in the open, and just trying to establish yourself in this very big electronic world?
MS: It’s been eye opening and I have been extremely fortunate with the lovely people I’ve had the continued fortune to meet and resonate with. I think what motivates me most really though is the chance to capture emotions and moments. Every tune I write is in some way a love letter to a specific moment in my life or to family, friends, feelings, really deep conversations with buddies, daydreamy walks or just whatever. In a sort of selfish way I make tunes so that I can always revisit those elements of my life, and so that in some little way I can share those things with everyone. Certainly, you know, sometimes I go in thinking of a concept or a groove and I go “oh that’s it! That’ll get people bopping!”–there’s that little bit of the hungry young producer trying to flex newly formed muscles– but in truth I think it’s the most raw, naked, and simple expressions that are the ones that really grapple you. There’s a tune by Underworld that is absolutely one of my favorite pieces of music on the planet: it’s a b side from their Hundred Days Off record called “Like A Swimmer”. The mix is so delicate and sparsely laid out but each note is a brutally emotional tone that wraps you up and the words that Karl Hyde (of Underworld) sings are so painfully honest that every time I hear them I am moved to tears. “Your eyes…Your green, Just you: I’m shaken with you”. It’s the tender words with the delivery as of someone from across a pillow and it feels like a memory that you had and want desperately to keep. That’s where I hope to always be heading: the place where music and emotional memory snap together and you feel the world for a moment as you haven’t in ages.
DD: You are an eloquent man. What’s the electronic community like in your location?
MS: Perhaps you caught me at a good time, I mostly articulate in a series of wild emotive grunts. Heheh. The scene here in Madison (Wisconsin) is one of mounting interest I think. The city has a really fresh and encouraging attitude toward creativity, and though I think it is still a bit harder to explore the inner depths of electronic music whilst out and about–it’s an American college town so more than a few DJ sets I’ve been a part of have seen kids accosting me to switch out the Alix Perez or Holden tune for their Lil Wayne impregnated iPod touch, but there are a lot of local venues and DJs who get it: there is hope.
DD: You write so well. Are you studying to be a writer?
MS: Thank you! No, I’ll be moving shop to England this fall for audio engineering, but writing is certainly a part of my family in a deeply personal and rooted sort of way. My mom is a novelist and my dad has loads of poems and short stories that he has written: largely, in his case, for himself or loved ones. In my family I suppose the presence of art, as well as it’s creation, has always been that of personal exploration and attachment. I grew up memorizing every nuance of John Coltrane’s “Giant Steps” and Dave Brubeck Quartet’s “Take Five” or even just “Walking On The Moon” by The Police on repeat as I fell asleep at night after I stole them from my dad’s record collection (and never truly gave them back), and stayed up late with tea steaming watching PBS’s Mystery and Masterpiece Theater with my mom. All of the various sources of inspiration through wondrous works and the content tranquility that they bring you quietly permeated into my consciousness and burrowed into the kind of place that you guard with heated passion. If you can really absorb the work of others, in a pure state, to the point that you are internalizing and swaying with their nuances and expressions and traveling with them as they dig in deeper, I think the whole process of expression just becomes something that you learn to value on a basic soul affirming level. As I think of it maybe that didn’t answer your question…or maybe it did and then kept rambling…blah blah, then, I really love art, blah blah…
DD: Dude, your so awesome. I’m amazed by what you’re writing. If you could envision a visual backdrop for your music, what would it be composed of?
MS: Cheers man! Man what a brilliant question… a good friend of mine and I were having a chat the other day about how to describe a vibe in some tune or something thereabouts and we came to the memory of a time you were looking into the sun. I suppose that might be the best description of my tunes thus far: they are snuggled in the diffuse bright light of memories.
DD: Lights, mmm. Is a squirrel your power animal? I haven’t found mine yet..
MS: I’m not sure! The name came originally from a figure of my childhood: as a little kid in a town of college kids I would try to impress these cool old kids with being easy going. One guy lived down the street from us and I’d wander down and make paper airplanes with him and throw them at walkers. His name was probably Scott but I had a lisp so I said it in such a way it became squirrel. Eventually I realized I was not respecting my elders sufficiently and I started calling him Mr. Squirrel. Since accepting the name upon myself, however, a lot of squirrel behaviors have become apparent. I do, for example, write poems and lyrics on scraps of paper: receipts, the sides of cards whatever, and horde them in my pockets. I keep my surroundings in organized (barely) chaos but seem to dig out what I’m looking for based on intuitive memory. Perhaps I’m just obsessive compulsive but squirrels are neurotic bastards too…
Maybe a moment to turn the interview around: if you turn off the thinking center of yourself and consider your habits what creature do you feel affinity toward? What makes sense? It’s not like I go out on squirrel causes or feel the pain of each flattened roadside “brethren” but I do perk up my ears at mention of them certainly now, and understand how my behaviors are similar. Though I’d not be caught running on telephone lines. That’s foolish.
DD: Hmmm what’s an animal that’s only focused on a few things, and can be a bit hermit-ish working those few things?
MS: Beaver probably. Super focused on the development and upkeep of their dwellings so you know they’re probably loathed to leave.
DD: This is such a fun conversation. Is their any last words you’d like to say? It’s been a pleasure for shizz!
MS: Certainly man this has been a joy! Last words…hmm I truly feel there is nothing more important than finding, expressing, cherishing, and enjoying love in all its forms. I hope you and everyone reading enjoy the sun and those they care for. Love light and balance, be well everyone and massive cheers to Disco Droppings!!