Famed producer and music trainer Mike Monday sits down with Dubspot’s Michael Walsh to discuss his workflow approach, productivity, and passion of coaching creative people on how to succeed.
As a DJ I’ve known of Mike Monday‘s work for years. A few of his jams haven’t left my record box for a decade now, so I’m definitely a fan. I have also recently become more intimate with Mike’s inspirational work by way of his blog – a place where he offers motivational advice and creative tips for musicians. If you follow our blog, you may have come across his words of wisdom in some other creative advice articles such as 10 Tips to Fight Writer’s Block and Increase Studio Productivity. To put it mildly, we are fans of his advice! This excerpt from his blog will give you an idea of what we mean:
“How to Turn Your Inner Critic into Your Greatest Asset: Your inner critic is your most reliable guide of what not to do. So when that voice in your head says you’ve not got the right tools, use even less. When it thinks you’ve gone too far, go further. And when it tells you it’s not good enough, finish it anyway. Go wherever you feel the most resistance because this is where the magic happens.” – Mike Monday
Mike Monday’s productions continue to be in high rotation by pivotal ﬁgures in the industry such as Claude VonStroke, M.A.N.D.Y. Jesse Rose, and Tiefschwarzas to name a few. Although now he focuses more on training musicians he still produces music, and has even scored a film called La Bendición. His embark on a mission to help musicians and music producers at all levels of skill, success, and experience to finish more music in less time with better results has led him to share powerful advice and develop training courses available through his blog. He is also a Neuro-Linguistic Programming coach (NLP) which is the study of human excellence that aim’s to enhance your performance, learning, and development.
After reading his blog and corresponding for a few months, I caught up with Mike to discuss things he’s written about such as creative workflow, how to finish projects, and how to approach creativity for prolific results. Mike was also kind enough to provide a FREE eBook he’s written called “30 Things Every Music Producer Should Know.”
Mike Monday Interview
I was reading on your blog that you’ve produced 250 singles. That’s a lot of singles.
It’s gotta be more than that, including remixes and releases under various guises. I think it’s getting up to about 300 or 400 tracks.
When did you start releasing those tracks and how long has it been?
I started writing my first track in 1994. I started working with Andrew Kato from Groove Armada. We lived in the same flat together in South London because we went to the same university together. I essentially started what I was doing because of what he was doing. It wasn’t really my dream, which was the ironic thing. So that was why I started immediately after university, and then I just carried on doing it under various guises for various people.
Has it been an ebb and flow where sometimes you’ve been very prolific and sometimes you don’t do something for a while or is there a steady schedule for your music work?
Usually a steady schedule. But over the last couple years, I’ve started to write and release a lot less. I did that ten track in ten weeks project and done a couple of remixes here and there. I also did something for ‘Get Physical’ and for Tim Sheridan’s label ‘Very Very Wrong Indeed.’ Now I’m working on some music for an independent film out of LA. Although, I’ve been doing a lot less recently apart from the last year and a half or so. It’s probably followed a fairly steady schedule; the only difference has been an ebb and flow in whether I’m feeling it or not.
Having said that about your work schedule, what advice would you give up and coming producers or people who are poking away at trying to produce music?
Get something out. That would be my number one piece of advice. It doesn’t matter what it is – just get something out. Just the other day I was on Beatport looking at my profile, and there is this re-release of an old remix I did ages ago, and I’m absolutely embarrassed that it’s been re-released. Gah! But you know what, it doesn’t matter. Until you actually put something out, you’ve not done anything.
What track was that?
It’s a remix of an old Beat Foundation tune called “Save Me.” I was in Beat Foundation with Andy Kato, and that was our thing. It was on what I think was on the first ever DJ compilations with Sasha, Oakenfold, Carl Cox, and Pete Tong. Sasha used “Save Me” on his mix. I listen to it now and go “oh God, why did they re-release it?” Because to me, it’s not aged that well. But at the end of the day, my advice to other people is to get it finished, get it out, and move on.
It’s common that artists judge one another and strive for play from other DJs. I’ve heard the advice that “you’re only as good as your last record.” Would you say that is true?
I think people are gonna think what they think no matter what you do, and that’s great. People are gonna like what they like, and they’re probably gonna like things you think they don’t like, and they’re not gonna like the things you think they’re gonna love. The bottom line is, you’re only as good as your last record to yourself. If you know that what you did is great, it doesn’t really matter. You gotta trust yourself, and if you get it wrong, it’s learning.
I was reading your eBook this morning, and you said something interesting I wanted to ask about. You mention that when people who say they don’t listen to other people’s opinions or say that they just make music for themselves that this is sort of a fallacy, which nobody really makes music for themselves.
Some people do it because they love to do it and for no other reason, but it’s impossible to do it just for yourself. No one can be completely internal and not influenced by the world around them; that’s just ridiculous.
Another part of the eBook that was poignant and interesting was when you say “We don’t need another Richie Hawtin. We don’t need another Aphex Twin. Be you.” Is it a common thing that people don’t have confidence in their original material?
Absolutely. A lot of people I talk to that want to be more original. My first question is, “What’s stopping you?” What’s stopping people is the things they don’t focus on like their values and their beliefs about themselves. By breaking down those beliefs, they can get a helluva lot further than just trying to learn more or buy more stuff. I’m a firm believer that anyone who’s ever taken a Dubspot course or reads the Dubspot blog regularly already has the techniques they need to make the greatest music that this planet has ever seen. I’m absolutely sure of that.
Today the internet is our primary tool for distributing music, which also brings a lot of chatter in comments and forums. Whether on Facebook or SoundCloud, we are sharing our art and opinions with one another. Would you say these discussions people are having help or inhibit the musician with regards to creativity?
Whether it’s helpful or unhelpful very much depends on the person who is writing the music. I think anyone that tries not to be influenced is still influenced by that stuff. All that’s ever said to you, and all you’ve ever experienced will influence, in some way, what you do.
How do you get to a point where you’ve built a barrier for your own creativity but still being open to others opinions?
This is my strategy: I keep my creative time to a few separate hours from the time I’m online. If that wasn’t possible, I’d probably go for a bike ride or meditate for fifteen minutes and completely unwind before starting on music again. I wouldn’t go straight from one thing to another.
“Bhalobashi” was a staple of M.A.N.D.Y. sets who included it on their Fabric mix and was described by IDJ as ʻone of the top 100 essential dance tracks of the last 10 years.’
As a musician have you had the experience of being influenced by what people say about your work?
Oh, absolutely. There are different kinds of people. There are some people who are less influenced by what goes on around them, and they don’t naturally pay so much attention. They are influenced, but less. They are more internal. They know when they’ve done something good, and they don’t need someone else to tell them. Other people are very external. I’m very external. There are benefits to both. I’m not saying people are totally external or totally internal; I think there are different levels. To a certain extent, I would say the urge to perform has to come from some external urge for validation. In terms of writing music on their own, there are some people who hate to perform. I would think that they are very internal. They just do it, and they know that it’s within themselves whether it’s good or not.
I want to talk about how you came from a place of making 250 plus tracks/releases to the place where it seems like over the past year or so you’ve gotten very interested in writing, teaching, and coaching. What was your motivation to start teaching and how did you get involved with the neural/linguistic programming?
My motivation originally started with creating a website to start promoting my music myself.
So it was a promotional tool first?
Yes, Initially. Then I just found that everything was ‘me, me, me, me’ and started to feel it was very focused inward on myself, so I decided to try to start to help other people do what I’ve been doing for years. I figured I probably know quite a lot about this stuff given I’ve been doing it for over sixteen years, so I started writing articles about the stresses and struggles that I’d been through. I found the reaction and the fulfillment I got from that was just enormous. I also think that if all this social media happened earlier in my career, I would have probably done the same thing. What I’m doing now is in much more in alignment with who I am.
Between July and September 2010 I wrote and released one track a week for ten weeks. The project was called “10 Tracks 10 Weeks.” I also wrote blog posts as I completed each track as I went along describing my experiences with the process.
How did the coaching come about?
It’s funny actually. It’s one of those things I didn’t choose to find; it’s almost like it found me. I’ve had a number of people respond to the site about the stuff I had written before I discovered NLP. Someone said “I could tell you were into NLP” and I was like, I wrote that stuff before I knew about it. I discovered NLP by doing this coaching seminar because they were also offering an NLP practitioner course.
What is NLP?
Neuro-Linguistic Programming. The neuro refers to the mind and the body. The Linguistic part refers to language, obviously, but that is not just the spoken word it is also the way that we express ourselves and also our body language, which some people think is actually more expressive than the words that come out. There is some psychology, some cybernetics, some systems theory, and some anthropology. Basically a conglomeration of different subjects on how different people do things.
As a coach, what would you suggest to students who says “I’m stuck?”
Well, it really depends on the reason they’re stuck. If they’re stuck, then that means at some point they weren’t stuck. If they know they’re stuck, then they know what stuck is, so therefore what I would do is ask them the difference between when they are stuck and when they are unstuck. I would also ask them very specifically what they were doing when they’re stuck, how they hold themselves. There are 101 different things: what they think about, what they say to themselves, etc. when they are stuck versus when they’re unstuck. Knowing these details helps me compare what the differences are. Then it’s a matter of actually identifying what the strategies are that they use in order to make themselves unstuck.
Unravel electronic music’s origins, build your chops, learn musical language and theory, and make and play music the way you want. Students will develop a deeper understanding of the roots and lineage of a variety of electronic and dance music genres, strengthen their keyboard skills, and learn valuable music theory, deepening their creative practice and facilitating effective collaborations with musical partners.
About This Program
The best producers, DJs, and musicians in the world strive to be well-rounded. So should you. In Dubspot’s Music Foundations Program, you’ll explore three major aspects of music: rhythmic theory, melodic theory, and critical listening.
Most pioneering early electronic musicians had years of conservatory training in theory and performance but had access to very limited technologies. In today’s musical world, it’s the opposite: we have a powerful and versatile array of electronic music making tools at our fingertips, but often fall short in our theoretical understanding of how electronic music works.
Our Music Foundations program is designed to fill this gap and provide training in fundamental skills and concepts with the electronic musician, DJ, and producer in mind. In this course, you’ll build your chops and learn the basics of musical language and theory so that you can make and play the music you want. You will also develop a deeper understanding of the roots and lineage of a variety of electronic and dance music genres, and explore compositional techniques and song structure. The weekly homework lessons for all three courses have been designed using Ableton Live, and along the way you’ll also learn the basics of Ableton and how to use it as a powerful tool to improve your musicianship in a variety of ways.
- Music Foundations Level 1: Pads & Rhythmic Theory
- Music Foundations Level 2: Keys & Melodic Theory
- Music Foundations Level 3: Critical Listening
Visit the Music Foundations course page for detailed information on this program here.
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