DT Podcast #209 is here. For the newest edition, we are delighted to welcome Los Angeles-based producer, hardware sound aficionado, and designer Michael Padgett, a.k.a. Ole Mic Odd. Having grown up on a jazz music diet, he later shifted his focus to tinkering with synths and drum machines. Today, he's renowned for his immersive live performances, delivering a gritty and evolving electro sound. His releases on Kraftjerkz, Zement, Source Material, and Hilltown Disco speak for themselves.
In this podcast, Ole Mic Odd has recorded a live set that vividly portrays the scenario of aliens landing on Earth via robotic sonic perspective. Tune in, drop out.
Michael, glad to finally have you on our podcast! To kick things off, what's been the highlight of your recent days?
Thank you for having me! I’ve just come back from an amazing weekend up in San Francisco, where I got to celebrate my birthday and play a live techno set at my friend Kitti Von Paige’s party called “La Puteria” (check it out) with some old and new friends. I’ve been fortunate to play up there twice this year and I def look forward to the next one.
Your DIY ethos is quite apparent. Could you delve into your upbringing and the social and cultural influences that shaped you?
I come from a bit of a different musical background – I grew up in California immersed in jazz music and jazz education until I was about 18. Music and arts education were important to my parents, so I took piano lessons at a really young age, though I quit when I was 6 because I didn’t want to practice, haha. My biggest regret. Anyway, I picked up the saxophone a couple years later, and that was a driving focus of my youth, lots of traveling to jazz competitions, sort of like a sport. It seems a bit weird now, but that’s how jazz education was/is, and I got to travel to some amazing places and meet/play with incredible musicians. I’ve always been an instrumentalist which is probably why I am more drawn to playing synths and drum machines, trying to use the computer as little as possible.
As far as DIY is concerned.. yea it’s a big part of my life, just that feeling of “Oh I can figure out how to do that myself, I don’t need X, Y or Z” – but also the lineage of techno/house DIY culture, and just the DIY people in all the different music genres and scenes… they have been a big influence on my musical approach too, like.. if some of these amazing songs were made on some cheap gear or in a home studio, then why can’t I do that too? The rawness is important to me, anything that’s too slick tends to feel like pop music to me, or too unrelatable or boring or something, but I am also in awe of how engineers and producers create those sounds. I’m always trying to make my music sound less shitty.
Can you share the genres or specific artists that influenced you early on and perhaps played a role in sparking your interest in music?
Before I discovered the kinds of techno and acid I really like, I mostly listened to a ton of dub and reggae, afrobeat, 70s/80s funk, minimal wave and early 80s music, lots of hip-hop and rap music, Miami bass, early electro. Then I connected with an old friend who introduced me to Legowelt and the Crystal Cult 2080 record, which really blew my head, along with Bunker and other cult Dutch labels and artists who were deeply influenced by Chicago and Detroit. LIES and LACR releases were the other big influences on me at the time, as that was all happening closer to home and felt more accessible and exciting since I could see those people play. Again, just weirdos banging on machines, that’s what I love for the most part. Vince (Drvg Cvltvre) was nice enough to put out my first solo release on New York Haunted, the first songs I ever recorded I think, and from there I just became obsessed with trying to make dope tunes.
What came first for you - DJing or music production? And how did it come into your life?
I was DJing for years and messing with synths before I finally got into drum machines, at the same time as getting into techno music, which together changed everything for me. I’d burned out on hiphop music, and the freedom of harmony and arrangement in techno really struck me and connected me to my jazz roots. I still love to DJ, but I really love playing drum machines and synths and performing live music, recording tracks. It’s funny though because when I play live, usually people just think I’m DJing… but that’s a great compliment so I’ll take it.
Curious to know what your creative process looks like. Can you walk us through your current hardware setup?
I’m always mixing it up, but at the heart of my setup is the Elektron Rytm as the brain/clock, which I use as a sampler with drums, fx/sounds, bass + synth sounds. Then I’ll add a TB-3 for some acid, maybe the Manther which is a SH101-ish monosynth with a cool delay and sequencer in it. Or I’ll sequence into my DX100, Alpha Juno, TX18Z, K1, JV-2080 or other stuff. I used the Boss DR-770 as an 808 on my first few records, run through an overdrive pedal made by my friend Doug Tuttle, who’s a killer psych-rock musician. I play a lot of my synth parts by hand, and I write a lot of bass and synth lines by jamming live then programming them afterward.
Let's say you've just come to jam in the studio. What do you usually begin with to ensure you have a proper flow? Or is it arbitrary?
I try not to be precious about studio time to be honest, and I work quickly when the mood strikes, so I’ll either turn the machines on and bang out 2-3 tunes in a sitting, or just do a single acid line to add to a song, and then step away. Sometimes it’s good to grind it out, but I really try to keep my ears fresh and not get too “into” my songs where I can’t hear them objectively anymore. That’s when they don’t seem to improve, or I ruin them or get sick of them, haha.
I believe your earlier releases like 'Freak Wave' (2017) and 'Gimme My Shit' (2018) had a more straightforward, I would say, techno-oriented sound, while one could argue that your later output maintains a consistent style with different deviations in electro. Did you consciously evolve your production style, or did it naturally progress over time?
Hmm it’s interesting, because I feel like most producers and musicians like to make different types of music, so it’s funny to see what sticks and resonates with labels and audiences, and it’s maybe not always what you expect? I’ve definitely put out some techno releases, but I also have always been into electro music and love making it and listening to it. I’ve also released house, ambient, other types of music – I put out a 22 track “self-compilation” called Dump Truck a couple years ago that’s all over the map, including some acid-dub-dancehall tunes I love to make. Electro’s probably my favorite electronic idiom to work in, along with jackbeat/acid. After I put out my Acid Booty EP on Source Material in 2019, I just got kept getting more requests for electro tunes…
I’m excited about two releases I have coming on Jungle Gym next year, one tape of cavernous scuzzed out live techno tunes, another CD of live improvised ambient synthesizer compositions. I’ll keep trying to push it with the styles and genres and see what people can stomach.
Let's chat about The New U.S. Government, the cassette label you founded in 2018. The label connected artists worldwide, exploring gritty layers of electronic music. What sparked the idea for the label, and how did you envision its role in the scene?
I actually started working on that label in late 2016/early 2017. It was a direct reaction to the 2016 USA presidential election at the time, and just feeling helpless and voiceless as a citizen, lots of doom and gloom which has clearly turned out worse than expected. The label was a bit of an escapist protest of that I guess. I’m a designer/art director as well, and visuals and cover art are a big part of experiencing music for me, so it was both a design project and music project.
The initial inspiration/name is from an old Mr. Show sketch, and I had a bit of retro voyeurism from old video game graphics, also a lot of inspiration from early Star Trek TNG. I just tried to create a little alternate world with dope music I liked. I gathered tracks for about a year and put them up on Soundcloud with all “??????” for artist names, to get some mystery going. It culminated in the first release in early 2018.
The decision to halt The New U.S. Government's work a year or two later is also noteworthy. Could you share the reasons behind that decision, and do you see potential for its revival in the future?
I was really happy to do some releases, but as every label person knows, it was a lot of work, and I didn’t even do much promo or real work to be honest lol. I was moving around a lot at the time, and couldn’t ever really run the label properly, so when the pandemic hit, I just put it on hold indefinitely. I feel bad as I dropped the ball on a couple releases at the end… oh well. I think I may bring it back though, I still love the concept, and it’s as relevant as ever for me.
Performing live is an essential part of your artistry. Do you find room for improvisation, or do you prefer a more structured approach? How do you strike a balance between spontaneity and pre-planned elements?
That’s the whole thing isn’t it, striking that balance and not just pressing “play” and the machines (or computer) do all the work. For me, playing live alone is a lot more about live arrangement than pure improvisation… it’s easier to “jam” when I play with others, and am not responsible for all the sounds at every moment.
It’s not that hard to write drum patterns and synth lines, it’s more about crafting a journey and touching on different feelings and emotions, and building + maintaining that over 1-2 hours. Keeping the right pace, not moving too quickly, those are the most challenging and rewarding aspects of live performance for me. So, I usually come to a live set with 10-15 loose “songs” programmed that have different parts and sections, but I don’t pre-arrange anything or use song or chain functions, it’s all about muting and unmuting stuff, tweaking filters and knobs, and often forgetting different parts and rediscovering them in the moment. Even the same set of the same songs never goes down the same way, which keeps it fun. But I also get tired of my music easily, so I just write new live sets all the time.
Is there an artist you'd love to play live with, and why?
I miss playing live with other people! I’ve got a new live duo that we’ve started cooking up, but that’s coming soon – some gearhead friends I’d love to play live with but are too far away like Alonzo, my Scottish brother Nonentity who runs Source Material.. Heidi Sabertooth and R. Gamble, Sard, Isabella Koen, Kluentah… I’d love to jam with LFT sometime, or CEM3340, or Monger. They will happen.
Creativity can be an on-and-off thing. Do you experience creative blocks, and if so, how do you navigate through them? Any specific rituals or practices you turn to when inspiration seems elusive?
I tend to feel creative blocks when I’m more depressed, I’m like the opposite of the tortured artist expressing themself through music, sadly. I make the most music when I’m happiest, and then usually don’t struggle much. But when I don’t feel good, or am too stressed, overwhelmed, depressed, it just feels like so much work. In those times, I do just sorta force myself to do it, even just writing a synth line, or programming a little beat. It’s good to feel like “I just made something” even if it’s not complete, or I hate it later, and usually it makes me feel better.
Listening to music is always inspiring, and hanging out with music friends, or especially going to some party where the music sucks and you think “shit I can do better than that” haha.
Los Angeles has a rich history in music, from jungle and drum 'n' bass to hardcore and hard house in the '90s. How do you perceive the current global image of LA's music scene, and what do you find meaningful within it?
I’m not sure honestly! I’m from here, and live here now, but I lived on the east coast in Boston and New York for a long time and am probably more influenced by those music cultures than 90s/00s LA electronic scenes. Boston was a very DIY music scene, entrenched with noise, psych and experimental music and outsider/homemade electronics. My friend Jason from the band Neptune was a big influence on me, as they made all their instruments from scrap metal and shit, which still blows my mind.
With LA, I wasn’t even into any of that music when it was happening, so I feel like I’m still learning about it… I’m not really a jungle/dnb head, or super hard house or hardcore head, and don’t feel as connected to those lineages, but I have mad respect for them and know plenty of dope, current artists who are Very influenced by those histories and artists. I imagine the global image of LA’s music scene is similar to the locals… a little all over the place? haha. But there are so many amazing artists and DJs coming out of LA, from Kosmik and Force Placement and the Black Lodge extended crew, to DJ Angeldu$t, DJ Warning, Trax Unit… Annika Wolfe, Machino, Lower Tar, the Jungle Gym Records boys, and so many more. Unfortunately, the venue situation at the moment is pretty dire in LA, so there aren’t nearly as many great underground dance parties and nights as there should be and a lot are stupidly getting shut down.
Imagine you're in an indefinite exile in the woods. What three records would you bring with you to listen to?
Oof so hard.. indefinite exile?? I’ll get into banging sticks and stones together before long out there, but if I had to pick three, I’d probably say the P-Funk Live Earth Tour album, Scientist’s In the Kingdom of Dub record, and maybe Legowelt’s Saab Knutson / Electronic Music from the Faroe Islands 1993 album. Out in the woods I need some moody and evocative stuff for my brain. Also, maybe Celly Cel's Killa Kali to remind me of California….
What is the idea behind your set for the Digital Tsunami series?
This is a new electro live set that I wrote in 2023 and recorded for DT, my first time doing a full electro set on the Rytm with no other synths or drum machines. I decided this year to work with a stripped back live setup, only the Rytm and some fx, so it’s been a bit of a challenge and learning experience in being economical and making each part really count.
The overall musical concept is the same as my recent record on Kraftjerkz – alien robots have crash-landed on earth and can’t leave, and they are fascinated by humans and especially partying and dancing. They want to understand humans and be more like them, so most of my lyrics and themes are from their perspective, in the voice of the robots.
Tell us about your plans for the rest of the year, and what's in your sight for 2024?
I’m playing a live set down in San Diego at this great party called Acid Varsity, then taking it easy for the holidays until 2024. I’m in the middle of finishing my next record for KRI Records, which I’m really excited about, and have a couple surprising collaborative projects in the works that will hopefully see the light next year ;) Also lining up some east coast/midwest live dates next year – I need to set up a real EU tour, so hopefully I will see you soon!
Published: 18 Jan 2024