August 2024

The Life & Times Of Mr Squires

Words: Douglas Lance Gibson Images: Christopher Day

It’s easy to pigeonhole someone. Well, actually, it’s harder not to pigeonhole someone. As a method of organisation, it does have its place. Some order does need to be established but an accurate representation of the individual is often hard to summarise. Mikey Young’s latest project, Brain Children, stands in stark contrast to his ouput as a member of Eddy Current Suppression Ring and the Ooga Boogas. Add to that his role in synth-punk outfit, Total Control, and you’re beginning to see the difficulty in applying a tag that faithfully represents who Mikey is.

There’s more though. On top of producing his own music, Mikey’s an in demand producer, record label owner and with Flip Out Festival in its second year, he’s also a festival organiser. Doug Gibson spoke with the man himself, after he’d finished up yet another day of recording.

Douglas Lance Gibson: You’re pretty active in a number of bands. Does recording someone else’s music provide a break from that?

Mikey Young: I don’t think so. I think it originally started because it was bands I liked, and I had the gear and they wanted it, and they needed someone to do it. It’s fine with bands you love. I feel like I get enough of a break from making music by having the amount of projects I do. Like if I get sick of Eddy Current, I can go make disco, and that’s my distraction from making music, which is just to make different music [laughs.] I guess the lesson I’ve learned in the last couple of months is, because I’ve just had to stop making music for a month, the most important thing to me is just to do my own stuff. At this stage in my life, where at least one of the things I’m doing is making cash for me, I may as well take advantage of that. The original reason why I started to get so hectic recording is because I started to think, “Oh, I haven’t got a job. I need money, I should at least work a bit.” So I convinced myself that I needed a wage, I guess. Then I looked at my bank account the other day and I was like, “Fuck, I can do without this for a while.” Not that I’m living large or anything, but I can afford to live small and have more time, and I’d rather just do that.

DG: With people that are only aware of your music through either Eddy Current or Ooga Boogas, Brain Children is quite a change, but you’ve been playing with synthesisers and computer based music for a while now. You used to have a deal with Modular, didn’t you?

MY: Oh yeah, I guess [laughs.] Not that that’s ever come out in print! Not that I’m ashamed of it. I sort of did I guess, I mean I did. About 10 years ago I bought a 4-track and a drum machine and a synth, and just kept making stuff on little cassettes. A friend of mine heard it, and he was a mate of Pav’s [founder of Modular] and passed it on, and was like, “I think you’d be into this dude.” It was just slow instrumental stuff. I thought it was totally unmarketable, and I don’t know why they thought it was. I think it was the post-trip hop, post-Zero 7 era where instrumental music could be a thing that was sellable. They did sort of did sign me and give me some money to set up a studio, so I just bought a bunch of stuff and kept making the same stupid music and by the time I’d done it, his focus had shifted a bit.

DG: With your latest release, when you look at Max Kohane and you, initially you wouldn’t think that Brain Children would be the result of that pairing.

MY: I guess Max is known for being a grindcore drummer but he’s totally obsessed with Dilla and shit. I think it was just a semi-drunken conversation one night, and the thing with my stuff that I always thought lacked was that I don’t have the patience to write beats that much. I just go, “Kick, snare. Yeah, that’ll do” and I’m more interested in writing the tunes. I’m also shit scared of singing, and he’s not really scared of either of those things. So what he brought to the table was exactly what I was lacking. Maybe I’m a bit more confident these days to go, “Aw, fuck it. Let’s just put out a record.” I don’t care if anyone doesn’t like it.

DG: So do you look for particular qualities in people when you start collaborating with someone? Like with Max, were you aware that he could do beats and that was something you were lacking in, and that was the attraction?

MY: Nah, mainly I’m attracted to good people, you know, that I want to spend time with. I remember looking at Max in a band years ago and just thinking, “Fuck, I’d love to do something with that dude one day.” I probably didn’t think it was disco, but I just thought, “That’s a dude that can drum!” There was no grand plan, it was just like, “Aw, let’s go record drums for a day and we’ll take them home and sample them.” More than looking for something in someone, it was more like, “Aw, I like hanging out with this dude.” Luckily, I’m surrounded by people I think have good taste in stuff.

DG: And obviously that’s the case with all the other bands you play in?

MY: Yeah, I became really good friends with Dan [Stewart] and I fucking love where he’s coming from and have so much in common with him musically and I love him as a dude. It was pretty much the same process with Total Control. It was just really natural and easy. Same with the [Ooga] Boogas. They were all good friends, and all in different bands, and it was just, “Ah, I wouldn’t mind hanging out with these dudes, seeing what comes out of here.” Different people bring different…

DG: Qualities.

MY: Yeah.

DG: Are there any pivotal moments you remember that attracted you to certain genres? I mean, the distance between disco and punk is quite large.

MY: Yeah, they hate each other!

DG: What were the turning points for you then?

MY: As a youngster?

DG: Yeah, I mean, at what point did you realise that you could embrace both punk and disco?

MY: I guess at the end of the day, I’m more of a song man. I don’t care what genre it is, if I think it’s a good song and an honest performance, I’ll be attracted to that. I guess I was into hip hop when I was a kid. From the age of 14 I started taping the funk shows on community radio and stuff like that. And there’s not that much difference between old funk and early disco. But at the same time Danny [Young, Mikey’s brother] was into hardcore stuff, and no doubt I’m sure the influence of that seeped in. Even from when I was eight, I was going to Frankston library and hiring any tape I could, like blues tapes, or Velvet Underground. They had an amazing tape collection. So as a 10 year-old kid I got to hear the Velvet Underground. I just wanted to listen to everything. I don’t remember thinking, “I’m not into this genre.” I loved The Kinks and ‘Louie, Louie’ and I wanted to find more songs that sounded like that and I didn’t know where all that stuff was. When I met all the people at Corduroy that was definitely pivotal as far as a massive door opening to all that kind of shit. That’s definitely the biggest inspiration on the band [ECSR.] Hearing all those inept teenage bands that didn’t really care if they played it well or not, they wanted to get it down. You can hear the excitement in those fucking records, like “We’re making a fucking record! Yeah!” and that’s all I’m trying to do, is get honest excitement down and not worry too much about a bad kick and snare sound or anything stupid like that because at the end of day, nobody cares.

DG: Obviously maintaining control is an important thing to you. You record your own music, you have your own record label Aarght! and you don’t have a manager. You run a pretty autonomous operation, which I think is so fucking admirable. Can you see a day where you won’t take on so much responsibility?

MY: It’s come pretty close. What I’m trying to do now is just get rid of some other responsibilities in my life, like over recording and stuff like that, so I can concentrate more. I think if I organised my life better and stopped trying to do everything, I’ll be able to do that for the band a lot better. And with the recording side of the band, that was never a control thing. I think at the time we started I just wanted to learn. I wanted to get better at recording. Even though we maybe could have paid someone to make our records and make them better, the only way I could get better was to keep doing it. I’m sure if I listened to my first album again, I’d think, “Aw, man, I could have done a better job.”

DG: Flip Out is coming up again soon, what was the genesis behind that?

MY: I think Dan was doing his label Stained Circles simultaneously to us and he’d talked about, I think we’d both talked about, “Ah, gee, there’s a lot of good Melbourne and Australian bands that we’re liking at the moment,” but to give that sort of opportunity so they’re not playing to 50 people, obviously if we attached Eddy Current to it, there’s a good chance that an extra 500 people might rock up who wouldn’t have been exposed to certain bands and might go, “Oh, fuck!” and that’s cool. And I think Rich and I had just come back from Goner Fest and we’d [Ooga Boogas] had played over there and were like, “Aw, this could sort of work.” It just so happened that Rich wanted to bring out M.O.T.O at that time and Dan was already touring someone, so we were like, “Oh yeah, we’ll chuck a couple of internationals on.” You know, no grand plans, [we were] just seeing if it would stick. And it turned out to be a great day. Everyone had a ball, and it sold out. People came early and stayed to the end, so we were like, “Fuck, this could really work.” So I guess trying it in Sydney is the next step. Also, I guess that it’s still at the stage where having Eddy Current, I hate saying that…

DG: No, it’s great to see that a band like Eddy Current can draw that crowd though.

MY: Yeah, yeah. I’m less involved in organising it this year as I’m playing in a couple of bands and I’m real busy, and I said I’d rather just play this year, so I’m sort of just speaking on their behalf here. With the Melbourne one, I think we always knew it was going to be interesting to see how it holds up without ECSR in Melbourne. Hopefully that amount of people had such a good time last year that it doesn’t really matter whether we play it. I guess time will tell. Hopefully, there’s enough interest in it. I don’t know. Dudes like you and I probably live in our own world so much that we think there’s a slightly bigger interest in bands like Pink Reason than there actually is, where as it’s probably just 30 nerds in Melbourne and 30 nerds in Sydney. I just wonder how it’s going to translate.

DG: No, I think it’s going to be great.

MY: Yeah, and if there’s only a few hundred people then…

DG: I was just going to say that my friends are excited about it, but then again I guess my friends are those nerds!

MY: Exactly. You lose a bit of perspective with how out of touch you are with the average dude that just goes to gigs.

Flip Out Festival & Record Fair 2009
Sydney – Saturday August 20 at the Manning Bar
Melbourne – Saturday September 5 at the Corner Hotel

Mikey’s many musical endeavours – Eddy Current Suppression Ring, Ooga Boogas, Brain Children, Aarght! Flip Out Festival

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