This week's podcast comes from Mike Paradinas, the artist better known as µ-Ziq (pronounced "Muziq")—and it's a different one, too, in that it only features material produced around 1998/9, a defining two-year period for the British pioneering musician during which he made all of the 11-tracks on his upcoming album, Challenge Me Foolish, among many other works.
Hailing from Raynes Park, South West London, Paradinas began operating under the name μ-Ziq while studying for a degree in Architecture at Kingston University in 1991. He eventually left before completing the course, partially due to a lack of interest, but more importantly to concentrate all efforts towards his music. His early material was scheduled via Mark Pritchard and Tom Middleton's Evolution Records, although complications saw the agreement fall through, only for Richard D. James (a.k.a. Aphex Twin) to hear the music and release it through his own Rephlex Records imprint. Of these recordings, various classics emerged. 1993's Tango N’Vectif was followed a few months later by a second, Bluff Limbo, which gained notoriety out of all proportion to its availability. The former has gone on to sell in excess of 40,000 copies.
Paradinas' next works landed via Virgin Records, including the In Pine Effect LP—and he was subsequently given his own sublabel, Planet Mu, to release his own work and to develop similar-minded artists. (Paradinas later broke with Virgin and in 1998 established Planet Mu as his own independent label.) Written into his own contract was a provision for unlimited recording under different names, and this year also saw the genesis of Jake Slazenger, one of Paradinas’ numerous pseudonyms with the Makesaracket album on Clear. 1996 saw Paradinas join forces with Richard James for Aphex’ one and only collaboration album Mike and Rich on Rephlex; it was also the year that Mike signed to Warp for his second Jake Slazenger album.
And then things began to change, evidenced on Lunatic Harness, which saw him introduce more aspects of jungle style programming into his music, but made all the more clear on July ‘99's Royal Astronomy. More melodic and poppier than all that had come before, the album also focused more on Paradinas' orchestral leanings to which he had previously eluded on In Pine Effect. This sonic shift was also inspired by Björk, whom he had joined on her 1998 Homogenic tour, triggering a definitive period during which Paradinas went against the grain by producing music that was baroque, melodic, and whimsical, while the IDM movement he was lumped with made instrumental music that was often neurotic and complicated. All of his albums until 2003 were released in the USA on Astralwerks, a more mainstream label.
This latest contribution to the XLR8R podcast series is a direct reference to this period, where Paradinas flirted with the mainstream without ever compromising the innovative programming and cutting-edge beats for which he'd become so well known. All tracks, many of which have never been heard, are either credited to µ-Ziq, as either a producer or remixer, thus serving as a perfect illustration of his work during this era.
What have you been up to recently?
I’ve been mainly arranging and ordering the new Sami Baha album and singles, the RP Boo album, and Ital Tek’s new one, getting them mastered, artwork sorted, contracts, that sort of thing. All due later this year. Also, I’ve given two very different EPs of my archive tracks to the labels Analogical Force and Furthur Electronix.
Your new album is set to drop soon. How are you feeling about the release?
I’m very happy that it’s finally coming out. I compiled it back in August 2016 just before the Mike & Rich re-issue came out. I listened to it in the car for about a year before deciding it was ok to release.
How did you choose these particular tracks to make up the album?
Trial and error. Some of them are favourites from back in the day, but sometimes I make CDs of random tracks for the car and these stood out.
The late ‘90s was defining in your music. How do you reflect upon this period now?
I feel like I was a different person back then. Obviously, I’ve learnt a lot more about the music industry now, through running a label, but then the industry itself has changed out of all recognition since then. The early '90s did indeed seem like a time when new musical innovations appeared weekly.
Why do you feel you adopted a more melodic sound aesthetic towards the end of the ‘90s?
I think what Marcus is trying to say in the press release he wrote, is that I didn’t particularly follow the trend towards iciness, glitch etc., which I guess was the Autechre sound, but as appropriated by labels like Merck, Chocolate Industries, Schematic etc., which were prevalent then. I stayed on my own course, which was always pretty strong on melody.
Do you feel this is a more honest sound aesthetic?
For me, yes. I was just doing what excited me.
Just how instrumental was touring with Björk in this evolution?
It’s definitely a talking point lol. But her track Joga (string version) inspired me, that’s for sure. And hanging out with B and Mark Bell was inspiring, conversing about music.
What can we expect in this week’s podcast?
I’ve prepared an hour of music which I created in 1998-1999. Starting with my first Björk remix and going from there. I’ve included quite a few unheard, unreleased tracks from that period, too, like the string quartet playing "Slice" from Royal Astronomy.
When and where was the mix recorded?
I just did it on my computer at home last week.
On what equipment did you record the mix?
How did you select the records you wanted to include?
I spent a few hours listening to my old unreleased material on DATs and selected a few tunes which I think represented that era for me.
01. Björk "Hunter" (µ-Ziq Remix) [One Little Indian, 1997]
02. Björk "Hunter" (Vocoder Mix) [Unreleased, 1997]
03. µ-Ziq "Abmoit" [Astralwerks, 1998]
04. µ-Ziq "56" [Virgin, 1999]
05. µ-Ziq "Kette" [Unreleased, 1998]
06. Slag Boom Van Loon "Poppy Seed [Planet Mu, 1998]
07. I-F "Space Invaders Smoking Grass (µ-Ziq Remix) [Unreleased, 1998]
08. Tusken Raiders "Dreams" [Unrleased, 1998]
09. µ-Ziq "The Cut Of My Jib" [Planet Mu, 1998]
10. Kid Spatula "Shistner's Bassflex" [Planet Mu, 1999]
11. µ-Ziq "Challenge Me Foolish" (ft. Kazumi) [Planet mu, 1998]
12. µ-Ziq "Robi Hood Gate" (ft. Kazumi) [Unrleased, 1998]
13. µ-Ziq "Vinchlo" [Unreleasd, 1999]
14. µ-Ziq "Lexicon" (ft. Kazumi) [Planet Mu, 2000]
15. µ-Ziq "Slice" (String Quartet Version) [Unreleased, 1999]