A Closer Look: Michael Poe (Midislut)

Hopefully, you got to check out the audio and my commentary on Midislut’s mindfluid19 mix on Wednesday. If not you can get at that HERE. Today, I continue my reoccurring historical project to compile the oral histories of key players in our scene. Michael Poe certain was an important figure in our scene who was central to expanding our scene’s sonic palette. He was present at ele_mental’s underground parties and the huge club parties put on in clubs across downtown. Key lessons can be learned from hearing his views on our scenes history, his artistic approach, and where he thinks we are going. He was even kind enough to give us a bit of advice based on his experiences in the Columbus dance music scene. Before I get too carried away lets get to his interview:

LA: You go into this a little bit in your bio, but tell me what is it about dance music and electronic music more broadly that hooked you at such a young age? Why did you love it so much?

MP: I grew up in a musical environment. The majority of my extended family excelled in playing instruments from violin to piano. My mother majored in music and was a music teacher. My grandmother was a well-known church organist and harpist. Although I never learned an instrument I’ve always had an ear for music. I took to much of the music my mother would listen to such as Emerson, Lake, and Palmer, Rick Wakeman, Switched on Bach, Kraftwerk, and some experimental electronic vinyl that she had in her collection. The dance aspect came much later in high school and college when I started to hear the sounds of my childhood incorporated in Industrial, Dub, House, etc.

LA: What was the track where it really clicked for you and you knew you were in love with electronic music and dance music more broadly?

MP: I picked up Meat Beat Manifesto’s album, “Storm the Studio” during a trip to OSU campus (Magnolia’s to be exact) in 1990. It really opened my ears to the bombastic quality that electronic music could take. That was pretty much the point where a dove in head first into industrial, Wax Trax, etc.

Beat Manifesto “Strap Down pt.1”

LA: What influence did your time at Ohio University have in shaping the artist you are today? Specifically, what impact did your time creating electronic compositions have on your later music?

MP: I was fortunate to have people around me at OU that were interested in classic rock, jazz, alt rock, punk, hip hop, and EDM. We had a great record store there, Schoolkids, and they did a good job in keeping up with music from abroad. In one shopping instance I could buy a Front 242 single, a rave compilation, and a Clash album. All of those influences played a part in shaping my overall appreciation for the genres within electronic music. Creating compositions gave me the hands on experience in working with midi, assorted keyboards, and sequencers. It allowed me to begin experimenting with sounds and phrases and actually reaching a finished product.

LA: In your bio, you point out the foundational influence early electronic music like Kraftwerk, industrial acts like Skinny Puppy, and ambient groups like The Orb played in your artistic development. What is it about all these artists you liked so much and how did you try and implement their styles into your work?

MP: Each of those acts incorporated textures in their music. Kraftwerk used the raw waves of their own produced machines, Skinny Puppy used harsh, sharp textures, and The Orb created soundscapes using samples and lush keyboards. I’ve always been attracted to textures in music and the incorporation of beats behind them sealed the deal for what I was looking to do.

LA: When you got to Columbus in ’93, what did the scene look like? Who were the big players, the big clubs, the big crews? What was it like?

MP: The first people I met in Columbus in ‘93 are still my friends now. Rob Engel, Todd Greco, Kevy Kev, Mike Gallichio, Jondy, and Phil Lanese were the major players in the club scene (700 High, Lucky’s, Wall Street, The Eagle) while Ed Luna, Titonton, Todd Sines, Charles Noel, Placebo, Doughboy, and the other ele_mental guys were holding things down underground, throwing some amazing parties in warehouse spaces across Columbus.

LA: How did you and Rob Engel get together and start the Midislut project? Why did you start the midislut project?

MP: Rob and I were housemates along with Todd Greco for much of the 90’s. We had the advantage of pooling all of our equipment in an upstairs room. The result was a pretty extensive collection of keyboards, sequencers, drum machines, turntables, mixers, etc. It became a breeding ground for creativity. Rob and I started noodling around with the machines and produced a few tracks. Due to my heavy interest at the time in Ambient groups like Future Sound of London, Aphex Twin, and The Orb I started to go off in another direction in terms of production. Midislut became my DJ name from that point forward. Midislut comes from modifying the name of a standard patch on a Roland JV-90, Mobilesuit.

LA: How did you end up hookin’ up with the ele_mental crew and spinning at their parties?

MP: Columbus had a close knit community of electronic musicians and producers that were always looking out for new and existing talent. Being one of the few ambient DJ’s at that time helped me too. I have some great memories of the parties I played, specifically one instance where I played outside near train tracks. When an actual train passed by it worked in nicely with the set of ambient tracks I was spinning.

LA: ele_mental is always pointed out as doing some pretty important things for Columbus dance music. Why were they so important for 1990’s Columbus dance music?

MP: Ele_mental, as a collective, was very focused on bringing both regional and homegrown artists to the attention of the small dance public here in Columbus. They were tireless in promoting original music, dj’ing, and art. You could always expect the unexpected at a party or live performance. Always quality, always good.

LA: 1990’s Columbus dance music is always talked about as a mythical time in our scenes history. What was it like back then? Why do you think we were so huge?

MP: I think there were two separate scenes coexisting during this time. First, after 700 High closed in the early 90’s there was a void left for club goers. As soon as Mekka opened in 1996 everything changed. Suddenly we had a venue that could hold 1200+ partygoers at the same time. The music provided by every single one of the DJ’s there contributed to a vibrant scene. At the same time you had groups like ele_mental and promoters like Doug Holmes (Doughboy) spearheading bringing top notch talent to Columbus at parties like Red Tempest and Generator. Then weekly’s started popping up at Mekka which brought more talent to Columbus to play.

LA: Your Ambiento & project Blossom mixes are thought of in many circles as a type of holy grail Columbus recording. What artistic ideas were you exploring on those mixes that people responded to so strongly?

MP: The goal of mixes such as Ambiento and Project Blossom was to share ambient music with the masses and at the same time challenge myself to actually produce the mix. This meant gathering extraneous samples, running sound effects records, using signal processing, the whole process. All of these mixes were recorded in one take with 4 turntables, cassette decks, CD players, effects processors, all in real time. It was like a dance to put it all together for a 90 minute mix. I think people’s reactions were based on the fact that they’d never heard something as layered and put together as these mixes. I still get old school folks reminding me of how much they enjoyed those mixes to this day.

LA: I have been spinning the mixes from your mindfluid project over and over. When did you start the project and what did you hope to achieve with the mixes?

MP: The mindfluid project was a move from ambient mixes to house, deep house, and techno. I couldn’t help but be influenced by all of the DJ’s I worked with at Mekka. My housemates played house and it began to grow on me to the point where I wanted to move in another direction.

LA: When are you coming out with the next one? What direction are you going to take it?

MP: Gathering tracks for a mindfluid mix can take from a couple of months to a year. It really depends on the quality of the music that I find. There’s that special folder that has the next mindfluid name sitting on my laptop, waiting for tracks to be dropped into it. When I feel I have enough I start the process of a new mix.

LA: How do you approach making a mix? What do you hope to achieve with each mix?

MP: It sounds clichéd to say, but it really is about setting a course on a journey through 80 minutes of music. Ease the listener into the music, let them settle into a groove and move them through progressively more intense and complicated tracks, ending on good note. It’s a formula I’ve stuck with for years.

LA: Is producing these mixes different than DJ’ing live? What are some of the differences in how you approach a live set?

MP: I’m a pretty meticulous person, so there is a degree of planning for producing mixes and DJ’ing live. I have a map for both, but obviously you have to be able to turn on a dime when DJ’ing live if you don’t feel the vibe is going the way you’d like. Crowd response will tell you when.

LA: What do you got in store for your set at Quality on february 4th? Any surprises?

MP: Lots of new tracks. Always love playing Quality and Basil. Perfect atmosphere for all of us who play there. Easygoing, laid back, locked and loaded to groove.

LA: When did you join the Quality crew? How did that partnership come about?

MP: Quality has seen many iterations, and those of us involved seem to have been part of the crew from the start. Doug Black and Jason Lyman were the creators. Jason is the anchor for sure, and at different times and places one or more of us has been the partner. Now it’s Jeff and Jason. The best part is that no matter who is playing (Doug, Jeff, Steve, Travis, or myself) you will always hear the best deep house, tech-house, and techno.

LA: How do you think our scene has changed over the last couple years?

MP: I’ve been impressed with the level that the scene has reached in the last few years. Strong acts coming from our own city is huge. Established monthly’s and branded parties are huge. Things are happening.

LA: What would you deem the ideal future for the Columbus EDM community? What do you think has to happen for us to get there?

MP: Keep doing what you’re doing. Build the scene. Make connections in other cities to share artists and acts. Use every means of communication at your disposal to share your love of music and dance. Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and do something different. These are the things that bring attention from the world to your scene.

LA: If you could share any lesson from your experience in our scene to share with the younger generation what would it be?

MP: Don’t burn bridges.

Make sure you check out Midislut’s soundcloud for all his genre bending mixes and look out for him when he spins at quality next saturday, February 4th. Remember the music starts at 9:30 next saturday so get there early and make sure to join the event page for all the updates! Event details HERE. Also, keep your ears to the ground for an exclusive write up on Midislut’s seminal “Ambiento” tape that has been plucked from his archives and will be released again for us all to hear a little bit of history.

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