Sunday, May 16, 2021

DJ Interviews: Michael Radtke


How'd you get started in music?
I've been "making" music since high school, with a few stops and starts along the way. I put quotes around "making" because I mostly just messed around with the guitar and effectively blew off guitar lessons my parents were paying for. The only song I ever recorded during this time was just me yelling "Free kitten!" across the room and clapping semi-rhythmically. I might still have that on my old Fostex. I should check... Anyway, I fell out of music for a bit during high school then got back in during my college years, now as a drummer. My brother and I started a "band" and jammed quite a bit with me on drums and him on bass. Nothing came of it, but we'd do these epic 30+ minute distorted, psychedelic jams that were fun to play, but probably not very fun to listen to.

Then it wasn't until a few years ago that I finally had things "click" and I produced actual, meaningful content. What happened was my friend and I had an idea for a podcast, wherein I, never really having WRITTEN an ACTUAL REAL SONG before, decided to write a song for each episode. The song would be based on the topic of the episode and I'd perform it at some point during the recording. This never materialised, but I did write a bunch of songs. ACTUAL songs. About half will never, ever see the light of day, but the ones that were good ended up on my first release, the EP 
Hold Still.

Who are your inspirations or influences?
I'd have to say my biggest inspiration are my children. They give me the drive to keep creating, even when I think no one is listening (and there was a very long stretch when no one was). Ultimately, I want to leave behind a legacy that will give them something to point at and proudly say "My dad did THAT."

As for who influences me, the biggest back when I decided to take the plunge and write those podcast songs was Jonathan Coulton. He quit his job and to focus on music and give HIS kids something to be proud of, and it really gave me something to aspire to. Nevermind that he had SIGNIFICANTLY more formal training than me when he made that decision, I wanted to do that too and that helped drive me early on. (In case you're wondering, no, I was not able to quit my job to focus on music.)

Nowadays, I'd have to say my biggest influences are the folks in the Indie Music Twitter-verse. Folks like OrangeG, John Michie, Liss Victory, and Leigh Thomas all really stand out and set a high bar, always making me want to push myself further and improve. There's also all the folks at the weekly Hambones Open Mic on Zoom that I attend. It's run by the above mentioned and ever-amazing Liss Victory and there are so many top-notch performers each week that really push the envelope and make me want to as well. 

What advice would offer aspiring performers?
First and foremost, I'd say do NOT care what anybody thinks of you. Just put yourself out there. Not everybody is going to like what you do. THAT'S OK. You do you and you'll eventually find your audience.

My second bit of advice is to keep writing. Even if the songs are bad. That's fine, because the ONLY way you'll get better is by doing. I did this by putting myself through a 20-week long song-a-week bootcamp of my own devising, wherein I wrote AND recorded a fleshed out demo each week and put them up on my youtube channel. Granted I had a few cheat weeks where I did covers, but in that time I really learned HOW to write a song in the way that works best for me. Were all the songs zingers? No. But I learned what did and, possibly more importantly, what didn't work for my music.

How do you set yourselves apart from other bands or singers?
Admittedly this is something I think about a lot. When we start in music we're not originators, we're imitators. We mimic those we admire because we want to BE them. It's not until we've imitated for a while that the mask starts to flake away and our true selves shine through. What I'm finding shine through is my song writing. I write about pretty much ANYTHING. With songs about tiny crabs, annoying coworkers, punctuation marks, and the SEVERE lack of jetpacks in this "future" we live in, my songs have been described as witty and observational. I like to think that is my strength. The music that goes with those songs ranges from folky, to electronic, to punkish, so the instrumentation isn't ever really the crux of it, it's the off-kilter subjects and lyrics I write about.

Any new gigs or albums in the future?My gig calendar for the foreseeable future is just the weekly Hambones Open Mic on Zoom. With only a couple of missed weeks, I'm very much a regular and you can pretty much be assured that if you tune in you'll see me do my thing there.

As for albums, I've been focusing on the singles, with the idea of remastering/remixing them for an album down the road (with some new tracks thrown in for good measure). I'm working on my next single now, which should be out either at the end of April or early May. Beyond that I do have a collab lined up that I'm very excited for. I won't say too much now, but it's one that's been a long time coming and should yield some very interesting results.

Thank you again for interviewing me, Dizzy. Let me know when the interview goes live and I'll be sure to get the word out and share it on my socials.

Michael Radtke (The Real Michael Lee)
Twitter: @TRealMichaelLee

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