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Michalis MsM Michael

Engineer & Mixer
Published November 2018
By Sam Inglis

Michalis MsMMichaelPhoto: Marwan Elgamal @TheHighClubLondon

MsM’s bedroom studio in North London helped put grime on the map. Since then, both engineer and music have gone on to bigger things...

"Back in the day, if I got a really bad‑sounding rough mix, I used to think ‘Oh, this is going to be an easy one! I’ll get to show off!’ But those ones can be the most difficult, because often there’s no direction. It’s when you get a song where the rough mix is decent and it has the feeling — they’re the most fun, because you just have to figure out what they love about it and embellish that more. My job is to take what’s already there and give them a ‘more’ version or to help them get over their own finish line. I want to make it so that your song makes you happier.

"Some engineers might hear that and say ‘That’s just you being lazy!’ It’s not, because I’m working just as long hours, just as hard. Knowing when and what is the skill. I’ve known artists who have had stuff mixed by some of the most well‑respected mix engineers, and it’s gone out with the producer’s own mix in the end. Why? Because the mixer changed too much of what they loved. I remember when I first started mixing for people and I’d spent ages on a song only to send it off and hear ‘Yeah, we’re going to go with the rough.’

"That’s how I learned. On the job.”

Grime School

Most engineers do their learning away from the public eye. Not so Michalis Michael, aka MsM. After the teenager found his first mixing console in the boot of a stolen car, his bedroom studio became the focal point for this country’s first authentic urban genre. Leading grime artists such as Skepta, JME and Wiley recorded their most important tracks there, and MsM is still the engineer of choice for all of them, and Skepta and Boy Better Know in particular.

"I’d been DJ’ing with Majestic since we were 11 or 12 years old. Eventually we joined a crew of MCs and DJs, going on pirate radio stations and discovering new music and new technology together. JME says we were just more bored than other kids!

"I’d already started making beats on an old PC with Fruity Loops, and Music 2000 on a Playstation. I had a lot of DJ gear too: turntables, CDJ’s from when they first came out, drum machines. I’d nick what I could off my dad, he was a musician since he came to England. That’s how he earnt a living and it was around me my whole life. Then when the whole stolen car mixer thing happened it just sparked something in my head. I’d always seen studios and big mixers and loved how it looked, and this was an old Soundcraft 16 or 24‑channel desk. It felt like I had to learn about it and see what it could do. I remember thinking ‘Right, I’m gonna have a studio now,’ and asking my dad and his friend Sugar (RIP) for a breakdown of what was needed. I had no clue.

A relic of the early days: MsM’s first electret mic, used to record many early grime vocals.A relic of the early days: MsM’s first electret mic, used to record many early grime vocals.Photo: Andy Nicholson / twogoldteethcouk"My dad gave me a battery‑powered small‑diaphragm pencil mic. It was meant to be part of a stereo pair for some tape deck, I think; it was a terrible mic, but it made all the difference as it was so sensitive. We’d been using dynamics ‘til then....

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Published November 2018