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MSM: Producing Casisdead

Famous Last Words By Sam Inglis
Published June 2024

Michalis ‘MSM’ Michael in his North London studio.Michalis ‘MSM’ Michael in his North London studio.

Casisdead’s Famous Last Words may be one of the best British rap albums ever made — but actually making it was an epic challenge!

“When it first came out, I was surprised that I could listen to it,” says MSM. “I thought my PTSD would have been stronger!”

The ‘it’ in question is Casisdead’s debut album Famous Last Words, which MSM was initially hired to mix. His role gradually expanded until the project took over his life completely — for eight years. “It was the most intense project I’ve ever been on in my life. I don’t think there’ll ever be an album that could ever top it for me. I was recording, mixing, editing, changing sounds, calling people in to do things. There was always a layer of: ‘Can it be better?’ in the back of our minds.

“I reckon I tried to quit the album at least five times. I remember being like, ‘I literally cannot do this any more.’ On one of the songs, I did 500‑plus mixes. Not different mixes as in sonics, but comps, vocal edits, changes with breakdowns. I mixed the whole thing, but that happened as we were making it. I’d mix a song, think it’s all done and good and gravy, then he’s gone to re‑record the vocals. And I’m trying to explain to him the amount of automation work I’ve done, and how it doesn’t just work like chopping it in and replacing it. I have to redo all that work. Those are the parts that sent me crazy.”

Behind The Mask

MSM (Michalis Michael) would eventually be credited as Executive Producer on the album, more than a decade after he first became a confidant of the secretive rapper. “I knew of Cas from when we were younger, he was just a local MC. Castro Saint was his name at the time. I was a fan, but didn’t meet him. Then he just kind of vanished from making music.

Casisdead’s perfectionist art is as much visual as it is musical.Casisdead’s perfectionist art is as much visual as it is musical.

“In 2012 I got a phone call from a friend of mine, and he said ‘Have you seen this?’ The video was what got me first. I was like: whoever’s done this is cinematic. Someone’s thinking. I recognised the voice, but the name was Casisdead. I’ve rung around a few people that I knew and I was like, ‘Is this who I think it is?’ And they were like, yeah. And then somebody said, ‘Oh, he’s a good friend of mine. I can I can put him in touch with you if you want.’

“I didn’t know he was this MI5 secret squirrel. But he jumped on a three‑way call with us and you could tell he was hesitant. He was just like, ‘Who are you? What do you want?’ And I was like, ‘I just want to help. I just want to be involved.’ I was working out of Britannia Row at the time and we just met up and played music to each other. From there I set up a studio in my house, and he’d started to transition from the place that he was working to mine. And I was basically picking up the pieces of what he’d been working on, which was a mixtape, The Number 23.

“So he was like, ‘Look, I’m gonna get you all these files, do what you can with them’ — and they were a mess. It was like MP3 instrumentals, vocals recorded on different days with different mics. It was a salvage job. But that’s also what I was used to for like nine or 10 years before that. It’s not what I wanted it to sound like, because now I’ve developed, but I know I can do it. And I was just interested in it. I wasn’t gonna be a snob and be like, ‘Unless you get me the parts...’

“We carried on working, and then around 2015 we did a song called ‘Pat Earrings’. When they brought me the demo of it I knew something was special. I heard it and I was like ‘Well, this is good. I want to work on this but now I’ve got the access to parts. We’re gonna change this for the better.’ And I think by now he’d learned to trust me. So he was like, ‘OK, let’s go for it.’

“The before and after in that song is one of my proudest things because it became the start of the ‘exec production’ thing with him. From what it started as compared to what was finished was night and day. But the idea and song was sick and was always there. It just needed to be pushed in the direction Cas wanted. Once it was released it just started going everywhere. It was getting sync’ed in places, there was a lot of labels talking, and then XL [Recordings] picked him up....

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