Quite simply one of the original key figures who helped mould the club scene of today. Stretching way back to the days when his sought after mixtapes were a thing of beauty, his nights at the helm of one of the most important nightclubs in history, producing for Stress Records, his cool role at DJ MAG and wowing dancefloors all around the globe decade after decade. Wilson has seen and done it all. DMCWORLD catches up with the electronic music legend as the next chapter of his life begins with new production guise PaperMacheTiger…
Interview by Dan Prince
A huge welcome to DMCWORLD Mick! Let’s kick off by rewinding to the days of when your musical journey began. What is your earliest memory of music as a child?
Well the earliest memory is very hazy, but we were a family that was always bathed in music, my mum and dad both had a wide and varying record collection, so as a child we (my brothers and sisters) were always around it. In those days it was part of the family dynamics, putting on records or listening to the radio, then it progressed and my sister wanted a piano, which she got and I just jumped on it and took to it straight away, I was really young then.
What were some of the life ambitions growing up, was it always about the music or was there anything else you wanted to do with your life?
Funnily enough when I look back it was literally all about music. Okay I went through stages where I wanted to do something with sports (I loved sports, still do) but in the whole I was always drawn to the creative side of things. If it wasn’t going to be music, I was interested in fashion, design stuff like that. But from an early age I was just drawn to the musical side of things.
How did dance music first cross your path?
From wanting to be a DJ on pirate radio stations, I would record tapes pretending to be doing a radio show and give it out to all my friends. At 14 I was already getting into DJing, scratching, turntablism…and with it the music. But I wasn’t just drawn to one style, I was exploring anything that was non mainstream. So it would be funk, disco, reggae, hip hop, dance remixes/imports of the pop acts of the day, electronic stuff. So I was always drawn to that club vibe in terms of music and especially what would have been considered the underground nights of those days. I started DJing at a local roller skating session and got involved with that side of things, this was back around 84/85 so you can imagine the music – there was some exciting sounds coming from all avenues.
You were one half of the legendary Parks & Wilson DJing duo in the late 80s and 90s…how did that all come about?
Well as mentioned I started DJing at the roller skating events and became known in the city for playing “dance” music. So as the scene started to develop I was at the forefront of the wave with the other guys and girls that were getting into what would become the acid house and rave scene. I was friends with Mick’s brother and sister and we all hung out. Mick wanted to get into DJing (if I remember rightly) so we started playing tunes around my house. He knew the guys who were going to open this new revolutionary club (The Eclipse) but didn’t have kit, so I lent them my decks and myself and Mick started to play. At first we were just doing separate sets but then we combined to become Parks and Wilson. And the rest is acid house history!
Alongside clubs like The Hacienda, Bowlers, Quadrant Park and Shelleys, The Eclipse in your home city Coventry was one of the best in the land, if not the world. For the thousands of people reading this who were never lucky enough to visit this acid house bastion, what made this nightclub oh so special?
It was the only place in the country where you could party 24hours legally – and in fact from Friday through to Sunday…as you well know Dan as you were there, it really did pave the way for what dance music clubs would become today. It attracted people from all over the country in fact the world – people would fly in to come! In those times that was crazy shit! This former bingo hall transformed into a clubbing mecca, to see thousands of people coming in week in week out to hear dance music, to be as one, a community, part of the movement of the rave generation – it was truly something else, especially as a young person. We brought in some of the worlds musical legends, they all played there, anyone that was anyone played at the Eclipse; Laurent Garnier, Derrick May, Moby, Frank De Wulf, Prodigy, 808 State, Sasha, Carl Cox, Fabio and Grooverider…the list is endless…
What were some of the tunes of that time that still stand out for you 30 years later?
So many tracks; Massive Attack ‘Unfinished Sympathy’, LFO ‘LFO’, Lil Louis ‘French Kiss’, Rhythm Is Rhythm ‘Strings Of Life’, Frankie Knuckles feat Jamie Principal ‘Your Love’, Frankie Knuckles (again) ‘Let the Music Use You’, Phuture ‘Acid Tracks’, A Guy called Gerald ‘Voodoo Ray’, Ecstasy Club ‘Jesus Loves the Acid’. There really are so many I can’t possible list them all here, it was a rich time for electronic music.
Early DJ inspirations?
Carl Cox, Laurent Garnier, Sasha, Fabio and Grooverider. These guys were trailblazers and it was great to play alongside them.
Proudest moment of the Acid House Years?
Getting up behind the decks and losing myself in music. Every gig, every time, being asked and being able to DJ at these parties, being a part of this whole movement – that was something else.
You moved to Ibiza six years ago, an island you were no stranger to. Why Ibiza and why was it the right time?
I’ve been coming to Ibiza for 30 years. It was (is) dance music’s mecca, it has always being associated with the non-mainstream way of life and this has been the attraction from when I was younger to now. The ability to meet people from all over the world, from every sort of background but at the same time with a common thread. It still is a special place. I am not one of these people who go on about it not being as good as ‘back in the day’, everything evolves, that’s what makes the world go around and the island has evolved. To be honest we (the family) should have moved here way sooner. You often hear people saying ‘I wish I’d done it earlier’ and that is definitely the case for us, but the ability to come back and forth for all those years and just think one day I am going to live on this island, was good enough at the time. And when everything aligned, it was just a case of this is the time…it was meant to be.
Is the island an easy place to live on, what are some of the difficulties you have had to overcome since plotting up?
No, hell no! It has got easier with it getting modern, but at times it is like going back in the past, especially if you come from big city living. But at the same time it is the island idiosyncrasies that capture the soul, it can be an extreme place and it will test you, but if it doesn’t break you, you know you will be here forever. Speaking Spanish helps!!!
You are an essential part of the DJ MAG editorial team – tell us about your role…
I am the Tech Editor. I’ve been doing it for over 10 years now, it is like being a kid in a sweet shop! I get to review, play with and test all the new equipment that is used for performing and producing electronic music. To speak to other DJs and producers in terms of what they are doing with the equipment and technology is insightful, it is like you never stop learning from others who share the same passion for the music and the technology, which is a gift. I have always been into the equipment side of things since I was a kid and to be able to work in the environment where I get to use all this technology/kit is special. But outside of this, it is nice to be a part of the DJ Mag family, getting to still travel the world with the job be it from a journalist angle or from the DJing side it is a nice position to be in.
What are some of the future tech pieces the producers and DJs reading this should be looking out for over the next 12 months…?
I get asked this a lot you know! Of course we all know it is coming, Pioneer DJ’s next generation CDJ – it is going to be a big moment. The DJ community have been waiting for this for an age. Furthermore there are loads of great production tools coming as well, Moog and their Matriarch and Sub 25 synths, look out for Apple and Logic Pro – rumour has it something new is coming very soon. Korg especially now they have opened their Berlin base, they are going to have some really sweet tools for the creators. The technology keeps on churning and with it comes more stuff.
2019 saw the launch of your new production outfit PaperMacheTiger with fellow Ibiza resident Dylan Debut. Firstly, what’s with the name dude?
The name? Well I like to wander around observing things that stimulate the creative side of my mind, I take inspiration from everything and with the job and the travel I get to experience different cultures which also helps. Of which I like to educate myself, be enriched, the sense of evolving, the coming together of a common mindset – this is what PaperMacheTiger is about; creating something from layers that you just keep building on top of to create something new. The concept of Paper Mache modelling is where it starts with strips of paper that are meshed together to create a wonderful piece of art, and that is what I/we want to portray with the music. Oh and the Tiger bit – I have been intrigued with tiger iconology and it has been a running theme for me, so a lot of my projects have reference to Tiger or Tigre.
And yes, back to the music. Myself and Dylan had been working in the studio on some music projects together and we just clicked in terms of our output and what we liked to do with the music, so we decided to combine and take PMT further.
How did the whole joining of forces happen, what was the original plan between you two?
Well, the original plan was to use PMT as a conduit to work with friends, great producers, an extended family of music creators. It was going to be a grand project and I got started working with Dylan, (he was already releasing a lot of his own stuff and working on colabs) it was just going to be a few tracks. But as I mentioned, we found that we worked really well together and the output was good and it progressed from there.
The opening twelve months for PaperMacheTiger is a busy one with releases on Nervous Records, Black Riot, Plastic City, Audiophile, Martek, Whore House, Household Digital and Bosh recordings as well as remixes for Mark Reeves’s La Playa on Ibiza brand Do Not Sleep and Pangea Records. I know the world has been turned upside down with Coronavirus, but what can we expect from you two over the next few months?
You have to take positives from any negative situation and CV has provided us with the opportunity to lockdown in the studio and create music. We’ve been really working on getting productions finished and also working with other people to push forward with the music. It is a good time to connect with other producers and artists and work together, in which the same way everyone is doing to combat this whole Coronavirus issue.
Tell us about the DJ Pierre hook up coming up…
Dylan had been crate digging and had pulled out Fantasy Girl, a classic record from the acid house days which Pierre had written. He started to play around with an idea which worked out as our version of the record. Not a remix, a new recording. But we dropped the vocal over the top and it sat perfectly, so we called up Pierre and spoke to him about working the record with the vocal from the original and he was down with it. It’s a monstrous dancefloor stomper with the spirit of acid house all over it.
There is also your involvement in the remix project for Perry Farrell/Jane’s Addiction. What’s the story there…?
Yes this is a complete curveball project! Jane’s Addiction are reforming (the original members) and going on a world tour. And as part of the build-up to all this Perry is releasing a limited edition boxset of remixes of his material. We got the call to be involved and jumped at it; Seth Troxler, Maceo Plex, UNKLE, Doorly, Francois K, Richard Norris (Time & Space Machine) are some of the names doing mixes, it is going to be a big project and an interesting one – turning ‘out and out’ rock records into dancefloor inspired versions! We’ve delivered a dark boarding on techno version of his ‘Where Have You Been’ track. It was fun working with the original stems from the recording and shaping them into a new sound.
How do you and Dylan complement each other in the studio, who excels where…?
Dylan is a bit of an all-rounder. He can write as well as engineer a session, great on a mixdown, fine attention to detail and is super quick – he definitely excels here, which is brilliant. I love the technology side of things, I also love to mess with sound. I love synths, sound creation and putting it all together. I’ve been playing keys all my life so coming up with riffs, chords and patterns is one of my strong points. We bounce ideas back and forth from each other in the writing stage then come together to nail it in the mixing part of the process. There is a definite synergy in the way we work.
Are there plans for any live / DJ sets from PaperMacheTiger anytime soon?
Yes I suppose that this is the natural progression taking it from studio onto the road. It is something we will look at but it isn’t an immediate thing, we’re still enjoying knocking out the music in the studio. Saying that, we have been DJing under the PaperMacheTiger moniker at some select gigs and we’ve also thrown together a few mixtapes consisting entirely of our own music – so this would be an avenue to explore and look at. It’s an open book at the moment and a great position to be in.
And finally. What is the one song that you really wished you’d have written?
I haven’t written it yet… ha ha.
Great interview Mr Wilson.
Thank you guv.