I recently had the opportunity with The Boar Music section to interview Mikill Pane, an up-and-coming artist whose collaborated with the likes of Ed Sheeran and Example. He’d been announced for the Warwick Summer Party earlier that day so we chatted about that, but we diverged off into some pretty schweet discussions about live bands vs. DJs, the concepts behind his upcoming debut album Blame Miss Barclay, musician’s identity, English teachers and a whole bunch more.
Boar Music: Good morning! How are you?
Mikill Pane: I’m good thanks, in the taxi on the way to Putney for band rehearsals.
Boar Music: First question is going to be lame… I apologise: is the sun shining on the big city where you are?
MP: It is indeed: intermittently – there are a few clouds – but all in all the weather’s decent on the whole.
BM: Hopefully it will be sunny when you come here in June!
MP: I’m not a betting man but if I was I wouldn’t bet on it to be fair.
BM: Could you describe your sound for anyone that hasn’t heard of you before?
MP: I can’t no.
BM: It’s indescribable then?
MP: Yeah – the sound of the music changes from song to song – the only way you’ll know its me is my voice basically. So I can describe my sound in a way – it sounds like my voice.
BM: Because you do have quite a distinctive tone, so I guess that is what carries through your music. All the stuff you’ve released so far has been quite different – Summer in the City is very upbeat – Remix with A-Team is very bleak…
MP: Exactly, they’re polar opposites those two tunes. To that end I wouldn’t be able to describe my sound – imagine the whole musical spectrum and – that is what I sounds like.
BM: So you sound like a rainbow then is basically what you’re trying to say.
MP: Basically yeah
BM: You’ll be playing alongside acts like Labrinth and Rudimental – have you collaborated with them before?
MP: Neither of, I’ve never collaborated with either of them. I’m alright mates with Labrinth, and the Rudimental guys we have a mutual respect: we follow each other on Twitter and stuff – I congratulated them actually for getting the Number 1 single yesterday, we’re yet to strike up a proper friendship to be fair though
BM: Well perhaps Summer party will be the time then!
MP: Indeed, yeah yeah.
BM: You’re in the “afternoon party-starter” slot on the line-up, as the SU describes it: with that in mind sometimes University crowds and festival crowds in general are hard to get going – with such varied taste and a varied sound – how do you plan on getting people bouncing, do you have a stagecraft?
MP: More just you know do my thing – if they like it, then most of the time it seems to work – it’s as simple as that. I don’t think there should be a formula: I think, every crowd, should be treated individually to be fair. But at the same time you should just try to be yourself. Try and do the type of gig that you’d want to watch think is the golden rule.
BM: That’s a great summation actually, I think sometimes people at festivals do try too hard to be something they’re not.
MP: Exactly, exactly – once you sort of hold on to a routine – unless you kind of make it a routine – even then it seems really contrived you know?
BM: I agree, I think that whole rockstar schtick has kind of died a death – I think it gives acts like you, who are quite individualistic a chance to shine, because you’re not trying to be something else.
On that note actually, how did you make the transition from Justin Smith Uzomba to Mic- ill Pane?
MP: The transition came before the name, the name was only used to classify the transition. I’d always been a writer before – but I just felt that sort of personally I was undergoing a transition, and I thought there might as well be a name to, sort of, classify it – to encompass the whole thing that I’d been through. I thought I oughta to see what I could do: I’m a decent rapper, Mic – Ill, I’m ill on the mic. And Pane because I’ve been wearing glasses for so long that I feel like I’ve been looking through window-panes. Hence the Pane.
BM: The narrative behind it is great… it’s more than a nickname .
MP: Yeah, I did it myself mate, I’m my own boss – fuck everyone else’s nicknames.
BM: Is that by deed poll now, do you get letters to a Mr. Pane?
MP: Nah, nah, nah. I always on Twitter get sort of: presumptuous fans, that try and call me Justin… It’s easier if you just call me Mikill – I don’t know you like that. It’s not an arrogant thing, it’s not as though, I’m wearing sunglasses and being like “ahh… you call me Diddy!”
It helps to separate fans from friends basically. If it’s related to my normal life, then Justin is fine. Even this, in this interview, if you were to call me Justin I wouldn’t mind that, because you know – obviously you know me through being Mikill Pane, but we’re sort of talking about being Mikill Pane – do you know what I mean. With fans who address me on Twitter and can see… it’s kind of presumptuous and it winds me up.
BM: To have distinct parts of your self, I guess that helps you to kind of switch off… people always talk about being exhausted when they come back from tour, I guess it does help to maintain a separate life.
MP: It’s completely a liability – I can’t go around saying something like: Justin is to blame because Mikill Pane said something when motherfucker keep calling me different names… it just makes it kind of confusing!
BM: Your first studio album, Blame Miss Barclay is out soon, I’ve heard June is that still the case?
MP: Nah August or September I think. Summer in the City is getting re-released in June, I tell a tell a lie – Summer In the City is out in August.
BM: What’s the story behind that album title – whose Miss Barclay?
MP: She’s my old English teacher, she always encouraged me to write creatively.
BM: It’s kind of a shout-out to her then?
MP: It is.
BM: Have you seen her since school?
MP: I haven’t seen her since leaving school nah, I saw her once on telly, on some show called ‘The Revolution Will Be Televised’… she had her door knocked on as part of one of the sketches. And that was literally the only time I’ve seen her.
BM: You’ve worked with the likes of Ed Sheeran and Example – and you last EP was, You Guest It
MP: Nahhh the last EP was ‘Lucky Strike’ which came out like a week ago… it’s available on my website for free!
It’s basically a precursor to the appearance of one of the characters on my album – the album is made up of various different characters – and there’s a character in there called ‘Lucky’. And the ‘Lucky Strike EP’ is his introduction from his perspective. There’s a Prologue on there by a guy called George The Poet – this amazing spoken word artist. I’ve wanted to work with him for ages, as he’s like what I wanted to be if I was still a spoken-word artist myself. But I sold out basically.. [laughter] Started putting a bit more rhythm into it and some music behind it.
Whereas he still kind of carries it off so well. Expresses himself like you know, no one else does. Stands head and shoulders above other spoken-word artists of my generation.. he’s so sick. I had to get him on it. And all of the production is done by a guy called ‘Steel Bangles’ – you can get more information on that from mikillpane.com
It’s free just like You Guest It!
BM: That fits in with the next question quite nicely actually, because students… they are renowned for a bit impoverished… so you know free stuff! Your single “Good Feeling” seems pretty in-tune with student ideal – what’s been your experience with University?
MP: I went to Uni but I walked out like 4 times, Uni just isn’t for me although I do respect people that seek knowledge . I’ve got no brothers but I’ve got four sisters and they’ve all been through Uni. And they’ve – one of them has never even had like a year off, she’s been through every single sort of institution… and life is better for her – but it isn’t necessarily for me. Uni doesn’t teach you to be creative.
MP: People view it as the be all and end all, and having been there myself and as you say, that’s not the case.
BM: My manager has a law degree for fuck’s sake. He’s got a law degree he could be a fucking lawyer but he’s my manager, and he’s also a very talented musican. He’s written a lot of the music on my album – that’s something a law degree can’t teach you… and he’s hopefully going to have a very fulfilled life as a result of it.
MP: Being fulfilled is the main thing – and you obviously switched because this is what’s fulfilling to you – the art, the music, the words – that really comes across in your sound in your songs, you can tell how invested you are in it.
BM: Sometimes University dates have a bit of a stigma to them, it sounds like then that’s not really the case for you…
MP: I love them!
BM: You play with a live band as well, you mentioned you’re on the way to band rehearsals atm – is that important to you – that seems to be something that’s happened at the moment with a lot of hip-hop, dance outfits, getting a live band?
MP: Yeah, a lot of MCs were doing band stuff before, it’s weird some of them are resorting back to DJs. Maybe they’re feeling a bit jaded with the whole thing, but I personally feel that if you can… perform with a band that’s the best thing. Unless you’ve got a stupidly entertaining DJ, yeah – there’s only so much a DJ can do. With a band it’s all in the interaction between all four people on the stage, I’ve got four, sometimes as many as five on stage when I’m performing. Being able to interact with them – it adds another dimension to the show for the artist. I think artists should be quite selfish when it comes to performing – an artist shouldn’t only perform to entertain, an artist should perform to be entertained as well.
If you can tour and gig, and enjoy it as much as crowd can, then also you get the added bonus of having your pals on stage – jamming along with you and that, seeing their reactions to the crowd.
It’s just a big sort of maelstrom of emotions and vibes basically. No matter where you look you’re going to get that.
BM: If you’ve got a good DJ, like uh… Beastie Boys had Mix Master Mike, and he was sick – that seems to be the exception to the rule, it’s refreshing to see. When Tinie Tempa was on Jools Holland and he had a full live-band, that really translated as you say – like a song on the radio: if you can create something different. If you have someone that you can play off, change things round on stage…
MP: Yeah, yeah exactly.
BM: You’re playing with a number of other up-and-comers like Coves and By The Rivers, at the Summer Party – who are you listening to at the moment that you think people should check out?
MP: Honestly, I’m not a massive hip-hop fan, I don’t listen to that much, I listen to music I don’t go “Oh shit… I wanna find out who the best rappers at the moment are…” do you know what I mean, because I’m a rapper, I don’t sort of imagine myself in that scene too much. I’m more into my bands myself… I think people should check out: Black Forest Ghetto. They’re some friends of mine, and they’ve got a really good vibe, it’s fucking amazing, it’s like New Jack Swing, like it’s R&B, they do a really good cover of ‘Poison’ by BelleBivDevoe. Really cool, really old school aesthetic, and even you know sonically – it’s just the kind of shit that you know your parents might have danced to do you know what I mean… so much longevity!
BM: I guess that’s what we’re talking about with this real music live, it all comes back to the ‘groove’ and that’s coming back in a big way.
MP: Yes, yes, exactly – they do gigs, and you know I do gigs I want everyone’s listening attention, I don’t really give a shit about people dancing. But when they do gigs tt’s just heads down sweating, skanking and it’s sick – it’s [dancing] exactly what its intended for you know.
BM: Thank you for your time um… Mic (?) [I still have no idea what to call him] Thanks for your time. Do you have any shout-outs, or anything you want to say to Warwick before we see you on stage in the summer?
MP: Let’s just have fucking knees up, let’s have a good time! I think I start the Professor Green tour that day – I’m doing a couple of dates – and I think after Warwick I’m off to Guildford, so basically just make it worth my fucking while!
BM: Thank you very much, it was good to talk to you –
BM: Wish you all the best with ‘Lucky Strike’ and good luck for you album too –we look we forward to seeing you soon!
MP: Cheers man, good luck with the journalism too, I did a bit of journalism before so it can be really rewarding… but at the same time it can be a massive bitch so uh… good luck bro!
BM: That’s why it’s always good to talk to people like you, sometimes people can be wankers, but you’re lovely so that’s all good.
MP: Aha strong! Alright have a good one man!