Interview with Fantastic Man

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We are witnessing the rise of Fantastic Man since the groundbreaking Animal Language EP in 2014, we admitted his unique psychedelic jungle sound and since then the man is one of favorite producers here at Krossfingers’ hq. Mic Newman (FM’s real name) is co-running excellent Superconscious label with his friend Francis Inferno Orchestra. This year man explored new territory with Mind Lotion project and progressive tribal house records on his own label and Kitjen. Considering all of the above we decided to ask Mic first about…

Your fave pizza? (I saw it so often in instagrams of DJs living in Berlin that pizza became a sort of symbol of life there)

Ok starting with the Pizza, anything with olives, anchovies and a healthy serving of olio picante… I mean, even just some dough with a bit of olio picante is good for me. Life in Berlin, also like pizza, can be salty, crusty, sweet, sometimes it can melt in your mouth, or be as dry as a four-day-old Dominos garlic pizza that’s been left in the sun and pissed on by the two most wretched cats in the city, who aren’t ever allowed to leave the apartment and are on a vegan diet, but that’s a story for another interview. The good thing, dough, is that there’s always a bit of fucking picante :)

Griffin (FIO) said it’s possible to live in Berlin about $10 for 2 weeks. Can you confirm that?

Sure, I guess when he’s visiting and staying at our place rent-free, it’s cheap. (Hi Griff)

What do you like about the city?

I like the space and the freedom, they are definitely the main draw cards for me. And yes It’s very cheap so it’s the perfect incubator for someone like me to immerse themselves in their art and pursue the goals which wouldn’t be possible elsewhere. It’s also very central, so overall It’s the perfect base really… And life can be good. A little too good. Someone once described Berlin to me as a giant university campus full of art school drop-outs and cultural refugees, which sounds great, and it is, but there’s a catch. The city has a sort of blissful leisurely pace about it along with a heavy focus on nightlife, which draws you in at first, and is good when you’re visiting, but as a resident, if you lack purpose and structure, it can be a trap – a bottomless spiral of eternal laziness, or eternal partying — for a lot of people. So it’s important to find a healthy balance stay positive.

Your sound changed after Animal Language in 2014, what did happen at the time that pushed you to change your direction?

I guess it’s just evolution, and I’m becoming more obsessed with psychedelia and escapism through music, for me, the moments when you completely lose yourself in the music, are the best moments. So somehow that’s always the goal. I guess my sound palette naturally changes over time, which also has to do with what gear is coming in-and-out of my studio. But yes, I have to keep things fresh, most importantly for my own sanity. I’d like to think there is an underlying narrative which exists in my music, but I can’t really be sure.

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What psychedelic music are you into now? The term is quite extensive

Maybe not as much psychedelic as cerebral. I prefer music that hits in a different way, more subtly. For listening, I particularly like drawn out instrumental odysseys, of any description, from Jon Hassel-esque world music to more Balearic things with trippy melodies and traditional electronic things like early Italian ambient house and proto-trance. My Mind Lotion project takes elements from all the things I find most appealing, so I guess that answers this question best.

And for DJing, if anyone has seen me play recently they’ll know I love good acidy tribal percussive work-outs. Great examples of recent artists who nail this best for me are Golden Teacher and Tambien. The most interesting things I’ve found for DJing lately though, have been random one-offs, on unlikely records like B-side dub mixes on old New Beat records. This is just scratching the surface, there are so many styles from different eras that I like.

Tell us more about your album on Antinote

Mind Lotion came to existence unwittingly, roughly two years ago. I wrote a bunch of music while I was in transition. It was before I settled in Berlin. I had moved back to London from Melbourne, which I’d immediately decided was a mistake. I was completely disillusioned and living like a nomad, in and out of friends’ places and using random studios whilst “on the road”. I was essentially homeless for six months. But I was super inspired to write music and the nomadic uncertainty resulted in a certain introspective and melancholic musical theme. I didn’t think too much of it at the time, but then later decided to revisit, polish and eventually formed the album and thankfully found it a good home at Antinote Records. I’m very happy that the project has been released. And who knows, maybe when I have my mid-life crisis I’ll do a follow-up :)

Btw it’s also cool cause it’s an album, not the most popular thing in dance music

I think the album format is and always will be very much a good listening format. The time and space allow for a story to be told. Maybe DJ albums are more of a novelty and a great promotional tool which is totally ok too.

Am I right you are not playing live, just DJ sets?

Yeah, I don’t play live. I tried it once, it was a lot of fun but I definitely prefer the freedom and flexibility of DJing.

Your latest 12″ on Superconscious sounds like a new challenge, it’s «more dry, almost fat-free»

I guess it is. This was the first time I wrote a record specifically for the label. I wanted to do something a bit darker, spacious and more direct.

And Acid Martin from upcoming EP on Kitjen reminds me early trance and progressive house. Are you into it, do you feel something special about music from that era?

Exactly! I love the pre sub-genre early rave records where techno, trance and house elements were all present at once. I also love the spiritual elements. There is this French label called Omnisonus from the 90s which had a short lifespan but sums this up perfectly. Some more examples are early ORB and No Smoke records.

How do you construct tracks?

It really depends. There are a few processes, sometimes I jam out ideas with instruments, sometimes I use samples as a starting point, and work completely in-the-box, or sometimes I cannibalize old ideas and make new “Frankenstein” tracks. I still haven’t found the best formula myself but it’s usually one of these. In terms of development, it also changes. Sometimes a track is finished within a day (usually the best ones) and other times I can painstakingly work on an idea for months.

What was your «fastest in making» track?

Acid Martin was a quickie actually; it took about a day to complete.

I think you should know what these instruments are — check «long horn» starts on 40 sec and «paradise bird» on 44sec here. These two sounds are quite classic for tropical-esoteric music. What is it?

The horn here sounds like a sample. I did a cheap imitation version using one of my toy Karaoke synths called the Roland E-30. It also has various bird sounds, waterfalls, dogs barking and all the wonderful New-Agey clichés.

Now you are using less samples than earlier, right?

Slightly less, but there are still definitely samples in my music, just maybe always not the focus. But then again it really depends.

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How was Moscow in June? I heard it was a superb party

It was one of the best shows I’ve played all year. The venue Strelka was pretty incredible and so were the crowd and the promoters. Seems to be a really nice scene there. 10/10 for that trip all together. I’d like to go back!

Do you want to try yourself in something despite music? What do you wanna do in 10 years?

Maybe something with visual art and design, which is what I studied for a while before doing “the music thing”. I’ve really enjoyed working with the designs for the Superconscious records, and the production side in general. So perhaps it’s something I will do more of, or maybe just something that doesn’t involve staring at computer!

What are you doing when there is lack of inspiration?

Getting out of the city. Usually to the nearest beach. Not sure if it helps but it’s good for my soul.

Did you have depressions, a desire to stop, frustrations in what you are doing? How did you handle it?

I suppose everyone has reflections and questions at some point in their lives. This lifestyle in particular has a lot to be questioned. There are obvious up sides, but there is also a lot of noise in the background which can weigh heavily over time, job insecurity, drug and alcohol, vacuous relationships, I mean this question deserves an essay really. The short answer is, like everything, it has its ups and downs. Luckily for me, the ups outweigh the downs, and it’s those moments I think of if I’m ever in doubt, as well as the alternative, I remind myself how lucky some of us are being able to earn a living from a hobby.

What’s your «desert island» record?

This one:

Follow Fantastic Man on Soundcloud and Instagram and don’t forget to support Superconscious on Bandcamp

Cover illustration Sasha Tessio
Words Sasha Tessio & Artem Super Ikra