Gloucester born and Bristol-based Dread MC has made a name for himself delivering high-energy club vocals across an array of genres. From hosting live sets for some of the biggest artists in the worlds of drum ‘n’ bass, house and bass music, to touring around the world as frontman for the award-winning My Nu Leng, his esteemed reputation certainly precedes him.
Mixmag named him a ‘rave specialist’ after a string of collaborations with artists such as Redlight, Chris Lorenzo, Taiki Nulight, Volac, AC Slater and many more. If you’ve been clubbing over the last couple of years, then you’ll most likely have heard his unique vocal style that spans the spectrum of underground music.
We caught up with Mikel in his Bristol studio to see what he’s been up to in lockdown and beyond, and find out some details on how an exclusive vocal sample pack in issue 212 of MusicTech came together.
MusicTech: First up, thanks for taking the time to put together the sample pack. You’ve spent the last few years on a jam-packed touring schedule performing with My Nu Leng around the world, but 2020 must be very different for you. How have you been keeping busy since the closure of the UK and international club scene?
Mikel: Even with my music life I have always worked part-time in social work practice, giving advice and guidance to young people and working with families. That role has changed a lot in lockdown. I tried to move my studio to my home but that was a disaster; within the first week my two-year-old used my Macbook as a stepping stone for ‘the floor is lava’ – so I didn’t make any music for a couple of months! Because I had so many collabs in the pipeline from before COVID-19, loads of the artists hit me up to finish ideas. Since the end of May, I’ve been in the studio a couple of nights a week, working relentlessly in the spare hours I have.
MT: You’re known for your energetic live MC-ing style. How do you re-create that vibe in the studio?
M: To be honest, I pretend I’m in a venue or a club and imagine what the tune is like. And then, I imagine if you’re in the gym or running – what’s going to really motivate you and push you. Even if I make a deeper track or something minimal, I want it to have some sort of positive or inspiring vibe in it. I take it pretty seriously and will literally turn off all the studio lights and switch on a strobe light. Then I’ll bang the track a few times, and when I like it, I have the headphones up loud and a strobe light flashing and I’ll do the ad-libs.
MT: What gear do you use to record your vocal?
M: The one main piece of equipment I love is the Neumann TLM 103 microphone. I’ve got a vocal sound that isn’t that deep, but that mic captures everything really clearly. I like how it helps my vocals cut through a tune, regardless of how they’re manipulated. Other than that, it’s an RME interface plus a Reflection Filter recorded directly into Logic Pro.
MT: Are there any specific plug-ins or techniques that you use to process your voice?
M: I like to double or triple-track all my vocals where possible to make them sound more full. Then compress them quite hard to make sure every detail can be heard, as most of the tracks that I feature on are quite loud bassline and drum ‘n’ bass productions. Other than that, just a bit of stereo delay, top-end EQ and maybe SoundToys Little AlterBoy to mess around with the pitch.
Generally, I like to deliver quite a clean vocal sound when I do a collab, as that allows the producer to get creative with it. I love getting vocals back and hearing how they’ve been used in a track, especially when a producer really experiments with a vocal sound. I just want to constantly make new and interesting music.
MT: What can we expect to hear in the MusicTech sample pack?
M: I wanted to have fun and give a few solid examples of the varied vocals that I do for projects. It gives a good introduction to the style and range I give when I collab. I recorded several passes on top of 130 and 175 bpm backing tracks, then chopped a bunch of shorter shouts and longer hook phrases. And then there are clean and processed versions.
MT: What does the rest of the year look like for you?
M: I have been very fortunate to get hit up more than ever to write for artists. I’ve done a couple of writing sessions that have gone well and I’m hoping to do more. I’ve also been doing more re-vocalling of lyrics if a sample couldn’t get cleared or it’s been a much cheaper option. I did a live set recently where I was turned into a hologram, a dubplate exclusive set with DJ CLIPZ, and I have some further streams planned with My Nu Leng.
I’m also working on a short film at the moment and the script is close to being finished. The main actress role is filled and the location of the shoot is arranged. However, my main thing is to collaborate and work with more artists, and I have a lot of releases with people from all over the world scheduled each month up to March 2021.
You can check out Dread MC’s music here
Grab the exclusive vocal sample pack in issue 212 of MusicTech, out now!