Sound engineer-turned-singer/producer GiBBZ — AKA Mike Gibney — will debut his excellent new EP ‘Oh My God’ on Dec. 16, and HollywoodLife.com caught up with him ahead of the release. Here’s what he had to say about opening for Dragonette, collaborating with other producers and playing a show in the middle of a blizzard.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
How does it feel to be touring with Dragonette? What are you most looking forward to?
I’m really excited Dragonette is giving me the chance to support them. They have such an awesome catalog of music and have been in the game for a long time. I hope I don’t botch it. I don’t think I’ll botch it. I have faith nothing will be botched. [Ed. note: so do I.]
The sound on Oh My God seems more stripped down than your earlier work. What made you decide to go in that direction?
I wanted to focus more on the songs with this EP. I want them to be able to hold up in whatever environment they’re in. Whether it’s a big wall of sound, or just a piano. Sometimes a writer, in the current environment of pop music, can get so wrapped up in building a huge soundscape that the essence of a song can be lost. I don’t want my songs to sound dated years from now.
Do you think your history as a sound engineer helped you be a better musician once you decided to venture into that side of the spectrum? Were there any moments where you were like, oh, I can use apply this previous experience to this situation?
Being a sound engineer definitely helped my wallet. Great mix engineers can be hard to find and can cost a lot of money. And they deserve every penny. A mix can make or break a recording. It helps that, within the writing process, some things are just muscle memory to me. I know how I’d treat a bass sound, and how I’d treat my drum sounds. So I don’t have to think about that too much before moving on to build other elements of a song.
You feature on other artists’ tracks and collaborate a lot. Why is that valuable to you?
It’s important for me to step out of my comfort zone and write to another producer’s work. It helps me grow as a writer. I’m given a track to write to, there’s a clear verse section, a clear chorus section, and that’s what I have to work with. I can’t change things to make them work for me. I have to make it work for them — and make it catchy. It’s challenging and allows me to work some muscles and melodies that I normally wouldn’t have the chance to work.
Who would you love to tour or collaborate with?
I think all of the producers on the Roché Musíque label in France are the top producers in their style right now. From FKJ to Kartell, Darius to Cezaire. They’re incredible. I’ve had the chance to collaborate with Cherokee from that label. We made a song called “Teenage Fantasy” and I think it’s the strongest melody I’ve written. Outside of them I would love to work with artists like Pomo, Kaytranada, and some newer names to me like Harris Cole and Brasstracks. I’m currently working on some stuff with the group Jabberwocky from France right now. They’ve been a big influence on me and I’m really excited about what we’re working on.
What was it like to pull off a Kickstarter to fund your album? How did that come about?
The Kickstarter campaign was my manager’s idea. I had no faith in it. I didn’t think anyone would care about what I was doing, and anyone that listened to me just accidentally clicked as they were looking for Freddie Gibbs. Turns out, people like me. Who knew?!
Have you had any surreal moments in your career?
On May 9th of 2015 I played Red Rocks in a blizzard with Gramatik, Russ Liquid, Cherub and Opiuo. It was insane. The most surreal rock and roll moment. I couldn’t feel my hands. I was soaking wet, and I couldn’t be happier about it. We played a great show for a crowd that was just as cold as we were. It really felt like we were all in it together.
Is there a band where if they were like, will you join the band tomorrow, you’d drop everything and do it?
I’ve taken enough time out of my life to help other make music and I’ve found that I’m never has happy as when I’m making my own music. So, no, I don’t think I would stop what I’m doing for any band. But, I mean…I’ve got some nice debt. You never know.
If someone is listening to you for the first time, what should they start with?
I think my song “Love Again,” is a great place to start. It’s a pretty relatable song. A catchy hook at a perfect, strutting tempo. I think it leads into the rest of my music pretty easily.