In 2006 signed to Baroque Records at the tender age of 17. In the same year he was discovered by Tiesto, with his track ‘Colours‘ that went on to garner support, not only on the DJ circuit, but also in Tiesto’s world tours for ‘ISOS 6′ and ‘Elements Of Life’. This support gave Michael the confidence to push ahead and unleash a handful of remixes for the likes of Above & Beyond, Andy Moor, and Myon & Shane 54.
Continuing this fruitful trend Michael delivered a string of highly-acclaimed remixes such as ‘Triangle’ by Nadia Ali, ‘It’s Too Late’ by Jes, ‘Home’ by Susana, ‘So Much More’ by Andy Moor, and ‘Surrounded’ by BT. His original works were steadily picked up and released through Black Hole, Lange, Enhanced, and others.
Fast forward five years of painstaking hard work, Michael is finally ready to unearth his début artist album entitled ‘Now That We’re Human’. On speaking to Michael it was clear the album meant a lot to him. Here’s what he had to say about it:
“It took me five years to fully complete the album from start to finish, from the first note played to the last track mastered. I had the pleasure of collaborating with some of my all-time favourite songwriters including Plumb, Jan Johnston, Tiff Lacey, Ellie Lawson, Sue McLaren, Shanokee, Lotte Kestner (who you’ll remember from Chemical Brothers’ “Hold Tight London”) as well as new faces like Kelly Sweet and Zoe Sky Jordan. It’s very much a songwriter’s album and I’m so proud of it.”
I wanted to find out more about Michael, not only did he seem like a genuine artist with his music morals in the right place, but on previewing his forthcoming album I knew there was something very special about it. Let’s get to know Michael Badal!
Hi Michael! Thanks for taking the time out for this interview today. How are you doing? Tell us about your weekend…
I’m doing great! Hope you’re well too!
It was a quiet one for me. Essentially, my weekend consisted of sorting emails, getting the final cut for a music video and spending time with my family up in Northern California for a wedding.
I’m well thanks. Oh nice, how did the wedding go?
It was so much fun! It sort of doubled as a reunion with many of my friends and family I hadn’t seen in a long time.
Reunions are great fun. Tell us about your musical career thus far, when did it start and what are your biggest achievements to date?
It started professionally back in 2006. I was signed by Baroque Records in the UK at the age of 17, and my rookie year really set the precedent for my work ethic now. That same year, I was “discovered” by Tiestowho supported me on his ISOS 6 and Elements Of Life world tours.
Tiesto heavily supported ‘Colours‘ which was self-released on my own label. At that time, I had no clue what promotion was so I hadn’t sent out any promo copies to any DJs. Somehow, he got his hands on it and caned it live all over the world and on his radio show. I’m quite grateful for the boost he gave my name.
There was a decent period where he supported many of my works. He really built up my confidence as a producer. This opened the door for me to remix artists like Above & Beyond, Andy Moor, and Myon & Shane 54 all that same year. Ever since, I’ve been making music very regularly and have gone on to remix the likes of Nadia Ali, Jes, Susana, BT, and many others.
To top that off, I’ve had the opportunity of releasing original works on Black Hole, Lange, Enhanced, and others. My works have been on the Grammy ballot (hoping for a nomination someday!) and been featured all over the radio, and even that old Tap Tap Revenge 3 game on the iPhone. This year, I finally finished my début artist album after working on it for years. It’s been a long time coming.
My note worthy remixes are:
Which of those productions are you the most proud of, and why?
That is a hard question. If I’m allowed a tie, it’s between Above & Beyond’s ‘Home’, and Andy Moor’s ‘So Much More’. The reason why Above & Beyond’s is so important to me is because it originally started out as a bootleg and the Anjuna family of fans demanded that it be converted into an official remix. The Andy Moor remix is very special to me because Andy was a huge inspiration to me and my sound and this remix not only was my first time working with him, but it spawned into a friendship with one of my musical idols.
When you decided to remix them, what did you hope you could bring to the table? Did you feel they lacked something that you could help incorporate, or was it more the fact that you wanted to show your appreciation in your own special way?
For the Above & Beyond remix, it was really that I loved the vocal and at the time there wasn’t a mix I could play in my set as the only one available was the album version and Above & Beyond‘s uplifting club mix. I’ve always been pretty progressive at heart, so I just made that bootleg selfishly for my own sets. The Andy Moor remix is exactly how you put it. I wanted to show appreciation for my favorite producer and his sound.
When you say friendship, do you mean that you’ve met Andy Moor, if so what’s he like face-to-face?
I’ve met with Andy many times. In fact, I get to see him almost every time he comes out to LA and have even spent New Years in San Francisco together with friends. He’s very fun. In his press photos he always looks so serious, but Andy is actually quite the jokester and knows how to have a good time. He’s also offered me much mentorship on workflow and how to actually finish a song.
Offering mentorship, he must have a lot of faith in your work then. What sound advice has he offered you?
He actually was the one who taught me to put a track to bed. Many producers struggle with knowing when a song is finished. Otherwise, they go into this endless loop of changing things and tweaking this or that. Andy was the one who basically showed me, hey, you’re done. Move onto the next song.
Away from music what are your interests and aspirations in life? Do you have a day job? What is your daily routine and how do you fit music in around that?
Away from music, I love film. The making, watching, and enjoying of a good film has always been one of favourite things to do. I graduated university with a degree in filmmaking. Obviously my forte is behind the soundboard during the process, but I also had very good organizational skills for the projects we had and ended up producing much of them while in school. My day job actually is freelancing as a audio engineer for film and television. I’m in the process of getting hired full-time at a major film studio here in Los Angeles.
Music nicely fits into whatever free time I have since right now I don’t seem to have a routine 9-6 work schedule. The whole communal process of making a film makes it so rewarding and builds such great friendships. Aside from that, enjoying the company of my friends and hitting the town seem to be very high on my priority list. I’m a very social person.
On the film front what are your favourite films? Have you ever cried at a movie? I’m guessing being an avid fan of movies you probably own a rather large TV too?
Are you kidding? I’m such a sap when it comes to films! The last I can remember, I cried during ‘The Fault In Our Stars’ and ‘Death Of A Superhero’. The whole subject of cancer really hits home and I don’t do well during those kinds of movies, but they are amazing films nonetheless.
Believe it or not, my living room is a bit small, so the TV is only a whopping 40″. But you bet my sound system is pretty bad ass lol.
Cancer is a terrible disease that affects so many sadly. On a positive note, music can play a huge part in the healing process for artists, sometimes having that raw emotion so heavily instilled steers them towards creating some of their best music.
It really does. Unfortunately, with how our industry is and what it demands, I haven’t been able to release those emotive pieces before except for giving them away on . I’ve always considered those pieces as audio therapy so to speak. That’s why I loved working on my debut album because that sort of formula did not have to be met and in fact there is one of those pieces on there.
When you say “with how our industry is and what it demands, I haven’t been able to release those emotive pieces before.” Can you go into more detail, do you think labels want less emotive pieces and more hard sell music that fits in to a particular craze or requirement?
It’s not that they don’t want emotive pieces. You can make an emotive trance song. In fact, my all-time favourite of such is Arksun’s “Arisen”. A track that really gives you goosebumps. But when I personally make a song to express my sort of sadness or heavy emotion, it doesn’t usually come out in a dancefloor anthem. It comes out usually as something that can be used in a film score. It’s a personal thing I think.
Do you think labels are looking for music specifically for events now? If so, do you feel pressured as a producer to work more on your live performances?
Luckily, I was a DJ first before I began producing. I had my first turntables when I was 11 and started toying with production software when I was 13. But back on subject, I was feeling that pressure in 2012 when I was chosen to perform at EDC Las Vegas. I really do think that many labels have lost their way and just turning out tracks that are fit for the festivals. Luckily, we still have great labels out there like Black Hole Recordings, Anjunabeats, Lange Recordings, and some of the sublabels of Armada that have stayed true to their overall mission statement of just releasing GOOD music no matter what form it comes in.
How would (or do) you feel about people using your music unlicensed, if somebody used it in a youtube video, played it in a bar, in an advert, or even passed it off as their own?
There are certain degrees of use to which I would find acceptable or unacceptable. Using it in a YouTube video doesn’t really bother me as services like SoundExchange usually collect what I was supposed to get anyway. However, unlicensed use in an advert or even passing it off as there own is not only unacceptable, but it’s also unprofessional and a red flag of someone who’s an amateur. Publishing is a really big deal in the industry right now, especially with all of the complaints about under-compensation for artists from streaming services. So, a blatant disregard for somebody’s intellectual property rights is offensive to me. There’s a big movement for a revolution in the music industry right now and acts like that are counteractive of such positive change.
If you were paid a fixed salary regardless of who or how your work was used, would it change your view towards usage? Is it possible that if services which collect fees didn’t exist (taking middle man fees) that you may get more, or a fairer portion yourself?
I actually like the fact that our music is a free market. I wouldn’t want to be held to a fixed salary for art that I create from scratch. I’m going to earn a fixed salary working for the major studios and that’s fine with me as it’s technical work. Personally, I’ve never had a problem with the middle man. My problem has been with the laws in place that don’t provide a sort of minimum wage for such things as royalties and licensing fees so to speak from these subscription services and internet streaming plays. If an artist is generating traffic to your site and is garnering a large amount of plays, why couldn’t they be able to pay rent for the month off of such numbers?
You say there are no laws in place, if you could write them, or change something, what would it be? What change do you feel would have the biggest impact on artists today and of the future?
Right now the performing rights organizations in the United States are working within our own country to change that. I belong to ASCAP and they’re one of the organizations spear-heading this effort. The problem is that in our country, the copyright laws are outdated. The precedent for these type of earnings were last updated in the 1970’s and have not been updated to include the dawn of the digital age. So essentially, the services like Pandora and Spotify can set their own price without any sort of regulation from the law. They’re still technically paying you, but I can tell you that sometimes it’s enough to buy you a cup of coffee a quarter if you’re not a heavy weight like Rihanna or Beyonce.
This sort of change will impact the future of the songwriting occupation. Songwriters will once again be able to make an honest living doing what they love to do. This used to be a norm, but it seems that the younger generation sees it as a privilege rather than a right.
So it’s an unregulated market using outdated laws to essentially cash in on artists work, whilst setting a precedent for user expectations, that music is expected to be free. That sounds like a big problem.
You hit the NAIL ON THE HEAD.
Goals, what are they and where would you like to be in 5 years time?
Currently, my goals consist of continuously making music that I can be proud of and not lose the love of it. In five years, I hope to have been completing my third album (lol) and hopefully by now be making a decent living out of making music.
You have an album coming up next year what can you tell us about that?
The album is called ‘Now That We’re Human’ and it’s going to be released some time in April on Black Hole Recordings. It took me five years to fully complete the album from start to finish. From the first note played to the last track mastered. I had the pleasure of collaborating with some of my all-time favourite songwriters including Plumb, Jan Johnston, Tiff Lacey, Ellie Lawson, Sue McLaren, Shanokee, Lotte Kestner, (you may remember the song “Hold Tight London” by The Chemical Brothers?) as well as new faces like Kelly Sweet and Zoe Sky Jordan. It’s very much a songwriter’s album and I’m so proud of it.
During the making of the album, I really got to hone in on my vocal production skills which included the mix. Both Matt Lange and Kerry Leva kind of held my hand through much of that process until I was able to stand on my own. But on the deeper side of it, making the album really helped me get out of that mindset of pleasing someone else with my work and primarily focus on pleasing myself.
How did the collaborations come about and how did you organise them? Did you meet up, or was the bulk of the work done Online?
Almost the entire list of collaborations were all done online. The only collaborators I’ve met in person are Plumb, Lotte Kestner, and Kelly Sweet, but even then, we met AFTER completing the collaborations. Haha.
Did you run into any problems along the way? if so, how did you work around them?
To be honest, what delayed the album so much were the problems along the way. Many vocalists would agree to a project, sit on it for months and then back out last minute. There is one problem that ended up becoming permanent, but blossomed into something beautiful. Specifically, the track “Fly (Never Come Down Again)”. This song was co-written by Plumb and myself. She sang the original version and we had it completed, but due to her contractual obligations with promoting her own album, I was barred by her label in using her vocal. So, we had to jointly find another voice to replace hers. As fate would have it, I was listening to The Chemical Brothers’ “Push The Button” album and the song “Hold Tight London” came on. I tracked down Anna-Lynne Williams (aka Lotte Kestner) and she agreed to finish the song for Tiffany and I.
You’ve planned to release a few tracks from the album before the full album release in April, when can we hear those?
The first single, ‘Blue Skies’ will be out December 22nd and you can already hear that on my . You should also expect to hear my collaborations with Ellie Lawson in February, and Kelly Sweet the month after that. So, you’ll be hit with much of the new material in the coming weeks.
As an upcoming producer it can be hard to grab the attention of the labels, not to mention fathom the support you need to push the future of your career forward. How have you coped with the rejection letters, what’s kept you motivated through periods of silence, and who would you say has been the most supportive towards you thus far?
Ah, rejection letters. They’re like my make-believe bitter ex-girlfriend who haunts me in my sleep. haha. The first few times it’s very difficult to cope with because as an artist you seem to seek validation for your art, but you eventually learn to grow thick skin and move on. Many artists come to realize that the musical world is quite large and you’re bound to find a home for the music you make if it is commercially viable in quality. During the periods of silence, I never stopped working. If you stop, then you’ll get nowhere. The most supportive of my work has been the Black Hole Recordings team. They’re such a dream to work with. The amount of control they’ve given me in seeing my vision through is something that means a lot to me and I’m thrilled that they believe in this project.
I also have to thank my good friends Matt Lange , Kerry Leva, Boom Jinx, Lange, Sharky, and David Korkiswho really got in my head and helped me stay focused on the project and have a clear-cut look at my work and how it can be improved. I’d also like to thank my all-time favourite mastering engineer, Emily Lazarand her studio manager, Jacqueline Smiley for really putting the polish on the project that I was after from day one.
I can’t wait for you guys to hear the collective work that we all put into this project. I’m thrilled, really.
Photo credits: Fabian Pourmand