Electronica artist Michael Aisuru (real name Michael West) moved from Christchurch to Auckland for the opportunity to grow as a musician. His recent EP ‘Fantasy’ is a blend of dubstep and dnb that was compiled over the span of two years and both cities. It’s a collection of songs that reflect on his feelings towards his childhood. Jason Chan caught up with him for NZM.
“I played the saxophone when I was around 10, and then I moved on to guitar when I was 14 and started thrashing away, just distortion pedals and all that. Then I did an engineering course at Christchurch and became interested in production starting from there.”
Having all these experiences with physical instruments definitely left a mark on Aisuru’s music-making when he decided to pivot to electronic music. He speaks fondly of his preference towards using physical electronic music components when talking about his Elektron.
“It just feels more real, and you feel more connected to the music and more motivated to want to finish the song when it’s hands-on doing it rather than using a mouse. It feels more natural, like playing real instruments as opposed to just clicking on some stuff a whole bunch.”
Though he has spent quite some time in music-making and performing, Aisuru only released his new EP last year after two years spent making it, a period that also included his moving from north to Auckland in January 2020.
“I guess it was mostly self-doubt going in, and questioning whether I could turn it into a fully-formed album. It took me a long time to really be happy with the vocals; to get it sitting in the mix nicely, and then getting the whole mix actually good together totally. I am very picky when it comes to that stuff and it had to be perfect.”
Aisuru has delivered a collection of dnb and dubstep songs with smooth melodies mixing in between the darker and peaceful aspects of the EP. Rather than his own voice, Aisuru employed the help of two vocalists, Melissa Hibbert and Tiana Haze. Keys for the track Who Knows were performed by Stewie Ladbrook, another Christchurch musician. Other than these features Aisuru looked after the music making.
“I was writing quite happy and peaceful stuff, to begin with when I toyed with the idea of starting this project. I thought I could turn this into something because it gave off that feeling when I started making my music, which sort of reminded me, of the sort of childhood vibe and mental images of the fairy tales, stories and movies that I had seen growing up. And child fantasy just sort of grew from there to be a real theme for that album because it’s like a childhood fantasy.”
Asked to name a favourite he points to the first track, Ghibli.
“The chords in that are probably my favourite. It reminded me of a movie that I love, My Neighbour Totoro by Studio Ghibli when the little girl runs into the forest and meets Totoro and the giant tree for the first time. That’s just totally it. I nailed that one and it just gave me that vibe.”
The Covid lockdown came only months after his move to Auckland and as for many, the pandemic keeps getting in the way.
“I haven’t actually done a gig in Auckland yet, which sucks. I had one lined up last year, it got cancelled because of Covid and then the rescheduled gig got cancelled because of Covid, and then I was supposed to have my last gig as well but that got postponed!’
Still, he remains enthusiastic about being in Auckland and talks excitedly about heading in a new direction musically.
“Just techno all the way. I have been listening to an artist from Christchurch called Bomb Dylan. He and a couple of other artists definitely triggered me on the techno road, and I just love it. I love progression, and techno is all about progression. It’s just fun, and I think music has got to be fun, it doesn’t just have to be all technical and angry. It can just be fun and not have a purpose. I think I am relaxing a little bit with music and trying to have fun with it.
“I am just really keen to do some gigs in NZ to begin with – like three gigs cancelled in a row, that’s bad luck! I am not giving up, I don’t know when that will be, but hopefully one day.”