Sydney synth-pop artist Mickey Kojak has been wooing fans for the last few years with his blend of catchy hooks and nostalgic melodies. It’s a refreshing take on pop, one that draws on everything from early house, ’80s new-wave and straight-up dance bangers; all while mustering a unique ethereal flavour.
His latest EP Together has every element you’d expect from his quirky sound; atmospheric synth pads, steady arpeggios, builds, drops and of course, infectious vocals. The first single on the release, It’s Gonna Be Alright interestingly saw vocal input from a new friend, ex-Bluejuice singer Jake Stone.
Ahead of Micky Kojak’s nationwide tour, we caught up for a bit of a chat, delving into the process of the new single, inspirations and of course, synths.
Mickey Kojak’s quirky take on pop blends nostalgic influences with a unique ethereal flavour. We caught up for a chat to see how it’s done, ahead of his nationwide It’s Gonna Be Ok Tour.
Tell us a bit about how It’s Gonna Be Ok came together. Where was it recorded, who worked on it, how long did it take to write/record?
This song was a late contender for the EP. I had what I thought was the next single mixed, mastered and ready to go, then one day I was playing around on a keyboard, sequencing some patterns. The main synth line popped into existence and within an hour or two, I think the entire song was written. The rest of the recording took around a month or so to get down exactly how I wanted it. That’s always the case. A moment of inspiration and a month of hard work.
Awesome that you got to work with Jake Stone, how did that come about and what did he add to the recording process?
Jake had commented on a Facebook video of me performing All That Acid at a show up in the Central Coast. He had some kind words to say and I thought it best to slide into his DMs and just chat about music and life. He’s a great guy with so much knowledge and after hanging out a few times we became buds. Then he came to a show of mine at Oxford Art Factory where I performed It’s Gonna Be Okay for the first time. He really dug it but said it could use a pick me up, a bit more energy. So I said, “well what do you reckon we should do?” – after a session in the studio, we had all the crazy stacked harmonies in the second verse and a BIG ol’ final chorus. Very happy with how it all turned out.
The sound has a funky-fresh take on pop. Was there anything you were referencing on the production/mixing?
I’ve always found it hard to find a good reference for my music in terms of mixing and production. There’s definitely no perfect band/artist/song that I’ve found just yet. I’d been listening to lots of Gary Numan, Soulwax and Metronomy at the time of making this whole record. While it doesn’t really sound like any of those things, there are definitely lots of ideas and links that can be drawn between them all. There’s probably a Venn diagram in there somewhere that represents it perfectly.
Was there any gear that you feel really shaped the single? The bass sounds particularly crisp, almost like a guitar, how did you get that sound?
Without a doubt the Korg Minilogue. I’ve used this synth extensively live and in the studio since I bought it in May 2017. It’s shaped my entire sound and become the centre of all my recent tracks. The main synth lines in Get Out, All That Acid and It’s Gonna Be Okay were all sequenced, written and recorded on the Minilogue.
What synths/controllers are you currently recording on?
This record was a lot of the Minilogue as already mentioned, the Juno 106, Sequential Circuits Split 8, my Tele and a friend’s bass. Everything is running into an Apollo 16 as well, rigged up so I can record anything at any time.
I’ve seen a few photos of you hugging old Casios, is there a company or maker you feel like you gel with best?
I am a huge fan of Casio and the Casiotone range. But it would be rude not to give this one to Roland. I was born at 7.07am and my phone number has an 808 and a 303 in it, all famous and game-changing pieces of gear made by this amazing company. There is no stronger bond between man and music business (that I’m aware of).
What was the first synth you bought? Is it still in your arsenal?
The first synth I bought was a Microkorg XL. I never really liked it and sold it pretty quickly. But it was definitely a great first move into the world of synths. 24 keyboards later, there’s no turning back.
What are your thoughts on the software/hardware debate? Looks like you use a bit of both, is there a preference?
People should be able to use whatever they want to make the best music possible. End of story. And just because you have $30,000 worth of analog gear doesn’t mean you’re going to make a good record!
What are a few plugins you’re loving right now?
I am a big fan of Fabfilter for mixing and Soundtoys for FX. I’m not a plugin guy and just use what’s necessary really. I still use a lot of in-built Logic plugins. They’re great and get the job done.
If you could copy/paste one feature from one synth onto another to create a perfect sort of Frankenstein, what would that look like?
I want my Minilogue to have 8 voices instead of 4. I know the Prologue exists, but I’m a fan of the small form factor.
If you had to grab a new piece of gear, what would it be right now?
I desperately want a theremin. I have a deep desire to be Australia’s go-to theremin guy. That’s my end game.
Well I honestly hope that your dreams come true! Thanks for the chat.
Cheers! My pleasure.