Interview: Hot Steppa Mike Hawkins Talks His Own Imprint, DJ Mag's Top 100
Mike Hawkins leads an ablazen trail through the increasingly populated electronic forest. Releases such as “Jump!,” “SRSLY Cool,” and “This Is How We Roll” light the path to success for the DJ/producer/label-head from Denmark. His latest single, “Hot Steppa,” is a massive collaboration with Henry Fong and Toby Green that blends ska style, brass sections, and dancehall hues with a raging electro beat, and is sure to set dance floors aflame.
Find out what sparks Mike Hawkins’ musical creativity and the next step for Mike in our exclusive interview:
VIBE: We're loving the new track "Hot Steppa." How'd you link up with Henry and Toby, and who contributed what to the track?
Mike Hawkins: Thanks! It's a really special track for us that came about spontaneously and it's been amazing to see the support from all the top artists like Hardwell, Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike, Nicky Romero, W&W, Knife Party and so on before the track [had] even been released! I've been working a lot with both Henry and Toby individually, but never all three of us together so it felt natural to combine forces.
With Henry being from the States, and Toby and I from different cities in Denmark, “Hot Steppa” would have never happened if it wasn't for the internet - Henry, Toby and I [via Skype convo] were messing around playing ideas for each other and it just clicked. Henry sent over this dope reggae chord idea he had, which instantly had me humming away. That humming ended up being the top-line and trumpet parts and while I was working on the break and incorporating the rock influences. It inspired Henry & Toby to come back with some sick ideas and amazing work on the drop. It's one of those productions that just kind of happened, it wasn't forced in any way.
Who are your biggest musical influences and how have they shaped your sound today?
It's really hard to say because I am so passionate about all types of music, music is my life. In the early days I was really into rock; I listened to everything from SOAD, Linkin Park and Rammstein to the really grungy and punky stuff. I was also into the emo scene growing up which has had a profound influence on the direction of my sound and music productions. I didn't get into electronic music at first, until I found acts kind of bridging the gap for me a bit - it started with Infected Mushroom and The Prodigy, then Chemical Brothers and Moby.
I then got into trance because of the chords and the vibe, but quickly took those influences and started putting my own take on all of it. I think my biggest struggle as a musician at times is that I sometimes feel I'm coming up with some pretty amazing chord progressions and cinematic pieces that span a million chord changes and thinking to myself, these chords, this vibe is way to dark, outside the traditional boundaries of dance music, how the hell am I gonna cook this down to a track that will work in the club. But in the end I've found that some of my biggest tracks are exactly those, something different, outside the box, not being confined to the traditional "EDM" sounds if you will.
How did you get involved in dance music?
I always wanted to make music. I was certain I was gonna be in a rock band when I was younger, but I could never see myself playing only one instrument. I was all over the place. I wanted to play drums, I wanted to play guitar, piano, I even picked up singing at one point - I got myself a copy of ACID sound forge one day when I was 13 and started doing mashups of Eminem and System of a Down and thought it sounded pretty cool. A friend then gave me a copy of Fruity Loops one day and I was instantly hooked. I love the creative freedom of being able to use all different kinds of instruments to create a composition exactly as it's laid out in my head.
Most memorable moment(s) in your DJ career thus far?
First meeting the Bingo Players back in 2009 was definitely something I will never forget. Fellow producer and friend, Pablo Oliveros, and I [snuck backstage] at their gig. I think Maarten and Paul were kind of annoyed with us at first, and for good reason - we were essentially just two kids bursting into their van trying to seem interesting. The thing was though, after a few minutes of talking we just clicked and it ended up being a very long, fun and memorable night. Fast forward a couple years Pablo, Henry and I released our biggest track to date, "Jump!," on their Hysteria label and it went on to hit the #5 spot on the Beatport top 100 chart! The Bingo Players have been great friends and mentors in many ways. You don't often come across such wonderful, warm hearted people in this industry. Other than that, being at ADE every year is something that is really special for me. But I have to say the memories I remember best are always those unexpected moments like the first time I got an e-mail from Tiësto letting me know he was supporting my work and loved what I was putting out.
Tell us more about your Megaton Records imprint.
I've really been dedicating a lot of time to growing my label, Megaton Records. [Originally, it] just served as a place to put out my music. I also wanted to give [lesser known and] talented artists an opportunity to spread their music. It's been a long, tough road and a lot of hard work but it's so gratifying to see the label grow as fast as it has with all the tracks consistently charting in the top 100 and the huge support across the scene. We just released a remix from one of the biggest names in electronic music, Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike. To celebrate the amazing success we've had during our first year, we threw our first label showcase during Amsterdam Dance Event with Blasterjaxx, Mightyfools, myself, the rest of the Megaton crew on the bill. We have a busy release schedule coming up with tracks from myself, Tony Romera, and some other really big names that I can't announce just yet! I am really excited about the direction in which the label is going and very optimistic right now as I'm beginning to have a very talented team of respected A&R, managers, publicists and publishers around me, and it means I have more time to focus on music.
What can we expect from you in the next six months?
After “Hot Steppa,” I have a track coming out on Size - another big moment in my career as I really look up to the the Size Records crew. I also have two vocal tracks I'm working on that will be released on Warner Music, in addition to more tracks on Megaton. I am going to be part of the bill for a big tour in Europe that hasn't been announced yet to commence next year, and I recently signed with Circle Talent Agency for my North American bookings. At the moment I am finalizing my visa and will definitely being touring the U.S. in 2014!
Thoughts on the DJ Mag Top 100 Contest?
Everyone seems to have an opinion… it's hard to say though. I guess the best way I can sum it up would be this: I think the [contest] is largely misleading in many ways, but it does give a realistic pointer of who is doing well and who are the most popular acts at the moment. I honestly don't really care about the DJ Mag Top 100 Contest, but at the same time, I'd obviously love to be in the top 10 as I'm sure many others would. I don't think the whole idea of a "list" makes any sense though, it's about music in the end.
[DJ Mag’s idea of the “best” in the world, doesn’t necessarily reflect my own opinion]. You can't compare apples and oranges; [Armin, Tiesto, Skrillex, and Avicii] are largely different and they are all #1's in their own rights.