Following a swathe of critically acclaimed releases on the likes of Octopus Recordings, Press Play, Weekend Weapons and DNCTRX over the course of her illustrious musical career, prolific US techno maven Michelle Sparks has got the production credentials to rival some of the best in the business. Now, and as she looks to continue her inexhaustible run of first-rate studio output, Michelle adds to her already stellar career discography with an exquisite official remix for Dusty Kid & Marascia’s iconic 2009 cut, WIWY.
Follow Michelle @msparksofficial
Hi Michelle, please tell us a little about you?
Hey! I’m a techno DJ & Producer based in Phoenix, USA!
Describe yourself in 3 words?
Spicy, Energetic, Passionate
We’re sure you have been asked this million times but how did you get in the industry?
I was into electronic music from my teen years, and had always been involved in music playing piano, harp and other instruments growing up. After I was old enough I went to my first warehouse party and thought the whole concept of making two songs into something new and kind of creating a journey of music throughout the night as a DJ was so fascinating to me that I started to learn how to DJ after that. I delved pretty deeply into learning to DJ, finding my sound and then starting to learn to produce and from there just started getting gigs playing out and making connections in the industry. It was all pretty organic and started off from just a desire to create a soundtrack to an amazing night out on the dance-floor with your friends.
Describe your sound in 3 words?
Brooding, Hypnotizing, Chugging
Do you ever get nervous?
I suppose so, I don’t think I really feel like it’s a common emotion that I have when gearing up for something or preparing for an event or show, but there’s definitely been some points where I feel a nervous excitement. I feel pretty at ease when I’m performing, overall playing music and having people vibing to it is not super nerve-wracking for me. Sometimes if I put too much thought into preparing for a gig or performance then I tend to feel a bit more uneasy and nervous like I’m almost too much in my head about it and focusing less on what really matters which is just playing dope music. In those cases usually the nerves melt away after a track or two into the set.
How is the music scene different from the US to other parts of the world, do you think?
I think the USA is pretty fresh in the electronic music scene, obviously dance music & rave culture has been around for a few decades out here in the USA, but really in the last 10 years or so I’ve seen a huge growth of underground electronic music & techno out here. Out here it feels like techno is having a moment of growth and new excitement due to the large amount of festivals & clubs nurturing EDM as a whole (house, bass music, dubstep etc). So while the electronic music scene worldwide has always been there chugging along, in the USA it’s cool to see a lot of younger people starting to get into it at an earlier age and really digging deep to find music that resonates with them. It’s been an exciting last few years watching people really embrace more obscure music & styles.
Which artists and styles inspired and influenced you?
I was heavily influenced in the early 2000’s by trance, progressive house and minimal techno. Minimal techno I’d say shaped where I am today and once I started delving more into that sound in the mid 2000’s there was no going back. Artists like Richie Hawtin, Matador & Magda were a few that really stood out to me as playing music that really spoke to my soul. I think you can hear a lot of those influences today in my sets & productions, stripped back heavy grooves with a few really powerful elements.
When all the partying is over how do you like to chill out?
I actually really love cooking, it’s a nice reset to my brain from playing gigs or working on music in the studio. It’s a creative release for me that lays outside the digital realm where I spend most of my time. I find it super relaxing and I’d definitely say it’s one of my main hobbies that I do just to chill out. Besides that I love doing yoga and hanging with my pup Cecilia.
Best stage you have ever play?
I think I’d have to say this warehouse party in DTLA a couple years back, was sold out, great energy, amazing crowd and full on sweat dripping from the walls. Such a vibe!
Funniest/Crazy thing that ever happened at an event?
Oh man. Haha, well, you asked! So, for several years I played on Traktor on my laptop for all my gigs. I usually always shut off my wifi & bluetooth on my laptop while I play just to limit the amount of variables going on on the computer since I’m running my set from it, for some reason this time I didn’t. So I’m playing at this spot in Tempe, Arizona called ‘Shady Park’, it’s a dope outdoor venue with trees all around and a cool dancefloor in the middle. Anyway, I’m playing my set and I see this little thumbnail and notification pop up in the corner of my screen that someone’s trying to ‘airdrop’ me a pic. I glance at it and notice it’s a D*ck pic. I of course decline it immediately and was pretty shocked, offended and weirded out to get this unsolicited d*ck pic during my set! Of course I shut off the wifi after declining it and scan the crowd for anyone looking sus or something like they may have sent it, lol naturally I didn’t see any suspects! Fast forward about a year, and I’m out at an event where a girlfriend of mine comes up and says to me, do you remember when you were playing in Tempe that time and you got a d*ck pic sent to you? I just want you to know, that it was ME sending it!!!! JEEEEZ! mystery solved, and so glad it wasn’t from some creeper… but that definitely stood out as one of the most amusing things to happen at a gig lol.
What’s your favorite club to DJ in?
Oh, that’s a tough one. I’d say this dope underground club called ‘Glow’ in Bangkok was one of my favorite clubs I’ve played. It’s a super intimate club with an amazing sound system and the people there were all so open minded on the dance floor was so fun to really take them on a journey!
Did you have plans/gigs planned that were cancelled because of COVID? If so have you done any online events or interaction with your fans?
Definitely had a lot of events and gigs lined up last year, which were all cancelled, I was booked for many Octopus Recordings showcases around the states and then had some events I was planning to throw in Phoenix as well, all of which were cancelled. But that gave me an opportunity to delve into some live-streaming in order to reach fans. Over the last year I did a lot of live-stream DJ events and also currently do a weekly residency with Octopus Recordings each Wednesday evening from 4pm PST. Earlier this year I hosted a weekly series called ‘Outside The Box’ on Twitch where I sat down with talented women in the dance music industry in an effort to highlight all the amazing women in our industry. With gigs returning now, it’s nice to have the virtual platform available to reach more people globally and also grow a community of like minded techno lovers. So I’m definitely grateful that I had the ability to nurture that this past year!
What is fun and rewarding about what you do? And what’s not?
It’s so great to play music for people and feel the vibe & connection with them on the dance floor. Really that’s the best thing ever I think. It’s also rewarding how excited fans get about new music & all of the stuff that I put out, it feels like it’s going out there to people who really appreciate it and are as passionate about it as I am.
Not so much recently with no travels for gigs, but spending time in the airport after events while heading to the next one or heading home is definitely not so fun lol. But it comes with the territory. Other than that, the usual ups and downs of life and ones career can be discouraging of course, but we all experience that in one facet or another I think. Creating music and performing for people can be very emotionally draining if you’re not in the right mind-frame so making sure to tend to yourself and your mental health and taking time to chill can really help out with those discouraging moments.
What’s your advice for the newer DJ’s?
Try to really dial in a sound that you want to play. I think the biggest piece of advice I can offer is that we all like loads of music but playing all of that music together isn’t really the move, you really have to pick a cohesive style and sound that you want to define yourself. You can listen to whatever you like in your downtime, but dial it in and be specific when it comes to your ‘sound’.
Tell us about your new remix for Dusty Kid – WIWY?
Well, Dusty Kid remixed my track Melt last year, and he absolutely crushed it with the remix, it’s an absolute bomb if you haven’t heard it! After that Octopus reached out to me to see if I’d remix his track WIWY. Such an iconic track of course, and it was an honor to do so. I definitely spent a good amount of time trying to give it my vibe but also doing justice to the original. I think it came together really well, I hope you guys all like it!
What’s next for Michelle Sparks in 2021?
I’ve got an Octopus Warehouse Series party coming up on July 24th in Los Angeles, playing that with Sian & label mate Juheun & the 6am Group crew. Also some other upcoming label parties around the USA but I can’t quite mention those yet :), stay tuned though and hopefully we’ll make it around to several spots this year.
Release wise, I’ve got some new originals coming soon as well, so keep an ear out for those!
What book should every entrepreneur read?
7 Habits of Highly Effective People. No matter how many times I read it I always find a way to improve something in what I’m doing currently.
Best advice ever given?
Always be humble, humility will take you farther than any other trait in your career. None of us knows everything and there’s always something to be learned.
Name one your strengths?
Idea of a perfect Sunday?
Chillin with my dog, disconnected from social media & devices probably making some music in the studio with a cappuccino.
What is your own definition of happiness?
Making sure you’re doing things in your life that make you feel like you’re fulfilled and following your own light. At the end of your life if you lived by someone elses standards or ideals you’ve done yourself a disservice. Create your happiness by surrounding yourself with people and experiences that make you feel radiant.
What is your favorite healthy food?
And your favorite cheat food?
Mac & Cheese
What would be a deal breaker on a first date?
Someone who doesn’t share similar interests or doesn’t like dogs lol.
If you could meet someone living or dead, who would it be and why?
I’d have really liked to meet Terence McKenna, I love nature and plants and the healing powers of nature and I feel he would have had so much interesting insight on life on so many different levels.
How would you describe your fashion style?
Minimalistic meets modern, forward thinking streetwear.
What do you think of Social Media?
Social media is such a trip. In some ways it’s great for me as an artist to reach people and connect the music scene globally, and get music out to fans via those platforms. But overall I think it is such a toxic force for people to compare themselves to one another in a very superficial way and really is a huge distraction to every day life.
Where we can follow you?
You can find me on my website or social media lol 😉
Favorite Quote: Are you really living or are you just existing?
Movie: Blade Runner, every time I’m needing some inspiration I watch it, the imagery and soundtrack are so powerful and it’s just such a masterpiece, I get something new from it each time.
Travel Destination: Tokyo
Sports Team: I’m not so much into sports 🙂
Photo Credit: Michelle Sparks PR Team