Artist of the Week: Mike Foyle

July 29, 2009
He's got half a decade of staggering productions behind him, working on some of trance's best remembered anthems.

He's got half a decade of staggering productions behind him, working on some of trance's best remembered anthems. Combining the best of both worlds, Mike finds himself comfortably stuck between classical, piano-driven music and trance with an attitude. From the spine-tingling 'Love Theme Dusk' to the mysterious 'Bittersweet Nightshade', Mike Foyle is obviously a discoverer of his own musical boundaries. His new track 'Chords of Life' has just found its way out and gives us good reason to explore Mike's life and music a bit extra. Let's take a short trip both in and outside Mike's studio'_
A first tasteBased in England, one of the first European countries to pick up EDM when it arrived, it was only a matter of time before a teenaged Mike Foyle got in touch with dance music. Being a young and open-minded soul with a keen ear for music, the electronic first tasting he had, soon asked for more.Mike:"My friend at school introduced me to the Ministry of Sound annual CD's when I was maybe 15 or so. This was my first taste of trance really, but it wasn't until a couple of years later that I got hooked. I had already been experimenting with producing electronic music using little sequencers and keyboards since I was a kid because my father has always had a keen interest in music. By the age of 17 I had learned how to mix on a pair of decks belonging to my friend and my production had reached a level where it was starting to get a lot more advanced. My interest in electronic music just kept growing and growing the more I kept experimenting and before long it became a real passion." The realness of his passion wasn't known to the rest of the world until Mike started taking things to a professional level. Mike:" I can't put a finger on when I started because I have been doing it for years just for fun, but I didn't start professionally releasing music until I was 18. I didn't start dj'ing in clubs until about 19."
A beneficial backgroundThe gift of playing both piano and the violin wasn't handed to Mike, he actually had to work for it. Same goes for his degree in Music Technology. But all the hard work hasn't been for nothing. Mike:"The classical background has definitely been massively beneficial. I think that a classical understanding of music would be a head start for anyone in this game, but that doesn't mean that it's necessary in order to make good music. There are some amazing trance producers out there who don't have a musical or classical background, they just have a natural ear for music and how it works. The degree has opened a few doors for me and presented me with some exciting professional opportunities. I'm doing projects outside of my 'trance world', involving working with film companies and animators for example. I learnt a lot about sound design, audio visual production and audio programming on my BA course. All of these things will be very useful if I carry on working with television or movie production companies. But like I said, all of this is mostly outside of my trance world. I like to always have lots of different things to work on!"
Besides being able to do more, his classical background also gives him a shove in the back on his way to creativity. Mike:" It has made me think outside the box a little bit with regard to where I get sounds from and how I process them amongst other things. Using non-conventional techniques for creating sounds is exciting and I really enjoy it. It's a new way of being creative which I would have missed out on had I not done the course. Producing music, like any other creative art form, relies a lot on your ability to stay motivated and inspired, so the more exciting you can make it, the better. I like to use as many alternative sound sources as possible in my music. The ambient pad sounds in my new track 'Chords of Life' are made out of a granulized music box recording, and I made the actual music box myself, so this track pretty much contains my own blood and sweat!"
The Foyle soundThere's a first time for everyone, but Mike's was definitely a good one. His first release, the 'For Your Eyes Only' and 'Space Guitar' EP, led to many more for the following years. Mike:"My first release was picked up by Markus Schulz after he had been sent it by one of my friends, so I never actually sent a promo out to a record label until I had already had a track signed. Once I had got one track signed and released, I felt confident sending out new tracks." And the next one was 'Love Theme Dusk', in a versus with The Signalrunners. Today's day, 'LTD' is still considered one of the trance anthems of the past 5 years. With those two, and another beauty called 'Luana', out and supported by the DJ elite, Mike had a swift start to what would turn out to be a successful career in music.
Within the following 4 years, Mike produced a slew of outstanding tracks. 'Shipwrecked', 'Firefly', 'Pandora' and 'Bittersweet Nighshade' all have the true Foyle sound, yet sometimes are the complete opposite of each other. From the proggy deep to the sweetest trancy heights, Mike's been there. And that's not always his intention. Mike:"Often this happens by accident. I was hanging out with Jonas Steur the other day and we were talking about this. We worked out that music production was often the result of 'happy accidents'. Sometimes something sounds good, even though it wasn't totally what you had in mind. If this happens, say 50 times in the process of making a piece of music, the result could well be something quite original or even of a totally different genre than you intended! Again, it makes music production quite exciting! There is so much amazing technology around these days that often, just experimenting with it a bit can create some amazing sounds which you never would have imagined had you not come across it by mistake! I will never have done enough exploring." Same goes for Mike's characteristic style. Mike:"I don't think it has finished defining itself yet. I'm still experimenting with different genres because I find that it keeps me on my feet and I don't get bored! But clearly the classical influence has been a popular aspect of my music, so this is often a key focus point for me."
Aim highIf there's any of you out there thinking that being a popular or good producer means you only leave the studio to take a leak, you're wrong. It's not the time he spend in his studio that makes his tracks stand out, but the activities he does outside of it. Or at 500 feet above the ground, if it's a good day. Mike:"I have a lot of hobbies and I like to keep my mind active. So I always have creative ideas floating around my head. I recently started paragliding, and a couple of months ago I went out for my first proper flight in the peak district. I jumped off a mountain called Mam Tor, the sun was setting in front of me and I was floating about 500 feet above the ground. It was absolute bliss. I got home that evening and wrote music all night! The times that I feel uninspired are the days when I'm isolated from any kind of excitement!"
The BrainAnother thing keeping Mike's brain as sharp as a knife, is his already finished graduation project. Eager to learn more about the human mind and the way it handles music, Mike's graduation project involved the integration of music with audio based brainwave entrainment and biofeedback. Say what, Mike!? Mike:"Well, in short, it is possible to alter someone's brain state by synchronizing their dominant brainwaves to a certain frequency. This can be done in many ways using light (photic) stimulation, or various different kinds of audio based stimulation. The particular methods that I used in my project are binaural beats entrainment, and isochronic modulation entrainment. The audio stimulus in the form of a regular pulse, creates an impulse response which resonates through the human brain. By exposing the brain to this stimulus over a period of time, it is possible to entrain a person's brainwaves to a desired frequency, thereby altering their brain state. Altering a person's brain state can be used to induce sleep and relaxation, help you to feel creative and inspired, aid learning, increase stamina and many other things, so you can imagine the world of possibilities that this presents to us. The project that you are talking about combined the use of binaural and isochronic entrainment tones with musical elements. The result was a sleep induction session, a relaxation session and a creative inspiration session. The feedback and test results from the sleep induction piece in particular were very positive! I'd like to do more stuff like this in the future..."Looks like we got ourselves a genius here! Or did Mike just stimulate our brain state to let us say so?
Other interesting outside-EDM music involving work Mike's doing, is working with several film production companies. Mike:"Right now I'm actually only working with one film production company. I'm producing the soundtrack to their new horror movie, and also doing some sound design for them as well. But for now I can't really give you any more information about that. It's early days!" Well well, we might actually have a great soundtrack to the new 'Zombies From Hell' then. We can't wait.
Sweet Sammy Jane & Deadly Nightshade A few weeks ago, in early June, Mike released his new track 'Sweet Sammy Jane'. Returning to his beloved piano-kissed sound, 'Sweet Sammy Jane' is a progressive gem with a tear-jerking melodic break. And we've got to admit, that sweet title does make us wonder if there's a Sammy in his life he wrote it for. Mike:"Samantha Jane Logan is just a sweet girl who ran a night called 'Noize' in Sheffield. I was one of the resident DJ's there and one day I was stuck for a name for this new tune of mine.... Sammy suggested that I name it after her and I thought "Why not!!". But really... there is nothing going on there...honest!" We can totally see you blushing Mike, even though this interview was done through email.
Luckily, the title of his other track doesn't have to make Mike feel uncomfortable in any way. Unless he'd take the real meaning of the title and ate it. 'Deadly Nighshade', the follow-up to 'Bittersweet Nightshade' and named after the poisonous flower, is coming up in a few weeks time. Mike:"I was really pleased with how 'Bittersweet Nightshade' turned out. So I decided to do a follow-up in a similar style. I wanted to use some of the same elements. It would have made quite a nice little EP but I created 'Deadly Nightshade' after 'Bittersweet' was already out so I guess that's why they were released separately! I think that 'Deadly Nightshade' is my favorite production to date."
Chords of the 2009 LifeBut first up, we've got a collaboration. One for which he didn't have to travel far. Mike:" Rob lived close to me in Leicester. He is a very good dubstep and electronica producer, and also a very good upright bass player and guitar player. I often hung out at his studio for some drinks and we ended up working on a track together. We were both really happy with it so we sent it straight to you guys, and I believe it's due to be released this week?!" That's right, Mike! This sensitive, warm trancer is out now on the Soundpiercing imprint. And concerning all else that's coming up this year, Mike's got plenty in stores for us. Mike:"I'm working on about 4 new tracks right now, so we'll see how they turn out. I've got a lot more time for production now that I have graduated from my university course, so I'm hoping this should be a busy year!"
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