Since emerging from the progressive house scene in 2008 to create their joint label “Mistique Music,” Michael, Levan and Stiven have developed significantly as a trio. Although easily recognized by their distinct sound, the group explores various styles, often crossing genres with ease.
It’s easy to get defeated by inevitable setbacks along the way, but it seems that Michael, Levan and Stiven are constantly finding ways to overcome obstacles with their creativity, always looking to create a more diverse portfolio. Their widescreen approach can often take them into a wide range of DJ sets, where they demonstrate their musical versatility.
A look at their discography indicates their great commitment to working with all spectra of progressive, deep house, ambient and breaks sounds, which has led into previously uncharted waters for them, such as the techno that they are exploring at the moment.
Effortlessly, the trio sails through styles, often inverting genres, and with the group’s sound constantly evolving–and individually as well–Michael, Levan, and Stiven’s productions are greeted with great excitement. Where before, their thoughts were limited to the progressive house world, today, they have become skilled craftsmen of stylistically diverse creations.
Michael, Levan and Stiven left their mark by creating Kunai Records in 2013, producing original music, but also showing their skill at remixing tracks from high-level names.
These last couple of years, the trio has been consistently releasing a number of new productions through some of the best underground labels.
Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us for Progressive Teardrop. Firstly, perhaps the most important question of all: how did the three of you come to work together?
Thank you for the invitation.
It was a long time ago, around 2006, when we first met and talked via Skype. We discussed music since we had similar styles, and then we continued to talk on a daily basis until we came up with the idea to work on production together and start the Mistique Music label.
What does music represent to you, and has anyone influenced your choice?
Music has always been part of our lives. From a very early age, Michael & Levan demonstrated a love and passion for music, but only in their late teenaged years did they decide to start producing on their own.
As for me, from an early age I was surrounded with musical instruments and music thanks to my dad, who was and is still a musician–he played on synthesizers all of his life.
I would say it was a pretty natural path for all three of us, since we were surrounded with music at all times. Therefore, we did not really have any one specific person that influenced our choices.
You’ve been in the world of production for a long time now; which project would you single out as your favorite?
We’ve been producing music together since 2006, but Michael and Levan have been doing it solo since 2001. So we really do have a lot of tracks under our belts. There were plenty of emotional and significant projects that were inspired by real-life events from our private lives. It would be a very difficult choice to single one out–more like an impossible mission–but if we have to choose, I’d say somehow Invisible Children made the biggest impact of them all.
The single Invisible Children has become a kind of phenomenon in its own right. How did it come to be remixed in more than 40 different versions?
Seeing the eponymous documentary had a massive impact on us, and we wanted to contribute any way we could by raising awareness to the problems that these kids are going through. We had so many requests to do a remix, and we just didn’t want to disappoint or say no to anyone. When the avalanche started, we just couldn’t stop it anymore. At the same time, I think that we brought forward something new that might be lacking today, and maybe some people will think that that was a great idea, but others might think that was marketing suicide. All in all, we’ve always been a little bit different, so we will never give up on an idea we have.
Three keywords that describe your work?
Maybe it is going to sound old-fashioned, but that’s who we are: order, work, and discipline. Everything we do, we keep it well organized. Directing Mistique Music, Mistique Digital, Mistique Emotion, Kunai Records, Music Treasures, Mastering etc… There is a lot of work to be done besides just producing music. We work a lot as you can see; there are tracks that are being released as we speak and there are a lot more tracks that are going to be released soon as well. We enjoy what we do; it comes easy to us really, and with all of that, discipline comes with it. And at the end of the day, we are able to accomplish whatever goals we set for ourselves.
What are the main problems of the music scene today?
We wouldn’t suggest bothering with that–trying to fix problems that are so deeply ingrained. A lot of energy is being wasted, but basically no one can change anything. Instead, we all need to concentrate and worry about the things we can influence while doing that as best as we can.
To be successful in the music scene, is quality or marketing more important?
We would all like for quality to be paramount, but unfortunately, that’s not so easy, and whoever thinks differently these days is wrong. There is no universal recipe for success and there never will be, so the only thing left for everyone involved is to give their best and not to change for anyone. Music should be made with the heart, and things will eventually come together after that. Some will need more time than others, but one must never lose his willpower or his hope.
Favorite artist, musician, producer, or DJ?
It’s so difficult to pick just one person because we really do have a lot of people that inspire us, and not just in our industry. But if we really had to choose someone from our scene, it’d be Patrice Bäumel-a – we really like his work. We believe that he deserves a lot more recognition than he’s gotten so far, but also we think that his time will come because he has timeless qualities.
If we had the opportunity to hear you guys perform here in Serbia, what could we expect?
Levan is the only one of us that is serious about DJ-ing. He also has his own monthly radio show at Proton Radio called “9 Electric Turns” and it would be his honor and pleasure to play one day in Serbia since he never has before. His mixes are mostly between progressive and techno. There is actually an exclusive mix we did for you guys so you can see what we are all about.
Would you rather perform at small clubs or music festivals?
We think that small spaces better suit us and are more interesting, not only to us, but the people that come to listen. We love close contact with the audience at those places, and on top of that, those kind of events are more energetic. And most importantly, in that friendly sort of environment, you meet different people that are like-minded.
How important is musical education or instruction for pursuing a professional music career?
Any sort of education is important–it is the only thing that can never be taken from you. That works for music as well. It is clear that you can learn a lot today from things like Youtube, where you can find basically anything that interests you. Even amateur production as well–it’s a good base you can use, and later you can upgrade yourself and achieve what you want.
A message to young people who want to start producing?
Follow your heart and not the trend. Never change for anyone: do what you love and do it the best you can. Never think that you know it all, because you can learn something new every single day and constantly grow.
Success is not something that comes by itself overnight; you must work hard to earn it and to get what you want. Eventually everything will come together.
This interview was conducted with Stiven Rivic.