Michael Barber is an American musician signed to Death Row Records through the Hoopla Media Group. He is best known for inventing the Messy Music genre that mixes all types of current genres to create his own. Barber has called the style of music he makes “Dust Music”. He has been credited with working in the studio, or on marketing campaigns, for many artists, including Nas, Akon, D’Angelo, Nappy Roots, Kia Shine, the Wu Tang Clan, Rza and Static Major. He has also released poetry and music under the aliases “Determined”, “Indiana Smokey Bones”, “The Irish Jesus” and “the Jesus”. Michael is also the front man for two musical groups, Illuminati Sky and Audio Stepchild.
Michael’s who has released various albums and mixtapes, has just added the single, “Circus Beer” to his catalog. In a recent, exclusive interview with Jamsphere, Michael had this much to say…
1. How long have you been doing what you’re doing and how did you get started in the first place?
Michael Barber: I was born an MC. Writing was also a big part of me growing up, I think I was always meant to become what I am. Now producing has just grown for me, and it is something I love to do.
2. Who were the first influences on your music and style?
Michael Barber: I like to say, artists away from music, Salvodor Dali or even a movie guy like Quentin Tarantino. From any early age, I was exposed to art. Music is just an avenue of art. I listen to everything that I can musically. I want to hear new and old. I dig in record crates, thrift shops, online. One of my favorite songs of all time is Green Onions by Booker T, but another great one to me is Heart Shape Box by Nirvana, music is about mood, it can easily change by the minute. Give me some Jimi Hendrix and Outkast and I will be good for a month.
3. In your opinion who is the most influential and successful artist in your genre today and why?
Michael Barber: I don’t like to say a genre, sure I do make hip hop, but I also make music all around the spectrum, I think Trent Reznor, what he has done, I think is amazing. From his sound, to his studio presence. Success is hard to determined, because are you going by song hits, by records sold, by whatever standard.
4. Which famous song or sound production, ultimately describes what you’d like Michael Barber music productions to sound like?
Michael Barber: I think Sofa Bed with B.Stille of Nappy Roots really showcases what I can do as far as just having fun. Jonathan Hay produced the song, and getting a Grammy nominated artist like Nappy Roots on it was the icing on the cake.
5. Do you think your music is enjoyed more for the beats or for the lyrical flow and content?
Michael Barber: I hope it is lyrical content. I pride myself on penmanship. I am a writer first.
6. Do you make your own beats and write your own lyrics and which software and/or hardware do you to use to achieve your sound?
Michael Barber: Yes of course. I also work with in house producers like Mr. Bootlegs. We use Pro Tools and as many live instruments as we can. Bootlegs is anti-sample, and I am the sample saint, so we try to get a good mix of both to create our own sound.
7. If you could choose to work with some of today’s established artists or producers, with whom would you like to collaborate and why?
Michael Barber: I am gearing up to work with some top artist right now. I think Rick Ruben would be the one person that I would like to get in the studio with because he really brings out the best in everybody that he has worked with.
8. Which of your original compositions is currently your personal favorite, and tell something us about your latest project?
Michael Barber: I like the song, Circus Beer, that I just released for fun. It is really a fun track, funny, catchy. It was fun to produce and it is a good song to perform.
9. Which ingredient do you think is most essential in making your music sound the way it does?
Michael Barber: I think working with my partner, Josh Tifer. He is always seeking something new, something better. He is a big ingredient in my music having the sound that it has and has had for the past two years.
10. Do you think video is important to your music, and how do you handle your video productions?
Michael Barber: Yes! It is a major part of the industry game today. My band, Illuminati Sky has a video out for our song, Run Thru the Streets, and I think that that video really helped us to get our name out.
11. What aspect of the music making process excites you most, and what aspect discourages you the most?
Michael Barber: I try to stay away from anything discouraging. I love the studio process, making a new sound, just writing. I love that process. I also love to perform, that is another process. It is almost two different people. The Michael that has to sit in a studio isolated and the Michael that has to be outgoing and perform.
12. How involved are you in the recording, producing, mastering and other processes needed to make and market your music, and do you outsource any part of these processes?
Michael Barber: I do everything. The only thing we don’t do at my studio is master, but we try it sometimes. From recording to mixing, I like to be involved in everything.
13. Do you think the advent of internet and all the new technology, has helped your music and independent musicians in general, or do you think it just creates a mass of mediocre “bedroom artists” who flood the web, making it difficult to distinguish yourself?
Michael Barber: The bedroom artists are good and bad. We got some great music out of the home studios, but we also got a lot of garbage. Hip Hop turned into a fade to say, “I’m a rapper,” and it’s just like, no you’re not, you recorded one song on Garage Band or Pro Tools. If you want to be an MC, then you are ALWAYS an MC. Hip Hop is art, don’t mistake it for a hobby
14. In your experience, what is the best piece of advice in this business you actually followed so far? And one you didn’t follow, but now know you should have?
Michael Barber: I won’t say one piece that I have stuck with, there is too many to list. I think you have to put yourself around good people. Jonathan Hay has been a great mentor to me, and he has given me priceless information over the past 6-7 years. Too much to list here. Just stay focused and always try to get better. Also the list of things that I didn’t follow is too long to list. You live and you learn. In the words of Frank Sinatra, “That’s Life”.
15. Being an independent artist, which is the one factor you currently desire most (increased music distribution, better quality production, more media exposure, club performances etc…)?
Michael Barber: I think we have all that. With Hoopla we have all the major outlets, I think it is just about timing. I produce and work with tons of artists. So I always want to grow. So during the growth, sometimes the music that I did last month isn’t as good as the music I did today. So we are playing around with the distribution and marketing. It’s a fun process.
16. What is your involvement with band “Illuminati Sky” and how do you distribute time and energy between the band and your solo career?
Michael Barber: Illuminati Sky is more political. We want to use the soap box that we do have to help. Woody Guthrie is an artist I look up to, and he died broke but he toured the country singing for people like my cousins in the coal mines. Sure we can have some fun songs with Illuminati Sky because it is still a band, but we want to be bigger than that. That band is for the people.
17. How do you handle criticism? Who has been your worst critic, if any?
Michael Barber: Probably my pops. My old man doesn’t even listen to music, I mean at all. ZERO. He has probably listened to 5 songs in the last 2 years and they were all by me. He is tough on me, he points out the strangest thing in a song, and it will hit home sometimes. He listened to 45 seconds of a song, and then said two words, and it was dead on. I think he also wants me to be successful.
18. Is going Platinum or winning a Grammy important to you? Where would you like to see your career within 5 years?
Michael Barber: No. I would never write a song for an award. If you have that as a goal as an artist, I can’t say it is wrong, but do music for you. Do it to help people. Write something real not something for a “pop” award. Write a song that will live on Think about Mozart, the Grammy’s were 200 years away, he didn’t write for that. He wrote because he had a passion inside him.
19. What in your opinion is the biggest barrier an artist like yourself, has to face and overcome, to gain any commercial success?
Michael Barber: I still think it is just timing. I am a determined person, so if I don’t find away, I will make one. Commercial success, I don’t know if me and my team need that from me. I think we just need good music.
20. If you were not a music artist, what would you be doing today?
Michael Barber: I couldn’t even start to answer that. That would be like asking Kobe Bryant or Michael Jordan what they would do without Basketball. It would be like asking a priest what he would be doing. I think I do music as a calling in life. We are here for a short period of time, and I really think this is what I am supposed to do in that limited time frame.
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