Mike Mago 'I had to cancel gigs because I had no money to travel'

We get the low down on Mike Mago's journey from struggling underground label owner and DJ to internationally successful producer ahead of his set at Cream's March show.

Mike Warburton

Last updated: 21st Jan 2015.
Originally published: 20th Jan 2015

Photo: Mike Mago

Hailing from the underground house circuit of Amsterdam, Mike Mago has been a tireless member of the Dutch scene for some time now, with his fresh, funky and floorfilling take on the genre the key ingredient to the reverence held for his imprint BMKLTSCH RCRDS.

With his concentration being on running the label and DJing for the majority of his career, it's only recently that Mike Mago has turned his hand to production, and as it's turned out, he's pretty damn good at it. After success on BMKLTSCH followed by an outing on Blood Music, his third ever record caught the attention Netherland's most renowned label Spinnin', catapulting him from the underground to a much wider audience.

With yet more huge hits under his belt and ever increased exposure, we thought we'd grab five minutes with the man himself ahead of his debut performance for Cream, and find out about the challenges of running an independent record label, his conversion to production, and of course his meteoric rise to international stardom. 

You’ll be hitting Liverpool’s Cream in March. Are you looking forward to playing for such an iconic clubnight? 

Yes definitely! And the lineup is biggg! 

We know for a number of years you concentrated purely on running BMKLTSCH RCRDS and DJing, what brought about the shift of focus to your solo career?

Well, I always saw myself as a DJ and A&R of BMKLTSCH. I never really focused on producing. When the amount of my DJ gigs grew a bit during the weekends, I thought it would be good to try some producing during the midweek.

Slowly I started developing some basic skills. It resulted pretty quickly in 'The Show' (below), which became a huge record for me. This was basically the third or fourth track I had ever produced. 

On the one hand, I was kind of lucky that things happened so quickly. On the other hand, everything went very fast after that, maybe a bit too quick. Suddenly there was interest in what I did and I was taking on loads of remix assignments for example. There was the notion that this was the moment to move forward though and that I'd learn everything a long the way.

I just jumped in to my solo career because I thought it was the best thing to do. But I still put the same focus and energy in my label. Our team has grown and we have some big releases from prominent artists coming. 

Have there been some tough moments as you stepped outside your comfort zone?

Well, during the period before I released ‘The Show’, I had loads of moments asking myself if it was still worth it. I mean, when you run an indie label on your own, it's hard work and unless you have real commercial success with one of your releases, you're not making any money.

My DJ gigs weren't paying that well either and I didn't have the time to do other work besides this. I was used to living with a really small amount of money per month, but as I got older and the people around me started working normal jobs, I started to feel bad. Especially when I had to cancel gigs because I had no money to travel to the venue.

I told myself maybe eight to ten times, 'OK a few more months… then it's over'. Haha, it's not really stepping outside of my comfort zone. It's more, being in your zone till it gets really uncomfortable.

When did you realise that the hard work was paying off though and you had made the right decision to stick with it?

I think that was around the Dutch and Belgium release of 'Outlines' (below) at the end of last year. It really made big waves. Though, there are still many goals I'd like to achieve so I don't think the big pay off is there yet :)

Your work has been championed by everyone from Annie Mac and Pete Tong to more underground techno heads like Josh Wink, what is it about your style that you think appeals to DJs of many different genres?

Hmmm…tough question. I think it's because I don't really look at genres or contemplate if I'll make an underground or commercial track. I don't know, I usually just start working and see what I end up making.

I really love loads of music and I'm not someone who easily creates an alias to release different styles of music under different names. I think people should see an artist as a human being, who has (as any human being) different interests in music and who wants to express that in different ways musically. 

We hear you've got a brand new release due out in the next few weeks, can you let us know any more about it?

Yes, 'Outlines' is set for release beginning of February. I'm really excited about it, as it has just been added to BBC Radio 1’s playlist. It's a collaboration with Dragonette, whom I'm making some more tunes with at the moment. 

You alluded to it earlier, but what can we look forward to from BMKLTSCH RCRDS in the near future?

We have a great release coming up on January 26 by UK's Louis La Roche. The track is called 'The Receiver' (below) and has some great remixes from Blende & The Young Punx. I'm really proud of that one. Next to this, we have our loyal producers Shapes and Space Jump Salute setting up some great releases too!

What is your 2015 schedule looking like? Any gigs that you’re looking forward to?

Well, the Cream one at Nation obviously! I'm also touring North America in February, so looking forward to that as well. We're also setting up an Australia tour and there are some awesome festivals confirmed for the summer.

Finally, hypothetical question. If you could have signed any record in history to BMKLTSCH RCRDS, what would it be, and why?

Mariah Carey - All I Want For Christmas ... for obvious reasons ;)

Catch Mike Mago at Cream in Liverpool on March 7th. Get your Cream tickets here.

Tickets are no longer available for this event