January 29, 2008

Mike Van Olden Interview

It took some time for Mike to get back to me about this interview, but I'm glad he finally took the time out because he definitely dropped some knowledge for me. All my fellow diggers/producers get a real treat with this one. For those who don't know, Mike Van Olden aka Fishguhlish is the creator of the Drum Crazy series (fat beats/drum loops for DJ's and producers) distributed by Ubiquity records. He's done quite a lot more than just this series as you will see, under a variety of different aliases (Molasses, MikeTheMusicGuy, Starchild Excalibur). He has also worked on projects with two of my personal favorite producers, Prince Paul and Dan The Automator.

DW: The Drum Crazy records have been around for a long time, when were they first introduced?

I don't really remember exactly. I think it was somewhere mid-1995 that Drum Crazy - Volume #1 came out. That's when I moved from Fort Wayne, Indiana to San Francisco and took my job at Ubiquity Records.

DW: Your record collection (especially your drum records) must be jammin, how many records do you own ?

MVO: About 3 years ago, I moved away from San Francisco to Charlotte, North Carolina. Just before I moved, I dumped about half of my vinyl because I couldn't really afford to ship them all, but I kept the good stuff. I still have a healthy stash tho'. Probably around 2000-3000 albums.

DW: Any particular favorite drum break record? Can I hit you up for an obscure title with some nice open drums?

MVO: "I know a lot of beats, but I say no names..." - Diamond D

It's going to be really hard to top some of you more-advanced diggers out there. Seriously, you guys are too good. I doubt that I could drop a title that hasn't already been discovered. Regardless, here's my quick list of some breaks that are definitely worth seeking out...

Nice Beats:
  • Manzel - Space Funk (Dopebrother 12 Inch Remix)
  • Piranha Sounds - La Turbie Piranhienne
  • Southern Christian Leadership Conference - Operation Breadbasket
  • Ken Rhodes - Profiile
  • Sensimillia Dub
  • Jimmy Smith - I'm Going To Love You Just A Little More Baby
  • Cleveland Wrecking Company - Superfine From Behind Lady 45RPM
  • Eddie Warner - Devil's Anvil
  • The Ozmonds - Can't Get Next To You
  • Pucho & His Latin Soul Brothers - Got Myself A Good Man
  • Chanson - Don't Hold Back
  • Sweet Salvation - Carry Me Home
  • The Byrds - Ballad Of Eazy Rider LP
  • Ralph Carmichael – The Addict's Psalm
  • Love - Out Here
Some Great Songs (not strictly breaks, but standout songs):
  • Black Pearl - People Get Ready
  • Underground Sunshine - Take Me
  • Glass Prism - Dream Within A Dream (requires panning)
  • The Volumes - Ain't Gonna Give You Up
  • Jimmy Delphs - Feels Like Summer's Common On
  • Groove Holmes - Groove's Groove
  • Mom's Mabley - I'm Funky
  • Motherload - Living Life
Favorite Disco-Funk Songs:
  • Grangers - Shine Your Light
  • Ya Mama - Wuf Ticket
  • Zapp - Do Wha Dittyy
  • Bootsy Collins - Rag Poppin'
  • Soul Makkossa - Narobi & The Awesome Foursome
My influences come from all over the place, all genres of music. However, I really love funky instrumentals: Galt McDermot's "Space", The Meters, Ike Turner, Young Holt Unlimited, Grant Green, Groove Holmes, etc...

DW: I read the interview in world of beats, and I see that you have traveled all over the world to find different record stores-where were some of your favorite spots (states/countries) where you came up with some great finds as far as records/prices/quantity? Any good diggin trips in particular?

I pulled many great records from Twist-N-Shout in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
The owner, Darryl Agler, had a huge stash of records that he kept in the back room. I found a couple sealed copied of the Pharaohs "Awakening" album. I sent one of the copies to Mike and Jody at Luv-N-Haight records in San Francisco. They liked it so much that they re-issued it on their Luv-N-Haight label. Later, I took a job working for Mike and Jody and I actually got to meet Louis Satterfield (Louie Louie), one of the founding members of the Pharaohs, who later went on to form the horn section for Earth, Wind & Fire. He taught me all about his universal theory of 'Vibrations'. Satterfield played for: Earth, Wind & Fire, Ramesy Lewis, Gap Band, Phil Collins (horns on 'Sussudio'), Dee Dee Bridgewater, Emotions, etc...

DW: Can you give us a discography of your releases/ projects you have had a hand in? I see you have many different aliases...

MVO: A big lesson that I learned early on: Once fame kicks in, you don't necessarily control your art anymore. You become part of a machine that treats your art as a commodity. Because of that realization, I have always treated my music as a 'professional hobby' and prefer to stay behind the scenes and mostly unknown. Music has never really paid my bills, my computer programming gigs do.

Some people are lucky enough to be full-time music producers/artists and can support themselves 100% through their art. I really admire anyone who can do that. It is a really difficult thing to do and takes a lot of hustling from one project to the next. The main reason that I used a different name/alias on each production is that I, specifically, didn't want people to track my career. That way, I never had any expectations to live up to, which might have gotten in the way of my ability to do whatever I wanted to do creatively.

I have been lucky enough to stick my fingers into some big projects due to my friends in the music biz helping me out, especially Dan The Automator and my ex-roommate Dan Prothero (Fog City Productions - Galactic, Papa Mali, Mofro, Robert Walters). They were kind enough to give me a front row seat as they created their masterpieces.
My brief discography:
  • Worked with several groups out of Fort Wayne, Indiana:
    (Supernatural, Spliff Crew, King Guillotine, Rellik, Ench, LS Roc,
    Unseen Hands)
  • Finger Juice Broke Beats vinyl - sampled by DJ Muggs/Cypress Hill for the "I Like It Like That" movie soundtrack.
  • Finger Juice - Hip Hop Soundset for Sweetwater Sound (breaks, drums, keyboards)
  • Traded breaks with John & Jackie Carraro (Roosevelt Record show)
  • Sold breaks to Chris Cuben-Tatum (produced Me Phi Me, Reality Bites Soundtrack)
  • Needledrop Enterprises: Rhythm Madness Series - Vol. 1 (1992) and Vol. 2 (1994)
  • Drum Crazy Series
  • Tasty Beat Series (looped drums provided by Boston Bob)
  • Molasses EP Ubiquity Records
  • A Better Tomorrow (Molasses Spaced Out Remix) - Dan The Automator
  • Circuit Breaks - Volume #1 (Bulk Recordings)
  • King Of The Jungle Movie Score - Intro Theme - hbo pictures - With
    Automator, Jeremy and myself
  • Minor assistance with some Automator remixes and mixdowns: Depeche Mode, Gorillaz, Head Automatica, Ziggy Marley & The Melody Makers, Air.
  • Scored the San Francisco July 4th Fireworks Soundtrack with Dennis McNallly, the official archivist/spokesperson for the Greatful Dead. It played during City Of San Francisco Fireworks display on July 4th for several years.
  • Produced 6 of the songs on MC Paul Barman's "Paullelujah!" album
    with Prince Paul, MF Doom and Phofo.
  • Carol Of The Bells (Starchild Excalibur Drumadelic Remix)
  • "Audio Obstacle Course" 45RPM - included as a gift
    bag item for those that attended the 2000 ITF Competition in San
    Francisco. We made this 45RPM to promote (DJ Sheep in the house...!).
  • Dan The Automator - Bear Witness (Part III) Remix (Q-bert) on Columbia Records
  • Produced 6 songs for MC Paul Barman - "Paullelujah!" LP/ Co-produced the album with: Phofo, Prince Paul and MF Doom on Coup D'etat Records.
    Cool label. Also put out J-Live's album "All Of The Above"... Great album J.
  • Guest appearance on "If It Wasn't For You" - De La Soul on Handsome Boy Modeling School.

  • Tokyo Marine Fire - Comfort Years Remix
  • 4 songs with Spliff featuring Hen G.
  • Assisted Chris Veltri (The Groove Merchant, San Francisco) in putting together "Trippin' (The Groove Merchant Compilation)" on Luv-N-Haight records.

    That's all I can remember...
Some of my music related jobs:
  • Production/Database/Web Developer for Ubiquity Recordings
  • Web Developer for 75 Ark (Deltron 3030, Lovage, Unsung Heros, The Nextmen, Encore) and

DW: How did you link up with Automator and Prince Paul and how was it working with them?

MVO: I worked with Dan for over 8 years and I can say that he was a wonderful mentor to me. Not only for music, but for life also. He taught me a great deal. He's one of my very best friends and one of the few people in the world that have similar interests to my own. A rare soul.

Nakamura and I first met at Ubiquity. I think the Drum Crazy series impressed him and we became friends. I sat in on many of his productions: DJ Shadow's Entroducing, Dr. Octagon, Deltron 3030, Lovage, Handsome Boy, etc. I got to live my 'producer dreams' through him.

It's not easy to be a full-time music producer. As a matter of fact, it's 95% bullshit and 5% productivity. It takes a strong person to make a career out of it. It's like having to find a new job every 3 months. Constant renewal.

I'll share a couple of Automator'isms with you: Once, Dan simply explained to me that 'people who really want to do music just do it'. This may seem simple at first, but if you think about it, it's really profound.

He also told me this true story that happened to him: Dan was having dinner with Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto at a nice Japanese restaurant in NYC. While having dinner, Morimoto was approached by many of the staff who asked for his autograph and/or a picture with him. Morimoto noticed that there was one guy in the kitchen who looked bothered and never did approach him to get his autograph. Morimoto turned to Dan and pointed out that 'that man is a REAL chef' because he was too proud to come over and get an autograph like everyone else.

Overall, I have to say that Dan guided me into adulthood and I really appreciate his help. Through him, I was able to see the music industry from every angle, without having to put my own career on the line.

I met Paul through Nakamura. As you may know, they produced a couple of Handsome Boy Modeling School records together. Dan brought Paul over to my house to raid my record collection for some new breaks for the album. I ended up giving them a big stack. I'm not really sure what they used.

A Prince Paul story: I ran into Nakamura and Paul at the airport. They were heading to L.A. and I was heading to Europe. We had breakfast together at the Burger King in the terminal. During that breakfast, Prince Paul and Dan decided that I 'would be perfect' to work with MC Paul Barman. I think he said that we would 'make a million bucks together'. So, I said that I would do it. I sent MC Paul Barman some instrumental tracks. 4 months later, Barman came to San Francisco to record vocals for 6 songs for his album.

A watcher's point of view: It was really a trip to watch both of them work. To be honest, it was hard to spot the moments of genius as they happened. Most of it happened so fast that it was difficult to realize the quality of music that was being created at the time. Talented people don't obsess too much. It just flows naturally... in

DW: Can you name some of your favorite hip hop MC's/producers (old and new)

MVO: I was always more fascinated by the music producers & DJs, rather than the MC's. As a matter of fact, there are many Hip Hop beats where the MC screwed up the song for me because their rhythm sucked or their rhymes were too simple.

Some of the great Hip Hop producers (in no particular order):
  • Dan The Automator
  • Prince Paul
  • Cut Chemist
  • DJ Numark
  • Organized Noize
  • Peanut Butter Wolf
  • The Architect
  • Rick Rock
  • Ant Banks
  • Mike Mosley
  • Studio Ton
  • Tone Capone
  • MF Doom
  • Madlib
  • DJ Magic Mike
  • Mr. Mixx
  • Clay D.
  • Mantronix
  • Dr. Dre
  • Yella
  • Large Professor
  • Eric B.
  • DJ Aladdin
  • DJ Revolution
  • Paul Nice
  • DJ Shadow
  • RJD2
  • Re-Animator
  • Gary 'G-Wiz'
  • Cutmaster Cool V
  • Maestro Fresh Wes
  • Ced Gee
  • DJ Too Tuff
  • Mark The 45 King
  • Afrika Bambaataa
  • Afrika Islam
  • Kid Koala
  • Phofo
  • DJ Quik
  • The Dust Brothers
  • No I.D.
  • N.O. Joe (Rap-A-Lot)
  • Timbaland
  • Wyclef Jean
Damn, there are just too many to list... I'm sure I missed a bunch.
Know your musical history!

DW: I see you are now involved with web related work, do you still take time to dig through the record stores and work on beats?

MVO: Programming is definitely taking up most of my time these days. Like record collecting, it is a never-ending study. As far as making beats... I still make beats on a regular basis. Like a Jazz musician, I like documenting my life experiences through my music. I'll be hitting drum pads until the end.

DW: What do you think of this DJ Nes guy using your record title for his videos?

MVO: I'm a big believer in 'open-source' development. So, I love it!
You know, we ALL stand on the shoulders of those that came before us. Thank you for keeping the music alive!

DW: On behalf of DJ's, producers, and record collectors everywhere, big up for providing us with these gems, and especially big up for taking the time to do an interview..

MVO: Thank you for the opportunity!
Keep keepin' on... Right on to the real!

Drum Crazy Part 12

Contest Results: Since only 6 people entered the Drum Crazy contest, and noone successfully gave a complete list for any of the videos, all 6 people who entered were sent an exclusive free dirty water mix. Thanks to everyone who participated.


  1. nice interview, ubiquity had a lot of interesting records in the mid90s

  2. I bought rhythm madness from the back of The Source magazine in like 94. It was something like $100 ( a lot of money for a kid in high school). But man I learned a lot from that disc...

  3. Mike, Thanks for never forgetting the true skool's pioneers in your interview, much love & respect to you and God Bless for all you future moves, would love to get together one day and detonate a few classic rythmns for ya, my Lost Archives of the Dangerzone drops the last week of April on Stonesthrow or Traffic Entertainment , you'll be the 1st to get an adveance copy!!

    The beat sets were incredible for diggin and samplin' ive got the MP hooked up now grabbin heat for the TUFF CREW REUNION Album!!!

    Much Love Son!!
    -Detonator TOO TUFF of the Tuff Crew!

  4. Indiana represent!

    Although,when you you think of top producers how could Pete Rock and Premier not come to mind right off the bat?

    Diamond D,Buckwild,Rza,Marley Marl etc..etc..


  5. Wow great interview. I haven't talked to Mike V since the "trippin" compilation came out in 96-ish. Last i heard from him there was some unknown producer at the time named "Dan the Audimator" was his roommate. Glad to see Mike is still doing his thing. It's been ages.

  6. thanks a lot for the drum crazy mixtape video on megaupload. thanks!

  7. Great interview. You got one of the best spots out there. Keep keepin' on.