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Interview With Josh Adler – Founder and Managing Editor of M.I.O.


17 December 2003 No Comment

This week we speak to Josh Adler – the Editor and Founder of MIO (Music Industry Online). The website is a goldmine of information for Producers, Deejays and Musicians.  Josh tells us about the origins of the site and it’s future.  Benefits to artists are also elaborated on.  Read on!

What’s up Josh how is life? 

Pretty good thanks! Been a crazy year so looking forward to having a break (except my car fucked out so I’m gonna have to chill at home this year while I pay off more debt … sigh) 

When did you start PC Music and what was the reason for starting this website? 

The first e-mail went out in December 1999. I was producing really dodgy cheeze-trance at the time while at varsity and mates kept asking “How do you do that?”. So, I decided to start a monthly newsletter explaining how to make music with your PC in South Africa. The first e-mail was sent to about 10 friends, and things grew from there into the resource that is MIO today. 

Why change the name from PC Music to Mio? 

The name didn’t fit what we had become. When you said, “PC Music”, people thought we were an mp3 site or something, rather than a skills resource….it took a lot of explaining. Also, while we used to only have info on computers and music, we had launched DJ and musician sections, so PC Music didn’t quite cut it anymore. We decided to reposition ourselves so we could cater to skills across the board — and as you’ll see in 2004, we’re hoping to launch two new sections: broadcast and Sound&Light!

What knowledge can your readers get from visiting your website? 

Tons! There is a three year archive of over 300 quality articles on making music, producing, DJing, in-depth interviews and some cool opinion pieces that are SA relevant. The best part is that 99% of the content was written by SA citizens – proof that we have the skills internally. The best (and busiest) part of the site though is our forums where you get to interact with other South Africans who are also here to learn. Our forums are qualitatively different from most other music communities in that the conversations have substance, and there are people with real experience around who can share advice with you.

How many contributors do you have on your website and what are their backgrounds? 

We’ve had about 12 people in total involved over the three years. Everyone is an active ad/producer/muso which is a big thing. Its easy to correct someone’s spelling … these are not journalists think they know about music, but rather real folk in the industry who want to spread the knowledge. You can read all the biographies of our writers at http://www.mio.co.za/index.php?page=staff

What would you say is the best interview you’ve published on your website? 

That’s easy – Paul van Dyk in 2002. We broke what has become known as the “second sun” story world wide – a combination of good timing and asking the right questions. That article is still read over 2000 every month and was credited all over the web as “the” interview to read with the man, including the official PvD website. He so enjoyed talking to us that he pushed the TV crew that were waiting next back to spend more time chatting….but its common that our interviews go well because we ask about gear and are always VERY well-researched. Its a break for the artists from the usual crap they are pounded with over and over again by overworked journalists who read a biog and arrive with utterly unimaginative crap to query. 

What article on your website received the most feedback? 

I’m not sure actually. Some of the editorials have created some interest, but we’re not really out there to find scandal or exploit misery (which is feedback heaven). I think our stuff is consistently read much of the time because it is all much-needed information for South Africans by South Africans who want to get into the music business.

Are you located in JHB? 

Yeah – we’re in the heart of the city (Jeppestown). Its just off Jules Street, famous for dodgy second hand cars and even dodgier characters. All those wankers in Sandton don’t know what they’re missing!

Am I right in assuming that your site is run by musicians/producers and deejays? 

Yup! I don’t do any producing any more actually — it turns out I’m a better teacher than a do’er. Sam (our programming guru) is the only one who doesn’t have a music background, but he’s got a deep love for both music and MIO, and without him, MIO wouldn’t work so — here’s to you Sammy, Thanks! 

What are your thoughts on sampling? 

I’m assuming you’re talking about taking samples from other peoples tracks into your own, rather than the technical definition of sampling as a studio tool to trigger sounds. The bottom line is communication … if you wanna use someones sample, just ask first — chances are they’ll say yes, and everyone wins. Spread the love, music is art after all! 

What do you think is the main stumbling block for South African producers? 

The cost of high-end software and gear is still prohibitive I think, but changing. Music making in Europe and the US is something every second household participates in, which means the volumes of sales are massive, which means costs are low. We’re about two years away from the bedroom studio becoming ubiquitous in SA.

Do you do offline workshops and if so what can you tell us about that? 

We do, but not as often as we should or would like to. We generally split it into two sessions. the first is we get someone from a label or radio station or something to have a chat about “making it”, and then the second session is a demo of gear or software. So its both inspiring and hands on! 

Your site has obviously been around for a long time. Have you seen a change in the industry or a change in your users and if so what was that/what do you attribute that to? 

You make me sound old! The big change has been who is buying and using entry-level music software…and the black guys are getting into this in a big way. Turnkey Music said that for the first time this year, more black guys than white are coming into the stores wanting to get gear to make music. The even bigger point is that people are aware of the options, they’re coming in asking for sequencers, or samplers, or plugins, rather than “how do I make music”….and I like to think we have a lot to do with that spread of information. 

Do you think it’s beneficial for a producer to know how to play an instrument? If so what instrument would you recommend they learn to play?

Absolutely….yet the instrument doesn’t matter. Its about understanding how music is played, and more fundamentally – how to play with others!

Does your website cater to producers/deejays of all genre’s? 

We think so, but admittedly there are more dance music people on the forums than other genres. It is definitely changing though, and that’s my goal for 2004. We need people to share and interact across genre to in order to have our South African music identity infused into all of them. 

What effect (if any) has turntablism had on the house/trance deejay? 

I’m not the best person to ask this, but I think not much and I’m glad. For me, trance in particular is about the journey through a set, and nothing pisses me off more than a trance DJ who thinks he’s a hip-hop DJ and ruins a track or set with scratching. Technology has had a major impact though with great CD DJ player and amazing advances like Final Scratch. 

What do you think about kwaito? 

A lot more now that I’ve just finished a Zulu course so I can understand at least the odd word or two. I wasn’t a fan at the beginning, but the rock & hip-hop infused stuff of late is really floating my boat. The producers behind the big kwaito acts are doing amazing work in terms of shaping a commercial sound that is South African.

In your opinion can you tell us about the state of dance music in this country? 

The hype is gone and I think its down-hill from here. Not that its a bad thing, because its about coming down to a level with the other genres and taking its place beside them, rather than the elevated status its enjoyed over the past 10 years. I think there is a real need from consumers for instrumentation and accompanying performance….I hate going to dance parties these days…yet it was my staple diet of weekend pleasure two years ago. Aint the music cycle great! If things didn’t evolve and tastes didn’t change it would be one fucking boring world don’t you think? 

How are South African deejays perceived overseas? 

No idea…. 

What benefit would a hip hop producer/dj get from visiting your site?

Information and networking. With over 2000 dj’s, muso’s and producers on forums, there is a wealth of “people capital” to draw on. And then of course there are three years worth of articles about all sorts of stuff, both technical and otherwise, all from an SA perspective — we even have some specialist hip-hop stuff written by the AfricasGateway editor on MIO!!!!

What I like about your website is that you interview very interesting people, is it your intention to cover areas lacking in the mainstream media?

Thanks…and interviewing is a big thrust for 2004. The core reason is that in terms of gear and tech info, there is a wealth of stuff on international websites that we cannot really compete with, so our content mandate is to South Africanise everything. We’d rather find someone who used Fruity Loops to create a cool SA tune than do a review of the software as an example of how we approach things. We also want to try and expose people to the different careers in the industry, and show readers that there are people doing exceptional things in SA who are as good (and better) than those overseas. We plan to do short Q&A’s across the industry in 2004 to give people a sense of its scale and scope.

Do you think the quality of music will deteriorate since the software coming out now allows almost anybody and their dog to “produce” a song?

The quality of the good stuff will always be just that – what will change is the volume of stuff being made by Joe soap….it will just take a bit more time to find the needles within the haystack. The other side of the argument is that technology allows so many more people to explore their talents – and that is very exciting! Its about art at the end of the day right!? Everyone should be allowed to live their music dreams of stardom….!

I had this vision of taking mixing to the next level. Imagine standing in front of 2mm thick screens a couple of metres in width and height. The dj stands in front of it and it shows the waves of two songs in 3d form. The dj mixes these two wave files using his fingers. He can move it around like he was playing with 3d models. I think this could solve the problem of the “lack of touch” excuse that deejays normally say about mixing cd’s. I think it’s taking the “mixing with vinyl” mentality into the digital age. Do you think I’m nuts and has this been done before?

Great concept! Within the fx realm, there are things like the KAOSS pad from Korg which has exactly that kind of control for things like flanges and phasers for your tracks. There are some gimmicky software apps I’ve seen that allow you to do that with your mouse, but I think you may be onto something. Patent it now!!!

What do you think makes a deejay stand out from the rest of them?

Personally for me, song choice/set construction and charisma are far more important that hardcore mixing ability. If you’ve got a great pool of records, can work with the crowd and know how to create moods through your set, you’re one step ahead. The music comes before the DJ to me in terms of the “party” set…I actually get very pissed off when guys fuck with the tunes too much, or scratch until the cows come home…they ruin the original artists work. (And now I’ll duck before getting caned with tomatoes from your scratching readers!)

What do you think about South African hip hop?

I am loving it…particularly the fusion of kwaito and hiphop. Our sound has matured and we’re actively seeking to NOT imitate those morons up in the northern hemisphere. My prediction is that the first GREAT South African world chart-topper is going to be an urban hip hop tune, with english lyrics and a catchy chorus in one of our mother tongues that people around the world can sing a long to and learn what it means. A cross between the Skwatta Kamp/Tumi & the volume lyrical energy and Mafikizolo african infused melody …. we’ll see if I’m right.

What are the albums you were listening to this week?

December isn’t particularly flush, so I haven’t bought anything new. But I’m hooked to classic FM at the moment in the evenings for “smooth classics” — its so chilled listening to all that movie soundtrack stuff and the composers rock! (er…slowly though!). I’m very back into rock though, so I’ve been caning the White Stripes album in my car for a few months now.

What are your all time favourite albums?

BT – Movement in still life
Stone Temple Pilots – purple
U2 – Rattle & Hum
Dorp – Danger, Gevaar, Ingosi
Vd Walt & Letcher – Bignity

Does having high end software really make a difference in the quality of production? Or do you believe that it’s the creativity of the producer that matters most? Or both?

In terms of “quality” of production – of course it makes a difference. that doesn’t mean the music is better though. There is no doubt that using a crappy reverb plugin doesn’t come close to using a lexicon rack – even if you don’t know what you’re doing – it will sound better. But I’m always preaching that musicality MUST come first and matters most. Go back to basics – if the song is really good, finding people to help you produce it to a high standard will not be hard.

Have you seen any differences between e.g. Cape Town and Johannesburg when it comes to the club scenes?

Jozi is the money city – there is just so much more of it here and that affects the party environment. More people with money means more people can afford to go out and support more promoters with diverse music genres. Cape Town is cool though, and we have more subscribers down there so I’m going to shut up now!

If you had an unlimited budget what would your ideal studio look like and what equipment would you have in it?

If I had an unlimited budget I wouldn’t build a studio – I’d hire our Abby road for a year! (it would probably cost more to do that than build anything I could imagine!). I’d plonk myself and The Neptunes in there and we’d make some beats.

So if you were at a club or a pub what drink would I expect to find in your hand?

Double Jameson’s with a dash of water if I’m feeling loaded….sigh…generally though its a Windhoek lager.

What would you say is the highlight of running this site?

The fact that we’re really helping people. We’ve dished out tons of advice, hooked up people to jobs, hooked up people to other people, given amazing workshops on music and the industry to both kids and adults. It may sound arrogant, but I feel that PC Music and now MIO have played a real part in the growth of the industry for the betterment of all involved.

As a website owner what gives you headaches?

Not much – I love what we do, even the kak has its place. I’m very lucky in that we have an amazing team around MIO, and a community of users that think we rock, so its very easy to be encouraged and inspired.

What does the future look like for Mio?

Brilliant! Next year we focus on content, relationships & really marketing the resource. The plan is to have MIO as the industry hub by 2006 and a powerful brand. Hopefully between now and then we’ll work out how to actually make some money with the thing! 🙂

Thanks for chatting to us, any last words of wisdom?

Did you know that the middle word in “life”, is “if” – (Robert Duval, Apocalypse Now)

….I’m sure someone can put that into a rhyme – its deep man … now was that a coincidence or did the dictionary makers intend for that one!

Visit Mio Now!

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