How did you get into producing? What projects and artists did you collab with before Skizzy?
I’ve been playing all kinds of percussion instruments since I was in the 3rd grade. I was always involved with a lot of different classical bands. For the most part I really didn’t like it, and didn’t even want to have anything to do with music until my friend showed me a program called Reason, which is where I found out one person could use a computer to write, record, and arrange an entire song just by using a midi keyboard. My mind was blown, so I ended up going to college for music production. Before Skizzy, I was mostly working with college friends under the name “Mikey Fresh,” a name some friends came up with in college. Once we got going on the Skizzy project I decided to take the new Skizzy releases as an opportunity to re-brand myself. I have 2 cuts on Skizzy’s Phases under the Mikey Fresh name.
How did you and Skizzy Mars meet and start working together?
Skizzy and I share the same management (Penthouse Music). We just started kicking it, and then Skizz brought me on the G-Eazy and Logic tours. From then on we’ve been brothers, just working on shit non-stop.
Since you’ve started working together, you’ve given his music a distinct “indie” feel. Was that always your style of production? What are some of your notable influences?
The Skizzy sound is something we created for him. It has elements that show its me, but this sound wasn’t in my catalogue until we started working together. I am not the kind of producer that has 100’s of beats for artists to go through; everything I make is made on the spot, tailor-made for that person. However, I am influenced by a lot of music, which I think helps me blend genres. Growing up I listened mostly to Motown stuff and some classic rock stuff. The Doors were huge for me, and MJ was always in rotation. As I got older I got into TLC, other R&B, as well as stuff like Everclear and 3rd Eye Blind (my step brother influencing me). I resisted Rap for a long time until sometime in middle school when I discovered De La Soul. Then everything from Dilla to Kanye were on my iPod. Everything inspires me now.
When did you decide to leave your home-town and head to the West Coast to start making music? How did you know the time was right?
I lived in NY for probably a total of 8 years. I always thought Cali would be good for my blood and would bring something else to the table creatively for me. Actually, right when we were finishing up The Red Balloon Project, people were knocking on my apartment door everyday. Either the dudes painting the walls wanting me to send them the songs, or my land lord trying to kick me out of the apartment for being noisy. Basically, once they pushed me out I couldn’t find a new apartment I liked and could afford, so I wasn’t sure what I was gonna do. I remember walking around deep in Brooklyn trying to find something, and being so frustrated that when my manager called me to discuss something we were working on I freaked out on him, and in that moment he found a house in LA with a room that was already acoustically treated for a studio. So I hung up the phone and called my mom to tell her I was moving to LA.
Walk us through your production process: What’s a day in the studio with Michael Keenan like?
Vibes are the most important thing in a session for me. A day in the studio looks like me answering emails and sending out edits first thing in the morning, then playing around on the keyboard, or kinda jamming a little with another person — if, say, a guitar player or something is here. Then treat that as a sample and build a beat around it while whatever person is writing. Then we record it and mix it a little and export the demo. Sessions are usually over at that point, and depending on the day I either go back to work on something else, or chill out, watch some mindless TV, or play some games before I pass out.
How many instruments do you play?
I play all percussion instruments, from drum set to xylophone, and piano a bit. I guess we should also include turntables too. I would like to start learning guitar in the next year, but for now I have to mumble my guitar parts to friends that play and hope they understand what I’m saying.
Any must-have studio cravings?
I crave to have a good pair of speakers and a keyboard haha. Food wise, Skizz and I are both weird and don’t really like eating in sessions. Just kinda beast a big meal at the end of the day.
How would you personally describe your sound/style?
I would describe my sound style as a mixture of everything; pop and urban with a bit of a jazz influence. Even my most urban tracks have some pop element, and even my most pop tracks still hit hard. I usually like to involve some kinda jazz element when possible too.
Something that I didn’t expect to hear was your collab with ex-Neighbourhood affiliate Olivver The Kid on his latest album Taste&Tone. How did that connection come about?
The connection with Olivver The Kid came about when Skizzy and I came across his song “Attica 71” somewhere somehow. He and Skizzy started talking online, and we had the “Time” track, which Skizzy sent to him and he turned around in 24 hours with that hook. Right after that he put out Lucy and we asked to remix it; the dudes vibes just work with ours.
Another prominent artist you’ve worked with is 2AM Club’s Marc. E. Bassy. Although he produces a lot of his own material, your production seems form-fitting to his vocals. When you produce for artists, do you make instrumentals that suit them best, or that suit you best? Who’s adjusting to who’s style?
I like to think that I do adjust to each artists style, but it can take time to figure out what that means exactly. Marc is just another artist I just click with, so its easy for us to work and create different sounds. The new track “Free Love” on Marc’s East Hollywood EP that I worked on sounds different from a lot of the other stuff on there, but I really didn’t want anyone else but Marc to have it.
How do you continue to grow from here?
Growth from here comes from just experiencing life and pushing myself past my limits. I meet new people all the time, and learn from myself and the people around me.
If you could collab with any vocal-artist, who would you work with?
Jeremih for sure.
If you could collab with any producer, who would it be?
1982 Quincy Jones.
Is the rockstar-producer lifestyle something you aspire towards, or do you prefer to keep to yourself and celebrate with a small group of close friends?
I’m for sure a studio head, and I’m not out all the time, but I have a lot of dope friends all over the place and I enjoy getting them together to have a good time.
Favorite victory drink?
What’s next for you in 2015?
2015 will be the next level of PHM, and on a larger scale. Lots of new talented minds bringing new ideas to the table. Lots of new collaborations coming out with some artists I’m very excited about.
Lastly, what’s the best place to find free new music everyday?
I gotta shout out University Hype, of course.