SixthSense Talks #2 – Mr Licka ⠀⠀⠀

SS: Tell us about the journey of your MrLicka project. What inspired you to start writing progressive, psychedelic electronic dance music?

ML: I started going to bush-doofs like Rainbow Serpent and Earthcore back in 2014. Around that time I was taking a lot of psychedelics and something just clicked. I was really drawn to the sense of community at these festivals, which was different from what I would normally feel in the rock and roll community. I loved how people could express their individuality through music and fashion and I really fell in love with that freedom. I can’t pinpoint the exact time I decided to start writing electronic music, but there was this one experience when I was at the Yellow Sunshine stage, 500 mics of LSD deep, having the best time watching this DJ duo performing, and that was my genesis moment. I came from a rock and roll background so this new avenue was really exciting for me. Coming from a world where I would always write music with a band and outsource mixing, I love the journey of learning how to do these things myself.

SS: What does your studio look like? Do you have any go-to pieces of analog gear/VSTS/Effect plugins? 

ML: I work in my bedroom, it’s not an incredibly elaborate setup. I’ve got a DJ controller, midi keyboard, a Moog Minitaur, Native Instruments Machine and I use Pro Tools as my DAW. My main sampler is Native Instruments Battery, my kick engine is a plugin called Bazzism, my bass generator is the Moog Minitaur and I use Massive and Serum for basses and leads. I’m only just making my way around analogue hardware. 

SS: How long did it take you to break the Da Vinci code? Did you get any help at the start with electronic music production? 

ML: Well, I’m familiar with Pro Tools from my band days because we had to do our own demos, so I knew how to navigate that area. For me, referencing is my biggest ally. I always have a reference track in my session for inspiration and ideas on transitions within arrangements. I like to compare my stuff to the big guys’ and see how they flow into different sections of songs. Other than that, I would watch Youtube tutorials on how to use Serum and trust my ears. I have the drive to keep working on the quality of my music so I don’t rest on my laurels and I’m not satisfied unless I’m pushing ahead. 

SS: A little birdy told us that you are also the drummer for the alternative band Dead Letter Circus. Could you tell us a bit more about life with the band?

ML: Sure. I joined the band in 2008 after their original drummer had left. I knew the guys for years from playing around the circuit in Brisbane. So I moved there from the Sunshine Coast to be able to work on the first album with them. It was a full-time thing. We were writing like it was our job, spending 6-8 hours a day. We released the record which went gold, selling close to 40,000 units. We got the Aria nomination for that one and did heaps of international touring with different bands. We’ve been to Europe, South Africa, India and we’ve been to the States seven times. It’s been a ride. We’ve done four albums together now, so now we’re at a point where we hire a studio, write and record it all in about four months. We haven’t been able to tour much this year but we have a 10 year anniversary of our first record tour scheduled for later this year. 

SS: What’s your favourite gig played so far?

ML: I think my highlight was probably our Big Day Out tour in 2011 on the main stage. That was the biggest audience we’ve played to with about 20,000 people in the fields. We were camped right next to Deftones and it was cool being able to hang out with them. There have been smaller gigs where I’ve had a better show than the ones at Big Day Out, but overall I think that experience is my favourite so far. 

How do you apply some of the musical knowledge and techniques acquired through drumming into electronic music production?

ML: I’ve got a strong rhythmical sensibility. I’m a professional drummer and drum teacher, so I know rhythm theory quite well. My melodic theory, on the other hand, is not nearly as good. Obviously psytrance is generally not melodically driven, it’s more droney, journey kind of music but I do my best to add melodic elements and hooks in there. My strong point is my rhythm programming. Even though it’s again 4:4 kicks and slightly syncopated basses, using Kongas, Djembes and Tablas you can really add flourishes with hand percussions. So I get more creative with rhythm programming in that sense. I chop up different rhythmic leads in different subdivisions to keep it interesting. 

SS: What’s your favourite all-time record?
ML: So my favourite psytrance record was The Eclectic Benevolence by Tetrameth. That was a lightbulb moment for me. Rock wise, maybe the 2006 Inama by Tools. 

SS: What does the future have in store for you? What are your goals for the MrLicka project?

ML: With MrLicka, I want to play more gigs. I’ve done all this writing but I haven’t done any proper shows. The thing I love about being a drummer is live performance, so I want to experience that with my Mr Licka music. That’s my main goal. I’d also like to set myself apart down the line by incorporating my drumming.