Interview: Mike Gip

One of the more exciting things New Jersey has for itself right now is its multi-linear, infectious, and a lot of the time horny brand of club music. For a scene that now extends over a decade, only recently has the once-local phenomenon and its immediately identifiable sound infiltrated the conception of club music on an international level. While the influence of an East Coast tradition on contemporary, say, European club production is palpable, for certain brows of electronic music fandom the origins of the scene that only continues to grow in Jersey; and the makers who comprise it, might still remain unrecognised or hidden behind newer interpolations. After a busy week of playing out, Mike Gip (one of the more under sung yet prolific torchbearers of Jersey club) was able to lend us his ear for some quick questioning. Gip, Jersey’s proclaimed “handsome DJ” and part of DJ Sliink’s Cartel Music collective, resides in Long Branch, a hub of club music located on the central coast of the state.

Stream: Hardrive – Deep Inside (Mike Gip Remix)

TT: Hey Mike, what’s good? “What’s up, how’s it going?” Good. I wanted to talk about your recent slew of shows. It seems like you’ve been pretty busy, even just last week between the RBMA night and the House Party at Webster Hall. How’d those gigs come about and what were the crowds like? “It’s been crazy. The House Party at Webster, I was actually there the week before and that’s when Sliink asked me to play at the next show to represent Cartel Music—I was definitely interested. So that’s how the Webster gig happened. For the Red Bull one, Star Eyes just hit my email, gave me the details and said it was gonna be crazy with various genres and styles being played. I guess the RBMA night was an underground sort of crowd, which was good, there were people still turning up. Webster was a crazy turn up, you see people of all ages and nationalities just having fun.”

What was the biggest club/crowd you’ve played for thus far? The biggest I’ve played so far was an event at the Brooklyn Bizarre, there must have been over a thousand people there.

Also on the bill at Bounce Ballroom were [Jersey producer] Fiinesse and other dancers. How did that work, did they just come out with routines while you were playing? Also, do you find that dancing is an integral part of Jersey club culture in general? “Pretty much. Whenever we have club parties it’s always people on the floor doing dances. The dances at Bounce Ballroom were not exactly choreographed, but there are of course Jersey-specific dance moves, where people take turns in circles and things like that. Dancing is absolutely an important part, at least in Jersey, I can see why it might be hard to catch on elsewhere, but it’s still an important part here.” It just seems like some of those moves are perfect bodily representations of what the music sounds like. “Some of the moves have specific names and are inspired by certain things, like ‘paddy cake.’ You know the guy from Grease? ‘Rock your hips’ is kind of Jamaican inspired.” “Sexy walk?” (Laughs) “Yeah.”

What pulled you into club music initially? Did you start playing music out and then get into producing, and then further with Cartel? “It’s actually the other way around. I was always a fan of Baltimore club, like Blaqstarr and other early producers. I would listen to them and one day decided I wanted to try making it, I was at least 11 years old. From then I let it sit to the side until I matured as a person and was able to interpret music-related things better. In 2008, I started hearing the Jayhoods, the Sliinks, the Tim Dollas and realized it was different from the Baltimore stuff that I was introduced to when I was younger, it was something Jersey had for itself. I’ve been calling Sliink my big bro since a year into me being a producer, and I still don’t know exactly how or when I officially became a Cartel. He produced a track with my vocals called “Booty Bounce Anthem” and we’ve been kicking it off since. He’s been almost like a mentor, guiding me and stuff. One day I went to Irvington and hung out with the guys over there and they asked if I wanted to be a Cartel. I was like ‘yeah, that’s fine with me.’ Cartel is a brotherhood type of thing, really tight.”

Stream: DJ Sliink – Booty Bounce Anthem

Your also a new resident of Thread, how is that series going? “I love it, it’s crazy. Ezrakh, DJ Reck, DJ Rell, Nadus…those nights are the definition of Jersey club music, and underground music in general. We play so many types of music.”

Can you describe your hometown of Long Branch in your own words? “It’s different, and depends what part of Long Branch your’re talking about. The part I’m from is kind of the urban part—I see it as a baby Newark. The more resort-ish side I guess you can say, the part where tourists go for the beach is the west end of Long Branch and is what I think a lot of people think of when they think of the town as a whole, that’s where a few clubs are too.”

I assume most of your sets consist of club and hip-hop. Are you ever seen playing outside of this combination? “Absolutely. Right now I’m getting into the Nola bounce thing and actually have some of that stuff ready to be released. It’s also a crowd-reading thing, like if people wanna hear Moombahton I’ll play it.” It seems that Jersey producers, by nature, need to be on a rap tip. I say this because a lot of remixes are of rap songs. Who have you been fucking with as of late? “It seems weird, but right now I would have to say Juicy J. He’s about what I’m about, you know? I’m always going back to his original stuff, not just the recent Wiz Khalifa-featuring stuff. I saw him not too long ago in Sayerville, he’s crazy.”

It seems that every publication is doing their Jersey feature now, where they trace the evolution of Jersey’s interpolation from Baltimore and talk about faceless appropriation by artists who are enjoying more success then those who’ve been in the game for a while. What are your thoughts on this relationship? “Everyone hates it when I voice my opinion on this. Personally I don’t respect much of it, but it is what it is. I’m glad that they’re furthering the genre sort of and introducing it to more people, but I do believe in giving credit where it’s due. They should somehow show people where they got the music from, because it is a new sound for a lot of people, but we’ve been doing it. That’s just me.” You can tell when a track was made by someone from Jersey as opposed to someone from out of state/country, whether that’s because of the sounds used or general technique heard in the track. “It’s dirtier, grimier. Those guys’ stuff is smooth.”

You must be familiar with European labels like Night Slugs and Pelican Fly and what club music is becoming over there. “Absolutely. I’m actually really cool with DJ Slow. I do notice a Jersey influence on the music coming from there and I like it a lot. But like I said, in the grand scheme of things, it would be cool to see more room and credit given to us in some way or another.”

Do you see yourself reaching out to labels to put music out? “I’ve reached out to Mad Decent in the past, but they’re focusing on touring events and shows as opposed to releasing EPs and what not, which is fine. It would be dope to release music exclusively through a label as opposed to just handing out music by yourself on SoundCloud.”

Besides Newark, the seeming and generally agreed-upon birthplace of the genre, where else has Jersey club been taking root? “I mean I’m really the only club producer in Long Branch, but a lot of music is coming out of central Jersey generally speaking—there’s guys in Neptune, Lakewood, Toms River. There’s Plainfield too.” What are your plans for the summer? “I’m planning on touring actually. When it comes to label affiliation, I’m still unsigned but I do have a few people looking at me. In two weeks I’m going to Los Angeles. I’m gonna link up with [promoter] Adam Weiss there. I got a booking out in Berlin too.”

Your favorite drink and the last time you danced? “Henny. Last night I danced too.”

Michael Scala