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Mike San
Few artists fuse hard rock and electronica so adroitly as musician/engineer Mike San. His award-winning song ‘The Range’ is receiving extensive international FM radio play, seeding a global fan base anxious for more.

Here is a man who - so the proverb goes - walks softly and carries a big stick. Mike San's music alternates between sensitive interludes that bespeak a complex and intriguing personality, and mic-shredding refrains (issued by long-time collaborator Dux) that deliver the damage. Mike grew up with popular music and has been writing his own since age 14. He played guitar in several rock bands through his teenage years and studied transpersonal psychology later - almost certainly a component in the layered messages of his craft. After college he formed a synth-based ambient project called Musical Mandelas that has a growing audience in the online world. In 2014 Mike and Dux released their first single together, the award winning 'The Range', which is receiving significant international FM radio play. He also released a six track EP, ‘Like Water’ and a full length album, ‘The Time’. Mike helps local musicians produce their tracks from his home studio, and the sophistication of his own work suggests he has gained much through this ambition. Reporter Alexis Adams recently caught up with him to learn more about his music and future plans.

ALEXIS: When When did you first discover your love of music?
MIKE: While growing up as a kid, I loved any kind of popular music. I listened to FM radio all the time, and my brother and I had tape and CD collections dating back to elementary school. I also learned piano at a young age and got my first electric guitar by 6th grade. Around the time I was in junior high I got a Tascam 4 track recorder and used it extensively with my friends and band members. Being able to record and write music was the perfect creative outlet for me.

ALEXIS: Your song ‘The Range’ is receiving a strong listener response on radio. What was your initial reaction when you first heard it played?
MIKE: My first reaction was, “Hell yeah, dude!” Then I’m pretty sure I told everyone in near proximity for the next two weeks.

ALEXIS: What was the inspiration behind your debut radio single?
MIKE: Initially, I was just trying to write a provocative instrumental. Then I started laying down vocal tracks. That’s when I emailed the song to Dux and asked him to record some rough vocals for the hook. I think I actually discovered what the song was about later when the lyrics were finalized - no longer just a bunch of cool sounding syllables, or 'word salad' as we refer to the unformed narrative. The song is all about how hard everyone has to work to make things happen, how broken everything seems to be, and how we all want that elusive peace of mind without heartache and headache. I think Dux has the ability to generate a 'battle cry' people can relate to.

ALEXIS: Would you say that the mood of your other songs is in the same vein as ‘The Range’?
MIKE: I would agree. There are definitely mellow and introspective aspects to my songs, as well as bold electronic foundations, synths and guitars. But there are also climactic moments where I sing with at least some of the intensity that Dux pulls off in ‘The Range’. People might also like ‘Had a Home’ and ‘The Time’ for that reason. I have a few ballads with minimal instrumentals, but in general that mysterious mood coupled with my vocal style can be heard throughout.

ALEXIS: How would you characterize yourself as an artist/musician?
MIKE: I mostly work in solitude, but I also crave collaboration. When I do that I like to meet musicians and singers on a level where we’re mostly just hanging out and having fun, but with a task to complete - like when your teacher puts you into groups to work on a chemistry problem. It’s fun, but it’s also work. So yeah, I approach it as hard work that’s also an enjoyable challenge.

ALEXIS: Did you come from a musical background? Are there other musicians in your family?
MIKE: My dad played guitar and piano, which is how I started. He still has a few solid blues chops on both instruments. My brother can also play some guitar and bass. My sister can play a little guitar, and my mom knows some piano. My dad is also good friends with author Peter Knobler, who he met at Middlebury College in VT. I helped inspire his son Daniel (who is now a musician and producer) to get into music, and now his in-laws are the Cash family. My parents were at the wedding.

ALEXIS: What do you find most rewarding about being an artist? What do you find most challenging?
MIKE: Sharing the love for music and celebrating that with musicians and non-musicians alike is the most rewarding aspect of being an artist for me. It’s challenging because as a musician you just don’t know what’s going to happen, while at the same time it’s your mission to make something happen even though you can't anticipate the result. So I need to be soncummately receptive, open to many possibilities. Otherwise some song, opportunity, music connection or contact won’t exist that could and should.

ALEXIS: Who are your role models in music?
MIKE: I look up to musicians who have worked hard to create themselves, or anyone who has found and expressed a unique voice. The folkier artists I love are Leonard Cohen and Cat Stevens, while I’m also inspired by bands like Beach House, Murder by Death, Radiohead, Tool, and Nine Inch Nails. I like their music, but I'm also intrigued by their unique karmas and the way they channel and express truth.

ALEXIS: Describe your best or most memorable performance.
MIKE: Probably around August 2005 with my old band Groove & 37th at our hometown bar called The Maple Tree. That was our last show together I think… though we had about five 'last' shows leading up to it. The audience just had great energy and me and my band mates were tight friends. After we went back to the house for drinks and a pool party.

ALEXIS: Do you have a music video for your hit single? If so, what can you tell us about it?
MIKE: We do. It features a mix of tribal/environmental imagery. You can see it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uvq5kS88K1A

ALEXIS: Thank you for taking the time to share your story with me, Mike. Wishing you continued success.


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