Genres: Alternative / Industrial / Rock
Location: Lexington, Kentucky (USA)
Michael Barnes is an independent singer/songwriter, performer and producer living in Lexington, Kentucky. He has composed original music since age sixteen, releasing his first songs for his solo project "Systematic Shut Down" in 2001. Since that time, Michael has released three compact discs of original music drawing from the genres of metal, industrial, alternative, and acoustic to create a unique sound synthesis, with deeply personal and emotional lyrics. In addition, he performs all of the instruments in his work and has personally engineered and produced each release.
At a young age, Barnes began designing and maintaining his own website, www.michaelbarnesmusic.com, where he has a fan base drawn from regions all over the world. His latest release, All I Lost Was You, is a twenty-track effort, spanning the last five years of creative development. Michael continues to draw fans to his music and maintain his website and online communities as an independent artist.
Trascript from an Interview with Michael Barnes
When did you begin this project, and why?
I started Michael Barnes in 2003, after I was a drummer for a five member high school Thrash Metal band. We had a couple of decent songs, but ultimately it wasn't working out because we all had different opinions on what direction we wanted to go with our music.
So we parted ways, and I went back to producing music on my own, which I had been doing for years in an experimental Industrial project called Systematic Shut Down. But I was growing tired of the style and decided I needed to do something new and exciting. That's when I began Michael Barnes.
How old were you when you first started producing your own music?
My first actual songs were recorded when I was about 13. You'll probably be shocked when I say this, but I tried to be a rapper at the time. A good chunk of my CD collection consisted of Rap artists: Tupac, Master P, Mystikal, ICP, Ganksta NIP, and various others. But before that stage I listened to Nine Inch Nails, Pantera, White Zombie, Metallica, Lords of Acid, Pearl Jam, and Sepultura--so those artists were in my collection as well.
I would produce beats using Propellerhead's Rebirth and then record my vocals over them with Microsoft Sound Recorder (yes; that one) and one of those crappy, thin white microphones used strictly for computer telecommunications. I put a number of my mixes on cassette tapes and gave a few of them out, which I hope were stepped on, run over by cars, melted, etc. I have a great fear that someone will upload those songs to the Internet when my career reaches its peak.
So how many instruments do you actually play?
Drums, electric/acoustic guitar, electric bass, piano, and a little bit of Chinese erhu. I played the viola for 4 years during elementary and middle school, but lost inspiration and ultimately lost all skill in the instrument--so it's hard for me to count that one. I can barely hold a note on the thing anymore. Never was too interested in brass instruments, maybe because at that age band and orchestra were kind of like warring factions.
Tell us about your debut album "Breaking Through". Where and how was it recorded?
Contrary to belief, I didn't record it in a studio. I produced "Breaking Through" entirely at home using software such as Reason and Acid, a cheap, worn-out Samick guitar & Line 6 Spider II amp, and a couple of budget microphones like the Shure PG48 and Behringer B-1. I wanted to show that you don't need a multi-million dollar studio to produce a decent sound, and I didn't want someone leering over my shoulder, telling me what to do.
That being said, if something sucked I was the only one to blame, which remains true to this day. With each recording session I learn new techniques and improve in singing/songwriting, so music production is always exciting to me. "Breaking Through" was a very personal, down-to-earth album, and creatively unrestricted. I didn't care that my vocals weren't perfect, or that the sound wasn't compressed all-to-hell, or that my lyrics were honest to a fault. I just let the music take me places and I considered the outcome to be a truthful expression of how I felt at that moment in time. I was definitely going for a human feel, complete with all the beauties and flaws that come with it.
It's been four years since you released "Breaking Through". How has your musical style changed since then, and what can we expect from your next album?
Things have definitely changed since "Breaking Through". Besides my skills in performance and production improving over the years, the style of my work has gotten significantly darker and more intense. This is undoubtedly a reflection of events in my life that have occurred since my first album, such as the abrupt, unfaithful ending of a long-term relationship. Music was the main thing holding me together during this time, so I put all of my attention into it and produced over three CDs worth of original material.
My motivation was to not only get my thoughts and feelings out, but to create something that others could relate to and that would somehow justify the pain I experienced. I needed something really good to happen after all of this, and I knew that meant I had to produce the best album I could.
Will you release all of that music at once, or just one CD at a time?
As is the case with most of my music, the majority of it will go unheard, so I wouldn't advertise this as being a series of CDs. I would like to wrap it all up into one cohesive CD, but I've also considered releasing a double album. Not for sure yet.
How has your technology advanced since "Breaking Through"? Do you have some new toys?
I don't know if anyone noticed, but I've never had a real bass. Most of the bass lines in "Breaking Through" were recorded with a standard electric guitar and EQed later to give it depth. But now I have an actual Ibanez to use, and the difference is night and day. I've also acquired a couple new Dean guitars-both of which sound and play infinitely better than the Samick I used in Breaking Through. Add to that a pair of Yorkville monitors, an actual MIDI keyboard (I used to place every note with the mouse), a Shure Beta58a for vocals, a Line 6 Tone Port, and new plugins/sound banks for my programs.
You can hear all of these new tools being used in the song "The Human Machine." It's free to listen to on my Music Page.
Are you working on anything else you can tell us about?
Since my "I Remember Max Payne" video has been well received on YouTube, I'm secretly producing another music video based on a video game.
I'm also collaborating with a couple very interesting individuals, and the results so far have been outstanding. More details on all of that later..
Official Website: http://www.michaelbarnesmusic.com/