With this podcast and interview, we’re proud to announce As You Like It’s newest resident artist, Mike Gushansky. Mike’s played many roles for AYLI over the years, from working door guy, to driving guest artists, to family DJ. As he’s matured and grown into his own, his skill behind the decks and taste in quality music brings him this opportunity to take it all to the next level. We look forward to Mike joining our other resident artists as AYLI continues to thrive.
To celebrate and recognize this latest edition, Mike Gushansky and The Bunker New York Resident Mike Servito interview each other in preparation for Saturday’s Valentine’s Day Love Affair with Kerri Chandler. Please take a moment to take in both the mix and the interview.
GUSHANSKY QUESTIONS FOR SERVITO.
Tell me a little about playing for the same core audience monthly. Does playing for many people who you probably know on an individual basis and have and will continue to see you play dozens of times, affect how you go about selecting your material? Is there any feeling of anonymity for you in regards to your relationship to your audience?
I think because I have opportunities to play for a regular audience here in New York, I feel a pressure to make the experience different every time. I also want to keep the sound consistent. I think introducing new tracks into my sets keeps things interesting. I am always searching and digging and selling my soul for new music. Keeping up is a lot of work. You have to hit the refresh button on yourself from time to time. I think repeating certain favorites can be key as long as you don’t get bored. It becomes this sort of ownership. I think you can play the same songs as long as you keep it interesting and keep the mix new. I always want it to be about the track and the mix. It really has nothing to do with me.
More specifically, how does the process of packing your bag for a Bunker crowd differ from how you packed a bag in your more formative years playing regularly for your Dorkwave audience? Has your process changed at all?
I don’t think the process has changed all that much really. Packing my bag is still sometimes stressful and it’s hard to edit down to exactly what I want to play. It’s a challenge at times and can become overwhelming because I want to play it all. Even well before Dorkwave, I think my habits for pulling music have stayed the same. I’ve definitely been conditioned a certain way to think about how I want to weave this music together. Dorkwave was kind of this balls out, DIY “fuck you, we play what we want!” kind of attitude. We played everything from The Stooges to Basic Channel. Beer was getting dumped on everything. So, it’s hard to compare Dorkwave to what I am doing currently. I loved those years and that hazy and carefree attitude. That was also 10 years ago. Now, having The Bunker residency has reinforced a certain focus and organization for me. I’m in complete control.
RA recently dubbed your Mix for the Interdimensional Transmissions after party at Movement, the #1 online mix of the year. I was in that dark, swelling room at 1515 Broadway and would like to take this opportunity to say the mix you put together was truly special. Did that experience feel as special to you as it did to RA and everybody who was there that night? As a DJ, do you have moments when you recognize that something is special as its happening or only in retrospect after its done?
I appreciate that, Michael! I was on a mission last year, obviously. I knew I wanted to leave an impression. I wanted to utilize my platform and take full advantage of Detroit during Movement. All the gigs were unique and I felt like I had something different to contribute to each. I knew a momentum would build up to No Way Back. It’s an intense experience and the pressure to perform is insanely high. I wasn’t so prepared, but I was feeling confident. The only thing I knew for certain that night was that I was going to drop that Talking Heads edit if it killed me. I think at the time, I felt like something special was happening. There was a feeling of “I can’t let them down!” There’s always moments when I feel that something magical is occurring with just 2 records and myself. I live for that. It’s hard for me to think in retrospect sometimes because a lot of those feelings are in the moment. It’s this short term recognition of a great track or a great mix that happens, and then it’s gone.
I’m grateful to Resident Advisor for making me buzzworthy this past year. What’s crazy is I almost didn’t give the OK for Interdimensional Transmissions to release it. I felt like the energy oft he party and the mix had to co-exist and it wasn’t translating the same in the recording. That bothered me the first time I heard it. I was disappointed, but I knew the demand for it was there. I eventually got over any insecurity and agreed to use it for an I.T. promo. Obviously I am proud of it’s outcome, but it truly was a different experience live.
Of all the DJ faces and positions, yours always resonates with me. Particularly because regardless of everything happening in the room around you, that metered, savage face is unwavering. What is the deal? Is this face a sort of battle mask you ritualistically put on before slaying your dance floor, or is that just you? Is there a difference between street Mike’s face and club Mike’s face? No pressure…
You’re killing me. LOL. The deal is that I mean business! You know what it is. I think people think it’s all fun and games and that DJing is easy and supposed to be cute and free, and waving your hands and shit. But it is serious work and takes a lot of thought and energy for me. I put a lot of myself into it and sometimes it works and other times, it doesn’t. There are so many factors working for and against you all at once. Anything can happen, especially playing vinyl. It’s high risk. I have big expectations and I think people also have big expectations too. I like to get lost in a groove. I go deep in concentration. And if I get distracted, I fall off track I’m generally not so thrilled. Everyone always comments on how intense I am when I play. I won’t apologize for that. I think it’s just part of my nature too. I think I’m a person who built up defense mechanisms early on in life. It always felt like me against the world. That fury in me wants to come out and attack. I guess that translates on the dance floor too!
Insofar as you have played in San Francisco a number of times, what makes this show feel distinct from the others?
I think for obvious reasons. For one, Kerri Chandler. I’ve never met him. Never played with him, ever. But he’s moved me on multiple occasions. I’ve seen him play at Body and Soul. I had a moment when he played at Movement 2 years ago. He is a huge influence on me. I think this one is extra special because these kinds of bookings are always surreal to me. Playing with artists who’s music influenced you is a huge thrill. That feeling never gets old! I hope that excitement never goes away. Getting to play with your idols is everything! Plus, we are playing together for the first time! You’ve been a staunch supporter and I’ll always appreciate that about you. It’s gonna be a special night, for sure!
SERVITO QUESTIONS FOR GUSHANSKY.
The first time we met, I was playing a gig for GAFFTA/Honey/The Bunker at Monarch here in SF. You were this fresh faced kid and glowing like a true fan boy! Ha! I always found that quite charming and sweet, that I would have that kind of affect on anyone. I always feel like if I touch even one person with my set, I am doing my job! If a DJ can move you both physically and mentally, you are doing your job. Do you feel a greater connection with the crowd when you play, and is it is more that just playing records for you?
I remember that night, you, Kendig, Souffront and Conor were in control. That entire program sort of set a new bar for me. Like, maybe I can be that good, maybe I can get where these guys are at. It’s definitely a lot more than just playing records for me, especially when I have the opportunity to play for a crowd. That kind of strong connection between DJ and a singular person in the crowd, happens rarely and it’s for the most part pretty unexpected. Sometimes I’ll play a set that wasn’t particularly special to me, but it was to someone who was there. In that sense I think the crowd and the DJ are always connecting in some way. I try and scan the room periodically for a person or group of people dancing and I’ll play to them for some time and move on to another person or group. My main mission directive every night is to make people dance, and if I get there I’m happy.
DJing and gigs for me take on many different factors because I get booked to play with house and techno people. I find it challenging but also easy because I know what sound I am going for based on who I am getting booked to play with. Do your bookings inspire you to pull the kinds of records you are choosing for any given night?! What is the process for you when pulling records and prepping for a gig?
I have a pretty eclectic taste which I try to work through in all my sets. That being said, I also like to ground that spectrum in the context of who I’m getting booked to play for. It’s a fun exercise for me to change my bag based on the promoter and what they need from me at any point in the night. To be honest, I can be really disorganized, but situated deeply under all the chaos is a method. I’ll pull 100-150 records and sift that stack down two to three times. Then organize the records from one end to the other based on utility and also genre and tempo. Once that’s over, I’ll look to see if I’m missing anything special that could really speak to who I am playing for or with, and if I find one or two of those records that weren’t in the original stack, I’ll put them in the bag too.
People always ask me about my residency at The Bunker and I always feel so honored to have the opportunities. As someone who is entering a new DJ residency with As You Like It, what kind of expectations do you have for yourself and for this residency if any?
The main expectation I have from this opportunity to be a resident of As You Like It is really the chance to grow in front of a live audience. Mixing for a crowd, when the pressure is higher to be perfect and to create the special moment for the people in front of you, helps accelerate your growth as a DJ. I’m really looking forward to using all the future opportunities given to me to learn how to be a better selector and narrator. Personally it’s been a really satisfying road to this place, having worked with the As You Like It crew in almost every capacity since I was a student at UC Santa Cruz. I’ve been at the door, I’ve driven the artists, I’ve been behind the decks and in front of them. In that sense I really just expect the experience to be as fun as it’s always been!
I get super fanatical about playing with certain people. My excitement is pretty high just thinking about who I get to play with sometimes. Obviously, this As You Like it gig with Kerri Chandler is a huge deal for the both of us! What does it mean for you to be playing with such a legend like Kerri Chandler?
The thing to me that is really neat about Kerri is that he has such great sound, technique and direction. Sometimes you really admire someone because they are an insanely strong DJ, or they are great producers, or maybe they have a serious sense of where they want to go and how to articulate that to their peers and fans. Kerri seems to sort of excel at all of that. From his mixes, to his productions, and interviews, he kind of just nails it. There is always some Kerri Chandler in my bag.
As an aside, I’m just as excited to be playing with you Mike!
We deal in a highly competitive market. Hot today…and not so much tomorrow. It takes some time to really distinguish yourself from everyone else! I feel like I am constantly working harder and getting better and really understanding myself and what I want to bring to the table. What are your future goals as a DJ? As an Artist? And do you see yourself doing this forever, like I do?
Someone told me a couple years back, “You’re only as good as your last mix.” That really resonated with me, and in a sense it’s kind of motivated me to treat every live performance as an opportunity to share where I am at, at any given time and place. I have been playing music since I was 5 years old; my mom is a classical piano teacher and gave me the vast majority of my musical education. These days mixing records has become my musical expression of choice and it’s been a really refreshing change in register from performing classical piano. In any case, this is definitely not a phase in my life, I will be djing for as long as I can physically afford to DJ. Ultimately, I really want to travel and play in the U.S. and abroad. Every club, every sound system, every crowd has something to offer the DJ, and I think it’s really neat to be able to experience so many different combinations of those variables and in new places!