Music News

Behind Michal Menert's new Super Best Records label

Michal Menert's path of success is a winding road of glorious sunrises and fraught sunsets. His third solo album, Elements, is set for official release on April 12, with a kick-off party in Detroit, Michigan, at the Shelter.

Menert, as well as Denver's Mikey Thunder and Mux Mool and Chris Ponder, who is a maven of creativity based out of Detroit, are celebrating the start of a new record label called Super Best Records. See the new video from Menert for "Your Ghost," and learn more about how the crew came together below.

Super Best Records operates in the same way that an art collective does: It survives because the artists are willing to work with each other, rather than compete. "We are letting the artists own the rights. We are splitting the profits from the record 50/50 after recouping costs of production. We will hold some monthlies to generate some buzz for artists," says Menert.

Whereas the cost split is pretty much industry standard for record labels and music companies, the difference is the marketing that pushes it, or lack thereof. The idea is for the artists to push themselves, which pushes the Super Best brand, all while promoting the nostalgic idea of vinyl records.

"When I look at my record collection, I remember certain memories from certain albums. With tapes and CDs, you have a finite amount of music to listen to, and you listen to it," says Menert.

Though the idea of vinyl records is not lost on the music industry as a whole, there has been quite the separation in recent years with the development of online music distribution platforms such as BeatPort, SoundCloud, iTunes, and even YouTube.

Denver's Krooked Drivers, the soulful-hip-hop-EDM duo consisting of Maddy O'neal and Donnie Dalbora, have been tapped by Menert to join the label.

"It's a groundbreaking thing for us to be offered the chance to have our songs put onto vinyl," says Dalbora.

"It's a piece of your own work on a record, and that thing will be around for a long time," he adds, "I want these records to show up in a thrift store someday and someone with $30 to find our record in a dollar bin and hear our breaks."

"Sampling from vinyl is a big thing. It's crazy to think that our songs, some of which have samples from old vinyl, will be on a record," says O'neal.

However, in the dance music realm where a chart topping single can seemingly equate to success and a false sense of career longevity, the lack of vinyl presence creates a disconnect of sorts from the foundation that started it all.

"It seems like people in EDM are afraid to take risks with slower songs, or with things that aren't translatable into a live show. What if kids had to feel something? Or think about it? Old records have that," Menert added.

In order to get his music onto vinyl, though, Menert tapped a random source that brought everything together. Four months ago when Menert was playing a show in Detroit, he connected with promoter Chris Ponder.

"We hit it off. We discussed different ways to connect artists, and not just throwing a show, but really connecting them. When we brought him out, I had 25 live painters at the show," Ponder says.

A few years ago, Ponder started the Motor City Art Machine in order to bring his plethora of friends together under one roof. Essentially, the idea was to bring anything you could pass off as art - graphic design, painters, musicians, DJs, producers, graffiti artists - and find ways to showcase it.

"I moved into a house with Freddy Todd, randomly, and he introduced me to a lot of people. I started managing him, and he introduced me to Michal Menert's music," says Ponder.

As it stands now, Super Best Records is off the ground. Ponder just sent Menert the first vinyl press of his forthcoming album, Elements, and the official release party for the record is set for April 12 at the Shelter in Detroit.

"Literally, we are going to break open the boxes of the new record at the release party," says Ponder, with that giddy excitement of Christmas morning apparent in his tone.

"The idea was sort of having this vacancy - this empty spot in your life - from losing someone. For me, it was losing my father. The beginning is the frustration, and getting exhausted from trying so much. It moves into me at a show, and losing myself at a show," says Menert regarding the visual content.

Working with Drew Levin as director of photography, and Daniel Goldhaber as director, the video swaps in and out of metaphors and real-life situations as they apply to the story. You'll notice later in the video, footage of a car accident, a car accident that actually occurred while the crew was en route to a location. Gwyneth Glissmann, assistant director of the film, was riding the car with producer Graham Livesay, and was taken to the hospital to be treated for wounds.

"We were heading to shoot at a cabin that my father and I built, and Gwyneth and Graham were in the car behind us. He took a turn, and for whatever reason lost control and rolled three times," says Menert.

"Gwyneth had to go to the hospital - almost airlifted. We didn't make it to the cabin, and luckily no one died given how much equipment was in the car. It turned out to work really well for a certain shot."

Menert is an open book. Through his music, you get a glimpse into his mind. The emotional roller-coaster of someone who has experienced near-death, the loss of a father and mentor, and hitting absolute rock-bottom, is palpable. On that note, though, the peaks balance the canyons, and his gratitude for life, resolution, and forgiveness resonate in the heart and soul that goes into his productions.

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Britt Chester is a writer and video producer living in Denver, Colorado. He's covered breaking news, music, arts and cannabis for Westword since 2010. His work has appeared in GQ Magazine, Village Voice, YES! Weekly, Inman News and the Winston-Salem Journal. He likes running, cycling, and interviewing people.
Contact: Britt Chester