Today, the Denver-based electronic-music producer Michal Menert will release his third album, Space Jazz, on the label he recently founded, Super Best Records. The fifteen-track effort will be available as a free download via michalmenert.com. You can also catch him this Saturday at Red Rocks with Savoy. Menert, whose work has been mostly inspired by soul and funk music, has been performing of late with more than a dozen collaborators and musicians, collectively called the Big Band; their influence is clear on Space Jazz. We spoke with Menert about his new creative direction.
Mary Willson: I counted twelve musicians on this album, including Super Vision, Paul Basic, Marcelo Moxi and more. Why did you choose to bring on so many musicians with you?
Michal Menert: I like to think of it as Big Band: The Album. It’s kind of like my way of stepping into the direction I want without completely stepping out of my music, or electronic music.
What is it like putting together tracks for such a wide variety of instruments?
I think that from producing, you get an idea of a layout of a song, and it’s all about translating that into different instrument sections. It’s been an amazing experience, because it just adds a different dimension when you feel it being played together. You can hear ideas you’ve had come to life outside of the keyboard. I can play a melody, and they can pick it up and play their instruments to it. They’re doing a lot of the work for me.
This album has a lot more hip-hop influence than the last two albums.
Well, with this album, it’s like any other; I put on songs I’ve been playing live at the time. But I also wanted to get a full sound on this one and mirror the name. I worked hard to get some really spacey and washed-out tracks, but I also tried to get a wide range of styles.
So I’m assuming that’s also what’s behind starting Super Best Records: the freedom.
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Definitely. I wanted to have a way to release music that didn’t have to fit a certain stereotype or sound. With Space Jazz I brought in some hip-hop, just like I’m looking to bring hip-hop more into Super Best. I want to just make music rather than just be in a mold like EDM — even though it’s a great mold. [I want to] work in music rather than working in sets.
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This is your third full-length album. How is this one more grown up?
Having live drums and live instruments adds a whole new level, and it’s a place I’ve always wanted to go. I’m fortunate that I have extremely talented friends to help me paint the picture, and the more time I’ve spent making this, the more people I’ve worked with. I worked hard to make sure that the sounds weren’t too plastic-y or EDM-y, but were really rounded out.
What were some of the main influences for Space Jazz?
A lot of fusion jazz with synthesizers, like some George Duke stuff. In the 1970s, fusion jazz was starting to have a disco beat but still had a core of jazz, with improv. Also, a lot of the ’90s hip-hop stuff was influenced by jazz. That’s what I grew up on, and I loved it.