Michael Lee is a Maryland native that has been working under the name Magnus since 2002. His debut album "Signal Strength" is big, bold and fresh out of the Joof Recordings music bakery. Acid lines sprinkled with powerful melodies make this Trance/ Psy Trance combination a mellow treat to your ears and rejuvenates your qi. Michael shared some of his thoughts with us.
I was first introduced to trance in the fall of 1999 when some friends of mine invited me to a show in Atlanta where Christopher Lawrence was headlining. I had no idea who he was at the time, but it is interesting that many years later, Christopher would become one of my biggest supporters. That night changed everything for me as I was hearing a new type of music I had never heard before. It was the sound I had been searching for my entire life. From that night forward, I was hooked. A few years passed and in 2002, I started DJing around the Seattle area under the alias Magnus. Then in 2005, I decided to take a break and focus all my attention on production. The desire to create my own music and establish my own sound had now become my main focus.
The material you are producing is a crossover of trance and psytrance. There not so many producers out there that are fusing these two genres in such a symmetrical and interesting way, it always tends to gravitate more to one or the other. How come you are using both genres in such a fine way and how do you balance these elements?
2 years after I first heard trance in 1999, I was first introduced to psytrance by a close friend. It completely blew my mind. I love the power and the drive of psytrance, but also the melodic and uplifting elements of trance. Fusing the two together in a crossover style seemed completely natural to me. I have always gravitated towards this crossover style and have defined the Magnus sound around it.
From where do you draw most of your inspiration and what were the most important influences during your lifetime?
I draw a lot of my inspiration from the gift of life. Life, our sense of self, and the will to live and push forward are very powerful things from which I draw inspiration. I write my music as a celebration of life and of the friends and family that I'm fortunate enough to have around me. In regards to influences, one of the most important influences while I was growing up in terms of music was having access to synthesizers and a piano from a very young age. I was constantly messing with my older brother's Oberheim Matrix 6 synth and was drawn to the sounds it could make. Many of the sounds coming out of that snyth that grabbed me as a child are now the types of sounds I use heavily in my productions.
Has your relocation from Maryland to Seattle had any impact on the music you make?
While Seattle is an incredibly beautiful place, I do not derive inspiration for my music from it. I do however try to spend as much time outdoors as I can when the weather is nice because here, clear and sunny days are few and far between.
What is going on regarding trance scene in the USA these days and how is it evolving?
The scene in the US is a rather commercialized product, dominated by whatever our culture and media push upon the masses. Unfortunately, in the US, the masses generally don't want to hear psytrance, so it's a tough sell. As a result, it is difficult for guys like me that produce the type of music that I do as there is very limited demand. There aren't that many US based psytrance producers compared to elsewhere in the world, so sometimes I feel somewhat alienated by producing and loving a type of music in a country where there is little support. I know there are countless, unexposed people who would love psytrance if only they had the opportunity to hear it. This is something I'm constantly trying to improve when I'm given the opportunity to play somewhere in the US. I want to expose this unfamiliar sound to people that have never had the opportunity to hear it.
What is your stance on the issue of internet downloading?
Filesharing and filesharing methods have exploded exponentially over the past few years. There is simply nothing anyone can do about it. For the artist, it means tracks sales are very poor, far from what they used to be 10 years ago, meaning most of us see nothing for our work. This can be quite frustrating, especially when you put your heart and soul and countless hours of your life into your productions. It is however the reality of the situation. One positive side to all of this however, is that because of filesharing, an artist's music gets spread quickly to the masses on an unprecented level. I try to focus on the positive and see the issue of filesharing as free exposure and free mass marketing. There is nothing I can do to stop it, so instead my hope is that those who do hear my music by whatever means they have used to aquire it, simply enjoy it. In the end, I do this first because I love the music.
Apart from trance music, what do you do in your life?
When I'm not making music, I spend most of my time with my wife and young son, the inspiration for the track First Born. He has already taken an interest in music and bangs on the keyboard as I'm working. Perhaps he is a future producer in the making. We will have to wait and see!
Give us a top 10 of you favorite tunes at the moment!
1. Zen Mechanics Vs Sonic Species - Air Knob
2. Sinerider - Cross Pollination
3. LiftShift - Web of Life
4. Zen Mechanics - Psychotropical Nights (Sonic Species remix)
5. Avalon feat Sinerider - Cruise Control
6. Waio and Freakulizer - Bass Speaking
7. Ace Ventura & Captain Hook - The Jolly Roger (Zen Mechanics remix)
8. Sideform - Santo Diame (Relativ remix)
9. Hopeku - Canada
10. Corona & Chabunk - Tri-Tone
Will you be playing in Europe any time soon?
I would be honored to play in Europe, especially at one of the many outdoor festivals, but have no solid bookings at the present. There is a possibility I will have the opportunity to play in India in the summer but details are still undecided. JOOF Artist management handles my international bookings but I am in the process of looking for a manager or an enthusiastic person, or even an agency, to help secure engagements both domestically and aboard. If there is anyone out there that is passionate about the style of music I write and wants to help spread this sound, please get in touch with me. In closing, I wanted to thank you for this opportunity to interview with you. I am honored and privileged by your support!www.myspace.com/ioncommander