It’s highly possible that you’ve heard the music of Canadian singer/songwriter Michael Milosh without even realizing it. You see, Milosh is one half of the duo known as Rhye, who released an album called Woman earlier this year. Prior to releasing an album or chasing a record deal, Rhye posted some of their songs online anonymously, including their now famous track “Open,” and they promoted them rather mysteriously, not revealing anything about themselves. In fact, they didn’t even indicate that they were a duo. This secrecy served them well, as blog after blog — and professional publications — chimed in to speculate about who they might be. Was it actually Cut Copy? Hot Chip? Sade? Nobody knew, but everybody wanted to take a guess. And so you could say “Open” when viral.
But Milosh, who now resides in Los Angeles, was already well-known in certain circles as a solo artist, having released three critically acclaimed electronic music albums — You Make Me Feel (2004), Meme (2006) and iii (2008) — on the Plug Research label. Now, after roughly a year of promoting the Rhye album, Milosh is busy promoting his fourth solo album, Jetlag, which will be released via Deadly / eOne Music Canada on Nov 26, 2013.
Jetlag is a collaboration between Milosh and his wife Alexa Nikolas. The couple previously resided in Berlin and Thailand and Jetlag is an account of how they came together and became a couple and eventually moved to Los Angeles. They recorded sounds of various things during their travels and at home, including what Milosh’s press release describes as “intimate moments of laughter and love together.” But don’t expect to hear anything too explicit on the album. Milosh’s music is often very sensual, but it’s not overly sexual. While it can be erotic, it’s never tawdry. In other words, Milosh’s music is très classy. If I had to compare his work to other artists, I would say that it has the richness of Boards of Canada, the bounciness of Hot Chip and the airy bliss of James Blake. Songs like “Skipping” and “Hold Me” find Milosh’s dreamy vocals gliding along smooth, intoxicating beats. Like the best electronic artists, he knows how to layer sounds together to create stunning music that is full of details and depth. To pull this off, an artist has to understand the concept of space and know how to give each of the instruments, beats, et cetera, their breathing room, less they all bleed together and sound like a jumbled mess. This is something he does quite masterfully. In fact, he makes it look easy. You’d think that whipping an album together was as effortless for him as breathing.
In the following interview, Milosh answers questions about Jetlag, the many places he’s lived and his work with Rhye. Enjoy!
Forgive me for asking this, but is Milosh your actual last name — or middle name — or is it a name you decided to use when you became a musician?
It’s my family name yes. Every since I was young everyone just calls me by my last name so it felt fitting to just use it as my musician name.
You were born in Canada but have lived in Berlin and Thailand and now live in Los Angeles. What part of Canada are you from?
I grew up in Toronto Canada, went to university in Montreal and also lived there for a while outside of going to school there. I also lived in a small town in Holland called Amersfoort where I recorded most of my first record. I decided to move to Thailand because I also just wanted to get away and record a record somewhere so I got a house on the beach on the island of Ko Samui and recorded my 3rd record there. Berlin I moved there because I just fell in love with the city. I played a show there that !k7 put on to support my 3rd record, iii. I spent a couple of weeks there with my friend Paul Pfisterer performing around Europe and having it as a base. Everything about the city just struck a chord with me so I just decided to move, didn’t know anyone really, just got an apartment and settled in. I ended up spending a couple of years there, Berlin will always have a special place in my heart. It’s an amazing city to just spend time in, relax and let ideas come to you.
Where did you first meet your wife Alexa?
I first met Alexa in Berlin actually… it’s a long and complicated and very interesting story. But it was an instant feeling of love with her, like story book kind of love. She’s the reason I left Berlin as she needed to be in L.A..
How long have you and Alexa been married now? Were you married here in the States or when you were living abroad? What country is she a citizen of?
Alexa is American and we got married in the U.S. in L.A., where we are now living.
When did you move to Los Angeles and how do you like living there? (I lived in Glendale for 3 years some years ago and want to move back; currently in the Boston area.) What are your favorite parts of L.A. and the surrounding cities?
I moved to L.A two years ago now. It’s a weird place, the weather is beautiful, and the access to natural beauty is amazing but I am not a fan of the urban sprawl at all. I don’t like that much concrete, makes me feel a tad stressed out. I also don’t like being in cars that much. But on the flip side there are some nice creative forces here at times. Basically it’s weird we would probably have to have a longer conversation about it at some point…
Can you tell us the first word that comes to mind when you think of
your hometown in Canada: Cold, gentle and calm
Berlin: Full on, an experience…
Thailand: Peaceful and beautiful
Los Angeles: sunny, intense and isolating in some ways…
Is Alexa the woman on the cover of Jetlag? Was she the woman on the cover of Rhye’s Woman?
She is not on the cover of Rhye, actually that was some model that I never met, it was put together by polydor. That always bothered me and felt really insincere. Alexa is however the person on Jetlag and I shot all of the cover art myself with her. We are making it our personal mandate to self generate all materials, pr photos, videos that go into putting Jetlag out. It just feels better for me, much more legitimate.
Is that Alexa in the video for Rhye’s “Open”?
Alexa is not in the Open video, that is a Danish actress that was cast by the director of that video nor was she in the city. Alexa is in the Slowdown video we just released, she did an amazing job as she is an unbelievable talent and she will be in a bunch more.
Obviously, she’s quite beautiful — has she done any modeling or acting? What does she do when she’s not working on your projects?
She is an actress and has been acting her entire life. She’s been on shows like madmen, walking dead, heroes, hidden hills… ect. She and I are making all the videos together as it really is the perfect avenue for the both of us creatively. Alexa and I basically do everything together, she’s not only my wife but my best friend. When she’s been on set or filming on location (like Georgia for a month) I go with her and very lucky for me she has come to all of my Live performances around the world with Rhye. We are actually making a video for the song “this time” which is basically a collage of our travels together and the beautiful places we have been able to see and experience.
She collaborated with you on Jetlag. What exactly did she contribute?
Well, we worked on the lyrics together she helped make decisions, she was beside me most of the time while recording vocals, discussing elements of the performance… I play the instruments and do the technical stuff, she helped with more of the non technical elements of the record.
Your press release indicates that the two of you recorded sounds from your travels and every day life. How much of that made it into the songs on Jetlag? Can you give us some examples of where certain sounds were used on the album, since it’s not obvious?
That one I am going to leave secret…
Aside from your every day life, what are some of the things that inspired Jetlag?
Jetlag in inspired by my life, the things that are going on in my life, it’s hard to pin it down as I think inspiration is everywhere. In my press release I talk about how Jetlag is about dancing between to worlds… Jetlag to me is a journal entry.
How much sampling do you do on your albums? (Not referring to sampling sounds you create yourself; referring to things like sampling a sound you might record in a cafe or sampling other other artists.) Can you give us some examples?
I never sample other artists or songs, it’s not something I am not into at all. Found sounds from real life creep into songs for sure but more sounds from where I am actually recording, ie vocals. Sometimes our dogs are in the songs accidentally, ambient noise from the street, Alexa and I talking or joking around… ect
What program(s) did you use to create the beats for Jetlag and to produce the album?
I use logic. It’s what I am really comfortable with for writing. A lot of the beats on this record are played live though mixed with electronic drums.
What instruments do you play on Jetlag? Are there any other musicians playing on the album?
My good friend Paul Pfisterer plays on the record (guitar and bass) he also mixed the record and Tim Shia plays drums on the record but other then that it’s basically me and synths, drumming on things…
I understand you’re a classically-trained cellist who started learning at the age of 3. Did you want to learn to play cello at that young age or did your parents, or somebody else, make you take lessons?
My parents put me into it, but it’s something I always felt connected to. It wasn’t something I was against, in fact I really loved it.
How much do you think your classical music training with the cello influences your music today?
Definitely a lot, I mean everything musically I have done is in there. It’s really hard to isolate inspiration and influence as there has been so many things that influence me musically. Synths, their sheer existence and endless options and sounds has influenced me beyond belief for example… I love creating patches from scratch.
Is there any cello on Jetlag? (I’m horrible at identifying instruments like that in songs, so forgive me for having to ask.)
No there is not, I tried to keep the record away from strings as the woman record is very much rooted in that sound. I wanted this record to be an electronic record. (I do love recording strings though)
There’s a teaser video for Jetlag, but I couldn’t find any videos for the actual songs. Are you going to make any? If so, have you decided what song you’ll be making a video for?
Yep we did a video for the song slow down that is already up now (but maybe wasn’t when you sent me these questions) we are releasing a video for this time. I also have in the works a video for do you want, Jetlag and water. I would like to release them over the next 6 to 10 months. (it takes time when you are doing them yourself)
Since your album is called Jetlag, I have to ask: how badly do you get Jetlag when you travel? Are you one of those lucky people who are actually able to sleep on planes?
Actually I get terrible Jetlag and no I can never sleep on planes, I really wish I could as I have flown to over 40 places this year alone. I always need a big recovery time but seldom get it.
You’re said to be a big jazz fan, and there have been elements of that in some of the music you’ve released — do you think you’ll ever make a straightforward jazz album? How about a classical music album?
I can’t see myself ever making a jazz album no. Actually for me making jazz is just kinda trying to re live a movement that is though beautiful, is a dead movement only to live on (other then in recordings) in the empty hallways of academic establishments that boast great jazz programs. I actually studied jazz in university and left the program upon realizing that it was just a bunch of old dudes looking for jobs, trying to teach kids how to be “spontaneous” but under the guide lines of a set curriculum that was set up by some staunch but fairly un-interesting jazz pianist. As for Classical, not sure… I want to do some film scoring and I am sure I will dance in and out of that classification at times, though I wouldn’t be making a strictly classical album per se.
I understand that you and Robin posted your Rhye videos anonymously at first, giving very little info. What info did you give?
We basically just put stuff up. We didn’t hide stuff from the public or media we just didn’t share any personal info about us as I really wanted to just have people hopefully listen to the music and have their own reaction to it, un-biased.
Were you surprised that the Rhye videos became as popular as they did?
Yeah, I think so. But then again, what are we judging it against. They are no where near as popular as anything in the pop arena. I guess I just hope that the people who did or do see them are moved by them.
Some people speculated about whether they were hearing a male or female singer. Were you surprised that some people thought you might be a female singer?
Yeah I was surprised at how many people actually thought that, so was my wife. I mean I don’t hear a woman in my recordings (of course) I just, looking at it as objectively as I possibly can, hear a soft male voice.
I understand some people suspected that Rhye might be an alter-ego of artists from Hot Chip or Cut Copy or other bands. Is there one band or artist in particular who people suspected the most?
I don’t actually know the answer to this, I didn’t even really know people thought it was hot chip or cut copy… interesting.
From what I’ve read, it sounds like you’re compared to the singer Sade quite often. Do you think it’s an accurate comparison? Do you get sick of people making that comparison so often?
I’m not personally into it, I think I sound like me. I think Sade sounds like Sade.
Will there be a second album from Rhye?
Right now I have no plans to make another record as Rhye. I’m just focused on everything entailed in putting jetlag out there.
What plans do you have to promote Jetlag?
Doing as many videos as we can actually afford to do as I love making videos with Alexa! Going to Tour the project , play it live in places that I feel really work well with the music and I guess interviews like this one we are doing right now…
Do you perform live as a solo artist? Do you have a tour in the works?
I do perform as a solo artist, a lot of the shows I have done in the past have all been pretty weird and under the radar (like playing in a hotel room in Ireland for 25 people while they sit on the bed)
Finally, do you have a personal website right now? The link on Wiki gets a site not found error; from the URL, it looks like the site was there to promote your album iii. If you don’t have a personal site right now, do you have one in the works or are you just going to stick to Facebook and Twitter for now?
I might make one in the next couple of weeks, not totally sure yet. For now I have the usuals.
my instagram is miloshmusic
How active are you on Facebook and Twitter?
I am a bit more active on FB then Twitter. I do post things of significance on twitter and also instagram. I use them in moderation. But I do respond to people when I can when people have questions or comments.