Sacramento's DJ Mike Colossal has been scratching for over ten years. His knowledge of music from all genres is astounding. This is a young man who can mix together everything from Metalica to Notorious B.I.G., Le Tigre to traditional mariachi.
He is quickly becoming a staple of the local hip hop community and has recently opened for a number of iconic hip hop acts - most recently Busdriver at the Blue Lamp.
Not only that but as a member of the LBGT community, he is looking to create socially conscious hip hop music that doesn't glorify hate speech toward anyone based on their sexual orientation.
Mike Colossal will be performing at his very own Birthday Bash at Butch n' Nellies coffee shop on Friday July 23rd along with other local hip hop performers like Poor from Tribe of Levi, Mr P Chill and the Velvet Wax.
A few weeks ago, I asked him some questions about his career as an unsigned artist, the local scene, and how to make it without a label.
How did you start getting booked for gigs? What was your first professional gig?
I started booking gigs through my campus radio station called KSSU and through a local promotion company called 12s Wax. I volunteered at the station as a radio deejay and as part of the management team. The two joined forces: KSSU sponsered the flyers, brought promotional goodies, etc. 12's Wax booked the gigs and took care of security and money. My first gig was at the second version of the Capital Garage in Sacramento. There I would scratch, mix and play the latest hip-hop, with some breaks and funk.
What web tools do you use to promote your music?
Originally, MySpace was a huge part of promotion. I would post bulletins promoting the show using three different accounts. I would write new bulletins each time, add new YouTube videos of either myself or of featured artists who were going to be present, added my artist profile songs in to give people a taste of my music.
Facebook today isn't as kind to artists as MySpace is. When I do shows I tell people to check out my MySpace or Twitter accounts. MySpace is like having my own website and Twitter gives a real feel of connection. I don't post a lot of BS since I have to keep it poignant. I tell them about my shows, let them know what I'm working on.
I use zSHARE to save my music and send it to other artists to collaborate on. Or, I upload my mix on there and post the link on MySpace and people can download it for free.
What other kinds of media do you use (audio, visual, etc.)?
I run stacks of flyers to local record stores, clothing boutiques, and food spots, book stores; anywhere they would let me leave them. On occasion I will flyer Sac State and personally hand out flyers and invite people to shows. We even make large posters for the shows and tape them up in windows and telephone poles.
I still don't have internet at my current residence and that is why it is still important to make sure I flyer personally (for all us poor people). I also add as much media (videos, songs, downloadable mixes) to the internet to keep people satisfied until my next show. I'm also printing mixtapes and handing them out free at my expense, bootlegging my shows so people hear and want to see my live performances. I see free CD's as an audio business card and resume. People look it over and see if they like it and if do, then they will remember me.
Are you actively looking to be signed by a label?
With such a lack of a need for labels these days, I am not looking to be signed. My current goal is to be able to do lives shows (my MPC/scratch/mixing performances) and to sell merch and get my music out. If it stays steady at a local or regional level, I would be happy with that for the rest of my life, but recently doing shows out of state makes me want to get my music out to more people live, get out my DVDs with trippy animation and my music on them, and get CD's (and eventually LP's) in to fans' hands.
Describe the Sacramento music scene and how you interact with it. Where are your favorite places to perform?
I can't speak for the Sacramento music scene as a whole, only the hip-hop scene and that is a pretty incestuous scene. Few people really make a name for themselves off merit. Hip-hop shows usually consist of people bringing out all their Facebook friends and shows never usually pan out (unless a national hip-hop act headlines). That is why groups, cliques, and collectives dominate the scene for a while then fade out because their friends cannot keep supporting them alone. When people do get big, they just leave the Sac scene because they can flourish without it on a larger scale.
Shows also lack good sound quality and planning making them drag on a long time.
Los Hermanos 1200 w/ Mike Colossal @ the Golden Bear 10/30/09
Some of the best places to perform in Sacramento are Capital Garage, Golden Bear, Butch n' Nellies, Press Club, the Distillery, Sac State, and the Java Lounge. These places are usually down to let you do whatever it is you want to do, as long as you put real effort into it. They are always down to let you do a one-time show and will allow you to do a weekly or monthly as long as it keeps bringing in revenue.
*Listen to "Interstellar Love Jam" by Mike Colossal PLUS his interview about the Sacramento hip hop scene with Nick Brunner on Off Air - Smart Rock Radio.*
Here's the BIG question: do you think unsigned musicians have any influence over the music industry?
Unsigned musicians don't have influence on the music industry, only the fans. Before, record labels were the MySpaces and Twitters and Facebooks. They gave an artist the ability to be recognized on a national level. Now with the internet, you can get that recognition without the industry. If you promote, do shows, leave free CD's for fans you can be your OWN industry. Radiohead said "fuck it" and showed a whole generation of musicians you can do it without the industry. Although musicians can only gain so much fame without the industry, but most artists can create a sustainable fan base.
Also with promoting being in the hands of the artist, artists can be as big or small as they see fit. Before you couldn't make a living being a part time musician. But now that you can do a lot of promotion at home on your own time, you can go to work from 9-5, update social network sites, records in your home studio, make your cool flyers on the computer, print them out at a local show, and hustle your ass off on your free time.
People don't have to worry about making a huge record industry flop, have terrible show attendance, get dropped and never be heard of again. People can now be effective artists at their own pace. And people are ready to run in the long marathon of becoming artists, not just sprinting for fame. Those cats don't last.
Don't miss Mike Colossal's Birthday Bash at Butch n' Nellies (19th & I Street) on July 23rd from 7-10PM. Great music and quite possibly the best cappuccino in Sacramento!
Check out Mike Colossal on:
It's ALL AGES, and only $3 donation - come out and support!