Interview: Mikill Pane
Having transcended from the underground and jumped in to the mainstream by signing to major record label, Mikill Pane is breaking boundaries one track at a time. With his album set for release, The Wrap Up’s Carly Wilford caught up with him to find out about his rise to recognition and some of the people that have influenced his success…
The Wrap Up: You have signed to a major label; has that brought about a lot of change?
Mikill Pane: Every change has come from me and every change has come from within. The label hasn’t orchestrated anything creatively. The only creative aspect they have had any input on is the marketing. I love the stuff I create and I wouldn’t put it out if I didn't. Within marketing ploys you have to really be on the ball. So that's the literally the only thing I have allowed be taken from me.
TWU: I remember listening to you two or three years ago. Your sound has changed. Do you feel you’ve had to change your sound to make it more commercial or mainstream?
Mikill: Not at all, I love writing songs. I'm not a rapper. I write songs. I sing - although badly - I sing! I would be doing myself an injustice to say I'm just a rapper. This sort of transition that I have made, this progression, this development, it's literally come from taking the advice of Jake Gosling and Adam Coleman who wrote most of the music for my debut album 'Blame Miss Barclay'. They said to me, ‘You’re an amazing rapper, but you have a decent enough voice and a decent enough grasp of melody to write your own hooks. Own your stuff; don't always rely on a top liner to sing your hooks for you. Don't always rely on someone to write your hooks for you. Express yourself.’
That’s what I did and I'm happy with that. The album was made totally 100% before the label had even heard of me; let alone wanting to sign me. The label came all the way to Surrey from the strong holds of Kensington. They listened to the whole album and then said they wanted to see me live. They came to Reading and Leeds [Festival] where I headlined the BBC Introducing stage last year. They pretty much offered me a deal after I came off stage. I really liked Mercury as it was called then; now I'm with Virgin/EMI. I'm still with a great team. I'm still in safe hands and I'm still very hands on.
TWU: How important has Ed Sheeran been within your career?
Mikill: Very, very important, I think it's a bit of a double-edged sword. I can't say I would have the status I have now without doing the song with Ed. What I have to tell myself a lot is that, ‘I did the song with Ed, I wrote the song with Ed.’ I do definitely deserve some credit for it but at the same time it was the right place and the right time. I was mates with Ed before I ever did music with him. I never saw him and thought, ‘this guy’s going to be big, let me do a track with him quickly before it happens.’ I just thought this guy’s safe, I'm a massive fan of him as well. It's only a bonus that because I'm his mate, I get into his gigs for free!
TWU: Do you ever think about the impact that Ed’s ‘No.5 Collaborations Project’ has had on the industry?
Mikill: Definitely, I remember the day it got released. I swear to God, if I'm lying I'm dying. I was at the computer all day. Literally all day, checking the progress, checking iTunes, checking the Twitter. I was like, ‘Ed, you are killing it bruv!’ I remember when he temporarily went above Rihanna! I was speechless and I am quite speechless even now. Certain artists own an era. Do you remember when Lilly Allen owned an era? She was a seminal sort of MySpace artist. The Arctic Monkeys had a seminal breakthrough. It became synonymous. Like hoovering. It became a brand name. People are known now for doing an Ed Sheeran. It's cool because they have coined a method.
TWU: Have you ever been nervous about being so straight talking within your music?
Mikill: That’s what the alter ego is about. It's complete deniability. If you have an alter-ego then you’re just like, ‘Well, this is what Mikill Pane would say.’ For me, that’s the reason I developed an alter ego to be honest. I never said it, Justin never said it; Mikill Pane said it.
TWU: Has anyone ever tried to stop you from speaking freely?
Mikill: They have never directed it towards me; they have always sort of written about it. I had one journalist on the Rizzle Kicks tour. I think it was a journalist but they didn't write about it in any publication. They sent a letter to Rizzle Kicks manager to send it on to my manager Adam. They were just like, ‘there is no need to say some of the things you say.’ One of the main problems was that I swear so much - but if you don't like it, then f**k off. I genuinely embellish my lyrics for emphasis because it’s for impact. The stuff I talk about is because it's genuinely what I want to talk about; I just write.
TWU: What is the hardest thing about being on the road?
Mikill: Not seeing my family. Every petrol station starts to look the same but it helps when you have good people on tour with you. Everyone is included in the music and has been influential. They will all be in the thank you [part] of the album!
Words: Carly Wilford (@CarlyWilford)