If you’ve purchased an Australian rock record made in the past decade, there’s a good chance Mikey Young had his hand in the final product. He’s a member of Eddy Current Suppression Ring, Ooga Boogas, and Total Control. When he’s not touring, Young is busy recording, mixing and mastering records for bands such as Bits of Shit, Royal Headache, UV Race, Life Stinks, and Kelley Stoltz. He was kind enough to speak to us about his early musical influences, working in a record factory, and the trial by fire of learning to use a reel-to-reel tape deck a day before a recording session.
Feature Photo by James Vinciguerra
What were some early records that influenced you growing up?
I was heavily addicted to Kiss and Rod Stewart for the first few years as a kid, and then listening to MTV. Maybe I found out who Jimi Hendrix was when I was ten or so. I remember grabbing a Velvet Underground cassette around 14, and being pretty changed by that. I remember a girl at school’s brother had Devo’s Freedom of Choice when I went to her birthday in grade one.
Did any of those bands draw you into guitar being your first instrument?
Definitely. Actually the first song that my brother taught me was “Mongoloid” by Devo. I think year eight I got an electric guitar and I started jamming with my brother for a couple of years and then briefly was in some bands. I remember my brother’s friend came around with a 4-track one day when I was about 17, and it was the first time I saw the concept of, “Wow, you can record stuff on stuff.” I was blown away. Weirdly I got a digital 4-track first. A FD-4; one of the first digital ones from Fostex that recorded on an external Zip drive. I think the next step from there I was able to save up enough money to buy a [Digidesign] Digi 001 and a computer.
Were you growing up in Melbourne?
I was an hour out of the city in a town called Frankston. There wasn’t a live music scene down there. I moved to the city [Melbourne] when I was 21.
And you were working at Corduroy Records?
I was working at a warehouse and I was getting sick of it. I guess another big influence was I loved the early Kinks stuff and [The Kingsman’s] “Louie Louie,” but I didn’t know how to get access to a thousand songs that sound exactly like that. I didn’t know what Back from the Grave [garage rock compilation] was or anything like that. There was this local band called The Breadmakers, who were kind of a Slim Harpo cover band. The guy who was in The Breadmakers, Nick Phillips, bought the last pressing plant in Australia in the early ‘90s, when you could buy that stuff for scrap metal. It turned out the factory was right around the corner from my Mom’s house. I think I’d heard he sold records out of there too, so we rang him and went down there. They also had distribution of overseas garage and punk stuff. And I thought, “Wow, here’s all that music that I kind of knew of but didn’t know where it was.” About six months later I saw an advertisement for a job there. It was the only time they had done that, because it was a pretty small place, only about six people. Luckily I knew a few mutual friends of friends who knew him, and they all said he should hire me. I did write a resume, but they were more interested in what kind of records I had at home and sussing me out to see if I had dodgy taste, which I probably did at the time – I must have just snuck in. I got the job and then I pretty much ran the factory for five years. Then it got sold to a guy that runs a hip-hop label down here. He moved it to a better factory, but I think he quickly realized that running a record pressing plant in this day and age is really not fun. It’s so expensive to do down here. You have to buy every bit of raw vinyl from overseas.
I can’t even imagine.
Yeah, that’s why half, actually way more than half [of bands], press their records in America. We’ll make them as cheap as possible and we’re still going broke.
Does that curb bands from making 7-inch records?
People have realized it’s not that hard, and also over the last couple of years our dollar jumped in value to pretty much equal the American dollar. It used to be sixty cents to the dollar. So the cost of making a record for us came down.
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