Matt Mikas is a Sound Artist and DJ, working as a freelance scenic artist in Brooklyn, NY. He's a frequent speaker on the subject of independent media and has released or collaborated on over a half dozen records.
He served as Operations Manager at free103point9, a non-profit media organization devoted to transmission arts, which he co-founded with Galen Joseph-Hunter and Tom Roe, in 2002. Greg Anderson, Violet Hopkins, and Tom Roe officially started the organization in 1997 (SAR is proud to be featured on their online radio program schedule, by the way).
His record, "Interactive Audio Response Kit" is two copies of the same collection of audio by the artist, intended to be played at the same time. The idea is that the sounds mingle in new ways each time the consumer participates in the re-creation of the work, by choosing where to place the needles. I guess we kind of blew it by only playing one of the records on the show, but I only have one turntable!
What follows is an edit of his lengthy response to the SAR Q&A - still the longest we've posted to date! Thanks to Matt Mikas for being our featured artist this week. Be sure to also check out his amazing sculptural work HERE.
*Name: Matt Mikas
*Are there any additional names used to describe this project: Depending on the type of audience and my purpose for performing and/or recording I go by either my given name of Matt Mikas or my dj moniker: KountZyr0. The more serious "sound art,” such as my Interactive Audio Response Kit, is from Matt Mikas. When I'm simply rocking a party or posting a mash-up to a message board I go by DJ KountZyr0. I have also recently formed a two member dj/mc group called The Trilateral Commission, and I am at work on curating and producing sounds and visual narrative for an upcoming comic book/vinyl record collection. For The Trilateral Commission I'm working with Arthur Arbit of the former Brooklyn based promoter team The Twisted Ones.
*Do you use a pseudonym? KountZyr0
*Tape manipulations, digital deconstructions or turntable creations: For the purposes being considered here I would consider myself essentially a "Sound Artist.” I create sonic sculptures or build several hour long experiences through an applied practice of sonic anthropology. My approach is strongly influenced by my thesis that music's sociological power is heavily based on its subtle and seductive ability to manipulate emotion, stimulate recall and ultimately influence both voluntary and involuntary reaction in audiences thereby reinforcing cultural patterns and individual egos through tactics of repetition and familiarity. I feel that music's nature is a stimulant or palliative in conjunction with its established usage as a cultural identifier through hymn and anthem as well as its common function of distraction, entertainment and one-sided narrative needs to be deconstructed through methods of improvisation, noise and the invitation of audience participation in order to restore a power balance between hierarchically placed "artists" and the consumers of their product.
*Location: Brooklyn, NY
*Original Location: Chicago, Illinois
*What is your creative/artistic background: …Had I been raised by college educated, white collar parents, perhaps my natural skills as a visual artist would have been encouraged and helped to be placed within a gallery or advertising agency. Instead, out of necessity and desire, I pursued a route of self-publishing, opened up to me by the venerable publication "FactSheet Five" which throughout the 80's served as almost a precursor to the internet by providing a mail-order network of distribution for alternative art, news, culture and commentary. My self published comic book "New Komics" lasted seven issues over about five years available by mail order or picked up free with local distribution and ad revenue from various Florida "alternative" businesses. Thus, I encountered the small DIY scene of punk venues, vintage shops and record stores that made up a core community in the Ybor City area of Tampa, Florida. Having no faith in my career as a public school teacher or finding anyone in late 1980's academia who had a whit's worth of understanding of the comic book as literature or "art,” I dropped out and ran a punk/hippie vintage shop in Ybor and immersed myself in the anti-commercial underground of the early 1990's. …Examining and listening to hundreds of old records during the business hours of my vintage shop filled time that would have otherwise had me consuming useless contemporary mainstream media product. I was therefore able to learn about the vast experience of recorded sound and gain a unique perspective as to how cultural voices and identities were regulated into genres and groupings based on musical identification. Awareness and manipulation of these factors helped me score my first few DJ gigs in the early 1990's, playing diverse genres of funk, easy listening, strange electronics and old school hip-hop on thrift store equipment my DJ partner Erik Donaldson formed "The Deep Lounge Experience.” Also at this time I was involved in the foundation and guidance of the Tampa pirate radio station "87X,” which grew out of frustrations with gentrification as our former "enchanted ghetto" of poor white artists and anarchists, and disenfranchised working class Caribbean Latinos and Blacks, became a city funded drinking mall destination which eventually destroyed all neighborhood functions in our community, finally spurring my departure from store and home. It was thought amongst us radio-activists that if we are to be forced from our physical location by economic powers then we shall "seize the airwaves" in order to affirm our right to exist as sovereign communities. In the air-space of radio my experimentations and manipulation of audio source material was able to develop in a manner that public performance could not allow. Thus my transition from DJ to sound-artist began. Along the way the immediate reception of audio work thrilled me in a way that the experience of experimental comic book artist never could, and I all but left that world behind. Concurrently my innate visual arts aptitude and contact network in the local "scene" landed me a job as painter/sculptor for a company which provided much of the environmental decor in Florida's theme parks. It was amongst my academically fine-arts trained co-workers that I was exposed to many new ideas regarding conceptual art practice and was able to develop a framework and vocabulary that helped me identify some of my positions on individual artistic potential and how it becomes regulated by a supply-side controlled economy that never fully examines the predatory investment (economic and intellectual) market which regulates the production and distribution networks which create the functional system of the "fine art" network into which the art education industry routinely dumps its annual production of BFA's and MFA's. In other words, besides becoming a famous artist, supported by either state or private wealth, what is the function of the artist in their community? And is it worth the significant financial investment? As I stated at the 2006 Deep Wireless Conference in Toronto, when asked if there was significant crossover between (the fine art world buzz word I helped coin and propagate) "transmission art" and "noise musicians," I queried back: "Does the young street level artist who intrinsically understands the principals put forth by Cage and Stockhausen need to get $60,000 in debt to realize that their take on sound is justified by the Situationists?" But back to 1999: I was approached by an employee (security guard) from the University of South Florida's Contemporary Arts Museum to provide four nights of sound programming to accompany an installation of Dave Hickey's UltraLounge exhibition. This happened simply because I had gained considerable local success as a lounge music DJ earlier in the decade, and the only staff member of the museum who had any idea what was going on culturally in the local music scene was the twenty-something low wage employee. Though by the time the fine arts establishment was recognizing the resurgence of easy listening culture, it had already become passe' and irrelevant to the "sound of the street." Nonetheless, I suddenly had a fine arts resume' curating a sound installation for the former editor of Art in America. From there, hitting a glass ceiling in Florida, I moved to Brooklyn and parlayed that experience into helping my friend's pirate radio station become a non-profit arts organization promoting a new niche-market: transmission art...
*History: Coming from a working class environment I was never encouraged to think of myself as an artist by my family who unquestioningly assumed their lot as doled out to them by the public education system and the former giants of the American manufacturing industry. Seeing the destruction of the blue-collar middle class in the late 1970's when my family moved from Chicago to Florida (my father was old enough to take an early retirement before the steel industry collapsed), I began to question the efficacy of working within the systemic structure of the post-industrial, Reagan era, American capitalist society. In the later portion of the 1980's my college experiences in the public education field made it clear to me that there was no plan as to how to deal with a surplus of children for whom there were no more well-paying manufacturing jobs waiting and for whom a college education meant the accrual of indentured debt in order to try and find a way to contribute to their society. Of course, new to the equation at that time was the military which was ready to offer money for education to the jobless working classes so long as they agreed to be "trained" to support and/or participate in the murder of other low-caste human beings from foreign governments when told it is necessary. How quickly were the ideals of the peace movement that blossomed during the more economically stable baby boomer generation displaced by the new economic realities imposed upon "generation X.”
*Motivations: (His group, The Trilateral Commission) will be formed around the juxtaposition of seductively hypnotic and agonizingly familiar pop music samples with rhythmic spoken word diatribes expounding upon hidden histories and self empowerment. Our hope is to encourage people to change their perception of day-to-day "realities" through critical thinking and our individual and collective ability to harness the power of artwork to challenge inequitable power structures which have historically supported the brunt of popularized artwork: the state, the church and vast private wealth.
*Philosophy: The Interactive Audio Response Kit is reflective of my attempt to change the way music is composed and consumed. Inspired by hip-hop and sampling I attempted to create a malleable experience which engages the listener as an arranger. The record can be played in limitless combinations by mixing the elements of both LPs together or using components in combination with other source material. By isolating vocal, rhythmic, and tonal elements I feel that I have created a truly adaptable form of music or sound art that holds the consumer in a much higher regard than most other product on the market. Further work in this module type has been produced for my personal use as dub-plates. I am currently seeking a new distribution deal in the wake of my former collective's abandonment of both myself and the principals which spawned its formation.
*How would you like to be remembered:
*Web address: While I am currently devising a personal web presence independent of my former organization, a google search of "Matt Mikas" can provide an accurate snapshot of my past and present work. In addition a sample of my "day job" work as a scenic artist can be viewed at: http://www.mythicreatures.blogspot.com