The John Michie Collective’s sound is borne of a great tradition of UK psychedelia. Ever since John and Paul dropped a little ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,’ English rockers have been exploring the within. In the 70’s Pink Floyd set their controls for the heart of the sun. In the 80’s, artists like Love & Rockets, Talk Talk and Robyn Hitchcock took that hippie aesthetic and married it to modern technology and postmodern Rock. From the 1990’s and into the present day the tradition continued in the Trip-hop of Tricky, the Alt Electronic music of Gorillaz and the dozens of similar acts they have inspired.
John Michie (the sole member of the collective which bears his name), is bringing the British psychedelic groove back to it’s organic origins. We first heard from him in January of this year upon the release of his single “I’ll Write Your Constellation.” Now we know that guitar-driven, hallucinogenic space-ride was just the tip of a very groovy iceberg. On February 12, 2021 he released The John Michie Collective’s debut LP “High Vibrations.” Over the course of 14 tracks he wields the familiar and bends it into new unforeseen shapes. With analog gear and a visionary soul he’s created a record of turned-on and tuned-in grooves that would make Timothy Leary proud.
“High Vibrations” opens with a sampled quote from the 1953 sci-fi B-Movie “Cat-Women of The Moon.” From there John lifts off for points unknown. A percussive journey of analog sounds manipulated by computer technology ensues. It is the perfect introduction to an album that surprises at every turn. From the lo-fi spaghetti Western Indie Folk of “Beautiful Day” to the instrumental celestial meditations of “Penny Was Her Name” and “The Astral Projection,” Michie treats us to a wild mix of the real and the surreal.
Some songs exist within a relatively traditional structure. However, ‘tradition’ in this case refers to that of the avant-garde. For Instance, songs like “Nothing To Die For” and the beautiful “Take You Home” sound like the products of some long lost collaboration between a White Album-era John Lennon and Pink Floyd’s legendary disassociated genius Syd Barrett. Meanwhile tracks like “The Ballad of John Wayne” and “Hung On You” exist somewhere in the space between singer/songwriter folk and a Flaming Lips acid trip.
Throughout the record Michie drops groovy little genre-fluid instrumentals like the mountain music Jazz/Funk of “Escape from San Francisco” and the melodic guitar/organ groove of “Monday Morning.” Betwixt and between, sampled voices from Hollywood’s past act as a Greek chorus, introducing themes and setting scenes.
“High Vibrations”’ harkens back to the heyday of Album Rock, a time when we would drop the needle on a new record and listen to it back-to-front with our closest friends. So, kill the lights, click on the lava lamp and stick a towel under the door. Set aside 48 minutes of your day for a well deserved escape with The John Michie Collective.
Listen to the entire “High Vibrations,” below. You can hear “Penny Was Her Name” on the Deep Indie Chill and “Take You Home” on the Deep Indie Dive. Follow the links below the video to connect with The John Michie Collective. If you show him the cave of gold he may just take you on his rocket ship.
Wanna know more? Read our interview with John Michie!
8 Questions with John Michie
The Static Dive: Where are you from?
John Michie: Bit of a restless soul me. I have lived in about 17 different houses around England… I have done my stint in London and other areas… but I am currently in the best part of the country. Proudly living in the north-east of England in a small town outside of Newcastle Upon Tyne called Morpeth. My family are mostly Scottish though so I inwardly identify as a Scot. I also have the kilt to prove it.
SD: How long have you been making music?
John Michie: I have been writing songs since I was 15 years old when I first got a guitar. The first song I wrote was “Wish You Were Dead” which I released as my third single in November. I did absolutely nothing with the large collection of songs I had built up until I heard Grimes’s album Visions a few years ago. I was blown away that she had done the whole project, including, mixing and artwork herself. That is when I decided to download some software and start learning every stage of the recording process. Over two years later I have walked out with my debut album “High Vibrations” which will be out on the 12 February 2021.
SD: Who are the musicians involved in your project?
John Michie: The musicians involved in this project I can say proudly is… just me! I am doing everything on the songs. I am not the greatest player of any instrument or singer but not many musicians are… unless you are a freak like Matt Bellamy from Muse who is just awesome.
I have used the odd loop here and there but has been a bit hard to get decent recordings of sarods and violins during a Covid-19 pandemic so I don’t feel guilty. I have collaborated with a few musicians lending guitars to their songs but would find it hard letting my stuff be played on. Though Sir Mick Jagger is welcome to dance in one of my videos. Give me a call Mick I need the Start Me Up moves.
SD: Who are your biggest musical influences?
John Michie: As mentioned Grimes is pretty much up there as an inspiration. I would adore to work with her. In terms of musical influence there are a lot of bands and musicians I love from Pink Floyd to The Sex Pistols… John Barry to Bjork… Dion to Dusty Springfield… I’d say though that my music sounds like “The Beatles White Album Continued”. That is such a broad album though so leaves a lot of room to manoeuvre. I am definitely more influenced by Lennon above all the Beatles. He is more my type of Rock Star than Macca.
SD: What is your greatest non-musical influence?
John Michie: Oooo good question. Hmm. The 1960s/70s weirdness. All that messed up mind psychedelic culture. Things like the TV programmes The Prisoner, The Avengers. Films like The Holy Mountain, Wonderwall with Jane Birkin as well as the film Seconds with Rock Hudson. The fashions as well were pretty awesome for both men and women between 1960-1975. Lots of colour and people looked smart. You look around today and the clothes are dull and people look like they have been dragged through a hedge backwards. There is in short no style now.
SD: What inspired you to create this project?
JM: Hmm… I am not sure if that is an easy question to answer. I think I felt I had a lot of decent songs written as well as melodies floating in my head and I thought it would be a real shame to just live a normal life and not actually cement them down in a permanent fashion. I also am not a fan of this fast food music culture Spotify is telling us to follow… so I wasn’t going to just do singles forever releasing every two weeks “pop tosh”. I knew I had to make an album and that… if it was an album it had to be a statement.
I think it’s also two fingers up to my music teacher who had me as below average… and also anyone who thought I didn’t have it in me. I am unfortunately a bit of an elephant and don’t easily forget these things.
SD: What are your plans for the future (musically)?
John Michie: Get my debut album out of the way so to speak. I would love to say “world domination” and for “High Vibrations” to do really well and for loads of people to listen to it. So, from my small-time position with limited tools and not being signed… I will try my best for that to happen. In short though if one person enjoys it the album is a success.
For the more distant future I have loads of musical ideas. I would love to do an acoustic album, an EDM album as well as an ambient one like Brian Eno’s Apollo. Being one of the many indies ignored by the establishment it has made me more determined to create even better art and show up the fast food music promoted by the majors and the national radios. There is a really healthy and thriving musical underground, that congregates especially on Twitter, which the mainstream hasn’t picked up on and it has me really fired up. I am incredibly hopeful about the future and feel like I am part of something new and exciting.
SD: Is there anything else you would like to say?
John Michie: Be hopeful, be kind, enjoy life, question everything and most importantly… buy my album ha ha! And I’d say check out the alternatives to what the establishment, the national radios, the streaming services and the record labels are telling you to listen to. We all know what they are promoting is garbage… It has been since forever. In short “ignore the algorithm”. Be subversive.