Mike Gervais has managed to facilitate a rich network of producers and DJs across an impressive 15 year career. “I’m always working to maintain a balance between family, friends, health, promoting, producing, performing, and on and on and on” he begins when we spoke to him about his work earlier this month. “My recent focus has been split between re-establishing our SYSTEM nights at First Avenue (of Prince/Purple Rain fame), adjusting to life without a laptop in the DJ booth, and riding the never-ending ups and downs in the studio”.
Gervais can also boast of two labels under his belt; SYSTEM and the now discontinued Timefog. “Long story short: Timefog was run by a few of my very close friends and myself. Three of the five members moved to different cities all over the world and some creative differences started to show. It was frustrating to see it crumble right when some real momentum started but that’s just how things go sometimes,” he reflects. “SYSTEM was created as the logical next effort to Timefog. It’s not like I was just going to stop doing what I’ve been doing for the last two decades. I couldn’t stop even if I wanted to. We’re looking forward to expanding the brand into everything from low quality energy drinks, to $5 ear buds found at gas stations and tween outlet stores, to whatever that thing Flo Rida was pushing… Really shove the brand in everyone’s faces you know? I’m kidding obviously.”
His club-nights have garnered particular attention too, especially through their affiliation with Zak Khutoretsky, aka DVS1, with whom Gervais has worked with extensively with over the years. “I first met Zak in ‘97 through friends and Minneapolis parties and all that.” He explains. “Actually he was my first influence when I was looking to step out of the crowd and into the DJ booth (for obvious reasons). He’s still a major influence for me today. The scene in Minneapolis… it’s been explained by people more eloquent than myself many times but to sum it up into one word would be: struggle. There’s so many factors pushing against us like the 2am bar closing time, the even worse 2am business closing time (aka no legal framework to have a legit after-hours venue), the fact we are a flyover state and there’s only about 300 real techno fans in the area, isolation from other major/minor cities (five hours to Milwaukee, six hours to Chicago, five to Cedar Rapids, six to Winnipeg, eleven to Detroit, etc..), not having any clubs setup for this music so we’re forced to retrofit rock venues with additional sound/lighting/gear at every event, door/cover splits with venues making events more expensive to run compared to other cities, lack of usable underground locations, and the list goes on. Just finding a venue that will be willing to host this kind of event are difficult to find.”
The nights that Gervais hosts through SYSTEM are some of the few that can still function in these choppy waters. “We have headliners come through but it’s not on a weekly basis. On the flip side, the promoters who find their way through it are really in it for the right reasons (and it’s never a big payday). The crowds and dance floors are some of the best I’ve experienced anywhere. Packed with smart listeners who aren’t just on the sidelines stroking their chins and trying to catch a glimpse of what that track you just played was. Engaging people with great energy all the time. When an event hits, it REALLY hits. Zak has said many times this city builds a certain character and I couldn’t agree with him more. I’m proud to call Minneapolis my home.”
This year, his Assailant EP sedimented his credentials as a producer firmly into the foundations of modern techno. You can hear his rich background in the scene throughout the EP, which combines intricate pockets of harmony with tough sound system physicality. In light of this release, Gervais has kindly put together a mix for the latest instalment of our podcast series. When asked what to expect, he responded with droll stoicism; “I just want to keep the vibe deep”…
Listen to Gervais’ contribution to our podcast series below: