HMWL Podcast 116 – Mike Robia [Vamos / Mile End]

Mike Robia

The HMWL podcast volume 116 is brought to us by Montreal based deep house DJ and producer Mike Robia. Being a resident DJ at Circus Afterhours, he also has recently released some very nice tracks on Vamos and Mile End and is now reading his first single for the Cube Recordings in mid-december.

HMWL: Dear Mike, nice to have you on the HMWL show. Tell us a bit about your background? Did you start off as a producer? Or found yourself longing to a studio after the first few years of DJing?

Mike: Thanks for having me guys! Real pleasure to share my music with you.

Everything started at 6 years old when I was trying to make some notes on a piano. From then, I spent my whole life playing music from drums, percussions, guitar and piano. I used to be a rocker, listening to Led Zeppelin & Pink Floyd 18 hours a day. But until a few years ago, all of this was just a hobby. I started being involved in the electronic scene as a DJ at 16 years old and got interested into music production about two years later. At that time, I thought that a «Red Signal» in Ableton meant that the music was just louder, haha. What really got me into production is a Logic Masterclass I attended in Toronto with renowned producer Adam K. I recently finished my Business bachelor at HEC Montreal and I am now full time working on my music career.

Judging strictly by the name, Circus Afterhours sounds like big fun and probably like one of the top 5 places I would love to check out when in Montreal. Tell us about this club? How long have you been playing here?

I’ve been playing on Circus’s Funktion One’s sound system for about two years now. In Montreal, all the clubs close at 3:00 am so an after hour like Circus is one of the few places around the city where the real ones can dance until sunrise. This venue is where I can showcase my most underground side. One of my favourite sets at Circus is definitely when I played alongside Prok&Fitch this summer.

You’ve got an impressive number of releases since you stared off on Mile End and Vamos in 2014. Which labels did you enjoy to work with the most and why?

I enjoy working with most labels. They are all giving me an opportunity to release my music to different crowds and countries and that’s the most important thing for me. In my opinion, a good label is a passionate label that will base its criteria on quality before quantity. I like to establish a strong relationship with the ones I work it.

The everlasting debate about what’s too underground and what’s too commercial. On a scale of 1 to 10 where do you place your music between deep underground and Beatport top 10? And does it really matter?

Interesting question. Good music is good music.I personally think it doesn’t really matter. Real music lovers don’t really care how many copies have been sold on beatport as long as it gets the crowd dancing.  There’s a big difference between a Top 10 chart on that thing we call Internet and what’s important to play at a specific moment of the night on a packed dance floor. Of course as a DJ my challenge is to play tracks people have never heard before, there’s so many good tracks released per week, why would you only stick to the top 10 or so?

I’d say that my style of music is at the midpoint of such a scale but my upcoming music projects are targeting a slightly more underground audience.

The upcoming release Willing & Able which is a collaboration between you, Etienne Ozborne and Sandy Duperval sounds completely amazing. Tell us a bit more about this track.

It was the first time for all of us to work together and it’s one of my favourite projects so far. Everything started at Sandy’s studio with an nice analog Virus synth. Once we got that warm groove, Sandy wrote some lyrics and we recorded her voice. Etienne jumped in a bit later in the creative process to add his experience in the drums section and he used his killer touch to give the track the perfect drive. After a few test drives in the club, we crafted a club friendly arrangement that will be released December 14th on Cube Recordings, the imprint of Italian producers The Cube Guys. 

The three top spots you would recommend us to check out in Montreal? May it be nightlife, sightseeing or food.

A unique event that represents really well our Montreal vibes is Igloofest, a month-long winter electronic music festival where you can wear a fur coat, dance to some quality techno and drink a spanish coffee at the same time.

If you’re a foodie, order a «Poutine» pretty much anywhere and you’ll probably fall in love with our city. A walk around montreal’s old port is totally worth it. I’ve been there a hundred times and I still enjoy its beauty.

Can you please share one (or two or three) production techniques or tricks that you discovered just recently that made you go “Aha! – why didn’t I found this early?!” It can be hardware, plugin or just a different approach to effects.

  1. I recently recorded a real bass and layered it to a VST bass sound. After a proper quantize, EQing and compression work, the organic but powerful result of that blend is truly amazing. I spend more and more time sampling my own sounds to give a personal touch to my tracks. I sometimes use my own voice to create some white noise and whispering effects.
  1. In terms of plug-ins, I recently started using Native Instrument’s Reaktor «Prism» for pads & plucks. This powerful synth gives a really profound atmosphere to some of my melodic projects.
  1. To make sure my kicks are clean and tight, I use a free plugin named Exoscope by Smartelectronix. This visual tool helps me find a nice balance between the click and the sub.

P.S. The mix is recorded live on the decks 🙂 Enjoy xx


About Alex Esser:

DJ, surfer and entrepreneur residing in Malmö, Sweden. HMWL label daddy. My music network is always open. Holler at