From Beginnings to Beats and Beyond: A Career in Music with Mike DaSilva

Mike DaSilva’s musical roots reach back to a young age. Since handling his first instrument, he’s never stopped seeking ways to learn more about how to perfectly craft or polish a song. That inclination has taken him from playing in St. Catharines emo-rock band Sleeper Set Sail early this millennium, to working behind the scenes in rap and EDM south of the border, to his present endeavours in atmospheric duo Sine Language and as part founder of Niagara-based label The Particle Sound. But it all started when he was about 11 years old and took on drumming.

I remember watching bands on MuchMusic and live performances and there was something about the energy of playing drums that just drew me in… Musically the rest is history. There was something about figuring stuff out and learning songs and beats and pushing myself… I never stopped having that fascination with: What’s next? How are these songs made? How are these instruments composed? How do bands come together and make this amazing kind of music?

So that lasted for a few years where that was my focus. And from collaborating and jamming with friends and family and whoever, then all of a sudden I’m like, well hey, this is sounding good, so now I’m going to pick up a guitar. I think I just liked the challenge. And I still do. That’s what keeps me going. I like the challenge of starting from nothing, with very little personal instruction, being like, “How far can I figure this thing out?”

And then from there, it spiraled… Like, okay, now I’m gonna get a bass, I’m gonna figure out how to play bass. And now I’m gonna do keyboard, and go figure out piano. And then I started getting into making beats and the recording/engineering side of things… It was never enough. I just wanted to figure it all out.

During high school, he joined up with friend and classmate Casey Baker (now also part of The Particle Sound) as a guitarist in Sleeper Set Sail. 

They already had a bunch of songs, with or without secondary guitar parts. And I was like, “While you’re playing this, I kind of hear this,” and try it and it would sound good, and so further, and maybe I can come up with some chord progressions and some ideas. That was an absolute blast and such an amazing experience. I still cherish those days and how much I learned about music in general.

It was a fun, fun, fun thing to do, just focusing on making your own music better, and surrounding yourself with people that have the exact same mission as you, and goals as you, and playing in front of a bunch of people is obviously really gratifying… I actually think about this all the time, like if COVID had have hit when Sleeper was just starting to tour, or right before our biggest tours, it would have absolutely devasted me. And I know for a fact there’s young bands that were faced with that very dilemma. And my heart goes out to them.

It was while recording Sleeper Set Sail’s debut full-length album Eyes Just Like Forest Fires that his interest in production really took off. 

I started recording other people, and that’s where I started learning if this is the path I’m headed and something that I’m interested in doing , then the biggest challenge is taking yourself out of the equation and your own musical taste out of the equation and being like, I need to grab what this artist or this band is going for and make that sonically as pleasing and perfect and come true in the best way that I can, without influencing it too much on the creative level. I started getting super into that, and then I was finishing high school and still playing in Sleeper and we were touring all the time, and we dropped our album, and everything was going good. And then I had a personal wakeup where I’m like, “Okay. I gotta think about my future.”  

And then Sleeper, I kind of walked away, on good terms I hope, with everybody. It was obviously a really tough emotional time for everybody, especially me, because that’s a really huge thing to give up in life. But I just—something in my heart said I need to take this side of things as far as I can and really explore. There was so much left to learn about that whole side of things, and I wanted to focus all my attention on that. It was really, really tough. It was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made in my life. But it’s something that had to be done, and a lot of it comes down to my own taste in music was changing.

That prompted a move from St. Catharines to Toronto. 

After high school, I’m like, I’m gonna go to Toronto, I’m not going to go to school or anything. I’m gonna take a year and just be in music, all the time, and make as much music as I can, and meet as many people as I can.

That is when I hustled the absolute hardest. I was making instrumental hip hop stuff, and pop stuff, and whatever… I was full-time. I was making two or three beats a day and was uploading them, and sending literally hundreds and hundreds of emails every day to any artist I could find, any up-and-coming rapper, anything, and be listening, and trying to work with as many people as possible, and getting my name out there.

That name would become the moniker MADbeat, and his efforts paid off. Soon he was flying in and out of Miami, then Atlanta, and then Los Angeles to pursue his passion. 

I was bringing my beats, and collaborating with other producers, and other artists and Miami was just… Like Miami was the new rap scene. So I was right in the heart of it… Then I was thrust into the Atlanta music scene, which to this day is something I’ve never seen before. Since that time, which I can’t remember what year it was, it hasn’t stopped. Every new trend, every new up-and-coming artist, comes out of Atlanta. It’s just like a magical place for music.

I was also, years after that, working with some EDM DJs in L.A., and then I was spending a lot of time in L.A., and doing EDM track remixes… Some of these EDM songs there’s a very, very good reason why people react the way they do when they hear them. Because it puts you in a different state of mind. And you’re craving sonically certain aspects, you’re craving certain sounds. Like why do people love hearing something with heavy bass at live shows? Because you literally feel it in your body, you feel it in your heart. It shakes you to your core. Catchy is catchy.

Today, back in Canada, he describes how all of that experience translates to his current role as lead producer and sound supervisor for The Particle Sound. 

I think I’ve had a fairly unique exposure to different genres and styles, and I’ve been able to really pinpoint what my sonic taste is. And it seems so overboard but every little thing, like every high-hat sound, every snare sound, every bass tone, every distorted guitar tone, and the way vocals sound—I know exactly my taste, and I’ve also been able to explore so much of the world and see what other people’s taste is and completely been able to understand and appreciate why certain music makes people feel a certain way.

For years and years, my mentality coming from a live rock band was if we can’t recreate what we’re doing in the studio live, then we’re not allowed to do it. And I finally threw that whole thing out the window, and said, we’ll figure out live later. Now you can sample, you can play along, there are a million different options. I don’t care how we’re gonna recreate this, I’m just gonna throw as much as I want at it in the studio until it’s just exactly what I want it to be.

In conjunction with his duties for the label, he’s also busy making music of his own as one half of Sine Language. 

That’s a project that I started with my now-girlfriend Vanessa Lepp, who I also met through music, that was recording here with her band. I had really never met her before and was recording her vocals at the time. I’m like, holy crap, unbelievable, and if you have any interest whatsoever I’d love to make some stuff together just for fun and see what happens.

I work with a lot of artists, but she’s got something special… She was doing the same thing as me, she was making beats, and singing, and doing all the instruments, and would come to me with what she would call a demo. I’m like, “This is not a demo. This is done.”

She really inspired me, and honestly, that whole project and our whole sound is changing all the time, ‘cause we sat down and were like, K, if we’re gonna do this, let’s also come at that mentality of there are no rules… I’m gonna tell you what I would do, you tell me what you would do, and it’s all right, there are no wrongs.

That openness of creation has led to the ethereal “waves,” their latest song together, along with a handful of others which collectively are difficult to define by genre, and intentionally so. 

We’re trying to find our sound, but we’re specifically not trying to find a sound. We’re like, let’s make this and move on to the next thing, and just get it out there.

This is the golden age of being creative and sharing it with the world. I don’t think the younger generation knows how hard it was when I first started. Like it was hard and expensive, and time-consuming. Now there are all these tools. The tools are right at your fingertips. If you have a smartphone or a laptop, you have what I have. There’s no other barrier. It’s time and practice, that’s all it is.

Despite such insights, he’s grateful for all that he’s done to get to where he is today. 

I needed to go through all that stuff and I’m glad I did… Now everything I do, it’s not for somebody else, it’s not for some opportunity or for someone else to benefit, it’s just for me. It took me all these years to come full circle and be like—this should be the most obvious thing—do what is right for you. But it took me a lot of experience to really embrace that.

As for what’s to come next for Mike, that could be almost everything. 

You could talk to me any day of the week and I’d be working on anything from straight-up trap, hip hop beats, to country music, to scoring for film and commercials, to engineering singer-songwriters. I say stay tuned because you never know what tomorrow might bring musically.

I’m having so much fun getting rid of the barriers and doing whatever feels right at the time. It sounds like it’s so simple, but I think it’s taken me 15-plus years to realize that that’s really the way to go. You gotta be so excited about your own music and the future and then everything else takes care of itself. Just have fun… That’s my advice to any up-and-coming producer, musician, anything. Have fun. If you stop having fun, you mess up somewhere along the lines. Just keep having fun.

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