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Get Up: Art Makes the DJ.

May 2, 2014
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_MG_1644Text by Tyler Horst. Images by Michael Bucher.

No matter how many years he spent in San Francisco, Mike’s accent will always betray him. Even as he reminisces about the California sunshine while sitting in the cramped mixing room of his Philly basement, speakers thumping with the sounds of his soon-to-be-finished album, he casually drops a“yous” and it’s all over. It’s eminently clear where Mike was born and raised.

Mike (who asked us not to use his full name for reasons you’ll find out later), is in the middle of carefully reviewing the tracks for his next release as the genre-bending DJ Get Up. He moved back to his hometown after several years on the West Coast, which is part of the reason the forthcoming album will be titled Pickin’ Up Where I Left Off.  Mike switched from digging in crates to digging through his hard drive, revived old ideas that he abandoned a little too soon and fleshed them out into the songs spilling from his speakers.

“I think it has a lot to do with age and what my parents listened to,” Mike says about what samples he chooses for his songs. “My dad listened to a lot of Pink Floyd and Jimi Hendrix.”

Much of the groundwork for the Get Up sound is built upon the styles of music most other DJs don’t touch – psychedelic rock from the ’60s and ’70s. Mike ornaments the track with synths and drum beats, influenced by dubstep and hip-hop, to make something much more at home at the Electric Daisy Carnival than it would have been at Woodstock.

Though music is his first love, there’s a side of the Get Up persona that has taken on a life all its own.

“At this point, art is the day job,” he says. “Any money I make from music just goes back to the music.”

_MG_0973When he donned the moniker Get Up three years ago in California, Mike started using art as a way to brand himself. The designs he crafted, starting with the masked swing dancers that adorn his logo, were simply a way to promote the music. He didn’t expect to be filling shirt orders for the likes of Travie McCoy of Gym Class Heroes, or being drawn back to Philadelphia by paid offers for his work, like a gig as the interior decorator for the Electric Factory.

“I think it’s the nicest the club’s looked,” says Jerry Market, production manager at the Electric Factory and the man who let Mike roam the building with paint and spray cans. “The people who appreciate what’s on stage appreciate [Mike’s] work.”

_MG_0964The Get Up name, like that of many artists of the same ilk, is not always spread by means that are, strictly speaking, legal. Get Up’s graphic footprint is left in large wheatpaste prints in prime spots, like the entrances to I-95 or the boarded up Divine Lorraine hotel. The law’s stance on this particular form of public art seems to be that it’s totally fine – until it’s not. Get Up, the artist, sells sought-after paintings, but Mike, the man, has been arrested three times for using buildings as canvases.

Last year, though, Mike was commissioned to create a piece for the re-opening of the Benjamin Franklin Museum in August. His stencil portrait of the legendary statesman was unveiled to much applause, but Mike’s low-key demeanor wasn’t well-suited for the black tie affair. Almost as if to confirm his feelings that he didn’t belong, the city placed a parking ticket on his car.

“I knew the time was up on my meter but I was talking to the host of the event,” Mike says. “He was interested in buying a painting. I’m talking to the guy who donated $20 million to the place. Meanwhile, I got a ticket on my $1000 car out front.”

Mike was compensated for the ticket later and the whole event now rolls off his back with a laugh. He’s as laid back as any Californian but still borrows part of the ethos of Get Up from Philadelphia’s brazen folk hero. It’s fitting then that Ben Franklin appears so frequently on Mike’s designed pins, T-shirts and slipmats, with a boombox slung proudly over his shoulder and that sophisticated twinkle in his eye.

“He had a ‘not givin’ a fuck’ attitude,” says Mike. “He did what he wanted and went against the grain.”

The great founding father isn’t the only Philly icon to appear in Mike’s work. Since he moved back two years ago, Mike has received plenty of requests to incorporate more and more of the city’s dearest symbols in his designs. On one hand, it was exactly what Mike expected.

“Nowhere is like Philly,” he says. “Philly definitely has one of the biggest levels of pride.”

On the other hand, he doesn’t think he can take being asked to do another painting of Rocky brandishing a cheesesteak.

Requests for exasperatingly hyper-iconic artwork are a small price to pay for the freedom to keep art and music as the foci in his life. Philadelphia may be a demanding city, but it’s a hard one to shake off. And even though Mike may seem to be content to keep to himself and dream about California, he’ll keep circling back to the city where he started.

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One Comment
  1. May 5, 2014 12:29 pm

    Reblogged this on Humongulous.

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