Since forming in 1997, Mike Kay and Steven Harding aka Milk & Sugar have lived a career most DJs would dream of.
They’ve performed globally alongside dance royalty such as Frankie Knuckles and David Morales, remixed on request the likes of Jamiroquai, Janet Jackson and Ben Pearce, and have continued to supply dance floors with a steady stream of powerful hits, both via their own imprint and on revered labels such as Enormous Tunes, Positiva, Ministry of Sound and many more.
Today, Germany’s dynamic double act Milk & Sugar released a special CD artist album to commemorate their 20th anniversary, distributed via their label Milk & Sugar Recordings.
Electronic Groove: Hello both! What’s been going on with Milk & Sugar these past few weeks?
Milk & Sugar: Hello EG! We’ve been busy with the release of our anniversary album. Getting the album tracks together, mastering, graphics, PR and the physical CD, which is still important over here in Germany. Plus this week it’s Oktoberfest in Munich, so there was not too much time for relaxing.
EG: How does it feel to celebrate 20 years of making music?
Milk & Sugar: I suppose we didn’t realize back then that it would be the beginning of a long and exciting journey. We were happy to be a part of the development of electronic music and seeing it rising from underground to the highest heights of the sales charts.
EG: Over the years, what differences have you noticed in the music scene and what’s stayed the same?
Milk & Sugar: In the very beginning, club culture was all about the music and people getting together to celebrate. In clubs, a DJ was often standing in a dark corner of the club and probably considered to be a bit nerdy. Today we see the result of a development that transformed the DJ into some kind of a movie or rock star. For us, it was always about the music and the crowd who came to our parties and wanted to have a good time. We would never play a pre-recorded set and still give our best during our sets, be it in a small club or on a big festival stage.
EG: Let’s talk about the new album. In the press release, you speak about a conscious decision to ensure the LP isn’t essentially a ‘Best Of’ release – What was the reasoning behind this?
Milk & Sugar: We started last year in Autumn working on our album and tour concept, and we soon realized that we didn’t just want to release ‘a best of’ album with all of our biggest singles or remixes. We felt should reflect our own creativity. It turned out we had to make a bunch of new tracks that have not been released yet to get on a proper number of tracks. In the end, we tried to keep a modern touch and not going back into our history too far.
“Our intention was to make it sound like a concept album, modern sounding, made over a short period of time.”
EG: What tracks were made with the album in mind and what inspired these?
Milk & Sugar: There is a lot of amazing stuff to discover, like our co-operation with Ron Carroll or Roland Clark. Our intention was to make it sound like a concept album, modern sounding, made over a short period of time. The new productions raise the album to a great level in terms of more an electronic and deep house approach.
EG: There is, of course, several classics present – What memories/experiences do they bring back from your career?
Milk & Sugar: We produced a completely new version of ‘Let the Sun Shine’ for the album, but also included our new version of ‘Higher & Higher’, that we released as a single earlier this year together with a great remix package. We remember that we went to the Miami Winter Conference back in 1999 with a package of 100 vinyl promotion copies, but unfortunately, they got stuck at the customs. Only at the last conference day, they arrived at our hotel and we were able to distribute just a few to the DJ’s that hadn´t already left. Nevertheless, we received great feedback and a request for a David Morales compilation soon after our return, and the rest is history.
EG: Do you approach the process of remixing your own music any different to remixing someone else’s?
Milk & Sugar: It depends, but getting a perfectly balanced acapella from a producer is great fun to work with. With own productions, you struggle a lot with the composition, next with recording vocals or instrument, getting them to sit in place and so on. And then, when the production process is about to start, you sometimes lack the inspiration to create something great with those elements. A remix can be a spontaneous piece of work that breathes the spirit of intuition, whereas own productions can be sometimes over-produced and sound too constructed.
EG: We saw you recently performed at Nature One festival – what other shows have you got penciled in for 2017?
Milk & Sugar: We are planning a couple of shows for our anniversary, for example in our hometown Munich, but also during Amsterdam’s ADE. We also got some great international gigs up our sleeves for the coming months, but we’re especially looking forward to play NYE in Thailand and Asia.
EG: What’s the number one lesson you’ve learned over these past 20 years?
Milk & Sugar: A lot, really, a lot! But one of the key takeaways is that have maintained our trademark sound over the years as well as our passion for real house music. This is what probably makes our sound special, and allows our community to still grow after such a long period of time.
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