Spotlight of the Week: Mike Neumeyer

Mike Neumeyer is a percussionist, composer, and teacher who has been writing and recording music for over 20 years. He’s a faculty member at Milwaukee Area Technical College and also works with the Oak Creek marching band. His primary instruments he records compositions with are the marimba and vibraphone, both of which he’s released many color-themed tracks with in the last year.

ME: Okay Mike, first things first. Tell me about how you got involved with Wisconsin Music Ventures.

MIKE: Well, I met Allison through Jared Judge. He was coming into MATC to speak to the Music Business class, and he recommended to have her come and speak as well. It was like right at the beginning.

ME: Nice, and you wanted to dive in? It sounded enticing?

MIKE: Yeah, definitely. When I bring guest speakers I think it’s about the students getting a chance, but then of course, I am just like the students. So I jumped in and continued to collaborate with Allison as WMV grew.

ME: That’s cool that you got involved early on. So I know that you’re a percussionist; what made you gravitate towards the marimba?

MIKE: I was in college and didn’t actually play on a marimba until then. I had played in a punk rock band on drums, and I had played trumpet, and I sang a lot. What made me gravitate was the fact that I could use drum set movements to make melody. I thought that was so cool, so I just asked if I could take marimba lessons. I was told to just go knock on his door – Robert Rosen at UW-SP.

ME: Nice. Well I can’t say we cover many other marimba artists on Breaking and Entering so it gives us something a little different.

ME: That said, you’ve been dropping a lot of pieces this last year that have involved a lot of colors. Do you want to explain where your fascination on sound and color comes from?

MIKE: What that came from was when someone posted on Facebook that people can’t just expect their channels to blow up just because of the pandemic, because a lot of people were putting a lot of energy into their channels. They needed to have good material and good lighting, and then it clicked…that lights would be an easy way to dress up my videos, since it’s the same setup each time. And then it turned out to be really inspiring; you turn the lights off and then you have this mood lighting. Red might inspire anger or love, blue really calms me down; I think the first one I did was green with a few takes of red, and that felt very nature-like to me.

ME: That’s cool. It’s interesting how different feelings and imageries get invoked.

MIKE: And sometimes I was on; sometimes I was off. That’s what I heard from people with synesthesia, who actually hear sound as color. My friend Caroline said that this yellow piece I did was right on, so I got lucky.

ME: What are your plans this weekend for Halloween?

MIKE: Maybe I’ll just stay home and do the trick-or-treaters. I’ve been thinking about a video I could make; maybe the Mansions in Mario would be a cool one. Also I might go to my mom’s. She got a new place and has a big Frankenstein on her porch, and a skeleton sitting in a chair. That might be fun to interact with the little ones.

ME: My last question is, what are you working on now? What can people expect from you in the next couple months?

MIKE: Good question. I’ve recently finished what I want to release by the end of the year. It’s all of these tracks that I did that were less of colors and more of motivational tunes, and I came up with a lot of lyrics. And then I found out that vinyl will take 24 weeks, so I won’t release that until 2022. I’m thinking people can look forward to more of my YouTube covers; I’m doing a project right now that’s almost like a how-to video. This coming week I’ll post one that has a marimba layer with a vibraphone layer added. People will therefore see how I layer and what my process is for the build-up of each track. Then I want to release it all as a little EP at the end.

ME: Very exciting, looking forward to hearing that. Do you have any performances coming up?

MIKE: Yeah, I’m working on music for a performance with Wisconsin Music Ventures, and that’s at the Silverspot Cinema in Brookfield. That’ll be some relaxing vibraphone. Then the only other thing I have is the hundredth anniversary of Grunau Company; they’re having a party and I’m lucky enough to get a jazz trio together for that. We’re gonna call it Mike Neumeyer & Friends.

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