In Pound for the Sound, Phoenix New Times get technical with local musicians about what "gear" they use to create their signature "tones" in our community.
Hi-Dreams' DJ Mitch Freedom loves how music can bring joy to people's lives. He is certainly a digger when it comes to music, and you might have seen him browsing the crates at one of our local record stores on the regular. He's also been involved in the Phoenix music scene for over a decade and has kept things fresh with new projects throughout the years. He's played with a very large number of bands and musicians throughout the valley, even if it was just for one show.
Freedom originally hails from Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he was born into what he calls a very "rich, musical environment" in both his hometown and in nearby Detroit. From a very early age, he began participating in community-based classical music. He started playing cello in the fifth grade, and still plays it today. He joined the symphony orchestra in high school, and through this experience, he began to get opportunities to travel throughout Michigan, Canada, and the East Coast. However, he and his friends from the symphony were looking for more than classical had to offer. They wanted to play grunge.
And grunge they played. Freedom, who currently works in the valley as a talent buyer for Stateside Presents, was already in full music mode as a late teenager, setting up and promoting shows at local venues, bars, coffee shops, houses — wherever he could in his hometown. Eventually, he moved to Tempe to finish school at ASU in 2003, and he credits this time as a huge part of him building connections in the Phoenix scene. This is also the time he reconnected with home town friend, and now the other half of DJ duo Hi Dreams, Greg Muller. And the two have been making music ever since first as a bass and drum duo, and now as a DJ duo and more.
Mitch was a driving force behind former Valley powerhouse What Laura Says, and through connections made while playing with them, he's built a career here in Phoenix. Aside from being a main member of Valley Bar resident Hi-Dreams Collective, he's currently is a driving member and backup vocalist in Phoenix Afrobeat Orchestra (PAO). That's in addition to his job with Stateside Presents. He certainly keeps himself busy, to say the least.
Hi-Dreams is scheduled to perform this Wednesday at Crescent Ballroom as part of The Leo Bash: An Astrological Variety Show. New Times was able to get some words in with Mitch about his gear, how he keeps current in the community, and his upcoming show.
Phoenix New Times: What's the secret weapon of your sound? And how did that help you find your "signature" tone?
For Hi-Dreams, it was simple. Technics are the best and have withstood the test of time for all of my heroes. We work with a Pioneer mixer for the same reason, and we love the built-in sounds and real-time sampling capabilities. We also run our recorded mixes through analog gear to keep true to the intended sound quality. Aside from all of that we just let the records do their thing. The time period and artists we focus on were working during the climax of recording technology (IMHO) when considering overall warmth and depth of sound.
What's your favorite piece of gear in your collection and why?
My record collection … because it’s ever-changing and growing — and personally curated! It offers so much diversity in sound, style, and joy all at once.
Any special pieces of gear acquired over the years? Any special story, or stories, behind your collection of tools?
My overall DJ setup has a wonderful story behind it. After three years of marketing for the largest, most evil media empire in the country, I quit before the 2016 presidential campaign got underway. I couldn’t stand the thought of building a future off of the money I made there because of how it was earned, so I cashed in my 401K and bought my current setup, including the most classic turntables and a wonderfully prolific grip of records to bolster my collection/sets, in an effort to turn the money into something that would bring only pure joy to people. I guess i was trying to beat karmic retribution to the punch.
We just listened to your “Summertime Chill Out Mix.” Super funky, groovy tracks. Lots of feel-good stuff in there for any time of day. What was your process making this mix?
In trying to keep the vibe of our funky throwback super-fresh, this mix was culled from records that were found and bought in the few days leading up to its creation. We were fortunate enough to have several stocked and ambitious record stores in Phoenix, and we love to engage in digging the treasure out of them! When listening to our new finds, an apparent theme of consciousness, togetherness, and love bubbled to the top, and the steamy Phoenix summertime served as the perfect juxtaposition, encouraging a group re-upping of our commitment to these principals during a time when the sun tries to make us blind.
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You have been an active member of the Arizona music community for over a decade, and have been a driving force behind former Valley powerhouse What Laura Says, and current Valley powerhouse PAO. What advice can you offer to those out there that want to continue to keep active in the community and build their career?
Get out into the community as much as possible. Meet people, support artists and establishments and promoters that are helping to bring the music scene in Phoenix to the top. As well, follow through with ideas. Make ample time to create and don’t be afraid to promote your art unabashedly.
Hi Dreams is laying down some funky beats for The Leo Bash: An Astrological Variety Show next Wednesday, August 1, at Crescent Ballroom. Any words you wish to share with readers about your upcoming show?
Started at Crescent Ballroom by the one-and-only sonny-boy Latosque, the Astrological variety shows we’re able to put on are a great chance to showcase the musical diversity we have in the Phoenix music community, and to see the wonderfully unique personality traits play out in various ways during the program. Us Leos are bringing some reggae, jazz, R&B, soul, house, world, and everything in between because, well, we just like to show off!