Michael Donoghue is a Rotherham-born, Jersey-based independent electronic artist who creates left-field electronica with influences from a variety of genres, including ambient electro, downtempo, techno, and IDM. Michael began composing in 2017 and has since released multiple singles and EPs under the alias Cosmosapien. In the summer of 2020, Michael emerged from the shadows of his alter identity and began releasing songs under his actual name. Since then, he’s released three songs, an EP, and his debut album, landing him on the radar of several indie radio stations, bloggers, reviewers, and playlist curators.
Michael’s tracks have all been backed by BBC Music Introducing in the Channel Islands, and his single “Mummy” was chosen onto the Fresh Faves on Fresh On The Net in December 2020.
Michael began the year 2021 with the release of the bouncy techno smash “Altitude.” In April, he released his first EP, “Night Thoughts,” a four-track compilation of industrial, ambient, and minimal electro. Around the time of the release of “Night Thoughts,” Michael was requested to go on BBC Music Introducing to create a mini-mix that included his own albums as well as a few artists who had influenced his approach.
Calm Palm is a modest collection of electronic instrumental music. The EP begins with the title track, a dreamy, ambient piece of electronica. We then transition into ambient downtempo on (secrets) before picking up the tempo, rhythm, and overall craziness on Sandworm and 4 AM. To round out the EP, Cyber erotic Love Child has generously produced a wonderful remake of Sandworm.
Calm Palm was released as a single ahead of the EP and is accessible on all platforms.
Check out the exclusive interview below:
1. Can you tell us a bit about where you come from and how you got started?
MICHAEL DONOGHUE: I was born in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, and moved over to Jersey at the age of 12 where I’ve been based ever since. Music has always been a huge part of my life. I’ve been to countless gigs, have an ever-growing record collection, and listen to several albums every day.
I dabbled with playing music a few times during my 20’s. I tried learning to play guitar, and I had an electric drum kit at one point, but they never stuck. It wasn’t until 2017 that I realized I wanted to start making electronic music. I’ve told this story a few times, but I was road tripping around California with my girlfriend, and as we were driving through a large stretch of desert road, we started listening to Leftism by Leftfield. A few tracks into the LP, watching the sun go down over the desert, I thought to myself “I can do this”. It was quite a profound moment of realization. A few weeks after the trip I downloaded Logic, bought a midi keyboard, and started on my musical adventure.
2. Did you have any formal training or are you self-taught?
MICHAEL DONOGHUE: No formal training at all. Music has been my life, but I never had an interest in it at school. I can’t read music or anything like that. My girlfriend is a DJ and is very musically gifted, so she showed me the ropes on Logic, and the rest was pretty much self-taught.
3. Who were your first and strongest musical influences and why the name ‘MICHAEL DONOGHUE’?
MICHAEL DONOGHUE: My strongest musical influence must be my dad. He was a DJ back in the 70’s and 80’s, so he introduced me to all sorts of different disco and electronic artists from back in the day. His passion definitely rubbed off on me from an early age. I love so many different genres and artists, so I feel that I’ve been influenced by so much. If I look at it from a purely electronic viewpoint, then my biggest influences have to be the likes of Kraftwerk, Jean-Michel Jarre, Jon Hopkins, Daft Punk, Kelly Lee Owens, Wendy Carlos (shall I go on?).
It might seem a weird question to ask why I release music under my own name. I started off creating and releasing music under the pseudonym of Cosmosapien. I was shy and almost embarrassed about putting my music out there, so I hid behind that pseudonym until summer 2020. I knew that I needed to have more confidence in myself and my music, and I thought the best way to do that would be to ditch the guise of Cosmosapien and start releasing music as myself.
4. What do you feel are the key elements in your music that should resonate with listeners, and how would you personally describe your sound?
MICHAEL DONOGHUE: It’s typically been difficult to pin down my musical style and to find a genre where it fits. Some tracks are floaty and ambient, some are dirty, four to the floor techno numbers, and others are somewhere in between.
I think the atmosphere and the space that I allow to flow in my music resonates with listeners the most. It’s been said a few times that my music can transport listeners into the cosmos.
6. What’s your view on the role and function of music as political, cultural, spiritual, and/or social vehicles – and do you try and affront any of these themes in your work, or are you purely interested in music as an expression of technical artistry, personal narrative and entertainment?
MICHAEL DONOGHUE: My music doesn’t have any sort of political edge or undertones. Politics, politicians, and global issues do my head in, but there’s not really any place for these things to be reflected in my music at this moment in time.
For me, music is a chance to express myself, and an opportunity for me to try and connect with others, whether that’s by making new friends and meeting new people, or by connecting with someone who I’ll never meet.
7. Do you feel that your music is giving you back just as much fulfilment as the amount of work you are putting into it, or are you expecting something more, or different in the future?
MICHAEL DONOGHUE: That’s a good question. I get so much fulfillment from creating. Time just flies when I’m in the creative zone and it’ll always blow my mind that I’m able to create something that people enjoy and that they want to listen to. I’ll never take that for granted.
I don’t really know what to expect though. I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing and will see which doors open along the way.
8. Could you describe your creative processes? How do usually start, and go about shaping ideas into a completed song? Do you usually start with a tune, a beat, or a narrative in your head? And do you collaborate with others in this process?
MICHAEL DONOGHUE: The creative process differs every time. Sometimes I’ll have a track name in my head and will try and build a song around that. I went through a phase of starting with bass line and bringing everything in around that. I’ve recently gone back to starting with a melody and seeing what happens.
I never used to collaborate as I found creating music such a personal process, and I didn’t want to let anyone else in. Lately I’ve started reaching out and asking for feedback, which has had positive results.
9. What has been the most difficult thing you’ve had to endure in your life or music career so far?
MICHAEL DONOGHUE: I won’t get into the personal stuff, but music wise, I’d say that being an independent artist is difficult in general. The music industry is a tough place to be, and it’s not for the faint of heart. There’s a hell of a lot of rejection, self-doubt, and soul searching.
One positive interaction makes you forget about all of that, though.
10. On the contrary, what would you consider a successful, proud or significant point in your life or music career so far?
MICHAEL DONOGHUE: There have been a few. Radio play, reviews, playlist additions, and interviews have all been great. When I started out, my first big goal was to be played on national radio. I achieved this in January this year when I was played on Jaguars Radio 1 BBC Introducing Show. That was a very nice moment.
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