Al-pha rhythm (noun):a pattern of slow brain waves (alpha waves ) in normal persons at rest with closed eyes, thought by some to be associated with an alert but daydreaming mind. [Dictionary.com]
I had the opportunity to sit down with Alpha Rhythm (Michael Gorman) for a while on Saturday, January 31st, 2022, at a small coffee shop in his town. We sat and chatted for quite some time, discussing all things Drum & Bass – our favorite artists, mutual friends, our plans for this new year, and how surely I had seen him play before, years ago, as we were both frequenting the same venues. I foresee 2022 being a very big year for Alpha Rhythm, and encourage all of you to keep your eyes on him. Already this year, he has seen his new EP, Within Eternity, release on vinyl through Fokuz Recordings, showcasing collaborations with artists such as Leo Wood, HumaNature, and Sub:lminal, amongst others, and then watched it sell out much faster than he could’ve imagined. He released a track on Goldfat Records, which he did with IYRE, and which was featured on UKF, and is on the lineup for this year’s Hospitality on the Beach in Albania – and we are just one month in to this year. While discussing his very inspirational journey with me, Michael offered a glimpse at his past as well as his goals for the future.
Michael’s interest in DJing and the electronic music world began around twenty years ago, as a teenager. A self-described “tech kid,” he had a huge interest in computers. He was given an IP address by a friend who hosted servers, deciding to start an online radio station. Supporting around fifty listeners, it was basically a large playlist of unmixed singles of various types of music, including some electronic music. Michael soon developed an interest in vinyl records, which led him to discovering Drum & Bass, Hospital Records, and the legendary Hospital Podcast. He went out and purchased a Gemini Belt Drive Turntable – just one – and hooked it up to his computer, beginning to utilize it on his radio station. It was not long before he decided to learn to mix, and went out and bought a second turntable, this one being a direct drive, which he paired with his Gemini and a $30 Behringer mixer with two channels – “That’s what I learned to mix on,” he stated.
Around the age of 21, Michael began playing out in venues that were popular within his local Drum & Bass scene, under the DJ name Risky Business. He recalls going to the long-running weekly Drum & Bass night FUZZ! which was very well known in the City of Pittsburgh, and eventually ended up as one of the longest running D&B weeklies stateside. Here he approached one of the crew members, asking if he could play a vinyl set there sometime. Michael was playing much heavier stuff back then, pulling inspiration from the likes of artists such as Noisia, and stated that he “really cut his teeth” playing at that local venue. Recalling that time in his life, Michael reported that he was still a college student, and that too much of his focus was on partying and not on his growth as a DJ.
When asked what came next for Michael, he simply replied “jails, rehabs.” He stated that he was just at a point in his life where he was stuck in the loop of drinking too much, using drugs too frequently. Michael was released from jail, for the final time, on January 12th, 2017. Looking back on the time he spent in jails, prisons, and rehab facilities, Michael recalls having a lot of time to just sit and be still with himself. “I don’t want to say I rediscovered myself,” Michael recalled, “but I did a lot of soul searching, a lot of praying and reading.” It was while reading the dictionary to pass time in jail that he came across the definition of “alpha rhythm.” Upon his release from jail that final time, and after spending all of that time being able to go within himself and decide what he wanted for his future, he knew that it was time for him to return to the music. He started going by the name Alpha Rhythm, with his passion for Drum & Bass shifting from subgenres such as neuro and jump up to a more smooth, liquid sound. Everything in his life, including his musical tastes, seemed to have “shifted,” he reported.
Making the inevitable switch from vinyl to digital, Michael decided to go back to his YouTube channel, which he had started almost ten years prior and had not been touched for a long time. He set a goal for himself, that when he hit a thousand subscribers he would start a podcast, a goal he quickly surpassed. Michael continues to livestream his podcast on his YouTube channel every Sunday, occasionally hosting takeovers by other artists. He talked about how fascinating it is to be able to go live and have such a large and instant global reach, connecting to thousands of people all over the globe, and how livestreaming really took off during the Covid pandemic, affording the opportunity for the music community to stay connected during that time.
Michael reported that it was during that time, when the world just stopped, when everyone was at home, that he finally had time to get serious about mastering the art of production (he had began learning to produce around October of 2019). Through networking, Michael connected with the bad man Villem, who took him under his wing and taught him the many ins and outs of Drum & Bass production. Michael also had some mentoring from Mitekiss and HumaNature, who along with Villem, were and are three of his most favorite producers.
I had the opportunity to speak to Villem about Michael – his beginnings with production, how he progressed, and where he is currently. Michael had approached Villem, seeking advice on production and mentoring, after he had been DJing for years, deciding that it was time to begin his journey with music writing. Michael’s dedication is what stood out the most to Villem, who added that Michael really took the time to to work through each part of the production process, as it was presented, and therefore was always ready to move on to the next step. Villem advised that it is Michael’s distinctive style, which has been present since the beginning and through to his first releases on Fokuz Recordings, that really sets him apart from other upcoming producers.
Coming into his own with Drum & Bass production during a global pandemic has definitely presented some frustrations as well. Alpha Rhythm has had four canceled international gigs, one being Hospitality on the Beach 2021, another being a Hospitality event this past December, and two being upcoming events that were to take place in the UK – a Goldfat event (with Mitekiss) in London, and Bristol Mix Sessions with Keeno, which current restrictions surrounding the omicron variant made impossible.
On April 3rd, 2020, Alpha Rhythm signed his first release, Into the Ashes, on Influenza Media. Michael had been sending promos out to Fokuz Recordings and Hospital Records, in hopes to grab someone’s attention. He recalled to me one of the most full circle and somewhat mind blowing moments during this journey, which occurred one day while driving his car to the garage for maintenance. He was listening to the Hospital Records podcast, when all of a sudden, he heard London Elektricity “announce that he was going to play a demo that had been sent in from a new artist, Alpha Rhythm” – and then dropped Michael’s track, leaving him stunned. “At first I thought something happened, like my phone started playing my song,” he recalled. The Hospital Podcast was, after all, what had led to Michael’s development of his love for Drum & Bass, as prior to discovering it he had been listening to mostly house, trance, and breaks. He still goes back and listens to that episode of the podcast, adding that “sometimes it still feels like a dream.”
Signing Into the Ashes led Michael to signing his first EP, which was on Celsius Recordings. He has had two EPs release on Celsius since then, and now has had two EP releases on Fokuz Recordings – which was his first big goal. “I had a three-year plan,” Michael stated, referring to when he first began producing, “to get a release on Celsius in 2020, to release on Fokuz in 2021, and a release on Hospital Records in 2022.” And within just one year, Alpha Rhythm had achieved all three of those goals. A track that Michael produced with Villem, his mentor, titled The Maker, was released by Hospital Records on Future Symptoms vol. 1 in March of 2021 – an absolutely huge moment for him. Michael’s goals then became to work with some vocalists and to have a release pressed on vinyl – and both of those things have since happened as well; he has completed tracks with both Leo Wood, a collab with HumaNature, and Sydney.
This leads us to the future goals for Alpha Rhythm: physically reaching his audience, playing his music out. “I have never played one of my own tracks out (at an event),” he stated. In addition to gigs overseas, Alpha Rhythm is also ready to start playing out here in the states. Continued focus on production, as well as his recovery, are important goals for Alpha Rhythm as well, as they always will be. “If I use (drugs) again, I will lose everything,” he stated, adding that he plans to continue to be open and transparent with his recovery in hopes that it may help others on their own journeys. Doing more with Fokuz Recordings is also high up on his 2022 goal list, stating that the label has helped him get to where he is now – “I guess the focus is on Fokuz,” he added; they always reciprocate his efforts. Michael then laughed, recalling something his father would often say – “If you want to make God laugh, make plans,” referring to how the pandemic and the cancellations of gigs – as well accomplishing his “three-year plan,” to his surprise, in just one year, has taught him to just go with the flow and not allow life’s curveballs to throw him off course. Regardless of what comes for us, and for him specifically, in 2022, you can be certain that we will be seeing a whole lot more from this talented and inspirational artist that is Alpha Rhythm.