Mike Luke in his ‘office’.
YouTube drummer with his mind in mixing.
I bumped into Mike Luke – a German drummer, mixing engineer, producer, and YouTuber – through my friend Kristian. They were going to do a few collaborations together, and Kristian asked if I was interested in participating in their projects.
I was interested, and I ended up doing some mixing and mastering for their cover songs. They did covers of two great rock songs. One was System of a Down’s Lonely Day and the other was Volbeat’s Fallen.
People ended up liking both their playing and the sound of the covers. I decided to interview Mike Luke in order to dig up some info about what makes him tick.
How many years have you played drums?
I started drumming when I was a teenager, but then I stopped for almost 20 years due to jobs, university, and family. I started again in 2015.
What is your current music project? Or do you work with several projects at the same time?
Currently, I’m working on an album with an artist called Mindwalker; he’s from Chile. I’m helping him to arrange and programme the drum tracks on each song for his new album. Besides that, I’m mixing a song for an Irish indie alternative rock band, who re-recorded a song they did in the past.
Do you remember the first time you got interested in music? What was it that impressed you the most in that moment.
I grew up with two elder sisters in the late 70s and early 80s, and they listened to Depeche Mode, Madonna, and Michael Jackson a lot. And my father was a big influence; he was a big fan of 70s and 80s rock, so I used to listen to Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Queen, Scorpions, or Deep Purple. Most impressive was that I quickly realised and felt what music does to people. It causes emotion, tears, and joy – there’s hardly anything in the world that affects people like music did, does, and always will, no matter which genre, language, or century.
When did you know you are going to be a drummer?
I don’t know if there was a specific moment. As I said, being influenced by the big rock bands from the 70s and the 80s, the drums had always had a big part in that music – I still remember those huge tom fills with too much reverb back in the day. And, of course, that iconic drum part from Phil Collins’ In the Air Tonight or the pattern of We Will Rock You by Queen – look at every kid in the world when they listen to it. They immediately start air-drumming. So did I.
Your three favourite drummers and bands?
Oh, gosh. There are so many. If I have to choose, I’ll pick those who influenced me the most. Drummers, probably Jeff Porcaro, John Bonham, and Dave Grohl. Bands would be Pearl Jam, Queen, and Guns ‘n Roses. But when you become an adult, you learn so much more about music, about studio and session drummers who played on your favourite music. But those probably influenced my life as a kid and a teenager the most.
What song has the most impressive drumming in your opinion?
Impressive in terms of complexity? Probably any jazz song in the world. Impressive in terms of determining and influencing the feel of the song? 50 Ways to Leave a Lover by Paul Simon, Rosanna by Toto, and When the Levee Breaks by Led Zeppelin.
You use an electronic drumkit, which is interesting. Would you say acoustic kits can be replaced by samples nowadays?
Sure, because this is what’s happening already around the world; it doesn’t matter if you record on an acoustic kit or not – most producers and mixers replace drums with samples. Sampling technology has become so realistic and versatile nowadays. You know, recording drums is the most painful, expensive, time-consuming, and complex process when you record a song. You can record a guitar in almost every environment. But, for drums, you need to have a decent sounding room. So, sampling technology allows more people around the world to record and make music, which is great. But, as a drummer and musician, of course I don’t think or hope that acoustic drums will die. They won’t. The samples I use are acoustic drums, by the way.
Can you provide a brief list of your drum hardware and software?
I use a Basix Custom Birch Shellset, converted to an electronic drum set.
The drum module is a Roland TD-20x.
Cymbals are from Roland and Jobeky.
Hardware (cymbal stands, etc.) are from Pearl, Sonor, and Tama.
I use Reaper as my DAW, mixing plugins from Slate Digital, Kush Audio, Izotope, Waves, and Sonnox. Drum sample software from Toontrack (Superior Drummer 3, EZDrummer2), XLN Audio (Addictive Drums 2), and Steven Slate (Steven Slate Drums 4).
What drum software do you think has the best, most convincing sounds?
Superior Drummer 3. Without a doubt. It’s the industry standard.
Did you ever consider any other instruments?
Yes, I always wanted to play the piano. Every musician should learn to play the piano because it’s the master instrument, as it teaches you the fundamental parts of music all at the same time: harmony, rhythm, and melody. I will get myself a digital keyboard soon and start to take some lessons.
How did you become interested in the mixing side of things?
When you use samples for drums, you need to know how to mix, otherwise you hardly ever achieve the sounds you have in your head. So, I started to read books and articles and watch videos, and I bought some online courses…the rest is self-taught.
When would you say was the most obvious step-up in your mixing skills? What caused it?
I don’t know if there was a specific date or day. The most important lesson though was when I finally understood that mixing is not about EQ, compression, saturation, or any other effect. It’s about having the right balance between the tracks, when you step back from your own project and look at your mix not as a drummer but as a listener.
Any specific plans you have for the future regarding your music and the mixing side of things and the YouTube-channel?
As I have a regular daytime job and a family, I don’t plan any career in the music business. I just take things as they occur. For my channel, I will continue to focus on producing, mixing, and playing with and for drums…anything software and electronic-drums related. But who knows?
Would you like to give any advice to up-and-coming YouTubers wanting to set up a music-related channel?
Don’t focus on things you think you should do. Just do the things that are fun. Because then, you enjoy doing it. When you enjoy doing things, you’ll do things well. And when you do things well, you become better – and in the end, you will have success.