IMG_0943Earlier this month, we sat down with Mickey Karbal, better known as Aryay, at Caffé Paradiso, a familiar study spot at the University of Illinois. He made his way back to campus for the first time in years, accompanying Brillz and Party Favor on their massive Twonk Di Nation Tour. The former Illinois student said he was relieved that final exams were no longer a concern and gave us the scoop on his new life away from Champaign-Urbana.

UPC: First off, welcome back to C-U. How does it feel to be back playing at The Canopy Club?

A: Super weird — super duper weird. I woke up this morning on the tour bus and the first thing I saw was Manolo’s. Back when I was one of the regular opening DJs at Canopy, I used to always see tour buses parked there, so it’s weird that I’m on that bus now. I remember my first show at Canopy during my freshman year. I brought out a bunch of people from my floor and everyone was chanting, ‘Go Mickey, go Mickey!’ I was kind of embarrassed, thinking to myself, ‘What is happening right now? This is not how a show is supposed to go.’ It was sick though.

That’s why I fuck with The Canopy Club, because that was the first place I could gain a little bit of confidence in terms of DJing. At places like Red Lion and Joe’s, you have to play Top 40, and you have to be in a fraternity, and know ‘such and such.’ And girls would come up and be like, ‘Hey can you play that new Taylor Swift song?’ That’s why I was always like, ‘Man, fuck all that.’

UPC: Did you do any other things to get involved with music on campus at U of I?

A: I joined Star Course — they had some cool vibes. Shout out to Joe Faywell. He was my homie.

UPC: So why’d you decide on Caffé Paradiso as your chill spot for the day?

A: I decided to come, because I basically used to live here anyway. On my walk over, I saw the childhood development lab, which is where a lot of my human development and family studies classes were. I was babysitting two-year-olds. It’s just super weird to be back in this place, where I was so stressed and school-oriented. Everyone is studying and grinding on their finals and now I’m like, ‘That shit doesn’t matter, that shit’s stupid.’ Ha.

UPC: Aside from hanging at Paradiso, what were some of your favorite spots around campus to eat and chill?

A: Dude, I used to always eat at the Bread Company, That spot is bomb if it’s still around. They have bomb-ass tuna fish. Ko-Fusion was good, too. They had a DJ thing going for like a month, and all I wanted to do was DJ there so I could get free sushi, but no one ever let me do it. Radio Maria, that tapas place in downtown Champaign, also has some bomb-ass food.

UPC: How’s the Twonk tour been going so far?

A: It’s cool. I got to Pittsburgh last Tuesday, and that’s where the tour started for me. I met Brillz before, and I met Ghastly, but I didn’t know Party Favor, so we were all just kinda vibing that night and getting a little groove going on. We played some GoldenEye, so that was pretty tight.

UPC:  What’s been your favorite moment so far on the tour?

A: I don’t know what city we’re ever in anymore, it’s like one big blur, especially if you’re drinking every night, which I’ve pretty much been. The first night I was like, ‘Alright, I’m gonna be sober and vibe this out,’ and then after that I decided I was gonna get a little drunker.

The highlight for me was at the show in Charlotte, North Carolina. It was after the set, and we invited all these people to the green room. I played a straight up 90s hip-hop set on my computer, and I got this little gash on my laptop from Ghastly. He was pretty drunk. But we just had a ton of people turning up in the back, so that was definitely the most fun part so far.

UPC: So you moved to California after school, what’s life like in LA?

A: It’s tight. The only reason I moved there is because everyone lives there. I can call up such and such and be like, ‘Hey man, let’s work on a song today.’ In Chicago, you can’t really do that. There’s some really fuckin’ dope producers in Chicago, but it’s just way more accessible in Los Angeles. And it’s warm, which is dope, of course.

UPC: Recently, you’ve been doing a bunch of hilarious, but informational, video tutorials for the production software FL Studio. How’d all that get started?

A: With the release of my EP, I wanted to do something extra. I was trying to think of a really dope way to do some goofy branding, cause that’s what my shit is. I reached out to Image Line, and they knew who I was, so I said, ‘Let’s do these tutorial videos where I pretty much just break down how I made certain parts of the songs on the EP.’ I thought about, ‘If I were a producer, what would I want to see in a tutorial video?’

And then we just decided to make them goofy as fuck — to make it not so serious. A lot of people are doing videos, which are really artsy and serious, which I get, but I’d rather keep it light-hearted and make it more internet-friendly.

UPC: Those videos are enjoyable for anybody to watch even if they don’t make music.

A: Yeah, definitely. We did the whole ‘Skrillex shrine’ and all that dumb shit.

UPC: And the ‘Watch Me Nae Nae’ guitar jam in the mountains in LA.

A: Yeah, haha. That was a freestyle. I thought of that on the spot. That was dope, we drove up to this canyon, and my homie Liam, the videographer for OWSLA, brought out a drone, and it was so epic. That was so pretty.

UPC: So what are a few albums you’ve been into recently?

A: Dude, I’ve just been going back in time. I never really used to listen to albums. Growing up, I’d only really listen to singles. My cousin Shlo only listens to albums, and he told me, ‘You have to experience it from front to back. That’s the only way to listen to shit.’ Now I’m telling all my friends, ‘Man have you heard OK Computer? It’s such a good album.’ Then they’ll be like, ‘Dude, what fucking year are you living in?’

UPC: It’s crazy because you can listen to an album start to finish and you may not even like it the first time, but it can eventually grow on you. Albums are awesome for that, because they teach you to like new things.

A: That’s true actually. There are some albums where I’ve kinda been like, ‘Meh.’ That’s how a lot of the Of Montreal shit was for me at first. Then I was like, ‘Man, I love this shit.’

UPC: Any exciting projects in the works?

A: Yeah. I got two tunes with Dillon Francis, which could be cool. They gotta get finished, and it’s on him. Then I have this tune with this kid NGHTMRE. He’s fuckin’ killing it.

UPC: Yeah he just slayed at the Canopy Club a couple weeks back.

A: Yeah. He’s a fuckin’ beast. Those are the two that I think will actually come out and see the light of day. Other than that, I just have a million gazillion ideas that I’m so slow to finish because I’m the slowest producer in the world.

UPC: So when you have a bunch of ideas that you know have potential, how do you drive yourself to keep working on them and finish them up?

A: I don’t. That’s why I suck at finishing shit. I just lose interest. It’s really, really tough for me to finish shit.

UPC: Do you ever finish a track in one sitting?

A: No dude, that shit takes me months. “R You Ok” took me like five fuckin’ months to make. Everything on that EP took me months and months to make. I’ve seen other producers start and finish shit in a day, and I’m getting better, but that’s not me.

UPC: What’s your dream collaboration?

A: Dude, I’d love to work with Radiohead or some shit. Thom Yorke has been on some crazy shit. I wanna work with someone who’s on some super artsy shit, just so I can vibe off it. If I could spend a week with Thom Yorke and ask him a million questions, that would be tight. Even Skrillex would be dope, and whatever, everyone wants to work with Skrill. It’s not that I necessarily want to just work with him, I just want to hang with him, see how he thinks and pick apart his brain.

UPC: With the new year right around the corner, is there anything crazy you want to do, or places you’d like to visit?

A: I don’t know man, I don’t really party very much. If I’m touring, sure, I’ll drink or whatever, but when I’m in LA at home, I don’t go out on the weekend. I’m a hermit. I’m taking the whole month of February off to just lock myself away and work on music.

All I wanna do is make dope ass music. If I have that shit under my belt and it’s ready to go out, then I’ll be more like, ‘Yeah, let’s tour (and) play shows.’ For me to be playing all these shows without having new shit kinda bums me out, you know? It’s just fun playing new music.

You can stream Aryay’s Vicious EP below, and be on the lookout for new tunes from the U of I grad over on his Soundcloud.

Huge thanks to Mickey for taking the time to sit down and chat with us. We’d also like to thank The Canopy Club for hosting yet another stellar performance.