What do you do when your idol hates you? When your main inspiration for doing what you want to do turns on your craft and belittles it. That’s what Deadmau5 did for so many artists when he slammed them as “glorified button pushers” with “automated sets” on his blog a few months ago. That made Aussie EDM artist Nick Boundy angry. He didn’t just try to get even: he got famous, and now he wants to change mashups and electronic dance music, 10 fingers at a time. Meet M4SONIC.
You’ve never heard of 21-year old architecture student Nick Boundy. Ever. His name hasn’t gone viral on social media. He hasn’t been thrust into the spotlight through some tragic accident or lucky windfall. He’s just a normal like you and me. Who you have most likely heard about, however, is his alter ego: M4SONIC. An obscenely talented two-handed dance music magician, who uploads his own brand of dance music and mashups YouTube, all played on the 64-button Novation Launchpad. He is one of the most popular dance “acts” on YouTube, and we caught up with him to talk about the man behind the magic.
Nick never started out wanting to be a musician for a living. He studied architecture in Adelaide and messed about with dance music as a hobby.
“I did 10 years of playing classical piano, but I wasn’t brilliant at playing. I was better at composing. A lot of which I did by ear. I always told my piano teacher to play it and replay it over again, relying on just muscle memory to replay it for myself,” he says of his musical education pre-Launchpad tinkering.
“It’s difficult to be ambidextrous [on the Launchpad], but my right hand plays beats while my left hand plays melody samples. I wanted to be the first ambidextrous Launchpad performer.”
It wasn’t until EDM superstar, Deadmau5, slammed how guys like Nick made music that he realised he had to take it to the next level.
“I had been messing around on my Launchpad for around six months when I uploaded the first video. I was a big fan of Deadmau5 and dance music, and got a bit fired up because he posted about “glorified button pushers” with preautomated sets. I was really mad, and my family saw that I was playing around with racks for drum beats, and told me to upload one of them to YouTube to see if people liked it,” he says.
The video consists of taking a few different samples of songs from the likes of Skrillex and other dubstep and dance musicians and putting them back together into something amazing. Instead of just arranging it and releasing it though, Nick decided to code up his Launchpad to kick off the different samples with the press of a button, and play the track live with two hands instead of one, making him one of the only ambidextrous dance performers out there.
“After the first mashup video I made went live on YouTube, I sent an email to Novation [the company who makes the Launchpad] and told them to have a look. They liked it, and they posted it to their social network, and the virality kicked off from there,” Nick tells me over the phone from Adelaide.
And boy, did his videos go viral. Ironic even, considering the title of his first and most popular original is called Virus.
He only has a handful of tracks up on his M4SONIC channel, but combined, they have over 34 million views and hundreds of millions more likes. Nick attributes the success to how unique those sorts of mashup and dance music videos were at the time. It wasn’t long before people were asking for his secret, or worse: flat out hating on the tracks in the comments section.
“A lot of people don’t think it’s real, and others think it’s real but hate on it because [the Launchpad] isn’t a ‘real instrument’. ‘What are you doing messing around on that Launchpad thing?’, they’d ask. I don’t read the comments anymore. So many of them are just highly critical.
“Instead, I noticed that I got 1000 likes on my videos before someone registered a single dislike. Now that there have been over 8 million plays, there are only 5 per cent of votes disliking it. It’s incredibly motivating to have that support,” he said, adding that the EDM scene needs haters, because performers want to please people and have others like their work. The hate drives them forward.
It wasn’t long before Nick and his DJ alter-ego were asked to perform at some of Australia’s biggest clubs, thanks to a sponsorship from headphone company SOL Republic. The biggest of these parties was at Pacha in Sydney’s Ivy nightclub.
This is where some of Deadmau5’s earlier criticism rings true: most nightclub performers just press play on a pre-loaded set they mixed up days, weeks or even months before the show. After hitting their one button, they just dance around like they’re the best thing since the electric drum machine, putting on a show for the audience who came there not just to dance, but to see someone perform.
This "real performance" aspect is something that Nick is really proud of in his work.
“The shows I have been playing recently are shot with a high-definition camera and projected for the audience to see. It’s live, I make mistakes, but bring it all on. That’s what I say!”
After his nation-wide tour and stops at Stereosonic Music Festival and the Falls Festival, Nick went to LA to launch his career proper. He never thought that messing with a Launchpad in his bedroom and uploading it to YouTube could get him on a plane to the US to work with hit-factory producers who spend their days spinning gold for Rihanna, Alexis Jordan and Katy Perry, Sia and Nadia Ali.
He’s also working with US booking agents for international shows. These are the same guys who nurtured live EDM performances from the likes of Deadmau5, Afrojack and Steve Aoki.
Nick has stars in his eyes.
“I’m getting studio time with people I didn't think I’d be working with. I was actually an architecture student. [Music] was my distraction: instead of assignments I'd be doing a track. It's always been my hobby,” he says with an audible sense of appreciation and awe at his newfound stardom on the EDM scene.
So what’s next for this musical wunderkind? Can anyone replicate his rise to stardom? Maybe, he says, so long as you develop your own fan base first.
“I’m basically still working in production, but it's not important to get something out soon,” he says.
“I think a lot of people when they upload a track they go about [getting it seen] the wrong way. They go crazy, network promoting their stuff and driving people insane. If you get the right people and you're good about it it works for you. But trying to make quick cash and monetising stuff on iTunes before you have a fan base it can kill you quickly. It's been about having fun and doing what you can do and doing it organically. I wasn't pushing for the support, it was showing respect to people who did jump on board.
“My advice isn't to upload a track and spam it on Faceobok so a ‘somebody’ can hear it, it's about getting your music out there inventively.”
Who will be the next Launchpad superstar, I wonder.