Band of the Day

2013.12.15

Mikael Jorgensen

Wilco's keyboardist collaborates with Greg O'Keeffe on layered synth soundscapes with minimal beats
When you look at me that way, it's a disaster.
lyrics from Angry Americans

Born in suburban New Jersey to Scandinavian immigrant parents, Mikael Jorgensen developed a fascination with music and its production while accompanying his father Joe, an accomplished New York recording engineer, to recording studios in NYC at age 7. From this technology-rich childhood, Mikael went on to gain formal education ranging from fine arts and video to electronics and computer science, a combination that now forms the core of his creative endeavors as a master of modern-digital and retro-analog production.

Taking tenure at SOMA Studios in Chicago, owned by John McEntire of Tortoise, Mikael worked on records with artists like Stereolab, Rob Mazurek and Califone. This period culminated in his work with Wilco on the album Yankee Foxtrot Hotel. Tech-savvy and synth-wielding, Mikael’s studio skills became increasingly crucial to Wilco as the band stretched far beyond the confines of guitar-centered music. Beginning work as engineer on Wilco’s next album, A Ghost Is Born, Mikael transcended his engineering role and began playing keyboards in the group, where he has stayed for over a decade.

Throughout this time, Mikael has been collaborating with a number of other musicians and producers, including his long-term musical partner, Greg O’Keeffe. Their 2009 album All is Golden – released under the moniker Pronto – led to a unique second album, Bunny Hates Wolf (BSR-002).

After listening to the basic live tracks, Jorgensen began to abandon the guitars, bass and vocals and replace them with vintage analog synthesizers, software samplers and music technology of any variety. At first just a few replacements accentuated the production, but eventually Jorgensen and O’Keeffe would replace everything but the live drums. This labor intensive shift has produced one of the most interesting electronic music records in recent memory, one that artfully avoids the “clubby” and “dancey” and “ambient” cliches to cast its own sonic territory that spans playfully sinister grooves, euphoric 8-bit blossoms and quiet introspection.

Toward the end of production, Jorgensen noticed an article about producer/engineer Allen Farmelo’s retro-futuristic mixing console, and the two were soon into a long-term mixing collaboration for the Jorgensen-O’Keeffe album. Mixing cemented Mikael and Allen’s relationship and eventually led to Butterscotch Records (founded by Farmelo) signing Jorgensen.