Meet Sidekick Wave: A Producer hailing from Orange, California, but ‘sporadic traveling’ – currently in Mexico – and overall very nice guy with a positive twitter attitude, I quote: ‘I make music as Sidekick Wave and run the boutique genre-neutral label Civic Duty Records. You may find me interesting or you may not, it’s okay either way’. Find him on Bandcamp and this is what you’ll read, I quote: ‘Sidekick Wave sits on the couch but never behind the desk. Sidekick Wave is proof that oblivion exists in the outtakes of life. Often electronic, ever eclectic, genre is just a word in the dictionary for Sidekick’. Furthermore, his Civic Duty Records twitter mentions, I quote: ‘Traveling music label. Home of the mistranslationwave non-genre. Submissions are open and just a DM away. Will respond to everyone (though it may take a moment)’. Well okay then.
My Kind of Music, with Sidekick Wave
SLEIGH YOUR EGO, I promise it won’t Hurt.
For all of you Spotlight readers, it took me a while breaking my brain about it, but I’ve finally come up with a little bit of a change in the Spotlight setup. Let’s hope you like it and if so – or if not – you know you can always leave a comment way below the article. Be nice now! Other than that, I’m very happy to be here and do this Spotlight about someone who seems to be leading a very interesting life, on the road. Now I never aim to dive too deep into the artists personal life, but one can hardly dismiss this fact, since his travels have an obvious impact on the way he perceives music and life in general.
Sidekick Wave got my attention early on, when I only just started to find my way on twitter in 2020. I was surprised I got a follow from a label called Civic Duty Records (CDR) and soon found out Sidekick Wave was the man behind the scene. At that time I immediately hoped there would be a Spotlight forthcoming, but because I only just started the blog and was pretty busy already, I decided to abide my time. The interactions with CDR were friendly from the start and when I found out about the travels I was only more intrigued. So it wasn’t a complete surprise when CDR disappeared from twitter for a while, only to return late 2021. I hadn’t forgot about him and was pleased to be mutuals again. The next step – asking for an interview – was a pretty easy one by then. And here we are, I’m hoping to get some insight about the ‘mistranslationwave non-genre’, let’s go!
Sidekick Wave’s music can be found on his Bandcamp page, as well as under the Civic Duty Records page, where he as to be expected, releases a lot of music from different artists, such as – remember? – my previous Spotlight, Waavypanda. You’ll find them all on the CDR Bandcamp site. Today, I will share some albums Sidekick Wave mentions in the interview, which I hope you will enjoy. But first the one it all started with on Bandcamp, released July 12, 2020. Then, we will straight up dive into some Sidekick Wave lore!
1️⃣ Let’s start with the obvious: can you please introduce yourself and tell us; who is Sidekick Wave? How and when did you start producing music? Do you play any instruments yourself and/or sing? Does the name have a special meaning to you?
‘Hey Wien, thanks so much for having me! My name is David Miller and I make music by myself and with friends under the project name Sidekick Wave. I’ve been doing Sidekick Wave for the past year and a half.
I started making music in the early 90’s when I bought a Yamaha drum machine and a digital delay. I had no idea how to use them but I knocked out cassette after cassette of material trying to figure it out.
These days I just use my laptop, a usb keyboard and a microphone. In the past I’ve had crates filled with gear, but I live on the road now so portability is supreme.
The name comes from a really old anime called Hyper Combat Unit Dangaioh. It was one of the very first professionally released subtitled animes released in the US. I bought the VHS from an ad in the back of the sci-fi magazine Starlog and loved it dearly.
It has a rather famous mistranslation, where an attack is called “Sidekick Wave” instead of “Psychic Wave” which is what it would have been in Japanese. What the hell is a Sidekick Wave? Whatever it is, the mistranslation is way more interesting than any old Psychic Wave and it’s stuck in my head for years. In the same way, I’ve never quite been able to fit in any specific genre and my various attempts could similarly be seen as mistranslations – hopefully of which can offer an innocent sort of fun’.
Well there you have it. I love the background stories so much, discovering why and how artists made their way into making music – and/or art! – and right with that first release, Sidekick Wave lays down the basis of what his music is all about. I quote: ‘Coffee House Music. These are the sounds of games with friends and coffee or cake. The relaxing CAFè Noise Techno Rave fills the world with uncertainty and joy. Mistranslation Wave is a new form of electronic music made with the right ideas but the wrong execution – misunderstanding as a genre’.
2️⃣ Who have been/are your biggest influences? Where do you get your inspiration from and how do you keep going? How would you describe your music and do you stick to one genre or do you like to experiment with other genres as well?
‘I have a wide range of musical taste so my influences fluctuate greatly. For the past few months, I’ve largely been listening to Hindu devotional music at home. However that’s changed in the last few days (since getting to Tulum) when I switched from audiobooks during workouts and solo hikes back to music. Now tons of recent club music.
My tastes range from Master P to Coil, Carly Rae Jepson to Herbie Hancock, Krishna Das to Merzbow. I love minimalist composers like Michael Nyman and Steve Reich just as much as I love early disco-live band era Hip Hop. I’m huge into Lee Scratch Perry and a ton of early Reggae dub music, there’s something so brilliant about rock music came to Africa and they used the same tools to make something that just sounds so different.
Actually, thinking about it, I love rock too – especially 60s psychedelic pop and stuff like the Stones (through Exile on Main Street, not so much after). I’m a huge fan of FKA Twigs and feel she’s one of the best of the best. I love Sohn, Arca, Bill Laswell, Kanye West, Maya Jane Coles. I like a lot of modern club music: Rufus De Sol, Nora En Pure, Bassnectar and so much more.
The stuff I listened to in High School when I first started making music always has a lingering influence: Front Line Assembly, Skinny Puppy, Coil, Throbbing Gristle and that sort of industrial stuff. I also love so much of the underground Twitter music scene: Noex Beats, Donor Lens, Traipse, Sky Yamaha, all the Vylter related projects, Leifendeth, Carb Cap are all huge favorites and so so many more. I spent 2020 mostly just listening to Underground Bandcamp and it was amazing! Right now, I’m listening to waavypanda’s “Music for Broken Toys 2 (out soon from Civic) for the first time and it’s freakin’ amazing – people are going to love it!
I use the label “mistranslationwave” for reasons explained in the first answer and do indeed play hopscotch with genres. I have a sort of post-punk industrial album (Wither), early DIY dance tracks, a number of house-y singles and strange Holiday EP and on the way an ambient album, a noise album, a poppy single and some IDM.
I suspect going all over the place with genre isn’t the best long-term plan, but I’ve given myself three years of free reign to just do whatever I want with this project. I’m over halfway through that, and after that I may settle into one style or create specific projects for various moods’.
I was asked by Sidekick Wave to give above mentioned single, Higher Vibrations, a listen after it just got released and y’all know I love it when artists ask for my opinion. It’s a challenge for sure, since the genres might not always be within my comfort zone and giving some honest feedback is something I highly value myself. If there was anyone who dared giving it to me lol. And yes, the Hindu devotional music influence was not only obvious in the cover art, though the music itself is definitely not just calming. I guess the title is kind of a warning, no? Highly energetic!
3️⃣ You also run a label under the name Civic Duty Records. Why this name, how did you come up with it? What was your motivation to start a label? Are you looking for specific genres/traits in artists you wish to help release their music?
‘I’m honestly not sure where the name came from. I came up with the name in 2006 to release an Eddie Entropy album on CDR. I liked Men’s Recovery Project a lot back then and suspect chose the name Civic Duty as it has a similar sort of feel as their work. I didn’t really viewed it as a real name back then, I suspect I just thought it was funnier to put a label name on the release than not. I think I also said the original disc was a second printing too. The CDR was packaged in the oldest and most battered CD cases from my collections, many with random prices tags and labels on them. I wish I still had one.
I brought it back in 2010 and released a few more things by Eddie online. My friend Nick did a logo then and it’s because I liked his logo so much that I released the first Sidekick single on Civic when I put it out instead of just on a Sidekick Bandcamp. To me digital albums often feel slightly incomplete because they don’t have back covers so I just had to design a back cover. So I did a Civic Bandcamp and I was so enamored about how the cover art looked on Bandcamp, I decided to start releasing more stuff by me and my friends.
I got on Twitter using an old account I repurposed and saw Vapor Kitteh asking around for a label to release her DEATH TOUCH EP and I was lucky enough to score that and as a result started releasing material by talented people outside my circle of friends.
I’m looking for artists that feel they’re a bit of a square peg in whatever genre they’re working in. Most things I’ve released are electronic but not all. Honestly, I just want to release music that I love and have fun listening to. If anything, I’d like to release more stuff that goes further afield from what I have been releasing. Free jazz, experimental hip hop, lounge music, pop, reggae, anything I dig.
The only thing I’m strict on is that I either do the cover art or feel the art fits in the overall “vibe” of Civic Duty artwork. I want people to look at the Bandcamp page and see a coherence of vision for the artwork. That artistic curation is hugely important for me and that’s just because looking at the Bandcamp page is one of the most fun things about running the label for me’.
The DEATHTOUCH album is definitely unlike anything I’ve ever listened to before and reading through the description gives me some idea of how and where to place it. I quote: ‘From the jaws of defeat, DEATHTOUCH was born! Fated by destiny to take on the burgeoning synthwave scene with her ancient musical martial arts, DEATHTOUCH will have her revenge! Not for the faint-of-heart, this debut 4-song digital EP presents a cinematic quest and audio will never be the same! You’ll thrill to the sound and fury that is DEATHTOUCH!’
Looking at the artwork of the CDR Bandcamp page, I get what Sidekick Wave is saying. It’s in the colors, the impressions given and the way the covers encourage you to think/dig a little deeper, without losing sight of having a bit of fun. Who wouldn’t understand the way visualizing works? It’s all in the appetizers reaching our eyes, working their way into our minds and hearts. First contact should be a direct hit.
4️⃣ Can you describe a little how you run the label? Do you like, follow certain steps until the final release? You also have been away for a little while, since you travel a lot, how was it to come back and pick things up again?
‘I try to keep good lines of communication open with the artists and do my best to promote in advance of release for what’s coming out. I made a lot of Bandcamp yum codes that I put out a week after the releases drop so there are several waves of interest. As I mentioned earlier, I also always have a digital back cover for every release included in the download.
Because of travel I’m not going to be doing physicals again for the foreseeable future. With shipping becoming more and more of a pain in the past few years, that makes things a lot easier overall for me. I’m also trying to limit myself to 1-3 releases a month. More than that gets to be tiring.
A huge shift I recently made is that I donate all the label proceeds to the San Francisco/Marin County Food Bank. I give 80% of all digital sales (after associated Bandcamp/PayPal fees) to the artist and the rest gets donated. I’m going to do that for all of 2022.
I only really put the label on pause for a few months, but I got out of social media for longer because it was feeling like too much. I have a much healthier and easier relationship with social media now – so it’s been super fun coming back! I used to wake up and immediately jump on Twitter, I’d be looking while eating lunch with my wife, it was obsessive and not great for my IRL. Having it all be digital also makes it pretty dang easy to run while traveling. I’ve released material while in Orange County, Los Angeles, Spokane WA, Eau Claire WI, Cancun Quintana Roo Mexico, Merida Yukitan Mexico and Mexico City. I love the traveling label approach!’
To be clear, this was the album where the shift took place. ‘Sleigh Your Ego’ was released as a Christmas album, last year. Sidekick Wave slayed his ego and posted most proudly – in a good way! – about his decision to donate the proceeds from the album to the San Francisco Marin Food Bank (www.sfmfoodbank.org). I quote: ‘SLEIGH YOUR EGO! A collection of holiday mutations by Sidekick Wave that will tickle your eardrums and give the gift of goofy dance pop ambient sludge! Whether you’re a fan of holiday music or loathe it, “Sleigh Your Ego” is here for you’. I know we’ve left Christmas behind for some time now, but this one is a keeper! Save it for this year’s holiday season, it’s a refreshing new outlook on a sometimes stuffy season. The amount of support Sidekick Wave received so far on this project – and thus the chosen charity – is heartwarming!
5️⃣ You will be traveling again soon, as a matter of fact, you told me you basically ‘live on the road’, how do all these experiences translate to your music and running the label? How easy/hard is it to combine producing your own music and running a label at the same time? There must be some advantages from working on both I guess?
‘My wife and I are really boring travelers. We tend to stay in most places for a month or two, take tons of walks and shop at local grocery stores as a form of entertainment. We’ll go out and do the standard vacation stuff a few times but that’s it. As a result, it leaves plenty of time to get other stuff done. I used to podcast while traveling and doing music and label is pretty similar. I’d say the hardest thing is I tend to disengage from social and the label the few days before and the few days after we actually travel to a new place. Also, I have a weak stomach and tend to get food poisoning easy, so that takes me down too.
As for music, whether listeners know it or not what I do is deeply connected to location. So travel keeps me excited and engaged and the songs released become this nice little audio travelogue for me. I can remember very specific times and places and the memories and emotions associated with them while listening back. I keep a little Rilakkuma notebook that lists the songs I’ve worked on, the dates and locations I worked on them. The Monkey Warhol remix I did was over the course of five states I think!’
The album Sidekick Wave refers to, is Boots & Pants/Stolen Moments, by Monkey Warhol, released June 21, 2021 and including Sidekick Wave’s remixes. Another unfamiliar name to me, but doesn’t that just make things more fun. Discovering something completely new I think the album is definitely one to help you get over any depressive thoughts or moods that might have been holding you down. I quote: ‘In this new hit, our simian overlord tears up the scene with an indie-electro banger paying homage to these wearable wonders: Boots and Pants! Sidekick Wave offers a club-friendly dance party remix as a counter-argument to the age old question’.
Two singles plus two Sidekick Wave remixes and I must admit that he seems to flow pretty easy from one genre to another. Danceable, uplifting, the remix would go straight into next week’s Some Groovy Medicine playlist if only it was available on Spotify. Not that Sidekick Wave is wholly absent on Spotify though and I’m sure to find something to add. I love getting quirky, funky, fresh tunes in and the fact these tunes were produced over such a stretch of distance – and time? – is in no way discernable. And why would it? When there’s such obvious talent at work. This album, as well as Sleigh Your Ego are probably my favs so far.
6️⃣ Looking back, can you give at least one highlight or maybe turning point, that still makes you smile thinking about it? Is there anything you would have done differently now? What advice would you give to anyone who would like to start a label?
‘I loved putting together the digital package for the Mistranslationwave Comp. There’s a ton of extra art and some stupidly long essay about the art of Mistranslationwave included. I doubt almost anyone has looked through them, but I love it all so much it never stops me smiling. In general most my memories for running the label are very happy memories.
The one thing I would have done differently is I’d never have released so many physicals so close together as I did in the last few months of 2020. Way too much!
The main advice I’d have, is don’t take everything so seriously. When it stops being fun the burnout comes and is real. Its easy to start these things for fun but then turn them into grueling and painful work and effort. I’d also suggest don’t work with people you get a bad vibe from and always be super transparent about money. If you plan to make big bucks out of it all – know you’ve got a ton of work ahead of you and doing mail order really doesn’t bring much joy these days with the mail systems globally being in such poor shape’.
The above mentioned album might be the best way of showing off what Sidekick Wave/CDR stands for when talking about Mistranslation Wave indeed. 25 tracks long, the album includes a multitude of genres I wouldn’t even be able to name, but I guess that’s the whole point Sidekick Wave is making. This album is a good way of getting into the Sidekick Wave/CDR vibe, it will shower you with the colorful sounds of every corner of musical possibilities. Get musically unhinged, there are no rules, except to discover and enjoy. I quote: ‘Mistranslationwave will not be stopped because mistranslation and misapprehension exist within every interaction and every experience. Instead of labelling this as incorrect or bad, this compilation explores the interesting intersections that could only come when musical genre dies and the sonics behind the labels are brought together in juxtaposition’.
7️⃣ How do you see your near future music and label wise? Are there any goals you would like to reach this year, something new you have not done before? Any dreams you’re hoping to come true soon?
‘I want to do a second volume of the compilation (artists, reach out!). Beyond that, just keep it 2-3 releases a month and keep a good mix of music I’m involved with and other people’s stuff. The big thing for me is that it’s easy for me to go too full on and burn out, so my real goal is for slow, steady and consistent so that I’m doing this in five years without any need to shut everything down again’.
Well this makes perfect sense. More artists will undoubtedly be added to the CDR ‘crew’ so it would be nice to have them all together again on a second album. Sidekick Wave’s advice about taking things more slow, or better yet, more organized is one for everybody to take into account. Having followed a lot of artists the past couple of years, I witnessed their often crazy schedules. Having followed such a schedule myself before, I can only agree with the statement it’s easy to forget about ourselves and break our limits. I know, I know, it’s easier said than done for most of us – including me, but we all know it makes so much more sense to follow a schedule we can actually handle, instead of having to make a full stop and start all over again… wise words.
Almost reaching the end of this Spotlight, I’ll share Sidekick Wave’s latest releases on Civic Duty Records. As always, there is way too much on offer to share in this little article, especially since there are two pages of which you can choose. I advice you check them both, while a lot of the albums might be on both sites, you don’t want to be missing out and Sidekick Wave has only just begun!
8️⃣ Is there anything else you would like to add/share with the readers? Anything I did not ask about maybe?
‘Your questions were great, thanks so much for having me! Beyond that I have just two last things.
First, I recommend that everybody spends as much time as they can doing the things that make them feel lighter. The world can be heavy at times and we all have our issues, but I’ve found the more time I spend basking in the light and joy of the people and things I love – the less my issues seem binding to me.
Also, if any of the readers feel called towards daily mediation – go for it! It can be hard to stick with at first, but I can honestly say that daily meditation is the foundation stone for the label and my music. Even the noisy and angry sounding stuff only comes through because the ground my meditation practices.
Thanks again, much love to you and to everyone reading!’
And so we kind of go full circle, ending with ‘Loud Music For Broken Toys 2, by Waavypanda, released only February 24, 2022 on Civic Duty records. The album feels like it’s just taking off where it left us the last time we were listening to part 1. However, it wouldn’t be Waavypanda – or CDR – if there weren’t enough surprises woven in. 22 tracks strong, you’re in for another playful listen, while roaming around between the casualties of toy war. I now fully understand why Waavypanda’s music finds such a good home at Civic Duty Records, since they seem to completely share that Mistranslation Wave vibe.
BIG Thank You Sidekick Wave/Civic Duty Records! It sure has been a pleasure seeing you welcomed back on social media by so many! Goes to show how loved and appreciated you, your music and your label are!
To you my readers I want to say: I hope the new setup gets your approval, if not then, sorry-not-sorry. However, I hope you will give Sidekick Wave and/or Civic Duty Records a chance and listen, below are all the links you need!
Wishing y’all a very Happy Weekend! Let some Mistranslation Wave get you off track, get unhinged & enjoy! ❤