‘We’ve always had our signature sound’
October 09 2016 09:02 PM
RECORD PERFORMANCE: DJs Mike ‘Milk’ and Steven ‘Sugar’ spinning some grooves at their Doha gig in Illusion last week.

How does one talk about The Secret Garden without divulging the secret? A rooftop brimming with lush plants and dainty flowers, soft-lit seating areas completing the atmospheric theme set by the gentle, breezy onset of the Doha winter, and upbeat house rhythms keeping company to al fresco sipping and dining; the secret sure is hard to keep.
At Illusion, the uber trendy night spot nestled in the plush environs of Marsa Malaz Kempinski, The Pearl-Doha, the launch of The Secret Garden saw Doha’s party hoppers take in the stately yet feisty, festive vibe of a new concept on Friday night. The highlight of the event was, of course, DJs Milk & Sugar from Munich.
Known for their house classics such as Let The Sun Shine and Love Is In The Air, German house music producers and record label owners, Mike ‘Milk’ and Steven ‘Sugar’ put the groove in the garden with their funky mixes. Community caught up with the duo on the sidelines of their vivacious set. Excerpts:

In what way do you try and make your brand of house music more contemporary and distinct?
We don’t know what’s really the secret. Our music comes from our hearts. We have always been making music that we were feeling. We are producers and DJs, and next year, we would have completed 20 years of Milk & Sugar. So we have performed in a lot of parts of the world. All the influences we have had from our DJ sets from all around the world, and also, the music we like comes together like a big melting pot. When we start producing, it’s like all the influences we have absorbed from ever since we started out is distilled into our music and it influences us in what we play and what we produce.
Mike: We have always had our signature sound. We emerged from playing disco and classic house. Of late, EDM and the likes are somewhat going down in popularity while house music is getting bigger and bigger. All our records have a funky, soulful vibe. So if you listen to our music, you will know exactly that it’s Milk & Sugar.

How do you see your sound to have evolved over the years, from the time you started out in 1997?
It has been like a long journey for us, and of course, there’s been a change. But now, everything is returning to the roots. Today, we are exactly at the point where we started with the funky vocal house albeit in a modern way, two decades later.
Steven: Also, the production techniques changed. When we started, our tools were different from what we have now. All the possibilities of how we could produce music just exploded. First, we started with samples, then we were working with artistes, writing songs, and doing signature songs on our own. 
From time to time, we have done cover versions. Nowadays, we are still looking for some disco samples to toss into our music but in a completely different way from what we would have done 15 or 20 years ago. So it’s like how you combine the things you feel have changed over time.

How did you guys come up with the name Milk & Sugar?
We started in the ’90s as a DJ team and then decided to move to house music, stick to it, and make a project for this kind of music. We were thinking of various names, and came up with Milk & Sugar, which has also to do with our real names Mike and Steven. It fits well with what we are and what we are trying to say with our music.
Mike: And it sounds better than, say, Salt & Pepper!

What do you make of the current dance and club music scene, and also, how do you see the music business to have evolved over time?
When we started, there was basically house music and techno. Then the scene really evolved. Now you have every kind of genre and sub-genres like tech-house, minimal, deep-house, you name it, and there are a lot of specialists now out there playing these specific genres.
But on the other hand, there are way more clubbers now around the world because with the Internet you can reach almost everybody. There are so many more people listening to music today. However, the tragedy is that fewer people are buying records. Most people are downloading music illegally or streaming music, which is not good for the income streams of the artistes as it hardly amounts to good money. So live shows is where we get our money from.
Steven: When we started, the focus of the artistes was really on selling records. Then there was a time when it was 50-50; like half of your income was from selling records and half from live performances. Since the past 10 years, performing live has become all the more important. That’s not a bad thing really because the possibilities for us to play all around the world were much lesser before. Today, it’s a lot more.

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