Apr 2017 24

Now free to explore his creative inclinations as he sees fit, Level 2.0’s Mike Hoffman explains to Beacon College’s William Nesbitt his own personal Resurgence.
 
Level 2.0

 

An InterView with Mike Hoffman of Level 2.0

By William Nesbitt
Professor of English and Chair of Humanities
Beacon College, http://www.beaconcollege.edu

Level 2.0 began in a studio basement with Mike J. Hoffman and Matt Clennan – debuting in the electronic music scene in 2005, the pair won a Metropolis Records contest called “Industrial Idol” in their first year and released the debut album Dreams of Youth. Like many others, they built momentum through the appearance of dance floor tracks featured on gothic/industrial compilations and electro radio, with Nilaihah Records signing the band in 2009 and releasing a very successful album with Armageddon, which appeared on the Deutsch Alternative Charts. By 2012, after two more releases, Hoffman took over the project, controlling all operations and leaving the label to pursue, create, and offer the music on his own terms. Level 2.0 released five more records in three years and then took some time away from the music scene, returning in 2017 with a new sound, featured on the Moonlit EP, and a new album currently in the works. Hoffman took the time to speak with Beacon College’s William Nesbitt on the development of Level 2.0’s sound and vision over the years to culminate in the project’s latest outings.

 

I understand there have been some changes in the lineup. Can you tell us about them?

Hoffman: In 2012, Matt and I went in different musical directions. Since then I have taken over all operations of music production and vocals. All the music is recorded, mixed, and mastered at Nemesys Music Studios by myself.

What are the disadvantages and advantages of working by yourself?

Hoffman: In all honesty, there are more advantages than disadvantages to working by myself. The disadvantages include the lack of additional production work available for creating a song. The one formula that made Matt and I work so well together was that we shared the same vision. As an artist, sometimes I run into a dry spell, and it was nice to have someone to bounce ideas off of. One of the big advantages of working alone is freedom – the freedom to write the music the way I want and intend the final version to sound. Another factor is the artistic aspect; specifically, it’s easier to move the music in a different direction and evolve the style. Also, I find that not having to rely on anyone but myself can be very motivating. There is no one to wait on, no one else I have to go through to make a decision on a release date, a direction, or what the music may be about. The music has always been personal and pure. But nothing is more personal and pure than when it’s all done on your own.

Is there any possibility of a future collaboration with Matt?

Hoffman: When friendship is involved, I’ve learned that you never say never. Despite going our separate ways, I have some fond memories of working with him, and I’ll always appreciate learning the music together in the studio. We are actually collaborating on my side project Saviors Among Us. He will be providing guest vocals on a featured song with the next release for that project.

Is there a new album in the works?

Hoffman: Yes, Resurgence is the title for the sixth full-length album and overall twelfth release.

 
Level 2.0 - Resurgence
 

Why the title Resurgence?

Hoffman: Outside of social media, I have taken a two year hiatus from the music scene. It’s been three years since I put out a full-length album, and besides the short EP Subsphere, I just was not motivated to create anything new for Level 2.0. Until the summer of 2016, I was kind of just drifting along, not inspired emotionally or creatively. Then something sparked, something came alive, inspiring me to get back on track and create new music. It is written in every element of these new songs. And it will be quite noticeable to anyone who has followed Level 2.0 throughout the years.

What happened that was so powerful to inspire you to create an album’s worth of new songs?

Hoffman: I found the strength to walk away from a very intoxicating but toxic relationship. It was a stalemate. I was blocked, I couldn’t progress. It consumed all of my time and energy – very damaging. I finally woke up, made a stand, walked away, and let go. It was difficult, very difficult and sad, but by letting go, I was able to move on to a new, more active phase of my life. I am renewed. To really understand what I went through, you have to listen to the new album. I know people can identify with what I went through and I want them to find the same strength that I found in these songs, to use the music to help them move to the next stage of their own lives. I was blocked, but the music moved me forward.

What are the challenges of working in the underground scene, especially with the decline of the physical format?

Hoffman: The underground scene is very passionate about its music, culture, and identity, and with great passion comes hope and expectation. I find the only thing challenging is living up to the scene’s expectations. I love this genre of music, but for the past 15 years or so, we’ve all been looking for the next VNV, our next hero to idolize. I do Level 2.0 for myself. I’m not making music to be idolized or to even attempt to dethrone any musicians on the top of the charts; I am doing it for myself. However, I always hope someone can find something in my music to connect with.
Now, as for the physical distribution aspect, the world is changing, has been changing for some time. Sometimes it’s hard to keep up because some fads are recycled. So all you can do is what is best for your product. Right now, we are in a digital age, which is something this scene predicted years ago. So I have to distribute my work in a way that I can afford and that makes revenue to keep the project going.

What are the advantages of working in the underground scene?

Hoffman: Well, I mentioned the scene being passionate. With passion comes loyalty, and these fans provide a lot of support, whether it’s attending live shows, feedback on social media pages, purchasing music, or just through crowdfunding. They back the musicians they love as if we are all one family, and it’s very refreshing. It’s nice to know you have support outside of your personal circle.

Do you have a day job?

Hoffman: I have many career experiences and possibilities – male modeling with sports apparel and facial expression elegance, lingerie design, amateur poker player. I do a lot of casual dining logistics coordination.
Getting back to music, I’m thinking of branching out into scoring movies, and, of course, I do remixes and production work under Nemesys Music Digital.

Do you have any stories about touring or performing live?

Hoffman: Nothing crazier than the norm. Looking back, though, Matt and I used to prank places we would stop at on the drive through each state. For example, Matt would videotape me asking for directions at a travel center on how to get to the Top Gun academy or Alderaan, just to confuse them.

 
Level 2.0
 

Did any of your life experiences influence the writing of the album?

Hoffman: I got into making music as a vice. Some people drink or turn to other substances to release or deal with emotion. For me, it’s always been Level 2.0. If you want to know the story of my life, it’s all there in the catalog. Every song has a personal piece of me that inspires it musically and lyrically.
But the difference with Resurgence is that it took more than just making music to get through the experiences that I went through this past year. It took creating a fresh new sound that was different than past albums, a sound and style that woke me up and reminded me what I love about making music.

What’s different about this release? What make this better than any of your previous releases?

Hoffman: With every new release, the soundscape progresses. But the style always stayed traditional by sticking with a formula that simply worked. With Resurgence, this new sound has matured and evolved in a new direction. It has not followed the traditional style that is more well known in futurepop or EBM. While some tracks may still beat at a 4/4 time, transitions play more of a part than the traditional drive that propels the song. It is more of a melodic soundtrack that still appeals to the dance floor. And I have never felt the music as much emotionally as I do now when listening to these new songs.

The vocals on the new work are different from some of your previous vocals. What can you say about the progression of the vocals?

Hoffman: Like the music on past albums, I always made the vocals according to a traditional style that Level 2.0 was known for. In other words, I was following a set of rules I made for myself. And that in some ways limited the vocal delivery. Now, I’ve changed the rules for myself and expanded the limits, stretched the limits, gone beyond the limits that I always put on my vocal style. I prepared myself better vocally so my voice complements the music better. I’ve never felt as good about how well the vocals sound as I do now.

What are your plans for the future?

Hoffman: I’m taking it one year at a time for now. This year I am focused on releasing the new single, followed by the Resurgence album later this year, and then completing the second release by my side project Saviors Among Us. Also, once all is complete, I will look into doing live shows.
This year is all about the new – new experiences, new music, new style, new vocals, new album. I am renewed and stronger than ever.

 

Level 2.0
Website, Facebook, Twitter, Bandcamp
Nemesys Music Digital
Facebook, Bandcamp

 

Photography provided courtesy of Level 2.0

 

4 Comments

  1. Mike Hoffman says:

    Was a pleasure doing the interview.
    Check out the New album “Resurgence” out This Friday 4.28.17
    Available on iTunes,Amazon,GooglePlay,Spotify, & Bandcamp.
    http://www.level2pointzero.com
    http://www.level2pointzero.bandcamp.com

  2. JcsGod says:

    Been waiting for this single but really want that Resurgance album…heard a few songs before they were released and you could tell it wasn’t going to be about one or 2 songs but the album as a whole! Great interview! LOVE the new music coming out …keep it up!

  3. Sarah says:

    Can’t wait to hear the new album in its entirety!

  4. Brian says:

    Been a fan for a long time. Since the Armageddon days. Listened to the new album on bandcamp. It’s killer! Glad to see you’re still putting out new material when so many have given up. Please keep up the excellent work!

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