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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
Photography provided courtesy of Level 2.0