Sydney Rapper/Producer Milan Ring Talks Mentorship & Recording Your Voice

milan ring

Known for rhythmic and dreamy tunes paired with seriously relatable lyrics, Sydney Inner West‘s own rapper and producer Milan Ring has gone from strength to bloody strength in 2018.

Having established herself as a veritable force of production value and tone, she’s completely sold out her launch and recently been a part of Rekorderlig’s Sauna Sounds (where you legit record a track in a sauna). We had the chance to chat to her about all things metaphor, association and creative control.

PEDESTRIAN.TV: How did you get involved with the Rekorderlig Sauna Sounds and what was it like?

Milan Ring: I don’t know how I got involved, it just happened. It was definitely an interesting experience, for sure, it was fun. It was nice and intimate. I think we really worked at making the space unique. I brought in my friend to do some set design and styling, ‘coz I wanted it to be like, “Are they in a sauna? Oh yeah, it really is a sauna.”

PTV: How was it different to recording in other places?

M: Most of our instruments were pretty direct in, so acoustics weren’t really much of a focus. And we had just a monitor speaker on the outside facing back in, but it worked! Definitely couldn’t record an orchestra in there.

PTV: Your lyrics are personal but also relatable, what’s it like to strike a balance with writing for yourself and writing for an audience?

M: To be honest, this song (Drifting) was just poetic journaling, basically. Using metaphor, probably to hide behind. I don’t tend to be super direct – like, it’s still direct – but then I definitely started the first verse with more metaphor about depression and whatnot, navigating that. Both yourself and through seeing someone that you love experiencing it.

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PTV: Is it important to you that those sort of songs get out there?

M: Yeah I think so. I think a lot of the things I write about tend to be… thinking about the human experience, I suppose. I definitely want to write some not-so-deep songs as well, but I think it is important, for sure. And I don’t even think about that – during the process I’m not thinking about that at all.

But then after I put it out, the amount of people that wrote to me telling me how important it was to them really made it worthwhile. I was like, “Oh sh*t, this is important and these conversations need to be had.” Music is so healing and it makes us feel not alone, I think, that we all have a similar experience in different ways.

PTV: You sing, rap, play guitar and mix your tracks. How does it feel to be so creatively involved every step of the way?

M: I think it’s pretty fun and it definitely takes more of my time, for sure. I just like to experiment and be across the creative process. I always have quite a strong vision of what I want things to look and sound and feel like.

I can get very technical and sit there and work on one kick drum for an hour or two hours, and not even realise I was doing it for that long. I obviously have a particular perfectionist strain that helps me to be a bit analytical about things after I’ve pushed the creative juices out, and zone in.

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PTV: What’s it like being a female rapper and producer in Australia at the moment?

M: I think in 20 years we won’t be having this conversation anymore. I think it’s really about exposure and mentorship. Association. I guess you get used to not seeing so many female producers so kids in schools subconsciously might not decide to pursue it.

I do lots of workshops in primary schools and high schools and now everyone jumps on every instrument. But I still see in the tail end of high school, a lot of girls being the singer (which is great) but surrounded by dudes on instruments. It’s also great, but how did that happen? Is it what you’re seeing more of? And then you kind of slip into that? There are so many layers.

I’m pretty strong minded and very passionate, and this is always what I wanted to do. I always knew where I wanted to go. I haven’t really come across too much negativity from that.

There just needs to be more, and that’s why I try to do (and want to do more) mentoring with the production work I do in schools and high schools. Because all the kids I work with and the singles I’ve made for them, they just think it’s normal. They don’t think, “Oh that’s so weird that she’s a female producer.” It’s just, “Hey, it’s Milan.” I think that’s very important.

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PTV: You have a very rich tone and your transitions are smooth. How has your voice developed?

M: I’m mainly self taught. I’ve had a few one-off lessons. I think the biggest space in which I’ve grown vocally is just recording myself a LOT. Like, A LOT. All my vocals I’ve ever done. They’re all tracked, by me, but think of all the millions of other songs never released!

I always say that to vocalists I work with, especially ones that are starting out, you have to get GarageBand and get a sh*tty interface or whatever, and a mic. It’s fine, it’s perfect. Just record yourself as much as possible. As MUCH as possible, because then you can hear what your voice is doing and can find the different voices you have.

I think I started and was like, oh, I’ve got that more gravelly rapping voice and then I have that airy voice, and then that voice. You just find it.

PTV: Is it hard to get past the ‘Oh god I’m listening to my own voice’ cringe factor?

M: Usually those people work in offices! Nah. If you’re singer, you can’t be scared of your own voice. You’ve gotta get over it pretty quickly. Just do it, listen to it. Probably when I started it would’ve been a bit like that but you just gotta do it 10 times and get over it. And experiment. Be critical and analyse it to push yourself to be better, but don’t pay yourself out.

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PTV: You’re from the Inner West – how has that vibe and atmosphere influenced your music?

M: It’s the space I grew up in. It’s the source of most of my storytelling, as well as being surrounded by so many creative friends. So much influence there, for sure. I don’t know how, it just does.

PTV: What do you feel is the next thing you want to achieve with your music?

M: The next big thing? Definitely doing shows overseas. That’s the dream. Touring the world, that would be amazing. So we’ll see.