Performer – For many years Mike has toured, recorded, arranged and orchestrated for Damon Albarn. He is Musical Director and keyboard player for Gorillaz ‘live’ and took part in the Gorillaz 2010 world tour with its ground-breaking performances in Syria and Lebanon.
As far back as 1993 Michael was in-house arranger and horn player for many bands on the Acid Jazz label, which led to recording and touring with The Brand New Heavies and Jamiroquai amongst others. SInce then he has moved on to play as the regular keyboard player for Blur and The Good, The Bad and The Queen. In the summer of 2012 he performed with the on-stage band on organ and harpsichord as part of Rufus Norris and Damon Albarn’s production of Dr Dee at the ENO.
Musical director – Mike was recently MD for the Barbican’s ‘Honest John’s Chop-up’; ‘Tropical Tribute to the Clash’ and ‘Songs in the Key of London’ curated by Chris Difford from Squeeze. The Independent described the Honest John show as ‘a thrilling, well-paced evening of music’.
Bryn Ormrod, head programmer of the Contemporary Music Section at The Barbican on working with Mike –
“I have employed Mike Smith for several newly commissioned music projects over the past few years at the Barbican. He is a precociously talented musician, arranger, composer, band leader and creative thinker, who has the rare balance of people skills, musical knowledge, focus and drive that enables him to successfully deliver highly complex artistic events.”
In the studio – Mike was studio session supervisor and edited the score for the recording of ‘Monkey-Journey to the West’. He subsequently updated the score for the hugely successful run in London.
Mike has a proven track record in writing music for documentaries. These have included Channel 4’s The Secret life of the Classroom- the award-winning documentary on a child’s first weeks at primary school and how they cope; Children Fighting Cancer – a four-part BBC series on children with leukaemia; The Great Olympic Drugs Scandal- uncovers the rampant steroid abuse in the East German Womens’ Olympic team of Cold War East Germany; Madeleine-One Year On- Kate and Gerry McCann tell their story on the first anniversary of their daughter Madeleine going missing and their fight to introduce the Amber Alert system to the UK and Europe.
Not all work is for whole shows. His successful updating of the Ski Sunday theme led the BBC to ask Mike to update the iconic Grandstand theme.
Mike is a regular contributor to Absolute Radio as a jingle composer and to the KPM music library.
Vince Lynch Creative & Publishing director at Absolute Radio on working with Mike -
‘I’ve been lucky enough to work with Mike on projects which always create amazing results. Mike created the entire sonic package for Absolute Radio 00s and helped the station sound like nothing else that has come before it. The best part is; Mike created the music while on the road touring America as Musical Director for Gorillaz where he was also co-creating and hosting a documentary and series of podcasts for the Absolute Radio Network and OGS Creative. From being a funny and charming personality to a world class musician and writer, the man is an orchestra of talent in which he performs, composes and conducts. Leaving you standing on your chair, clapping like a lunatic.’
Mike’s film work is eclectic. He arranged and orchestrated the score with composer / producer Marius De Vries for Ealing Studios’ 2008 remake of Noel Coward’s Easy Virtue featuring Jessica Biel and Colin Firth. This involved scoring popular songs from the 20’s and 30’s and also songs from the modern era –
Stephan Elliot, Director of ‘Easy Virtue’ on working with Mike –
‘My last experience with Mike was a big call. Turn the old into new and the new into old in equal measures. Mike kept Noel Coward and Cole Porter within period without alienating a modern audience. It was a supreme achievement. But asking him to counter with taking contemporary classics like CARWASH and SEX BOMB back to the 1920′s in an indistinguishable matching tone was almost an impossible ask. But he did it – with ingenuity and pure poetry. Mike’s orchestrations were simply outstanding. His ear and energy in the room, coupled with a quick fire response to adapt to any crisis – is worth simply bottling.’
2009 saw Mike working with ‘Cold Feet’ director Tim Whitby on two very different silent films requiring very different music for each film.
Tim Whitby on working with Mike -
‘Working with Mike Smith was a pleasure and a success. The two short films ‘The Running of the Deer and ‘The Walkers’ we made together were silent and the music was therefore an absolutely crucial part of the storytelling. He has very strong ideas but is also a sensitive collaborator; which makes him an ideal screen composer. His skill and versatility as a musician meant that we could very quickly try different things and experiment to picture in the edit. We worked together on assemblies as well as the final picture. It was fun. And it was on time. The two films were very different tonally and Mike composed music with great energy and humour as well emotional power for both.’
At the beginning of 2012, Mike with Damon Albarn, Suzi Winstanley and Nelson de Freitas formed a music production company called ‘Electric Wave Bureau’ with the aim of bringing together a huge collective musical imput to TV and Film. In 2012, EWB scored the music to Rufus Norris’ debut feature film ‘Broken’ featuring Tim Roth, Cillian Murphy and the amazing talent of 13 year old Eloise Lawrence. The film debuted at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival during critics week to wide critical acclaim. It also won Best Supporting Actor (Rory Kinnear) and Best Picture at the 2012 British Independent Film Awards.
Mike won a Best Music award at the West of England Royal Television Society Awards 2012 for his debut score to 8 Minutes Idle – an iFeatures production, filmed and post produced entirely in Bristol, England.