Every year, some of Chicago’s most all-embracing EDM, funk, rap/hip-hop, and indie event promoters — Silver Wrapper, Metronome, and Cold Grums — unite to piece together “Summer’s Last Stand,” North Coast Music Festival. Since 2010, the festival has returned to Union Park each Labor Day Weekend to house not only world-class acts from nearly every crevice of the musical continuum (deadmau5, Widespread Panic, D’Angelo, Portugal The Man, Gucci Mane, Pretty Lights — just to name a few), but also a myriad of visual art installations, ranging from a live, psychedelic graffiti demonstration from Chris Dyer to a unique pop up gallery showcasing solely local Chicagoans.
After four years of silence, the double-headed Midnight Conspiracy is emerging from their low-lit cavern to release the beast for one last reunion show Sunday, September 2 at North Coast Music Festival. Though co-conspirators and native Chicagoans Mikul Wing and Louis Kha now devote their days to their rippling and emotive electronica project, Autograf, they’ll be firing up their colossal visual and sound structure dubbed “Eye Live” of a darker vein once more.
The duo’s visual component has always been an intrinsic element of the alluringly minacious Midnight Conspiracy experience. Rigged up to Ableton to keep time with their harmonic electro and tenacious bass productions, Wing usually controls the jarring LED display himself—often on the fly—while Kha controls more of the musical narrative.
Midnight Conspiracy eclipsed the electronic scene after securing a spot on the illustrious Ultra Records roster. Their driving, cinematic tracks like “Sentinel” and their visually complementary “The Eye” feverishly sprang to the top of EDM charts across the board. The group’s stupefying laser light has swept across not only Chicago’s other top-notch electronic-heavy festivals like Spring Awakening and even Lollapalooza, but also the very first North Coast in 2010.
Before they return for North Coast’s ninth installment, Midnight Conspiracy’s Mikul Wing caught up with Dancing Astronaut to talk the wedding of visual and sonic performance art, his ever-evolving artistic identity, and why the duo chose North Coast as a backdrop for their solitary reunion show.
Single-day tickets to North Coast are still available here.
Why did you guys choose to come to North Coast for this reunion set?
It was the first festival we ever played, which was the very first North Coast that ever happened — quite a while ago. We’ve known the North Coast people for a long time now. We haven’t done a Midnight Conspiracy set in three or four years, and the festival has always had a special place in our hearts. It all started in a very grassroots way, and those people still have ownership of it, which is really cool.
How do you think North Coast compares to other Chicago festivals?
Well, you have Lolla, the big one, obviously, and then Spring Awakening, which is just straight EDM. North Coast is cool because it has a more boiled fan base, and a much more diverse selection of music. They have jam bands, hip-hop, electronic — just everything all rolled into one. And it’s been around a long time, so it’s always been a fun fest for me to go to when I’m in Chicago.
Having not played a show together as Midnight Conspiracy since 2014, what thoughts are going through your head/what significance does the show hold?
It’s interesting because Louis and I are in both Midnight Conspiracy and Autograf together. So it’s not like we never see each other. It’s gonna be fun. We’re gonna do a lot of throwback tracks from the blog house era, some heavier bass music that obviously we don’t play with our current group, maybe some edits of our other tracks released a long time ago. We want to stay true to the old electro and the old bass music, and do a set that revolves around that.
What parts of yourself as an artist would you say are reflected in Midnight Conspiracy that maybe aren’t inside the Autograf project?
For me, it was a place and time of my life and musically what I was into at that point. Even within Midnight Conspiracy, we sort of started off doing disco music and then kinda went into doing bass music and electro: a gradual progression of what our personal tastes were. It’ll always hold a place inside of me. I think I’ll get a lot of nostalgia out of going back to it.
How does the visual production contribute to the Midnight Conspiracy experience?
We created all the visual art for both projects — both Midnight Conspiracy and Autograf. At this day in age, visuals and music kind of go hand in hand. The visuals would always be linked musically to whatever programs we were running. So they were always linked and we were able to control both simultaneously. It was almost like playing a musical instrument with the lighting, to have that control over both those things on the fly and change it up to match however we were feeling. Wherever the music was going, the visuals would follow. It’s a package deal. A big reason to go to a show is for that performance aspect.
How do you guys collaboratively do that in a live performance?
Usually one of us would control the music and the other would have control of the lighting. So for Midnight Conspiracy, usually Louis would control the music and then I would control lasers and lights. We kinda played off each other.