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  • Carola Kolbeck

Three Continents, Two Friends, One Vision: Sons of Sonix Are Paving the Way for the Next Generation

We chatted with Mikey and Mo from Sons of Sonix about working with some of the world’s most famous artists, the headaches of the music industry, and making groundbreaking changes for African artists.

In the world of music, we’re used to admiring the front-facing people, who sing the songs and star in glitzy music videos. We praise them for their voice, their talent, and their ability to make us lose ourselves in their songs. It’s easy to forget that, very often, there’s some genius behind them, supporting them or coming up with the magic in the first place. 

Sons of Sonix, or SOS, are Moses and Mikey, producers of records for some of the world’s most famous artists, having worked with the likes of Ariana Grande, Stormzy, Justin Bieber, and Jennifer Lopez, only to name a few. Friends since childhood, the two connected through their love and passion for music, and shared a dream to change the challenging British music scene, especially for Black musicians. 

Now, 13 years after SOS was born, Moses and Mikey travel between London, LA, and Lagos to head up a variety of projects. With their new album Timezones and Tylenol coming out this year, INJECTION caught up with the exceptional duo to talk about their shared history, their experience of the music industry, and their incredible work for youngsters in Lagos.

You’ve known each other since your early teenage years. How do you remember those days and did you have any idea you’d be working together successfully years into the future?

Mikey: We met in church, as young teens playing music. I played drums and Moses played keys. In the early years, it was mutual respect for musicians in our church that brought us closer, and I was also producing back then. We liked what the other one did, and by the time we were 18, 19 years old, we decided to form a production team. Even back then, we spoke about being producers and working with big artists. So, yes, we did see this happening. We didn't know how and when, but we did know that we were going to come together and make an impact in the music industry. And I think we've been successful because of our intention and attracting the things that happened. We knew this was going to happen. 

Do you think it all comes down to believing in yourself?

Mikey: There's a saying ‘Those who think that they can and those who think that they can’t are both right’. And I think we are an example of that, hence the record is Trust Yourself. You need to realise that your words are powerful. And if you don't believe it, then there's just no point. It starts with you. 

Have you worked with someone who you’d never think you’d work with? And are there any artists on your bucket list? 

Mikey: I think the first artist that comes to mind is obviously Justin Bieber. We grew up listening to him from afar from London and saw what he was doing to the industry, just tearing it up. So to be able to have an opportunity to work with him, meet with him, and have a record with him was like: “Oh, okay, this goes as far as we pull it out there”. And to answer your question about who is on the bucket list, for me, it’s now the song I want to make, rather than who with. I want to make a record that’s bigger than the people involved. A record is timeless, and sometimes the emphasis is more on the artist than the song itself. Of course, I'm not naive to say that, if we get a call tomorrow to work with Drake, we’d pass on the opportunity. But I think if given that opportunity, I know our focus is how do we get into that situation and make something that he may not have made before. And that's one of the reasons why we've been successful. 

Your single Trust Yourself which has been out since 31st Jan 2024, was written during lockdown and you, Mikey, said that during this time: “Written during the global pandemic of 2020, the record is an acknowledgment that people have become co-dependent on others, even to the point of sacrificing their best self and self-beliefs.”  If you don’t mind sharing, what were your experiences of lockdown that led to this song?

Mikey: Lockdown was interesting because we were in LA and had to stay there for nine months. And because we couldn’t travel, we were literally in the studio every single day for nine months. We didn't do anything other than wake up, go to the studio, and come back. For me personally, lockdown was an ‘aha’ moment - a lightbulb moment of auditing life. You know, you get to a point where you're like ‘okay, the normality has been taken away from us. Who are we? Who are you as an individual, who are you as a person? What are your goals?’ 

As producers, you have to run around artists and songwriters and other people and suddenly you’re wondering whether they actually value the work you’re doing. The effort to come into the studio, mixing your songs seven times, doing all those things to make sure your record sounds amazing. And we realised that we don't want to continue doing that, we want to make sure that our cup is full first, before we start pouring into other people’s. That’s one of the reasons why our EP and our project are under the direction of hope. So, working on Trust Yourself was one of those sessions when we were working with an amazing writer we work with all the time, Shawn Butler, and the conversations we were having at that time were a realisation of that ‘I am enough. I don’t really need to find value in what I do. My value doesn’t come from what I do, my value is me, my values, my principles, and my character.’ I think the pandemic, as crazy as it was, was a blessing. For us, it was a window and an opportunity to reevaluate, to look inside, and to find the world that you’re trying to build. 

Mo: It was also the understanding that the world was never going to be the same. The last time that there was a global pandemic was over a century ago, right? One day, when and if I’m going to have kids, they’re going to talk about the pandemic of 2020 in school, and I can say: ‘Yeah, I was there!’. The realisation of just how big this was didn’t quite hit me until I came back to London that year. It was nerve-wracking, you just didn’t know what was going to happen. But the best part was, like Mikey said, the self-realisation, the self-awareness, that things that were unimportant before the pandemic became important. For me, going to the gym regularly was something that I started during the pandemic and continued since then. And all the other goals that we have ever had, the pandemic kind of made us go, ‘Okay, we need to get on with it because we just don't know what's going to happen tomorrow, or where the world will be, or whether we’ll get the opportunity to do them’. It was like a growth spurt, we were forced to grow up and live our lives the best way we knew to.

Trust Yourself is part of your project Time Zones and Tylenol, which is out later this year. What can listeners expect from this and can you also share a little more about the title?

Mikey: The title came from what the time zones we work in represent, so LA, London, and Lagos. Tylenol represents the headache and the stress of dealing with the music industry, it represents, you know, our battles all the years, the ins and outs and the run-around and the tears and the yesses, and nos, and you know, music has always been our cure, and our help during this time. 

Time Zones and Tylenol is a true representation of who we are; we are Nigerian church musicians who grew up on hip hop and R&B. Imagine Daft Punk from Nigeria, living in LA - that’s the feel, that’s the aesthetic of the project. We are very particular about our sound; we've kind of coined a new genre, which is Afro-Slowful. The music is very slow and food for your soul, and our emphasis is on the song, what's being said, the message behind every record. A lot of our production comes and stems from an R&B background, but then we make it very minimal, so you can appreciate what's being said, you can appreciate the vocal ability, and you can appreciate how the song feels like. 

Over the years we met and made amazing relationships with many artists. Time Zones and Tylenol is a collection of those relationships, of the conversations we had, and we’re putting it out there to say: this is the standard of what music should be like and we've taken our time with it. We've mixed some records seven times; we've gone back and forth, and we listened to them on different platforms, just to make sure it's right. Because once you put it out there, you can't take it back. 

What struggles have you faced in your career, in the music industry and how do you overcome problems? Where do you get your strength from and how do you switch off?

Moses: There have been many. For a long time, Mikey and I were overlooked and not respected. Also, it’s not easy to leave your family and everything you know behind, go to a strange land, and make something of yourself there. There were a lot of hurdles, and we were looking for approval from the people in the spaces we wanted to be in. When you start out [in the music business] you think the music industry is one way and then once you get into it, you start seeing all the little cracks. And that's part of the thing that pushed us to leave London and go to America, for bigger and better opportunities. You'll always get people telling you that you will never be successful making R&B music, and you'll get so many people who doubt you. You get people who don’t believe in you, or people who say they’re here for you and then they’re not and just take advantage of you. But the key is to just believe in yourself, to learn that opinions aren’t facts, and to trust the gift that God has given you.

And now, we use the information that we have to educate the ones that are coming up behind us. That's the real key and purpose of why we do what we do. To make it a little bit easier for the next generation than it would have been if they didn't have pioneers like Mikey and myself to be able to go ahead and take some of those lashes on our backs.

You’re doing some incredible work in Lagos for youngsters and the communities there in general. Can you share a little more about this?

Mikey: Our Lagos journey started in 2019 when we first went to Nigeria together. We went to do a writing camp with Universal Music, and the whole experience was a homecoming for us. We had a light bulb moment then, realising that there’s something in this land that we needed to do, there's something we needed to give back. Up until then, we’d lived in London, then America, but it all ended up there, in Lagos. So we started to host camps for up-and-coming talent and also to see what's on the ground and what's about to happen in the genre. We’re giving these kids opportunities because a lot of them have never left Nigeria; some haven’t even left Lagos. So we’re a bridge for their music, productions, and projects to go into the spaces we have access to, and we don’t take that lightly. It’s something that we want to do and continue doing, as part of our musical journey. We’re very passionate about this, and share our knowledge; that’s at the forefront of our journey. 

If you had a magic wand, what would you change in the music industry?

Mikey: I would make the creators the main owners of the income of the music industry because they're the ones who create and the labels facilitate it. Unfortunately, it’s the other way round. As creatives, we're in a rat race, and for me, that's something that has to change. The structure of the music industry needs updating because the outlet of the music industry has evolved. We don't have CDs anymore. We don't have vinyls anymore. We have streaming, and then the streaming value is determined by who? I don't think artists are getting their just dues when it comes to the income side of it. That's why you have songwriters like Raye going on national television on a major award show, giving knowledge, saying that songwriters need to get master royalty points. And all songwriter’s brains lit up because that’s the truth. I know so many artists who are broke, who are struggling, but they’ve got great songs, but their labels are eating it all up. 

What advice would you give to anyone looking to break into the music industry? 

Mo: Trust yourself. 

Mikey: Yeah, that sets the tone of what I was going to say but I have three things to add to what Mo just said. 

Firstly, I’d say know yourself, trust yourself, know who you are, and know your values. You alone know which direction you want to go because you're going to enter an industry where people are going to tell you so many different things. People are going to tell you you need to do this, you need to be that. But if it doesn't align with the vision you have for yourself, then there’s no point wasting time and energy. 

Secondly, master your craft. It’s like going to the gym - you need to be fit in this industry because you're about to enter the hunger game of creatives. So many people are talented, so many people can produce; everybody's doing it now but what makes you stand out is if you master your craft and master your skill set for the sound you are creating. You want to be the best at what you do. 

And the third thing would be to study the music business. Understand that the music business is different from the music creative. They are two completely different platforms; you can be personal with the creative side because as a creative, it’s your art, it’s your texture, it’s your feel. But with the business, there's no emotion, there's just a business. It's a system. It's a rulebook. It’s a play. Once you study it, you’ll find the loopholes. You’ll see what's missing, you’ll see how you can negotiate differently, how you can do things differently. And you can see when you’re being taken for an idiot, you know because they will try it. Some people have signed publishing deals and to this very day, they still can't get out of them, because of clauses and terms based on them not being clued up. And you need to keep studying the music industry because it’s forever evolving, and if you don’t evolve with it, you’ll be extinct.

What other projects can we expect from you in the near future?

Mikey: Time Zones and Tylenol is also a visual project, and we’ll have two or three episodes of a documentary that explains our journey to this point. We’re sharing stories about working with Stormzy, Wretch 32, and Ariana Grande. In another episode, we look at some of our favourite songs, like a reaction video to our own music. You can see that we enjoy our music, we’re not just putting music out there for the sake of it.

We also show a collaboration with the original producer of one of Brandy’s songs, called Full Moon. We’re breaking down the process of how he made the original song and then show how we made the song with him in today's day and age with, Afrobeats being this new emerging genre to the world. It’s for people to see us visually because I think over the years we've been the producers that are behind the board, we haven't come to the forefront and this documentary brings you into our comfort zone in the studio.

True to form, the dynamic duo never stands still and embraces new avenues and ventures that come their way. Mo is entering the world of fashion, modelling, styling, and designing, whereas Mikey is getting more involved in the business and executive side of the music business. Sons of Sonix is evolving, but their passion, drive, and determination to be themselves and to make a difference in the music industry remain unchanged. There’s something so solid and hopeful about Mikey and Mo, that underlines their artistry and humanity. In the end, staying true to their values and beliefs has paid off, indicating there’s another way to succeed in a tricky music business. Perhaps, they’re the beginning of a positive change.

Follow Sons of Sonix on Instagram, TikTok, Youtube and Spotify.


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