Ever wonder how producers like Dubfire, Carl Cox and Steve Lawler stay at the top of the technology totem pole? They go to Mike Henderson. Now working under the alias ENDO, Henderson is Native Instruments' most saught-after instructor and has branded himself as the music industry's go-to guy for all things tech. We like to think of him as the Professor of MIDI.
Born in Vermont, ENDO started his journey in dance music by road tripping to Sona (Stereo Nightclub's predecessor) in Montreal. His love for all things electronic carried him to Woodstock in 1999 where, after watching Fatboy Slim and the Chemical Brothers perform, he made the decision to jump into the scene as a DJ.
Several years later, Mike is in his senior year at Berklee College of Music (for electronic music production and music synthesis). Like many college students, his extra-curricular activities affected his studies, but in this instance, it worked out great:
"I missed the day they had assigned for us to pick our final projects," Mike tells us. "So when I came in, I had to make a decision in a split second on what's going to decide my fate with this project," he said. "I thought, 'Ok, I'm going to do a DVD on Traktor and harmonic mixing.' My whole career since then has been based on my final project."
It was during this project that Mike set his sights on working for Native Instruments, the producers of Traktor. The story reads like something a dad would tell his son: Mike set his goals high, worked hard, didn't lose hope, and landed the job of his dreams. "Here I am seven years later, still doing it," he laughs.
Mike now leads teaching sessions at Native Instruments that allow each individual artist to enhance their preexisting skills. "Every DJ has their own crazy system that they follow―something that's unique to them. I basically look and see what they do DJ-wise and find out what I can do to make this better."
His training sessions saw him working with acts like Grandmaster Flash and Dubfire, and it was during one of his many sessions with Dubfire that he was given an offer that's hard to refuse. Mike recounts the story. "Dubfire had asked me what I was doing for work. When I told him I had just got out of college, he asked me to go to Asia with him for a month to be his tour manager. I obviously said yes. We both like seafood, I think that's why we got along so well."
From there, Mike's opportunities grew to tour managing for Pete Tong, Sasha and Nicole Moudaber to name a few. Oh, and there's one more.
Despite his notable industry cred, Mike isn't ashamed to share the identity of his latest student: Paris Hilton. "I actually met Paris a few times without really knowing it was her. When I finally asked for her number, she put 'Paris Hilton' in my phone and I offered that we get together for some sessions," he explains. "She's fantastic and she's a great student. We're going to be working hard this month to get her on the new Traktor and learn that inside out. We want to have a whole new setup that will blow people away."
Besides shoulder-rubbing with the American socialite, Mike's involvement with the prolific mapping company MIDI-Monsters has had huge success since its launch in September of this year.
"When I built my website, I thought that these mappings for other artists should be made available to other people. We started selling them and I found that every day I was getting hits from literally every continent," he said. "I went to Space Miami and met with Travis Rogers and we started talking about turning this into a brand. We linked up with Javier Lopez and eventually came up with the whole idea and since the first month, it has exploded."
At the root of all of this technology is still a guy who loves dance music and producing it himself. ENDO has been busy touring―not tour managing―across North America. Not only does he pour immense efforts into teaching others how to DJ, but puts the same efforts into his own sets.
"Before each gig, I spend a minimum of 30 hours preparing, finding the songs and preparing the songs. Each set is completely different―a completely different idea. People don't realize how much work is put into things behind the scenes." More of his own productions are in the works for the New Year. With such a busy schedule, one wonders how someone like Mike has the time to do all this and still learn.
Perhaps most importantly, this is a story that stands against dominant narratives in dance music that suggest you're just one big room track away from fame. Mike's had a multi-faceted career that shows talent, hard work, and an open mind will get you where you want to be.
"Non-stop learning, that's the goal," Mike smiles. "One day they'll just have a chip they will put in your brain. 'Insert Abelton, here.'"
Connie Chan is the Editor of THUMP Canada―@ConstanceChan