Heyz is Living His Truth and Not Taking Himself Seriously
When I sat down to talk with Mike Hayes, he’d just announced his very first Red Rocks performance. It’s been one of his dream venues for years, and now he has less than two weeks to prepare his set.
Hayes, better known by his musical moniker Heyz, has found a way to blend music, comedy, and complete buffoonery into his brand as an artist. With over half a million followers on TikTok and a reigning slot on one of dance music’s biggest imprints, you might think Heyz was born with some sort of mega-confidence. The truth is, he’s just a guy who loves music and loves to make people happy. We sat down with Heyz to learn more about his music and the man behind the brand.
Who is HEYZ?
Mike Hayes has always loved to make the people around him happy.
“In high school I was the person who would MC all the pep rallies,” he says. “I never liked having any enemies, I like for people to think ‘Oh, hell yeah, Mike’s around? That’s great.’”
Growing up in Greensboro, North Carolina, he always had a natural musical ability. He tells the story of one trip he took to his local Guitar Center. He ambitiously picked up a Spanish guitar, hoping to “get really really dope at it.” But, when his Flamenco dreams didn’t pan out as enjoyably as he hoped, he instead turned to Logic Pro.
He started with minimal house and dark techno. Inspired by his love of artists like deadmau5, Heyz finally seemed to find the perfect outlet for his musical inclinations. In true fairytale fashion, no more than three months after he started producing, he got signed to his hero’s iconic label, mau5trap.
“It was insanely surprising,” he says. “It wasn’t like years of struggle and turmoil to try to get signed. I don’t know how I got so lucky, but I must be an email wizard or something,” he humbly jokes.
The first track he sent through was signed to a mau5trap compilation album, a major score for any budding producer. Then, they wanted more music.
“They wanted like five more songs, but I didn’t even have five songs,” he explains. “I didn’t even know if I could make more cool stuff. But luckily I did, and we got the EP out.”
The Schedule 1 EP is a hypnotic, menacing techno release. Those familiar with his newer releases, like the pop-dub banger “Touched,” might not even recognize Heyz in the older tracks. His transition from techno to bass music came when the artist asked himself simply what music he had the most fun playing.
“I would go play techno shows and not have nearly as much as when I was playing some dingey bar on a Tuesday blasting bass music,” he says. “I remember feeling constrained playing techno. Plus I’d always try to find the hardest techno I could.”
On the drive home after a headlining show in LA, Heyz knew he wanted to change the type of music he was making. And in some regards, this meant completely starting over.
“I was already on an established label, but then I had to find a totally new place and get them to believe in my brand and the music I was making,” he says.
Heyz quickly began leaning into his love for dub and hard-hitting bass. Soon he was releasing singles with recognizable labels like Jauz’s Bite This! and Zeds Dead’s Deadbeats. Eventually, Heyz would become a mainstay on Deadbeats. His aforementioned Red Rocks show will be in support of their recurring Deadrocks showcase.
It was a high-speed start to his musical career that Hayes is still catching up with. Four years after his first releases, he’s only recently acquired his own agent. Hayz says he’s always been progressive in this way, never really taking a step back, always fighting for his goals. First, he taught himself how to produce. Then, he searched for hours for labels and A&R contacts to send his music to. He even created and led his own company before he started making music.
It’s this level of drive and dedication that has helped Heyz rise in the ranks so quickly. But he’ll be the first to tell you, he never takes himself too seriously.
One serious goofball
Heyz cautions young artists, “if you don’t want to be an internet personality, just don’t. If that’s not your personality, don’t feel like you have to force yourself to get on camera and be this charismatic person. If you just want to sit in the studio and make beats, then focus on that.”
With a degree in marketing, he knows how important it is. But he also realizes it’s not something you can force. “It’s going to be disingenuous and people aren’t going to resonate with it.”
Mike says he’s always been kind of goofy and extroverted, so when COVID hit, he took his boredom and turned it into comedy. He began recording himself around his home “doing the stupid shit I usually do,” and it caught like wildfire.
Unfortunately, there are restrictions to social media fame. There’s still a disconnect between his notoriety on TikTok and his career as a musician. When we speak, he’s trying to devise a fun and engaging way to promote his newest song, “Sweet Revenge,” to his followers.
“I could go in the bathroom right now, sing a stupid song, spend 30 seconds on it, and I guarantee you that that video will do better than me spending half an afternoon coming up with a super creative way to promote my music,” he laments. “The music content (on TikTok) starts strong but then completely stops. It’s really bizarre and annoying and frustrating.”
We jokingly reference the famous Kate Bush track “Running Up That Hill” from 1985, newly viral thanks to TikTok (and Stranger Things).
“I think I might just have to wait until I’m 45, and then my music will finally start popping off on TikTok,” he jokes. “Maybe that’s the key.”
Algorithms aside, Heyz says he’s grateful for the community and opportunity social media has allotted him. He says he’s working on two new songs with “sick vocalists” he’s found through TikTok. That’s two in a slew of releases he has scheduled into 2023. While he doesn’t see himself putting out a full-length album anytime soon, he’s outlined multiple hard-hitting singles for the near future.
“I think right now I want to focus on consistent releases and strong singles,” he says. “I think an album definitely has to come at the right time, but one day I will definitely make an album. No doubt.”