Born in suburban New Jersey to Scandinavian immigrant parents, Mikael Jorgensen developed a fascination with music and music production while accompanying his father Joe, an accomplished New York recording engineer, to recording studios in NYC at age 7.
In 1981 the family moved to the seaside town of Atlantic Highlands, NJ, and it was there that he began experimenting with computers and music. By using a quaint computer / keyboard setup, he composed and made one copy of the cassette, “Sempre Ad Libitum” in 1985.
After graduating high school in 1990, he discovered rock and roll. Abandoning the strict measures of computers and synthesizers, the world of live musicians, Hammond organs, and electric guitars appealed to him instantly. He co-founded a band called Lizard Music with some high school friends and they began playing in the local Jersey shore club circuit.
In 1993 he enrolled at Mason Gross School of the Arts in New Brunswick, NJ studying photography, video and occasionally sneaking into the electronic music lab. The pop sensibilities of Lizard Music were hard to hear over the punk and metal trends that infected the Jersey shore music scene. Six years, one record and one EP on World Domination Records, a US and UK tour later, Mikael left Lizard Music to explore the boundaries of rock music.
He left Mason Gross School of the Arts to enroll at DeVry Technical Institute in 1996. Studying electronics and computers was, at the time, a drastic change to heady conceptual art analysis. Inspired by the ambient music of Brian Eno, the driving melodic rhythms of Stereolab, the sonic textures of Tortoise, and the experimentation of Can, Mikael formed a new band called Movere Workshop (Movere being the Latin infinitive “to move”). This was to be a “band without ego,” where any idea, musical or otherwise, would be embraced.
In 1998 Mikael moved to Chicago. Within two weeks of arriving, he began playing in a group headed by Liam Hayes called “Plush.” After weeks of grueling rehearsals, they played shows in Chicago, London, New York, Tokyo and Osaka.
Through a mutual friend, Mikael contacted John McEntire, (SOMA owner, engineer, and musician) and joined the team that was given the task of constructing a new SOMA Electronic Music Studios in early 1999. After a year of construction and wiring, he returned to making records. It was there that he was re-introduced to using computers to make music. With SOMA’s diverse collection of vintage analog synthesizers, keyboards, outboard equipment, microphones and ProTools setup, he was again, making music utilizing technology.
Working at SOMA provided a base to hone his production skills while working on records with artists such as Stereolab, Rebecca Gates, Rob Mazurek, Bobby Conn, Califone, and The Kingsbury Manx, and eventually Wilco.
In 2000, Jorgensen and fellow NJ-expat Chris Girard were working on music together. They summoned Mr. O’Keeffe to Chicago to apply his rhythmic sensibilities to some songs, and thereby formed the first incarnation of their band called Pronto.
Beginning work on A Ghost Is Born in 2002, Mikael was solely engineering, yet as the sessions progressed, it became clear that his contribution was to transcend the traditional role of engineer and by the time the record was to be finished in NYC, Mikael was no longer engineering, and just playing keyboards in the group.
Recording and touring on A Ghost Is Born would consume the next several years.
In the winter of 2006, where once again O’Keeffe appears and extricates himself to the confines of a Chicago loft where he, Jorgensen, and musicians Matt Lux, (Isotope 217, Iron & Wine), Jim Becker (Califone) and Mr. Russ Arbuthnot (an alumnus of Steve Albini’s Electrical Audio studios) recorded the Pronto album All Is Golden.
While duties in the Wilco enterprise accelerated throughout 2007, Pronto was still able to coalesce and produce what now stands as their Contraphonic debut. All Is Golden is a 70′s-inspired tome that serves as a record of action. It is the sound of waking up and moving on, cross-country trips to California, black days and blue nights giving way to better times and warmer promises. It’s AM-Radio songsmith filtered through the speakers of a modern-day prism.
After squeezing 30+ shows promoting All Is Golden into 2009, the backlog of new material began to get heavy. In March of 2010, Mikael, Greg and Adam Chilenski on bass, entered The Bunker Studio in Williamsburg, Brooklyn to record for what became Jorgensen & O’Keeffe’s newest LP, Bunny Hate Wolf.
After listening to the basic tracks, which were expertly played and recorded, a decision was made to abandon most of the instrumentation, and replace them with synthesizers and music technology of any variety. This labor intensive shift in perspective has produced one of the most interesting electronic music records in recent memory. The analog synthesizers and music software provide a stimulating context for these songs to unfold and develop within. Here is a case of an electronic music record that doesn’t fully appropriate the “clubby” or particularly “dancey” cliches.