When you need a walkout song and don’t know where to turn, there’s only one man for the job. Mikey Rukus is his name, and if you’re a fan of AEW, then you’ll know it. If you don’t, then consider this your introduction. Dom Smith caught up with the musician and all round nice guy and discussed composing, creating a cinematic experience, work-life balance, mental health, and much more!
When asked how to reflect on such a busy year working for not just AEW Symphony: Series II but his other music projects. “It’s been a journey, to say the least, and that’s what we all live for. Everybody has goals, everybody likes to get to the summit, everybody likes to get to the finish line – but really, in the midst of that, the most meaningful part of all that is the journey.”
The last year wasn’t without its challenges. With a few ups and downs along the way, Mikey has persevered. It’s also allowed him to shape the AEW music brand and focus on storytelling. “It’s almost like going on a side quest in a video game, and just taking a second and delving deeper into the story of whether it is Adam Cole or Jurassic Express and how that whole story came to be, how the split up and chronicling The Dark Order and even Jade Cargill as well.”
In terms of creating tracks such as ‘Prehistoric Adventure’, he had more time than usual to create something really bold. The usual fast-paced nature of wrestling entertainment, which requires creating week in and week out, can be exhausting. This extended period of creative time allowed Mikey to breathe and consider making the whole endeavour more grand and cinematic. “When you get the opportunity to step back and say let’s look at the landscape here and if I was sitting down in a movie theatre and I was looking at the story play out on screen, in real time, and had time to let it breathe, how would I tell that story.”
With all this work, how does Mikey achieve the work-life balance that we all crave? He prefers to work from home if he can, although this isn’t always possible with the number of commitments he has. “I prefer to be in my headquarters – it’s like my home base, house ruckus, so to speak. There are ebbs and flows, and I always make sure my wife is always there to let me know, ‘hey, you need to take a breather.”
At Soundsphere, we think it’s important to talk about mental health with the artists we admire. When asked if there were any tips he could give to readers, he says the important thing is achieving some structure within your day, Mikey says. “I always try and start my week by making a list of everything I have to do for the entire week, and then I break it down for each day. And I always list more in a day than I can possibly do because you have to give yourself mini goals – and if you don’t structure and tell yourself beforehand what you’re gonna do – your mind is gonna end up somewhere else. “
With all this responsibility for both his work and family life, we ask what he’s been watching and listening to in his downtime. Music and movies are the big two, with Mikey citing The Departed, Shawshank Redemption and Rudy as his top three films. He also runs a Twitch stream every Thursday dedicated to retro movies. Speaking about this, Mikey says, “We focus on retro movies and gaming, the ’80s and 90’s – so that’s kind of my outlet once a week where I get to just have fun and get to talk about some of the old movies I grew up with.”
Music also plays a huge part in Mikey’s downtime – with Starset being a particular favourite. Film scores are his jam as well, with a lot of his inspiration for wrestling themes coming from film soundtracks. “There are different techniques, different styles, different approaches – and figuring out how to take that and ball it up into like a snowball.” From here, Mikey can use it to inform his own work and make the themes he creates have much more scope than usual.
Everyone ponders what they will leave behind when they’re gone, and it’s always interesting to see what people will consider has been vital for them in their life and career. Mikey isn’t too focused on his legacy for the moment. “Even though I’ve been doing music for 10-12 years, I’ve been with AEW for the last three years – I’m still building. So I’m not probably going to think about legacy until years down the line.” He’s focused on the here and now and finding ways to expand the AEW brand beyond wrestling. “Taking AEW music outside, where people can listen to this not just within the wrestling context, but other outlets of entertainment.”
Before the interview ends, here is another inspirational nugget to take you through the rest of your day.
“As far as I’m concerned, if I’m in this office every single day – I’m always working to the next thing.”
Interview: Dom Smith / Words: Brett Herlingshaw