Mike Wallace, also known by his stage name Mike Wallz, is a busy guy.
Wallace, who graduated from Penn State in December with a major in telecommunications, has been active in the local music scene. Between hosting his own radio program, “Off the Wallz,” on The Lion 90.7FM, playing cornerback for the Nittany Lions — he sat out last season due to a pectoral tear —and jumpstarting his solo rap career, Wallace certainly had his hands full. However, hard work and dedication have allowed him to keep moving forward.
Tonight, Wallz, along with his live band and special guests Boomerang Kid — an alternative rock band from Columbus, Ohio — and local disc jockey “The MXBB” will take the stage at the State Theatre for a formal performance. The concert, titled “A Night at the Theatre,” will begin at 7 p.m. Here’s what Wallz had to say ahead of the performance:
How’s graduation treating you?
It’s been cool. I graduated a semester early. I’m actually going to be here for a grad school program this semester so I can be here for a little bit longer to keep expanding what I’ve been doing musically at Penn State. I don’t want to leave yet. You guys have been great to me so far and I feel like there’s a lot more to be done, so I’m very fortunate for that.
How did this show come about?
With a lot of the venues around town these days kind of—not going out of business but if you’re an artist and you want to perform in State College, you’re gonna have to perform at a frat or a bar or a club. There’s not that many clubs and if you’re performing at a bar, you have to be a cover band. So in order to perform, you kind of have to put events on by yourself. The first event that we did was we reached out to the Arts Fest panel, and we were able to do a show on Old Main lawn. And that was cool, so from there, we decided, ‘Okay, we want to do a similar show,’ and the best venue that I could think of was either Eisenhower or the State Theater. And I was like ‘Well, let’s do it at the State Theatre because that’s one of the biggest venues.”
What’s it like performing solo compared to performing in your group, Primary Element?
There’s pros and cons to both. When you’re performing solo, the positives are you have control of everything that goes on and I’m performing with a live band so it doesn’t have to be just a [backing] track, and that’s kind of what a DJ would limit you to. I can break it down. I can have pianos going, the drums going and me just talking to the crowd and expressing to them the ideas behind certain songs and then performing them as well.
Sometimes performing with a group takes a lot of pressure off of you because you don’t have to necessarily do everything. You’re sharing the spotlight and your energy with two different people, so that works out well. It all depends on how you work the crowd. It’s easy to work the crowd with more people but it’s also a challenge and something I’m also looking forward to with this show.
What can you say about the live band you’ll be performing with?
If I had it my way, I’d perform with a live band at every show. But it’s a lot easier to play with a DJ most times just because from a technical standpoint, it just sounds a lot simpler. But with a live band, it brings more dynamics to the show. It brings more life to the music and my music was designed to be played live. That’s one of the things I wanted to make emphasis on when I was making “The Free Life”. You’ll find there’s a lot of acoustic [and] a lot of electric guitars, a lot of live drums. That was the whole point of it.
I’m really excited to show the world that hip-hop isn’t limited to all the stuff you hear on the radio.
2012 was a pretty big year for you. Do you think 2013 will be bigger?
2013 is going to be way bigger, starting with the State Theatre show. I want to sell out the State Theater. That’s a very ambitious goal, but me and my team [are] putting this production on 100 percent by ourselves. We don’t have any sponsors, so this is like us against the world. We want to show people that we can do anything if we put our mind to it, in the face of all the adversity, [and] in the face of everybody who may doubt. The State Theatre’s going to set a precedent for the rest of 2013.