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Wednesday, 11 January 2012 02:45

Billy Ocean

Still Relevant

Listening to the incredible pedigree of pop classics contained within the canon of iconic British pop-sensation Billy Ocean, you get the sense these tracks have built up an infallibility to the notion of garish nostalgia and cultural cringe, which resonates in the work of many of his contemporaries.

'Caribbean Queen', 'Love Really Hurts Without You' and 'When The Going Gets Tough' “ all these tracks hold true as beacons of the pop form, shining as strong today as they did before Billy made his retreat from the industry in the early '90s.

"Melodies, melodies. People love music, people love melodies," Billy states in his impossibly charismatic Trinidadian cadence. "Whatever people are exposed to, they'll accept it until they hear something better. I think it's like this new generation, they hear a lot of music made by machines. But once they hear songs that are really true to the form, with nice melodies, they love it just as much, or they love it more.

"I see a lot of young people at my concerts, obviously the older generation too. But the audience is very mixed sometimes, the young people are there because they want to hear melodies, they want to hear songs."

At the crest of his success, Billy famously took time off from the spotlight, completing removing himself from the follies of the music industry. "I took the time out to be with my family as my kids were growing up and there's daddy travelling over the place, having a lot of fun. I can't exactly say I was having the sort of fun I am having now," he ponders.

It goes to show that time has not forgotten Billy Ocean, judging by the success of his perpetual comeback tour, which saw Billy perform in Australia for the first time ever in 2009. "It shows you how good it's been, because I haven't been off the road since then, I've kept going. That initial tour in 2007 was just a taste to see what the whole thing was all about. But the response and reaction has been so good, that here I am still out here wondering what I've started. It has gone very good, I must admit."

Billy Ocean performs alongside Ali Campbell's UB40 and more at the Brisbane Riverstage January 26.
Wednesday, 30 November 2011 14:47

Battles

At The Opera

It’s not long now until renowned New York experimentalist collective, Battles, once again touch down on our shores.

The outfit were last in Australia to perform two spectacular shows at the Sydney Opera House for the inaugural Vivid Sydney Festival, curated by none other than Brian Eno. Battles founding member and guitarist/ sometimes-bassist, Dave Konopka, looks back on the band’s mindset during their barnstorming stint at the Opera House, and the changes which have eventuated since.

“It was a pretty fun time,” he recalls. “It was a privilege to be able to come back to Australia, especially to play the Sydney Opera House. And to be invited by Brian Eno, it was just an all round exciting experience for all of us. Those shows were great. I think we were starting to work on new material at that point, maybe even playing new stuff at the shows. It was an excellent way to end the last album’s touring cycle.”

Not only did the shows at the Opera House mark the end of the ‘Mirrored’ touring cycle, but they also signified the beginning of a watershed transition for Battles. The two shows were among the last instances of the band’s distinctive vocalist, Tyondai Braxton, performing with the band. Though losing a quarter of their ranks, Dave explains that it was never an option for the group to cease existing under the Battles banner.

“No, not at all. That wasn’t even talked about. Battles has always been our band – Ty was the last person to join Battles,” he explains. “Indicating that we wanted to change the name of the band would just be alluding to giving way too much credit – well maybe not too much credit for him, but just taking away from what Ian [Williams, guitarist/ keyboardist] and John [Stanier, drums] and I have. It’s always been our band first and foremost.

“As far as him leaving, it wasn’t that big of a deal. I think we felt that things were heading in that direction. It was a slow, evolving process seeing that he was no longer interested in being part of the band or working with us. So when he made that decision it was fine. It wasn’t shocking or anything. But he did have very poor timing,” Dave relays with a chuckle.

Before the public received any aural hint of what was to come on ‘Gloss Drop’, we were treated to the album’s striking album art. The sculpture, created by Dave, features an unidentifiable glob of strange pink matter, striking a weird balance between disgusting and appetising. “It was more or less a reaction to ‘Mirrored’. My brothers and I built that room,” Dave states, referencing the stunning one-way mirror cube which features on the artwork to ‘Mirrored’, as well as the film clip for ‘Atlas’. “I still love that album cover. But this time around the music was a little more playful. I wanted this thing that was organic and non-representational. It stemmed from the idea of this dichotomy between the live show and a recorded document. When you have a recorded document, it’s this very controlled, deliberate statement that you make.

“But when you get into the live situation – we’re still a rock band first and foremost —­ it takes on a life of its own. If you were walking down the street and saw that somebody had spraypainted some dog shit pink, you would think, ‘Hey, maybe I should go home and listen to that Battles album’. It comes from a place that’s a little more fun.”

One of the standout moments on ‘Gloss Drop’ comes in the form of the Gary Numan-led charge of ‘My Machines’. One can’t help but fantasize about the possibility of a LPs worth of Numan-fronted Battles tracks. “He’s actually admitted himself that he doesn’t like collaborating with anyone,” Dave reveals of the electro pioneer. “When he heard the song which we offered him to see if he would be interested, he just thought it was totally bizarre. He said something like, ‘There’s something interesting about what you guys are doing, and the process seems really cool’,” Dave states before dismissing any hope of a collaborative album.

“I think it would be a little too much for us as well, but overall I don’t think he would be interested in a full-length collaboration. He’s a legend, and has been carving his own path for so long, that he is so intently driven as a solo artist.”

BATTLES PLAY THE BIG DAY OUT, GOLD COAST PARKLANDS, JANUARY 22. BIGDAYOUT.COM - ‘GLOSS DROP’ IS OUT NOW.

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