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Wednesday, 04 July 2012 14:24

Philip Samartzis: Sound Art

The Coordinator of Sound in the School of Art at RMIT University in Melbourne, Philip Samartzis prefers listening to a dripping toilet over mainstream music.

For the layman, can you describe exactly what sound art is? Sound art uses a range of techniques, materials and outcomes to promote the various ways we encounter sound whether within the natural or constructed world. While much music relies on conventions based on pitch, melody and rhythm as frameworks for instrumental articulation and virtuosity, it provides only a narrow way in which we experience sound. 

In everyday life, how much do we overlook, under-appreciate the role sound plays in our lives? We do have the tendency to fashion individual responses to our everyday lives through the agency of iPods or media players in which we create our own sound designs to mask the broadband noise surrounding us. It’s these noises though that really interests me, as these are the things that shape our experience of place and informs the way we perceive the worlds that we inhabit.

Given the mainstream acceptance of ‘normal music’, how difficult is it to convince people that the sounds you create are still music? I really think that it’s a moot point given the state of information and communication technologies, and our relatively new ability to reach beyond mainstream media to attract niche or new audiences to sound art. It is the very reason that mainstream media is on its knees as the assumption that it makes on behalf of its readership in what is acceptable or normal is usually formed from a narrow and conservative view point by self appointed arbitrators of taste. Given the choice of listening to a new album by Metallica or U2 or the sound of a dripping cistern, give me the dripping cistern everyday – normal music be damned!

What was the initial attraction you had with this type of music?  I grew up during a really interesting time in the mid to late ‘70s where German electronic music, punk, no-wave and post-punk converged to demonstrate that music could be more than what the mainstream promoted ... While the music that I compose and perform may not immediately appear to refer to these origins, the sense of experimentation, independence and community that informed each scene are very much at the heart of what I produce.

Philip Samartzis plays Liquid Architecture which happens at the Brisbane Powerhouse July 4-5.
Wednesday, 04 July 2012 13:50

The Belligerents: Calling The Shots

On Brisbane’s indie music radar for the better part of two years now, The Belligerents are progressing to a stage in their career where they need to take the ‘next step’. They hope that step is their second EP, ‘She Calls The Shots’.

One-fifth of the band, Konstantin Kersting, placed himself in front of a computer before typing out his responses to the following questions.

Tell us about the new EP, ‘She Calls The Shots’. How does it showcase the band? It's a completely new sound for us. More produced, more thought-out, denser and better (we think).

Were you wanting to present a particular sound or vibe across the five tracks? Not really. They are kind of a representation of the songs we've written over the past couple of months. I guess it’s still a fairly upbeat and energetic release, but it's not just four-to-the-floor beats like on our first EP. We also wanted to make sure the production was more expansive than on our first release.

Yanto Browning handled the production duties at Airlock Studios. What influence did he have on the recording? Yanto shaped the overall sound of the record. He told us what to add and what to leave out which was super important for us I think, because we tend to go overboard with all these different sounds that might not actually work very well together. He also mixed the songs, so I would say he had a pretty big influence overall!

Recording at Airlock, which has such a great roll call of local bands who’ve used the Samford studio in the past, did you get a sense of that history? It's an amazing location out there and it definitely helps to know that you're recording in the same space as The Ten Tenors and Pete Murray. Hopefully we can be as famous as those guys someday.

This is the group’s second EP release; is an album-proper in the works? We've definitely talked about an album, but we all need to be ready for it I think. The first album needs to be a banger, it can't just be some kind of half-arsed job with a mediocre collection of songs. Fortunately we don't have anybody rushing us for an album, so we're going to take our time and make it fucking awesome. We don't tour all that much, so I think the next couple of months are going to be spent refining our live show and writing badass songs. 

The video clip for first single ‘Steal Money’ features a hitman taking the band out one by one. It’s a really well-produced clip ... is that an important factor for the band, to present videos in such a stimulating way? I get the whole lo-fi thing that people are into at the moment, but at the end of the day I think all of us in the band like well-produced, nice-looking videos. Breeder did an awesome job at capturing the video the way they did, and Tim the producer had a clear idea of how he wanted it to look from the start. 

The Belligerents on the road: is it one madcap adventure after another or herbal teas, early nights and knitted sweatshirts? Things always get pretty out of hand. All of us like to party and going on tour is pretty much the best excuse we get. I also don't have my driver’s licence so I get to do whatever I want all day long which is fantastic.

The tours you’ve had recently with Metronomy and Neon Indian ... how much of an education was it playing alongside those bands? It's always awesome to see bands play live who are at that stage in their careers. It's inspiring and it makes you want to get better at playing live and making music in general. It's also awesome that those guys are so easygoing even though they're on extremely tight schedules every day.

The early work of the band; rigorous rehearsals and ceaseless touring. Getting such a solid grounding must’ve been important? I think we're still getting our grounding. We've never been a hype band or anything and we've never had people telling us how amazing we are, so we've continually improved on every level over the past couple of years and we're hopefully going to keep improving. Doing the first EP and playing a fuckload of shows definitely helped us grow as a band too.

The Belligerents play Coniston Lane Friday July 6, Elsewhere July 13 and Sol Bar, Coolum, July 20. ‘She Calls The Shot’ is available now.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012 14:52

Ophidian: Never The Same Twice

Piano lessons at five. Recorded cassette tape mixes by the age of 11. A signed artist by 16.  Dutch hardcore DJ, Ophidian, has always had music as his primary focus.

You’re headed to Brisbane for WinterBass where you’ll debut your live show for the first time outside of Europe and the USA ... can you explain what exactly you’ll be doing?

When I perform live it's not all about fireworks and MCs, but rather about performing the songs. I break down the songs into basic elements and rebuild them live, usually intentionally leaving out certain aspects that I can then layer in by playing them, like strings and pianos on a keyboard, and kicks, glitches and edits via a midi controller. This means that my live act will never be exactly the same twice.

The WinterBass anthem was written by you, with vocals from MC Justice. It’s the first time you’ve worked with a vocalist.

I don't usually work with vocals in this way. My tracks are usually based on atmospherics with sounds and voices filling in a certain mood or emotion. For this project I wanted to go for a more straightforward anthem that appealed to a broader slice of the scene, so I chose a melody based track with an MC playing into the theme of the party.

The Australian hard dance community... are you surprised at the loyalty and passion the local scene exhibit for the genre?

Not really surprised, because I know how much passion there is. I’m really full of admiration for your scene though. Every time I'm over there I notice that, even though the scene is not as big as in some European countries, the drive and pride is so strong that I sometimes wish fans and promoters in other places were even half as passionate as some of you are.

Snakes... you obviously have a fascination with them, considering your DJ moniker; where does your interest in our scaly friends come from?

It's not just snakes, really. I'm almost obsessively interested in science and nature, and that interest makes its way back into the work I produce. I’ve taken inspiration from sharks, insects, natural weather phenomena, physics, astronomy. Snakes were just another reference — one that I thought sounded nice!

Ophidian will join Weapon X, Mark Breeze and Crypsis when WinterBass takes place at the  Arena Fri Jun 29.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012 14:48

Sky'High: Is Not Joking

A recent addition to the Elefant Traks family, Sky’High has emerged from the tough streets of inner-city Sydney with her first studio album, ‘Forever Sky’High’.

Congrats on the debut record; what emotions are you feeling now that it’s out and you can get on with the job of touring the record? Ready to rumble baby!

Both P-Money and Urthboy were executive producers on ‘Forever Sky’High’. What was it like to have two of the industry’s big hitters in your corner? It was an honour, I feel mad special. I'm a lucky alien I am.

How does ‘Forever Sky’High’ introduce you musically? I'm capable of rhyming over anything, anytime, any place!

Some people were surprised when Elefant Traks signed you; how does it feel to have one of the country’s most respected hip hop labels back your talents? It's awesome! I love it more and more each day!

What makes you different from other artists?  I'm a trendsetter! I don't follow rules, I break them and recreate them.

The raw intensity of your sound and lyrics; how much has your upbringing in the housing commissions of Maroubra and Ultimo related to your musical style?

It has a fair bit to do with my music. I was influenced a whole lot growing up reppin’ that city to surf.

When did you have your first taste of Australian hip hop? MC Trey, ‘Reality Tales’ video on Rage in my early teens.

You supported both The Herd and 360 early in the year; how much did you learn from those tours? I learnt how to rock a show like pro!

Now you’re headed out on your own run of shows; what can punters expect?  Expect the unexpected is what I tell em!

Voted best female MC in the 2011 Ozhiphop awards; that must’ve been nice?  Hahaha, well it’s true, regardless of being voted best. I am the best, hate it or love it. Hahaha. I'm not joking.

Sky’High plays Coniston Lane Thursday July 5. ‘Forever Sky’High’ is available now.
Wednesday, 27 June 2012 11:19

Seth Sentry: Down To Earth

While his debut album has been a longtime coming, a release date isn’t too far away for Melbourne rapper Seth Sentry.

With a slew of guests for the likes of 360, Horrorshow and Pez in the three years since he dropped debut EP, ‘The Waiter Minute’, Seth is now primed for an extra busy second half to 2012.

You dropped ‘My Scene’ earlier this year... the first single from your much anticipated debut album. Where are you at with it, and is there a release date on the horizon?

Close enough to be able to listen to the songs on my iTunes. Such a good feeling. No release date as of yet.

Musically, how is the record shaping up?

I guess it's kind of an extension of ‘The Waiter Minute’ EP. There's obviously been some natural progression considering it's been four years, but I'd say it's still in the same vein.

Wikipedia says you were working with producer Matik in 2010... are you still collaborating with him? And do you have anyone else handling production duties?

Yep, still with old mate Matik. But this time I have a couple with Styalz Fuego and a few with Trials. 

Who else have you collaborated with, if you can drop names?

For the album? So far it's just me. I always hate when dudes force features and I figured if it was gonna happen it would be a real natural thing. It just didn't happen this time so it's all about me, ha!

Personally, has it been frustrating for you with the long gestation period for this album?

Sometimes frustrating. I guess once I decided it was go time and things didn't happen at the pace I wanted it was annoying. But I understand. I'm the one that spent two years playing video games and smoking weed.

‘The Waiter Minute’ EP... how much have you drawn from that project with the new material, if any?

I guess it was a learning curve. I'd never completed a project before that and I learnt a lot from it. I also did everything on that from the ground up in terms of marketing and release. So yeah, learned a lot.

‘The Waitress Song’ lifted your profile immensely... has that added any extra pressure to your own game, knowing that there are expectations particularly given the long wait for the album?

Yeah I guess so, but I try not to think about that sort of shit. That sort of stuff can make a bloke not wanna rap again.

While the debut Seth Sentry album is still to arrive, you’ve been mega busy over the years dropping verses for a range of emcees etc. How have your relationships, particularly with Pez, strengthened your own creative pursuits?

I love doing feature verses with mates. It has definitely helped me maintain some momentum as well.

You’re on the bill for Sprung Festival, the country’s only hip hop festival; it must be galvanising for the local scene to have such an event on the calendar?

Yeah it's crazy. I reckon this sort of thing would not have been possible a few years back. Plus being mates with a lot of the dudes on the bill, it's gonna be a big catch up!

Not to start territorial wars, but Brisbane getting the jump on the southern states for a hip hop only event... would you have expected Melbourne to have already put on an event of this scale?

Brisbane 1 Melbourne 0.

Seth Sentry the MC... how would you describe your style to an alien?

Down to earth.

Seth Sentry will be joined by Hilltop Hoods, Illy, Pez, TZU and many more at Sprung Festival, at the RNA Showgrounds, November 10. sprunghiphop.com.au
Wednesday, 06 June 2012 14:04

Angus Stone: Like A Rolling

If you’d told Angus Stone three years ago that a little track he penned called ‘Big Jet Plane’ would propel him and his sister, Julia, into the world of globetrotting rockers, the quietly-spoken musician wouldn’t have believed you.

Fast forward to now, and Angus & Julia Stone are not only household names across the country, but have a sizeable fan base abroad as well. But the fast-paced world of international tours, never-ending talkshow appearances and Hollywood producers clamouring to use their music was a life Angus needed a little time out from. Now the musician from the Northern Beaches of Sydney is returning to solo mode, with the imminent release of the album ‘Broken Brights’. But don’t worry, Angus still knows how to relax. “It’s been good. I was walking out in the paddock with the cows and the dog, and I went for a swim in the lake. I’ve had a pretty good day.”

Recorded across a multitude of locations and with a number of different collaborators, ‘Broken Brights’ carries the sound of an artist enjoying his place within the music industry minus the inflated ego. “You can still see the stars from the gutter you know. I think no matter where I am, music will always be there and these songs if anything, they’re something more than you can put your finger on you know. They’re going to find their way out onto some sort of record eventually, and I guess places that you get to be in during those [recording] times, it’s just a bonus.”

The “places” Angus is referring to include the Swiss Alps and Amsterdam. “The solo record was recorded in different places. I lived in Amsterdam for a little bit and recorded and wrote some stuff there; when we would hit the road, we’d stop off and record like after a festival in Switzerland, we recorded a song on the record called ‘It Was Blue’ and ‘Be What You Be’ and then I got back [to Australia] and we set up a studio in the house and we all just got together and sat around just doing what we’ve always done — hang out and play music.”

Now it’s time to share his new batch of songs with the rest of the world. “Absolutely. Gettin’ out there on my own, and telling these stories that have been with me for a while, it’s going to be great to share that with the people that like the writings, and can create a whole new book of worlds with the new songs. I can’t wait.”

His first live appearance will be a quiet affair in Byron Bay; if you call Splendour In The Grass a casual gathering of music lovers that is. “Splendour will be my first solo show since I was super young. So I’m like ... it’s that swirl of excitement and the unknown. It’s playing live with the band I’ve been jamming with. Just good friends [who] are just as mad as one another. It’s going to be some cool times.”

When it comes to his most cherished moments on the road with his sister, Angus is all about sharing the love. “It’s been a bit of a trip you know. It really... you get moments of waking up and you’re in another country where English isn’t the main language at all and [fans] are connecting more so with the feeling and the intent behind what’s coming out of inside of you; they can share those moments on a whole different level. And I guess that’s where I have those moments where I’ve been pretty blown away with everything that has happened.”

Angus Stone plays Splendour In The Grass at Belongil Fields, Byron Bay, July 27-29. splendourinthegrass.com
Wednesday, 16 May 2012 16:13

The Medics: Still Experimenting

The Medics are on the cusp of becoming Brisbane’s next ‘it’ band.

Four years of solid touring, Band of the Year honours at the 2010 Deadlys and the QMA for Best Indigenous Band last year have positioned the former Cairns-based four-piece perfectly ahead of the group’s debut album release, ‘Foundations’.

“It’s been a long time coming,” the band’s guitarist, Andrew Thomson says. “I guess we’ve all grown independently and as a band, but I guess the whole dynamic of the band hasn’t really changed. We still see this as a really long term [project] and no one is pulling out any time soon ... Everyone has a lot of respect for each other; when it comes down to the band, everyone loves each other — it’s a big family.”

Spread across 11 tracks, ‘Foundations’ provides a great snapshot of the band’s first four or five years, with the inclusion of live favourites ‘Beggars’ and ‘Joseph’. “We didn’t really think we’d be recording the older tracks onto the album until the last minute, and that’s... when we sat down and thought about it, that’s where the name of the album came from, ‘Foundations’.”

If you’ve never caught The Medics live, you’re doing yourself a disservce. Sprawling rock soundscapes is the order of the day. Just don’t use the ‘p’ word. “I don’t see us as psychedelic; that comes across more in the live show. I couldn’t really say, like we have a lot of different ideas. But I think we’ll stay the way we’re going. But I don’t know if it’s psychedelic, it’s kinda experimental.”

Although they’re an emerging act, The Medics still have plenty to tick off their bucketlist. But winning a Deadly award is no longer on the list. “It boosted our recognition at the time, and at the time it was a really important step. We really wanted it because we missed out the year before. It was one of the stepping stones that we... ‘tick it off the list’... then there are always bigger fish to fry or bigger goals to push for.”

The Medics play Black Bear Lodge Tuesday May 22 and Splendour In The Grass July 27-29. ‘Foundations’ is out now.
Wednesday, 09 May 2012 14:54

Chasm: Stepping Up

Sydney producer Chasm has returned with his third longplayer, ‘This Is How We Never Die’.

Featuring a cavalcade of guests, both local and international (including AG, Guilty Simpson, Vast Aire, The Tongue, Hau, Dazastah, Lazy Grey and Dialectrix), it cements his position atop the Aussie hip hop food chain.

“I’m really proud of this [album]. I feel like it’s a good representation of the hip hop I want to be making,” Chasm says. “The overall sound of it is the closest to what I want to be doing at the moment. Overall I’m really happy with it, and it has been quite a quick turnaround for this (release). I only finished it not long ago and Obese have done a pretty quick turnaround with it.”

This is Chasm’s third solo release, and his first album since he teamed with Vida Sunshyne on ‘More’ in 2010. With greater industry recognition, was the added pressure of dealing with other people’s expectations a factor for Chasm? “It was probably in the back of my mind in a way. Like I felt, for sure, that I had to step up my game a bit because you know, you always want to be progressing with your art or whatever. Whatever you’re doing, you want to keep getting better at it. I definitely felt like I wanted to put a bit more time into it.

“I didn’t really feel pressure that much, but just myself... with this one, I really wanted to do what I do. I didn’t want to think about radio play too much. I was making stuff that I was feeling and that was the main priority.”

When it comes to sourcing samples, Chasm hunts for an emotional response. “For me, picking the right samples is the key. Having the ear for the right... what can be chopped up well or simply feeling music; having that emotional response to music is really important when you pick the samples. Because people feel stuff if there is a strong emotion behind the music that you decide to use that carries over to your production when you decide to flip it. That’s the key thing I reckon.”

‘This Is How We Never Die’ is out now via Obese Records. Chasm will be touring nationally in July; stay tuned for dates.
Wednesday, 09 May 2012 12:23

Naturally 7: Vocal Play

Naturally 7 aren’t your run-of-the-mill vocal group that hark back to a cappella doo wop groups of yesteryear. Rather, the Brooklyn based act give themselves a 21st century edge via their ‘vocal play’ style of a cappella.

The group’s founding member, and musical director, Roger Thomas sits down to discuss the seven-piece’s unique take on beatboxing.

Naturally 7 is a ‘vocal play’ group... how does it differ from the traditional a cappella sound?

Naturally 7 is an a cappella group. Vocal play expresses what type of a cappella. For example barbershop and doo wop. Assuming both are done without instruments, the names give you an idea of what type of a cappella or harmony you will hear. So a cappella simply means singing without instruments while ‘vocal play’ is becoming or imitating an instrument without actually using one.

You formed the group with your brother Warren... was the idea always to start an all-vocal outfit?

No, we only knew that we would have a heavy focus on harmony.

How influential was the a cappella competition the group won in New York in 1999, when you were first starting out?

I think this was the main reason we decided to focus on a cappella and look for a style that would be original. The competition gave us confidence that we were pretty good, somewhat unique, and it gave us the belief that we had a chance to pursue it as a career.

What does each member bring to the group?

Each member comes to the table with just the right tone that keeps our harmony very warm sounding. Many groups find that they can only get warmth in the lower parts, but we get a lot of it in the middle and upper parts too. This fills the spectrum differently than most people are used to hearing when listening to harmony.

When did you know you could utilise your voice to make unique sounds?

Some members such as my brother Warren were already aware that they could make musical sounds prior to the group. Others became creative once we decided that we wanted to be more ‘band-like’. We are blessed that it turned out that we all could do different things and in some cases we all are able to do the same sounds while imitating various guitars and horns.

As musical director, are there extra responsibilities that come with the title?

Yes. My most important jobs are arranging and deciding/ directing where we will musically go next.

How much did the YouTube hit, ‘Feel It (In The Air Tonight)’, catapult you further into the mainstream?

YouTube is everywhere... nothing travels faster than YouTube when it comes to viewing a performance. This has put us into countries and continents that we have yet to tour! In other words the video precedes us, and is always a major talking point when people meet us for the first time.

You’ve been associated with Michael Buble as well... what have you learnt from him, being a part of such a massive touring production?

Buble is from the old school... the school that believes that everyone on the tour deserves respect... almost like a family. We hope that we will be the same if or when we are in a similar position. He also believes in connecting with every audience; this really appeals to us and means so much more after you've seen it done over 350 shows!

You’ve collaborated with the likes of Quincy Jones and Ludacris. Do you have any other collaborations, joint projects in the works?

That's always on our minds and we hope to do some collaborations on some upcoming projects, but no names yet. But be on the look out; it's only ‘natural’.

Performing at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver... that must have been one of the career highlights?

Yes indeed. We shall never forget it! We are now looking forward to performing during the Summer Games in London.

You’re headed to Australia later this month... what can local audiences expect from Naturally 7?

More! And better! If we said that last time then the answer should be ‘More than that! Better than that! More than ever! Better than ever!’

Naturally 7 play the QPAC Concert Hall May 22.
Wednesday, 14 March 2012 14:37

Mamy Rock: Bigger Than Guetta

At 69, Ruth Flowers is a sexagenarian who shows no signs of slowing down.

While most people her age are more likely to be pottering in the back shed or stocking up on marker pens for the weekend’s bingo tournament, young Ruth is globetrotting across continents most weekends as the world’s oldest DJ, Mamy Rock.

You’ve said you’re the ‘craziest and oldest’ DJ in the world... define ‘crazy’? I have always been an extrovert. I like to be a little original. I probably am the oldest, but the ‘crazy’ expression was just for fun. I am a little bit crazy, I need to be to do what I am doing, playing all over the world at my age, but I love it ... I think it helps to be a little crazy to take it on.

Did you ever think that you would one day be headlining your own world tour?

No, I did not. Although you can imagine it has been quite an adventure over the past two years. I never imagined such a ‘success’, that the club kids maybe needed something different for their ‘party time’. I really share something with the youngs (sic), and most of the time I dance. I love to dance ... I've played almost 100 gigs all over the world, most of the time at the biggest venues, sometimes the same as David Guetta — in Madrid I played at an enormous club, Fabrik, where David was playing one week after me ... I played last summer in Ibiza at the Privilege, the biggest club in Europe. So no, I never thought it would be as it is now, that I would be requested and play in Japan, Singapore, Los Angeles, New York, Puerto Rico and Europe… this is crazy :)

What set of events led you to becoming a DJ? One day, my grandson invited me to his birthday party. I arrived as the disco was playing, the doorman said: "I don't think you will want to go in there madam". I replied that I certainly would, as it was my grandson’s party. So in I went and what I saw and heard when I entered was a revelation. An energising mix of lights, heavy bass, electronics. I adored it. It was so different from the dances and parties I used to go to when I was younger. There was a real osmosis between the music and the lights, it energised me... made me feel so much younger! This night shattered my view of things, especially the way I saw my life. I had a lot of free time (and) it was an idea I put to my grandson, at the end of his party. His response was: "That would be so cool Nan". A few months later, an acquaintance put me in touch with a young French producer, Orel Simon. He came to London and I told him my idea and he took on the challenge. I wasn't sure about it working but was prepared to give it a go. Orel was convinced and he took me with him. I confess I thought it was a crazy idea, then I thought, ‘what have I to lose, just time’ and that I had, so it began. 

Post DJ set: how does Mamy Rock wind down after an energetic performance? Water or a glass of chardonnay? I never drink before a performance, but I usually enjoy a glass of champagne at the end of the night to celebrate with my team and the management team of the club. It's the moment the pressure is off and the gig is done. So yes, a little glass of champagne fits the bill.

How do you deal with groupies? You do get groupies? Yes. And may I tell you, sometimes it's really crazy. They want to kiss me, hug me, they say: "I want you as my grandma, you are so awesome". I really love people, and I think when you love people they give you love… naturally. I try also to keep my fans from all over the world informed, so I had to be interested by all those social networks ... I keep my fans informed with Twitter. Actually, it's quite funny to have this direct link wherever you are with people. Orel, my manager, bought me an iPad … can you imagine?

Mamy Rock plays The Met Friday March 30 and Sin City April 1.

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