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Wednesday, 18 September 2013 15:03

Banco De Gaia: Apollo Has Landed

The UK’s preeminent purveyor of ambient dub and world electronica is Australia-bound once more.

Banco De Gaia, also known as Toby Marks, has fashioned a global following by combining organic and electronic sounds with ambient, dub, tribal, gypsy, techno, breaks and trance influences. Throughout a career spanning over two decades, he has released over a dozen albums and compilations and worked with the likes of Pink Floyd's Dick Parry, Paul Horn, Natacha Atlas and Tim Wheater.

Now Australia-bound for January’s Rainbow Serpent Festival — Victoria’s annual celebration of music, art, culture and positivity – Marks is excited to be touching down in Lexton with the first original Banco De Gaia material for seven years.

“What’s really nice is having new material to add to the set,” he says. “It’s been awhile since I’ve wrote anything new. It’s nice to have fresh stuff which people aren’t familiar with, which I’m not bored with.

“I try and make sure there’s an interesting visual spectacle [because] I learned a long time ago that one guy on stage pressing buttons gets a bit boring to watch and not everyone is going to be wanting to dance all the time.”

A career musician, Marks is better placed than many to comment on the structural changes that have transformed the music industry over the past decade.

His first EPs dropped on cassette in the early ‘90s, before a long relationship with ‘90s powerhouse label Planet Dog saw him release albums like the ambient ‘Last Train To Lhasa’ and the more up-tempo, trancey ‘Live At Glastonbury’ on CD.

So as ‘Apollo’ drops on his own Disco Gecko label as both a CD and digital download Marks maintains the rapid advances in technology are both a curse and a blessing.

“In theory, everything should be much simpler now. The new technologies have opened up a lot of possibilities and made some of the boring tasks a lot quicker, but they also, in a way, take away some of the exploration, the excitement of discovering how to do something which you haven’t done before which sometimes makes it really work.”

Banco De Gaia plays the Rainbow Serpent Festival, in Lexton Victoria, Jan 24-27. ‘Apollo’ is out now.

Wednesday, 06 February 2013 14:53

Cosmic Gate: Tasty Trance

The success of German trance duo Cosmic Gate over the course of nearly fifteen years and six albums suggests the existence of some grand plan for world domination.

But as the impeccably polite Stefan Bossems, aka DJ Bossi, explains, it’s a laissez-faire approach that has seen Cosmic Gate rise to the top of the trance scene.

“We like to say it’s not like following a recipe,” says Bossi from Dusseldorf, where he’s enjoying some down time before some UK dates and a forthcoming tour of South Africa. “It’s not like cooking. We start and at the end we see how it tastes; hopefully it’s tasty and delicious.”

Bossi and partner Claus Terhoeven, aka Nic Chagall, have been serving up “tasty and delicious” trance music since the late 1990s, and it’s fair to claim that their formula of having no formula has paid huge dividends.

They’ve remixed the likes of Ferry Corsten, Armin van Buuren, Deadmau5, Paul van Dyk, Markus Schulz and Robbie Rivera. They’ve worked closely with Tiesto and released numerous cuts on his Black Hole Recordings, including 2011’s sixth LP, ‘Wake Your Mind’. Now, in 2013, as the American press increasingly label everything with a synth and wobbly bassline ‘EDM’, Cosmic Gate are using their latest LP to continue their subtle repositioning, to the uninitiated at least, as more than just a trance act.

“[While] we’re seen as trance, we don’t see ourselves as a typical trance act,” Bossi explains. “We came from the harder side of trance … and now, what is it? It’s a mixture of progressive, house influences; we don’t really care how the music is branded.”

So, while the pounding bass and driving rhythms typical of 2002’s ‘No More Sleep’ and 2009’s ‘Sign Of The Times’ remain on ‘Wake Your Mind’, Cosmic Gate are using vocals like those of Australian Emma Hewitt to produce a more accessible, progressive sound which is seeing them enjoy some commercial success around the world.

Australia-bound again next month for a second bite at Future Music Festival following their maiden performance there two years ago, Bossi is full of praise for Australian audiences.

“We always love coming to Australia because we have a feeling the Australian crowds are very open. If we’re playing the same stage after a techno act … it’s still kind of the same crowd on the dancefloor. This is what we like – people that are open-minded ... We see you guys and your scene as very happy.”

Routinely booked to play massive venues in the new frontier of electronic music – the United States – Bossi says he and Nic’s experiences playing at the likes of Marquee in Las Vegas have provided them with a more balanced view of EDM as opposed to the populist, and often wayward, view of EDM as a credibility killer.

“The American press needed a word and this is more like [what] Europe called techno in the ‘90s; now it’s called EDM,” he explains. “It’s flooding the world, and it seems to be that the US – and LA and Vegas – [that] are really the centre of it.

“You can see it as negative, that music is way more commercial. On the other side, you can see it as positive – that a lot of new people are getting into electronic music in general. We see it actually as something positive. For us there is not commercial and underground music. There is only good and bad music and we try to make our pick at playing good music for the people and producing good music for the people.”

Cosmic Gate play Future Music Festival at Doomben Racecourse Saturday Mar 2.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012 13:47

Aeroplane: First Class

Already flying high with his synth-heavy brand of electronica, Belgium-based Aeroplane promises to take Australian crowds even further skyward this summer.

Booked to play Summafieldayze in addition to some yet-to-be-announced club side shows, Aeroplane will return to our shores armed with new remixes for Kimbra and Boyz Noize, as well the first fruit born from his new Aeropop imprint.

It’s been a wild ride for the classically-trained pianist and guitarist — Vito De Luca — who formed Aeroplane with studio partner Stephen Fasano around 2006. The duo enjoyed early success before readying their debut LP, ‘We Can’t Fly’, for release in 2010.

Shortly before its release, however, Fasano and De Luca parted ways, and while it all could have ended then, thankfully De Luca took on solo responsibilities with aplomb.

“I’ve just been working hard and trying to extend what I have and trying to become a better DJ and trying to become a better producer,” he explains from Brussels, where he’s lying in bed.
While today he’s better known for being among a new brew of artists who can successfully leverage the online world to drive sales and promotion, De Luca speaks candidly about the changes that have faced the music industry in the years since he first cut his chops running his own record store in Namur in southern Belgium.

“When you go on Beatport now, or Juno…the problem is that nobody sorts it out for you,” he explains. “You get there, there’s five million songs; no one tells you where to go. When you were going into record stores back in the day, you had a guy who would pre-select the stuff for you.”

Aeroplane plays Summafieldayze at Doug Jennings Park, Gold Coast, Saturday Jan 5.

Friday, 31 August 2012 09:24

Crazy P: Open For Service

The first round acts announced to play November’s Harvest Festival already had tongues wagging.

Now, with the addition of UK house and nu-disco outfit Crazy P to the line-up, it’s got them positively salivating.

Having already confirmed the likes of Beck, Ben Folds Five, Santigold, Sigur Ros, Grizzly Bear and Ozomatli, Harvest’s second round announcement last week further raised anticipation levels.

Dexys Midnight Runners, Silversun Pickups and Los Campesinos! have all been added, but it was the announcement of Crazy P that really stood out. Aside from a one-off New Year’s Day date in Sydney earlier this year, it’s been a few years between Australian tours for the much loved five-piece, and some fans were understandably getting anxious.

Not that Crazy P have been quiet. On the contrary, it’s been a whirlwind of touring and excess since the release of their fifth album, ‘When We On’, late last year. Released on Ralph Lawson’s 2020 Vision label, the album demonstrated in spectacular fashion Crazy P’s enduring ability to blend soulful grooves with electronic beats, all accompanied with a healthy dose of disco cool.

For Jim Baron, who started Crazy Penis with Chris Todd way back in 1995, ‘When We On’ was a chance for the group to rework the production process with vocalist Danielle Moore.

“It’s probably a bit more… grown-up,” says Baron of ‘When We On’. “With [fourth album] ‘Stop Space Return’, we wrote the majority of that as a band; for ‘When We On’, we decided to strip it back to me and Toddy [Chris Todd] writing with Danielle.

“We gave Danielle the loop station and she’s really taken to it. You can layer vocals, you can hear harmonies immediately, so she can jam along with us now. It shaped a lot of the vocal sound for the album.”

The vocal-heavy offerings on ‘When We On’ contrast with Crazy P’s earlier releases on seminal house label Paper Recordings. 1999’s ‘A Nice Hot Bath With’ and 2002’s ‘The Wicked Is Music’ featured more dancefloor-aimed deep house tracks like the classic ‘There’s A Better Place’ — which famously sampled Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka — ‘You Are We’ and ‘3 Play It Cool’.

Moore’s addition to the line-up, however, added a new dimension to the group. 2003’s ‘24 Hour Psychedelic Freakout’ and 2005’s ‘A Night On Earth’ showcased ever more of her powerful vocals on standout tracks like ‘Lady T’ and ‘The Time Is Right’, and saw the band develop a reputation for their energetic live shows.

Interestingly though, Baron reveals planning for the eagerly-anticipated sixth album is already underway, and that this time, vocals may take a back seat.

“We’re potentially looking at more electronic sounds,” he says, “but we’ll deal with that when we get to it. We’ve struck October out of the diary; October is pure Crazy P time. We’re going to lock ourselves in and do a full month on the new record then; we’re looking forward to that.

“We’re generally quick workers so I’m hoping we can come up … with a fair bit of material in that month and then we’ll see where we’re up to.”

Even as Baron contemplates forthcoming tours to the US and Brazil before October, the prospect of showing Harvest-bound fans a performance that is “slipping up a notch every time” is proving most exciting for the group.

“We still really enjoy working together,” he explains of the Crazy P group dynamic. “I’ve been working with Chris since 1995; we have a stronger working relationship now than we ever have done. Also… because we’ve never had a big hit, so to speak, we’ve got a really loyal fanbase who look on us as a bit of a little secret.”

With Baron and Todd’s respective solo work (as Ron Basejam and Hot Toddy, respectively), it’s a fair assumption that this “little secret” is set to become one of Harvest’s worst kept ones come November.

Crazy P play the Harvest Festival at the City Botanic Gardens Sunday November 18. ‘When We On’ is out now.
Wednesday, 29 February 2012 12:17

Sonny Fodera: Underground House

As electronic music’s chart renaissance threatens to drown out the sounds of some of its more quality-sounding sub-genres, Australia’s Sonny Fodera is intent on flying the flag for the underground.

The Melbourne-based DJ/ producer is one of a slew of emerging Australians making major inroads in the US and Europe, and for all the right reasons.

On the back of a steady output of jackin’ body movers and deep, soulful and hypnotic peak-time grooves, Fodera is building a well-deserved reputation as a supporter of proper house music during a time when many haters are bemoaning the genre’s penetration into the mainstream. At just 26 years of age, one might be forgiven, too, for thinking Fodera himself is a product of this resurgence, but releases on both his own burgeoning Beatdown label, and on quality imprints like DJ Mes’ Guesthouse, Nervous Records, Inland Knight’s Drop Music and Green Velvet’s (aka Cajmere) Cajual imprint, suggest otherwise. The truth is, Fodera is anything but a johnny-come-lately to the music scene.

“I’ve been doing music for a long time,” he explains. “The production side of it [was when] I was about 16, but I really started putting out tracks when I was about 21. I’ve been making hip hop since I was about 16; I used to make a lot of hip hop instrumental stuff [but] I’m a guitarist, so I’ve played in a lot of bands throughout my teenage years. When I was 13 I was in a punk rock band.”

Unsurprisingly, then, Fodera admits to growing up with ‘really random’ musical influences, from Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughn to Jurassic 5, A Tribe Called Quest; even Blink 182. It was while working at Adelaide’s Electric Circus club, however, and listening to sets by visiting internationals like Derrick Carter, Joey Youngman and Jason Hodges, that he was bitten by the house bug.

“I like everything; I’ve got my ears open to a lot of different music [but] I just saw them playing and I thought that’s what I want to be doing,” he recalls. “I found a love for it and had to jump on it. It’s crazy now though, being on some of the same labels and playing parties with those guys now after four or five years; it’s unreal.”

Fodera’s rise has indeed been fast. Underlining just how high his stock has risen over the past five years, mid next month will see him return to Miami for the industry’s annual Winter Music Conference. He’ll play several showcase parties for Guesthouse, Large and APT Entertainment, lining up alongside the likes of Jask, DJ Sneak, Mark Farina, Pezzner, DJ Dan, Collette, and fellow Australians house exports Random Soul and Nathan G.

From the sunny, trashy shores of Miami, he will then head to Canada to play several dates there, and then back to the States to continue building hype off the back of his Beats & Business EP, to drop shortly on Beatdown. As well as being a vehicle for his own productions, the imprint, which he proudly professes still presses vinyl, has also released adventurous cuts from the likes of Serbia’s Gramophonedzie, DJ Mes and Cause & Effect, reinforcing Fodera’s A&R credentials.

Want proof? Fodera has made an exclusive mix, free with this issue of Scene. As he explains, his DJ style is influenced by disco, hip hop, funk and soul, and these flavours shine through on this mix, a collection of Beatdown releases over the past six months as well as a few forthcoming tracks. “My sound isn’t really like a big superclub sound,” he explains. “It’s more of a 400 people max, tight club, intimate vibe; I like that. It’s a really cool thing; you get to read the crowd more [and] it’s more fun.”

As EDM events routinely move out of these ‘400 people max’ venues and into arenas, however, the effect this shift in scale is having on the underground scene is a topic of much discussion.

Fodera does acknowledge that the rise of EDM, and house in particular, has led to his own productions becoming more accessible. He admits though, like many of his contemporaries, that the  accessibility has been matched with a level of expectation, right or wrong, about the style of music he plays, or should play, out. As he explains, this expectation is often at odds with his own personal tastes.
“I think back five years ago [and] it was a lot different; people would just dance and respect the music the DJ was playing,” he says. “A lot of people [now] will be requesting … that mainstream dance stuff. They want them to play what they’re hearing on the radio.

“[But] there is still that sound, that underground, smaller club sound – there’s a lot of that still around [and] I think that [commercial penetration] has made a lot more people more open to it.”

Regardless, Fodera is thankful for how his career has progressed thus far, and is looking forward to the future. “I’m so fortunate to have this happening to me at the moment,” he says. “I just really want to make good music and get to that level where I am constantly travelling around ... I really want to get around the world and show everyone my sound. It’s good to have ambition; you’ve got to set a really high bar for yourself.”

His current release on Large typifies this ‘high bar’ approach, and demonstrates the quality output that ensues. The ‘Rough Cuts’ EP is his second release on the powerhouse Chicago label and showcases his versatility as a musician. ‘Find Myself’ sees Fodera play live bass, while ‘What I Think’ has a laidback disco edge, reflecting his diverse musical tastes and willingness to put them to work in the studio. ‘Missed Call’, however, is the pick, a deep, percussive number with intricate stylings that make it perfect late night fare for the ‘heads.

There’s plenty more to come later in the year, too. Fodera will embark on a European tour during their summer, and reveals he has forthcoming EPs ready to drop on Guesthouse and Miguel Migs’ Salted Music. Perhaps most interesting, however, is his revelation that a downtempo album is in the pipeline, one that will be more hip hop influenced. “I’ve got high standards and hope I can succeed,” he says. If experience to date is any indication, Fodera is on track for plenty more success.

Sonny Fodera plays Zuri Lounge Saturday March 3.
Wednesday, 30 June 2010 15:04

International Brewers Day Interview

Charge Your Glasses

One generally doesn't need much of a reason to enjoy a cold beer in the relaxed confines of West End, but one of the precinct's newest venues - Archive - is set to provide added incentive on Sunday July 18.

In a first for Brisbane, the Boundary Street Australian speciality beer bar and bistro will open its doors for International Brewers' Day (IBD). Since 2008 the day has celebrated the contributions to society of the men and women who brew beer, all while drinking an awful lot of it in the process.

July 18 was chosen as the day because it's the feast day for one of the most well-known patron saints of brewers, St. Arnulf of Metz, better known as St. Arnold.

Now touching down at Archive for the first time, IBD celebrations - to be run in conjunction with - will feature tastings from one-off kegs including Otway Farmhouse Ale, BlueSky Smoked Wheat, Mt Blonde and Murrays Whale Ale. Archive's grazing menu will be available throughout the day and will include a variety of foods that best accompany the different beers on offer.

Austhotels Group Operations Manager Dan Rawlings believes the inaugural celebration is set to become an annual date claimer for Brisbane beer lovers.

“We are very proud to be part of a world-wide celebration, which not only honours the product of beer but also the people that make that product possible,” he said. “International Brewers' Day has been around for awhile but I don't know if any hotel has embraced it as we're about to.

“We want to make sure everyone realises how many good beers there are out there in Australia and that's what we trade on (at Archive); we only stock Australian boutique beers and we like showcasing what this great land has to offer.”

The selection of beers available on July 18 is impressive. In addition to the aforementioned brews, Black Giraffe from Burleigh Brewing Co., Byron Bay's Stone & Wood and the limited edition Little Creatures Brown Ale will all feature, resulting in there being more than 20 speciality brews to sample.

“During the day we'll have ten rotating taps,” Rawlings explains. “We've got one keg of each and after that keg is gone we'll move onto the next one. It will be exciting. We want people to realise the beers that are out there in Australia. It's not just XXXX, it's not just VB. People don't need to look any further than their own back yard to get a good drop.”

In what is sure to attract a clued-up crowd of brown lemonade lovers and home brewers alike, the celebrations will feature an educational aspect as well.

“We will also have a number of brewers on hand to discuss their own products one-on-one with interested guests, including Hayden Mokaraka from Blue Sky Cairns, Luke Scott from Otway Estate (Barongarrok, VIC) and Ian Watson from Murrays (Port Stephens NSW),” Rawlings explains.

“It will be a relaxed, casual and fun day to have a boutique Australian craft beer and have a conversation with the very people who created that beer.”

Since opening three months ago, Archive has quickly found favour with West End revellers and Rawlings believes supporting events like International Brewers' Day is set to further endear the burgeoning bar to locals.

“I'd like to think we've started something here,” he says. “It's such a pleasure to work in a bar with people who appreciate your product. We're doing our own thing here with Australian beers so we've really taken on our market. With the urban planning that's coming on in South Brisbane, there's going to be 30,000 here in the next five to ten years so we've set ourselves up for a good run.”

International Brewers' Day kicks off at 11am on July 18 and will run until late.

Wednesday, 04 November 2009 09:38

Grizzly Bear Interview

Scarily Good

Grizzly Bear, the Brooklyn-based four-piece, has won rave reviews for its heady mix of psychedelic and folk-infused indie rock tunes and, while they've sold out venues around the world over the past few years, Australia has not featured in their touring plans.

All that's about to change, however, as Grizzly Bear arrive over the New Year period to play their first Australian tour. Since forming in 2005, the quartet of Christopher Bear, Ed Drost, Daniel Rossen and Chris Taylor has built a cult following and received praise from such musical luminaries as Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood, who famously referred to them as his 'favourite band in the world'.

Their debut LP, 2005's 'Horn Of Plenty', drew praise for its layered sounds while 2006's follow-up, the brilliant 'Yellow House', saw the band further mature and carve an enviable niche as an accessible, evolving and exciting live act.

Earlier this year saw the release of their third studio LP - 'Veckatimest' - on the respected Warp Records, and it has since attracted plaudits from around the world. Close to home, The Australian labelled it '54 minutes of near perfection' while further afield the likes of Entertainment Weekly, The Times, The Guardian and Evening Standard gushed about the album's touching, intimate brilliance evident in the first two singles 'While You Wait For The Others' and 'Two Weeks'.

As Rossen explains from London, where the band are currently in the middle of a sell-out European tour, the creative process for 'Veckatimest' continued the band's tendency to take the “home recording”' approach and the end result, he says, is a much more mature sound than that heard on 'Yellow House'.

“I think what's been very important with Veckatimest was it was way more collaborative,” he explains. “We would really present the songs to one another at a much earlier stage. With ‘Yellow House’ for example, a lot of the times we would have a song that was done before we showed it to everyone else. We would record it and there would be some changes but this time we sketched the idea and we would add an intro or something. It was a bit more of an ‘anything goes’ situation.

“I do still feel like there is less ‘stuff’ going on with ‘Veckatimest’. There was so much layering on ‘Yellow House’. We were just excited to try a bunch of different instruments and it basically all ended up making it onto most of the songs. With ‘Veckatimest’, we tried to focus those arrangements and sonic ideas more.”

Further honing their sound on the road, Grizzly Bear has maintained a hectic touring schedule over the last few years, in a way reminiscent of a time when, in the absence of the internet, touring was one of the primary marketing tools available to bands.

Routinely playing 20 dates a month, Rossen explains it has contributed to Grizzly Bear's cohesiveness as a band, not to mention added to their already extensive fanbase.

“After ‘Yellow House’, we became weathered road warriors,” he says. “There were some great opportunities that kept us on the road especially in the last year or so, as well as a fair amount of aimless wandering about the globe. Through all of it I think we grew a lot as a live band and also grew together more just as people, which definitely changed the way we worked together on the new record. It was a lot more playful recording process, and ended up feeling both more dynamic and more cohesive.”

Regular appearances on the likes of ‘The Late Show With David Letterman’, ‘Late Night With Conan O'Brien’ and ‘Late Night With Jimmy Fallon’ have further broadened Grizzly Bear's appeal.

Additionally, the band performed with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra in 2008 and on this latest European tour are also playing with the London Symphony Orchestra. While the almost universal praise for 'Veckatimest' is just reward for the band's hard work over the past few years, Rossen maintains all four have their feet firmly planted on the ground.

“Of course things like playing with Paul Simon and doing late night TV shows or touring with Radiohead are extremely surprising and exciting, but there is always this feeling of distance from it, like it's not really happening,” he says.

Catch Grizzly Bear playing at Sunset Sounds on Thursday January 7. ‘Veckatimest’ is out now through Warp/ Inertia.

Wednesday, 08 December 2010 16:27

Netsky Interview

Rise & Rise

It’s been a meteoric rise to the upper echelons of the global drum & bass scene for Belgian DJ-producer Netsky.

A relative unknown just two years ago, Boris Daenen is now one of the scene's hottest names. Early singles released on labels including Liq-Weed Ganja, Spearhead and Talkin Beatz got the European scene talking - and dancing - before his vocal-heavy, soulful take on drum & bass caught the attention of UK powerhouse imprint Hospital Records late last year.

Hospital signed him exclusively and released his debut self-titled album earlier this year to critical acclaim; the plaudits haven't stopped since, with the Belgian most recently picking up five nominations in the annual Drum & Bass Arena Awards, including ones for Best Newcomer producer, DJ and for Best Album.

“I haven't got a day of rest yet,” he says from his home in Antwerp. “It's all so exciting for me and I'm still not used to it so it's really cool.”

Following an exhaustive European summer festival season, Netsky is now primed for his first visit to Australia. “I can't wait to see the warmer side of the world,” he says laughing. “I've never been further than Indonesia.”

That trip to Indonesia - as part of the Paradise In Bali festival in mid-November - exposed Netsky to Australia's own drum & bass scene for the first time, and the young Belgian liked what he saw and heard.

“Over the last year, the gig I did in Bali was the best one,” he says. “It's the first time I've played for an all-Australian and New Zealand crowd. I've gotta say it's such a different crowd man. They're so jumping around all the time and so active. It's so great to play for them. That's one of the things I'm really looking forward to when I'm in Australia, the crowd.”

In between touring, Netsky reveals the coming months will see him return to the studio to work on his second album. He admits it's going to be a different process second time around with the weight of expectation on him.

“I'm working on the second album right now [but] it takes a little bit more time because I got all the tours and all the DJing now which I didn't have with my first album,” he says. “I'm not going to rush it; I'm going to take my time.”

Netsky plays Blah Blah Blah at Riverlife, Tuesday December 28.

Wednesday, 08 December 2010 14:05

Pnau Interview

Take Four

Many questions have been asked of Pnau over the last two years, but very few have been answered. Now, from his studio in Montreal, Nick Littlemore sets the record straight.

Yes, he did run away to join the circus, kind of. Yes, the fourth Pnau album is nearing completion and yes, thank the Lord, Pnau will play in Australia for the first time in over two years when Littlemore returns from self-imposed exile to play the Big Day Out from late January. “I'm so hanging to come back,” he says. “So looking forward to it; it's going to be a real homecoming for me. The Big Day Out is gonna be the best Christmas present ever for me.”

And well it might be, for the eccentric artist has been doing many things since the runaway success of Pnau's 2007 self-titled third album threw him and partner Peter Mayes into the international spotlight, but spending time in Australia hasn't been one of them.

After the relative failure of 2003's 'Again' LP, Pnau fans were left wondering if the duo had lost their touch first demonstrated on their 2000 debut 'Sambanova'. The success of 'Pnau', however, saw Littlemore and Mayes grab worldwide attention on the back of singles 'Wild Strawberries', 'Baby' and 'Embrace', and corresponding remixes courtesy of French wonderboy Breakbot and Littlemore's brother Sam La More. The duo was suddenly being promoted by Sir Elton John and, as a result, was feted by labels around the world for a follow-up as fans clamoured for more of Pnau's original, pop-influenced electronica.

But Mayes and Littlemore had other ideas back then, most notably their Empire Of The Sun project with Luke Steele. That little group took pride of place for two years, in the process winning a massive seven ARIAs and two APRAs. While Steele took the EOTS show on the road, Littlemore stayed in the UK working on the fourth Pnau LP in between contributing vocals to Groove Armada's album and working with Sir Elton John. Rumours swirled around whether the album would ever see the light of day, and Littlemore's own occasional rants did nothing to quell the hype surrounding his working relationship with Elton John or the future of Pnau and EOTS.

Now, as 2011 dawns, Littlemore confirms the fourth Pnau album, tentatively titled 'Soft Universe', is set for release some time next year and will feature a raft of collaborations, including several with Pnau's chum “Elton”. “We've got a single coming out soon,” he promises. “It's really exciting … the record is a very lyrical record. It's really about trying to find some joy. Purely on a personal level, making these songs, it's given me a will to want to go on, you know? I want to make these as pure thoughts, pure golden moments. I want them to shine; I really want them to connect with everyone in the world, you know?”

Golden moments take time to produce, however, and Littlemore admits the album has been slow going. With Mayes based primarily in Australia and Littlemore being kept busy as musical director for Cirque Du Soleil's new production opening next year in New York, the duo struggled to find time to get the runs on the board in between weathering the international success of Empire Of The Sun. “I think it's chaos, as it's always been,” Littlemore reflects on the creative process. “It's just throwing things at the wall, and sometimes they stick and then sometimes you rub them off but a little bit remains and then that connects to this and then all of a sudden you've got a line and maybe with that line you can have a curve.

“You just kind of make shit; it just happens. Some way or another you find it and if you find it and you truly make it, and you dig it, then maybe you put a beat with it and beyond that, I don't know man. When it turns out good you guys get to hear it; when it turns out bad, there's all these train wrecks.”

Currently preparing for a small number of European shows, Littlemore reveals the Pnau live show has undergone a transformation of sorts and that Big Day Out audiences are in for an energetic display. “Oh my God, it's cool; it's going to be like Bon Jovi, you know the Slippery When Wet tour? It's going to be just like that,” he says, strangely. “[But] it's going to be cool man; the likes of which you've never seen.”

2011, it appears, will see him spend more and more time in Australia. After two years abroad, where he confesses he hasn't “been in the one place for more than three weeks at a time”, there are big plans afoot, which Littlemore discusses in typical cryptic fashion. “We're planning a very big event next Homebake actually,” he reveals. “I think that's going to blow everything out of the water, with a very very special guest.”

I suggest Elton John as that possible special guest, but Littlemore won't give any more away, instead launching into a piano solo in his studio, which he continues for a minute or so. When he returns, it's in a philosophical mood. “It's been a trip,” he says of the last two years. “I've met all kinds of people; amazing people I never thought I'd meet and worked with them. The journey's explosive. I can't find a place to put a point because the universe just keeps expanding at such a rate that you can't find your feet anymore.”

Okay. When it's suggested he and Mayes are under considerable pressure to follow-up the third album with a fourth of similarly accessible hits, Littlemore is quick to respond. “We never had a hit”, he says dismissively. “I don't think I've reached the heights of a … small flowering shrub … there's a very long journey to go, I hope, I wish, I pray, everyday, to be able to be blessed to be able to make music. It's a beautiful job man, there's nothing better than this; I'm very lucky.”

Following another brief piano solo, Littlemore reveals, contrary to reports he and Luke Steele are on non-speaking terms, that Empire Of The Sun will indeed reign again. “I talked to Luke the other day; we're doing a new record,” he says. “We've already written a couple of tunes; you know when it's right I guess. All projects, I think they find their way ... you just create the environment and the record, it kind of makes itself.”

And with that - and another brief piano flourish - Nick Littlemore was off into the Montreal night. If he's only half as entertaining on stage as he is over the phone, the BDO massive are in for a rare treat come January.

Pnau play the Gold Coast leg of the Big Day Out, Sunday January 23.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010 12:55

Freestylers Interview

Still Pushing

They may have enjoyed major commercial chart success on the back of crossover singles like ‘Push Up’, but the Freestylers have always preferred dark clubs to ‘Top Of The Pops’ appearances, says foundation member Aston Harvey.

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