Category Archives: Interviews

Armand Van Helden: The Man, The DJ, The Duck.

Armand Van Helden talks to Sawyer on everything from Duckzilla Vs Major Lazer and David Guetta Vs Barry Manilow, to Boney M. Vs that song… woo woo woo woo woo woo woo (best V-erse ever).

Interviewing one of the Big Apple’s biggest DJs, it’s…Well, it’s a long interview so let’s just get into it…

In 2010, you came out to Australia for the first time as Duck Sauce for Field Day. In an interview you did with them you made some New Years resolutions, so I’m interested to see if you’ve kept them. Did you learn to drive?

I didn’t learn to drive but I did get my learner’s permit.

Do you own a car?

I don’t, and here’s the funny thing. I would have had a car by now, but all my friends in New York don’t own a car. They can all drive though, but they don’t own a car. And my one friend that owns a car is always like “I’ll take you, I’ll take you” (to get the car). But then I’m like, you know, we need two cars because I’m not allowed to drive. So when we buy the car and go to pick it up, I need another person who can drive. So it’s kind of like this whole thing.

I need one car to go there, right, and two fully licensed drivers and me. And then we can buy the car and all come back, you get what I’m sayin’? It’s an excuse but it’s been the only hold back.

You also mentioned in the interview you were going to release a new album in 2011. Is that finished, is it out yet or is it coming out soon?

Yeah, we finished the album earlier in the year and it will be out soon. I don’t know exactly, I can’t even tell you a date ‘cause I’m pretty much in the dark, but it’s being worked on.

I spoke with Diplo last year when he came out for Stereosonic as Major Lazer and asked him, “if Major Lazer and Duckzilla had a fight, who would win?” So I’d like to ask you the same question.

Oh. Definitely Major Lazer.

Do you wan to hear what he said?

Definitely.

He said Major Lazer as well. He said “Duck Sauce is just a stupid duck. If it be like me and Switch Vs Armand and A-trak, Armand would win because he looks like a crazy muscle head. I’d probably be evenly matched with A-trak but Switch against Armand would just lose.”

See I think quite the opposite. I think Switch is the craziest of everybody and can just handle it on his own. To me, it should just be like all of us against Switch and we’d all lose.

You recently tweeted about your trip to Las Vegas that you were searching for Barry Manilow. Did you find him?

Yeah, A-trak does all the tweeting. I don’t really have an account or anything. He does the Duck Sauce one; him and I think somebody from Fools Gold. The funny thing was, we were in the car as soon as we had landed in Vegas and I saw Barry Manilow, like in a couple of big ads, they almost look like a massive flat screen TV. And I just see Barry Manilow in the Jesus pose and he has that hair and everything. And I was just cracking jokes with A-trak and going “Look! It’s David Guetta”.

Can you tell who's who?

So I think he maybe tweeted something about Barry Manilow, ‘cause we were just having a laugh in the back. We weren’t saying anything bad about David Guetta, but it was just about, you know, when you do like the Jesus pose as a DJ? The Jesus pose is when you’re on the decks and you throw your hands up in the air like you’re on the cross, but the Barry Manilow ad looked like the David Guetta ad is all I’m saying. Was just funny.

My friend is a photographer and he often gets some good shots of DJs pulling the Jesus pose. I think it’s becoming sort of a trademark of a rockstar.

It’s grown into the trademark, oh yeah.

Ascetically it’s a really good shot, if you get the light coming up behind you…

Oh yeah, you get the sun going down and everything…

Speaking of Sunsets, you played in Sydney on New Years Day for Field Day. How was that?

It was fun, we had a good time. We did the day time set. You know I like our sets all hours, but sometimes it feels like our sound can translate better in the day time or to that degree. But we’ve done a lot of the festivals. I mean we could do the night thing, it’s not that much of a big difference, but the day time tends to be, for most people, the toughest crowd. Cause everybody can still see thing so good so it’s kind of hard to win over a day time crowd. But our music is so kind of chilled in comparison to most of the dance things that exist, I guess, that our daytime set seems to be just this really warm, happy environment. Cause it’s in the day time! Which is cool…

I’m sort of learning to be a DJ myself as part of a competition at the moment, and they’re always talk about the lost art of the warm up DJ where you’re just building, building, building up for the main act. When you play at a festival, is that something you think about when you are playing in a day slot, or do you just go out and bring out the bangers?

I think most DJs have two or three different kind of runs, set runs if you wanna call it that. Like a regular one if you’re like in a club or even at a festival and you’re on at like 1pm or 2 pm. You know that’s going to be your main kind of run through and you know what you’ve gotta do. When your on early as a warm up there is a different kind of flow, so you kind of want to make sure you have a lot of your big bangers at the end. There is some truth to that, for sure.

I was also very curious to ask you about my set list. I’m going against the trend of everyone else in the comp, who’re playing traditional house and tech-house, with a retro 90s set. What would be you song picks if you could give me some tips?

Like just 90s?

Straight 90s.

Oh god. Man that’s a big decade. I mean the 90s was just a massive decade of debauchery – but also amazing music. I mean it’s just like triple what the 80s was in terms of information. But um, for me on the dance level, I was spinning house back then so if you’re trying to play like 90s house I would say, wow. Something that always gets them… actually I’ll give you stuff that’s not normally as known and that could be better for you.

Play Underground Solution’s Luv Dancin’. Play Bobby Konder’s Nervous Acid or The Poem. Play Hot Music by Soho, or Earth People – the songs called Dance. I mean I could go on and on and on, 90s is a big era. That’s a big era man! I mean you’re talking… there’s a whole bunch of stuff!

I’m a big Boney M. fan. My favourite track, probably almost of all time, is Rasputin, so I have to say I really love what you’ve done with Barbra Streisand, just the simplicity of it and how you’ve turned it into something that has over 61 million YouTube views. How do you know when you’re on to something big like that?

Um, you don’t know. In short. That’s about the easiest way I can answer it. ‘Cause when you’re doing the kind of music, like when me and A-trak are together it’s very stylised, it’s not something you can predict. We are as much as in the dark as anybody else as to what’s gonna work and what’s not gonna work. Duck Sauce music is propelled by good will, basically. That’s how it works.

Are you going to be taking Duckzilla around Australia, like tweeting some pictures of him? Where are some places you would like to see him at?

I would say we would get down at Bondi and just put him out there in the middle of Bondi. Put him on top of the Opera House. In Melbourne, put him out on that bay thing or whatever that is. Put him on Ayres Rock. I think that would be the key. That would be the top spot to put him on, Ayres Rock. That’s the one. That’s what we’re shooting for.

Do you get to do the tourist thing when you come out on tour, or is it all just work, work, work?

Um, no. I mean I do a pretty good job. I mean sometimes even solo I just go into the towns on my own. I literally go to the hotel concierge and go “where’s the main street, like the hang out block or for sitting outside for some cappuccinos or maybe some shops”. And they just go “oh good!” and then they break out that map and I just kind of go on my own, my little own adventure. I like to do that when I can and I love to be alone in a new city. It’s like one of the funner things I can do.

You wear a lot of New Era caps and Mishka clothing, who are a NY brand. You’re very much a New Yorker, when you find brands like Mishka do you like to help promote them?

It’s all loose. I don’t know any of these people too well, I do know one of the Mishka people, but I was wearing it before I knew them. I’m not in contact with anybody. I mean if I just like something I just buy it I guess. It’s on that kind of a level.

I’ve been vintage my whole life, but I’ve really been vintage these days. I might wear like a cap, that might have a name brand or something but the rest, I dunno. I definitely love vintage ‘cause you can pretty much guarantee it’s going to be unique. And I think that’s the thing I like to project the most.

Are you into movies at all? A lot of the music I like to source comes from film. For example the movie Uncle Buck has a pretty amazing 90s soundtrack, it had house of Pain and Wild Thing by Tone Loc.

Um, yeah. There’s a movie that I’ve been kind of a big fan of since it came out and I think it’s one of the more genius ways to use a movie soundtrack. Iit’s this movie called, Hot Rod. It’s with Adam Samberg from Saturday Night Live. It’s a stupid comedy movie, I think it’s hilarious. But the one thing he did in it, which I thought was genius was about 85% of the movie soundtrack was from this one album, from this one band called Europe (yes, the one with Final Countdown).

This album came out in like 1987 but he used 6 or 7 songs off that album in the movie. And it’s a shit album, like there’s no classics on it nobody cares about this album, but he put 6 or 7s songs from this album that was not anything in this movie. And it’s so good. ‘Cause you won’t believe how it matches the scene. So I thought that to be quite genius. And I know it’s him controlling the music. It’s a genius idea.

When you and A-trak got together, was it kind of natural or did you sort of poach him, like ‘he’s too good, I’ll either have to join with him or battle him to the death”?

Nothing like that, we had mutual friends and he had kinda just moved to New York. He’s a newbie from Montreal. And it was either bound to happen or to a degree as we kept seeing each other in the same circles. In a way, it was like the forces that be were putting us together. That’s the easiest way I can explain it.

In Australia we have this massive rivalry with New Zealanders, and I guess it similar between Canadians and Americans. Do you kind of hang shit on him for being from Canada?

Actually I don’t. What’s weird with my personality is that I’ve never been that way, because I grew up all over the place. So I never had that thing or vocational fun poking aspect. I don’t know why, but it’s just not in my personality. I mean I have my other funny sides, but that one, I don’t know why. Just never cared about where people came from. But I do find it funny when people come from super rural areas and they tend to be amazingly creative, like from a small farming town. That blows me away. How in the hell did something like this come out of a town like that? That I find interesting.

Tickets for Parklife Music Festival are available via Moshtix or their website

Michelle Sawyer, September 2011

tyDi – Australia’s Number 2 Dj (And That Ain’t Hey).

Fair to say, not many 24 year old lads from Queensland’s Sunshine Coast would have there shit together as cleanly as tyDi.

If Tyson Illingworth had a resume it would read like this: won Brisbane’s DJ Wars at 16, got a residency at Family at 17, got picked up by the world’s number 1 DJ, Armin Van Buuren, to record on his label at 18. Impressive? Yeah. More impressive still, is finding this soaring Trance trendsetter is still one of the most grounded and relaxed people I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing…

You mentioned in an interview that Trance is a lot like Wine in terms of taste. How does someone who grew up on the Sunshine coast get into wine, being 16 when you started, and trance to begin with?

Well I’m 24 now (laugh). It is one of those things were the town where I grew up, that genre of music wasn’t played on the radio and wasn’t very popular. So maybe when I heard it, because it was so different, maybe that’s why. ‘Cause it stood out that’s why I got into it. But it was a genre of music I just fell in love with.

It sort of sounds like there may have been one song, where everything clicked and made you go ‘yes, that’s what I want to do”…

There wasn’t actually one song, it was just more the style of music I was into at the time.

So was there a particular DJ you listened to a lot?

I remember when I was 16, I was listening to a lot of stuff by Armin Van Buuren at the time.

How is it, then, that he was sort of your idol and now you are doing world tours with him. How crazy is that?

It is crazy. I’ve never really had an idol DJ as such, but it’s crazy that the guys I was listening too like Armin and Paul Oakenfold, all those big DJs that I used to really look up to and who were exactly where I wanted to be 4 or 5 years ago. Now I play at their clubs around the world and tour with them, and make music with them. That is definitely something that feels pretty cool. It’s ahh, hard to explain I guess.

Are they now people you call friends? Like can you just call up Markus Schulz, for instance, and say ‘hey…’

They are all very busy guys. Markus Schulz is one of those guys who is on Skype all the time and I can call him up and see how he’s going. He’s a very friendly, down to earth guy and I run into him a lot at various shows around the world. Paul Oakenfold, he plays a lot of my music and I play at his nightclub at Las Vegas called Rain. Armin is probably the busiest of them all! He’s now a dad, and married and still touring the world. He’s the biggest DJ in the world, but he’s still nice enough that if I send him a new track, he’ll always let me know what he thinks of it. Yeah, it’s cool. It’s always nice to run into these people around the world and they are all very genuine, down to earth people.

Are you getting into Twitter, where you go to festivals you are playing at together and tweet each other?

I’m a total Twitter geek! There isn’t any that I don’t talk to on twitter. It’s ridiculous. I’m addicted to twitter, I think it’s dangerous.

I did an interview with Drop The Lime and he gave a brilliant quote about Tweeting, “The boobs will twitter themselves”. I thought it was very poignant as you can get into a lot of trouble with tweeting…

You especially have got to be careful with drunk tweeting. That’s the one that gets me sometimes. After a few red wines and them I’m out on Twitter spilling my emotions to everyone. And there’s 14,000 people reading my useless crap from home. But it’s fun. I like to vent through Twitter.

Do you Tweetpic as well?

Oh, all the time. Always taking photos of stupid things and uploading them.

So you actually are a bit of a wine connoisseur as well, it wasn’t just an analogy?

I wouldn’t call myself a connoisseur but I do drink a lot of red wine and I love it.

Have you ever spilt any on your decks whilst you were DJing?

Probably not wine. I don’t really drink wine when I play but I have probably spilt my fair share of tequila on the decks.

One of the first things you did when you started out was win Brisbane’s DJ Wars. I’m doing a DJ comp myself at the moment called Yourshot. As a proper DJ, how do you feel about these sorts of event which seem to be popping up more and more, like Red Bull’s 3styler, for emerging DJs?

When I was 16 it was a really good way to get my name out there. I think it’s getting harder and harder for young, talented people to get recognised because there’s just so much competition and so many different social media things that you can use to get people to hear your music, so it’s making it very competitive. I think if you can win a DJ competition, even if it’s just a local one, I wouldn’t say that it’s the method, but it certainly helped me when I wanted to get gigs at local clubs and that lead to my first residency, which led to more fans, which led to interstate shows which led to touring the world. It’s just one of those things. You’ve still got to climb the ladder.

So you’re not a hater…

No. I’m not a hater at all. I don’t have time for haters.

Speaking of your first residency, you started off at Family, which is one of the biggest clubs in Brisbane. How was that?

It was awesome to play every week to a crowd that is like, over 1000 people when you’re 17, is a pretty cool thing. It was a big bridge for my career, and it was very nice of them to offer the residency to me. I enjoyed it a lot. And it definitely led to bigger and better things.

You had a little controversy around the release of your single Familiar Streets…

I don’t normally talk about that with the media. At the end of the day I had an opportunity that was going to change my life and it did. So I wouldn’t change a thing and I’ll leave it at that.

Fair enough, getting back to the important stuff – you were voted Australia’s number 1 DJ in the 2010 InTheMix Awards, you’re now number 2, knocked off by The Aston Shuffle. Little bit of rivalry there, or you don’t really care?

These days I hardly play in Australia, all my shows are over in America and around the world. This year I didn’t even ask anyone to vote for me, I was lucky to get number 2 again. I’m thankful that I’ve got such a fan base, I (honestly) didn’t think I was going to get number 2. These sorts of polls require a lot of pushing your fans, and asking everyone to rally up and support you, and I didn’t really do anything this year and still got the support so I’m super over the moon about that.

The ITM poll is a really important thing for my career and is always a good sign I’ve got fans. I mean these days I’m focusing on my music and my new album, and going overseas. So where I polled this year is huge. It wouldn’t have broken my heart if I came number 10 but I’m really excited to get number 2.

It’s a little less pressure as well as you still have a spot to go up, whereas The Aston Shuffle can only come down.

Yeah, now I’ve got room to move, hey.

With your new album, it seems like you are starting to get into a little bit of Dubstep. Is that something that is going to grow with your music?

Actually, it’s not that I’m getting into dubstep, it’s just the first song on the album is dubstep. It only goes for a 1:40secs. I was having a conversation with my friends and I was saying “I really love dubstep but after a minute it loses my attention”. So it was kind of a little joke to make the first song on the album a dubstep track. It was kind of, just enough that I could handle it cause after a minute it’s like “can I have something else please?”

Listening to your album, it doesn’t really sound like you are listening to a trance album, a lot of it feels more like club house tracks and even a little bit pop with some of the vocal mixes. But I suppose that’s why Armin picked you up, as you’re taking trance to the next level, you are the new generation of Trance Djs…

Well, I wouldn’t even say its trance. My new album had two trance tracks on it. It’s not a trance album at all. It’s more like a house album.

Have the clubs you’ve been playing at been a big influence?

Yeah. It’s just the new style, I think trance kind of, the old style of trance bores me now, genres need to move forward and change. I mean it’s funny, I have a lot of people, cause I used to play a lot of trance and now I don’t, who write things on twitter going “you’re new album isn’t trance, this isn’t trance” and it’s like, when did I tell people that it would be trance. It’s just an album of music, don’t get offended because I’m making up the genres.

People just want me to write one genre of music for my entire life, like is that what they want from an artist? So the new album is all over the place, it has some very pop influences as well. It’s just music.

You’ve got a bachelor of music from the Conservatory of Music, where you parent’s really proud that you got a degree, sort of like a way to legitimise becoming a DJ and keep your parents happy…

That was probably my way of tricking my parents, ‘cause they didn’t really want me to do DJing they thought you can’t really make a living out of, you can’t make money from it. But they’re very proud of me now and happy that I got the degree. It was kind of like a compromise, like ok I’m going to go and be a DJ but I’ll still get a degree.

The Number 1 DJ in Australia title wasn’t quite big enough…

Oh, look they were very happy with the Number 1 DJ title. They probably don’t understand the way that the DJ world works, it’s a bit of a weird career choice but my parents are very loving and proud, no matter what I do. So that’s good.

They sound like they keep you pretty grounded, cause you sound pretty grounded.

Oh, thank you.

Is it weird having fans and having people (like me) Googling you?

Yeah. It’s not weird. I mean I’ve had a few crazy fans, like stalkers, but beside those few it’s pretty normal and I’m able to have a normal life. I’m not getting harassed at shopping centres, so things are still good.

Brisbanites can change their home grown boy on October 8th, when he plays Full Noise Festival.. Tickets available via Oztix. Shooting Stars is out now on Armada Music. or tyDi’s website.

Michelle Sawyer, September 2011

An Interview With Dave from Gabriel & Dresden

Formed in 2001, broken up by 2008, reunited in 2011. Welcome back Gabriel & Dresden.

After a chance meeting at the World Music Conference in 2001, the progressive house duo known as Gabriel & Dresden have proceeded to earn themselves such a reputation with their fans, that when they parted ways in 2008, the overwhelming response across social media channels for more G&D music was too great for them to ignore. Having warmed up his recently repaired shoulder with a series of return shows in the states, Dave Dresden is ready (and happy) to be back doing what he loves.

In a recent interview you did with Glow TV, you commented that you were a fan of Deadmau5. As he is headlining the Creamfields tour, are you keyed up to get to tour with him?

Well a long time ago, back in the day, he and I used to talk on instant messenger and he used to send me his unfinished songs and I would give him a lot of critical feedback. He and I had a little bit of drama over a girl. And we stopped talking a few years ago. But I’m really proud of him.

I love the music he makes, I think that he’s really taken being an artist seriously and I think that he’s made some really fantastic music which I think finally shows the world that electronic dance music is something that can be treated as real music and an electronic dance artist can be taken seriously as well. He’s done some fantastic things for our scene. He got on the MTV video music awards last year, and he’s getting into the mainstream press here and it’s really, really awesome to see what he’s done. I think that the skies the limit for him if he just continues to make amazing music.

So do you think you’ll catch up backstage on the tour or are you guys still not over the girl issue?

It remains to be seen. I have no hard feelings I hope he has no hard feelings.

You have an extensive background as a music scout, for instance you were A&R for the BBC’s Pete Tong (which is how you met Josh Gabriel). Do you still find yourself looking for up-and-comers when you are on these sorts of tours?

Absolutely. I’m always interested in hearing what’s new and interesting in music. Festivals are an interesting way to find a lot of different artists so long as you can get around to the different stages. But it’s all about keeping your ears open really and to never close your mind off to different and new genres of sound.

You seem to focus a lot on progressive house, but what’s your preferred genre at the moment?

It’s really hard to say, because I don’t really like to think of music as genres. I like to think of it as there’re good songs out there. When I go on Beatport I check out tech-house I check out electro-house I check out dubstep, breaks, trance, I check out progressive house. I found that on Beatport that progressive house is the weakest genre on there. It seems like they call it progressive house but generally it’s not very progressive at all. For me it just really boils down to the song.

What’s the song that you have stuck in your head on high rotation at the moment that you can’t stop listening to?

The song that’s going through my head right now, it’s a little embarrassing. But um, and this doesn’t necessarily mean that this is my song that I can’t stop listening to, but the Dirty South remix of P. Diddy’s Coming Home is just in my head. It has been for two days, I can’t seem to get it out. It’s got a great vocal in it from a girl named Skylar Grey and it’s just a song that just won’t leave. But I don’t really want it to either.

I have Kanye West’s Runaway in my head at the moment.

That’s a great song.

I’m a huge fan of anyone who can come out with a song like that and a video clip that matches that kind of effort.

And also to be just brutally honest with his fans, I think that there’s a great story behind that you know, that’s really his answer to him snubbing Taylor Swift at the Video Music Awards and then he debuted it the following year at the Video Music Awards. It’s just fantastic.

I like to think it may also be a love letter to his ex Amber Rose after their very public break up…

I think that it’s all a bunch of things rapped up into one. And to me that’s where music is special. There is a real story behind a song. That you can put yourself in the equation, because it doesn’t matter if you’re a multi platinum selling rap star or just a dude making progressive house. We all live life and we all have stories and we all have hardships and we all have triumphs.

Speaking of hardships, you remixed the theme song to Brokeback Mountain, The Wings. Did the story of that movie help you when working on that track?

Well I think for that remix in particular we needed to see the movie because we need to understand where that music was coming from. There was a lot of redemption in that movie, and there was a lot of heartache. I think that that is really the centre of where Josh and my music comes from – the silver lining in the cloud.

We haven’t really done a lot of things with movies, because for many years dance music was only relegated to club scene. But it’s something we would definitely love to do. To score a movie or be involved in some way in the making of a soundtrack, that would be really exciting. Not to mention exciting for the bank account (laugh).

Another remix of note is the one you collaborated with Paul Oakenfold on. He seems to have a very similar sound compared to your track Tracking Down Treasure. How was it working with him?

The Oakenfold track came very early in the G&D story, and it was really based on a relationship that I had with Paul, as I used to be a journalist and I interviewed him many, many times. So when he found out I was making records he called me up and said (cue cockney accent) “I’ve got a song you might wanna remix” and he sent it to me and it was Southern Sun. I was floored ‘cause the vocal was just to die for. Josh and I were both looking at each other like, ‘Really’?

You’ve credited bands like The Cure and Depeche Mode as your personal favourites. The first track that you got to work on back in 2001 was New Order’s Somebody Like You. Was that amazing to be offered that as your first track having that kind of passion for those artists?

It absolutely was. I think that for me, because I was coming from a goth scene, from a dance perspective New Order were the gods for me. And also Pete Tong was A&R in that project and I was working with him at the time. And so it was like a double whammy of craziness, because I’m not gonna lie I idolised Pete Tong for what he has done for the music industry, and I also idolised New Order for the music that they made. Blue Monday is just absolutely my all time classic.

Michelle Sawyer, March 2011

A Serious Example

Example is not as black and white as his current album cover for Playing In The Shadows makes out.

If you’re a movie-head like me, then the first thing your mind goes to when hearing the name ‘Elliot’ is likely to be character from the iconic Steve Spielberg masterpiece, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (followed closely by the phrase “ET phone home”, thoughts of glowing fingers and Reece’s Pieces). Unlike like my tangent, the movie connection is actually not so alien when it comes to the charming contradiction Elliot Gleave aka Example.

Currently one of the most in demand vocalist, Example has been hogging Australian airwaves with collaborative tracks Shot Yourself In The Foot Again with DJ Skream , Wretch 32’s Unorthodox and now his own single, Changed The Way You Kissed Me. So it’s no wonder Parklife were keen to get him on their 2011 line-up. Seemingly new to the dance scene for some Australian fans, Example is certainly not new when it comes to Australia. “There’s a lot of Australians in Fulham (where I live). I went to the Walkabout (in Sheppard’s Bush) once because one of my Australian mates was having a leaving party. It was a lot like going to the Beach Hotel in Bondi. I lived in Australia for a year (Kings Cross for 3 months and Bondi for about 7 months), so I know the drinking culture and the behaviour of the men.”

Coming to prominence in 2006 with Vile, a parody remix of Lily Allen’s Smile, you could be forgiven for passing him off as just ‘another lad taking the piss’. But then in the same year, he also released a very serious single based on Chernobyl, What We Made. Confused? Example explains, “I used to really be into films. Like, I wanted to be a film director when I was at University. And I kind of just fell into music by accident. I mean I’ve done alright, but I never wanted to be a rapper, I just wanted to make films.”

“When I came out to Australia in 2004, was kind of when I decided what I wanted to do with my life and I wanted to be a TV Editor. I had a job at Fox Studios making props for movies and I was doing pretty well with that, and then I started releasing songs in my spare time. As a result of that, they started getting played on radio, and then the next thing I know I have a record deal and I was releasing songs and albums – I’m on my 3rd album now. I still have ambitions to get back into film, acting or directing, but my profile now is music. It gives me a bit more of an opportunity to actually use my name to get hired for films.”

With the success of Martin Solveig’s short film series for his album SMASH, and fellow Brit Plan B’s critically acclaimed album, The Defamation Of Strickland Banks, it would seem natural for Example to combine his own passion for film in a similar way, right? Not so, Elliot explains.
“Benjamin (Plan B) is a really good mate of mine, he’s an amazing song writer, but I don’t think Ben felt that comfortable opening up about his true feelings about women maybe in songs, and that’s maybe why he’s created a character, Strickland Banks. His next album is going to be a character driven album as well. But with me though, in terms of music, I know that fans have mainly relayed him to that person, like he’s not quite as accessibly as a person anymore, so I don’t think that I’d ever be the sort of person to go into character for one of my songs or albums.”

“When I’m out on the streets people come up to me and they talk to me and react to me like they know me already – because my songs are so honest and so open. People sort of see me in the street and go ‘Hey man, how you doing? Let’s go for a pint.’ Like I do really want to get into films, but in terms of my music, I just want to keep my music honest. I don’t really want to start making concept albums or anything.”
No better example of Elliot’s honesty in his music is his much loved single about love, Kickstarts.

“All my songs are based on real life. All my songs are about my experiences, whether it’s me as a kid or me now. The songs on my last album Won’t Go Quietly is more about me as a kid and sort of, being a little bastard basically. Not paying for Taxi’s and being a little bit of a rebel. But then there’s other songs like Watch The Sun Come Up which is based on a one night stand I had, and then Won’t Go Quietly is about an ex-girlfriend and Kickstarts is about my current girlfriend. Everything comes from the heart, from a really honest place.”

Example’s new album, Playing In The Shadows, is more of the same. So if you’re in for an honest and refreshing musical display, make sure you make an example of his set times on your Parklife hit lists.

Michelle Sawyer, July 2011

An EPIC Interview with Derrick May

DJ. Visionary. Gentleman. Legend.

There’s a few key words that spring to mind when it comes to discussing the great man that is Derrick May. Aside from those aforementioned, the next would have to be – intimidating. When faced with trying to interview one of the men who invented techno, unquestionably the genre that grew to make dance music what it is today, where does one start? But when you get a moment to chat with someone as prolific and honest as Derrick May, if the man has something to say, let him speak…

I get to interview a lot of DJs, and I have to say I’m a little intimidated as you are one of the fathers of techno. How did three guys who grew up in Detroit, Michigan end up inventing one of the biggest dance genres to date?

Have you ever heard of Nikola Tesla and, of course, Thomas Edison?

Yes.

Well Thomas Edison is the guy who says he invented electricity and said he was the guy who really put electricity to the point were it could truly be used in any type of form in life at that time. Nikola Tesla is actually the motherf***er who invented it all. In the process, what happened to Tesla is that he became obscure and ran into some mental issue and was intimidating and pushed off the map then died a lonely man.

Anyway, I think with what we did, a lot of people wanted to sort of disqualify us. To say we just laid it as we were obscure at that point. We’ve been fighting for years to make sure that people know. And I think it’s one reason why we’re still here. The reason that we did it is because we just were some people, just kids who cared about music. We cared about were it was going. We cared about what we thought was good music. We were left alone, with nobody paying any attention and we were from Detroit, this obscure city where nobody ever imagined that we would ever be doing anything like that.

We kept getting rejection, left and right and were really pushed to the side. I think that the rejection caused us to go over one hurdle, and then another hurdle, and another until we ended up jumping so many hurdles just to get people to pay attention to us, that when we looked back there was nobody behind us. And I think that is why we did what we did. Because we kept running so fast and jumping so high, we didn’t realise just how high and how fast we were running and jumping.

It’s very impressive that when you listen back to your original tracks like Strings of Life, to what you are doing now you are still bang on trend. You seem to be headed in a direction similar to guys like Diplo and Major Lazer who are mixing techno with reggae and Caribbean sounds. Where do you find your influences?

You know, I’ve never been one to look from left to right for any particular influences. I’ve never really been one to be a big fan of anything. I’m actually kind of an anti-fan. I’m kind of like this super hardcore, left-wing guy. If I was to get the call, I would go out and kick somebody’s ass on the conservative party in a minute. I’m that guy. So everything I do is always sort of (me) just putting everything into it, just going for it just living it and not thinking about it – action.

At Soundwave this year some guy threw a shoe on stage at Jared Leto – but he handled it like a champ. I’d imagine that you’d have had some experiences over the years, is there anything that a fan or crowd might do that pisses you off?

I had a guy once just come up and touch the turn tables and then walk away. He actually touched the turn tables while the record was playing and then he turned and walked away from me. So I jumped over the DJ booth, ran through the audience, grabbed his ass and put him in a sleeper f***ing hold. I’ve smacked guys in the face for touching my records, ‘cause I still play vinyl records.

They’ll come up to the DJ booth, and I won’t even know how they got up there and then they want to touch my records. So I just want to smack the f***ing shit out of them. So I’ve done that several times (chuckles).

I was thinking more along the lines of thrown water bottles and stuff like that. I don’t think anyone will be able to get up on stage to touch the records, security is pretty good (at Creamfields).

I’ve had people throw that, and I go after them. I’m not the guy who stops playing. I’m never that guy. I can’t stand DJs, little pussies, who stop playing when somebody throws something up on stage. What is that? I’m not that guy. I have had that happen to. I would take the bottle and throw it back but unfortunately it is an audience and there are other people that would be innocent victims. But I would hate for even a plastic bottle to hit somebody in the face or the eye that’d be terrible. I am definitely the brother to retaliate though.

You’re touring with Kevin Saunderson. You’ve pretty much grown up with him, known him all your life, how is it that you have kept the friendship going, kept the work relationship going all these years when so many others just fall apart?

Let’s be honest. It’s like any family. We’ve had our good and bad days, believe me I’m not gonna lie to you. We’ve had some shitty, f***ed-up moments between us where Kevin’s been angry with me and it’s lasted for months. This is just part of friendship, its part of family. Any good family has its moments. I consider Juan (Atkins), and Kevin (Saunderson) and Kenny Larkin, Mike James all my guys, we’re a family.

We really do believe that we’re sort of a colony of like Jedi Knights and we know we’re the last of our cause. So we really stick close together as close as we can and we do continue to fight the same cause. Beyond that, beyond the music industry we’re friends. And that’s really what it comes down to. We’re honest with each other and being honest with each other doesn’t always mean it’s a positive moment. I mean I’ve had Kevin tell me some shi*, believe me. It goes both ways. There’s a documentary out right now you might want to check out its called Hi Tek Soul.

As one of the Belleville Three, can I ask why Juan Atkins isn’t also coming out with you on this tour?

I think originally they wanted to bring us out individually, and Richard Maher (RMAgency), my manager in Melbourne, had the idea to present us as a package. So when that idea came up nobody knew for sure if we wanted to do it. So Kevin and I, did a show in Amsterdam together based on his idea. And it really worked. The mood really felt right. And then we did another one in Spain together and it worked again really, really well. So it was an easy conclusion that we would just do this. Juan wasn’t a part of this because it was just sheer accident that it came together. Actually we did trial it in Amsterdam but it just didn’t feel the same as this does.

Is there anyone out there at the moment that you think is doing really remarkable stuff?

There’s a whole lot of them that I think are really playing well, but I would probably give a big nod to Ricardo Villalobos (when he’s not wasted). I think he could possibly be considered one of the best in the world and it comes from the fact that Ricardo, as a DJ, has a very simple approach to music. He is not afraid to play anything and I think that’s where you get your sort of fantasy, your challenge and the romance; when you just love a track and you just want to play it and don’t care about what anyone else thinks. That’s the real romantic aspect of music.

When you’re calculating the audience, when you’re thinking about how long you’re going to play, when you’re looking at your records, when you’re paying attention to that laptop – you’re all locked into that and you forget about your audience or maybe why you’re there or don’t even know why you were there to begin with – people feel that. It doesn’t have to be the best record, it just has to be romantic and passionate and if those elements don’t exist, people know.

I honestly think that Ricardo, he gives that. He gives that very easily. I love playing with him. He’s funny, he’s a wonderful guy.

Is it hard to separate the party life style that seems to come with the job?

Not at all, not at all I mean I could tell you that Kevin hasn’t either; I think really honestly, a couple of glasses of champagne (is enough). I’ve never tried drugs in my entire life, I’ve never wanted to. To me it’s just not interesting. I’m not anti-drugs, I just don’t feel it and I know Kevin is virtually 99% the same way. We don’t need all the extracurricular shi*. We’re complete. We love what we do and we’re going to continue to enjoy it.

I come from a working class background, live in a working class area and I know it’s a lot easier to be grounded when you have people around you to smack you back into reality. Detroit is also a working class area so is that a similar experience for you?

I would say pretty much, yeah. We had to work our way up the ladder with no silver spoon in our mouth, no particular university training behind us. We’re all college educated kids, but we didn’t go to school for that. I think that we had to work hard and we got our hands dirty, real dirty. I think that changes everything.

I think you appreciate things more when you have to earn them.

Exactly.

Michelle Sawyer, March 2011

Presenting the Ambassador of House: Carl Cox

Techno is not a dirty word…

The Ambassador of House, Mornington’s answer to Hugh Heffner, the big man on deck(s), Superhero, call him what you will; Carl Cox is still one of the world’s most loved and respected DJs. With a career that has spaned more than two decades, the adopted Aussie shows he is as popular with the kids today as he was back in 1997 when he earned the converted World’s No. 1 DJ title in DJ Magazine’s Top 100 Poll – headlining Stereosonic 2010 (alongside Dutch rival Goldmember, sorry we mean Tiesto muhaha).

With DJ superpowers like his patented three deck DJing technique, ability to see into the house and techno dance music future and his top-secret immortality, it was inevitable that Carl Cox would amass a legion of super loyal fans. So we thought we’d let a few them (including myself) ask him the big questions…

Why did you decide to move to Australia?

There was always a natural curiosity and I have never travelled that far in my life. Basically I got invited to play a gig in Sydney, and the people were so excited to have me play, I felt very at home.

Melbourne fans will probably know that you have a house up in Mornington, just outside Frankston. Are you aware it’s been dubbed the “playboy mansion”?

That’s because it is (laugh). We do have some big parties and all the girls jumping in and out of the swimming pool. I always felt at home or at peace with myself there and it’s all about having a normal life. I’ve done nothing but play in nightclubs, make music and be involved in music. I just haven’t had a life of normalcy and you just cannot get more normal than Mornington.

I see myself not as a superstar DJ or a playboy or whatever. I have the same ethics as my family (working class). I carry on living somewhere, which basically gives me a more grounded place, a place where I can just go off and be Carl Cox the DJ and then come back and be Carl Cox the person.

Can we call you the Statesman of House?

The Ambassador of house (laugh).

How does Australia compare in electronic music, clubs and festivals to places like Ibiza, Club Paradiso in Mykonos and the UK?

Australia being the furtherest place away from the initial music seen as a whole has done very well to have maintained its own credibility based with what home grown talent they have and festivals which are as good as any other festivals in the world. You look at the Big Day Out, its phenomenal how it’s able to get such great acts come out and you see how that transcends. Look at Womdelaide, I love that festival. I think it’s awesome that you are able to bring that music to a place like Adelaide and show the rest of the world that you love music just as much as anyone else.

For me it’s brilliant to be able to come to Australia, having grown up in the UK, with my music and get the stamp of approval. Look at Pink and how many shows she played here.

Having been on the scene for so long, are there any particular tracks of yours that you still just get really excited about or hate and don’t play anymore because you’re so over it?

(Laugh.) I’ve got a lot of records that I still enjoy playing but I guess one of them would be French Kiss.

There seems to be a bit of a techno resurgence happing in Melbourne. Do you agree?

Yeah I think so. Techno has always been a bit of a dirty word. “Oh you listen to techno mate” (occa accent). There is nothing wrong with the word Techno, I mean Techno was only a word that was utilised because the music was made by technology; every bass line, every hand clap all mixed on machines (by humans). People were just looking for another dimension in music. But I’d have to say that now people are more open minded to the sound of anything.

At Glastonbury this year, DJ Scream played tracks at 150 bpm, will you do the same in your Stereosonic set?

No I think I will leave that to the younger generation. In my early days I was playing beats of up to 180 bpm. So I did that, done that and I’m never going back to that.

Tiesto is also headlining Stereosonic, who is kind of the Dutch equivalent to yourself (Goldmember to your Austin Powers), can we expect an epic battle for world wide DJ domination at Stereosonic? (Parts of this question were altered for comic effect.)

For me I don’t think there’s no battle to be won. Teisto has been the number one DJ for many years. We both have been doing this for so many years now, and we both can play the music based on the reason why we were picked to play at Stereosonic. We all have a camaraderie between each other and that’s what’s important on the night when people see us all together.

Will we fans be treated to some Carl Cox three deck action?

Absolutely.

**Big thanks to fans John Dang and Jeremy Reynolds for some terrific questions for our Superhero Carl Cox (you know which ones they are).

Michelle Sawyer, August 2010

Holy S*** It’s A Holy Ghost!

To capture a Holy Ghost! you really do need to call the Ghostbusters.

Holy Ghost! fans were left shocked and saddened in 2009 after they were forced to pull out of (what would have been) a massive summer festival season for them due to the tragic death of their drummer. Nearly a year later, Nick Millhiser and Alex Frankel will finally be haunting our shores with their 80s synth sounds as part of the line-up for Parklife 2010.

With aptly titled tracks like I Will Be Back, and the ability to float through walls, chatting with Alex was never going to be easy. After a trinity of obstacles (a NY cab ride, giving someone street directions and the Brooklyn Bridge) we finally caught our Ghost.

There are so many new electronic acts coming out of Williamsburg in NY at the moment like The Drums, you guys and MGMT. Is there something in the water or do you just feed of each other as inspiration?

I think there is a bit of myth about NY that’s there this scene happening in Williamsburg. There is a scene happening there but it’s not like we’re all, um, I guess from a business side. To be honest its like you get to see a band do so well and then we’re like ‘maybe we can do that too’. When MGMT’s record Oracular Spectacular did so well you have to take some time and sit down and listen to that and go, ‘how did they do that’? But that’s not really our style of music.

True you both have very different styles. MGMT are very modern were as you guys seem to have a genuine 70’s and 80’s style and sound. Is that because you’re children of the ‘80s?

Yer, we’re 80’s babies (both born in 1982). Both our parents were really musical, so we grew up listening to the music of that time, whether it was Michael Jackson or Steely Dan. My mom was really into dance music, she used to go out to discos and stuff… so that was playing in the house.

It’s not like we’re trying to be cheeky or ironic, like Calvin Harris, no offence. It’s not like we’re taking the piss. It’s more than nostalgia, it’s just a really big part of who we are, and we both think records just sounded better then.

So the old sound boards in your video clips, are they more than just props?

Yeah, the gear we use is almost all from that period and the way that we master our tracks. From the first stages to the final stages we try to avoid new technology ‘cause we think it just doesn’t sound as good.

What was the first album your bought?

Naughty by Nature, Kriss Kross and Black Sheep on cassette. I went to the record store and got them. It was a big problem ‘cause they all had parental advisory stickers and my parents didn’t approve of them.

So Missy Elliott must be big on your list to see at Parklife.

Definitely. I really hope we’re not on the same time slot as her. We tour a lot and it’s not a name that we see often, so there’s something special about that.

What about Classixx? We spoke to Tyler a few weeks ago and he said they were originally supposed to join Holy Ghost! but couldn’t due to “scheduling issues”.

That’s their line but I’ll tell you the truth, the parts were too hard. Tyler just couldn’t cut it. No I’m just kidding, they actually were too busy. Those guys know all the songs though, so maybe they can jump up on stage with a guitar or something.

Michelle Sawyer, July 2010

Life as Surkin

A new album, a new label and a new tour – c’est la vie if you’re Surkin.

Having recently performed at Stereosonic in 2010, Surkin is no stranger to pleasing an electronic-enthusiast crowd. Setting new standards with his euphoric and entertaining set, it was not just the fans who felt the love at Stereosonic. “I really love Australian festivals. It’s really different from European festivals. I was with a lot of friends, like Drop The Lime & the Crookers guys. It’s a bit like summer camp for DJs; touring and partying after the festival,” he states. But partying aside, Surkin knows the difference when it comes to being a professional, having made the inevitable progression into the role of producer with the emergence of his new label, Marbles.

With the sad death of Institubes, it was a logical conclusion for Surkin and his fellow High Power Boys, Bobmo and Para One, to lunch their own collaborative label. “We knew it was going to close for maybe like six months (before it happened), so we started to talk about it. We were already sharing (recording) rooms and equipment, and in like two months, here we are. It’s sad about Institubes but at the same time, it’s really exciting to start something fresh,” Surkin admits. Now, with a new album ready for release, and the continued growth of High Powered Boys thanks to their recent EP, there are many positives surrounding Surkin.

When asked how he is handling his newfound responsibilities and industry attention, he explains, “It’s been quite natural. We’re not really trying to think too much about the attention, it feels more like a progression.” When it comes to music, Surkin is all business, but as a regular guy he is certainly not someone you would label as ‘serious’. It is clear from their opening address to fans that Marble’s will not have lost some of the humble, tongue-in-cheek attitude of their Institubes predecessors; “The first releases will include intricate space ballads, kevlar-plated riddims, sick percolating house, avant party breaks, emo-funky, Parisian ‘ardkore, and others things that might need new words to be described.” (Marble.fm, Introducing Marble March 16, 2011).

Returning to Australia in 2011 as part of the Creamfields tour, Surkin spectators can expect to see a very in-the-moment mix. “When you play something that is already pre–mixed, people can feel it. I’d rather do a bad set and be excited to do it. I like to adapt my set to the crowd,” he tells. Going by Surkin’s solid show at Stereo, fans can be assured of seeing something special second time round – let’s hope the same can be said for Marble.

Michelle Sawyer, March 2011

Just Jens: A Chat With Half Of Digitalism.

They don’t do care for Dubstep or that soundtrack done by those “Frenchies”, but they do care about giving Parklife one of the best live sets of the festival…

Courtesy Frank PR

Digitalism will be playing at Groovin’ The Moo 2012, along with a host of other gems including CHIDDY BANG – KAISER CHIEFS – ADRIAN LUX – 360 – BLUEJUICE – CITY & COLOUR – PUBLIC ENEMY – ANDREW W.K. – BENI – KIMBRA – THE MACABEES – MUTEMATH – MUSCLES – SAN CISCO – MATT CORBY and a shed load more.

Click on the following dates for ticket info;
GTM Bendigo – Prince Of Wales Showground, Saturday 5 May 2012.
GTM Townsville – Murray Sports Complex, Townsville Cricket Grounds, Sunday 6 May 2012.
GTM Maitland – Maitland Showground, Saturday 12 May 2012.
GTM Canberra – The Meadows, University of Canberra, Sunday 13 May 2012.
GTM Bunbury – Hay Park, Saturday 19 May 2012.

If time flies when you’re having fun, Jens “Jence” Moelle and Ismail “Isi” Tufecki aka Digitalism, are clearly having a lot of it. Nearly 5 years since the release of their debut phonon album, Idealism, Digitalism have returned to again turn digital music on it’s head with their long awaited second album, I Love You, Dude. In prep for their headlining appearance at Parklife 2011, I caught up with the more ‘vocal’ (pun intended) of the duo, Jens Moelle.

It’s hard to convey someone as down to earth and jovial as Jens on paper but here’s how my 15 minutes with the man went…

I was curious to ask this question, when I spoke with Dave Dresden (from Gabriel and Dresden) he told me he’d had had a falling out with Deadmau5 over a girl. Have you ever had any issues with another band/artist like that?

We do keep on having some beef with this crew Chase and Status at the minute. We clashed with them last year, I think somebody wanted to beat up others and stuff. We had some problems again this year because they just wouldn’t remove their stuff off the stage until 5 hours after their show and blocked everything. The other acts playing after them were like “can’t you just pick it up?”

You often get compared to French DJs, Daft Punk; were you a bit miffed that you didn’t get asked to do the TRON: Legacy soundtrack instead?

Not really. I think TRON was just perfect for those guys and they came up with some really nice music. I have to admit that I’m not a big TRON fan anyway. I have the DVD at home but I’ve not watched it to death or something, so it’s probably better for the Frenchies.

Your new album, I Love You, Dude, seems more pop than your previous, Idealism, and a lot more vocally orientated. Has that been a natural progression?

When we finished the first album, that’s when we got into song writing and we really liked it. Over the years we’ve played live and it was just so much fun performing those songs, that there was no doubt that we were going to write more songs this time.

Now we had that chance with the new album, we didn’t want to repeat ourselves this time. We didn’t want to write Idealism 2 and we do like to walk our own path. So we didn’t end up with Dubstep or Hard Techno on the record. We didn’t want to create a movement or something, it’s just like this is our new album and that’s it. It was probably an anti-reaction to what’s happening out there.

Dubstep is a really controversial topic out there in the DJ world at the moment. Where do you stand on the genre?

We really don’t dig it. There’s a couple of guys who are really good, like we like Rusko and Caspa who we are going on tour with in the states, but there’s so much stuff. I mean the formula behind it, it’s like two-step back then (UK garage). I predicted it dying after a couple of months and it did, because the formula behind it was so limited to what you can do so everything had to sound the same.

So that’s one reason why we don’t like it. The other ones because we’re so not into this harder and more compressed sound; it really annoys us at the minute. When we DJ’d at festivals over the past year there were kids jumping around, like mosh pits at a dance music festival. They were completely freaking out but we were like, “Where are the girls? There’s nothing for girls?”.

We’re really not into this take it to limit hard thing, where DJs go stage diving and stuff. It’s a bit too much I think. You have to bring back some sexiness.

Your recording studio is a WWII bunker. Is that weird?

It’s not weird. They had these bunkers that they couldn’t get rid off because they would have had to tear the whole neighbour hood down, cause they’re just these massive concrete things. Ours is actually in this quite posh area next to boutiques and hipster mummies and stuff, and there’s this bunker.

It’s ok. It’s very isolated in there, like you don’t know what’s happening outside, like you don’t know what time of day it is, because we don’t have any windows and that makes you really creative because we have to imaging things. We really can say we’re doing our own thing in there.

I read you work off Macbook Pros. I am kind of obsessively in love with my Macbook Pro, do you get a bit attached to any of your equipment?

Yeah, we fall in love with stuff that works for us and that’s reliable. We recently kicked out a couple of instruments that just really sucked, we loved them but they weren’t good friends to us so we had to kick them out of the set-up. If something f***’s up we’re going to get rid of, but if it’s reliable we love it to bits.

We’ve got a couple of synthies, for example, we’ve got about eight of them for back ups in the studio because they’re just so much fun, and you can rely on them.

You guys played at Harbour Party at Sydney’s Luna Park for NYE, how was that?

It was really nice. We played after Sneaky Sound System and had a chance to go outside and watch the fireworks – it was a magical moment. We were a bit jetlagged though. The night before we played in Brisbane and that day we had just arrived so we felt a bit weird. It was a lovely night as you say, we had a good time – always do it again.

It was also nice because going to Australia we were forced not to work on the album, because it wasn’t finished then and it was the best thing that could have happened to us, so we had a really good time.

You’ve played in so many festivals, what’s been your favourite so far?

That’s really hard to tell, but I must say, one thing that was really impressive when we played at Parklife last time, in 2008, we had just switched over from our old live show to our new one, on the road. We switched from using 8 channels to 30 and we didn’t have time to rehearse. So we had one day of programming in Adelaide, and then the next day we had to play in Brisbane.

We always end up doing stuff like that, doing stuff that we’ve never done before and we don’t know if it’s going to go well or not. It’s kind of addictive. So we played our new show, for the first time in Brisbane, in front of 20,000 people on the main stage and it went down well. That was one of those moments were you get shivers, thinking like “this could have gone really wrong”. It was brilliant.

One of the first Digitalism songs I ever heard was Digitalism in CAIRO (remix of Fire in Cairo by The Cure). Are you going to play some of your old stuff in your set at Parklife?

We still don’t know what the set list is going to be, depends on how much time we’ve got to play and all that. We just started playing live again a month ago so we have to check a few things. But of course we have a new album out so we are going to play loads of stuff from the new album, but we are also going to drop some old songs as well because they’re just so much fun. I don’t know what the ratios going to be, or which song, but definitely going to play some older songs.

Michelle Sawyer, June 2011

Spending 15 Minutes With Steve Aoki

Steve Aoki – is there nothing this LA dude can’t do?

One of Australia’s favourite DJs, I caught up with Steve Aoki before his gigs at Future Music Festival and Good Life. While the man is all over everything, he still remains one of the most relaxed and laidback people in the business. To see behind the real Steve, we got to talking about everything from models to restaurants and, yes, his BFF Cobrasnake…

One of your trademarks is your scream. Have you ever lost your voice through screaming on stage?

Well, sort of. I’ve been in punk bands since I was 15. When I was 16/17 years old playing in these hardcore bands after the first time I would sing I would lose my voice, but somehow I’ve gotten to this place (with it).

Your track Warp, with the Bloody Beetroots has been massive here in Australia. You’ve just made a new track Turbulence with Laidback Luke, do you get a feeling of how big a track is going to be when you’re making it?

Laidback Luke and I have been in the studio together for years. I’ve been going to his studio in Holland. This was our third session when we wrote Turbulence and we had the idea of doing something kind of in-between a Warp and a My God and we came up with Turbulence.

Originally there was no Little John there, it was just an instrumental, and we were talking and I was like, ‘I want to do a track about turbulence. All we do is fly everywhere!’ I have my little note pad, for when I want to do a track like Wake Up (I did that one just recently), it’s like always those kind of things you don’t really think about, but you do all the time.

You have this track I’m In The House. That is a really great graphic clip, did you do have much to do with the design?

That was like Jam Sutton and that video. I’d say we shot it all in one day with me and will.i.am, and the rest was all post production. So it was really all Jam, he is an amazing director. He did all the drawings, sketches… I had a little bit of input on the basic idea, the drawings that were in there that comes from a lot of my artwork, but as far as laying it all out I have to give all the credit to Jam.

You have your own clothing line, you have a magazine and your own restaurant Shin; where do you find all the time between flying, DJing and producing to get all these things out there?

LA life is important to me, so doing things that are very local keeps me grounded here. Actually I just opened up a new restaurant with a bunch of Australians.

Who was that with?

Dan (Single) and George (Gorrow) from Ksubi. They are partners in this restaurant and they are very good friends of mine, so we all kind of chipped in. These other Australians are operating it.

When you came out to Winter Sound System the second song you played was Pendulum’s track that is also the theme song for a current affairs program here called Four Corners. When you play gigs in other countries do you try and make your set fit the country or city that you’re in?

Yeah sometimes, I think about that. But mostly it’s a very specific set as the audience wants to hear my own music. They want to hear Warp, they want to hear I’m In The House, Pursuit Of Happiness, and then my new material like Turbulence and No Beef which is a new track I did with Afro Jack, and some tracks of the album. But sometimes, like when I was in Italy I opened with a Pavarotti vocal. He’s an Italian god.

A few years ago you did a DJ set with Lindsay Lohan. It seems like a lot of models are crossing over and taking to the deck these days. What do you think about that?

She’s a sweet girl. I think there’s room for everyone. I don’t have any hate on that, but when I was playing more in Hollywood and gigs in Los Angeles, that was when I was doing more of these gigs like with Lindsay and other personalities a bit.

You’ve got Agyness Deyn and Daisy Lowe from the UK who tend to get on it a bit…

There’s like a world that I kind of thrive in which is what we’re talking about… which is Future Music Festival and these big shows. You wouldn’t have those people DJ that, and then there’s like the bar scene, usually kind of like these smaller Hollywood clubs and bars where you could have an iPod DJing and it doesn’t really matter.

So there’s a place for everyone. Could have a monkey do it. That would be the coolest thing in the world for a bar. I would go to a party that Agyness Deyn is playing at because I would know she would be playing some really interesting records.

Daisy Lowe did an entire set that every track had to have the word Daisy in there.

Yeah, that’s really interesting and sometimes you just want to chill out and have a drink and not go to some crazy festival kind of thing and just experience something totally different. With like Cobrasnake DJ for instance, he like plays like Black or White by Michael Jackson to like some other random track and it’s just kinda of funny. Those kind of things are cool too.

Speaking of Hollywood gigs, you have a really big gig coming up at the Hollywood Palladium with Tiga and Dada Life. Is it a little more special when you play a gig in your hometown now?

On that run I’m doing a lot of big rooms. It’s hard to fill that room, it’s like 3,500 capacity room and I don’t really play in LA that much so when I do I want to make it a special show. So I’m doing that, and at the same time I’m doing Warfield in San Francisco which is one of the most legendary rock rooms. America’s definitely kind of ready for this music now and you don’t have to be Tiesto or Deadmau5 to fill these rooms anymore. You can just be Steve Aoki.

You recently had to postpone a whole bunch of dates for your Asian tour, and on your blog post, you wrote that you would announce when your next album was coming out. Are you able to give us any dates on that?

I can tell you that we are scheduling for an early summer release. I’ve been working on it for over a year and I have some amazing vocal features that kind of span all different genres like Wynter Gordon, will.i.am, Kid Cudi, Little John, Chiddy Bang, Rivers Cuomo from Weezer, Lovebox from CSS. There is just like this kind of variety of some big dance records to some more mellow records that I’ve done. At the end of the day I just try to write the best song I can to get the best out of the vocalists. So it’s not all club-banging records.

Michelle Sawyer, February 2011