The Rise & Rise Of Kimbra

Sometimes all it takes is your Daft Punk, Justice, French Electro-Pop lovin’ hairdresser to point out the obvious… Kimbra is the new Kylie.

Picture: Nicole Cleary Herald Sun

To think that it was only a year ago when I was putting together an editorial piece for the Melbourne International Jazz Festival 2011 when I spied a little known Kiwi with a cool B&W body art profile pic and thought, “who the hell is Kimbra?”. Well slap me in the face for my ignorance, because Kimbra is actually one of the best things to happen to Australian Music since Kylie Minogue gave up acting and became a pop star.

Kimbra Tatoo Photo
That press photo which started all the noise…

Making the sensible decision to move to Melbourne in 2007 after being discovered by Forum 5 indie music boss, Mark Richardson, to record her debut album, she has since become one of us. OK, that last part isn’t true but given our track record for claiming Kiwis once they hit superstar status (i.e. Sam Neil, Russel Crowe, Crowded House), it’s fair to say Kimbra is now totes Australian. At least in our eyes. And here’s how it happened…

Kimbra wins Juice TV’s Breakthrough Music Video Award for her single, Simply On My Lips. Indie music mogul, Mark Richardson, makes a choice decision to sign her up. Kimbra moves to Melbourne, shit gets real.

Celebrity douchebag blogger, Perez Hilton, does good and promotes Kimbra’s single Settle Down to his insane following by posting an uncharacteristically flattering comment; “If you like Nina Simone, Florence & The Machine and/or Bjork, then we think you will enjoy Kimbra – her music reminds us of all those fierce ladies!” Perez wins some positive karma points.

More good stuff for the Kiwi Diva in ’10 when Miami Horror feature her solid vocals on their (epically underrated) disco-electro track, I Look To You.

March 2011
Herald Sun’s Mikey Cahill reviews the Melbourne International Jazz Festival 2011. Featuring as part of an ensemble with Tex Perkins, Paris Wells (who is she) and Eddie Perfect (please stick to acting) in Fly Me To The Moon, Cahill pre-notes Kimbra as ‘unstoppable’. Good call.

June 2011
The jig is up and us Aussies concede to joint custody of Kimbra when she signs with Warner Bros. Records New Zealand, opening her up to the massive US market. Her breakthrough album, Vows, is released in August/Septemeber and reaches #3 and #5 in New Zealand and Australian charts respectively in the first week. Champions of the Indie artist, Triple J, jump on it and give the beautiful brunette shedloads of airplay.

Then this happens…

Melbourne’s musical magician, Wally De Backer aka Gotye and Kimbra’s break-up anthem goes on an assault to smash every record known to man in the music world, creating a snowball of critical and commercial praise. Meanwhile, people’s minds and ears continue to explode from too much awesome as Somebody That I Used To Know join Savage Garden‘s Truly Madly Deeply in the record books for spending the second most consecutive weeks (8 to be precises) at #1 in the Official ARIA Charts.

January 2012
Kimbra scores a monumental 3 solo spots in Triple J’s Hottest 100 for 2011 with Two Way Street at #93 (my favourite Kimbra tune and this totes deserved to be higher up the list, but I digress), Good Intent at #53 and Cameo Lover at #25. Oh, and that Gotye collaboration get’s voted in at #1 which surprises no one (not even Gotye).

April 2012
The Somebody That I Used To Know juggernaut continues as Kimbra and Wally ride the mother all the way to a number #1 spot on the US Billboard charts. They subsequently score a set on Saturday Night Live and a place in the Coachella 2012 line-up.* Note From Sawyer: Yes, I’m aware the latter happened before the former but I’m enjoying my alliteration of “subsequently score” too much to change it.

My musically influential hairdresser confesses his fandom for Kimbra as Vows plays in the trendy St Kilda salon during my last 8-9 week scheduled appointment. Note From Sawyer: 8 – 9 weeks is the industry recommended gap between hair appointments.

Kimbra cements herself as the most sort-after female vocalist with the cross-continental A-trak (half of Duck Sauce, gifted child DJ, super cool New Yorker, etc) and Mark Foster (of Foster The People fame) collab, Warrior. Triple J get dibs on playing it’s world premiere. It’s a big deal.

May 2012
Kimbra tours with Groovin’ The Moo and Sawyer call’s Kimbra the new Kylie. And about an hour after I first posted this blog, Kimbra and Gotye get nominated for APRA Song Of The Year

Michelle Sawyer, May 2012


A Day To Note In Oz Music

Thursday 19th of April 2012 – they say things come in threes and Australia Music is no exception…

Can you guess which Artist & Song are in this montage? (Hint: Splendour In The Grass 2012)

MASSIVE EVENT N0. 1 – Gotye’s Somebody That I Used To Know Feat. Kimbra reaches Number 1 on the US Billboard’s Hottest 100

It started early with the news that Gotye’s once in a lifetime song, Somebody That I Used To Know Feat. Kimbra, had reached the number 1 spot in the US Billboard Charts. After becoming the second longest running single at Number 1 in the ARIA Charts (at 8 weeks) alongside Savage Garden’s Truly Madly Deeply, Wally’s 9 times platinum break-up behemoth again joined Savage Garden in earning a number 1 spot on Billboard’s Hottest 100 charts – something that hasn’t been achieved by another Australian artist for 12 years.

Gotye feat. Kimbra, Somebody That I Used To Know

Gotye’s appearances with Kimbra on Saturday Night Live and set at the epic Coachella Music Festival are attributed to the number 1 spot. Reports from Coachella were that “every DJ [at the Sahara Stage] had a remix of Somebody That I Used To Know, and every time it was played, the whole tent and everyone around the area erupted.” (Triple J’s The Doctor Podcast, Aired Monday, 16th April 2012.) But it’s not just the song that is earning praise…

MASSIVE EVENT NO. 2 – Rage Turns 25

Rage Theme Song

Gotye’s equally quirky and epic video clip for Somebody That I Used To Know (which is currently sitting on 166,577,833 views on YouTube), will be featuring as part of an all time greatest music video’s special to celebrate Australia’s longest running video shows 25th birthday. Yep, Rage is turning 25. It’s the music show that most of Gen-Y’s (myself included) have grown up with, nursed a hangover with and (likely) pulled an all nighter with.

Hosted by You Am I’s Tim Rogers, the special will air at 10.20pm on Saturday and will feature an avalanche of epic clips that include:

Peter Gabriel’s Sledge Hammer, Beyonce’s Single Ladies, LCD Soundsystem’s Drunk Girls, OK Go’s Here It Goes Again, The White Stripes’ Fell In Love With A Girl, The Avalanche’s Since I Left You, the Fatboy Slim spectacular featuring an unforgettable dance explosion from Christopher Walken (see below) and shed loads more…

Fatboy Slim, Weapon Of Choice

MASSIVE EVENT NO. 3 – Splendour In The Grass 2012 Line Up Announced

Finally (as if the first two weren’t enough) the ABC’s other music megalith’s, Triple J, announced the much anticipated Splendour In The Grass 2012 line up. And it goes a little something like this:

Jack White, Bloc Party (ONLY AUS SHOW), Smashing Pumpkins, At The Drive-In (ONLY AUS SHOW), The Shins, Hilltop Hoods, The Kooks (ONLY AUS SHOW), Gossip, Miike Snow, Dirty Three (ONLY AUS SHOW), Lana Del Rey, 360, Azealia Banks, Tame Impala, Explosions In The Sky (ONLY AUS SHOW), Ladyhawke, The Afghan Whigs, Missy Higgins, Wolfmother, Metric, Kimbra, Mudhoney, 50 Years Of Dylan, Band Of Skulls, Spiderbait, Django Django, Gypsy & The Cat, San Cisco, Last Dinosaurs, Electric Guest, Muscles, Angus Stone, DZ Deathrays, Howler, Lanie Lane, Fun, Big Scary, Michael Kiwanuka, Seekae, Friends, Yacht Club Dj’s, Bertie Blackman, Jinja Safari, Blue King Brown, Youth Lagoon, Pond, The Beautiful Girls, Yuksek, Tijuana Cartel, Ball Park Music, The Rubens, Ben Howard, Bleeding Knees Club, Zulu Winter, The Medics, Shihad, Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, Husky, Kate Miller-Heidke, Father John Misty, Emma Louise, Chet Faker, Here We Go Magic, Parachute Youth, Mosman Alder, The Cast Of Cheers, Wolf & Cub, Gossling

Plus DJs:
Beni, Sampology (AV/DJ show), Canyons (DJ Set), Nina Las Vegas, Danny T, Alison Wonderland, Nice and Ego (AV/DJ show), Flume, Gloves, Luke Million, Harris Robotis, Alley Oop

The White Stripes, Fell In Love With A Girl

Tickets for Splendour In The Grass go on sale Friday 27 April 9am AEST. Now excuse me while I go lay down for a bit…

Michelle Sawyer, April 2012

Praise Be To Prince

We’re gonna party like its 1999, ‘cause Prince is coming to tour Australia…

The everchanging, always original looks of Prince...

The Twitterverse was a-wash with predictions of Purple Rain, in the anticipation of a long awaited tour by Symbol (The Artist Formally Known As Prince). Chugg Entertainment confirmed that the artist again known as Prince, would be parading his greatest hits in May 2012 with his Welcome 2 Australia east coast tour.

So to celebrate the man who single handedly made ruffle/pirate shirts cool, let’s all put on our Raspberry Berets, jump into our Little Red Corvettes and turn on the radio to listen to what it sounds like When Doves Cry. Or… watch this short collection of Prince pop video perfection (in no particular order).

Title: When Doves Cry
Released: 1984
Random Fact: Whilst this would have to be one of the penultimate Prince tracks, it’s hard not to think about the amazeball cover featured in Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet (1996). American child actor/singer, Quindon Tarver, almost stole the show with his angelic a cappella version which literally had audience’s whispering in the cinemas, “who is that kid?!”.

Title: Kiss
Released: 1986
Random Fact: I FUCKING LOVE this song!! This is one of my all-time favourite songs to sing in the car, at karaoke, or in the penthouse bath tub at the Beverly Wilshire in LA… (See, it wasn’t actually Julia Robert’s looks as to what made Richard Gere fall for her character, or that she was a ‘safety girl’. It was ‘cause she was a Prince fan! How could you not love that?)

Title:Little Red Corvette
Released: 1983
Random Fact: This song is proof that sometimes it’s better to not fully understand the true meaning of Prince’s metaphors but to simply just enjoy the tune. Given that this was released the year I was born, I think it’s only fair to assume that this song helped to subconsciously shape my generation into its acceptance of female promiscuity. But hey, at least Little Red Corvette was also an advocate of safe sex –

I guess I must be dumb,
Cause you had pocket full of horses,
Trojan and some of them used.

Released: 1991
Random Fact: Cream may not be one of his best songs (in what is a hell of a back catalogue), however, it is an apt depiction of Prince’s position in the music world at the time – total dominance. The accompanying 10+ minute long overly decadent, overtly demeaning, penis power music video further stamps Prince’s “Get on top” message home. Best summary of the 90s. Ever.

Title:Purple Rain
Released: 1984
Random Fact: It’s the song the spawned a hundred Twitter puns… Let’s play a quick word association game; if you had to describe Purple Rain in one word, what would it be? Epic < -- if this was not your immediate response, watch the clip again.

Welcome 2 Australia Tour Dates

Sydney – Friday, 11th May at Allphones Arena
Melbourne – Monday, 14th May at Rod Laver Arena
Brisbane – Friday, 18th May at the Entertainment Centre

All tickets available through Ticketek, 132 849.

Michelle Sawyer, April 2012

Why do we lose our heads over Radiohead?

When triplej announced Radiohead would be returning to tour Australia for the first time since cancelling their 2nd Melbourne show in 2004, people lost their minds…

Tom Yorke, Radiohead

Hailed as one the most influential bands of all time, and, likewise, their lead singer, Tom Yorke as one of the most influential musicians, they transcend the general boundaries that separate indie and commercial music – basically everybody likes them. Remember this ad for Scope?

So whether you fully comprehend the deepness of Radiohead’s driving melodies and droll lyrics or just dig Tom’s dance moves, you will likely enjoy this brief timeline of Radiohead’s rise to EPICness by way of music videos…

Title: Creep
Album: Pablo Honey
Year: 1993 (Single released 1992)

Fun Fact: Captain Obvious aka BBC1 banned this song from airplay, deeming it “too depressing”. Bet BBC1 wants to kill themselves for that call.

Title: Just
Album: The Bends
Year: 1995

Fun Fact: R.E.M’s Michael Stipe, helped to bring the band and album to prominence through his promotional buzz as a fan. The proverb “awaken the sleeping giant” comes to mind, with the band’s popularity overshadowing R.E.M in later years.

Title: Karma Police
Album: Ok, Computer
Year: 1997

Fun Fact: Before recording their “album that changed everything”, the Radiohead boys would take inspiration from listening to The Beatles, DJ Shadow, Ennio Morricone and Miles Davis – yeah, DJ Shadow!

Title: I Might Be Wrong
Album: Amnesiac
Year: 1998

Fun Fact: Bit of a blank for a few years with music videos, with the Radiohead lads going a little too far with their “depressing” motif on Kid A; critics labelled it as a “commercial suicide note”. Luckily, Amnesiac was a bit more cheery…

Title: Go To Sleep
Album: Hail To The Thief
Year: 2003

Fun Fact: Yorke denied that Hail to the Thief’s title was a comment on the controversial 2000 US presidential election. Don’t really understand the denial; a lot of band’s tried to “ban the Bush” that year.

Title: Body Snatchers
Album: In Rainbows
Year: 2007

Fun Fact: I’m aware this is not an actual music video. But my point is: if you listen to this album, you will never be the same again.

Title: Lotus Flower
Album: The King Of Limbs
Year: 2009

Fun Fact: This clip was probably more memorable for the spin of parodies of Tom Yorke’s “interpretive” dance moves, maybe more than the music – but still EPIC as always.

Tickets for Radiohead’s 2012 Australian Tour go on sale Thursday, March 1st at 9am (local time – check triple j’s website for more details) or you can enter triple j’s comp and maybe win yourself some FREE tickets and pre-party guest passes – double happiness!

Michelle Sawyer, February 2012

Crazy, Stupid, Love Songs

With Valentine’s Day already taking over the interwebs, here’s my spin on the “sucks if you’re single” greeting card holiday – my top 5 list of the stupidest, craziest (and cheesy) love songs and the movies that made them…

Roxette, Bill Medley & Jennifer Warnes, Wet Wet Wet, Righteous Brothers and Celine Dion.
Roxette, Bill Medley & Jennifer Warnes, Wet Wet Wet, Righteous Brothers and Celine Dion.

Number 5.
Song: Wet, Wet, Wet’s Love Is All Around

Movie: Four Weddings & A Funeral, directed by Richard Curtis, staring Hugh Grant and Andie MacDowell.

Released in 1994, the cover version of the Troggs single, Love Is All Around, (yeah, it wasn’t even their own work), beat out and equalled Bryan Adams’ just as crap (Everything I Do) I Do It for You for the most weeks spent at number 1 in the charts. Coincidently, (Everything I Do) I Do It for You, was the feature romantic track in the Kevin Costner movie Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (which is just too much wrong to feature in this list).

The song was later spoofed by Bill Nighly’s character Billy Mac, “an old ex-heroin addict searching for a comeback at any price” in Curtis’s, Love Actually, where the word “love” is replaced by Christmas. As Billy Mac suggests, “particularly enjoy the incredible crassness of the moment when we try to squeeze an extra syllable into the fourth line.”

Number 4.
Song: Roxette’s It Must Have Been Love
Movie: Pretty Woman, directed by Garry Marshall, starring Richard Gere and Julia Roberts

It Must Have Been Love was the most successful song released from the Pretty Woman soundtrack in 1991, spending its first of two weeks at #1. Billboard magazine listed It Must Have Been Love as the #2 Hot 100 single of the year behind Wilson Phillips’ Hold On, which has since had a resurgence thanks to featuring in the 2011 romcom smash hit, Bridesmaids.

Roxette later had another of their many power ballads, Almost Unreal, used as the romantic song for Super Mario Brothers in 1993. It was originally intended for Hocus Pocus, which started Bette Midler and Sarah Jessica Parker as witches.

Number 3.
Song: Bill Medley & Jennifer Warnes’ I’ve Had the Time of My Life
Movie: Dirty Dancing, directed by Emile Ardolino, starring Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey.

Sure, this song won a few awards; Academy Award for Best Original Song 1987, Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals 1988, Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song 1988…

But it’s biggest reward was being parodied by pop culture icons The Simpsons and Family Guy. In Family Guy’s Star Wars tribute episode, Blue Harvest, Herbert (resident pedo) playing Obi-Wan Kenobi sings a cover version to Luke Skywalker (Chris) while stormtroopers and other heroes cheer on as back-up dancers. Most recently the song featured, along with the movie, in the new sitcom, New Girl, starring Zooey Deschanel

Number 2.
Song: Celine Dion’s My Heart Will Go On
Movie: Titanic, directed by James Cameron, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet

Originally composed by James Horner as an instrumental motif that was to be used in several scenes of Titanic, Horner later decided he wanted to make a full vocal song out of it for use in the end credits of the film. Director James Cameron did not want such a song, but Horner went ahead anyway and got Will Jennings to write the lyrics. Celine Dion was also originally against recording the song after first hearing it.

If only James and Celine had stuck with their original gut instincts…

Number 1.
Song: Righteous Brothers’ Unchained Melody
Movie: Ghost, directed by Jerry Zucker, starring Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore

This would have to be the most memorable and best scripted song in a romantic movie. Ever.

Responsible for making pottery a sexy pastime (with a little help from Demi and Patrick), this song was aptly used in a parody commercial, Forclay, for Ford Fiesta. If it can make German engineers moulding cars out of clay look sexy, then this has to take the top spot in my crazy, stupid list!

Michelle Sawyer, February 2012

Who Would The Stones Be Today?

Having recently read the ‘enlightening’ Up & Down With The Rolling Stones, by Tony Sanchez, I got to wondering, who would be the rock ’n’ roll rebels of today’s music world?

With the long overdue decision made to read more music biographies in 2012, I kicked off my quest with the mostly true tails of Tony “Spanish Tony” Sanchez (better known as the drug dealer and friend of The Rolling Stones), and his much loved (semi) biopic; Up & Down With The Rolling Stones: My Rollercoaster Ride With Keith Richards. If you haven’t read this little page turner and are a fan of the band – 60’s & 70’s – sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll – and the rest, I implore you to order it IMMEDIATELY from your local book store or

In brief, the book recalls some of the many adventures of the Stones both musically and, more interestingly, personally with particular emphasis on Keith Richards, Mick Jagger and the late Brian Jones. Also very intriguing are the brief insights given on other great artists of the time including The Beatles (particularly John Lennon), Brian Ferry (Roxy Music), Eric Clapton and Ronnie Woods (pre Stones days). It also delves quite deeply into the women of the Stones, most of whom were Jagger’s ladies, Marianne Faithful, Bianca Jagger, Jerry Hall and the ultimate Stone’s WAG, Anita Pallenberg.

Now there have been a number of fascinating reviews on the novel itself, so I am not going to compete with them, instead recommend this one I came across which is a pretty decent read called, Spanish Tony, Where Are You?. Rather, I chose to ponder the more intangible question of ‘if Up & Down… was written today, who would it be about?’

The Rolling Stones Vs The Strokes

For me, the obvious choice to replace The Rolling Stones, is The Strokes: Julian Casablancas (lead vocals), Nick Valensi (guitar), Albert Hammond, Jr. (guitar), Nikolai Fraiture (bass guitar) and Fabrizio Moretti (drums and percussion). Firstly, given the period which Up & Down was set, London was then considered the bohemian capital of the world; but now it feels more appropriate that New York has become the new Mecca for musical, intellectual, uber-trendy, young things, more commonly known as ‘hipsters’ to congregate and call home. MGMT, The Drums, Armin Van Helden and A-Trak (to name a few) all reside in Williamsburg, as an example.

The Stones were all about pushing boundaries both in common social ideals and in music, and The Strokes have certainly done this. Forming in 1999, they sparked a bidding war amongst record labels after the anthem, Last Nite from The Modern Age EP, was given away as a free MP3 by UK magazine NME. When, Is This It, hit the world a short time later, it was the sound a generation had been desperately awaiting. Reinventing the indie genre through their hypnotic guitar riffs, deep rolling vocals and occasionally political lyrics, they also, like The Stones, set the trend in fashion with their incredibly tight, low slung grey jeans, fitted, black leather jackets and vintage rock-band-branded T-shirts. On a more generalised note, they directly emulate The Rolling Stones with their long “anti-establishment” hair-cuts, pale skin, good educations and slightly arrogant stage presence.

The Beatles Vs Coldplay

If the Stroke are the Stones, then today’s Beatles would have to be Coldplay: Chris Martin, Guy Berryman, Jonny Buckland and Will Champion. What can I say here, that has not already been said about these musical masters? I know many enthusiasts will argue that they are too commercial and ‘pop’, but then many also would say that about The Beatles. Like The Beatles, they formed after a chance meeting at university. Both have ‘unofficial’ fifth members (their long-time managers) and both are unquestionably ground breaking both creatively, visually and subsequent in record sales.

Another similarity is their long time leading ladies. Gwyneth Paltrow is an odd mash up of Yoko Ono and Linda McCartney. Her personal influence over lead singer and husband, Chris Martin, or the rest of the band has never been (commonly) publicised and whilst she does not seem likely to start the catch phrase “You broke up Coldplay”, she has certainly leant on her husband’s fame to establish her own music career; recently playing roles as a country music singer in the feature film, Country Strong (2010), and returning Glee guest role of the substitute teacher, Holly Holiday. But unlike Yoko and Linda, she has earned critical praise by some of music’s genuine talants, like Cee Lo Green, for her performances and if you look at the Glee cover of Landslide, by Stevie Nicks, below, you might find yourself inclined to agree with them.

Speaking of WAGs, the other key players in Spanish Tony’s all revealing memoir, are the prominently discussed four Rolling Stone’s leading ladies, who included:
Marianne Faithful – Jagger’s first girlfriend (and almost wife)
Bianca Jagger – Jagger’s first wife (who gave birth to his first child, Jade)
Jerry Hall – Jagger’s last wife (who he stole from Brian Ferry)
Anita Pallenberg – Arguably the most long term of the Stone WAGs, she was Keith’s old lady (and she also slept with Jagger)

Yesteryear's Rock WAGs. From left: Anita Pallenberg, Marianne Faithful, Bianca Jagger & Jerry Hall.

To go into more detail on any of these mysterious and deathly attractive iconic women would be a blog un-to-itself, sticking to my for-mentioned topic is tough enough to summarise into a single paragraph. Suffice to say, none of today’s rock muses compare to those immortal creatures of Up & Down, but that the appeal for a rock WAG to be a one-of-a-kind beauty is still the same today as it was back then; though being an actress/model also helps.

Today's Rock WAGs.
Today's Rock WAGs. From left: Kate Hudson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Alexa Chung and Kate Moss.

Some of today’s notable music WAGs have been:
Kate Moss – She’s the girl every girl wants to be and for a number of years, she was famously the girl of renowned musical prodigy and drug enthusiast, Pete Doherty, former lead singer of the Libertines. She has since married her other long time rock love, Jamie Hince from The Kills, in 2011.
Kate Hudson – Divorced from Black Crows frontman, Chris Robinson, who was the father of her son Ryder, she gave birth to Muse frontman, Matthew Bellamy’s baby, Bingham, in 2011. The two are predicted to wed in 2012.
Alexa Chung – Wearing the label of UK’s ‘It’ girl as well as numerous other fashion houses, the model and TV presenter was famous for being ‘Alexa’ of ‘Alexa & Alex’, dating Alex Turner, lead singer of the Arctic Monkey’s for 5 years. They recently split in late 2011.
Drew Barrymore – She dated The Strokes drummer, Fabrizio Moretti for 5 years, which to-date has been her longest relationship.
Kirsten Dunst – Aside from her openness to smoking a joint, she has featured in a couple of music videos and dabbled in various musical roles on film. She also dated Razorlight’s Johnny Borrell.
Carey Mulligan – A proclaimed “one to watch in 2012”, after trying out the ‘dating a co-star’ thing with Shia LaBeouf, she came to her senses and became engaged in 2011 to childhood friend Marcus Mumford, lead singer of Mumford & Sons.

So whilst there does appear to be a tangible stereotype emerging with both bands and WAGs alike, the magic and originality of the music and spirit remains.

Michelle Sawyer, January 2012

Show Time Stuff-Ups

Naturally, when the world is weighing on your shoulders and success balances on a single performance, it is inevitable you will unfortunately suck.

Lana Del Rey on SNL

Such was the case for hipster sensation, Lana Del Rey (born Elizabeth Grant), and her sensational – for all the wrong reasons – Saturday Night Live set. With what is a pedestal for musical performance – noted for being “notoriously difficult” for artist to score a spot on – featured a flat and mostly motionless Del Rey sulk her way through web released hits, Video Games and Blue Jeans. So atrocious, it prompted NBC newsreader, Brian Williams, to send an unflattering (and potentially career killing) email containing quotes “Brooklyn hipster Lana Del Rey had one of the worst outings in SNL history last night…” and “Booked on the strength of her TWO SONG web EP, the least-experienced musical guest in the show’s history, for starters.”

Lana Del Rey singing Video Games on Saturday Night Live.

Not even Harry Potter (the episode was hosted by Daniel Radcliffe) could work his magic for Ms Del Rey. Managing to bomb both songs on SNL, the pretty singer was more mistakable as a model with her stiff-as-a-statue stance. The oh-so-pretty-and-indie 1960’s inspired YouTube clip for Video Games, which features Ms Del Rey in many model-esque posses, currently boasts 20,081,157 views (as of 18/1/12).

Video Games on YouTube.

The kinder critics questioned if it was indeed a technical problem with audio (my own thinking was that it sounded like a case of the mike being switched off), as opposed to the more common (harsher and realistic) verdict that she was simply a starlet-in-making overwhelmed by the situation and status of performing a coveted Saturday Night Live spot. Outspoken LCD Soundsystem front-man, James Murphy, tweeted “Lana Del Rey plays Saturday Night Live next week. LCD Soundsystem tried for 6 years to play Saturday Night Live. Isn’t ‘too soon’ ok advice?”. NY gossip queen, Perez Hilton, also tweeted his agreement for the negative Twitter criticism on Lana’s performance, “It wasn’t just me! Seems like the OVERWHELMING consensus is that @LanaDelRey was horrible on SNL last night”. The promo alone should have sounded ‘alarm bells’ for the show’s seasoned producers; depicting what appears to be “a scared stiff young lady” standing next to the cool-as-a-cucumber, composed screen veteran, Radcliffe. See clip below…

Another suffering stage fright was poor Samantha Stosur, failing to go past the first round of the Australian Open. Stosur, ranked 6th in the Grand Slam, was defeated in straight sets, 7-6 (7-2), 6-3 by Romanian world No. 59 Sorana Cirstea – a player she has beaten in both prior encounters. Her lead up to the Oz Open, like with Lana, was also a give away to her unfortunate but imminent failure, losing in the 2nd round of the Brisbane International followed by a 1st round defeat in the Sydney International. Crumbling under the enormous pleasure set by the public and press after having won the US Open in 2011 (or in Lana’s case, releasing a “2 SONG web EP” as Brian so succinctly put it), Sam Stosur was pinned as Australia’s best hope for an Australian Open Champion in 2012. That expectation, which has dogged all our past US champions over the last 20 years, now rests heavily (and solely) on Bernard Tomic – poor bloke.

So whilst I do genuinely feel sorry for Sam, Lana Del Rey (or perhaps her management) simply should have known better – too soon indeed, James Murphy.

Michelle Sawyer, January 2012.

The inevitable SNL follow up skit… featuring Saturday Night Live regular and Bridesmaid writer/actress, Kristen Wiig sending up Lana to a tea – but all in a friendly, “we still love you” way (of course).

Gabriel & Dresden – Mixed for Feet Vol.1 Review

Mixed for Feet Vol.1 –it’s a dance compilation, but not as we know it.

After their much appreciated reformation in early 2011 and a shed load of touring, progressive trance duo Gabriel & Dresden have given birth to their first album release Toolroom Knights, Vol.2 in 2007. Like they have done through out their much celebrated and industry awarded career, Josh Gabriel and Dave Dresden have taken their twist and turned it into one of the hottest dance compilations of 2011 with Mixed for Feet Vol.1.

Now normally when it comes to an artist release, you would expect to find nothing but self named tracks (I know I did), so I was pleasantly surprised to find a gathering of some of the biggest and best names in dance to date, scattered across the track lists. Tiesto, Fredde Le Grand, tyDi, Umek… and that’s just disk one. And, of course, there are plenty of G&D hero anthems for the devoted.

Aside from the sheer professionalism of production, what comes through loud and clear is the love. Personal favourites are Eponym by D-Wayne Vs Jacob Van Hage (disc 1) and White Noise-Red Meat by Dada Life (disc 2) and classic Motorcycle (original clip above) remix of As The Rush Comes (It’s The DJ Kue Remix!) – all guaranteed to get you into the happy holiday headspace. Making over classic Gabriel & Dresden anthems, like Tracking Treasure Down feat. Molly (original clip below), is definitely a masterstroke, though there are also some new tracks which are destined to become favourites with fans and dance enthusiasts alike, like Josh Gabriel Presents Winter Kills’ Oklahoma Town.

Anyone who was fortunate enough to see them play live in ’11, as I did at Creamfields in May, would have witnessed the powerful playfulness of the two accomplished DJs first hand. Mixed for Feet Vol.1 further stamps the statement “we’re back” – and this fan couldn’t be happier.

Mixed for Feet, Vol.1 is available via Armada.

Michelle Sawyer, October 2011

Check out my chat with Dave Dresden on their reunion, Deadmou5 and Creamsfields.

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?


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

Speakin' bout pop-culture, digital stuffs, social media & spoodles…