Tag Archives: electronic

Felix Burton of Basement Jaxx: “I saw something sitting right in the middle of the sky that looked a flying saucer”

basement jaxx

IT’S been five long years since the last official Basement Jaxx album, but the English EDM duo are coming back strongly with new effort Junto.

While being free of his record contract and releasing new material means DJ and song-writer Felix Burton should be feeling on top of the world, it’s something altogether more other-worldly he most wants to talk about.

“We’d just moved into a new studio; its windows look over London,” he says. “I saw something sitting right in the middle of the sky that looked a flying saucer. Well, it looked like a Ford Fiesta; the way a car shimmers in the sunshine – it was definitely metallic. [A friend was] with me, having a cup of tea, and we were watching this thing in the sky. We realised it wasn’t a helicopter or a hot air balloon or anything like that; whether it was a military device or arable farming technology we’ve never heard about, who knows? Some other people saw it on that day, but what was most interesting was how small-minded some people were when I told them. An unidentified flying object means I don’t know what it is, but people would get angry and say it doesn’t exist or there isn’t such a thing, and I thought it was amazing how closed-minded people are to new possibilities and ideas. I did a lot of research into all this as I was doing a talk at Oxford University, and I was trying to make sense of it, so I was trawling through conspiracy theories and all the stuff out there. I was seeing a girl at the time, and we were out at some exhibition. She had actually seen something when she was eight years old in Scotland; something had hovered over the car, and she had always talked about it. I was with her in this public exhibition and was talking about the UFO, and said ‘my girlfriend here also saw something’. It was a Judas moment because she said she hadn’t seen anything, and when I asked her about it afterwards she said it was because people think you’re crazy if you say you’ve seen a UFO. I just thought it was awful that people walk off on you and get angry if you say you’ve seen a UFO, but she was blatantly disproving it just because she was embarrassed. People can’t say what they think or be honest. So many people are living a charade and getting whipped up in all this bullshit of celebrity culture that has no effect on their lives and makes them feel dissatisfied and envious. I believe in angels, UFOs, ghosts and all those kinds of things, and I don’t have a problem with it. I’ve looked a lot into religions and what my spiritual path is; maybe because my dad was a vicar. But people are scared of even thinking about all these things, which is such a shame. People just jump on something and use these things to feel superior. They don’t like the idea of something they don’t understand, but the fact is nearly all of life and reality we don’t understand; it’s arrogant to think we do.”

Interplanetary interruptions aside, Basement Jaxx are back with an album brimming over with their signature electronic-pop anthems and plenty of vocal collaborators. After over ten years with XL, Burton is happy to be embracing independence on the new record.

“We’ve always felt free in how we write,” he says. “It’s just you might not hear a lot of the stuff that was very free [laughs]. There were people who thought it might be a bit too tangential or might not fit into the idea of what was appropriate. With this album, we were very clear that we wanted to have stuff we could DJ, so we wanted to make sure it could be useful in our live show and connect to Jaxx fans, as well as fitting in with the current resurgence in house and deep house; now that’s kind of like pop music here. A lot of those people are inspired by us, so actually we might as well do our version of ourselves anyway.”

One of the guest vocalists was transgender rapper Mykki Blanco, who didn’t exactly finish the job, Burton says.

“That was the one vocal where we weren’t actually with the singer. It was done in a very modern way, where we e-mailed stuff. I sent him a couple of things and said it’d be great to work on ‘Buffalo’ and get some Native American spirit. We were back-and-forthing, and Mykki was really into it, then we started getting random e-mails and things weren’t quite connecting. Then [someone said] ‘Mykki’s gone’. We thought it was all sounding great, and told them we need the second verse to finish it, but they told us he’d gone to the desert. I thought it sounded all quite biblical, but that was it. We were mastering the album the next day, so ran out of time, but it’s amazing what you can do when you’ve got to reshape something and make it work.”

Having been a major player in the EDM scene since the ’90s, Burton is unconcerned about how the music industry is evolving of late.

“It’s been changing so much in the past ten years,” he says. “I think people who work in the music industry now have no idea what’s happening with it or where it’s going, which I really like. Rather than resting on their laurels, people need to understand life is about change and embracing change. Everything is temporary, and if a tune is good, you’ll be whistling it in a few years and everything else will get left behind. At a time when there’s so much corporate entertainment dross, it’s good that things keep moving forward and we don’t know where they’re heading. Everyone says it’s all about streaming and nobody will own any music any more, but who knows? There are always going to be enthusiasts who pile up vinyl, but I don’t really worry about these things I guess.”

A heaving touring schedule is already locked in for the end of the year, with Burton hoping to add Australian dates.

“I’m really hoping we can come in February or maybe January; around that time,” he says. “We just did the Fuji Rock Festival in Japan and a festival here in the UK. They went amazingly and I feel very happy with our live show at the moment. We have a lot of people, so it’s quite expensive, but I’d love to bring everyone. Also, the album is called Junto, which is about togetherness. It’s not about me or Simon, it’s about the audience and ideally all the people on stage as well. But yeah, fingers crossed. If Australia shows some interest in the record, then hopefully we can come. At the moment, we’re slightly in that limbo time where we’re waiting on responses to the album, but in my mind I’ve got it to go to Australia and Japan in February next year.”

JUNTO BY BASEMENT JAXX IS OUT AUG 22.

For Scenestr and The Brag

Interview: Kevin Baird of Two Door Cinema Club

kevin baird

AUSTRALIA and Two Door Cinema Club are no strangers.

The Northern Irish indie-pop trio have graced our shores a number of times for both headline and festival shows, but their upcoming appearance at Splendour in the Grass will be their biggest test Down Under yet. With a new label and material behind them, expect them to rise to the challenge, says bass player Kevin Baird.

Hi Kevin. What’s the plan to get yourself into a Splendour-headlining frame of mind?

I think we’re going to be super-excited to play. We haven’t really been playing much this year; it’ll only be our second or third show we’ll have played in all of 2014 at that point, so we’ll be really up for it. I think it’ll probably the biggest headline festival slot we’ve ever played, so it’s pretty exciting and we’re just going to go for it. I don’t think we’re going to be too nervous or anything; we’re just going to enjoy it.

How did you feel when you heard you were headlining?

I think if it had been last year or the year before we might have felt a bit of pressure, but the overwhelming feeling now when we get asked to headline things, is like ‘finally’. We sort of feel that we’re ready to do it, and it’s where we want to play on the bill. We’ve played enough and we’ve done enough big slots to know that we can headline a festival, so it’s really nice to know that you’ve got to that point. We always looked at other bands who were in that position when we’d be playing at midday or whatever and hoping we get to that point. So, the overriding feeling is happiness.

Will you do anything differently from a normal TDCC show?

I don’t think we’re too protective of ourselves in that way; even if we’re headlining a festival, we’re not under the illusion that everyone there is a massive Two Door Cinema Club fan. I think a lot of bands make that mistake. We’re obviously aware which songs translate better to someone who’s not a massive fan, and it’s all about pace and speed and not really giving people a chance to relax. We’re not going to be spending 30 seconds between songs talking rubbish, or standing in silence tuning our guitars. It’s all about momentum when you’re in a big outdoor arena; I think at a festival you just got to get on with what you’re trying to do.

Will you be playing any new material at Splendour?

We’re sort of toying with the idea at the moment. We’ve been writing a lot of new stuff while we’ve not been playing shows this year. We haven’t quite decided if we’re ready for an unveiling or not, but if we were to do it, I think Splendour would be a very nice place to do it.

How much have you written?

I think we’ve lost count, but we’re working in double figures in terms of ideas at least. The first album was very different, because there was no pressure. We just arrived with the album, recorded it and it was done. With the second, we sort of wrote 15 or 16 songs and 11 of them ended up on the record. I think this time around we’re trying to be a bit more conscious of having more choice, so we’re just writing as much as we can, hoping to have about twenty or thirty songs to pick from.

Are you looking take your sound in any new directions with the new material?

We were writing the last record in 2011 and a lot has happened and changed about what we are listening to, our perspective of things and our lives in general. It’s more natural to sort of write what we feel like writing, and that just naturally comes out differently. We actually find it much more unnatural to just rip ourselves off, if you know what I mean. Any time we’ve tried to do that it’s come out as a terrible song, so we end up doing whatever feels right at the time. Luckily for us people have liked it so far, and hopefully they’ll like it when we release another record.

After your second album, you left the Kitsuné label and signed with Parlophone. Was there any particular strategy behind that?

We left Kitsuné at the end of our record contract, and we felt like we wanted a change. Parlophone were one of the labels interested in signing us. Kitsuné have always been incredibly amazing and have been a really positive force in our music, image and everything. But at the end of the day we sort of became a bit frustrated – and it’s a horrible thing to say – about money, and although Kitsuné put everything in and we couldn’t ever have asked for more, we’re quite ambitious. We have quite large fanbases in places like Singapore and Malaysia, and we feel like we need to be releasing albums there, so that was one of the things that made us want to go with a big company; to make sure the records come out in these places. The previous two albums; they had to import them from Japan or Australia. Parlophone are amazing; they’re the small family relationship of an indie label, but with a major machine behind it.

If you could have a cameo role in any TV show, past or present, what would it be?

The Sopranos. It’s just the best TV show ever. I’d like to be one of the animals that Tony Soprano loves, but I don’t think that would be possible. So I’ll be some sort of animal keeper, so Tony Soprano will like me.

Which celebrity or musician would you be happy to sit next to on a long-haul flight?

Not the other guys in the band! Someone who’s not very talkative, because I don’t like to talk. Someone who is really boring.

Finish this sentence: fuck the expense, send me a case of…

Umm… Cooper’s Pale Ale. Love it.

TWO DOOR CINEMA CLUB PLAY SPLENDOUR IN THE GRASS JULY 26.

For Splendour in the Grass

J of Jungle: “We almost pictured ourselves in a jazz club, with T doing a door solo over drops”

jungle band

THEIR music has been described as kaleidoscopic modern soul, but being in Jungle is all about feeling before style, says the band’s singer and producer, known simply as J.

“In the real world, I’m is doing all sorts of shit to try to prove myself,” he says. “Whereas J and T are our nicknames; they’re where we go and that’s what Jungle is for us. It’s just somewhere we can go and create and be free, and is a really powerful thing. It’s important that it’s not about any individual. It should always be about the music.”

Along with childhood friend T, J formed Jungle as recently as recently as ten months ago, and despite a much-hyped debut album released this week and an upcoming appearance at Splendour in the Grass, the London-based duo remains as mysterious as ever. Their self-titled record is very much a DIY release, featuring smooth, crisp bass-lines, urban grooves, falsetto vocals and a few happy accidents.

“A lot of the stuff we put down, we put down because it was hilarious,” J says. “There’s a solo that was a door creaking, which some people love and some people hate. Basically, I was on the computer listening to a track and T left the room to make coffee. The door in my bedroom is basically creaky as hell, and creaked almost in tune with the track in a weird kind of way. I was like ‘wow, stop, stop!’ and started pointing a microphone at the door, saying ‘you’re on, it’s solo time’. We almost pictured ourselves in a jazz club, with T doing a door solo over drops.”

Despite mostly being recorded in a home studio in west London, the album is littered with imagery of faraway places, as on tracks like ‘The Heat’.

“I suppose, if you think about it, everything on our album is a visual reference,” J says. “It’s all about how you can be in that place to create that music. For example, with ‘The Heat’; that’s the beach, you know? So, the beach is a metaphor for a feeling of happiness. Rather than just being in a room in Shepherd’s Bush, you can close your eyes and go to that space. Einstein said ‘simplicity is genius’, and it is; I think all the best things in life are simple, and I think we kind of look up to that quote.”

One faraway place Jungle aren’t going to have to visualise is Australia, with the band set to fill a slot at Splendour in the Grass.

“Oh God, I don’t know how big our set is going to be there – don’t tell me!” J says. “I just go around expecting these tiny little hundred-person gigs. Everything for us is about human connection. If you look at our videos, it’s all about the people and what they’re saying through their eyes, which you lose so much of in the digital age. It’s ironic that most people access it through the Internet. I think live we want to make it about having people on-stage, and I think people relate to people more than laptops, and they enjoy it. The interesting point comes when you explore the line between live and electronic; where does the human end and the computer begin?”

Part of Jungle’s mystery has been intentionally engineered; that’s for certain. But as J confirms, the duo are much more down-to-earth than at first glance.

“We finished a song called ‘Son Of A Gun’ and it gave us the energy and confidence to finish more,” he says. “And then you start to build up that archive of stuff. A lot of people struggle – and we have struggled – with finishing stuff or having the confidence to finish it. Its only really a sketch when it’s finished and you can only really judge it when it’s finished. It’s an emotional whirlwind of a process, especially when you’re doing everything and you’re writing, recording and mixing; it becomes one and you have to be quite structured in the way you deal with it, because you can end up producing and mixing before you’ve even written anything. There were probably terms where we were thinking that we hated the sound of a snare drum, but the song didn’t even have a chorus, you know? It was just about taking things one step at a time and doing what feels right. It’s quite a DIY process for us, and we kind of enjoy that. Some of the best parts on the record are the big mistakes, and you have to embrace things that just happened off the cuff. That’s a process that happened from when we grew up. When you first get a family computer and get a little USB mic and realise you can do this without having to go to Abbey Road or do it properly. We’re at an age now where you can create and produce stuff to high standards with these tools, and it’s not necessarily about how it sounds. There are some amazing records that sound like they were recorded in the plushest studios, but just don’t have any emotion in them. Whereas you’ve got some records that were recorded on one mic in a basement, that are the most incredible records ever. Therefore, looking at that, it’s not about where you are or what you’re recording, it’s more about that feeling, emotion and energy in the room. You can waste so much time positioning mics and that sort of thing.”

JUNGLE’S DEBUT ALBUM IS OUT NOW. JUNGLE PLAY SPLENDOUR IN THE GRASS.

For mX

Dan Whitford of Cut Copy: “People have really embraced it”

cut copy

IT’S BEEN SOME TIME since Cut Copy played headline shows on home soil, but this is one electronic four-piece who haven’t been sitting still.

Producer, songwriter and vocalist Dan Whitford explains why the upcoming Australian shows are going to be special, and how the band has made new fans in some unexpected places.

“We went to Moscow for the first time,” he says. “We played to a room of 1500 people. It was the same in Lima, Peru; we went there a few weeks ago, and that was a voyage of discovery. But we’ve found that people know our music and we have a fanbase that is excited to see us, so we’ll try to make the effort to get in front of our fans. On one hand, we’ve seen more of the world for ourselves, and on the other we’ve expanded the places we can tour around the world. It’s grown from just doing Australian shows in the beginning to being able to play most places around the world, which is a pretty amazing thing. We were really surprised; I think it’s partly due to people listening on the Internet and that kind of thing. We weren’t aware of any radio play or anything in these places, but obviously people are managing to find our music by other means. When we went to Russia we were kind of amazed that people knew even our first record, which wasn’t our breakthrough and is a bit forgotten or obscure. We found a lot of people requesting songs from that record, and everyone knew all the words; it was quite amazing.”

The band’s latest album, Free Your Mind, was released in November, and it’s one Whitford is keen to introduce to Australian audiences.

“The last time we played in Australia was about three years ago, so we’ve totally revised our show,” he says. “We’ve got a new record out, so we’ll be performing a bunch of stuff from that, and we’ve just got a completely new lighting design, projections and visual stuff as well. Hopefully people will be excited to see something new. We’ve played festivals here in that time, but our last headline show was that long ago; I suppose because we took time to make the new record and this is the first time we’ve been able to book in some headline shows. I’m glad we’ve managed to get it happening again, because obviously we started out in Australia and tour pretty extensively all around the world these days. There are lot of opportunities for us everywhere, but we still love coming home and playing to our longer-serving fans and audiences that have been listening to us for a long time. Often when we play something new people will sort of sit there with a slightly stunned mullet look on their face. They’ll take it in, but not necessarily respond by dancing or anything. We’ve found with this new record that people have really embraced it from the beginning and have responded to the songs as if they have been listening to it for a long time, which is really good. What we look for in terms of a good show is to have people really moving and responding to what we’re doing, and it’s been really good off the bat for the new record.”

Having appeared at just about every major festival in the world, Cut Copy benefit from their music appealing to both dance and indie-rock fans.

“It’s always been a good thing,” Whitford says. “Because we’ve felt that we’ve been able to have a foot in both camps, so to speak. We don’t belong 100 percent to either; we’re strangely between worlds, and sometimes that really does work in our favour. At indie or guitar sort of festivals, playing dance music that’s a bit more energetic or upbeat can make a nice change for people, and at dance festivals where it’s mostly DJs playing, we can come out and play live music and have a more engaging show. Visually, that definitely excites people.”

The frantic pace of the touring cycle doesn’t look to let up for the Melbourne band, with a return to Australia slated for later in the year.

“We’ll be touring for most of the rest of the year,” Whitford says. “With our last record we ended up doing 180 shows in the year, but I don’t think we’re going to try to repeat that this time. Between now and the end of October or November we’ll be doing a bunch of northern hemisphere festivals, then hopefully play a bit more in Australia towards the end of the year if we’re lucky enough to get offered some festivals.”

CUT COPY PLAY:
THE METRO THEATRE, SYDNEY – MAY 8TH
170 RUSSELL, MELBOURNE – MAY 9TH
EATON’S HILL HOTEL, BRISBANE – MAY 10TH

FREE YOUR MIND IS OUT NOW.

Record review: CEO – Wonderland (2014, LP)

ceo

CEO – or ceo as it was previously stylised – is the solo project of former The Tough Alliance member Eric Berglund. The 32 year-old Swede released his debut album White Magic in 2010, and while four years is a long time between drinks, this forgetful collection of synth-pop staleness won’t have you requesting a refill any time soon. The addition of a child’s vocals on opener ‘Whorehouse’ is more annoying than cute, and don’t let the title allow you to believe there might be an edge to the track; it’s about as soft as electronic tracks come. ‘Harakiri’ is schmaltzy but not entirely alienating, and the swirling ‘In A Bubble On A Stream’ can at least be forgotten almost instantly. Third track ‘Mirage’ also adds children’s voices to what sounds like a bad day at the playground, as the overall feeling is one of a poor man’s Gypsy and the Cat, or label mates The Presets and Cut Copy. The title track plumbs new depths, in that it manages to sound like a mish-mash of ’90s Eurotrash techno-boneheads 2 Unlimited and the shameless karaoke barrel-scraping of The Vengaboys, before a limp attempt at a chorus seals the deal. Elsewhere, the vocal effects on ‘Ultrakaos’ are outright annoying, and closer ‘OMG’ should ideally be called ‘WTF’. While Berglund has seemingly wanted to make a record spilling over with art-pop sophistication of intercontinental scope, what he actually made is a completely bog-standard, formulaic electronic pop record of ultimately fairly dire proportions. (Modular)

Live review: Aviici + New World Sound + Joel Fletcher – Brisbane Riverstage – 24/1/14

One of the most in-demand DJs in the world right now, 24 year-old Tim Bergling – a.k.a. Aviici – brought his True album tour to Brisbane’s Riverstage on a nastily humid Friday evening for his first major Australian concert. Not since Future Music Festival have so many pairs of short shorts been on a single patch of grass at once, as an all-ages crowd collectively champed at the bit to have their eardrums assaulted by Sweden’s finest.

After an opening set by Melbourne up-and-comer Joel Fletcher, Gold Coast duo New World Sound get the sold-out audience bouncing with their trademark high-energy dance tunes and calls to the audience to get excited for “our boy Aviici”.

By the time our boy arrives at the relatively early time of 7:55, there is a palpable sense of release among the diverse audience as chants of “Aviici, Aviici” reverberate around the natural amphitheatre of the Riverstage and the DJ opens with the country-house number ‘Hey Brother’, followed closely by the piano-led ‘Long Road To Hell’. When it’s time for ‘You Make Me’ several hundred people are bouncing in unison in front of the stage, as thousands of streamers, jets of smoke and retina-searing lasers engulf the audience, and the sound is probably loud enough to be heard in the DJ’s homeland. By the time his remix of Calvin Harris’s ‘Sweet Nothing’ rolls around, the Swede has the audience eating out of his hand; and this is the scene which plays out until the venue’s curfew of 10pm, when the audience file out of the exits a little drained, but very elated.

Interview: Paul Van Dyk

paul van dyk

If there ever was such a thing as a DJ royal family, German superstar Paul Van Dyk would probably be considered the king. Having sold over 4.5 million albums worldwide, consistently been voted the number one DJ of all time by industry magazines, and been in the business longer than most, he is a bona fide legend of the DJ-ing and electronic music world. An album of new material is in the works for early 2014, before he graces our shores to play Future Music Festival in March.

Hi Paul, what can fans expect from your show at Future Music Festival?

I have a new album in the pipeline, so there will be a lot of new music, but people always ask me to play some of my music that I’ve done in the past, so it’s going to be a very intense combination of both. The other thing is, of course, the way I perform and play my music is somewhat different because I use keyboards, computers, and custom-made mixers on-stage, and all sorts of different things that enable me to actually play very, very lively.

What can you tell us about your new album? What does it sound like?

Well, it’s electronic music and it consists of a lot of collaborations with people I really admire, as well as people that are up-and-coming and very talented. I can’t wait for it to be out and about. Some of the collaborations are in the early stages, so I can’t tell you yet!

How have you managed to stay at the top your game for such a long time?

Well I’m very passionate about it, and I’m not bending my back towards whatever is the latest trending sound whatsoever. That authenticity is what I believe people appreciate about it. The other thing as well is I’m not just pressing a button and raising my hand to the audience. I’m entertaining people in a much more intense way, by playing instruments and I believe that’s a very successful element of why I’m still around.

What’s more important to you, putting out albums or performing shows?

They come together; you can’t really take them apart. From the very beginning I have been a recording artist as much as a DJ or musician or performer or radio presenter. All these things always came naturally to me as one thing, so I can’t take these things apart at all.

How important has it for you to change and evolve throughout your career?

It’s always been a normal process for me. It’s not like I’m sitting down with a marketing team and saying I need to change this or that, or only wear green, or only wear red. To me, music and the art-form of electronic music comes in a very natural way. I’m always interested in something new, so my music and the way I perform always evolves. For me, electronic music always had something to do with breaking boundaries on the creative side, and on with people using new technologies as well. A lot of my production gear and stage set-up is always evolving as well, so it’s not something I strategically plan, but it’s more like an artistic progression.

How do you keep on top of all the new technology available to you?

Whenever there’s something new, I read about it and try it. In terms of production technology, there are so many possibilities these days, and I’ll find out about things and learn about them. What I do is never about resting on what I have achieved; it’s always about looking forward towards the next element that can enrich the performance or production. My set-up is like a mobile studio and everything is necessary, and I can actually construct a track completely live, going from channel to channel by first programming some drums, and adding a bass-line or some strings. That in itself is a very creative tool. I also have a custom-made controller that enables me to do all the levelling that is necessary completely organically, which is something that is very special. I also have a mixer, and there are only three of them in the world; it’s kind-of like very organic media mapping if I want to; if I feel like I need the top left corner button to do something, I can just quickly do it. That in itself makes it a very lively way to bring the music across, and that is what I enjoy about it.

Do you write a piece of music with a collaborator in mind, or finish the track and find a vocalist to suit?

It depends. If I’m actually working specifically with a vocalist from the beginning of the track, then of course it’s a planned thing. But it’s usually during the process that I develop or imagine a sound or feel of what the voice is like, and develop an idea that can bring that process to life.

What are you most looking forward to about coming to Australia?

The shows, of course. The audience in Australia is always very open and excited about new music. Whenever I come to Australia these are the memories I take back home. It’s very energetic, very powerful, and in a positive way, extremely crazy. I’m really looking forward to it.

PAUL VAN DYK PLAYS FUTURE MUSIC FESTIVAL MAR 1-10. http://www.futuremusicfestival.com.au/