Olly Knight of Turin Brakes: “This is the ultimate Turin Brakes album”

turin brakes

TWELVE YEARS after their debut, Turin Brakes’ new album We Were Here sees the band going full circle. Singer-guitarist Olly Knights explains.

“It’s the first time we’ve ever made a record that takes into context the records we’ve already made,” he says. “Normally we just go for future-facing progression at all costs. Progression is great, but if you keep just trying to be different eventually you lose something, whether it be your audience or the thing that made you special. We wondered what would happen if we made a record now that had the same kind of sonic and emotive ideas as our first album. We thought that might be more interesting, and in a way this is the ultimate Turin Brakes album. We’ve put ourselves in the fans’ shoes for a second, and tried to make the record they would want. The reaction in the UK has been exactly what we hoped for; a lot of old fans feeling like we’ve made the record they always wanted us to make, and it has that same mid-seventies feel as The Optimist.”

The folk-rock duo, consisting of Knights and Gale Paridjanian, went as far as using reel-to-reel tapes in search of sounds of old.

“It was how we made our first record,” he says. “Then computers got better and faster after that, so we left the reel-to-reels behind. Computers can be both good and bad for music. On this record we felt we wanted to get away from the cut and paste nature of a computer; you can spend too much time tweaking things to death whereas with tape you can’t. It’s very healthy to simply have to get it right and move on. For some bands who have grown up with computers it wouldn’t make sense, but the whole point with Turin Brakes is that we can just get into a room and play a song, and we wanted to make a record that made use of that.”

Australian fans of the band shouldn’t have to wait too long for the chance to see them in the flesh.

“There’s talk now of hopefully getting down there in Australian winter, 2014,” he says. “We had such a great experience earlier in the year when we came over. It felt like there were still a lot of Turin Brakes fans in Australia, so it was really wonderful for us.”


Laura Silverman of Cirque du Soleil’s The Immortal: “It’s Cirque du Soleil meets rock-pop concert”

Michael Jackson

MAINTAINING the musical legacy of Michael Jackson is no small feat, but Cirque du Soleil’s new show is up to the task, says stage manager Laura Silverman.

“It’s extremely important to us,” she says. “It’s interesting because most people in the world, even if they aren’t huge Michael Jackson fans, know at least a couple of his songs, and when you watch our show and hear the songs you know and maybe a few more you didn’t know were his, you realise how vast his musical catalogue is. There are also moments when you just hear his voice, and you realise when you take away the sequin gloves, the moonwalk, and all the headlines and everything, he still was such a talented musician. His talent can give you chills; he changed the entertainment industry forever, and everyone involved in the show is grateful for the chance to carry on his legacy. We want the audience to enjoy Michael’s music from the early days of the Jackson 5, to his later hits from just before he died.”

The Michael Jackson: The Immortal show brings together the best of Jackson’s music and all the elements that Cirque du Soleil is known for.

“It’s Cirque du Soleil meets rock-pop concert,” she says. “Fans will see all the acrobatic elements they know Cirque for, and of course Michael Jackson’s music. There are a lot of his dance moves in the show, his iconography, his costumes, his messages, and his voice. We were given unprecedented access to all his original master tracks, and what you’re hearing is Michael’s voice from the original tracks played with a live band, so you feel like you’re at one of his concerts. When you put those two entities together you come up with something pretty wild.”

“Michael was always a huge fan of Cirque du Soleil,” she continues. “He saw one of the very first shows in Santa Monica California in the eighties, and then in 2007 he visited our headquarters in Montreal and just fell in love with it. He got lost in the costume department and met a bunch of the artists. They planned to one day work together, but unfortunately the opportunity didn’t come up, and then his estate approached Cirque du Soleil and decided this was the best way to create a show to celebrate him. We wanted to create a show that would pay tribute to his legacy, and who he was as an artist, and also that he himself would have loved and would have wanted to be a part of.”

Putting together a touring show of this size hasn’t been without headaches for the organisers.

“This show was designed specifically for arenas, and to feel much more like a concert than any other show,” she says. “The other shows that we’ve put on have been designed with the traditional big top in mind, so this throws up a whole new set of challenges. What we’ve found is when you’re touring at the pace that this show has been, you can have ‘big’, but you might not be able to have ‘that big’ as we’re going in and out of trucks twice or three times a week, and you have maybe only half a day to set everything up. So there are technical and logistical liberties that needed to be made to make the show as big as we wanted, but also be something that could travel as much as we need to. In the end we found a happy medium to get everything we wanted. There are 124 touring members, including 49 artists and all the support staff, from management, wardrobe, technicians and so on, and we hire about 150 locals in each city. The creative process for the show was about a year and half, which compared to other Cirque shows is quite short. This show was put together in about a year, then the artists spent just over four months learning their parts, so it’s still a fairly long process to get it up and running.”

The famously guarded Jackson family have given the show their blessing, adding that all-important element of authenticity.

“They were very supportive from the start,” she says. “Michael’s mother, kids, and brothers came out to the world premiere in Montreal in 2011. They came to the premiere in Vegas as well, and his brothers came to Montreal during the rehearsal process to meet with the artists and creators. They’ve always been supportive of it, and told us that Michael would have loved this show, which is what we hoped for.”


Live review: Labours of Love #2 – The Zoo, Brisbane – 17/8/13



It’d be reasonable to assume that the prospect of a night of country music and the proximity of the Ekka might be enough to attract a few out of town punters to the banjo-twangin’, boot-stompin’ events of the evening at The Zoo, but this wasn’t to be the case on Saturday night, with only around forty to fifty hardcore fans showing up for the second instalment of Labours of Love at the beloved venue.

The bands didn’t seem to be put off by this, however, and after a short set by local quintet Bandito Folk, and much fiddling with electronics and synth cables, Seja Vogel and her three band members take to the stage. “Hi, I’m Seja and I’m going to play some not very country music,” she explains, before running through a series of synth-heavy tracks from her new album All Our Wires, including the excellent ‘Like Fireflies’ and German number ‘Die Wolken’, followed by a sublime acoustic cover of cult Gold Coast band Arbuckle’s ‘Love Vacation’.



Halfway take to a stage now adorned with a projected backdrop of various pictures of country Queensland, and coolly work through a set of songs taken from their upcoming fourth album Any Old Love. Despite all the new songs being totally unfamiliar to the audience, they receive a warm response after each tune; from the slower country numbers to the more up-tempo rockers. There are hints of The Band throughout, and even touches of Warren Zevon in parts, and the sporadic dancing that breaks out by the third or fourth song among the loyal fans in front of the stage keeps up until the final chord is struck. Surely this is a better way to spend an evening than watching fireworks and eating ice cream?

Live review: 4 Walls Festival – QUT, Brisbane – 3/8/13

Billed as being for young people by young people, Youth Music Industries’ fourth annual all-ages 4 Walls Festival at QUT boasted quite a line-up this year.

Before a hoard of baby-faced and expensively attired onlookers, local alt-rock quartet Twin Haus provide an early highlight on the rooftop stage with a tidy racket of a set, before English-Australian four-piece Tourism unleash a new batch of Arctic Monkeys-esque tunes with some heavy moments on the main stage in the darkness of QUT’s lecture theatre. During a previous Brisbane gig guitarist Adrian Brown puked on his guitar mid-song, but everyone is clearly under instruction to be on their best behaviour today, which is helped by the lack of bar at the venue.


The biggest draw of the day so far is Brisbane’s Go Violets, who almost send a swelling crowd into spasms with their cheeky brand of all-girl indie, with more than a hint of the ‘1-2-3-4’ aesthetic of J-Pop and near-perfect depiction of adolescent angst. With lines like “I really like you, I like your hair”, they could be any teenager here today, and after eliciting proposals of marriage from male members of the crowd, they finish with the Powerpuff Girls theme song. Once they master stagecraft, this band could be huge.

Meanwhile, SURFER CATS are making a boneheaded yet strangely charming mess of noise on the rooftop stage with a set of songs about – yes, you guessed it – surfing and cats, including tunes with names like ‘Vampire Cat’, ‘Catch A Wave With Me’, and ‘Schizophrenic Cat’.

Baseball cap-sporting Jeremy Neale takes to the main stage to thunderous applause, and proceeds to provide the throat-shredding vocal performance of the day, with ‘Winter Was The Time’, ‘Merry Go Round’, and ‘Darlin’ featuring, before being joined by Go Violets and members of Major Leagues to finish with a raucous ensemble version of ‘In Stranger Times’.


Having just driven from Newcastle to make the gig, Pigeon proceed to up the quality tenfold and steal the show with a high-energy blast of electronica, including a ten-minute Daft Punk medley which fuses ‘One More Time’, ‘Around The World’, ‘Robot Rock’, and ‘Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger’ into a single pulsating jam.


Late additions to the bill Cub Scouts headline the main stage with their usual collection of well-crafted indie-pop tunes and send the kids of Brisbane home tired but happy, while the rest of us retire to the nearest bar for a well overdue drink.

Interview: Lindsey Stirling

Global Youtube phenomenon Lindsey Stirling is about to bring her signature violin-electronic-dubstep style to Australia for the first time. I tripped over all those hyphens on the way to the interview.

Your style has been described as ‘hip-hop violin’ or ‘classical fusion’. How did you arrive at the sound people now know you for?

I started playing to hip-hop tracks because I wanted to make the violin fun again. I wanted to dance and I wanted to entertain both myself and the crowd. When I was finally able to produce my own music, I basically took all my favourite styles – electronic, dubstep, classical, and Celtic – and combined them all together.

Growing up in Arizona, what music influenced the songs you make today?

I always listened to electronic music. I think I was the only kid in my high school who liked techno. Haha! But I also loved pop-rock. My favourite band of all time is Evanescence.

After being dismissed by the judges on ‘America’s Got Talent’, were you ever tempted to change your style or approach?

I was actually considering giving up. In my mind, I had failed so dismally and I was so humiliated after that experience, I wondered if I had the courage to get back no stage again. But after much thought I turned fear into motivation. Nothing gives me more drive than when someone tells me I can’t do something. I now had a point to prove.

How does it feel to know your videos have over 300 million hits on YouTube?

Mind blowing.

Do you think it’s still possible for artists to ‘make it’ without the Internet?

It would be really difficult because that is where people connect now; not TV, not radio, but through the Web. The Internet and technology has made it possible for the Average Joe to do it on their own and bypass the record label.


MC Slice of Kobra Kai: “We’re really proud of this album”

kobra kai

THE RELEASE of Sydney dubstep/dance collective Kobra Kai’s second album comes at a great time for the band, explains MC Slice.

Insession is our second album to date,” he says. “We’re really proud of this album; we feel very comfortable with how we’ve evolved our sound over the years. Kobra Kai has been together as a band for almost eight years now, and it even existed previously as different incarnations, so it’s been a long journey and we’re a really solid unit. Down the years we’ve had a few band member changes, and we’re in a place where we feel really comfortable and we’ve always known who we are and what our music is, but this album really feels like our sound is really solid and an accurate reflection of us and how we’ve developed as artists. We’re all in our early thirties, and we’ve all been doing music as our principal passion for around fifteen years, so Insession really reflects where we’re at right now.”

Honing their live show has always been Kobra Kai’s main focus, with recording taking a back seat.

“We’re firstly and foremost a live band,” he says. “Basically, our ethos is to replicate in a live situation the music we hear at raves and clubs; predominantly club-based dance music. Someone will have an idea for a song or a skeletal structure of a track, and together we try to put all our ideas or themes into that. Then we rehearse it, it might change over time, and eventually it might become something, or maybe not. Sometimes it’s clear there will be a diamond at the end of this piece of rough, so to speak.”

Insession is only our second album,” he says. “We’ve put out singles before and an EP or two. It took pretty much five years to get the first album done, and we needed to kind-of purge all of that and get it out the way so we could sink our teeth into the second album; it was almost like a release of new music as a finished product. So, this album is really special to us. It’s a bit darker than the last one, and we’ve produced and mixed all the tracks on the album ourselves, so they really are all ours. Hutch and Rehan have become really adept producers, and they are the two real musicians in the band in a classical sense; they play the instruments. Our first album was executive produced by an artist in London, and it was never quite satisfying to us, and it didn’t feel like our own; so we’ve done this one all ourselves.”

Using drums and guitars in a dance show adds another dimension to the band’s live performance.

“Hutch and Rehan come from a traditional instrument-based background,” he says. “They appreciate the club sound, we appreciate the musicianship, and so we come together and take inspiration from DJs in clubs and work out ways to add things to it in a live environment. I’m a DJ at heart, but when we’re on stage the live aspect is all about the energy we capture from the crowd. It’s so engaged, personal, and energetic, and the live aspect is really important in that, and in who we are as band full-stop.”

Slice is looking forward to a busy few months ahead, with the band set to hit the road in support of the album.

“We’ve got an Australian tour coming up for Insession,” he says. “We’re playing Sydney, Adelaide, Perth, The Blue Mountains, Newcastle, Brisbane, Byron, and Melbourne. Then we’ll be taking it to New Zealand. Hands down the best gig we’ve played is Subsonic; it’s all about the music and a great vibe. We’ve played Big Day Out, Future Music, and Parklife, which are always a pleasure to play as they’re generally really well manned and the sound is tip-top. As a performer, having a great set-up makes a real difference. We’re also going to be busy writing new material, which is a constant process for us, and we have a music video coming out really soon for our track ‘New Swings’. So all in all, really busy!”


Dan Hawkins of The Darkness: “The only giant tits on stage this time will be the band”


REFORMED, refreshed, and rehabilitated, English glam-rockers The Darkness are heading to these shores for a run of shows with legendary rocker Joan Jett.

Coming off the back of album number three and an extensive tour supporting Lady Gaga, guitarist Dan Hawkins is looking ahead to the shows Down Under.

“Expect really loud sounds played through Marshall amplifiers, running about on stage, guitar solos, and great songs; a rock ‘n’ roll party basically,” he says. “If you’re up for having a couple of beers and taking your mind off work, then come along.”

Having left their rock ‘n’ roll excesses behind, the band have found a new lease of life which has seen their shows take on another dimension.

“I think we’re a lot more energetic than we were before,” he says. “We used to hide behind a massive light show and giant inflatable breasts and stuff like that. We never used to move from our spots as we were just getting over our hangovers. That’s all been well documented over the last couple of years, but we pretty much hit the ground running at a show these days. We’re in the zone now where we don’t give a flying fuck, so anything can happen at a Darkness show.”

Sharing a bill with the ‘Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll’ is something Hawkins is looking forward to.

“Touring with Joan Jett is going to be amazing,” he says. “We’ve not met her before, and she just adds so much glamour to the show; it’s going to be quite the event. It just reads like a great gig.”

The band’s new and improved lifestyle has had plenty of other creative benefits.

“We’ve been writing on the road, which has never happened before, mainly due to massive hangovers all the time,” he says. “It’s not going to be a long wait before the next album comes out. We can’t keep our fans waiting, and obviously we lost a lot of fans when we split up. We’ve written quite a few songs already and we’re really excited about it.”

The new lifestyle also means many aspects of the band’s earlier shows have been left behind, including the infamous giant breasts.

“I thought about turning them into a really inappropriate water feature,” he says. “But the only giant tits on stage this time will be the band.”