Artist Interview: VERVE

by Simon Murphy

Ahead of the monster April Edition of Prognosis we are lucky enough to get the chance to interview the talented producer and DJ, Brisbane’s own Verve, who will be making his highly anticipated Prognosis debut.

Verve bio pic

Thanks Kieran for taking the time for us to pick your brain.

No dramas, thanks for having me.

For those unfamiliar with your music (i.e. those living under a rock), can you describe your sound?

I’d say my Verve productions could be summed up as: emotive and melodic, groovy with a dash of techiness. I try to avoid repeating the exact same sound twice, as certain producers do thanks to their templates, so my tunes can be quite varied – in saying that I do often place emphasis on the melodic content of a tune, as I try to capture a snapshot of a particular feeling or emotion which may come through on the day of production.

The last few years have seen your tunes signed to some amazing labels and you play some big shows. Do you have any personal highlights you’d like to share?

I’ve been lucky enough to be signed to some of my favourite labels, of those I think having my tune ‘Fusion’ signed to Particles (sister label of Proton) was one of those ‘cross that off the list’ kinda moments, as I’d been sending them originals for some time with no success up until last year. Fusion sold well so they decided to pull together a remixed EP, which should be out soon, along with a remix from a long time hero of mine, Danny Bonnici. I recently signed a 2 track EP to DAR Digital, which will see the launch of my new techno moniker ‘KC Roma’ – couldn’t ask for a better way to launch this new project!

Gigs wise, spinning at clubs in London was pretty cool, though I have to say the gig which I had the most fun at was a bush doof in SEQ, where I got to crank out a handful of my own tunes, full pelt on an epic system.

You’re originally from Brisbane but have also spent time in Europe. What is the Brisbane scene like? Can you tell us about your travels and how this experience has contributed to your music and the development of your career?

I grew up in Brisvegas but have made the voyage over to Euroland twice in the past few years, first in 08/09 and more recently in 11/12, I returned back down under in Dec last year.

One of the reasons I jetted overseas was to get away from the stagnation of Brisbane’s scene – as most big cities there’s no shortage of DJs playing cheesy tunes, but in the last few years there’s been some amazing gigs go down in Brisbane, thanks to a few local promoters like Rich Curtis and the Auditree boys – these guys have been known to throw a mean boat party. Rob Babicz played at one. Sun setting with skyscrapers in the background is a memory that has stuck with me.

Whilst in Europe I lived between Sweden and London. I embraced the clubbing culture to the max on my first visit to London, and was pretty overwhelmed with the amount of choice you have, often we had to sacrifice one gig for another – some heartbreaking decisions were made. I got over to mainland Europe as much as possible, rocked a few road trips with my mates and experienced some amazing places. The most influential city for me, as a producer and lover of dance music was Berlin without a shadow of doubt! Before moving to Europe I had no particular affinity with techno or minimal, but Berlin has a way of getting deep inside your brain.

There’s way to many clubs/festivals/street-parties to list here, but all I can say to peeps out there is if you haven’t done Berlin and you’re a fiend for dance music like me, you should have been there yesterday.

You’ve had the chance to remix a whole swag of quality tunes and added your own special touch. If you had the chance to remix any tune from the past or present, which tune would it be?

Touch question! Tunes from the past that come to mind are the classics of the golden era, like Underworld – Born Slippy or Orbital – Chime. For present stuff, being given the chance to remix anything by Stephan Bodzin, King Unique or Guy J would make me happy in the pants.

Can you offer your opinion on the current state of the electronic music scene, both locally and abroad? Do you think that the scene is still strong or has the global commercialisation had a negative impact?

Locally it seems like the scene in Sydney is quite healthy, since I moved hear 2 months ago, there have been gigs catching my eye more or less every weekend. I feel spoilt for choice moving from Brisbane. Like all places there are people who want to be part of the scene for the wrong reasons, but that’s unavoidable. Like Dosem mentioned recently, despite the negative aspects of the booming EDM scene in the US there are positives coming out of it like the gateway effect, and as time passes people with decent taste will dig deeper to find music with more meaning and complexity. The underground is stronger than ever though, so I’m happy to stay here for a while and keep doing my thing.

Your productions are turning heads around Australia and across the globe with support from some of the biggest names in the business (Hernan, Jaytech, Above & Beyond to name a few). For the budding producers out there, can you offer any insight into how to get your tunes heard and recognised on a global scale in such a competitive industry?

Focus on your own sound and identity; this is key for success in such a saturated market. Buy a couple soft synths after doing some research and get right into them and their architecture, know them like the back of your hand, so you can pull the sounds that you want quickly rather than digging through thousands of presets. Once you get your head around the technical aspect of production, and you’re able to develop unique ideas – you’re already half way there, and people will start to notice you.

Make sure you research labels and their prior releases before sending demos to make sure your sound fits, this is a big must.

In the studio, are you a software guy, a hardware guy or a combination of the two? What couldn’t you live without in your studio?

Used to be a big hardware guy a few years ago when my mate and I had our studios joined together in one huge downstairs rumpus room, but relocating to Europe, and the limited space most people have to live in forced me to cut down and condense the studio. That being said I’m still a sucker for analog synths. Love the warmth and imperfections in sound.

Still have my Roland SH2 and MKS70, but software has largely been able to replace my hardware, as I’ve multi sampled most of my synths and made custom Kontakt banks from them. I’ll take this opportunity to plug my Sound Design outlet, where I’m releasing these banks for Kontakt and EXS24.

Can you tell us about your current project ‘FutureForm’ music? What else is in the pipeworks for you?

This is my first label project, kicked off recently with my partner in crime, Pete Helskanki. We have our first release scheduled for 10 April, featuring an original from Quivver, titled ‘The Fog’ and remixes from Cid Inc and DNYO. The 002 sees Kassey Voorn deliver a remixed EP of Quivver’s original. We have some big tunes coming through from some really talented producers, so you can expect one release per month from us, to ensure consistency, quality and longevity of the label.

The label is actually one facet of the wider FutureForm Collective, an overarching brand that will also encompass other outlets such as a sound design department and touring services later down the track. It’s a life-long project that will hopefully grow and evolve organically with the assistance of a multi-faceted team of passionate and talented minds.

What can the Prognosis faithful expect when you hit Melbourne next month? Are there any artists, labels or tunes that are rocking your world right now?

They should prepare themselves for some serious fun! I’ll be dropping plenty of bouncy, melodic, driving tunes. A stockpile of my own productions as well as stuff acquired whilst overseas is sure to be unleashed. At the moment, I’m really feeling tunes from Bodzin, Romboy, Max Cooper, Cid Inc, Andre Sobota, Ryan Davis, Dousk, Kobana and Maceo Plex to name a few.

To settle an age old quandary, who would win in a fight; a toasted cheese sandwich or a taco?

Cheese toasty fo sho! It’d melt all over, crush and suffocate its weak and helpless victim.

And finally, no Prognosis would be complete without a wee tipple and a healthy dose of shenanigans, what’s your drink of choice?

It ain’t a real party without some shenanigans right? I’ve been known to get stuck into a few Zubrowka and apple mixes (the most deliciously dangerous vodka I came across in Poland), and I can’t say no to an icy Deustch Weisbier.

Thanks again for your time and we look forward to your set at Prognosis.

Cheers! Really pumped for this one.

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You can catch Verve headlining our next Prognosis – April 20th @ LOOP

Interview by Simon Murphy

RIP DJ Ajax – One of the unknown muses for Substance

by Taran M

R.I.P DJ AjaxIt was on a cramped and especially humid Sydney nightclub where the initial concept for Substance was born in my head. Sitting on the side of the stage behind the side curtain I watched an ambient figure cut through a crowd like hot butter. You have to remember this was before Boys Noise, Justice and The Bloody Beetroots had made banging electro sound like a Yamaha home organ had slept with a 303 and ate two spoonfuls of Jacked.  Electro house was still very much an upcoming genre, with more basic synth arrangements and less abrasive bass kicks. Right now I am justifying my own reasons for being a fan of electro house, but it was heading out and listening to electro that prompted me to consider re-igniting my passion with the decks and more so my own event…..

As the DJ finished his set, my friend who worked for One Love in Sydney introduced us and we had a brief chat about the common misconception in names between himself and Melbourne’s Ajax, music and running your own club. It was a fifteen minute munted conversation that finished on the pretense along the words of “You have to do what you love and love what you do”. We had no emotional relationship, that is I never spoke to him ever again, but I kept an ever interested eye on the poles on the top 100, even after i deleted him for sending me ITM top 100 requests. When I woke the next morning, I started thinking and the thought process developed, it didn’t take long until I had sucked Jordz, Rich and Simon in for the ride.

I’m no longer in the scene and Substance has evolved, far removed from its humble musical beginnings. But I have to stop and say thank you and god speed, to Ajax and from everybody at Substance HQ our deepest sympathies to his family, crew members and friends.

Thanks for the initial inspiration…

– Taran M

Oh Plees…

by Taran M

Due to some extenuating circumstances in my life I have been a mild hermit the last couple of months. Between a hectic schedule of sport, exercise, episodes of “Billy the exterminator” and constructing a life size replica of Noah’s arc out of stolen car antenna’s, I’m amazed I’ve had the time to conduct anything. I have  fielded a number of questions and answers to numerous people over the last few weeks, mainly back at police officers regarding the disappearance of car aerials in my suburb.

However I threw some questions directly at a cultural enigma that seems to have existed in the Melbourne dance music scene.  The first time you meet this man is like the first time you quad plugged MD caps and dropped two tabs of acid; mildly uplifting….. I first met Jules Plees at a Colour of Sound after party, after I bought him a scotch, he introduced himself as “Melbourne’s Tiesto” and bought me  a fruit tingle. Considering he said he invented the moniker to pick up girls, and given him buying me a fruit tingle, I thought he had ulterior motives. Carbon dating comparisons to such fossils as DJ Kat or Johnny L have proven to only slightly pre date this musical mastermind. Having burst onto the Melbourne progressive trance/trance scene in the Interview and 5am crews. Jules Plees has seen it all, or maybe he hasn’t, who can tell. The one thing I know is that throwing away all of the stories, all of the hype starting out in the early 2000’s, Jules Plees is one of Melbourne’s most gifted DJ’s. His passion and knowledge are worn as a sleeve of pride. Very much a “DJ” and not a tune dropper, a clear and concise direction in both his sets and also his career has lead to the latest reinvention of the JP. Conducted on Facebook chat, over grueling weeks and numerous episodes of “Storage Wars Texas”, I got to know him better and maybe in the future there will be time for another fruit tingle.

But for now, sit back and enjoy as we get to know the man, the music and the muse that is, Jules Plees.

So you’re back in the saddle again after nearly 5 years in hiatus? What has prompted the revamp of the Jules Plees moniker?

I’d been out of it for a few years and at first it was Curtis Tennant’s idea to have a look at starting something up. At about the same time MyAeon was really taking off as a venue and I managed to wrangle us a monthly slot there. We did that for a year or so – and then I went solo for another year – running the Melbourne leg of the Sasha Le Monnier tour. I found that DJing on the night that you are running to be way too much stress (I like to prepare heavily for my sets) and so have taken a bit of a break from the promoting side of things just to focus on my music – which is finally showing a bit of fruition. Its a basic desire to bring something fresh to the scene that is familiar with my own JulesPLees twist, musically that is.

So way back when the war began How did you start and where did your early success take you?

I always had a thing for electronic music – loved the futuristic/alien sound of it all. After doing the underage party thing and turning 18 i quickly found the rave scene. I was lucky enough to see some of the pioneers like Christopher Lawrence, Jeff Mills, Joof, Nick Warren, Saha/Digweed, Carl Cox, etc at their peak. I think it was after (literally) passing at salt watching Carl Cox i decided that I wanted to do it. I bought a crappy pair of Citronics (does that brand even exist anymore?) and a pretty dodgy 2 channel mixer and taught myself. I ended up getting in with the 5am guys who were a crew just starting up a friday night thing at r00m680 and from there it just kinda became its own thing. I got to support (play in the same stage on the same night) as some of my heroes – Chris Lawrence, JooF, Nick Warren, Pete Tong, Tiesto and quite a few more. I got to do all the big brands of the time (Gatecrasher etc). There were some awesome gigs in there – but to be honest some of the best ones were the local nights. Nights like Obsession and Interview in its early days and even smashing out the muzzatech at viper room was great fun. I wasn’t technically amazing or flawless – it was just that from about 2001-2005ish there was a massive hole in the melbourne scene for that sort of superclub sound. There were only a handful of us playing the slinky/gatecrasher style. It was either very hard and pretty cheesy or very very deep. So when when there was a big dj in town who did do that in-between thing there were literally 4 or 5 of us that could fit the bill and not much else. And then I took my break and when i came back – things had changed – big-time.

What exactly had changed? was it that the popularity had died?

That was a part of it – its a young mans game and extremely competitive. But the entire scene itself had shifted. I love lots of different music from iraqi ambient trip hop through to orchestral 18th century bach. But for better or worse I have chosen progressive & trance in its forms as the style i play. And when I attempted to resurface – progressive was in the midst of its tech house phase. i don’t mind the sound for a boogie but it just isn’t my style as a DJ. As far as pure progressive went it was pretty much dead and buried.  With the trance side of things two things had happened. On the more mainstream side the Armada explosion had gone into full effect and it has become a very homogenized style that does not allow for any type of experimentation. I find no hypnotism or euphoria in the sound – but hey the kids love it. The other branch of trance – the more fun branch was the psy side. I do enjoy psy (well its hardly psy to a purist – its just fast and proper trancey) and have toyed around with it – and to this day will crank it out in a tougher set – its just that the middle ground that had vanished. I think it is only now I have managed to be able to properly extract what i want from the psy side of the music.
But on the whole I had no idea what the hell to play and basically my sets ended up sounding like a pretty dodgy mish mash on a bad night or a fun but forgettable boogie on a good one. But now – for all the lament people make about the state of EDM (damn i hate that term) and the Guetta’s and Paris Hilton’s of this world – dance music is actually pretty good in a lot of ways in my opinion. There seem to be a whole bunch of producers, promoters and dj’s who grew up and have seen the same things i have. Its only now that this fresh generation seems to be getting its act into gear in a big way.

Id love to hear you mix bach with Iraqi trip hop. So where are the cannons of war pointing these days? And who gave you the moniker of “Melbourne’s Tiesto?”, what acts are getting you hard?

At the moment for a full rounded package – Joof is the man. Its funny saying this as he has been around for like forever – but his production, label (stable) and general sound is really getting towards being something special like Digweed had with bedrock at its peak. On the proggier side of things – Moshic, Quivver, Hernan, Zaiz, Kassey Voorn, Guy J, Echomen, Ian O’donovan etc do it for me. on the trancier side the Joof & Mistique stuff, Mindwave, Liquid Soul, Phaxe, Lish, Insert Name etc. But there are many many artists that seem to pop up here and there with these random bombs and this is where i find a lot of my stuff. its more fun that way.
I don’t know about having any major aspirations – 1 or 2 gigs a month at some awesome parties would probably fulfill me at this point. I’ve toyed with the idea of running a night again and maybe one day – production wise i fiddle around here and there but it takes time. At the moment all I’m looking is to give Melbourne a solid option when it comes to a guy who can play serious progressive and/or trance (the real type of it).
The “Melbourne Tiesto” thing developed a long way back and it was probably a line i used to use on girls. for a while there (many moons ago) i would use his sound to base my sets on. The thing is a lot of us would do a similar thing at the time – and there was another guy who sound-wise was probably a lot better than me at being Melbourne’s T-god. I just looked more dutch.

Let’ be honest you’re a bit of a loose unit and I imagine you have witnessed some impressive sights whilst out and about. Whats the most bizarre thing you’ve seen happening behind the decks and then, out in the crowd?

More surreal than weird was the time i was sitting in the booth with Tiesto. I walked into the booth and his manager said “whatever you do – do not talk to him while he is playing. After my 15th Heineken i asked him to autograph Traffik… he looked at me smiled – signed it (his real name) Tijs Vervewest…and threw my pen into the crowd (well more at them than into them)…at that point i thought i had gone too far, but afterwards he wanted to stick around and see me play… management dragged him away.

So Melbourne’s Tiesto got the attention of the real Tiesto? Score!!!!!!
Finally where are we going to be seeing you out ands about the next month or so?

Prognosis @ Loop on the 18th – Peak-time Progressive house set
Roomember @ Room 680 – Classics Progressive trance set
JooF Editions @ Brown Alley – Modern Trance set

In finishing, any words to, or for the masses?

I guess in parting I would like to give some shout outs and thank you’s but in all honestly there are so many I’m sure I would miss someone and then feel terrible about it. In this ‘scene’ I have met so many great people. People that have helped me out in certain situations for no other reason than that is how they are. I have also shared some pretty fun (and sometimes not so fun) experiences with so many promoters/djs/producers and punters – not just in clubs but in life and have made some friendships that I believe will last for many years to come. Along with the tunes it is the people that are a primary motivator in this. I know sometimes I may come across as aloof or arrogant – but that is just my way. We are all part of the same thing here – sometimes its more me being awkward than anything . Its also frustrating that I don’t get so see a lot of these people as much as I’d like. I can be quite crap at tending to valued relationships.  But to all you people that I knew back in the old days and the guys that have been around in what could be the slowest burning comeback in history – or if you are one of those ones that just keep on keeping on – I say – keep your minds free and your ass will continue to follow.

Interview by Taran M

J-Slyde: He’s a DJ… not Spiderman

by Taran M

J-SlydeI was initially shocked to find out during my interviewing of J-Slyde that he was not Spiderman. Especially since he is basically my non biological brother. I thought I knew everything about the man, but as it is, is indeed how it happened, he is not Spiderman nor is he Elvis. I’ve watched both from the booth to the dancefloor, worked side by side for many years and then stepped out of the way as the musical progression of one “J-Slyde” has taken shape. Very much an avid punter, turned DJ, come promoter. J-Slyde’s astute musical assertion is coupled only with a desire to progress not only his career, but his sound, whatever it is. Having ascended the ranks of the Melboune “Monopoly” infused club scene, he has landed on community chest, come second price in a beauty contest, but never never ever landed himself in jail.  So from the confines of Melbourne’s Hard Kandy, to running Substance and now pavementing the Australian progressive movement from the decks, we catch up with J-Slyde and find out exactly what makes him tick, tock and bodyrock.

So let’s pretend I don’t know anything about you, tell me where”J-Slyde’s” sound has evolved from? What genres has the good ship J-Slyde sailed through?

It’s definitely been a natural progression. I’d always been a heavy listener of all things electronic – from back in my early teenage years when I used to frequent underage dance parties, through to moving on to overage clubbing and going on my Trance-honeymoon to all the usual festivals and weekly club nights… *cough*hardkandy*cough*. Being introduced to breaks was a big turning point in terms of deciding I wanted to actually become a DJ. Trance and all of it’s sub genre’s were beginning to sound really bland and around 2003 I got swept up in the breaks boom that Melbourne was experiencing. Seeing locals like Nubreed, Phil K, Jono Fernandez and Sean Quinn (to name a few) really inspired me. It wasn’t long after that I begun to build up my record collection, shortly thereafter, decks were purchased.

Since those early days I’ve played around with a lot of different genres. When you’re starting out, it’s really hard to push your own sound, so a lot of my earlier gigs were spent adjusting to whatever sound was big, playing things like commercial house and electro-house. I think those gigs really taught me a lot about being a DJ – not just playing the music you want to hear, rather performing for a crowd and adjusting your sound to suit them… playing for them, not at them. With my taste in music being so broad, I was never really interested in pigeonholing myself with the one genre – when I was at home, I just played whatever got my ear. Prog, house, breaks and DnB played big parts in those early bedroom-raves I used to have.

What is your sound all about at the moment?

It’s still pretty broad! I feel there’s quality in almost all electronic genres, and love being given the chance to play a variety of different genres. But if I had to pick one main sound, lately I’ve been all about progressive house and techno, or as some are starting to categorize the type of stuff we’ve been pushing at Prognosis as, “melodic techno”. Genre’s are getting harder and harder to classify nowadays, and I try to play unique sounding stuff that draws on a lot of different elements.

What attracts you to this genre?

Production value, creativity, uniqueness, groove, emotion. The stuff that’s coming out at the moment is absolutely mind blowing. It really strikes a cord with me! Sure there’s a big saturation, but I think that’s apparent in all genre’s, and definitely a sign of the times. Any nub can download a cracked copy of fruity loops and make a tune – its the producers that put that extra effort forth to offer up something unique and different that interests me. It’s the tunes that bridge the gap between a variety of genre’s, stuff that i feel has longevity – not just music that follows a defined set of rules that safely slips into the one category. Genre bending shit, yo!

Who are your influences? If I was to get you three “Gig wishes” who would you choose to support?

I try to draw influences from everything I listen to, not just EDM. I’m a big hip-hop and beats head, along with ambient and chilled-out stuff, trip-hop and the like. I definitely find that broadening what I listen to helps breathe new life into the way i approach my DJing. Even though I might not play those genre’s they still spark ideas and help inspire me to try different things.

As far as “gig wishes” go…. Sasha, Hybrid and James Zabiela, would be the three! Simon Murphy and I had the opportunity to support Hybrid late last year, which was a dream come true. We also came close to supporting James Z when he was down earlier this year, but doors closed early and our set was cancelled. So yeh, let’s hope we get booked again when he comes back! Sasha – not much needs to be said on this one. I’d be so bloody nervous, im not sure id be in any fit state to play! haha

Is it true you are actually Spiderman?

Ssssssshhhhhhhh. I wear a mask for a reason! 😉

Let’s talk all things Prognosis and Substance. From a promoters/ Event organizers point of view what is the current state of Melbourne’s EDM?

That’s a hard one! As you well know, we’ve worked pretty hard on getting Substance to where it is now, let alone building up Prognosis. I definitely think running events is a hard area to break into – the Melbourne crowd can be quite fickle at times and very loyal towards certain brands, and night clubs. It’s great to see a lot of smaller type krews breaking onto the scene – specializing in boutique nights dedicated to specific sounds. There’s definitely a market for these type of smaller events – less risk for the promoters, and a good opportunity for newer DJ’s to break onto the scene and play music they feel passionate about.

Aside from that, in regards to larger events, I think it’s fantastic to see larger promoters collaborating with smaller krews doing side-room features and what not. I think this needs to happen more often, especially when the scene is so heavily dominated by “McFestivals”.

We’re seriously spoilt for choice at the moment. Honestly, I find it hard to keep track of it all. You can happily go out every weekend to a new event or club night and saturate yourself in whatever genre tickles your fancy. And as much as people complain about there being too much on, I think it can work in a positive way – there’s more competition, and as a result, more of a push for promoters to stand out from the crowd and offer up unique events. Promoters cant really just “get by” anymore – you need to smash shit up and blow people’s expectations out the window!

What are problems that you foresee in the current climate?

The current influx of celebrity DJs! What the faaark is up with that? Guys like us spend years and years behind the decks honing our craft, yet we’re seeing celebrities jumping up on the decks thinking that all it takes is a gem studded USB stick and the latest pair of Pioneer headphones? Granted, there might be a few that do have skills, but I think its clear that the majority need to learn to leave it to the professionals!

Honestly though, I don’t like concentrating on the negatives of the scene. It can really start make you jaded. Sure there’s always going to be negatives, that happens with everything in life, but instead of harping on about them and complaining, I prefer to just step to the side and do my own thing.

J-Slyde @ Prognosis

We hear you are quite an avid fan of Paris Hilton taking to the turntables, is it true you’ve booked her for December Prognosis?

Yeh mate. 3 minute b2b set with Pauly from Jersey Shore. Get ya glow stix and Ed Hardy get-ups ready!

I think one of the best things you have going with Prognosis is that it’s free. Do you think this makes it a bigger draw card than your guests or has the scene contracted so much you need this to maintain a loyal following.

Having it as a free event definitely helps BUT, I wouldn’t say its our main draw-card. I think our lineups and the music we play are what sets us apart – along with being at such an awesome venue… Loop is a very cool space! And, can’t forget the mind-bending visuals that vdmo Kstati and VJ Pied Piper provide for us. I think all of these factors go into making Prognosis what it is – they all contribute in their own way to make our vision come alive, if you dropped one of them out of the equation, I think it’d fall to pieces.

On the music side of things, we’re pretty pedantic with who we book and the way we structure the nights. It’s not just a free-for-all event where each DJ plays whatever they feel – we’re pretty strict with how we like to have the nights progress, and definitely strive to have a nice progression (lolpun) throughout.

I think I’m pretty bloody lucky to work with such an awesome krew, too! I definitely owe a lot to my partner in crime, Simon, who’s played a huge part of making the night as successful as it is. Add in our third wheel, Static, and you’ve got one sturdy residential team of beat-machines!

Do you think the economic restraint on people is going to impact on crowd numbers on big ticketed venues?

Honestly, i don’t think it will. If anything, I think over saturation of festivals will have a larger impact. As I’ve already mentioned, there’s just so much going on at the moment – and people can’t really afford to be going to three different $150+ events in a month. Sure it still ties in with the economy, but I think it would still be apparent with or without the restraint.

What is your whole feeling regarding the recent influx of psy events hitting the city. It seems that its the new Beiberin the Melbourne EDM?

Definitely not a bad thing! I’ve been scoring a few side-room gigs at some psy events lately and can safely say that their crowds sure know how to party! They’re also really open-minded with the music they listen to, so it’s great to be able to broaden some musical horizons.

Gig situation. You’re about to play to a massive crowd at a big venue. The mixer is down, but there is power, you can see the levels, the cdj is spinning. You have a photo of Steven Segal and Scott Alert, a musical triangle and a copy of “Whats crack got to do with it, The Whitney Houston story.” How are you going to get yourself out of this one?

I’d wear each photo as a mask, one on either side of my head, then bust out with the triangle like a boss, whilst reciting from Houston’s story. It’d go down well. DVD release would follow shortly thereafter, with a sold-out world-wide tour. Id call it “Triangle out with ya Houston out”.

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Interview by Taran M

James Brooke: In trance we trust

by Taran M

James Brooke - Photo by Thomm BrookeI’m fortunate enough to know a few people who apart from being amazing, have dream jobs in the music industry. The first person to have career envy with was the head of A ‘n” R for Shock Records when I worked there. He was always meeting Millencolin or Pennywise, had an expense account and was a complete wanker. James Brooke is a self made man and very much not a wanker. He pretty much has every wannabe dance music aficionado’s dream job. He runs a label, enjoys coffee, is an uber famous DJ and loves long walks by the oceans and games of table tennis. The big thing is he runs himself. He didn’t fall into these positions, he did his time, worked his ass off and has become one of the most prolific and affluent members of a scene very much back on the way in. So just in time for Prognosis this Saturday we were able to coax this local hero into lending his ears and then even more so, his story and opinions. There are many words you could use to describe James and Pineapple, aloof or pregnant are not applicable. However diligent, honest and driven are definitely more applicable. So set your trance pants to five and enjoy the read as we get our chance to get to know the talented Mr. Brooke.

So James you’re the quiet achiever of the EDM, how did the love for electronic music evolve?

Hahaha yeah I guess you could call me that as a fair bit of my involvement in the scene has mostly been behind the curtain so to speak. Wow my love of electronic music starts back many many years ago to a time when I was just starting high school, when my older sister was buying up loads of CD’s and listening to new music. Some of which was dance music, and for some reason I became hooked, I’ll go into more on the start of my passion later in the interview.

But from there it just slowly grew and grew, to a point where I decided that playing the bass guitar in a band wasn’t the direction I wanted and purchased decks and started spending all my cash and time on records and mixing them. Naturally the love just kept growing and growing to a point now where I am now one of the lucky few who have actually managed to make EDM my full time job. So you could say that the love was love at first listen, and over the years it’s just evolved into being almost 100% of my life…

I didn’t mean it to be a detraction, you kick major goals without  making a ruckus about yourself. How did your spot Element’s start and what first inspired you to get on the air, your secret idol is Pete Tong isn’t it… It’s ok you can tell us?

You could say Elements came together back in July of 2010 when the Midnite Sleaze boys asked me to fill in for their radio show on KissFM whilst they went overseas for a 3 week tour. I had done radio before on JoyFM and Kiss as well but never on a weekly basis and found out that I really enjoyed doing it. The funny thing was the slot after them was completely empty, and being a Saturday night slot I though it was rather odd so I filled that slot during those 3 weeks and after that time I approached Timmy from KissFM with the concept, the show started in August the rest you can say is history. The main reasons I started the show was that firstly I love playing records, secondly I wasn’t getting many gigs around town to fulfill my passion, and lastly I had so many damn good records that needed to be heard, and lastly what DJ wouldn’t want a weekly show?

Hahaha I have actually stolen I few one-liners from Pete Tong, and I have massive respect for the essential mix, but I wouldn’t say he is my idol lol!

You’ve had a swagger of releases on 405 recordings, your own label. Including some big name festival compilations and some sweet Australian talents. What’s it like to be running a record label in the digital sphere? What are the major challenges that affect you? How did you come to mix those CD’S?

Running the label in the current age is great in many ways, the advancements in technology in the last 10 years has made most of what a label does easier and it requires a lot less staff as well. Things like promo systems, digital distribution, Ableton, fast internet connections, anti piracy company’s etc etc.

But that said there are quite a few things that make running a label at the moment quite stressful and downright near impossible at times… Piracy is the age old whinge from labels and artists, but you know what we can try and stop it as much as we like but its not going away until the culture changes. Also the margins are now quite small so contrary to popular belief we don’t make millions of dollars. The declining CD market also makes it hard to secure numbers into retail stores as well, I could sit here and complain or highlight the issues but at the end of the day its heaps of fun and we are actually doing well!

The CD’s I have mixed, well in short I was in the right place at the right time for the first one which was Godskitchen Summer Rush, this was before 405 and when I was working in the same office as the A&R of Central Station Records, he knew I liked trance and progressive music and when it came time to put together that years CD he came to me and asked if I would like to. That is also how the story of 405 starts, but that’s for another interview. The rest of the Gods CD’s that I have done came from how successful that first one was. The others all came about through 405 recordings, and my knowledge and skill in putting together mixes quickly using Ableton (most of the time having to bash out 2cds in only a weekend). Fast forward to 2012 and I’m mixing and putting together a total of 9 releases which totals just over 20 individual mixes/CD’s… so yeah that’s a lot of warping & Ableton screens hahaha

What do you make of the current stocks of the EDM industry as a whole, compared to where it was 10 years ago?

The industry has increased to a size in which its almost impossible to comprehend, there are so many new genres and sub-genres, so many new labels and even more bloody DJ’s . I heard a stat a while ago that decks were out selling guitars 2 to 1, I’m not sure how true it is or where I heard it but it does give you an idea of just how big the EDM beast has become. I mean clearly its cooler to be a DJ than a rock star!!

What it does confirm is how accessible EDM has become, these days anyone can become a DJ or try their hand at production. As long as you have the money to buy the equipment (which by the way is extremely cheap compared to what it cost 10 or even 5 years ago) and given you have enough talent and/or know the right people BAM you could be the next Armin or Guetta in no time… hahaha its nowhere near that simple at all but that’s what’s selling the decks and wav files… the dream.

This is a subject I can talk a lot about, but in short I think its changed in a very good way, and whilst the purists will argue until they are blue in the face that its all gone Pete Tong I completely disagree! There is just so much great music out there, and just as many amazing DJ’s across so many genres that its too hard to see it any other way. I mean just have a look around town at any one time, we are spoilt for choice… The only thing I think that is currently changing which I don’t like is that a lot of smaller clubs and venues are disappearing, and the focus is becoming more and more around festivals… Don’t get me wrong I love a good festival, but not at the cost of being in a dark club with 300 people rocking out to some of the best DJ’s from both overseas and locally… that shit is where its at! And please don’t get me started on the promoter DJ…… fffffff

Do you even have a genre anymore? Explain how you’ve created your style. Where has it come from?

Hahaha no I don’t think I do have the one genre anymore hey! I think it comes from my extremely varied taste in music, and the amount of genres I have explored over the years… I don’t like the idea of being locked down to one style or being put into a box. I go by the motto “if it sounds good I’ll play it”, my genre depends on the gig I’m booked for, the crowd I’m in front of, and of course what I’m feeling at that point in time…

What is the most bizarre thing that has happened/ seen out whilst playing?

Oh god I have seen some pretty whacked things happen whilst playing, the best was probably the girl who fell off the front of the DJ booth mid sentence at Room680 only to reappear 5 seconds later covered in her split drink telling me she loved me. The other I witnessed whilst out, was a punter go running up to the decks, yell something about the music being shit and then proceed to pull every cord out of the mixer.

But probably the worst thing was a DJ (who shall remain nameless) killing the tunes to yell out to his mate to get him a drink, this happened 3 times…

Playing for free, is it good to freelance for the start?

Yes it can be a good idea to kick things off playing for free, but it can become a tricky situation after awhile of doing free gigs. As if there is a cover charge the promoter and the bar are making money from your hard work (well if you’re doing a good job people will be dancing, and buying drinks). I mean think about it, you paid money for those tunes, cds, usb stick, headphones, the time spent practicing, securing the gig, preparing for the gig, promoting it to your mates etc etc. Why shouldn’t you get some of the pie?

It’s a good way to get your foot in the door, but don’t ever sell yourself short, if everyone else is making money then at then end of the day you’re the one getting dicked. That said use your best judgment, a few gigs to show off what you can do and get people talking is great, and there are some gigs I do for free because it’s a mate, it’s a free party or a favour… so in short yes, but be careful…

James playing at Armada Nights in Sydney - Photo by Luke Davids

When you take the DJ out of James Brooke, what’s left, what else does he do?

After you take out the label, the radio show and the DJing, there really isn’t too much left over as I really have made my life all about music… But I really like chilling out on the couch and watching movies and TV series. I’m also a massive fan of long brunches on the weekends, coffee and hanging out with mates. I also like to read (yes I’m old fashioned) and the occasional computer game or laps of the local pool…

Explain your sisters influence on your career…

Is there a word limit? Hahaha. Well to be perfectly honest I’m not sure I would be where I am today without my sisters influence and help over the years. From the point of actually introducing me to EDM many many years ago, to helping me buy my first decks and records, and then to sneaking me into clubs when I was underage and introducing me to all my fav DJ’s (who ended up teaching me so much about the industry and the craft of mixing records and playing to a crowd).

It actually goes further as well, as she introduced me to my first boss Derrick whilst I was underage at Private Function gig, I gave him a few ciggies and that ended up being the reason why he hired me a few years later. And if I didn’t get that job then I would never have met my current boss years after, and 405 Recordings would never have come into being.

And to this day Sara is still involved, quite regularly I will send her my mixes before they go out to the public, and will also seek her advice on certain tracks before a gig. For example she has already approved about 5 tracks for my gig at Prognosis on Saturday night hahaha!

Upcoming gigs?

Yes im playing this Saturday night at Prognosis alongside one of my fav DJ/Producers who was an early influence, PQM. I have just been booked for a massive warm up set in Sydney in September. There is also a national tour in the works for the same time of year, I have my weekly radio show Elements which airs every weekend around Australia and there is also something special planned for the 100th show in November so keep an eye out for that.

Finally you’re a big fan of the photobomb, a hobby we both share. Best photo bomb you have done?

Bahahaha yeah I must admit that is a fav club activity, my god there have been so many over the years! I think I recall un-tagging myself from most of them a year ago, but there was one with Jed that was pretty damn awesome, I think we managed to perfectly get just our eyes showing between peoples arms or something…
Another fav was completely ruining a fans photo with Carl Cox a few years back, was so good, I think the person might have cried when they got home!

You can catch James @ Prognosis this saturday the 16th of June 2012.

Brooke related links:
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Interview by Taran M

Taran M – Music, life and good health

by J-Slyde

Taran MLongevity is something that’s rarely seen in the DJ circuit. Many artists find it hard to evolve with the times and often we see DJs “retiring” from the scene way too early – be it because their love of the craft has dwindled, or simply because their priorities in life have changed. The only constant itself is change, and the DJ life is a scene that is always changing. The DJs who change with the times and evolve with their craft, are the ones that are able to display longevity. Taran M is one such artist. From playing hard trance in the early 2000’s, through to launching the brand that you now see as Substance – covering everything from electro to glitch – Taran has continued to change with the times. Recently taking some time out from the scene to contemplate life and take a step back from heading the helm that is the Substance ship, he’s grounded himself not only with his DJing, but with life overall. In the lead up to the launch of his new DJ moniker, Trademark, I decided to catch up with him to chat about all things music and life.

So you’ve recently decided to make a move back onto the DJ circuit – what brought this on?

Money, cheap booty and disco biscuits… Well not really. I genuinely miss DJing. I guess I have my life balance back again and believe me this is in no way shape or form a full time return. I’d be happy to be dropping tunes once a month, if that.  I think for me now it’s going to be DJing in its purest form, all about the love.

After taking a break from the scene, where are you at with life in general?

The break has been good, well overdue after being on the coal face of substance for the better part of four years. 2011 was not my year, in fact from January 1 the writing was on the wall. If it wasn’t family dilemma’s or break ups it was sour writing deals and constant upheaval, but I scraped it together and from October it’s been about rebuilding. Personally right now I’m in the best place I have ever been. I’ve started playing sport, I have a great day to day job and I’m back in the zone with music and writing.

On the flip-side though I have recently had my third flare up of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. And what’s more I’m kicking myself over it cause I saw it coming and ignored it. It’s frustrating in part cause it’s a purgatorial state of mind to get to this level of being so content, happy and ready to go musically, but just be so tired. I’m my own worst enemy cause I love being active nowadays and I heeded a couple of big warning signs. I’m taking this forward process very seriously, it’s going to be an interesting two to six months. I’ve given myself three. So I will be doing my best impersonation of Cinderella when I play. Yes it will include a dress, just no pumpkin, ask mum, I hate pumpkin.

With moving away from running events, and taking a more autonomous role within the Substance krew, what other priorities has it enabled you to concentrate your efforts on?

Since October last year the big focus has been on work, sport and writing, things I have missed since I started my music career twelve years ago. The biggest focus for me after work at the moment is gridiron at the Croydon Rangers and my writing. Unfortunately with getting sick again I have had to now cut out everything else, alcohol, partying and late nights if I want to come remotely close to being able to function. I’m blessed with a specialist who has designed my treatment around sport-ball.

I just want to clear something up that has irked me about the misrepresentation when I stepped back last year. I retired from running events full time and DJing full time. FULL time, not forever. Hence why I thanked everyone that had helped me cause I knew that was the end of the big picture. I knew I’d eventually do something again, but never in the same capacity. The most humbling thing for me is to have two best friends turn to me and say “There are no straight-up Substance parties without you. We’ll run Prognosis and do off-shoot events, and when you’re back in we’re back in”.

Where do you see your DJ career heading from this point forward?

Mexico, Japan or Belize. That’s really how seriously I take it now. It’s going to be a career based on playing for enjoyment. With substance my career was based on the success of an overall vehicle, maintaining a brand etc. Back in the early early days the love of the music got blinded by career progression. I’m passed that stage, I’ll just play here and there, every now and then. There is one box to tick and that is any stage at Rainbow, playing a funky glitch set as long as I don’t have to sell fifteen tickets and a portion of my soul to play on a renegade stage.

Fill us in on this new moniker you’ve adopted?

Trademark, purely cause I’ve had enough with Taran M. I’ve never had an alias and I can already tell you it’s like wearing a fresh pair of underpants. Only because I haven’t literally or metaphorically dirtied it yet.

My dad brought me up listening to Soul and my brother got me into hip hop at an early age. After working at the terminus as their DJ on Friday and Saturday nights I started playing hip hop, soul and funk early on before people started requesting loveshack or living on a prayer.

The move to funk/hip-hop/glitch – has that snuck up suddenly, or has it been a gradual progression?

Not really. I did a set similar to that at a rooftop party early. The encompassed sound has taken awhile to refine because it is really broad. But all the styles have elements of soul and hip hop which have followed me my whole life.

Some of my fondest memories of early Substance parties were your epic 4/4 electro tinged sets. With that said, and having since moved on from the 4/4 sound, have you left those styles behind for good? or are you still keen on re-visiting them later down the track?

The stuff I played at Substance will never ever leave me in terms of my appreciation. I still get chills when I hear “Bass Down” or “Killer Application”. If someone asked me to play a set I would not say no.  As far as UK hard house and hard trance goes, unless it was playing next to the Tidy Boys or Brisk for sentimental value; You have more chance of seeing the Titanic rising, picking up a herd of Elephants and shipping them to Guam, then you will of seeing me play hard house or hard trance.

Out of all the different styles you’ve played over your career – what genre holds the fondest place in your heart?

Definitely the electro/tech years in the first two years of Substance are at the forefront. As a DJ I learnt so much regarding track selection, key matching, tune hunting etc. I learnt so much playing the many Vs. sets with Simon. It was so relaxing after the Kandy/PHD years cause there was no pressure, it was just about tunes and getting wayward.

I’ll hold every genre in my heart, I played to some huge crowds and got to see most of the capital cities dance music scenes. Adelaide around 2004-06 will always be a personal favorite, Ignition and Enchanted. Then Godskitchen and Two Tribes 2004.

It’s always interesting seeing DJs mold with technology as they progress through their careers. Coming from vinyl and moving through numerous different set-ups over your time behind the decks, what’s your chosen format nowadays?

Hah hah, I love it. I call myself a “Mattel DJ” or Fisher Price “My first DJ” now. I run on Serato Itch, with a Pioneer controller and one 1200mrk2, you know to keep it real… I’m resigned to fate in the fact that a laptop makes tune access so easy. However I refuse to simply sit behind a laptop or become a button pushing DJ, it’s not how I view DJing. I was once told by a prominent drug addict that I “Was an analogue clock in a digital age”. I told him it was unbecoming to quote lines from Ocean’s Eleven, even worse George Clooney.

Do you think vinyl still holds a place within current DJing?

I recently found that the four hardstyle vinyls I was forced to buy towards the end of my tenure in the rave scene make excellent placemats for dinner tables. If I was having people over for dinner who were DJ’s yeah for sure. Then again I’m sure someone would discuss how eating dinner off a “Bass Agents” 45 ruins the meal before it is cooked.

Look it’s sad to say but I think Vinyl is all but lost in the mystic romanticism of history. A 1200 is such a beautifully designed object and a vinyl is such a physical medium. They stir up something so raw for a lot of DJ’s, the bumps, that boom off the tone arm. I love vinyl, so so much.  But Vinyl is very much the old person on public transport that MP3’s are getting out of the disabled seat to let it sit down. The digital age really has remodeled everything that a DJ is. In 2005 a DJ walked in to a club with a thirty kilo bag and a hernia. Now a DJ walks in with two USB’s. Tell me who wins.

Whats your view on the current state of our local scene?

It’s a lot healthier than a few years ago. I think that crowd numbers are going to be a big problem in general for all music as the economy contracts. People are going to have a lot less to spend on going out. While it’s all about the bush down here at the moment. For all progressive and trance from all reports it sounds as though Sydney is becoming the place to be.

Your ethos on running events was to always concentrate on quality artists, rather than ones that will purely sell tickets – what are your thoughts on the saturation we’re now seeing of the ‘Promoter/DJ’ hybrid, what are the DJ stocks like in Melbourne in your opinion?

I think some the best promoters come out of the DJ pool. Having said that the worst aspect of our industry is that there are a lot of DJ/ promoters that run parties and play tunes for the wrong reason. While they run as a business there is no heart. A lot of DJ promoters will cut their noses their noses off to spite their face. It’s sad when what was such a healthy scene has been whittled down to cash or fame, for what being famous in Melbourne for six months before you turn around and all your bridges are burned. If you want fame or cash grow a set of dreadlocks, get some specs and right a fucking song about someone being a cinema.

Over the years you’ve played pretty much every set-time imaginable… what are your thoughts on the art of the warm-up set?

I think it’s under rated in terms of importance. The warm up set whether it be opening the venue or playing before a headliner is always a trickier slot, that’s where guys like Phil K, Agent 86, Dave Juric, Trent Mcdermott and James Brooke have really made names for themselves.

What makes a DJ good in your eyes?

Love for what he is playing and being able to read a crowd and then take them on a journey with what he has in his crate. Technical ability or skills refine a DJ. A DJ is only there for the crowd, not for their own self worth.

And last but not least – your upcoming set at Prognosis on June 16th @ Loop will be the debut under your new alias, Trademark. What can we expect?

Look the tunes I’ll be playing are designed for the bedroom. I’m just saying that I wouldn’t be surprised if the dance floor descends in to an orgy. If that happens I’m not cleaning the mess up. Expect a bit of pop-locking, old-skool, hip-hop, funk, then leading into glitch. But it really depends on what I feel the crowd is after 😉

Interview by J-Slyde

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