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

The Digital age of music from slim beginnings to what we have now

by Taran M

The internet was inevitably the Trojan horse of the music world. The unknown steed was wheeled slowly into the fort of the music fraternity, mystified by this technological gift, speculative about its power, amazed by the sheer beauty of its concept and above all ready to exploit the power that lay before them. Unfortunately what lay inside that was given to the secure guarded palms of the music industry was the very thing that would reshape it forever. In June 1999 the beast slay the confines of the walls and revolutionised the consumption of the musical world. From here in the metaphor ceases and so did the sure-shot multi-billion dollar industry we here on planet Girth call…music.

Ableton LogoNapster turkey slapped the music industry, slept with its sister and then defecated on its parent’s bed and introduced itself as the arsehole “Johnny Rotten” Boyfriend of a virginal industry that had never really been threatened. Sure record companies had been competing against themselves for sales, signings and strength. But now they were all challenged by their own product, their own sales had turned around to them, repacked themselves and gone AWOL. It’s the equivalent of the Navy Seal team storming Bin Laden’s safe house, kidnapping him to the outer regions of Mongolia and demanding a ransom. How would Barack Obama deal with this, he’d “kill em all” and that’s exactly what the major record labels did.

The “I disappear” fiasco which triggered Metallica’s famous court case against Napster, subsequently initiating hundreds of others, gave us the very clear reality of what was at stake, more importantly what we sometimes fail to see with peer to peer sharing. While the reaction from the public was especially skeptical of a multi-million dollar band complaining about losing a few thousand sales, Metallica was not just drawing a line for themselves, but for the other bands or producers that they supported. For every major label success, there are six failures. Bands that get a record deal get forwarded $60K to make their record and more often than not, fail to meet sales expectations over three albums. Three albums times $60k is a lot of money for producers and bands to recoup when they’re earning roughly $2 per album sold. So to appreciate exactly why Napster became the target of nearly every record label and most bands is understandable. Napster is great for free exposure, but I would never base a foundation of a music career on the basis of peer to peer websites if I was an unsigned artist.

CDJ200 USB inputNapster cut the wound and for a time the wound was stitched. Record labels realised however the imminent threat. When Napster went to a paid website, the whole medium of how music could and should be distributed by record labels entered into a whole new realm. The effect on this especially rippled through the dance scene. Music consumption has developed considerably since the late 90’s through to today by a combination of the way music is played and how it is purchased. It’s funny to think that the cutting edge of dance music, the new technological revolution, up until about 2004 was banged out with a device originally conceived in the late 19th century, the humble turntable. As 2005 hit the CDJ cut the swathe through the electronic scene, tearing through the rotary drive denon CD players like the sword named Excalibur. Suddenly in no less than six years, turntables are an “Analogue clock in a digital age” to quote George Clooney in Oceans 11. DJ’s no longer carry 300,000kgs of vinyl that they might play, or not. The advent of the latest Pioneer CDJ’s allows the DJ to wander into the club with two USB’s (If he has enough faith). Macbook, Serato, Ableton, Traktor, Dongles and APC controllers now litter the dance scene, the humble Technics 1200 is sitting at the unemployment line or the pension office muttering its jaded diatribe “The scene has changed man” or “It’s not like how it used to be in the olden days”. Yes the discontinued 1200 is now eating cat food, wandering around the pub and hoping that number 6 in race 3 at Randwick is going to pull through, just so it can buy some budget steak for dinner. In short it’s dead and technology is the box they are going to bury it in.

With all these advents in technology of course the way users and abusers of music purchase tracks is going to change. After its initial inception in 2004 and then re-release in 2007, Beatport opened…….. a port…… to true online music purchasing for the dance music scene. There was no more shipping, no more waiting for that Aust Post slip to say tracks had arrived. The whole art of relic hunting for the likes of 5:55 by Durango was gone.

Beatport LogoWith every action there is a reaction of course and as Beatport inspired others to do the same, major dance labels stopped pressing as much vinyl and their stores evolved into online digital download stores. Slowly but surely the likes of Vinyl Warning shut up shop, focusing on equipment only. Beatport’s inception, and the digital age in general, inspired Producers to not look for a major label to support their quest for promotion and fame. If you can hook onto Beatport, or any of the boutique labels our production talents can be wormed all the way through the world. Just think right now DJ Novi Stoalstarki from the small nation of the Ukraine could be banging out Blinky’s “Kiss not a Kiss” or any number of Kalus’s tunes to a bedroom crowd, to 800 people at the “Capitol to Central” (I hear it is Moldova’s biggest nightclub) or to himself as he hunts down wild game with a rusty coat hanger and a picture of Jennifer Love Hewitt. The fact is that this Digital sphere has harnessed the world of electronica and shortened the very big distance that needs to be covered by producers in Australia. Australian artists like Steve May, Blinky and NFX have their tunes played by the likes of Tiesto, Dubfire, D-Nox and Beckers and maybe even DJ Novi Stoalstarki (If he even exists) and for them I know personally this is extremely humbling.

The other effect of this last five years has been the closure and the slimming down by major labels in the dance scene due to technological advances. As I mentioned before producers are able to farm their tunes off to boutique labels on Beatport and if marketed right can expect some degree’s of royalty payments. The major labels are no longer the shark in the pond, just a slightly larger fish in an ever expanding sea. Two weeks ago Kevin Energy announced the subsequent closure of the “Nu energy Collective” sighting all of the above as explanations for the dwindling sales. For those that don’t know of Nu energy, they have been strong in the Hard dance, free-form and Happy hard scene for over 15 years. There are more to come in both the electro, hard dance and tech scene’s, that I know of personally. The big cause again comes down in part to that ugly beast, that we all love and use… Peer to peer sharing.

Carl Cox 'avin it large on some Vinyl back in the day!I really wonder if the whole torrent thing is a backlash by people who think the music and now motion picture industry are just greedy. Peer to Peer sharing has never been so out of control and don’t ho and hum, unless your brethren or you haven’t looked at a PC since 1985 you have illegally downloaded something. Everybody wants something for as next to nothing as they can get it. With torrenting as rampant as planking at the moment I guess we can’t really tell what is going to happen next. I guess for the best part that is why they call the future the unknown. I’m sure if you told Carl Cox ten years ago that one day his set would just comprise of him playing solitaire and Ableton instead of working up a sweat with three turntables, he might have a heart attack. But that’s the way it goes, who knows what is going to happen next? We just might have to brace ourselves for some pretty interesting developments as the life of dance music continues to embrace adulthood.

Melbourne’s Beautiful Scene and why it’s the centre of the earth

by Taran M

When it comes down to brass tacks, we all know which city in Melbourne will forever hold the title of Australia’s electronic music capital and it is of course…Melbourne.

From the very first times I started going out, on reflection it was always clear to me that there is something special about the Melbourne scene. Whether it be Progressive, Tech, Psy, Hard trance, electro, drum and bass our beautiful city carries its flag highly on our mantelpiece.

So why does Melbourne work? Why is it possible? Who wrote the book on love and why does the toilet flush when I haven’t even pressed the button; I think I am digressing a touch.

From the time I first started going out late last century (no really 1997!) the thing even as a newbie party goer that I noticed was that the different genre’s of electronic, majorly techno, House and trance/ hard house all intertwined in some way. Whilst purists and pundits did exist there was co-existence and intermingling between all factions. From its inception Hardware insisted on blending tech and house, there CD releases on Shock Records would be split into a house disc and a techno disc. From the onset of both Hard Kandy and Bass Station, Hard trance and house music and electro was always paralleled albeit in a side room. Hard Kandy went as far as having two house DJ’s playing on rotation for warm up sets. The much famed and missed NRG parties run by smile Police always encouraged a plethora of music styles and whilst very much a “rave” spectacle never failed to mix genres on any stage at any time. This establishment of diversity and working together basically galvanised relationships and genre based promoters. And while at any given period a genre can hold popular demand it has never been seen to issue “coup d’état” amongst the others.

All you have to do is look at the festivals that Melbourne holds to understand exactly how deep Melbourne’s scene runs. Since the hallowed Days of Every Picture tells a story, Belfast and the early years of Hardware there has always been an “Enjoy Music” at major events. Rainbow Serpent, Summerdayze, Welcome, Good Vibrations, Stereosonic, Hot BBQ, and Future music are festivals that Bred from Melbourne promoters and have become state and even national success stories. At grass roots smaller scale promoters have been encouraged more than discouraged by the bigger promoters. More so Melbourne has bred promoters to appreciate the party more than the cash. It is amazing how quite a few of the middle tier production companies run at next to nothing budget’s just to throw a party, just to get people shaking it…like a 35mm picture.

There has never really been any such “stand over” tactics by larger scale promotion companies to undermine smaller event organisers. There is a healthy buffer and intermingling between the likes of lower, middle and upper tier promoters that helps breed a pro active approach to maintaining and growing electronic music. There is always going to be the fuckwit promoter who doesn’t pay his DJ or the arrogant, self absorbed money hungry promoter/ rapist that springs up from time to time. The only problem is that us promoters all talk to each other in one form or the other and sooner or later the evangelistic, fly by night promoter is found out, I can think of a few that have all to quickly sunk under their ego’s own mistakes.

It’s always going to be about the talent and in the words of Hunter S. Thompson in Fear and Loathing “We’re chock full of that!”. Australia’s first two early superstar DJ’s came from the Melbourne scene, Will E Tell and Richie Rich. I think sometimes we are spoilt to the point of under appreciation of the amount of talent around in Melbourne. Whether they be DJ’s or producers the quality of the gene pool in Melbourne cannot be under estimated. Whether you’ve loved Hard trance/ house, love it now or hate it with a passion; you cannot ignore the talent we have in Melbourne. The original Kandy crew of Scott Alert, Ajax and Krash are still some of the most talented producers and Dj’s you will find. NFX is one of those producers that can only be truly found once in a blue moon (I think we can claim Dr. Willis as well!).

Producers of all genres whether it be the Progressive/ tech stylings of Blinky (Beat Geek Records), the tech house/ electro antics of Kalus, Trance extraordinaire Steve May (5am/ Armada) showcase the depth of Melbourne’s talent. So much so that many of the above names have featured on the set lists and podcasts of such international stars as Dubfire, Armin Van Burren, Tiesto and Carl Cox. We can’t forget our biggest national dance music export, TV Rock who also hail from our beloved city. We have even thrown a major contender into the ever popular “Mash arena” in the vein of Substance’s own Mouka. Seriously this guy makes Girl Talk sound like a poor man’s Bob Hope. To list the talent in Melbourne in terms of DJing would require an almost dictionary like bible. Melbourne is “Spin city” a haven for the master of the pioneer, mac and now the almost extinct 1200’s.

Finally this article would be a miss without giving praise to the Melbourne crowd. I have partied in every city and played in most of them as well and I can easily say that WE ARE THE SHIT! You won’t find a friendlier crowd on a dance-floor than in Melbourne. More so Melbourne’s regular punters don’t just go out, they live and breathe the scene. Not so much as scenesters, but more as crowds that love their music, support their cause and promote our city for what it is, the centre of Australia’s electronic music scene.