All posts tagged sydney

  • Mess+Noise interview: George Nicholas of Seekae, March 2011

    An interview for Mess+Noise. Excerpt below.

    Seekae: ‘We’re Too Busy Forging Battle Plans’

    While other bands are out partying, Sydney’s Seekae are too busy playing LAN games backstage. Ahead of the release of second album ‘+DOME‘, they talk to ANDREW MCMILLEN about poverty, illegal downloading and how they recently “annihilated” Cloud Control on ‘Starcraft’.

    Since releasing their debut album The Sound Of Trees Falling On People in December 2008, Sydney trio Seekae have become one of the most interesting independent acts in the country. Both in the studio and on stage, their set-up consists of laptops, MPCs, live drums, keyboards and melodica; their sound, a distinctive and complex brew of electronica. Rarely do vocals work their way into the mix, yet the band have a reputation for delivering: they won a Sydney Music, Art and Culture (SMAC) award in 2009 for ‘Best Live Act’, and re-released Trees with a bonus disc of remixes (and a PVT cover) upon signing with indie label Rice Is Nice.

    So how have the trio – John Hassell on synth/guitar, Alex Cameron on synth/drums and George Nicholas on synth/melodica – spent the couple of years between their debut album and its forthcoming follow-up, +DOME? Playing too much Starcraft, according to Nicholas, though he confirms they still attempt to record new ideas each day, even if most of it is “absolute garbage”. It’s fitting that a video game would distract these three from their artistic calling; they were originally named after the DOS game Commander Keen, before shortening to a stylised version of its initials after discovering that the name had already been taken.

    Though Cameron was initially scheduled to do this interview, some unexpected laptop problems ahead of a show supporting Mount Kimbie in Perth on the next night – simply, a computer wouldn’t turn on – caused him to flee to the nearest repairs store, leaving Nicholas to fill his shoes.

    There was an article published in triple j mag in March last year, where you wrote: “Musicians don’t have any money. They spend all the money they earned on new instruments and laptops.” Is this still the case?
    George: Yeah. I think I’m the poorest I’ve ever been, actually. I don’t think we’re going to hit the jackpot for a while. I hope we do, but we’ve still been eating spaghetti for a couple of weeks now, waiting for our cheque to come in.

    You’re the poorest now that you’ve ever been?
    Yeah. I mean, we put some money into recording the album, and stuff like that. What people don’t understand is that, in order to write an album, you have to take a lot of time off work. You have to dedicate a lot of your time to doing it. I think that’s the main reason why we’re so poor, I guess. But it’s not that bad. We’re not entirely starving. [Laughs]

    Does the lack of money bother you?
    No, it’s alright. I mean, it does bother me, because it’s always hard juggling a shitty day job and a band. A lot of my friends are going and getting real jobs and careers, but I look at this and just see – although I’m not being paid that much for it – it’s good to be able to do this stuff, and have people listen to it. It’s all fine. It’s all gravy! [Laughs]

    You also wrote that you have to “try and convince security that an MPC drum machine is pretty much the same thing as a laptop, and that it was designed to destroy dancefloors, not jets”. I take it this conversation happens every time you’re in an airport.
    [Laughs] Yeah. We always get a few snickers and laughs every time we go through the x-ray machine. I carry all my stuff in my backpack. I carry my laptop, my soundcard, my hard drive, my MPC, my Kaos pad, all in one bag. There’s like 10 different things. It’s really absurd when you see someone taking out all these suspicious-looking things out of their bag. We get a lot of strange looks. But we always make it through, although every single we time go through, we get the explosives check.

    For the full interview, visit Mess+Noise. For more Seekae, visit their Myspace. The audio for their track ‘Blood Bank‘ is embedded below.

  • The Vine album review: Collarbones – ‘Iconography’, March 2011

    An album review for The Vine. Excerpt below.

    Collarbones – Iconography
    (Two Bright Lakes)

    Despite being written and arranged by two dudes living in different cities, Collarbones’ debut record is surprisingly cohesive. The product of the interstate collaborations (or should that be collarborations? *cymbal crash*) between Sydney-based Marcus Whale and Adelaide native Travis Cook, Iconography is the disorienting soundtrack to a ride through multiple sounds and scenes: electronica, pop, R&B and hip-hop all seem to inform the duo’s sound in equal measures. This has been Collarbones’ best asset since Whale and Cook began fooling around together in 2007: they can’t be confused with anyone else, they’re on their own wavelength. Iconography is worthy of your attention if only for its unique individuality.

    Describing Collarbones’ music robs the experience of much of its pleasure, so here’s a couple of cliff notes. Most every song is built around an eclectic selection of sampled beats, synths and instrumentation, all of which are chopped and shunted into a shifting mass of sound. The results feel organic and effortless, the effects beguiling. In spite of the disjointed nature of their compositions, the production smooths over most jagged edges to ensure Iconography stays on a fairly even keel. Whale sings on the majority of the album’s 11 tracks; more often than not, his voice is discombobulated just as much as the surrounding instrumentation. Some of the album’s best moments are lyricless; the hook of ‘Id’ – if it can even be called a hook – is essentially a symphony of swelling vocal samples, intercut with staccato beats. Previous singles ‘Beaman Park’ and ‘Kill Off The Vowels’ feature Whale’s voice prominently, though the songs’ moods are vastly disparate. The latter is bent around a dark, almost industrial vibe and lower-register singing; ‘Beaman Park’ pitch-shifts Whale’s voice to improbably lofty heights. Both work incredibly well.

    For the full review, visit The Vine. For more Collarbones, visit their Tumblr. Music video their song ‘Don Juan‘ embedded below.

    Elsewhere: an interview with Marcus Whale of Collarbones for The Vine

  • IGN Australia story: ‘Australian Games Education: A 2010 Report Card’, December 2010

    My second feature story for IGN Australia. Excerpt below.

    Australian Games Education: A 2010 Report Card

    Do you want to work in the games industry? The good news is that over two dozen education institutions across Australia offer games-related degrees. But how valuable is having a degree? Are they keeping up with the changing face of development in Australia? And with so many studio closures how many jobs are there anyway? IGN AU finds out…

    In the wake of Krome Studios’ significant downsizing in mid-October, one fact became very clear: finding employment in the local game development industry was going to be harder than ever before. Though Australia’s largest gaming company surpassed over 400 employees across three studios at one point, their gradual decline eventually returned the vast majority of that talent back into the national job pool.

    All industries move in cycles, and though the Australian game development sector is at a low ebb right now, it’s myopic to believe that things will stay this way forever. Though Krome’s wave broke upon the shore and left a great many stranded – as the saying goes, the bigger they are, the harder they fall – other sectors of the local industry are experiencing periods of unprecedented growth. Krome’s downfall served as a two-prong reminder: that large-scale game development is a high-risk business, and that relying upon overseas publishers’ work-for-hire cheques in a volatile world economy is among the riskiest business in the games industry.

    Disheartening though the events of October 2010 were, as I sifted through the detritus of vindictive former Krome employees and their shattered CEO Robert Walsh, one question kept flitting through my mind: what did this all mean for students graduating with games degrees in 2010? Here they were, about to enter the job market – many of them bleary-eyed, owing to marathon all-nighter sessions spent completing their final projects – only to be shuttled to the very end of the queue. They’d stand behind former staff from Krome, and the handful of other development companies who’ve shuttered in recent years; behind anyone who ever took on a temp QA (quality assurance; game testing) role; behind existing games graduates, many of whose only industry experience is submitting their portfolio to every studio with an email address, and – if they were lucky – participating in a brief internship, arranged on behalf of their educational institution in their final trimester.

    What else but passion could drive these people? To give up several years of their (often young) lives, to willingly put themselves tens of thousands of dollars in debt, just for the slight chance that they’ll be able to make a living making video games in Australia? The answer must be passion, if not madness. Yet here they are: hundreds of them, each year, graduating with degrees in games design, art, animation and programming. On the other side of mortarboards, robes and well-deserved handshakes awaits uncertainty, self-doubt, and a high likelihood of unemployment – within the game development industry, at least.

    Put simply, making games for a living sounds like fun. Given that gaming is the world’s fastest-growing entertainment medium – last year, for instance, Australian consumers spent over $2 billion on video games – it’s unsurprising that tertiary education providers were keen to institutionalise game development, just as they’ve done for practically every other form of creativity. As I discovered, though, investing in a games-specific education in the hopes of obtaining employment within the local industry is a decision of similarly high risk as building your company’s business model around ever-shifting economies and the mood swings of international publishers.

    For the full story, visit IGN Australia. At 6,000 words, it’s the longest article I’ve written. A huge thanks to everyone I spoke with for this story.

  • The Vine interview: Big Boi at the Hordern Pavilion, December 2010

    An interview for The Vine: face-to-face with Big Boi in Sydney. The full interview appears below.

    Big Boi – interview

    In Australia for one night only to promote the new Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit video game, American hip-hop artist Antwan “Big Boi” Patton had been booked wall-to-wall with media commitments from the moment he arrived at the Hordern Pavilion. From 1pm onwards, he was being filmed, questioned, and photographed by an extensive media contingent, all eager for a moment in the presence of one half of the multi-million selling duo OutKast. In the hall adjacent, a few million dollars’ worth of cars are having their tires kicked – though not literally, as they’d probably be escorted from the building – by a couple of thousand gig attendees, all of whom were offered free tickets through a variety of web outlets. Initially access was only guaranteed to those who pre-ordered the new game, but in the weeks leading up to the event, it seems that EA and their partners couldn’t get rid of the tickets fast enough. Indeed, at the height of Big Boi’s kickarse, hour-plus-long set, the Hordern was only about half full.

    Before the show, The Vine was initially scheduled for 10 minutes with Big Boi in a space upstairs at the Hordern that’d been designated as the venue’s green room. In actuality, it was a room flanked with thick black curtains, long tables, and a couple of dozen people milling around. A curious combination of anticipation, expectation, and desperation hung in the air. Only two chairs were set up, atop one of which sat Big Boi in front of a television, an Xbox 360, and the new Need For Speed game. The other seat was warmed by a revolving door of interviewers, most of whom were committing their conversation to video. This wouldn’t be a problem if each team filming used the same chair, game banner and lighting set-up, but of course, it’s never that easy. The Vine watched as a half-dozen video teams – mostly Australian, but a couple of New Zealanders, too – generally spent more time re-arranging the set than they did actually speaking to Big Boi.

    It’s past 8pm when my interview opportunity arrives, and by that time, I could tell that the rapper was well and truly over posing for photos and answering the same five questions. I’m informed that since they’re running behind schedule, my time with Big Boi has been cut in half. Great! “Try and keep it close to that five minute mark,” his tour manager tells (warns?) me; “We wanna get him to relax a little bit before the show.” And fair enough. I’d moved the chairs a few metres away from the television because I wanted his full attention, but his tour manager insists that they be moved back, directly in front of the screen. Big Boi mishears my name (“Anthony?”), shakes my hand, picks up a controller and turns his sunglass-clad eyes to the game, where he’s driving a yellow Lamborghini at high speed through a beautiful, snowy mountaintop setting. This will take some skill.

    “So I hear you’re a bit of a gamer,” I begin.

    “Yeah, man,” he replies. “I do a little somethin’ here and there, you know.” Eyes on the screen. Mind more interested in the game than in speaking with yet another journalist he’ll never meet again.

    “I’ve got this theory,” I offer. “Games are now cool, where once they used to be nerdy. What do you think?”

    “I think you might be right,” Big Boi says. Still disinterested.

    “Could you imagine this kind of event ten years ago?” I ask.

    “Not really. But you know what happened when the games started integrating the hip, new, cool music into the games, they brought music and gaming together. So you’d have fans of music playing games, and it brings everyone together. So now you have the coolest people playing games, and so it’s not looked at as just being the ‘nerd thing’. Everybody secretly loves video games. For real!”

    I try a little flattery, to try and get him to lighten up. “And the fact that companies like EA want to bring guys like you out to promote their game probably helps their cool factor a little bit.”

    “Hey, man, I hope so!” he smiles for a moment – then jumps back into contractual obligation-mode. “This is a cool game, though. I like this. Need For Speed – they are not playin’ around, you hear me?” The way he says this is hilarious, but I get the feeling he’s said it dozens of times today. “The police car’s a Lamborghini; this shit is super fast!”

    I make another attempt to divert his interest from the screen. “Did you check out the cars next door?”

    “Yeah, I was over there earlier, man. I was doing some interviews for MTV, and I saw the Lambos, and the car that’s made out of gold, and all that stuff.”

    Well, that’s a conversational dead end. I’ve already spent a minute on pleasantries. Shit. Time to try something different. His July-released debut solo album, Sir Luscious Left Foot: The Son Of Chico Dusty (review), is fucking fantastic. Hell, my friends and I flew down from Brisbane just to see him play these songs live; nevermind this interview, which was only confirmed the day before. I need to communicate my enthusiasm; I need to show him that I respect his work. “Congrats on the album,” I offer.

    “‘Preciate it,” he acknowledges briefly. Then bang – straight back into promo mode. “Did you get a chance to play this yet?” he asks

    “No, man,” I reply, starting to get a bit annoyed with his diversionary tactics.

    “You ain’t played it yet? This is pretty kick-ass. You’ve gotta get a chance to play it!”

    With all due respect, Big Boi, I can play the game any time I want. What I can’t do at any time is interview you, which is the whole reason I’m sitting here. I press him on the topic of his music. “I’ve got this theory about your album.”

    “Okay,” he replies, eyes still on the screen.

    At this moment, it’s like 8 Mile all up in here; I’ve only got one shot. Here goes. “One of the reasons why it works so well is because you use your multiple personas to shrink and exaggerate your personalities as you need to.” I made this comment in my album review for The Vine – though he’s Big Boi through and through, on the album, he makes frequent references to several alter egos.

    It works. “There you go!” he says, looking at me through his sunglasses for the first time. “I’ll pause the game on that! Yeah, yeah! Exactly.” He nods. “That’s good!”

    I’m pleased to be sharing eye contact with him, if nothing else. “You think that’s a valid point? You’ve got your Daddy Fat Sax, you got your Sir Luscious Left Foot…”

    “General Patton…” he begins, listing another persona.

    I jump in with a name he drops midway through a verse in the album’s standout track, ‘Shutterbugg’. “Sergeant Slaughter,” I say, and from this moment on, I have his full attention for the remaining three minutes.

    “Exactly. It’s actually just different parts of your personality [that allow you] to be extreme on different types of songs. You don’t have to be the same person on every record. You can, like you say, exaggerate it or shrink it as you see fit.”

    Does that also come down to you being a bit restless, creatively? You want to challenge and expand yourself?

    “Definitely. It’s about playing roles. In certain songs, you can get into role-play. ‘Cuz really, the music is an extension of you, and I look at ‘em as like diaries, from the last time you heard from me, until the new album was released. So now that Sir Luscious Left Foot is out, all the content that’s building now is for the Daddy Fat Sax album, you know what I’m saying? [Note: Daddy Fat Sax: Funk Soul Crusader is said to be released next year.] So you really just talk about things that affect you, from relationships, to politics, to… whatever. Things you might want to speak out on. Sometimes it might be some good ol’ down-low freaky fun, just to get funky wit’ it. And nasty, and gritty, and grimy.”

    And there’s no shortage of those kind of songs on the album.

    “No. I definitely keep my shit freaky, all the way. Always. You know what I’m saying? Real edgy. You can work out to it. You can definitely make love to it. You can have a real sex party to the album. A real, real sexy party. Most definitely!”

    I saw the behind the scenes footage for the ‘Shutterbugg’ video, where you mentioned that you were aiming to do videos for every track on the album. How’s that coming along?

    “It’s coming along good. Next up I got the ‘Tangerine’ remix, with Fabolous, Rick Ross, and Bun B. And I already shot the video for ‘The Train Part II (Sir Luscious Left Foot Saves The Day)’. That’s already been done. Probably gonna do them two next, then I’m thinking about ‘Hustle Blood’ and ‘Be Still’.”

    You’ve gotta get Janelle in on ‘Be Still’. [In reference to R&B singer Janelle Monáe, who provides guest vocals on the track.]

    “Most definitely.”

    On behalf of music fans across the world, I want to thank you for discovering Janelle Monáe. [Big Boi saw her perform Roberta Flack’s ‘Killing Me Softly’ at an open mic night in Atlanta, and he asked her to feature on two songs on OutKast’s Idlewild soundtrack. Full story here.]

    “Word, man. ‘Preciate it, man.”

    She’s something special.

    “Definitely. It’s all about real, organically-made music that you can discover; every time you listen to it, you can hear something new. You don’t get everything on the first listen. A type of artist like that, with that type of depth; that’s what we’re looking for.”

    She’s coming out here for the first time in February, for the Good Vibrations festival.

    “Word? Oh, that’ll be dope, man. She got a lot of energy.”

    I saw the clip for ‘You Ain’t No DJ’, with Yelawolf. I’m interested to know your take on censorship these days, because in that video, Yelawolf’s verse is like…

    “Chopped up.”

    Yeah, you can barely hear the fuckin’ thing.

    “It really is some bullshit, man, you know what I’m saying? They show everything on television, you know, and in movies you can do whatever you want to do. But they censor the music, when it’s all the same thing. To me, I think it’s all really to hamper the success of certain types of music, you know what I mean? But the fans go out and get the dirty versions, and check it out, but I mean, you can work past all that.”

    And even the logos on your caps and shirts are blurred out, too.

    “Yeah. That’s weak as hell.”

    I think the best example recently is Cee-Lo’s ‘Fuck You’, where the radio cut is ‘Forget You’.

    “Yeah, and it totally takes away the impact. He still had almost a million downloads, though.”

    Yeah, massive. I think we’re about out of time, unfortunately.

    “That’s alright. We’re just getting ready to hit the stage.”

    Before I go: who’ve you got here in your entourage tonight? Who are you playing with?

    “I just brought my DJ, Cutmaster Swiff, and my homeboy BlackOwned C-Bone. And my sound man, my road manager. Micro squad.”

    No Vonnegutt? [an Atlanta rock act who feature on Big Boi’s track ‘Follow Us’ – video]

    “Nah, Vonnegutt didn’t come. They just performed with me down in Tennessee, though.”

    Cool. When are you coming back for a proper album tour? You’ve been here for the Winterbeatz festival, but you missed Brisbane.

    “Probably be like, um… me and Cee-Lo gonna do this ‘Georgia Power’ tour, and we might come back over and do some dates for that.”

    Alright. Thanks for your time.

    The full archived interview is on The Vine. More Big Boi on MySpace. The music video for his song ‘You Ain’t No DJ‘ is embedded below.

    Elsewhere: a review of Big Boi’s debut album, Sir Luscious Left Foot: The Son Of Chico Dusty for The Vine.

  • Mess+Noise EP review: The Jezabels – ‘Dark Storm’, December 2010

    An EP review for Mess+Noise. Excerpt below.

    The JezabelsDark Storm

    The press release seems to want me to mention something about their age, so here goes: Sydney quartet The Jezabels are aged between 23 (singer) Hayley Mary) and 25 (drummer Nik Kaloper). Together, they write soaring, dramatic pop, so here’s where I’m meant to make some kind of comment on their maturity, and how incredible it is these young musicians are performing deep, complex, Important Music. This EP is apparently the “third and final release in a trilogy that began with 2009’s The Man Is Dead…” Alright then, moving on.

    The strangest thing about this band is that the instrumentation is essentially a blank canvas for Mary, whose voice is so urgent and alluring that you’re half-tempted to take a cold shower immediately after the disc ends. Her every yelp and note sticks in the mind, and endures; as for the instrumentation, there’s little to write home about. The band’s musical point of difference is the absence of a bass; keyboardist Heather Shannon fills out the bottom end by playing slow, deliberate chord progressions. Guitarist Sam Lockwood favours clean, feeble tones for the most part. In ‘A Little Piece’, his use of an ebow strives for that mournful, desolate soundscape feel, amid bursts of Foals-like noodling. Lockwood’s best asset as a player is knowing when to dial it back. Indeed, much of Dark Storm is characterised by a sense of space, which swells to crescendo during each chorus.

    Full review at Mess+Noise. More of The Jezabels on MySpace. The music video their song ‘Mace Spray‘ is embedded below.

  • Mess+Noise album review: The Holidays – ‘Post Paradise’, November 2010

    An album review for Mess+Noise. Excerpt below.

    The HolidaysPost Paradise

    Somewhere between Cut Copy’s electro wonderland, Gypsy And The Cat’s soft rock, and Empire Of The Sun’s delusions of pop grandeur sits Post Paradise, the debut from Sydney’s The Holidays. Despite such reference points, the album somehow remains interesting. Put it down to the strength of the songs, which unerringly achieve that rare pop trifecta: accessibility, originality and memorability. Tony Espie, who’s worked with The Avalanches, Midnight Juggernauts and Cut Copy, has mixed the album, which may account for its overall slickness and sheen.

    Favourite moments? The way the guitars intercut the vocal melody in ‘Broken Bones’; the ethereal introduction to ‘6AM’, which dissipates upon meeting the sound of an alarm clock and takes a right turn into tropical pop-land; the double-tracked phaser effect applied to the guitars in ‘2 Days’, and the joyous, nonsensical vocal hook in its chorus; and the seemingly effortless chillwave upon which ‘Conga’ rides (accompanied by bongos, widdly-widdly guitars and an incessant, sensual bass throb).

    Full review at Mess+Noise. More of The Holidays on MySpace. The music video for ‘Golden Sky‘ is embedded below.

  • Mess+Noise album review: PVT – ‘Church With No Magic’, July 2010

    A featured album review for Mess+Noise.

    'Church With No Magic' album cover by Sydney band PVTPVTChurch With No Magic

    On third album ‘Church With No Magic’, the band formerly known as Pivot return with not just a new name but an evolution in sound, writes ANDREW MCMILLEN.

    The further you get through Church With No Magic, the less it sounds like 2008’s O Soundtrack My Heart. That album – the band’s final release under the Pivot moniker, before ceding it to an American nu-metal band – stood at the intersection of rock and electronica, forming a remarkable amalgam of the two. Like O Soundtrack My Heart, Church With No Magic opens with a brief instrumental composition (‘Community’), but that’s where the comparison ends. Here, PVT are not just embracing a new name, but an evolution in sound.

    ‘Light Up Bright Fires’ seethes with twisted synth sounds and ominous, shape-shifting vocals. Yes, vocals. Richard Pike’s voice appears on most of the tracks here; its presence adds an extra layer of melody to the band’s output. The addition of vocals isn’t too surprising, considering the deep, wordless yawns that coloured O Soundtrack’s ‘Sing You Sinners’, yet the range displayed is quite extraordinary.

    Full review at Mess+Noise. More PVT on their MySpace. Music video for ‘Window‘ embedded below.

  • A Conversation With Dave Miller of PVT, Sydney electronic rock band

    Sydney, Australia-based electronic rock group, PVTI spoke with Dave Miller [pictured far right] – one third of the Sydney-based electronic rock act PVT – for Rolling Stone on May 11. At the time, it hadn’t yet been announced that the band were changing their name from Pivot to PVT due to legal threats. I’d been listening to an advance copy of their third album, Church With No Magic,  for a couple of weeks. Dave and I spoke about the new songs, the addition of Richard Pike’s vocals to their formerly instrumental-only approach, and the name change. (In either case, the name is still pronounced ‘pivot’.) Our conversation is below.

    Andrew: I’m not sure what’s the most obvious question to begin with, Dave: the name change or the presence of vocals on your new album. Let’s go with the name change.

    Dave: We got issued a cease and desist letter by a band in America, and it was just one of those things where we could have been clubbed. It was probably going to be extremely costly, and the potential of losing a court battle was not really worth the money and also it would have just held the album back a year or something while we had to do this. We figured we’d kind of do a cut and dry type thing.

    It’s just one of those things, where if we want to keep this name so badly, it could cost us loads of money and we would have to put the album back a year because of some righteous American emos who think they deserve the name more. That was just one of those things, so in some ways we kind of saw it as a positive thing, and kind of shedding some old baggage and moving onto new things. That’s how I’ve eventually thought about it.

    Do you think that thing’s been a long time coming? I’m sure you guys were aware that there were other bands called Pivot?

    Yeah, we kind of thought they’d go away and the one band that was issued the court stuff was – they’ve never played outside their hometown. They’ve never put out a record on a label. We’ve played 10 times more places than they had in their own country, yet they still wanted to hold onto their dream of making it big time or something, I don’t know. We kind of gave up on guessing what the reasoning for it was. It could have been money or whatever, but regardless we’ve let the babies have their bottle.

    When you put it like that, it’s a drag, man.

    Yeah, it was a drag and we found out when we arrived in America, for SXSW, which was really bad timing. But as I say, we’re kind of seeing it as a step forward for our band, rather than a step back.

    Do you think your fans will understand the change?

    I don’t know. As far as liking the new name or something, I hope that they’ve all realised that sometimes these things happen. It’s happened before, loads of times before. There’s sometimes stuff like that happens, and on the Internet everyone in this sort of Internet world, everyone is just as important as each other, or seemingly as important as each other.

    I saw that the name has been changed briefly on your Facebook page, and a couple of fans picked up on it.

    I didn’t see that. Did they like it?

    Dave Miller of the Sydney, Australia-based electronic rock group, PVTYeah, the comment was “Good work on the name change PVT. It’s way more efficient now.”

    Okay, yeah it’s more efficient, like Kraftwerk. [laughs]

    Moving on to discussing the addition of vocals. Who argued loudest to include them?

    It was just a thing that when we first started jamming our stuff and recording in studio, a lot of the ideas were vocal ideas rather than guitar or keyboard or something. We just rolled with that. Richard’s always been able to sing and it was just one of those things where we thought, “Well, why don’t we do this? We can do this.” It was a challenge and we could’ve quite easily done another instrumental album like the last one – O Soundtrack My Heart II, or something – but that would’ve been done in 3 months. It was a sort of challenge and we kind of realised, being in a touring band for 18 months altogether, we realised we don’t really listen to much instrumental rock music at all, and a couple of times we were like “If we don’t listen to it, why are we making it?” That was just an aside. It was more about the fact that we wanted to progress, I guess.

    Is it just Richard singing on the album?

    Yeah, it’s all Richard.

    His vocals in ‘Crimson Swan’ are excellent.

    Yeah, thanks [laughs] I’ll pass it on to Richard. That was one of the songs where we sort of wrote and recorded it in the same room in a couple of days. It was one of those things that was really organic and felt right straight away. We didn’t really work on it a great deal. It was just like “okay, we’re done. Let’s move on.” We don’t want to add to it too much and we don’t want to over think it.

    Is there a particular track on the new album you’re most fond of?

    Probably ‘Crimson Swan’ the most at the moment. It will probably change. I like playing ‘Timeless’ live, that’s really fun at the moment, when we’ve been playing it at the shows. But I guess it varies, as what happened with O Soundtrack. Those changed throughout the time. Sometimes you get bored playing certain songs or whatever, but I think ‘Crimson Swan’ has been a favourite of mine for a while.

    The album is a bit of a brief affair. It’s 10 minutes shorter than O Soundtrack. Do you have many outtakes and B sides from that recording session?

    Yeah, we’ve got loads. [laughs] We have about almost another album actually, but there’s just some songs that didn’t fit in with the [hearing] of it and other songs that were better – fit the general overall feeling of the record, that it just didn’t feel right. Like I said, there was maybe one song that might have gone in or might not, so we just decided to leave it out, as far as the continuity goes, and flow of the record.

    Is the album’s title of particular significance?

    It’s just a phrase I had. I kind of caught an idea that Laurence and I recorded, ‘Church With No Magic’ and I liked the symbolism of it. Richard decided to use the phrase in the chorus of the song and then it turned out to be the title of the record. It was just one of those things. But it was just something that I picked up.

    When recording O Soundtrack you were in London and the Pikes were still in Sydney, most of the time. Did the process differ this time around?

    Yes, it was entirely different. We recorded almost everything in the same room, and it was recorded and edited everywhere. It was recorded mostly in Sydney but some parts in London, and edited when we had some time off on tour [laughs] in London, and France, and Sydney, and it kind of was a moving project as we were touring around the world. Any time we had a small chunk of time off we’d start working on it again. I guess that’s one of the reasons why it has a real live feeling about it; it sounds like 3 guys in a room, and I like to think it sounds like all our live shows have over the past year. There’s mistakes, and there’s bombastic drums and lots of air in the room. That was my thing, we kind of wanted the record to sound a bit more – not “garagey”, but like 3 guys playing in a room.

    Dave Miller of the Sydney, Australia-based electronic rock group, PVTI was re-reading the interview with Richard Ayoade from a couple of years ago. During that discussion you were talking about the advantages and disadvantages of using digital gear. One of the quotes was “Inconsistencies are great. Mistakes are good, and to have rough edges is kind of important.”

    That’s what we made sure, that we… we didn’t focus on it, but that was another thing that we kind of made a point of in this record, to not sand off the edges and to keep it a bit more live and raw.

    So it’s less reliant on the cut-and-paste style of digital recording?

    It was recorded digitally, but not anything like chopping up drums and guitars so that everything fits perfectly, and sounds like fucking U2 or something. We didn’t want to do that. We just wanted to leave it as we played it. That’s basically it.

    From that same interview there’s another quote one of you said, “we’ve seen a lot of live electronic music and been very bored, so that’s something we wanted to avoid – we don’t want to be cold and faceless.” Have you got anything special in mind for the next album tour?

    I don’t know. I’m not sure if we’ve thought that far ahead, but one thing that we have realised makes a big difference is lighting. I know that’s not a new thing but it makes a difference as far as the audience’s interaction with the show. I think when we’ve had good lighting, it seems like it’s given us a far bigger boost. It’s like the comparison between having bad sound and good sound, having no lighting versus lighting makes a massive difference. If we can find the man who’ll make us light up well, we’ll take him on tour.

    But I don’t think as far as live or electronic music, I think there’s probably a big difference between solo electronic stuff that I’ve seen, and what we do. Just because there’s a guy that plays electronics doesn’t mean that he’s an electronic act. There’s always exceptions to the rules as well; Jamie Liddell’s solo live act is absolutely amazing.

    As a musician, do you find that an album release is less exciting in 2010 than it was a few years ago, given how easily accessible and traded music is these days?

    People don’t really know when release dates are, do they? And they don’t really care for them. They just kind of want it as soon as it’s available, which is kind of… that’s the ‘me’ generation, which is not really my feeling but I understand it. Life moves on and society moves on, but I’m still totally excited about the record gig. I kind of wish that that particular date was a big deal. I remember when I was much younger, waiting for the date that the new Nine Inch Nails record would come out and go to the record store, and buy it that day. I wonder how many people do that anymore. [laughs]

    But I’m excited, and I know Richard and Laurence are. It’s just a matter of… I’m more excited about people hearing this record than the last one, mainly because it’s a bigger progression, maybe, for us.

    I’m interested to know how many labels these days have contingency plans in place for if an album leaks, or more accurately when it leaks?

    Yeah, I don’t know; I think it depends on the band and the manager and the label and everyone else. It’s not just the label I don’t think. Everyone kind of has a say in it. You’re right, it makes a big difference as to when it happens and stuff. I can’t answer that question.

    As I understand it, you’ve been a part of Pivot for 5 years now, Dave, is that right?

    Maybe a bit less than that, 3 or 4 years probably. I’d probably played the first gig with them in 2006, so 4 years now.

    At this stage, is there a particular band leader or do you all have equal input into what goes on?

    [laughs] I think it’s pretty democratic. Any sort of ideas, being musical or otherwise, anyone can kind of shut down and anyone can get a ‘thumbs up’ too. Yeah, it’s good having a 3-piece group. There’s always a majority.

    Dave Miller of the Sydney, Australia-based electronic rock group, PVT. Photo by Glen WilkieFrom what I’ve seen of you playing live in Brisbane over the last few years, the audiences keep growing and growing. I’m curious to know how you feel about where the band fit into the Australian musical landscape.

    I don’t know, to be honest.

    I find that at festivals, people know the Pivot name by now and they know you’re pretty different to everything else that appears on festival line-ups. They’re drawn to that.

    Yeah, if people are open-minded like that, that’s great. [laughs] It’s just a matter of getting the gigs in the first place. That’s probably the main problem.

    Was making a living from touring outside of Australia always the goal for the band?

    Making a living any which way we can as far as the band goes, whether it’s playing in Europe, Australia, or America, or whatever. It’s not really – like lots of territories and lots of places you don’t really make any money. It’s more about the fact that you’re playing to a new audience and they’ll get excited and next time you might make money. It’s a slow process, but we played loads and loads in Europe over the past 2 years and I’m hoping it’ll come out to something next time we tour there as well.

    I gather from your mailing list that the live video for ‘O Soundtrack My Heart[embedded below] was recorded for a French TV show. Is there any chance it’ll be released as a whole performance on DVD or something eventually?

    Yeah, when we got sent the DVD of the show, it was actually the first time we’d ever seen us videoed before, in decent quality, rather than just off our phones or something. It couldn’t have been a better situation and it was like an amazing lighting show and playing in front of 5,000-10,000 people in an outdoor festival with night time in France. It was pretty amazing. [laughs] Everything kind of fell into place.

    I don’t know; it’s been a while since I looked at the video. I guess eventually maybe. I can remember there being a few duff notes that Richard was blushing about. But other than that I think we’ve got the whole concert. It’s just the matter of whether.. I guess it’s all in good time.

    Final question, Dave. You’re a professional touring musician in a band that’s appreciated in indie circles throughout the world. What would you be doing if you weren’t a musician? Was there ever a plan B for you?

    I used to do programming for websites and stuff. I’d probably be pretty bored of that by now and would’ve turned to something else. I don’t know, it’s never bothered me before, but maybe I’d be a florist or something, I’m not sure. [laughter] It’s best not to think of at the moment!


    PVT’s third album, Church With No Magic, is released July 16 2010 (today!) via Warp/Inertia. For more information – including links to buy the album – visit their website. Video for the first single, ‘Window‘, is embedded below. You can read my album review for Mess+Noise here.

  • A Conversation With Paul Hannigan, Co-founder

    Paul Hannigan, Moshcam co-founder (yes, he chose this photo)Streaming concert video hub Moshcam is a super awesome resource for viewing professionally-recorded footage of bands that tour Sydney, Australia. They’ve been an intriguing player on the web music scene since 2007, yet I hadn’t seen their story told anywhere else. I was stoked when co-founder Paul Hannigan agreed to my snooping questions in early April 2009. Here ’tis: the most complete Moshcam interview, ever. Take that, internet!

    Hey Paul! I’ve researched you and your company as well as the internet allowed me. Can you describe how the idea behind Moshcam began, and how you decided to undertake the project with your two fellow founders?

    I’d returned from Los Angeles where I’d been working with a couple of successful start-ups (Citysearch, and, which subsequently became Overture/Yahoo Search Marketing) and had been helping manage and promote a few bands over there. Living back in Sydney at the time, around 2006, I wanted to do “something with music online”, which was about as specific as my thinking was at that point.

    As a fan, I found myself at shows at venues like The Metro and Enmore 3-4 times a week. As it happened, John Reddin, who was a friend and Head of Production at XYZ’s Lifestyle Channel, had worked on a number of television productions with Elia Eliades’ (the owner of Century Venues) production company. Elia had spoken to John about his desire to explore new territory with his venues online and John said “I know this fellow you should talk to”, and arranged an introduction. Through that meeting, the idea of Moshcam was born.

    Did you have any experience within the music industry, or were those connections gained through John and Elia?

    I’d been a drummer and a music journalist in Europe, and had some band management and production experience there and in the States. But I hadn’t been part of the industry itself in Australia, other than in a reporting capacity as Editor-in-Chief of what was initially Fairfax‘s Citysearch.

    Of course, as a tragic consumer, I’d just spent 3 months digitising some 6,000 albums in my collection, so if nothing else, it felt like I was propping up the industry! And suddenly, here was an opportunity to bring a love of music together with a background in content production and technology development?

    Moshcam doesn’t seem like the kind of business that’s built overnight. How long did it take to put concept into practice? I understand that you consulted with Melbourne web developers Hyro to build a custom CMS with sharing/playlist functionalities; had they undertaken any similar projects, or was this an all-new interface?


    We spent 8 months developing a proprietary back-end solution for Moshcam. To a large extent, I knew what I wanted the site to be in terms of user experience and functionality, so interface design and architecture was relatively straightforward.

    The CMS was more of an iterative process in that we were really pushing into new territory around video serving and how to manage those assets.

    The Hyro project profile states that you required banner advertising intergration for revenue purposes, yet at the time of writing, I can’t see any ads on the site. When do you plan to include these, and is this the only revenue avenue down which Moshcam is treading?

    As a start-up that needed to build significant traffic from scratch, we always wanted to get the product right for music fans in terms of usability, first and foremost, before we thought about how to include things like sponsorship and advertising. Moshcam was always going to be a free offering, so naturally a free-to-air advertising model was going to be a part, but by no means all, of our model at some stage.

    However, I think it’s fair to say we are at an interesting juncture in the online world when it comes to music specifically, and there are a host of revenue models which may or may not play out in the months and years ahead.

    Moshcam’s stated aim is to make quality live recordings available to be streamed over the web for free. I can’t imagine that every artist you approach is accepting of this goal; what is Moshcam’s strike rate, and have you found that artists have become more welcoming of the idea since Moshcam started in 2007?

    Almost every artist we speak to directly loves the idea and only cares about getting their work out there.

    With record companies and managers, however, who are often the gatekeepers of approval for us, there’s still a great divide between those that embrace their artists’ music online and those who are more resistant.

    It’s easy to understand their concerns since they’ve seen revenues consistently eroded through free downloading but with something like Moshcam, increasingly they see it as a valuable showcase for the artist, both in terms of their existing and potential fanbase, as well as being able to show promoters who may not be familiar with their work just how well they can deliver live.

    Gary Numan hearts Moshcam. Maybe.If I had to give you a number, I’d say we’ve moved the strike rate from something like 10% to 40%, which given the number of bands that comes through Sydney is a significant figure. We just filmed our 500th show, which was Gary Numan at The Enmore Theatre.

    Moshcam is only licensed to broadcast each recording over the internet, so the shows currently aren’t available for download. In the coming years, do you think that labels will begin to request the ability to download recordings on behalf of the artists, perhaps at a per-song or per-show cost? This makes a lot of sense to me: stream the show for free, and include the option to buy a high-quality recording – via file download or on a physical DVD – for around the cost of an album.

    Absolutely. This is something we are working with the labels to put into effect. As record labels look for new revenue streams, this is one that previously did not exist. The revenue from a gig ends the minute the merch stand shuts up shop. What better way to extend the life cycle of that show than through making it available for fans to buy?

    As the aggregator of all this great footage, we are perfectly placed to offer just such a service. As you can imagine, there are a number of issues that need to be resolved in terms of licensing and technology, but we are very hopeful that this will be finalised soon.

    Do you present each artist with the same contract? Do some artists try to negotiate so that Moshcam’s recordings can be downloaded?

    We have a standard contract that varies only in the length of broadcast terms, from two years to ‘in perpetuity’.

    The download issue is not one that really comes up in the negotiations, other than the aforementioned assurances that we don’t offer it for free.

    Until we are able to put in place a site-wide download service, we link through to any band who makes their gig available for download or purchase elsewhere.. of which there are very few.

    Moshcam is now working in partnership with several Sydney venues. Are you planning to transfer the concept to other cities and venues across the country?

    The Gaelic Club. Colourful!We have built-in studios at The Metro and Annandale Hotel. We also have two mobile units and have filmed gigs at The Forum, The Gaelic Club, The Manning Bar, The Vanguard, The City Recital Hall, and the Hyde Park Barracks (for the Sydney Festival). As a result we have great relationships with those venues so whenever a band I’d like to see on Moshcam is in town, we can shoot at any venue with very smooth integration into their house operations.

    Other than being able to drill down to a very local level, there are no real economies of scale for us setting up in other Australian cities, since almost every band from another city we’d like to film tours and plays Sydney at some point.

    Internationally, I’d love to work with venues in Tokyo, London or Dublin, and New York or LA and cover the four corners of the rock and roll globe! Once we prove the model, I hope there will be opportunities to do just that.

    There was some controversy in Brisbane last year when Birds Of Tokyo‘s management kicked up a fuss over bootleg footage of new material that was recorded at The Zoo – coverage here and here. As a music fan, not a business owner, how do you feel about fans recording gig footage and uploading it to video streaming sites? I know that the quality can range from cameraphone-poor to semi-professional setups, yet I feel that there’s an inherent innocence in making an effort to record musicians’ work to share with other fans.

    It’s a dilemma isn’t it? As a music fan I want to see and hear anything and everything by the bands I love, but I respect the right of an artist to control their own output, particularly when it comes to quality – which, let’s face it, is the defining point of difference between Moshcam and 30 seconds of mobile phone footage on YouTube.

    Obviously the internet has moved the practice of taping shows into a whole new digital distribution environment. But personally, I can’t see how this does anything but increase artist exposure, and ultimately, sales. I do think there is often a lot of disingenuous talk about downloads not affecting sales, depending on who’s making what point, but when it comes to live fan recordings I really do think that is the case.

    How do you prefer to listen to music? How has this changed since you bought your first album?

    Shadow Paul jumps around to House Of PainI have a ridiculous amount of music stored digitally, both burned from my vinyl and CD collection and bought from iTunes.

    I was a bit of a vinyl junkie originally and took a while to make to change to CDs since it seemed a real degradation of the album for the sake of convenience. Tiny artwork, illegible lyrics, reduced dynamics, etc. I think that’s why I embraced the digital format so quickly, as I’d already done my grieving for the original artifact. Now, there’s just the music, and nothing else to get obsessive about.

    How do I listen to music differently now than back in the day? I’m a compulsive curator, so it’s almost always a playlist as opposed to an album.

    More people are listening to more music than ever before, yet the major labels are resistant to changes in consumer habits due to an effort to retain pre-internet revenue models. Agree or disagree?

    Well it’s a prima facie argument, isn’t it? There’s a lot of nonsense spoken on both sides about the effects of digital downloads on the industry. Most kids I know have never paid for music in their lives. That’s just the world they grew up in, it’s not a new digital frontier for them, nor is it a moral issue. They have larger music libraries at 16 than I had after years of buying music as a fan.

    But the point is, they would never have bought that music anyway. So it’s simplistic and misleading for the labels to say that this is somehow lost revenue.

    What’s more, these kids are incredibly indiscriminate about what they download, which exposes them to artists they would never have heard if they were buying one album a month with their pocket money. This gets them out to live shows; gets them buying merch, and gets them involved in online fan communities, often interacting with the artists themselves. All of which creates lifelong fans who will buy music in some form or other when a pricing model becomes both standardised and sensible.

    Likewise, a lot of people who buy music continue to do so, while downloading a lot of free stuff they wouldn’t normally buy to check it out – again, no lost revenue and wider artist exposure boosting live music attendance. Can it really be coincidence that we’ve seen an explosion in live music attendance since since the advent of peer-to-peer download networks?

    And then there is the percentage of people who are downloading for free the music that they would have historically paid for. That’s something you can’t refute. Human nature being what it is, and music costing what it does, means that a lot of people are saving themselves money at the expense of the label and the artist. And that’s a problem, especially for the artist. If a musician can’t make a living from their output, how can they survive to make more music?

    Moshcam Logo. "The gig is up!"

    That’s why the tour has become an income staple. It’s like a return to the strolling minstrel – bands as bards, singing for their supper!

    Let’s hope we see some innovation from the labels around pricing to get fans paying for music at a price that’s realistic, in the new digital economy. Whether that’s a tiered licensing model – which would save fans like me who still buy their music a small fortune – remains to be seen, but if you look at media sectors where this has been operational, such as subscription TV, you can see how it could be work for the online music industry.

    None of this is being held back by mechanics or technology. It’s all about pricing. However, I think there will always be a demand for a fan to buy an album or a song directly to own it, either as a digital file, or as something you can hold and look at.

    What excites you about the music and web industries?

    The immediacy. It’s like the fourth wall has been demolished. Although with that comes a loss of some of the mystique for fans and means there will probably never be any more rock gods, I think it’s really healthy.

    The internet is basically punk technology for music distribution. Now not only can anyone pick up a guitar, form a band and record some songs, they can get it out there on a scale that has never been possible before.

    And in the area of live music, I’m obviously thrilled that we can now capture a gig and share it with fans without having to get into the business of DVD production and distribution. As a fan, this is all part of what I love about being able to experience music outside of the established release schedule of a band’s label.

    Before the web, all you heard from a band was what the label released. Perhaps an album every couple of years; maybe a live album or a DVD. Now there are all these great auxiliary moments where you get to see and hear an artist outside the studio, being captured and shared in all sorts of environments.

    Moshcam was nominated for a Webby Award last month in the ‘Best Music Site’ category, although you were beaten in the end by NPR. Congrats! Was this a goal of yours, or a total surprise? 

    The Webby that Moshcam didn't win. No crying over spilt springs!Thanks! It was great to be acknowledged by our peers as doing something worthwhile.

    To be honest it was a total surprise. Obviously, we’d entered but we haven’t been doing this for too long and we figured we were probably still off the radar of the Stateside luminaries who decide these things.

    What are your plans to navigate the ‘interesting juncture’ in online advertising models, and what can we expect from Moshcam throughout 2009?

    One thing to understand is that we didn’t start this as a marketing model upon which to hang a product. It was a genuine project by three fans to build something compelling for other fans. That said, it’s far from inexpensive to maintain and obviously we have to find a way to pay for it.

    How will we do that? Well, one thing Moshcam enjoys is a startling level of engagement with it’s users. Fans are watching for an average of 31 minutes per show, which is almost 10 times the average for a website visit. And when you realise that video advertising is the fastest growing sector, it’s not hard to see a model there that could work well for us as the market matures.

    As discussed, we’re also very keen to work with bands and labels to facilitate a download service, should they wish to sell their shows. We’re also working on some neat licensing and distribution partnerships, and we have a 13-part TV show featuring signed and unsigned Australian bands running on cable at the moment called “Moshcam: Live and Kicking”. We’re not in the business of re-inventing the internet’s business models; we just want to be in a position to offer a valuable service to bands, valuable content to fans and be able to work with whichever models shake out as viable for us.

    As for the rest of 2009, you can expect hundreds more great gigs filmed, as well as a lot of new types of content, from backstage interviews to artist-curated playlists. You’ll also see Moshcam on the road around Australia capturing the best local bands in each capital city, and a couple of other cool initiatives we’re developing that will focus on getting some unsigned bands we love much wider exposure!

    As you can see, Moshcam is kind of a big deal. Unless I’m mistaken, their streaming concert concept is sailing uncharted waters on the national level, so to speak, and they’re probably a trend-setter on the international front, too. Remember, you read it here first! All 2,900 words! Congrats. To reward yourself, head to Moshcam and watch a show. They’ve got over 500 available, so if you can’t find one that you like, you’re not a music fan. Get the hell off my blog!

    Thanks Paul! He can be contacted via email.