The Presets are gearing up for the release of their third studio album Pacifica – their first since 2008′s phenomenally huge Apocalypso – with the release of a new single entitled “Ghosts.” So far we’ve had two very different slices of electronic music from the Sydney duo. The first track, the bonkers “Youth In Trouble”, is a hyperactive 1990′s rave-up that wouldn’t sound out of place amongst a playlist of Underworld’s greatest hits or Rollo & Sister Bliss remixes. It’s been a long time since dance music on a Global Scale has been executed as well “Youth In Trouble.” If you’ve yet to hear the track be patient, the production makes you work hard for your climactic rewards but once you’re there you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.
From the massive, stadium-ready rave-build-up’s to the complete acid house production throwdown, this six and a half minute club romper is exactly the kind of rave I want to hear in 2012 and is exactly the kind of rave radio had no idea it would be forced to once again slot into their watered-down commercial radio formats. “Youth In Trouble” peaks (ho ho!) and reaches ultimate-rave climax in its final 90 seconds and has left me panting for more since its arrival in June. The anticipation has just gotten itself thicker, too.
The stark in contrast “Ghosts” is the complete opposite of a rave-up and sees Julian’s vocals teeter into Chris Martin territory - not a bad thing, particularly when you take into effect how solid Martin’s vocals actually sound backdropped against sledge-hammering basslines. But with “Ghosts” the band have really stepped out of the soundscapes they’re familiar with, providing a mid-tempo gallop complete with tinges of Blackbox and the KLF. This may not be the radio-ready anthem the commercial FM networks were hoping for from the boys but there’s definitely a lot more commercially viable about “Ghosts” than there is in “Youth In Trouble.”
PACIFICA is released through Modular Records on September the 7th, 2012.
It’s been over two years since Muscles released his debut album “Guns, Babes, Lemonade.” It’s also been two years – almost to the day – since Muscles and his record-label, Modular, had appeared to be publicly tiffing with one another. As someone that had interviewed Muscles twice before and actually spoken face to face with him on a couple of occasions – and him being an absolute gentlemen every time – all of this had happened and I remember hoping he’d come through on the other end with an amazing follow up, that everything would sort itself out with the label and we could all go back to wanting to have his babies. And brilliantly, that’s exactly what’s happened.
“Is that Adem with an E?” I hear Muscles’ voice beam down the phone to me. “Long time no see man! Glad to be chatting to you!” And I too, Muscles, am glad to be chatting to you again.
Like a proper pop-music triumph, the Muscles comeback is in full swing. The first single to be lifted off his new EP is the powerfully fun “Girl Crazy Go”, a more solid and progressive approach to the technological bleeps and knob-fiddling we got on his debut record. The irony, however, is that the new material shows obvious growth for Muscles as an artist, yet bears the title of “Younger and Immature.”
“Well I kind of felt, it has been two years since I’ve been touring and releasing singles,” he says, “and over the last two years I’ve written a lot of songs, I felt there was a little bit of unfinished business. The first track on the EP is called “Forever”, and the lyrics are “I hope you know that I’m not gonna be around forever.” You know, what if I stop making music, that kind of thing. I actually made the track “Forever” before anything on GunsBabesLemonade, but I couldn’t come up with a second chorus so I had to leave it out. But then I was going through all of these half-finished songs, went back to it and wrote that second chorus. And now it’s going to the first song people hear when they get the EP.”
Explaining the EP’s opener as sounding like “Mario Galaxy”, Muscles collated all of his songs together and found a holy grail of five that worked as a package. “I had all these songs, and these five songs just made a really good mini album. I just feel like I needed a bridge between the old… [pauses, before adding with a laugh] Well, I can’t say old, Adem, because [Guns, Babes, Lemonade] is a timeless album! But I needed that bridge between the first album and the forthcoming one.”
The new EP has been dubbed as being a ‘middle finger to the nay-sayers, and a love-letter to the fans.’ This is the first time Muscles has heard about this though. “It says that in the press pack? Oh really? Does it say that? (Laughter ensues) Sorry I didn’t even know. There’s so many different press pieces out there; I need to find out who wrote that. Actually, I wrote that. Yup, I’ll claim that!”
The EP’s been ready for six months. Muscles has been playing it in his car, just waiting to get it out there. “I just can’t wait for this new EP and the song to come out, and for people to listen to it,” he enthuses. “I really wanted to go down a different direction, there’s a lot of guys doing disco-ey stuff and I thought, you know what, I’m gonna do a Techno-ey song with a lot of powerful and strong drums.”
Anyone thinking the EP is just carbon copies of lead single “Girl Crazy Go” though will be pleasantly surprised. “This EP, every track is very different. They don’t all sound like “Girl Crazy Go” and I think people might expect that. With the first album, every track kind of had its own different production style, its different beats, and just over the last couple of years I’ve been honing in on my skills as a producer, and on the piano… I actually learnt drums for five years, so working on a lot of percussion stuff as well for the new songs. I’m just really excited!”
When you pre-order the EP from JB HiFi, you’re pretty much guaranteeing yourself a totally unique greeting, personally signed by Muscles. “I’m actually signing each copy individually, yeah,” he says. “They’re all gonna be unique too. I gotta come up with… a couple of hundred different greetings though (laughs). Maybe I can go to Google Translate for a few of them!”
I start questioning Muscles about the forthcoming album, and when it will actually be that we’ll get to hear it. But we might get to hear something else even before that. “There’s another EP which may come out, but if it doesn’t come out it’ll be apart of the album. I think I said in the past I wanted to call my next album “Manhood”, that wasn’t confirmed or anything, it was just me rambling or Twittering (laughs), but with the title, I just feel like I’m growing… younger? The more that I don’t think, the more the song will come out y’know. The other EP is called “Older & Wiser”, and then “Manhood” was supposed to come out, but we’ll see how it all pans out. I think, with this album, I’ve approached it like a band would; you go and write 15 or 20 songs, then go to the studio and record them over three months or something. So I wrote all the songs, wrote all the productions and then went, okay; off to the studio. Whereas with the first album it was very much just me experimenting and finding my own sound. [The album will get a release] probably next year, maybe July or August? Nothing set in stone yet, but that’s the time I’d like it to come out.”
And then there is that timeless classic, the debut – what does Muscles think of it now, two years on? On a monthly basis, at least once, he’ll listen back to the record, “just to remind myself of what I’ve done I guess, and I think you can still listen to it and now and still enjoy it. When it came out I wasn’t really copying any other bands, I came out as my own, and with the singing voice that I have, it’s very different to what’s on the radio at the moment. I listen to the radio a lot actually and then just write songs that I wish there were more of on there.”
A big pop fan, Muscles has everyone from Ke$ha to Robyn, M.I.A to Underworld, all filling up his iPod. But what about GaGa? “Oh yeah, I was listening to her two years ago (laughs). Will be exciting to see what she does next though, definitely.”
So it’s the obvious tag the media will use when talking about the new material – but does Muscles actually think of this is a comeback too? “I think I’ve said a few times actually!” he says with a laugh. “The first EP is kind of; BANG, Muscles is back, and the new live show is completely different to the old ones. Might be playing a bit of guitar on stage and a few other gadgets… going all out!”
Toward the end of our interview, Muscles starts to tell me about his goals for the future, or rather a taster of them. “I’ve spent the last two years kind of thinking, okay – what am I going to do from now? And then in the last year I’ve been thinking – okay, what are you going to do over the next 10 years? Coming up with ideas for my second, third and fourth album. As a storyteller, how I want to unfold the songs. That’s what I want to do.”
An edited version of this interview was originally printed as the cover story for Tsunami and Forte Magazines.
There are so many musical thoughts that end up on Twitter that, if I weren’t so lazy, could probably be extended into slightly longer paragraphs on the blog. I caught myself spending too much time on Twitter again this week when I could have been blogging. NO MORE!
There are things I really want to talk about, like the new Sophie Ellis-Bextor Song of the Year “Bittersweet”, or the amazing new album from Delphic (among other things I’ve got almost ready to go), but in the meantime, there’s all of this that’s going through my head.
The new Groove Armada album “Black Light” is quite rapidly going from being a three-and-a-half-star album to a near five-star one. It seems to be the most consistent album from them to date; “Look Me In The Eye Sister” is like 60′s psychedelia meets trance, “I Won’t Kneel” featuring SaintSaviour is one of their best singles so far, and Will Young (who’s still looking mighty fine and was tops in Skins, wasn’t he?) collaboration “History” and the Fenech Sole “Paper Romance” are actually perfect, aren’t they? Top stuff, I should do a proper review of it soon actually.
The debut Cassette Kids album is also incredible and, I think, will surprise a few of their doubters. Quality from start to finish, review and A NEW interview with the guys coming soon. Also, the new Rogue Traders single “Would You Raise Your Hands?” goes to radio tomorrow morning from 7AM – you’ll finally all get to hear what I’ve been banging on about for so long. It’s tops, can’t wait for everyone else to be in love with it too.
Telephone tomorrow. OMG…
The new MGMT single song abortion is so all over the place that I barely got through the whole thing. 4 minutes and 16 seconds should not feel like a really disjointed 40 minute megamix gone horribly wrong. It’s like they had 10 really good (unfinished) ideas for some great songs, and just put it all together in one. Disappointing. Make your own judgements on it though, it’s available – legally – for free over here.
The same goes for the brand new Princess Superstar single, “Ground Control.” I have a really big gripe with people whispering; it’s not a pretty sound but can be carried off quite well in very small doses in some pop songs. Every verse in this however is whispered. It grates so much that you’re just waiting eagerly for the chorus, but then – of course – it really doesn’t feel like it was worth the wait al all. And the wait has been five years for new material from this lady. It’s really upsetting because I have loved EVERYTHING she’s done in the past and not just the highly underrated “My Machine” LP from 2005. She’s an incredible entertainer live and has the smarts to pen a perfect song. Unfortunately, this is far from perfect, but I’m hoping there’s a lot more to her upcoming album “The Next Evolution” than this insinuates. Also being offered as a free download on her MySpace, if you’re interested. Immediately after you hear it for yourself, listen to this, or this, and tell me that I’m not disappointed for a reason. She doesn’t need to make an electro-fused record for me to be happy, it just needs to be good.
The new Sugababes album, “Shit 7″… I don’t think I need to say any more actually.
Blog-commenter J responded to my Ke$ha/3OH!NO remark on last weeks eTunes post by offering a link to a Ke$ha-only, 3OH-FREE version of “Blah Blah Blah.” Thank GOD. Find it here… Thanks J!
There’s a lot going on at the moment in regards to the closure of BBC’s 6 Music radio station, and whilst I’m not going to even attempt to talk about (Popjustice have done a pretty good job of that, here, here and here), it reminded me a little of the near-10-year battle Hitz FM suffered through when it was running for a full time license in Melbourne between the years of 1992 and 2001. You can read more about the station (which was never granted that full time broadcasting license) here, it pretty much cemented my passion for dance music and radio during my ‘formative years’ and the uproar being caused RE: the 6 Music closure has just brought all of those incredible, but now somewhat upsetting, memories back.
Cheryl Tweedy chose her words incorrectly during an International TV appearance and scared the shit out of hundreds of millions of their fans. It’s all been cleared up now (Cheryl’s NOT leaving Girls Aloud, nor has she left), but I really feel like we’ve gotten to a point where I almost couldn’t care less about any more Cheryl material OR Nadine’s new album because it’s all just getting in the way of having my 2010 Album of the Year picked out for me in the form of a Girls Aloud release. Bitches I am OVER this shit.
It’s been 10 years since The Avalanches released their debut album “Since I Left You”. Preposterous. Get on with it boys, who do you think you are, Kate Bush? If only it had been a 10 year wait in between Wolfmother albums… Aah yes, what a simpler world it would be.
Oh look; it’s a Bang Gang Deejays Megamix of sorts. Tracklisting.
Here are some nice new pictures of Van She.
Whoever photoshopped the last one forgot to put the eyes back in. WHAT WERE THEY THINKING.
Meanwhile, here is a picture of Nicole Scherzinger as The Worlds Greatest Monster™, Diana Ross.
As you were.
On Saturday night I spoke with Van She and Van She Tech‘s Michael Di Francesco on the old telephone line, and below are the transcribed results from that discussion. There’s a lot of juicy stuff revealed during our chat, including a scoop (!!!) on the UK release of the album; there’s something different being added, a tentative release time-frame for album number 2 (which they’re currently working on), but also, a lot of uncovered stuff regarding the bands remix project, Van She Tech. Are the remixes labeled Van She Remix and not Van She Tech Remix labelled incorrectly? Is it true Van She Tech were going to change their name to Arithmatix!? Are there actually 2 girls involved in the Van She Tech project or not? Were the boys even supposed to be publicly credited for their work on Rhys‘ debut single “Hot Summer”? Are they possibly heading out on tour with a certain cat-and-dog-loving (hem hem) Ladyhawke?
All is revealed below.
If you end up reporting any of this on your website/blog/whatever, please credit back to this interview. Cheers, and hope you enjoy.
Hey man, how are you today?
Today I’m good. I’ve spent all day in the QANTAS lounge in Adelaide [airport] this morning, then to Sydney for a couple of hours, and now we’re in Canberra.
Yeah, we played a Nova showcase last night in Adelaide and tonight we’re DJing in Canberra.
Always busy, you boys. So, I’m going to ask the question I’ve had people demand I ask you right off the top of the interview; are you guys working on new material for album number 2 yet or not?
Yes. We’ve started, it’s funny coz we’ve got a timeline happening, and a lot of this year is devoted to writing, the later half of the year recording, and hopefully release early next year.
Ah hurrah! So the good folk reading at home aren’t going to have to wait as long this time around?
Nope, no, nowhere near as long. And at the moment we’re doing a, kind of special party mix version of the [first] album. Which has the techno. We’re remixing a lot of the tracks.
Hey that’s cool.
Yeah. So you’re the first person who knows that, no one knows that yet. I’m not even sure I’m meant to tell you, but I’ve told you so (laughs), it’s a scoop! It’s for the overseas release, in conjunction with the album there’ll also be the remix album. But we’re not remixing all of the tracks.
Oh so just a few of them?
Yeah about five or six, something like that.
In regards to that first album, was it a little bit frustrating, having to push the album release date back so many times?
Um, yeah, yes and no, but once it’s out you just kind of forget about all of that. At the time it’s frustrating but these things happen for a reason, and it has to fit in with schedules.
You’ve had really positive feedback from UK radio for “Cat & The Eye” – the albums finally getting a release this year over there, yes?
That’s correct. And we’re maybe going over there later in the year to do a tour with Ladyhawke.
Yep, all in between recording and writing. Which we’re all very excited about. And last night we did this gig and we were all, oh, we need to start playing new material. I mean, we’ve been playing the same songs for so long, what a lot of people don’t realise is that, even before a lot of those songs came out and were released on the album, we were playing them. Because we only really had four songs that people knew. So we started playing the newer tracks to keep with a 45 minutes set (laughs). And we’re kind of known for finishing a set in less than that time (laughs again), we have a habit of finishing quicker than we’re supposed to for that exact reason.
This is all incredibly exciting.
Yeah absolutely, and yeah, wait, what was the question again?
(Rapturous Laughter prevents me from repeating the question)
(Rapturous Laughter) Ahh yes, the UK release. Yeah, we’re very happy about that (laughs again.)
So over the last 12 months the band were virtually living out of suitcases, moreso than usual. Show after show, flight after flight… is it easy to lose the motivation or the will to perform at any point?
Ahhh, yeah, definitely it is (laughs). It’s more the situations and, the things that are happening around you that can affect and influence your motivation. Along with tiredness. I mean, there’s nothing worse than getting up in an aeroplane, and not having breathed a breath of fresh air for however many hours, then having to go straight to a soundcheck and then go straight to dinner. I mean, it’s fun, and we’re doing what we love, but at the end of the day it’s still work, and we are serious about it. You have a duty to perform and to do your best, so even if you have had a shit day you have to pull it out.
Do you think, in our current music climate, that the touring is just as important as the CD releases?
I dare to say No. With the climate as it is you can be in multiple places at once with the Internet, but at the same time… I don’t know, there are many sides to that argument, but I really think we all don’t want to do a show unless it’s worth it.
I wanted to clear something up about the remixes you guys do… Now, if any remixes are titled as ‘Van She Remix’ rather than ‘Van She Tech Remix’, is it safe to say they’ve just been incorrectly labeled?
Yeah yeah. But, we’ve been kind of been pushing the more ‘Van She’, either or, it’s kind of up to whoever’s commissioning the works discretion. It happens all the time, we get a remix request for a Van She Remix or a Van She Tech Remix, it really makes no difference to the process. If anything it’s better, because it’s more focused on the band.
So that’s still just yourself and Nick doing the remixes?
Do you pay much attention about what’s written about you guys on the internet?
There have been a couple of times when I’ve been bored, and I’ve gone on to read stuff, but I just find myself getting… angry (laughs). I dunno, occasionally I’ll get on, and everyone has an opinion and everyone is tough. I don’t really take it too much to heart, but it is what it is.
There’s a group of people online who seem to think the Van She Tech remixes are better than the Van She originals… has that ever worried you at all?
Um… I haven’t read any of that stuff. Does that upset me?
Um… no, it just kind of reaffirms how we perceive what we are doing, and how we kind of… I think that the way the album is, it’s a knee-jerk reaction to the remixes. We kind of felt we were doing all this techno, and we felt that the band needs to be… bandy. Or Indie. It’s like… chasing the Indie dream. We’re all comfortable with electronic music and techno, and I think that the next album will incorporate more of that in what we do. Nah, it doesn’t really [upset me]. I still think the songs are good whether they have a disco beat behind it or not (laughs). I mean, if we didn’t think any of the songs weren’t good, we wouldn’t have put them on the record. Obviously some people like the techno more than they like the band, and others like the band more, or other people have no idea about the band or the techno. I think it probably can get quite confusing for people (laughs), but we enjoy doing both. But that’s another reason why we’re doing the remix package for overseas, so that people don’t get confused.
What has stood out for you as the best remix you guys have done?
It’s funny, one of my favourite ones is the Dragonette dub, I’m not even sure if it’s out, or sure if it was included on the release of that track…
It’s on the promo CD for the single…
Oh okay. Well, we sent off the original remix, and then got a message back asking if we could do a dub, without the vocals. So, anyway, in a couple of hours we just did a completely different track with a little bit of vocal in it and it ended up being so much cooler, we kinda wished we had’ve made that the remix. That’s probably my favourite one, and the other favourite is probably the Klaxons. Whenever I hear that I get goosebumps.
Well, it’s probably your benchmark classic.
Well, when we did that we didn’t like it, we weren’t sure about it and didn’t think it was very good. We were really doubting it, but it just got to the point where we had to finish it and put it in. It kind of worked out well. And I also like the I Am Finn one. What’s your favourite Adem?
Um, the I Am Finn one, Martina Topley-Bird and the Klaxons one.
Are there any that you think, shit, that could have been a lot better than it was?
Remixes? Hell yeah! All of them (laughs)! I think we’re pretty, you know, we’re always trying to get better and want to get better, you never stop learning. So, I think, there are always things… nothing’s ever finished, and if it weren’t for the deadline things probably wouldn’t get finished. And a lot of things aren’t ever finished for that exact reason. When you create something you have to get to a point where you say ‘that’s finished, that’s enough.’ You don’t just keep working on it forever and ever and ever. Or, you’ll just stop on it all together because you just lose respect for it. You become scared of completion. But, one that particularly could have been better? There is one, that wasn’t that great. The Pendulum one. I actually don’t think I even have a copy of it on my computer… but yeah, it’s pretty deep, kind of cool, but then at the end it just goes… (laughs). We could’ve done that a bit better.
And still on Van She Tech, quite some time ago I remember reading there were two females involved in the project; gospel or gossip?
Total gossip, yep. When we were doing the Nevereverland shows in Australia, the guys from, ah shit, complete mental blank! I can’t even remember the name of the band (guffaws)! They’re from Germany…
Whitest Boy Alive?
It was! Yes, thank you! Well, they were under the impression that Van She Tech were Van She’s technicians, like, our equipment people, that did remixes for the band (laughs).
Yeah, I don’t know how they got that idea (laughs). But there have been times when we’ve been DJing and people will come up to us saying ‘I thought there was supposed to be two girls’. It’s just a joke, (laughs) just to throw people off. And it works!
Like the incredibly false story about how you guys met during an audition for a rock group citing Sepultura and Phil Collins as influences?
(Laughs) Yeah, yeah same kind of thing!
Something that popped up last year was your DJing alter-ego Arithmatix! Several comments written on different music blogs had reported that Van She Tech were going to switch over to the Arithmatix! name; Gospel or Gossip?
Ah, yes yes yes, it’s funny, that name was actually conceived by my girlfriend, and we were going to change the name from Van She Tech to Arithmatix! The Utah Saints remix was actually going to be Van She Tech featuring Arithmatix! to introduce it. But at the last minute we decided that maybe we shouldn’t. And so, I just took the name because, well, my girlfriend (laughs), and I needed a name to DJ and do other projects under so, just another alias. But yeah, we were going to switch it over.
Do you think there’ll be any releases or remixes under the Arithmatix! banner somewhere down the line?
Oh yeah definitely, yep. Finding time is the hard thing.
Well you’ve got lots on!
Speaking of remixes, what happened to the Kelly re-release?
Um, that’s a really good question. I don’t know (laughs). I don’t really think it did what they were hoping it would do. When I say they, I mean the record company and our management at the time.
Yourself and Nicky have just done some work with So You Think You Can Dance’s Rhys on his cover of the Monrose track “Hot Summer.” How was that?
Um, interesting. Interesting. It’s one of those classic scenarios where someone asks you for something, you agree to something… (long pause). No one was supposed to know it was us, it was supposed to be under a different name and we were production work for hire. Of course, they put Van She Tech next to it…
In big bold letters, splattered all over the press release!
Yep! To try and drum up some interest and, unfortunately, it didn’t work.
(Laughs) But I don’t know what’s happening with that. We’re supposed to be doing another one, we’ve given them the instrumental track but haven’t heard anything. That’s just the extra curricular work. He’s a lovely guy though, and he’s a fantastic dancer and a great singer so, but we haven’t heard from them in a couple of weeks. Thank you for reminding me, I need to call them…
(Laughter) No worries!
(Laughs) But it was cool to do some pop and to do some American sounding stuff. We really enjoyed the process and really enjoyed working with Rhys, definitely.
What do you think of the original Monrose track?
Yeah, I like it. It’s not something that I’d buy, but it is a good track.
Are you guys interested in producing for other artists in the future?
Oh yeah, if it’s the right artist and the conditions are good and if there’s time. I mean it’s fun, it’s good to work with other people.
So what’s left to do in 2009?
Well we’ve gotta do these party mixes, which have to be handed in in less than 2 weeks time, which we’re freaking over because, with me living in Melbourne and Nick living in Sydney, it makes getting together a whole lot difficult. Then we’re just going to get stuck into writing and recording demos. The odd show here and there, we’ve got Bacardi Train coming and Roxanne’s in Melbourne. We’re going to Japan in a couple of weeks, just for three or four days. But yeah, it’s going to be fantastic to be home for the majority of the year.
Good, I’m very happy you’ll be home more too.
Yeah, coz last year, like you said, living out of suitcases… (laughs).
Thanks heaps mate for chatting with me today, much appreciated.
Ah no worries Adem. Thanks dude.
Catch you later…
Van She Tech DJ at Geelong’s Club 4Play on Thursday, March 5, with doors opening at 9:30pm. Van She the band take to the stage at Melbourne’s Roxanne Parlour, Friday March 20, with doors opening at 8:00pm. For further details on Van She’s touring schedule across Australia and Japan over the next month, head over to their MySpazz.
I am genuinely surprised, but joyfully so, that The Presets are releasing the epic “If I Know You” as their next single. Bold choice, and one I’m so pleased about because, over time, it’s become my favourite track of theirs.
As someone who spent a couple of months wanting to do nothing but run over the 2008/2009 turnover, I really get this video. My favourite Presets moment to date.
If I Know You is released through Modular in March.