INTERVIEW: How The Inaugural Indie-Con Conference Aims To Fill A Void

Published on theMusic.com.au, Jul 2017

Australia’s newest music conference, Indie-Con, is looking to reshape the country’s independent music scene, as programmer Stuart Watters tells Daniel Cribb.

“We can bring something that is unique to the music industry that’s not trying to compete with any of the pre-existing events, and that’s certainly been first and foremost in our minds,” tells Indie-Con conference programmer Stuart Watters as the inaugural two-day July event fast approaches.

“We are not a BIGSOUND and nor do we want to be. We are not a Face The Music and nor do we want to be… we want to complement each and every one of those events by having a dedicated space for the independent label system that can feed into whatever those events are doing.”

Curated by Australian Independent Record Labels Association (AIR) – of which Watters was CEO for five years – the new music industry conference accompanies their highly anticipated annual awards ceremony, this year making its Adelaide debut. Indie-Con was first established in the UK by AIR’s sister association, AIM, in an effort to address the needs of independent labels and artists. “We think that’s a fantastic event in its own right, and it just made sense that we would develop something locally here in the Australian market,” he says.

It’s somewhat filling the void of Adelaide-based music conference and festival Fuse, which dropped off the map a few years ago. During its prime, Fuse was “a real focal point” that saw a wealth of people fly in from around the country annually. And so, for the next three years, while the AIR Awards are in SA, Watters is hoping they’ll see a similar trend, all with the goal of “trying to establish an event that can hold its own long term”.

“Making sure there’s a long-term viability around it is absolutely paramount,” Watters reiterates. “So getting the content right, making it speak to the people who are going and making it relevant to those people is important.

“From the CEO of the largest independent in the country to the independent artists that walk in the door, they’ve all got to walk away with something that’s useful, meaningful and [that] they can apply to their business.”

There’ll be a number of panels throughout the conference that do just that, including speakers such as Portia Sabin (Kill Rock Stars/The Future Of What), Jen Cloher, Briggs, Sebastian Chase (MGM) and more. “There are a couple of key topics that need to be [discussed] by the independent label sector. One of those is what’s happening with safe harbour; it’s a big issue among the recording sector.

“Is block chain important? What is block chain? I would say a lot of labels – and I would argue a lot of the music industry – have a very rudimentary understanding of what block chain is.

“On the artist side, I’m very interested in trying to empower artists to understand how they can harness and utilise data to give them the insight to make informed choices about where they invest.”

Watters describes the DIY approach many artists and labels now take on as an apprenticeship, with valuable lessons learned along the way, but a major focus of Indie-Con is relaying how important collaborating is. “Maybe it should be DIO – Do It Ourselves; do it together. I love the old adage that I heard from a good friend in the industry who said, ‘You want to be nice to everyone on your way up because you want them to catch you when you’re on your way down again’.”

http://themusic.com.au/interviews/all/2017/07/18/indie-con-stuart-watters-daniel-cribb/

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theMusic.com.au: Don’t Panic – Trump’s US Visa Chaos Won’t Affect Aussie Artists

Published on theMusic.com.au, Feb 2017

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A lot of Australians didn’t really think Trump’s US presidency would have much of an impact on them, until a few days ago, when the news exploded around a number of changes to the country’s visa system, including the ban of citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries.

For local bands that want to or already have booked tours, the uncertainty surrounding the situation has created quite a mindfuck and has been aggravated further after today’s revelations about Trump’s aggressive phone call with Turnbull earlier this week.

Speaking with The Music, Brooklyn-based US immigration policy and procedure experts Tamizdat – who frequently deal with Australian artist applications – said “theoretically nothing” will change in the process.

“The Executive Order only impacts people from the seven banned countries,” attorney Matthew Covey said.

Covey also said US Customs and Border Protection has indicated Australian artists with dual-citizenship in one of the banned countries also don’t need to be concerned at this stage.

“It appears that they will not be affected by the ban, provided they are entering with their AU passport,” he said.

“This is the word from CBP, but it’s not official yet.”

The US Customs and Border Protection has updated their website since Trump signed the Executive Order with some FAQs, including one question that reads:

“Does this Executive Order apply to dual nationals of the seven countries who want to enter the US? If they apply for entry based on their citizenship from one of the countries NOT on the list, will they be allowed entry?”

To which UCBP answered: “Yes, but travellers are being treated according to the travel document they present.  For example, if they present a Canadian passport, that is how they are processed for entry.”

Fellow New York-based organisation RAZCo Visas has been providing visa and immigration assistance to musicians for over 40 years, with owner Ron Zeelens also telling The Music Australian artists need not worry.

“There have been no changes for artists applying for either an O or P visa and I do not foresee there being any issue for an Australian artist under the Trump administration. The basic costs are the same,” Zeelens said.

However, California Immigration Consultant and Global Access president Brande Lindsey told The Music in recent years the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services have “implemented a sticker interpretation of the government regulations”, meaning the application process has become harder in general.

“The artist and their reps need to market the artist to show there is a demand for their employment services in the United States,” Lindsey explained, saying the new changes could result in further delays.

“The Consular processing times and the actual interview process could be expected to take longer and include more stringent background clearance screenings which can ultimately could cause significant delays inevitably postponing dates…allow a 3 – 6 month window to include petition preparation, USCIS adjudication and US Consular visa processing.”

http://themusic.com.au/news/all/2017/02/02/dont-panic-trump%E2%80%99s-us-visa-chaos-won%E2%80%99t-affect-aussie-artists/

theMusic.com.au: Perth’s Giant Fire-Breathing Spider Is The Best Thing You’ll See All Day

Published on theMusic.com.au, Nov 2016

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A 50-tonne fire-breathing spider has appeared on the foreshore of Perth for Arcadia Australia, and while images of the machine’s past endeavours are enough to make your jaw drop, they really only scratch the surface of what the festival has to offer.

The three-day Australian exclusive kicks on Friday at Elizabeth Quay after community days this week. Here’s everything you need to know.

the spider

The beast itself it made of recycled military machinery and industrial components; its eyes coming from spy planes while its legs are partially constructed from helicopter tails. It’s 15 metres tall with flames that reach a similar height; amid the heat will be DJs in the body and acrobats flailing around the legs.

During a mid-week rehearsal, The Landing Show sees the spider from another planet awake in a flurry of lights and analyse its surroundings before unleashing dancers that mimic the actions of spiders – two of them being spun into a web cocoon while suspended well off the ground; perhaps not the best job for someone with arachnophobia. The suspense surrounding the spider’s gradual awakening will no doubt be next level when artists like Leftfield and Alison Wonderland are at the helm.

In the vicinity of the game-changing, suspended DJ booth (artists will actually be inside the spider), are posts spitting more flames into the air, and while the spider isn’t ready to unleash hell during the rehearsals, the bursts of warmth from those alone are enough to get the adrenalin pumping. Here’s a shot from past shows to illustrate how insane things will be when the festival kicks off on Friday. Pic via Arcadia Australia:

the shows

As well as The Landing Show, each night will feature The Lords Of Lightning and traditionally performance Yallorr Keeninyarra. As the sun sets over the river, the dance of the Dance of the Wadjuk Nyungar/People begins; a powerful performance connecting the Arcadia spider and the sacred Wadjuk spider of Garrgatup (meaning Kings Park, which is in view across the river as its unfolding). It’s an important and engaging piece that hasn’t been performed to the public in its traditional form since 1901 and sees the claws of the spider waving an Aboriginal flag.

Perched just behind the spider are two raised platforms that frame the scene for The Lords Of Lightning, a stand-out performance piece that’s almost worth the ticket price alone. You can feel the static and change in the air as the two dances wield four million volts of electricity… through their bodies. It’s amazing, and terrifying as they cycle channel modern dance, martial arts and freestyle performance.

the artists

With all this going on, it’s easy to forget this is actually a music festival. Across Friday, Saturday and Sunday the likes of Leftfield (DJ Set), Alison Wonderland, Shy Fx, Carmada, Elk Road and more will climb into the belly of the beast. Check out the full line-up here.

the view

Everything else mentioned here makes for an amazing festival, but when you add in the aforementioned Perth river/Elizabeth Quay and the city skyline as backdrops, you’ve got one of the most visceral experiences to visit the state.

Grab tickets now via the Arcadia Australia website. Jumping the fence isn’t an option – unless you want to have a really bad time.

http://themusic.com.au/news/all/2016/11/24/arcadia-rehearsal-daniel-cribb/

INTERVIEW: Peter Gould (Better Call Saul)

Published in The Music (VIC, NSW) and on theMusic.com.au, Sept 2016

Better Call Saul was a terrifying leap for co-creator Peter Gould, who tells Daniel Cribb the show’s trajectory can still be overwhelming despite its acclaim.

The Breaking Bad finale truly cemented the series as one of the all-time greatest TV dramas, which is why following it up with an unexpected prequel headed by a comedy legend was a major risk for showrunners Peter Gould and Vince Gilligan. “We approached the beginning of this show with a lot of concern, fear and trepidation; a lot of sleepless nights,” Gould begins from Burbank, taking a break from outlining season three. “One of the questions that certainly occupies me is ‘will we be able to stick the landing the way we did on Breaking Bad?'”

Two seasons in and it’s certainly heading in that direction; leaving fans with a cliff-hanger that teases the introduction of more Breaking Bad characters next season (Gould wouldn’t reveal any information), but despite this, Better Call Saul has established its own voice over its 20 episodes to date and, at times, the viewer will forget they’re enthralled in a prequel. “We were aware that there are similarities and there are differences, and we tried very hard to define the differences from the beginning. We tried especially in the first season not to introduce too many characters we’d seen before in Breaking Bad,” Gould tells. “The first indication that the show was going to work was I started to get questions about characters who originated on Better Call Saul… I get just as many questions about Mr and Mrs Kettleman as I do, ‘When is Aaron Paul going appear? Is Jesse Pinkman going to show up suddenly?’ And that’s a wonderful thing.”

Although Bryan Cranston will return to the Breaking Bad universe next year to direct an episode of season three, it’s still unknown as to whether Walter White will resurface in front of the camera, and depending on how the story goes, White and Pinkman might not turn up at all. “Sometimes you can get dizzy by thinking too big,” he says of those cameos. “The truth is, we’re not going to bring any character into Better Call Saul – no matter how much we love them – unless it serves the story, and we’re trying to be as disciplined as we can be. Having said that, there’s been a lot of surprises for the audience and a lot of surprises for us.”

Part of the story’s diverse nature comes from placing comedy legend Bob Odenkirk at the helm, creating an interesting blend of drama and comedy that ebbs and flows to perfection. “Bob is our secret weapon,” Gould says. “We know that if we have a comedic scene that Bob is going to take it and run with it and bring an energy to it that I don’t think anyone else could.”

It seems the storyline to date has surprised the writers just as much as the viewers, with Gould admitting the show is taking a different path to how they initially intended. “When we started this, Vince and I both had in our heads that by the end of the first season, he’d be calling himself Saul Goodman – but the deeper we got into this, the more we fell in love with Jimmy McGill,” he admits.

“Jimmy McGill is good-hearted, he’s a fast talker, but he’s not quite the dark, criminal sleaze bag that Saul Goodman is, and because of that, the more we work on this, the more the show feels like a sort of minor-key tragedy.”

Working within the parameters set by the Saul Goodman we all know and love in Breaking Bad, there’s always a stark sadness surrounding the character of Jimmy McGill, knowing something could be lurking just around the corner, ready to crush his soul. With Odenkirk recently suggesting that season three will be about the loss of innocence, could the next chapter of the show see an introduction to Saul Goodman? “We’ll have to see – it’s a good theory,” he laughs. “Season three is a very different kettle of fish; it will kick off with a lot of momentum and it has a different feel about it.

“One of the things I love about this character is he always seems to bounce back – but the question is, can he bounce back from everything? Or is there something out there that is actually going to break him?”

Even though it’s a prequel and the introduction of Saul Goodman would be a logical place to end the series, there’s really no limit as to how long Better Call Saul could run. No matter which direction it goes, Gould and co are very aware of not overstaying their welcome. “It’s certainly something we talk about in the writers’ room all the time; the one thing we don’t want is to tread water.”

Season two of Better Call Saul is out now on DVD via Universal Sony Pictures. Stream seasons one and two via Stan.

http://themusic.com.au/interviews/all/2016/09/02/better-call-saul-peter-gould-daniel-cribb/

theMusic.com.au: End Of Fashion Frontman On How The Band Became “Sour”

Published on theMusic.com.au, Aug 2016

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End Of Fashion frontman Justin Burford might be in the middle of tracking new material for his solo project, Coco Blu, when he answers the phone, but it’s only been relatively recently that his passion for music was reignited.

“I’d just been over it for a really long time; I was kind of over music,” Burford begins from his home studio. “I only got into it again maybe 18 months ago when I got this studio and started recording again. Before that there were a good few years where I was like, ‘Ugh, it’s too hard.’”

It was a feeling that began before local legends End Of Fashion went on hiatus in 2014, with the entire band needing a breaking to explore other creative, personal and professional pursuits. “It just kind of wound down,” he recalls. “It starts to feel like it becomes sour; you put all this work into it and you might not be getting what you want out of it any more. So naturally it just kind of lost it.”

After two years on the sidelines, End Of Fashion played a last-minute hometown show back in February, which lead to a 10-year anniversary tour in support of their smashing indie-pop gem of a self-titled debut album. “I guess like anything else, your tastes change and hopefully mature, and progress in a way. I can look back on a lot of those songs and there’s moments where I’m just kind of like, ‘Jeez, that’s awesome,’ I couldn’t think of that now. And there’s other parts of songs where I’m like, ‘Oh God – what was I thinking.’ Usually the lyrics. Something this intense stirs up good and bad memories,” he laughs.

One of the more negative memories comes from comments the singer made in reference to triple j back in 2014, stating on his personal Facebook that the station was largely responsible for the band’s demise. “For me, it was sort of a mountain out of a molehill – just a Facebook rant,” he explains.

“It sucks being tarnished with that. I remember at the time thinking, ‘Jesus, we didn’t get any kind of attention for any of the music we’ve put out on the last two records, that sucks.’ I couldn’t believe that anybody would put that much stock in it or anything I had to say. It’s not pleasant.”

“I’m definitely not anti-triple j, in fact I’m the opposite. I wish there were more triple js. I think that the problem is that there is literally just one triple j. That’s a very limiting access point for a lot of bands. I guess over the years I’ve seen different industries and how they operate and the Australian creative landscape is pretty abysmal across the board.”

His comments on the Australian scene at large are reflective of the singer’s own admission of jumping the gun and speaking in absolutes, which is where the triple j issues arose, and why he told many that End Of Fashion would never return to the stage again. “I should watch what I say,” he tells. “I’m sitting here saying, ‘I don’t think [End Of Fashion] will be another creative thing.’

“Given the choice of pursuing End Of Fashion and pursuing something new, the answer is of course, pursuing something new. But if there was a way of kind of balancing the two so that they both sort of had their value, then sure.”

But for now, it’s Coco Blu that’s consuming his creative output, with something hopefully released in the next six months. “We mixed the tape about a week ago. So it’s kind of at the point now where it’s like, ‘I’ve got this thing, what am I gonna do with this thing?’ I’ve actually been showing people, which is exciting and terrifying.”

End Of Fashion hit the road in September; check out theGuide for all tour dates and ticketing info.

http://themusic.com.au/news/all/2016/08/16/end-of-fashion-frontman-on-how-the-band-became-sour/

theMusic.com.au: EXCLUSIVE: Here’s What Macklemore Was Working On In A Perth Studio

Published on theMusic.com.au, Aug 2016

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Macklemore @ Perth Arena. Pic by Tashi Hall

With such chaotic schedules, touring musicians often piece together new tunes while on the road, which is why Seattle hip-hop maestro Macklemore spent seven hours in a Perth recording studio over the weekend.

Performing at Perth Arena on Friday night with Ryan Lewis, Macklemore setup at Northbridge studio Crank Recording the following day with his entourage and local engineer Charlie Young to put the final touches on a new, untitled single.

“It was a mostly finished song, and he put the final 20% into it, so by the end of the night it was ready to go,” Young toldtheMusic.com.au.

“It was in the same vein as his latest album, and it was awesome; I think it’s going to take off.”

The studio often attracts A-list musos, with The Game, Justin Beiber and more laying down tracks there in recent years, and while a lot of those bigger name also have inflated egos to match, Young says Macklemore was “completely cool; no ego issues or anything.”

During the session they tracked piano and vocals, including parts from Eric Nally, who features on Downtown.

“I go to do a little bit of piano, which was awesome,” Young reveals. “I was blown away that he trusted me with that.”

“He brought his piano player along, but they were all catching a flight, so once they thought they got everything, the band took off and Macklemore was just sitting here with me, going over it one final time, and discovered that a couple of chords didn’t work.”

http://themusic.com.au/news/all/2016/08/16/exclusive-heres-what-macklemore-was-working-on-in-a-perth-studio/

theMusic.com.au: Here’s Why You Need To Support RTRFM This Radiothon

Published on theMusic.com.au, Aug 2016

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As you cruise to and from work, week in, week out, your favourite radio station and its team become like a second family; and if your love for local music has led you to RTRFM, that sense of community is at the forefront of everything they do.

But those seamless playlists that act as a pick-me-up before your first coffee of the day and provide an eclectic soundtrack to your week take a lot of hard work to piece together – even though presenters like Rhian Todhunter (Rockin’ The Roots, Homegrown) make it seem like a piece of cake.

“As a presenter, you’ll spend hours preparing for a show, finding the perfect tracks and putting together a cohesive, meticulously-curated two or three or four hour music program,” Todhunter says, in the lead up to their annual Radiothon.

The 10-day fundraising drive – which kicks off Aug 12 – is imperative to the local music hub’s survival, with revenue raised during the period accounting for up to 30% of their annual operating income. “Radiothon quite literally is what keeps the lights on, keeps the rent paid and allows us to create radio for you,” fellow presenter and Radiothon veteran Sarah Tout adds. “At the same time, Radiothon is this special yearly celebration and reflection on what we’ve been sharing with, and creating for, the community.”

During the event, RTRFM uses that reflection to reciprocate the love through their epicRadiothon Party, happening Aug 13 across The Bird, Ezra Pound, State Theatre Centre Underground Foyer and Studio Underground, with sets from Gunns, Hyla, Mt. Mountain, and Todhunter’s band, Childsaint. “Every band I’ve ever played in has had their first airplay, interview or feature on RTRFM,” Todhunter says. “Community radio is about the only place you’re going to get exposure.

“And because RTRFM presenters only play what they want, you know that they’re picking your track because they dig it, and they want to share it with the world.”

With several staff shake-ups over the past 12 months, no one understands the importance of community radio for emerging acts more than the station’s new general manager, Eskimo Joe’s Stu MacLeod. “Hearing my band on RTRFM for the first time gave me that first moment of realisation that I could actually play music for a living,” he says. “The support and exposure RTRFM provides for WA bands is huge… as a band starting out in the industry, without stations like RTRFM, there really is no other avenue to get yourself out there, apart from the internet and word of mouth.”

Signing on to oversee operations at the station last year, MacLeod’s appreciation for RTR is constantly growing. “I didn’t realise just how enriching and vital this community is. This station celebrates its 40th anniversary next year. 40 years of people broadcasting on their own time, just because they feel so passionately about music, art, social, cultural and environmental justice.

“It’s staggering just how important this organisation is and how much they can give to the listener…I was always aware of the importance of RTRFM to local music, but everything else has been an incredibly rewarding discovery.”

A more recent addition to their team sees long-time member and presenter Will Backler take on the highly sought after role of music coordinator last month. “I hope to bring my obsession with listening to, collecting and cataloguing music of all genres,” Backler says on the new role. “I hope that these skills will ensure the station continues to play the finest in alternative music, ranging from Ambient to Zydeco.”

With a passionate team and loyal fanbase gearing up for the main event, there are other issues the station is also trying to combat, mainly a $1.4 million cut to digital broadcasting in the Federal Budget. “It is the only funding the sector receives, with all station costs being covered through donations, subscriptions, events and sponsorship, and it really is a drop in the vast ocean of the Federal Budget that goes so far to help so many communities,” Backler says. “I believe there is a crucial risk to how you will experience your life if certain aspects of it, that you engage with everyday, are allowed to slip away because there is not the community support or the government agenda to protect them,” Tout adds.

“When government cuts spending on arts, music and community media generally, they are removing a community’s connection to something really important. We cannot take art and music for granted, they are the soundtrack to, and constant peripheral presence in, every part of your experience. Music, art and journalism show society, show you, back to yourself.”

Having spoken out on the issue earlier this year, Macleod is also passionate on the subject, because, as he explains, you can’t really get the same experience that community radio delivers anywhere else. “Community radio is presented by volunteers. No one is paid for their time, the station runs on the passion of its presenters and the wealth of knowledge they bring into the studio each day,” he tells. “There’s literally something for everyone on this station. That’s a value you just can’t quantify, and it’s infinitely more satisfying and engaging than radio based on commercial interest and algorithmic playlisting.”

Head over to the RTRFM website to subscribe and grab tickets to this weekend’s epic Radiothon party.

http://themusic.com.au/news/all/2016/08/11/rtrfm-radiothon-2016-daniel-cribb/