INTERVIEW: BIGSOUND 2018 Might Make You Question Your Place In The Music Industry

Published in The Music (NSW & VIC) on, Aug 2018

Attending BIGSOUND 2018 might change the way you not only view the music industry but your place within it, as QMusic CEO Joel Edmondson and Executive Programmer Maggie Collins tell Daniel Cribb.

It’s not a stretch to call Brisbane-based music conference BIGSOUND more of a community than an event. Now in its 17th year, it’s become the go-to on Australia’s music calendar, largely due to the fact that organisers are on point with both the conference and live music programming.

In 2018, the conference welcomes more changes that will see it push the boundaries and stay ahead of the game.

Instead of analysing the symptoms of certain issues within the industry, BIGSOUND will increasingly address the causes, with a focus placed on cultural issues, gender diversity, mental health discussions and more.

“Philosophical-based discussions is something that I’m more personally interested in,” Executive Programmer Maggie Collins tells. “That and professional development workshops and ways of working smarter and increasing the personal and work health of everyone in our industry. That’s the kind of stuff I think that separates BIGSOUND apart from other discussion events.”

As QMusic CEO Joel Edmondson says, there are sometimes people in the audience with more expertise than those on the stage, which is why they feel it’s important to open up the discussion more. “We’re trying to evolve the conference into something that’s much more about the sharing of skills and reminding everyone that the expertise is within the group,” he tells.

“If people buy a pass to [BIGSOUND], we want them to leave feeling like their skills and mindset have been enhanced in some way by coming to the event.”

To help facilitate that, BIGSOUND have four different forums as the “centrepiece” of this year’s program that they’ve labelled “must-attend” events. One of the forums will blow apart the myths and rules of the industry and look at new and innovative ways certain individuals are working, while others focus on Indigenous cultural terms of reference, the psychology of change and trying to get people to look outwards.

In looking at the big picture, BIGSOUND is focusing on longterm goals for a vibrant industry, moving further away from the basics of how to get a label or agent – although that information will still be on offer via workshops. “It’s almost like internal reflection; a lot of those questions in the past have been about ‘how’, and now we’re moving more towards ‘why’,” Collins explains. “‘Why do you want to be in the industry?’ ‘Why do you want to be doing what you’re doing?’

“Because once you get a really confident idea of who you are, what you do [in the] industry and what your identity is, then it doesn’t really matter how things happen for you, because you’re going to find a way.”

The questions posed by BIGSOUND continue to change as the industry rapidly evolves, and the scene is almost unrecognisable from the one the conference was first established in. “I first started going to BIGSOUND because there wasn’t much information readily available online to teach myself, so it was really imperative,” Collins explains.

“Now its role within our industry – considering there’s so much out there to consume anyway – is really to be a place where we share ideas and make connections with each other and try and inspire each other to do better.”

One of the aforementioned forums will touch on how many within the industry use the internet to try and initiate change, sometimes in an unproductive way. “It concerns me at the moment that a lot of that change plays out in a fairly combative way on social media,” Edmondson says. “I think we’re all often inclined to just become outraged about things and think that’s actually going to change something but it’s a lot more complicated than that.”

With so much noise on the internet, it’s refreshing to have one time of year when the industry comes together and interacts face to face. It’s also surprising how much of an impact word of mouth has on the ground, with certain bands developing a cult-like industry following if one of their first showcases goes well.

Every year, without fail, BIGSOUND produces a music line-up with a handful of buzz bands on the cusp of great things, and a lot of them end up signing deals, travelling the world and more from their showcases. In recent years, Stella Donnelly, Middle Kids, Flume and more all left lasting impressions and went on to epic things.

“Sometimes there’s just magic that happens,” Collins laughs. “It sounds kind of corny but you can’t really describe it any other way.

“Perhaps there’s no other platform other than BIGSOUND for word of mouth to spread so quickly.

“It’s Fortitude Valley, it’s a physical place and maybe it’s the last remnants of an old time that can still exist, whereby people are physically seeing each other, talking to each other in person and talking about what acts they love, rather than everything being online. BIGSOUND is that physical space where the old school word of mouth can still get around.”

Those types of interactions are how BIGSOUND plans on separating itself from others. “With the saturation of music industry conferences in Australia now, we’re wanting to position this opportunity for people as an experience they can share with others,” Edmondson explains.

“It’s really about trying to find the things we all need to learn about together, rather than breaking us up into groups. That’s important in the culture that we’re in, because we’re kind of in a climate where everyone is increasingly breaking themselves into tribes and BIGSOUND is about bringing people together.”



Published on, Jan 2017

Ben Folds Shares What We Can All Learn From ‘Trapped In The Closet’ By R Kelly

Classical music can learn a lot from R Kelly’s Trapped In The Closet, an affable Ben Folds tells Daniel Cribb.

Most fans of pop and rock would admit to rarely listening to classical music, let alone going out to experience it live – except for the rare occasion when a band enlists an orchestra to perform alongside them, which, as Ben Folds comments, is “not that good most the time”.

Few acts that embark on such an endeavour have enough time to workshop the dynamic in a way that truly complements the insane talents of the classically trained musicians backing them.

Flashback to 2016 when Folds last visited Australia with acclaimed New York ensemble yMusic and we put forward that there were times when audience members almost forgot the headline act was even there. “I totally understood that and that’s kind of what I wanted, so you’re on it,” Folds tells.

His latest album, So There, was a collaborative effort with yMusic, and while he was preparing for certain sectors of the classical community to turn their nose up at the idea of a pop musician releasing such a record (he’s been performing with orchestras for years), it was met with wide acclaim all ’round, even going to #1 on the US Classical Music chart. “There was a formula that proved, after the fact, to be very effective, which is sort of specific to that album,” he says.

“If you listen to the record, it’s mostly a pop record and it’s in the voice of a guy who’s been selling records in the pop world. Now, selling shit in the pop world is still topping the charts in the classical so, when they called it classical and my crowd bought it – then suddenly I’ve got the number one Billboard Classical record for a long time, but it’s not really an indication of my going in and taking over the classical world.”

Although Folds is now firmly planted in that world – currently National Symphony Orchestra’s artistic adviser – he’s not looking to repeat the So There formula again. “I definitely lose a lot of opportunities by jumping off something when it starts to work,” he admits, a statement that is backed by his eclectic back catalogue and countless projects. For Folds, it’s more about doing what enjoys as opposed to cashing in. “It’s like, ‘Okay, the iron’s hot – time to strike.’ And I go, ‘Oh, I think I’ll do something else’.”

Frequently jumping between genres over the past few years, he’s noticed correlations and interesting (and bizarre) influences between pop, folk and classical music. “R&B and hip hop have encouraged us to look at the beat differently, and what plays the beat, and I think that actually opens up a lot of opportunities for classical music,” he says.

“Remember that ridiculous Trapped In The Closet by R Kelly? It’s good shit, right? It’s 45 minutes of the same song and he’s telling this crazy-ass story, but it’s actually kind of brilliant. The beat is a water faucet drip – that’s all it is.

“It’s not a drum, it’s not anything that we’re used to – this kind of reimagining of groove textures is really exciting because they can be done by all kinds of crazy shit in the orchestra and the rock bands are stuck with their drums.”

Folds’ Paper Aeroplane Request tour hits Australia in February, with the US muso going back to his roots and performing in solo mode. The show will see punters writing song requests on pieces of paper, turning them into paper planes and then hurling them onto the stage, which should make for an extremely memorable evening given his comedic wit and improv skills.

With touring duties and his artistic-adviser role, Folds has had little time to think about his next studio album, but he’s still found time to add credits to his IMDb page, proving even further he has worthy comedic value by playing himself on US comedy You’re The Worst at the end of last year. “I really enjoyed it,” he laughs. “I have so much fun with that stuff.”

INTERVIEW: Gyroscope

Published on, Jan 2017

Why Gyroscope Chose Self-preservation Over Releasing Another Album

If Gyroscope didn’t take a break, they might have imploded, as frontman Dan Sanders tells Daniel Cribb.

“We took the tool belt off for a while and were living life for what it was; gaining different knowledge and experiences,” begins Gyroscope frontman Dan Sanders on the band’s time away from the spotlight.

Besides the occasional hometown gig, it has been pretty quiet in camp Gyroscope since the touring cycle of their acclaimed fourth LP, 2010’s Cohesion, died down, but they have in no way lost their spark, channelling their renowned live energy into two blistering new songs for double A-side release Crooked Thought/DABS.

It’s the first new music we’ve been gifted in seven years, and by all accounts, it has been worth the wait, with the release showcasing a revitalised act.

It took that time away from the band – focusing on family and individual projects and careers – to figure out how to juggle everything and put Gyroscope in perspective. “We’ve always said from the start that it was family first, but we’ve realised you can do this and do that and still make it work and enjoy it and write some cool tunes along the way,” he explains.

Given their relentless release and touring schedule from conception until Cohesion, it’s easy to see how they might have imploded had they not taken a step back. “When you start to get in a cycle where you write, you record, you tour, you write, you record, you tour, the monotony gets in the way of some sort of real life, because you become a machine where you don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel – you get stuck in that and it starts to get you down.”

The band was touring so frequently that they had to designate certain times to write, almost like clocking into a day job, which, as Sanders says, doesn’t always work.

The two new songs aren’t as polished as previous hits – a Spotify shuffle from Baby, I’m Getting Better to Crooked Thought might have one thinking they’re listening to two different bands – but that raw, gritty nature is what makes them so charming, and is the result of a more “organic” method of songwriting. It’s how one of their biggest hits and best live songs to date came to fruition.

“It’s us, four dudes, getting into a room and jamming like we did with Doctor Doctor,” he tells. “45 minutes later you’re out for a smoko and you’ve done it; you’ve got this belter of an idea. [Doctor Doctor] literally started with me busting out a riff, Zok [Trivic] starts on the guitar, Brad [Campbell] comes in on the bass and Rob [Nassif] on the drums and we all just joined in and jammed and that was far and few between back in the day because we were just so under the pump.

“We know now this organised side is where we create our best music.”

That’s how the new double A-side was born – the band getting into a room together and throwing ideas around to see what stuck. And it seems a lot did, with Sanders revealing they picked the two singles from 30 demos. “There’s songs in the back pocket that we will use,” he tells.

Whether or not a selection of those appear on another A-side or a new album — Sanders is unsure — but it’s clear they’ve figured out the key to longevity and will keep chugging along after their upcoming Australian tour. “We’re a bit bull-headed and being in Perth we’re away from all the hoo-ha, so I think if we can just keep doing what we do and including family as inspiration, it’s a pretty powerful force and we’re digging it.

“Gyroscope’s got a new sense of purpose… It’s exciting, man; we’re getting back to basics.”

INTERVIEW: Tonight Alive

Published on, Jan 2017

Fighting Demons With Music

Tonight Alive vocalist Jenna McDougall tells Daniel Cribb the path to Underworld was a “scary” experience.

Embracing the calm before the inevitable album release storm, Tonight Alive vocalist Jenna McDougall has been spending some time in Melbourne following the band’s recent run of Australian shows. “I’ve just been trying to get into a good headspace before the end of the year,” McDougall begins.

The singer has been spending a fair amount of time at 24Hundred – the merch store attached to their label, UNFD – and even played an acoustic set there alongside some old friends; the perfect format to preview the intimate new subject matter of the band’s new LP, Underworld. “I feel so excited and very much at peace with everything I said and did on the record,” she says. “I look forward to doing it on stage, because I think it brings a fifth dimension into it and I really love the full body experience of a song.”

That’s conveyed perfectly via the music video for lead single Temple, which features McDougall thrashing about the screen and giving it everything she’s got. “I feel like that video’s the first time I’ve ever got show my stage self in a video.”

“Demons come out through me when I perform, and I like twitching and I like feeling energy leave my body and I’ll do really bizarre moves to make sure that it does.”

It’s a stage presence in tune with what’s being sung about throughout the album; its production and live execution are both therapeutic for McDougall. “I feel a very deep and honest connection with those lyrics, so naturally my body reflects that,” she tells.

“In the first line of the song I say ‘I’m intoxicated by my depression,’ and for the first time I was actually like ‘I am depressed, I am so deeply unhappy and I feel so completely trapped in my life right now.’ And just admitting that was one layer off the entrapment for me.”

“I was really sick when I wrote that song,” she reveals. “I’ve been dealing with a bit of an eating disorder the past couple of years, because I have allergies to everything, so every food I was eating would give me an allergic reaction. I developed this fear that I couldn’t eat anything without my eczema going nuts and it was already in a chronic state and I couldn’t do anything about it.

“That’s part of what I’m talking about in [Temple], which is totally scary to talk about. When we wrote that song, I’d only told one person that I was struggling with that, and that was Whack, because we write all out songs together. It was pretty far out to put it in a song and put it in front of the band, our team and the world; it’s an amazing feeling to work with honesty on that level.”

2017 was a big year for Tonight Alive, with a lot of exciting developments, including signing with UNFD, who will release Underworld the same day the band play Unify, alongside Parkway Drive, The Amity Affliction and more. But there was also some bittersweet news that dropped back in October, as guitarist Whakaio Taahi announced he’d be stepping down from the band to focus on other projects. “I guess [Underworld] is kind of like his last labour of love, and I’m not really sure how it’s going to be moving forward and I’m not really prepared to start thinking about what that’s going to be like, in terms of songwriting and things like that.”

There’s a sense of dark urgency around the music on Underworld produced by the duo, but McDougall stresses it’s not a negative record; a statement backed up by the lyrics throughout. “Every time we write a song, I’m very mindful that I’m not saying there’s no hope or that we’re doomed; I really don’t appreciate that type of music or message.

“If people truly believe that and they put it out there then that’s one thing, but I’m coming from a self-help standpoint and have been for a long time and I really care about personal development and evolution of the mind and spirit and that’s part of why I always have a silver lining in our songs.”

INTERVIEW: Me First & The Gimme Gimmes

Published in The Music (NSW, VIC, QLD) on, Sept 2017

Why They Choose To Put Tours Before Albums

Punk rock and politics don’t always go hand in hand, as Me First & The Gimme Gimmes vocalist Spike Slawson tells Daniel Cribb.

“My fear of heights was triggered,” Me First & The Gimme Gimmes ringleader Spike Slawson recalls of a balcony filmed acoustic session with The Music during the band’s 2013 Aus tour.

There’s been a number of touring line-up changes within the group since that stint, with The Living End’s Chris Cheney now locked down on guitar for the band’s 2017 Australian tour. With “better outfits, funnier jokes, and more compelling dance moves” on the menu, the tour also celebrates the recently release Rake It In greatest hits record, which marks a massive 22 years for the band. “It’s kind of bizarre,” Slawson tells. “It’s kind of like a blur; it seems to have happened very quickly.”

They’ve survived two decades of a rapidly changing music scene, and are one of a handful of ‘90s acts who can still sell out Australian tours, which Slawson partly attributes to the atmosphere they create at each gig.

While, as individuals, each member of the band (which currently also features Lagwagon’s Joey Cape and Dave Raun, alongside Bad Religion’s Jay Bentley) has strong political views, a Gimmes gig is a chance to temporally forget your troubles and some of the world’s issues, and have some “dirty, trashy fun”.

“I definitely think there’s a place for political statements in music and art, but I think if people are going to be serious about something, they’re going to be motivated by more than just one guy yelling in a song,” he explains.

“Punk culture informed my political outlook, so maybe it will for other people to, but I don’t always necessarily agree with it either. It doesn’t make any sense for us to be overtly political.”

Anyone familiar with the band’s extensive back catalogue of covers albums will confirm there’s little room a political agenda. Although fans had a steady flow of Gimmes albums over the years – most recently 2014’s Are We Not Men? We Are Diva! among some EPs – we might not see another for a while. “Playing shows is more fun,” Slawson says. “I like playing these songs live and telling jokes and dancing around and if recording some songs gives you the opportunity to do that, then that’s kind of what it’s good for.

“If you don’t have 12 great songs to put on a record, why bother? But if you have two or three good ones, why not do a 7-inch and go play those songs somewhere.”

When and if the band manages to assemble its all-star, original line-up (which includes NOFX’s Fat Mike and Foo Fighter’s Chris Shiflett) for another release, we might see a change in format their previous efforts. “I would like to cover a variety of genres and have it be more centred around events – weird live shows like weddings or communions, things of that nature,” he tells.

It’s a similar format to the band 2004 live album, Ruin Jonny’s Bar Mitzvah, recorded at Fat Mike’s accountant’s son’s bar mitzvah. “The great thing about playing events like that is you’re always going to have an older generation or even people your age that are going to want to have nothing to do with it, but are just indulging their kids, so there’s this weird, awkward tension.”

There mightn’t be any new music from Me First & The Gimme Gimmes within reach, but you can expect some punk boogie gems from Slawson soon. “I also have a band called the Re-Volts, which is original material… we’ve been playing some shows around town and working on a new record, which we should have out next year.”

INTERVIEW: Loyiso Gola

Published in The Music (VIC) on, Mar 2017

South African-born comedian Loyiso Gola’s candid and politically charged comedy can often make punters cringe, but as he tells Daniel Cribb, that’s not always the intention.

Having moved to London from South Africa only two weeks ago, Loyiso Gola’s body clock is out of whack when he answers the phone in his Melbourne hotel room ahead of his debut Australian tour. “I’m just consuming the internet,” he begins, waiting for a break in the awful weather so he can go out and explore.

The frequent traveller’s debut US stand-up special dropped last year and performing to so many different audiences around the world, he’s often navigating what will and won’t hit the sweet spot. But Gola’s current show, Dude, Where’s My Lion, remains the same wherever he travels (most of the time).

“In South Africa, the neighbourhoods were separated by race and so right next to where I grew up there was a Muslim community,” Gola tells. “When I do the Muslim jokes in America, they are really tense about them, because in their media and consumption of everyday life, they view Muslims in a specific way, but I talk about this candidly, and so they’re cringing the whole time.”

Such reactions can sometimes lead Gola to over-analyse comedy (“which is one of my pet hates”) and given him a reputation as someone who ventures down avenues that can make people uncomfortable. “At the end of the day, I’m still telling jokes, so I want the people to laugh,” he explains.

“Sometimes I really feel bad making people feel uncomfortable, because I go, ‘Yeah, this person paid to see stand-up.’ That’s how much brain computes it, but then my other brain goes, ‘What do you want to say to them?’ So I say the thing I want to say and then I feel bad,” he laughs. “I don’t know how Australians are going to take the show,” he adds.

While he hasn’t toured Down Under before, he’s become a regular name in Australia through his role as a correspondent on ABC’s The Weekly With Charlie Pickering. “I just texted [Charlie] now and I’m hoping we can get dinner,” Gola says. “I’m going to meet him on Monday and see what his say, but we’ve been talking about trying to get me on the show while I’m here.”

He’ll also have to brush up on Dude, Where’s My Lion before a run of comedy festival dates around the country. “I haven’t done it in such a long time,” he tells. “I was in the middle of writing a new show and had to go back and remember [Dude, Where’s My Lion].

“The [new] show is called Unlearn. We’ve learnt so much and everything we do is learnt – how we eat, walk and dress. Some of the stuff that we’ve learnt throughout our lives is bad or makes no.

“The show is about unlearning things – we need to unlearn what history is, what religion is and a lot of habits about ourselves…it’s an extremely complicated show.”

INTERVIEW: Craig Charles

Published on, Feb 2017


Craig Charles On Skipping Syd & An Exciting Melb Collab

Lockout laws will see British Red Dwarf star Craig Charles’ funk and soul show skip Sydney, but as Daniel Cribb discovers, that just means more time in Melbourne for an exciting collaboration.

“I could quite easily move to Australia and feel right at home because a lot of the people over there have the same sort of musical sensibilities as me,” Red Dwarf actor and now revered musician Craig Charles begins from his Manchester home, preparing for a trip Down Under.

Despite the climate juxtaposition — Charles currently staring at frost in his garden while Australia powers through another summer heatwave — his funk and soul passion aligns nicely with our scene.

After scoring a regular Funk And Soul Show on BBC radio in 2002, which he still hosts to this day, Charles began performing live, quickly forging a completely new fan base outside of his acting work as the legendary Dave Lister on Red Dwarf, hosting duties on Robot Wars and ten-year stint on UK soap opera Coronation Street.

He released his fourth Funk & Soul Club compilation in December of last year, which opens with Aussie soul legend Kylie Auldist’s Family Tree. “Melbourne’s got such a great funk and soul community going on, with Lance Ferguson and The Bamboos and Black Feeling.”

Auldist’s voice topped numerous charts last year when her feature on Cookin’ On 3 Burners’ This Girl became a global hit via a Kungs remix. “I’ve been championing those guys for years,” Charles says.

With a week off after in the middle of his upcoming Australian tour, Charles is set to enter the studio with them for a unique collaboration, focusing on the UK star’s roots. “They want me to do one of my poems to music, so I’m going to do that and have a proper chillout,” he reveals. “I don’t know what we want to do; we’re just going to spend a day in the studio and see what happens.

“I’ve just done these epic poems called Scary Fairy & The Tales From The Dark Wood, they’re kind of children’s nursery rhymes, but I’ve done them with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, and they’re 45 minutes long with a 95-piece orchestra behind them.

“I want to see if I can do funk and soul version of them… Sort of like a concept album.”

Charles has been venturing to Australia for the better part of two decades, and while this trip sees a return to Adelaide and his first-ever Perth date, Sydney will unfortunately miss out. “There’s loads of stuff coming out of Sydney as well, although I’m not playing Sydney this year,” he tells. “I think they’ve got this curfew now in Sydney. That’s going to kill the fucking music scene, isn’t it? I’m shocked that I can’t come over there and play because I love Sydney.

“I was over there doing Robot Wars stuff, staying in Darling Harbour and they gave me my own motorboat and I was sailing around on my motorboat for four weeks — it was brilliant, I didn’t want to go home.”

His touring schedule will also see press for Red Dwarf XI, which dropped last year. “Dave Lister is a very big part of my life. I started playing Dave Lister when I was 23, so he’s been with me my whole adult life, and it’s one of those career-defining roles,” he explains. “I was in Coronation Street for ten years, which is like the biggest show in Britain, but people still call me smeghead in the street,” he laughs.

“He’s a character I’ll never shake off, nor would I want to. I’ve really enjoyed playing Dave Lister and he’s opened a lot of doors for me.”

First airing in 1988, the sci-fi comedy shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. “Red Dwarf XII comes out this year,” he reveals. “That’ll come out in autumn this year. We’ve got all sorts of plans for Red Dwarf XIII and XIV and a stage tour, a stadium tour, which would be fantastic if we could get it off the ground, so it’s exciting times.

“We’ve been doing it nearly 30 years and we pinch ourselves that we’re still getting away with it — four broken down old TV stars stumbling onto a stage, it’s quite cool,” he laughs.

His role as Dave Lister was one of the reasons he got cast to host Aussie favourite Robot Wars. It was revealed last year that Robot Wars would reboot for another season, and the production company made the mistake of moving forward without Charles. “Because we’re in an ageing population, nostalgia is really big business. I don’t think you should mess with people’s nostalgia,” he explains. “We were filming Red Dwarf at the time and they made this new Robot Wars without me hosting it and there was a massive outcry over here from the fans because basically the production company who made it were fucking with their nostalgia.”

Although he’s developed different fan bases for each aspect of his career, that theme of nostalgia binds them all together. The longevity of good TV and film can be compared to that of classic albums. “I have arguments with my misses about this, you know,” he says on that point. “My wife Jackie, she doesn’t watch a film, ‘Aw, we’ve seen that film.’ I can watch a film ten, 20, 30 fucking times. That’s like saying, ‘Oh, I’ve heard that album.’ You listen to an album over and over again.

“You listen to an album over and over again until you learn the lyrics and good TV is like that.”

And there are some records in Charles’ collection that he’s indeed played over and over. “I’ve been collecting records since I was a teenager and it was a hobby for years and then all of a sudden it turned into this parallel profession. I don’t see it like working; I get invited to all the cool parties and I get to play the music.”

Craig Charles’ Australian tour kicks off this Friday, Feb 3, at The German Club, Adelaide, before he takes on Melbourne and Perth.

Check out theGuide for all the info.