Having admired and enjoyed nostalgia of the early days of prog over the last two editions, we need to focus and ‘take stock’ at what’s here on Australian soil. After all, who knows when even the more dedicated international clubbers and DJs among us – will be touring to foreign clubs and festivals once again? Fortunately, I don’t need to tell or remind you that we don’t need to search far for the entertainers among us.
From looking back into past milestones and flag-posts of Australian prog, both on performances to crowds and in studio releases, I’m sure the first names which spring to mind would be Anthony Pappa, Kasey Taylor and Jamie Stevens. Yet while numerous books are easily accessible to find a plethora of riveting tales from Britain’s nineties progressive house clubs, the distance between each Australian city – at least before cheap airline flights – would show equal difficulty in discovering text, retelling past gloried stories of the last thirty years in this golden isle’s clubbing heyday.
So, what better than to find out from those who can regale their won accounts, having been through much of it? Those who are now flying the flag, alongside the next generation of progressive ground breakers. I’ve been lucky to borrow into the time of progressive house’s current Melbourne stalwart stars, GMJ and Matter; with also the rising pretender, Eric Lune as the next generation of electronic nutrition – to compare notes between experienced and upcoming.
Progressively thinking – we’d want all Australian cities – in each state – to have booming musical cultures, not decomposing.
Firstly, let’s check our range of mighty proggers in this time of social distancing. To be fair, few nations could boast of such a climate of studio promise. While Sydney has fought and wrestled the shackles of venue lockdown for the better part of the last decade, long before coronavirus – it had lost 176 – yes – 176 venues, including roughly half of its music venues. With that, not just progressive house’s interest, but thousands of musicians in general have been known to migrate to Melbourne more and more, with its globally-championing music venue ratio of one venue per 9,503 persons. The highest ratio of musical venues per person in the roll of first world cities. All of this, while New South Wales’ first minister called Sydney “Australia’s only global city”, despite bars, clubs and careers being forced to close or move. Progressively thinking – we’d want all Australian cities – in each state – to have booming musical cultures, not decomposing.
So, it’s no real surprise that Melbourne holds some big players on the scene – what occurs post-COVID19 remains to be seen. Looking around the country, we have names such as Zankee Gulati in Sydney, releasing tracks on the Balkan Connection and Particles labels; then, Luka Sambe and Filter Bear are firing out tracks on almost every progressive house label in mind. The exciting return of exile Nigel Dawson after a lifetime away has buckets of great potential. Refreshingly, as far north as Cairns, Funkform has been breaking through as successfully as having a track on Patrice Baumel’s Global Underground 42: Berlin CD, as well as collaborating with two of my guests today. Travelling downwards through Brisbane, Jesse Kuch’s Open Records have been widening the range of prog and deep house sounds.
After this, the list of influences in Melbourne swells like a bee-stung lip. As of this year, along with the aforementioned names of Pappa, Taylor and Stevens – David Leckenby has also had a track released on Balkan, Liam Sieker has begun performing for The Soundgarden and been increasingly producing tracks. Uone has already had a greatly successful 2019, including a Balance CD release – and of course, Balance. Arguably the biggest and most consistent DJ mix series on the planet at the moment – is run in Melbourne by Tom Pandzic, who has also opened Dusk ‘Til Dawn, a more chilled, slightly-deeper-than-prog label in the last year. There is cause to smile with a large grin at what’s around – and what should be encouraged to stay around. There is, as Nigel Dawson commented to me recently – a lot of talent to be found.
While our interviewees, Eric Lune (nee Quattropani – such a lovely Italian name!), Gavin Martin (GMJ) and Matty Doyle (Matter) have… let’s just say been hitting the top notes on the progressive house musical scale. GMJ and Matter are pretty much partners in crime, while also proudly being consistent with their own individual releases and remixes. They have launched their own label – Meanwhile – in the past few months. The first being the wonderful Lost On Origin EP. Eric has seen regular plays from names such as Hernan Cattaneo and Nick Warren, from his monstrous Embers release on Madloch’s Sound Avenue label, last September – with GMJ and Death On The Balcony providing fresh new remixes for the title track, released next Monday, the first of June. Matt and Gavin, concurrently – have remixed DJ San (of Solid Sessions fame) and Sebastian Moore’s Virga which is also released on Balkan Connections on Monday.
Here’s what the three have to say about life on planet progressive – big appreciation from me, for taking the time out from their regular jobs and music production to answer all of my questions.
Thanks guys, for your time taken in chatting to me and the ozclubbers.com.au followers today.
NATHAN: What are your first recollections of clubbing and of Progressive House?
GMJ: Earliest recollections for me were clubs like Insanity at Chevron & the mansion in Melbourne. And early days for me the Melbourne rave scene, which was just awesome back in the day! Progressive House music started filtering into clubs in the early 90’s such as Pure & Maize & continued into the late nineties in great venues such as Q bar & Private Function. Melbourne legends like Kasey Taylor, Mark James and Gavin Keitel back in the day were playing really forward-thinking progressive sounds. It was Sasha & Digweed that influenced me hugely on a global level, from there progressive has always been my number one love.
ERIC: First recollections of clubbing?? Being in my late teens in 2010 reminds me of Rihanna and Duck Sauce. So yeah, all over the shop. Things changed seeing Guy J for the first time in ’12 which opened the flood gates for me. Went nuts with it and ended up going down a rabbit-hole of essentially 25 years of progressive house, and that’s how I ended up here basically.
MATTER: My earliest recollections of clubbing and progressive house would have been in the ‘golden era’ of the mid to late 90s here in Melbourne, Australia… But my formative years came shortly after that as I moved my life, and all the parties that went with it, to London UK from 2001 until 2005. This is where I really got my schooling in progressive, house and trance. I have very fond but hazy memories attending “The Gallery” at the famous Turnmills every Friday night and other stalwarts such as The Cross, The End and Fabric. I fell in love, and I’ve never looked back. What followed was a serious vinyl addiction collecting prog house and prog trance, which shaped a lot of my sound today.
N: Would you say there’s ever been a scene for prog in Melbourne or Australia in your lifetimes or before you were involved in the industry?
G: From my experience and knowledge Melbourne in particular wasn’t too far behind the “Renaissance” of prog from the UK – we have always been pretty on the pulse musically and progressive is no different. I came into my progressive love affair a little later than my earlier years in the rave scene, but by the mid-nineties I was well into it and was playing at places like Q-Bar and also Private Function back in the day to name a couple, as well as co-running Substance events where we toured many overseas progressive legends back in the day!
M: There was definitely a prog scene here in the late 90s! A big one at that. I was a little too young (read: stupid?) to really appreciate it properly though. My solid prog years came shortly after in London. I did start out as a DJ here though, with gigs at places like Loop bar, Brown Alley and Roxanne’s Parlour to name a few.
E: Unfortunately, I missed out on clubbing during the 90s and 00s but I’ve only heard amazing things (the Docklands raves and the like). I do think, currently there’s a small, but devoted prog fan base since you tend to see the same faces over the years at gigs. I mean ideally it should be a lot bigger than it is but that being said, catching Hernan play late last year at 170 Russell to a packed-out hyped crowd made me happy. More of that I reckon.
N: Whom or what are your biggest influences as DJs, producers and musicians?
E: Really hard to nail things down since I’m a lover of all music, but I think Marvin Gaye, Radiohead, Prince & Burial are my all-time music muses that I carry with me in my day to day. And let’s not forget why I bought my first guitar in my early teens, (tragically or not, depending on the reader), because of Mark Knopfler (Dire Straits). But electronically, I think Sasha would have to be my biggest influence since he’s always evolving, his tracks always seem to stand the test of time and he’s also my favourite DJ to watch/listen to. Honourable mentions: Guy J, Henry Saiz, Four Tet, Edu Imbernon & Alex O’Rion.
G: DJ-wise, Sasha and Digweed and Guy J would be my biggest influences. As producers, Guy J again has been a big influence and earlier on Oliver Lieb was a huge part of my musical love and education. Fast-forward to now and my musical brother Matter is a huge influence and inspiration as we are always encouraging and inspiring each other to level up. Alex O’Rion has been a big teacher and friend in our musical growth as well! I love many styles of music, these days Hammock are one of my absolute favourites.
M: This is a hard question to answer! There are so many. Let’s name a few… Sasha (think Xpander, Airdrawndagger, Involver vibes) was a big early inspiration with his productions and albums. DJs like Nick Warren, Guy J and Hernan Cattaneo have been and still are big influences on me. My musical brother in arms GMJ! We’ve formed a really strong partnership over the last few years and are always constantly pushing ourselves higher and further. And more recently, a solid Aussie-Dutch alliance with Alex O’Rion who is undoubtedly one of the hottest producers on the scene right now, being played by anyone and everyone. Shameless plug to our latest up and coming release GMJ & Matter – Gauntlet including two extra special remixes from Alex!! This release has already seen such a massive response in the promo circles and we can’t wait to see what damage it does.
Extra special mention to Roger Martinez, Brian Cid and Volen Sentir who seem to be making all sorts of amazing futuristic music which never fails to inspire.
N: What do you see as positive or negative about the current generation of DJs and producers – versus previous generations?
G: There are many positives, one of the greatest is it is easier than ever to be able to access the equipment and software needed to really explore your passion as a DJ and producer. With the internet and social media, you can get it out there more than ever before!
The flip side of that is that a lot of stuff these days that comes out can be of a poor standard or also way too generic – and the scourge of the industry is people paying for likes etc, having tracks literally written by others and claiming them as their own, and creating a totally inauthentic brand.
People can fake their way to make it, but those will be found out, especially with current changes and transitions in the world.
Those with true passion and dedication, with something authentic and real to say from the heart and soul will endure because they are doing it for the right reasons.
Also, these days online platforms such as Spotify and Beatport are necessary evils, but the returns coming to the artists for their art is way too small, this really needs to change somehow.
In previous generations, it was also much more likely that talented musicians could make a living. Sales from vinyl and albums provided much more return to artists enabling them to live more of what they love doing.
E: Yeah that’s a hard one – I think it’s great that technology is at a place where anyone and everyone can give DJing and production a good go nowadays, so that’s a positive. Over-saturation is a bit of a problem as a result but at the end of the day, quality music will always get found eventually in my opinion. Social media is a bit cringe at times and could do without it, but I don’t think the prog scene is one of the main culprits with that one.
M: Anyone with a computer (probably a tablet or smartphone now!) can make a track. How cool is that!? I remember music production being such a complex puzzle. The software, hardware synths, computing power and samples were so hard to work with. Nowadays, anyone can drag all the VSTs under the sun in (without the CPU breaking a sweat), fire up splice, set your key, drag some samples in, compress the f**k out of it and wave your hands around like your Tiesto. I’m not going to comment on the positives or negatives of that situation!
N: As producers having your tracks played by the likes of veteran DJs such as Hernan Cattaneo and Nick Warren – how does it feel when you see them played by these DJs?
M: I’ve always said, “this is payment for us.” We’re not in it for the money. Seeing thousands of people lose their shit to something you lovingly created is such an amazing feeling. I think the dopamine hit is strong there and keeps us coming back for more.
E: Yeah no doubt it’s one of the greatest feelings.
G: Honestly, those moments where you see one of the icons play your tune to a huge crowd on a video, or on their radio show, or even more so – sign one of your tracks, makes it all worthwhile!
I mean, I would do music no matter what as it is my first language, but it is a beautiful feeling to know your music can touch many through the hands of the masters.
N: Who would you like to collaborate with in future and why?
E: Sébastien Léger! So much to learn off the man and I really value his production process and creativity. Or maybe I just want to play with his synths? Not sure. Oh, and I’d love to work with a vocalist at some point!
G: Continuing my collaboration with Matter is at the top of the collab list!
Honestly, I just let things flow and see what comes, but in an ideal world I would have to say Cid Inc, Roger Martinez, Alex O’Rion, Hernan and of course Guy J would be people I would really enjoy!
M: Same answer as Gav probably!
N: With the world at such a strange crossroads right now, with COVID19’s effect and the future unclear – where would you hope to see yourself in 5 years?
E: Completely unclear, a few international gigs would be nice! Obviously, my dream is to have my music career at a place where I could live comfortably off it. But honestly, if people are still listening, sharing and liking my music in 5 years, what more could I ask? Give me a video of an Argentinian, gurning to one of my tracks and I’ll be happy. I’d love to be able to do movie/tv soundtracks at some point too.
M: It would be a dream to fully live off and be supported by our music. GMJ and I have just started a new label Meanwhile Recordings and the start has been so positive and strong that I can see it going far!
G: Yes, we are in unprecedented times right now and things are up in the air for the scene in general! But if things go back to the level of freedom we had, I would love to leave my day job and be travelling doing regular gigs, and making a living involved with showcases and increased success from our label, Meanwhile Recordings.
I would love a full, dedicated studio room with a view for inspiration also! Ha-ha!
continuing to grow as a producer and refining my sound and production more and more! With that hopefully the ideal future takes care of itself! Primarily I am in music for the love – but of course I wish it to be my main income and lifestyle!
N: Would you ever move away to another city or country to help your career? If so, where would you consider?
G: Yes, I would consider it. I think most likely would be in Europe, either Ireland or England.
I have family in both countries and any move would be around more regular opportunities to grow the label and gigs. Honestly though, Australia is such a fantastic place to live that I hope to build the profile organically from here and just travel overseas for gigs; there’s no place like home as they say, and we have such a freedom here of space, beautiful nature and relative freedom.
E: I’ve always had this in the back of my mind actually – and have always thought anywhere in Europe. Central to the rest of the world (compared to us anyway), plus endless music opportunities. With a French passport, I have no excuse really.
M: Not for me. I am also a Dad of two boys 4 & 6 so have some very strong roots here, but I also love living here! I’m not sure I could give up the coffee!
N: Gavin and Matty – what were the ideas and foundations behind the new label, Meanwhile?
M: It all started back at ADE 2019 when we had a business meeting with our mate and the head of Proton Radio, Jason Wohlstadter. Gavin and I had been discussing the idea for years, but we always were concerned about the extra time and workload involved in running a label. The platform Jason has created for label management and distribution takes a LOT of the hard work out of the equation and he pitched us an offer that we couldn’t refuse. Highly recommend Jason and the crew! Some of the friendliest people in the industry too.
G: Matty and I have been talking about starting a label for a number of years now! We both felt increasingly that our sounds weren’t quite fitting with most labels, and that we wanted our own space to really launch. Also dealing with labels in general can be quite frustrating and give a level of heartache if you are not careful, with some great exceptions of course.
I think after years of work on our sounds, the time was right for Matty and I to start Meanwhile at a level we are really proud of – and hold to really high standards in all we do with it; from the music, how we treat the artists, visually and promo.
Meanwhile is also a brand with a vision for the future that I look forward to seeing evolve naturally!
N: Eric – congrats on the remixes for Embers coming out? When did this gather pace?
Thanks mate! Appreciate it. First of all, I couldn’t be any happier with the remixes, and I really think Gavin did an amazing job of gelling our sounds together. I haven’t stopped listening to the track since I got it! It all happened around late last year. Considering the original was a bit of a hit, Dominique (Madloch/Sound Avenue) suggested a Remix EP. So, I’m pretty lucky and fortunate for the opportunity and am stoked with the outcome from both artists.
N: What would you like to see for the future of electronic music in Melbourne and Australia in general?
E: I think in Melbourne we have had a really thriving electronic music scene in the recent years that was on a pretty great trajectory. It’s pretty normal for an 18-year old to go see a touring DJ, and with that there’s no shortage of great boutique festivals and club nights. If it keeps going that way after the COVID drama, I’d be pretty happy. Just give us more prog gigs, yeah? For the rest of Australia – you can only look to Triple J to realise how popular electronic music is, it’s definitely here to stay. I am waiting for the return of pop/rock though, that’ll be a laugh.
G: First and foremost, for Melbourne and Australia to be able to return to somewhere near the same level of freedom in our club and festival events! These are the lifeblood of the industry, and we need our event organisers and artists flourishing. Melbourne has always been at the forefront of electronic music evolution and I hope we continue on that path with real events and artists making soulful music that touches people around the world.
There are some really great event organisers and events happening in Sydney as well from the right space, I hope those also pick up where they left off before the virus happened and continue to grow. I hope things don’t become too based on social media followers and the amount of people you bring determining if you get booked also – this is unauthentic and damaging to growing real talent.
M: In more recent years, the electronic scene has moved outdoors into the festival space. It has been amazing to see these flourish and I really love playing at events like Rainbow Serpent and Dragon Dreaming festival. I would be more than happy to see that continue for as long as possible as I believe these events are very important in our ever-busy lives. In the event space, I’m also really looking forward to what the Morning After crew, Wildwood and Bootz’n’Catz crew are cooking up for us once all this COVID malarkey is over. Peace.
Thanks again, guys – it’s been fantastic hearing your insights – keep up the amazing work. and good luck for the future.
Embers Remixes is released on Sound Avenue on Monday, June 1st, with Virga also released the same day on Balkan Connection.
#Matter #GMJ #EricLune #MeanwhileRecordings #SoundAvenue