Dawter Podcast, ep8, Camilla Sullivan

This week is our final episode for series one! What a fantastic journey it’s been so far. This time I interview songwriter, vocalist, producer and good friend of mine, Camilla Sullivan. Camilla is 3 years into an Audio Production degree, and is currently in the process of recording a debut album for her alt/rock duo, A Rioting Mind. Camilla gives valuable insight into another side of music production; the process of recording physical instruments, as well as working with other musicians in a studio environment. She is also a bit of an 80’s synth fan, and talks about the Melbourne Electronic Sound Studio (MESS). All this and so much more, available now in episode 8!

Quick Links

A Rioting Mind: Facebook, iTunes, Spotify, Bandcamp, Youtube

Other useful links: MESS, Juno-6

Highlights

Tell us the different roles that you and Libby each have in A Rioting Mind?

It will vary but generally I write a lot of the lyrics, and I’ll come up with a lot of the structures and stuff like that. But Libby, she’ll come up with songs too, and chord progressions and things like that.  It can be quite collaborative. Sometimes I’ll come in with something and I’ll be like “I don’t know how I want this so sound, I don’t know how I want it to end , can we maybe just jam it?” And then we’ll jam it, and some things will stick, or something will not stick, and it’s kind of like, once you’ve got a second person there, it’s not just you and your guitar.

It makes things more dynamic I guess. Like there are certain chord progressions I always go to, and I know it’s going to at least be a chorus or it will be the bridge of the song, but then when there is Libby… Libby has got a massive background in jazz, and so she will come up with chord progressions that are different sounding, or a little bit more edgy. My chord progressions are pretty standard, but Libby, she’ll have some kind of weird thing that she’ll do or some weird substitution that just makes it sound more interesting. It’s great great when you are producing an album when you don’t have everything sounding like singer-songwriter chord progressions. It helps you branch out of your shell, when you’ve got someone else to work with. 

That’s the control I like having as a producer. Being able to be like, “this is what I hear in this part” and being able to do that, and not have to explain it.

Previously on this podcast we have spoken more about working inside a computer, but what you do is another domain of production where you have a band that you’re recording and you need to direct musicians and use different microphone techniques to record different instruments. Is that something that comes easily or has it taken a lot of practice? 

It takes a lot of practice. The first thing I recorded for this project was piano’s and Rhodes, because we had those at uni. I was recording this upright piano and I used two ribbon mics on it and they were really noisy. It’s extreme lo-fi piano [laughs], like you can hear my foot pedal going and the clunk, and it was just really noisy. So I would not say that i’m a pro with all that stuff. But it’s working at the moment. 

That is definitely something you have to think of more than when you’re working with maybe drum samples and software instruments, or even hardware when you’re going direct in to your computer. And then there are times of day when you can’t… like I was trying to record vocals today and I couldn’t because there was a Galah [laughs]. And then there was a cockatoo and a kookaburra. So it’s like, do you want screeching cockatoo on your track? And if not you should probably just wait until it’s night time. 

Is there a way to clean up those recordings if you do get a little bit of bleed?

Yeah, most of it will be quite muffled. I mean with any bleed that we’ve had from rehearsal rooms at uni, usually a high-pass filter will be fine. If your track has got fairly dense instrumentation it’s gonna get lost anyway, it’s not going to come through. But If your recording like a solo guitar track. That’s the ones you have to be more careful of, when you know it’s gonna be a more spacious song, and that guitar is going to be the feature of it, and suddenly you’e got this band’s rehearsal coming through your condenser microphone, you’re like, no that’s not going to work. Because once you start compressing things you’re like, that wasn’t there before! So with that you’ve got to be careful, but with a more rock-band track you can get away with it. Galah’s not so much though [laughs]. 

Tell us about M.E.S.S (Melbourne Electronic Sound Studio)

It’s a massive collection of synthesisers put together by, I think it’s two guys, Robin Fox and Byron Scullin. So yeah, they put it together and it is just this massive collection of synthesisers, and some really vintage ones, some that are really rare. Which has meant that I have been able to work and play with some of these synths that I’ve heard on [records by] some of the artists that I really look up to. Like I am a massive fan on Jack Antonoff from Bleachers, I loved the stuff that he did with Taylor Swift, yeah I’m a Taylor Swift fan [laughs]. One of his favourite synths is I think Juno-6 and they had one of them there. It’s just really cool to be able to play something, and be able to create that sound that you heard from that album.

So is it like a studio set up?

It’s a big room and it’s just got synthesisers all around the walls. They have sound recording devices if you don’t have your own audio interface. They’ve got sound cards, headphones, cables, they’ve also got pedals. They have some delay-echo units as well. So it’s not just synths they have. They’ve got drum machines and, just a lot of really vintage gear that you hear about but you never think you’re going to see and you’re like, oh my god it’s that thing! It’s really cool. 

Camilla recording at Melbourne Electronic Sound Studio (MESS). Photo by MESS

Sound effects used in this episode sourced at soundbible.com

Dawter Podcast, ep7, Sadiva

This week I am talking to the Queen of beat making herself, lo-fi, hip-hop producer, SadivaAfter dropping a brand new album in May this year, back from her tour of Japan, Sadiva sits down with Dawter Podcast and tells us her story. How in just 3 and a half years, she went from being a bedroom producer, to a signed, internationally touring artist, with two full length albums to her name and 60,000 plays on Spotify last month alone! This is a massive episode you don’t want to miss! 

Quick Links

Sadiva: Spotify, iTunes, Bandcamp, Facebook

Hardware / Software: Maschine, Serato Sample, SP-404,    SP-555

Other: WOWInner Ocean Records, Lab Co. The Push

Highlights

Tell us how you went about making your new album (Minutes)

Minutes was really personal. It was like a diary entry. I was trying to talk with the samples I was using and I was trying to tell a story from the start to the finish, not only as a beat maker but as a human. You know, I was heart-broken, I fell head over heals for someone, I was heart broken, I was traveling a lot, I was meeting a whole lot of different people… and so I was getting myself into situations where music was my outlet. I don’t write a diary or anything so this was my diary.

I don’t write a diary or anything, so this was my diary.

Where do you get your samples?

All over the joint really. When I first started making beats I was such a purist. I used to only sample off vinyl. Now I don’t give a shit [laughs]. I do everything, so I sample of youtube, I remember I would go into a bar in Japan and something was playing, and I would look up at the screen and I would take photos off it, and I’m like “I’m sampling that when I get home.” Or I’ll be watching Netflix, and I’ll be like “Oh my God!” and I’ll just stop everything and pull open my internal recorder on the computer and I’ll record it in and I’m like “fucking using that later!”

What was touring Japan like?

Amazing! A little hard being the only girl with four boys! [laughs] I think they had enough of me and I had enough of them at some points [laughs] But that’s family. You go away together, you get sick of each other and you love each other. But dude it was so good. We had some really funny times. I’ve never laughed as much as I did over there. I got to meet some really beautiful people in the scene over there and I was blessed enough to play with some of my favourite Japanese beat-makers. Which is fucking crazy! And it’s crazy that beat-making brought us there. 

Can you elaborate rate on how the tour came about?

So I wanted to go back, I’d been with my dad, and I wanted to go for longer. So it was a two week holiday I booked and I put it in the Lab Co. chat, I was like “guys I’m gonna go to Japan. Gonna try and get some gigs sorted, anyone want to come?” And then a couple of them jumped on board. I almost thought it wasn’t going to happen. I was trying to hit up people in Japan and I ended up getting a really good connect through my friend Grumpy Snorlex, who’s based in the US. And he put me onto Ali Mobs who put me onto Beats Addict in Osaka and Kyoto and then Entro organised the Tokyo shows. So I guess it was all through social media. 

How did you get involved with Inner Ocean Records?

I had been involved in a couple of compilations that they’d done. And I hit them up asking if they could duplicate my first tape. And they were like “Yeah sure!” I did it all myself, they just made it for me. Then they gave me a huge push because they posted it on social media… I kept entering in compilations and they kept supporting me by putting me on the compilations… then we got talking and I said “I’d love to realise my next album through you guys” and we went back and forth and we finally just, we made it. Then they also helped me with WOW. He’s (Corey) has been a huge supporter of Sadiva since I started. I’m really lucky and really grateful to have a connection like that with them.

Tell us about WOW

I’m so glad that WOW happened. I was going through some shit in my life and I was a bit sick of seeing some fucking annoying comments. For the most part being a female in a male dominated industry, I haven’t had too many issues. I don’t want to say I haven’t had any, but mainly in my scene everyone’s been so fucking supportive. … I had this idea and I was like, fuck it, I know of heaps of female producers so I put a call out on Facebook and I was like “I don’t care who you are but tag every female producer you know.” And I shared it everywhere, I shared it on all the forums I was on. Holy Moly! I got so many submissions. It was beautiful. I’m friends with all the girls now. I still talk to most of them. It was so cool that I got to find all these other female producers!

So I got all the tracks together, I listened to it, I worked really hard on putting it all together. I asked Jackie, my amazing house mate to do the art work. I ended up calling it WOW because it was Women from all over the world, and I think we had a woman from every continent. And I did it in a month! I started it in February and wanted to release it for Womens History Month. So it was such a rush. I was working full time too. So I put the call out on Facebook, then I listened to all the submissions. I think I asked for 2 beats max. I wanted the tape to have a feel and I wanted women to be represented in a professional, incredible way… Didn’t do a launch for it, i did do a live stream on line and played all the content. I’ll be honest, it got write ups and, it was organic. I wasn’t trying to make it like a crazy thing, but with Inner Ocean behind it, it did get a lot of love. And like I said, that’s how I got in touch with Spotify, well they got in touch with me because they wanted to support it.

That’s how I got in touch with Spotify, well they got in touch with me because they wanted to support it.

Elise, Sadiva and Bear at Sadiva's home studio in Melbourne

Dawter Podcast, ep6, Alpha Loopy

Already an accomplished singer songwriter and guitarist, Carolyn Oats is now making waves in the electronic music scene under the guise of Alpha Loopy. We talk live set-ups, creative processes, getting gigs, as well as how to use limitations to focus your creativity. 

Quick Links

Alpha Loopy: website, facebook, instagram, iTunes, Spotify

Hardware: Novation Launch Pad

Music groups (Melb, Aus): Beat Collective, Slice Records, Ableton Users Group

 

Highlights

What’s it like having two very different musical projects?

It’s a bit crazy sometimes, wearing different hats. Sometimes I do think, am I doing myself a disservice by having two many identities to maintain. But I guess I also enjoy the creative freedom of having different outlets. It does make the business aspect of the music a bit more tricky because you have to spend energy on each of the different projects.

What made you transition into electronic music?

That was a fun little transition that happened by accident. I had actually been looking at how I might incorporate some different looping options, with the singer / songwriter thing. But I wasn’t interested in pursuing the, I guess, stereotypical option, of get a loop pedal and make drumming kind of sounds on the acoustic guitar. I wanted to explore what options were available via recording / performance software. So I started exploring some different options there and came across Ableton Live. So I started just fiddling with that. Then by accident, in the space of 3 or 4 months I ended up writing all of these instrumental pieces.

At the time it was actually a really good creative release for me. I didn’t have a lot to say as a songwriter at the time. I would get home from work, and three hours would go by, and I would be having fun listening to drum beats, working out parts, synth parts. Starting to delve into what was provided in the Ableton software and just seeing where that lead. I ended up with all these pieces of instrumental music, and then I just thought “I should see if I can do this live.” Then I had to try and work out how I was actually going to perform any of this stuff, so that was a journey in itself too.

Advice for new producers?

Set yourself with limitations. Don’t see limitations as something that’s going to inhibit your creativity. Rather see it as a way to focus your creativity.

After years of experience, not just doing the electronic stuff, but the singer songwriter thing, just trying to keep things basic to start with. I think it always helped me feel like I wasn’t going to be overwhelmed with the creative process.

I definitely think with electronic music it can be really easy to just get 100% distracted, by finding a drum loop, or finding a sound, or buying new libraries of sounds and new libraries of drum loops. You might go “yay, I’m going to spend two hours tonight listening to all these drum loops,” but you could have actually spent two hours composing.

I should add to that, I didn’t upgrade from Ableton Free, to Ableton Live until probably a year. So I’d already composed six or seven pieces and done live gigs, all with Ableton Free.

Advice on getting gigs?

Someone said to me once around all of the business aspects, and I classify getting gigs as part of that business aspect, is:

“the only person who is going to back you all the time, is you.”

I can appreciate that can be really hard for a lot of arty people who aren’t used to doing the self-promotion thing. You’re the one who’s gonna be instigating that stuff at the start, the bios, the facebook page, the web pages, all of that kind of stuff. 

Some suggestions might be to look at other artists that are a coupe of steps ahead of you and see what kind of venues they’re playing. Then look up those venues and see if there is anyway you can contact them directly, and go “hey this is me, here’s my music,” so you’ll need to have some music online.

Other things that were really good for me early on with the electronic stuff was discovering a few collaborative organisations in Melbourne, and then joining them and seeing when they were advertising their own shows and going “hey, I’d love to be involved in one” 

Can you list some of those?

Beat Collective was one. Slice Records do some stuff around town as well. So they’ve both been really good. 

And some venues, if you go to them with a proposed gig, so not just yourself but a couple of other people, then they might be more interested in taking you on. 

The Ableton Users Group is another great group to get involved in, to start to meet other people who are out their gigging. Maybe you’ll be able to do a gig with them, or they are looking for someone else to fill a bill. 

Elise Cabret and Alpha Loopy at Rangemaster studio in the Yarra Ranges

Dawter Podcast, ep5, Isadoré

Do you want to take your music overseas? Ever wondered what kind of opportunities are out there? In this weeks episode, I talk to synth pop artist Isadoré, about her awe-inspiring musical adventures in Canada! Fresh off the plane, Isadoré tells incredible stories about collecting field recordings in minus 32 degrees, as well as using a drone to film a music video in a haunted city in India. We also cover music production, live set ups, creating visuals for performances, as so much more. 

Highlights

What was Canada like?

I got into this residency at the BANFF Arts Centre, which is is this huge genre for the arts… there is dance, film, puppetry and obviously music. You get given your own cabin in the woods. And equipment that I wanted I could request and have it. I had some friends that I made over there requests things like harpsichords and harps, just crazy instruments that at the time I didn’t realise I could request, because I didn’t realise what this place had! I was just so grateful to have my own cabin and my own piano, and my own speakers. I would bring my computer and just work and it was available whenever I wanted, 24 hour access, so any time I was feeling inspired I could go in and write music. 

I think the most inspiring thing about the whole experience was meeting all the other musicians. There were musicians from all around the world, of all genres… which really opened my eyes to a lot of new sounds and new concepts. Especially working with the soundscape, atmospheric guys was pretty cool. They introduced me to a lot of new music which has really shaped the way I approach percussion 

Can you elaborate on that?

Using field recordings to replace your typical snare, or your typical hi-hat or whatever. I borrowed my friends zoom, and we would go for treks out in the forrest, like a meter in snow. I would record all kinds of sounds like the crackling of bark or the stomping of snow. My friend had an underwater microphone. So we got to this river, and we went on the bridge and he reeled the microphone down like a fishing line. Because it was so cold, it was peak winter, like minus 32 degrees, at this point I couldn’t even feel my face. So he lowers the mic down into frozen water, we had to find cracks so we could find the water, and it was the most magical experience. The sounds that were coming into our headphones, were like these crackles and pops and squeaks of ice. Because it was underwater as well, there was this kind of silent damp sound over everything. 

“It was magical. It took me to a place I had never heard before.”

Isadroré’s current project

My project was based on this book called Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes. She wrote this series of stories that she had acquired from around the world, and interpreted them to give women a different perspective on strength. There is something really powerful about storytelling and we can learn a lot though storytelling. If our stories are always masculine driven, or if our stories are always telling us that we should be weak, and we should be saved by men, then we start to believe that and play that role. So what she (Clarissa) did was, she researched all of these myths and legends, and back in those days these stories were only verbal, and she would go to these remote tribes, and she was collecting all of these stories. It’s really nice to hear stories were all the women are really strong and fierce, and soft and gentle. All these roles into one and I think that that is what is really special about a women, is that we have all of these amazing qualities. 

So that was my project, when i proposed to BANFF what my project was going to be. And yeah, it was really cool, I’ve never written like that. For me it’s always been based on personal experience, heart on your sleeve style, like get on the piano, cry a little, write a song. So this was different. To open the book, find a story that I connected with, and literally write a song about this story. It was a very different process for me, and I really enjoyed that kind of challenge. 

“I think i’s really impotent to just step back and acknowledge what you’ve done and what you’ve put together. Celebrate and appreciate where you have come from, and where you are now.”

Elise Cabret and Isadoré recording this interview at Melbourne Polytechnic

Sound effects used in this episode were sourced from soundbible.com

Dawter Podcast, ep4, Fresh Violet

This week I chat to Melbourne rapper and hip-hop producer Fresh Violet! We discuss the history of hip-hop culture, the importance of role-models, different production processes, overcoming mental obstacles and Violet’s ‘thinky’ brain! Violet’s energy is contagious, but most of all, her skill as a musician and her knowledge and respect of hip-hop music is what makes her such a compelling artist. 

Highlights

Did you have any female rappers that inspired you to begin with?

Part of what inspired me was actually the lack. I remember I was studying classical music, and that was like [being in] a bubble, because you had to work so hard! I was working part time as well so I didn’t have a lot of free time to listen to the radio. I always loved pop and rock when I was in high school, but I just had to focus on classical music for that time. But I remember getting toward the end of that degree, and re-kindling my love for that kind of music, and Katey Perry was actually one of the main ones, like I heard Teenage Dream and I was like, “Oh my god! Pop music is so great!” [laughs]. So Katie Perry is sort of a role model. That sort of opened the door for more pop music, and I started listening to Kanye and Jay Z and Nicki Minaj and got into the pop hip-hop. I know so many hip-hop heads will be cringing knowing thats how I got into it! But that’s the honest truth of it. I wish I grew up with my parents playing Biggie Smalls and Big L and stuff like that, but we just didn’t have that in our household.

On Eminem…

Something that lodged in my brain about Eminem, is that he is universally recognised in the industry, and they talk about it in that really cool documentary “The Art of Rap” by Ice T. They say that Eminem is one of the best. Crazy that he’s white. [laughs]. And the reason he is so good is that he would listen to everyone. He would take the best of every different artist. And I had that thought lodged in my brain early on, so that’s what I really tried to do. You know, I worked backwards, I went back to Cool G rap, and Jurassic 5, and tried to get a thorough history of hip-hop and really understand where it came from. As much as I have a classical and pop background, I was sort of down the other end of the pool and I tried to swim over to the other end, and then come at it from that direction as well.

On hip-hop music…

Sometimes your classical knowledge will get in the way, because the approach for writing classical music is so different to how you make hip-hop. Classical music you are assessing your chord progressions, you’re harmonising your counterpoint, you are thinking about really technical stuff a lot of the time. Hip-hop was born from people in the Bronx who didn’t have much education, and their music programs had been taken away at schools and their wasn’t funding, things like that, so they didn’t have that knowledge, they didn’t have access to that. They created music out of what they had, which was their parents turntables, and their 60’s records. I think they attribute it to Grand Wizard Theodore who started scratching. It was something that was essentially born out of nothing. So i think that is a really important thing to know. I think it is important to pay your dues and know where it all came from. Especially when you are white, because you are essentially a guest in the house.

I think hip-hop is a really embracing, accepting culture, and when hip hop is working right, when we have a healthy hip-hop community, everyone is involved, everyone is welcome. It is more than a genre of music, it is a culture. 

How do you start off creating your tracks?

When I write a song, usually I start with a concept. Like I’ll say, “ok this is going to be a song about aliens.” Then I’ll probably have a few phrases, like I really love word-play so if I can just free-style some ideas about aliens, or whatever the concept is, and that will give me an idea for the bpm. Then I’ll try to create a style for the beat that’s gonna communicate aliens, or space, or things like that. I don’t use a lot of samples, but I might look for a sample or a synthesiser that has like a spacious feeling to it, or pick some boom-bap, you know spacey kind of drums, and some different electronic noises, so that the beat is really part of the storytelling and the concept, and then I will probably write over that.

Elise Cabret and Fresh Violet recording this interview at Melbourne Polytechnic

The sound effects used in this episode were downloaded from soundable.com 

Dawter Podcast, ep3, Lou Cuming

This week we are talking all things music management, with Lou Cuming! Lou is the artist manager behind LANKS and recently, Ghosting.  In this episode, we discuss the roles of an artist manager, the importance of playing to your strengths, the LANKS national tour, mental health, and much more! 

Lou on stage with LANKS playing a sold out show at Howler, March 2018

Show Notes

How did you go from playing music to getting into management?

It was pretty organic. I guess I was the most organised person in the bands I was playing in, which isn’t saying much, because musicians are usually notoriously disorganised! [laughs] I was just booking the shows for bands and promoting the shows which was very basic at that stage. And then Will, my brother, who is LANKS, he started his LANKS project which sort of grew out of some bedroom producer demos, which turned into an EP. And he was doing it solo, which was a new thing for him because we’d just been playing in a seven piece band. So he just needed some help, and was like “can you help me out?” and I was like “yeah, but i’m not managing you.” [laughs] And then it was a slippery slope, I was like “I’m not managing you” and then I was like “I’ll co-manage you” which didn’t work because Will wasn’t really into the idea of managing himself.

Then we went to Bigsound, and I was playing with LANKS and we did a showcase at Bigsound. I went to all the showcase stuff, but also the talks, and I was like “this is so interesting, and I really love it, and it’s super creative” and I just went “I actually want to manage!” which was over a week, I was like, this is something I am really interested in.

What are your roles as a music manager?

I think every manager is really different, and each artist needs a different manager…. I would consider myself a fairly creative, big picture strategy type of manager. Early on I realised that detailed, sort of day-to-day stuff, wasn’t necessarily my forte. I’ve definitely developed processes around making sure that I stay on top of things. But I know that’s not my strength. My strength is big picture strategy, creative solutions to things, what direction are we taking this? How can we market this is a different way? That sort of stuff, and I just get people around me that are really good with the detail. That said, there is an incredible amount of detail and your always playing catch up, making sure your productions right, working with budgets, running facebook adds for a tour, sending out press releases …. we’ve started doing a bit of in house P.R. So it’s just like, anything and everything.

It’s important that you recognise what your strengths are, and it’s important to get people to help you out with the stuff that isn’t your forte.

What are you working on at the moment?

At the moment I’ve got Will in L.A doing a writing trip for LANKS. So his publisher and I are teeing up sessions with writers. We are organising things like studio hire over there, making sure his schedule is all good, been listening to the songs which come out of it which is awesome. So he is doing that while we are also promoting his national tour, which is a 13 date national tour in August. So we are mid-way in the campaign for that. We’ve got a single coming out for LANKS in a couple of weeks time, so we are servicing another single from the record, to radio, and are going to do some content around that, so we are setting up the P.R for the single… As well as Ghosting, i’ve just started working with him, he’s just released a tune a couple of days ago, so I sent out some P.R for that, just doing some follow ups. And for the tour we’ve got the marketing side cooking along, I’m working on the production, making sure we’ve got merchandise for the tour, delegating things like booking flights and accomodation to our tour manager… So yeah, it’s crazy!

Where did you learn all of this?

I guess learning by doing. Asking lots of advice from people, having lots of coffees. I follow what people do… Early on I would go on someones socials like Holly Holly or who ever is on cycle at the time, and I would pull up their socials and when their music was released, and I would actually mud map their timeline. I would do it with a whole bunch of artists, and learn the cycles. And then I would ask opinions, you know, I have some really awesome friends that became friends through asking advice and reaching out to them. Like Tom Fraiser, who manages all the Pieater guys, Big Scary, Airling, and I would follow what he was doing with his bands and then ask him for opinions on things. I did that with a bunch of people. Just being a real sponge and watching what people do.

In the music industry, networking is so important. What is the best way to get to know people?

I’m not the greatest networker. I’ve recently started doing a lot more of it. I was doing more of it when LANKS wasn’t signed, and I was reaching out to a lot of people because we were talking to labels and publishers, and there was a lot more of that necessity to network. There is always a necessity to network, but I guess I wasn’t aware of it until recently. I’ve started networking a lot more. I love gadgets and I love structures around things so I have a CRM (Customer Relationship Management). It’s a thing where you set yourself tasks for reaching out to people, and you set yourself tasks. [for example] Oh i’ve gotta ask that person to catch up for coffee next time i’m in Sydney, so you set yourself a task to ask them at a certain point, when it’s closer to your trip to Sydney. I just like having a bit of structure around things. It reminds me to reach out to this person or, follow up with this person. It’s actually a tool called HubSpot and it’s free. It’s got an app on the phone, but I use it on the computer. So networking is really important, because you can do all this great stuff, but it people don’t know about it, it gets a bit lost.

I think, as a manager there is value in both Beta C sort of work, us reaching out consumers, to fans, and we’ve been quite good at that I think. And then there is the Beta B, where you’re building relationships with industry. Because that helps you with things like festival slots, signing with partners like publishers or labels.

I think people in the music industry are great at promoting each other. So the more you have a foothold within the industry, the more the reach of the community helps you out…there is that sort of organic growth when you do have good relationships within the industry.

So I think that networking is great. But that said, also there is a value in sitting down and doing the work on making sure you reach fans as well. So I think it is striking a balance between the two. I’ve always been more fans focuses, which is probably a good thing, but I’m sort of re shifting back to make sure that I have strong relationships, especially with media. I think as an artist you need to have strong relationships with the people who are promoting your work.

What are some of the challenges of the job?

Artis managing is not an easy thing. It’s not an easy road. You don’t choose to be an artist manager, maybe you do for the big bucks? But working with an artist is not because their going to give me heaps of money, it’s because I believe in their music. And sometimes you might believe in their music so much, but it takes a bit longer for other people to get around it, or for the reward of actually having a solid income. It’s hard managing artists and just taking a commission based on that. So I think the money side of things, you really just hustle for whatever money you can get from extra things, be it admin, or working at a bar or, what ever works. I guess that’s been a challenge.

This is a really personal thing but, mental health has always been a challenge for me… some artists have struggles with mental health, it’s a bit of an epidemic. And maybe because I am a musician and I come from that creative background, where it’s quite prevalent within my family… I have had this enormous journey with dealing with my own mental health over the years, and the lack of job security has been a challenge at times, and it feeds into that thing of self care and not feeling like you have enough money to look after yourself, but it’s also meant that I’ve become quite resilient. I guess that’s been a challenge, but a challenge that i have enjoyed working on, which is an odd thing to say.

I’ve surrounded myself with great people, but also we’re all on the same journey with our lives and our music and what we do. And so i’ve got awesome support structures and I hope I provide just as musch support to my mates and other people in the music industry, and ousted the industry. Mental health is a big thing that I think we all need to talk about more.

What about perks?

I guess some perks, I hardly… well no, I do pay for tickets to shows, because I think it’s really good to support the music industry [laughs]. But it’s easy to get into shows. And you know, when I was just sitting here before when you were recording some other stuff, I was listening to some new LANKS demos that were sent over from LA overnight. And I was like “this is just awesome!” I get to listen to great music, and it’s part of a job!

It’s just the most creative industry to work in… I cant think of anything more exciting… You’ve got this drive to be involved in bringing great art to peoples ears… Having a purpose makes everything else feel insignificant.

How long did you spend in the music industry before landing a management role?

It was interesting because I saw this on your instagram on the way here, and I was talking to my partner Sal about it and she said, ‘you should talk to Elise about that thing of the role of artist management and how there are different types of managers.’ I think weather you are creative a role or applying for a role, understanding the different types of roles you can have and which roles you are suited to, is really good and important. I started from the start with a green artist and I was a green manager. We built this from nothing, as you said, and now I am working with an emerging artist, an artist who is doing some interesting stuff, and I am the artist manager and making all the decisions and the strategy. But then you could apply for a job at a management company and you’re the day-to-day manager, and I feel like that’s a very different role.

Why I do this freelance and run my own company is because I’m not really interested in being a day-to-day manager. Purely because it’s not my strength. I’m much better with the bigger picture stuff. Down the line I will get a day-to-day manager to work for me, because I will eventually need that. But I probably could have applied for a bunch of jobs, but I decided not to because it wasn’t where I wanted to go. But there are other personalities that really suit things like tour management, or marketing and promo. You are really just recognising what is the best opportunity for you in the music industry. And that might not be a manager it might be a publicist or, you know, there are a lot of different roles. And you can create it yourself, which is awesome and a roller-coster [laughs] or you can apply for a job to be a day-to-day manager at a bigger company. But I always found that I didn’t like the look of that job, so I was like ‘i’m just gonna work 2 days a week admin, outside of music, so I can build my own artist management career. Rather than work full time for someone else.’

What are the main things musicians should look out for when signing with a label or publisher?

Take your time. You can release music without having a label. And you don’t even need to have a label these days. And I guess recognise what your skill sets are, and what you need. So do you need more money? That’s a reason to sign with a label. But you also want a team, and then you need to ask is that team the right team? Then you’ve got things like major labels, you’ve got indies, or you can stay in dependent. You’ve got really great services like AWAL or Ditto who are aggregators / digital distributors. They will do pitching for play listing on Spotify or Apple or any other DSP’s. So you don’t need a label to be doing that pitching. I guess that’s on the label side, you’ve just got to work out what you need, and how those people would fit in.

And on a publishing side, you know, managing a songwriter, our publisher has been just awesome on really adding extra man-power in terms of opening up opportunity. Will’s over in LA right now and we’ve really worked as a team to land a whole bunch of writing sessions. And they network on your behalf, they’ve been fantastic. And they’ve also been really good with sync, you know, finding placements on TV shows. There are artists that play modest shows and do small tours and don’t really have enormous things happening on an artist side but have a fantastic, lucrative and fulfilling publishing side of their business, where they can make, as Jamie said, “six figures” on publishing without really selling more than a couple of hundred tickets to a show.

So I would just get to know all the different publishers. Do they have a good sync team? Do they have a strong A&R team? Do you have a good rapport with their A&R people? Because that’s probably one of the most important relationships. And again you can take your time. There’s no rush. You want a good partner. And I think a philosophy of mine is, don’t wait for a publisher! You as a manager should be reaching out to many people to organise sessions with your artist. And when the publisher comes along, they can be doing it as well, but you don’t stop. Just do it. And publishers will start sniffing when you start getting features on certain songs, they’ll find you. That’s such a cliché, but they will, if things are happening. We got noticed when I started organising some vocal features with other producers for LANKS, and all the publishers had a conversation. Native Tongue had been around from the start and we took three years to sign, from the first meeting.

Elise Cabret and Lou Cuming recording this interview at Melbourne Polytechnic

Dawter Podcast ep2, Aphir

Behind the mic this week is Becki Whitton! Becki works as a studio engineer, she is also an accomplished artist, releasing music under the name Aphir. As Aphir, she has toured nationally, and internationally, including playing the main stage at Falls Festival in 2015, as well as Berlin’s Music Tech fest, in 2016. When I spoke to Becki she had just released a drone EP called Dysarcadian. Amazingly, she had finished that EP in a week, in-between working on her next album.

Aphir - shot by Simone Thompson, wearing custom plastic by Holly Squair

Show notes

Tell us about yourself and your journey so far?

I started out making music literally just by recording vocals and making songs entirely out of layers and layers ad layers of vocals. I never really learned an instrument, I learned a bit of guitar and a bit of flute in school but I never became really professional at them. So I had in my head, all these ideas of how I wanted things like chords to fit together, but I didn’t have a way to do it, so recording vocals ended up being the out let. So what I made to start off with was pretty choral. And that was the identity of Aphir for ages. Then I got to the point where I was like, ‘I’d really like to just be able to program drums.’ I’d written all these songs that I wanted to have for Aphir, and I was like, I guess I can hear some drum patterns for these and I want to have a go at putting those in, so it became a more beats driven project.

How did you learn to program drums?

It was a bit of asking friends who were already using Ableton to make beats. And a bit of just listening to the kinds of beats that I really love. Like I really like Kaytranada’s groves, and I really like Grimes as well, she programs drums in this really, kind of overwhelming but exciting way. So I was just listening to all those and thinking about how I could do something that drew on the techniques that those artists were using, but could represent me a bit more.

Where do you get your samples from?

Some of them I make myself. Just through chopping up either vocals or other sounds that I make and then manipulating them. And then some I download from free samples libraries, and then I’ll mess around and make the hits sound a bit more strange. Sometimes I don’t make them strange as well, I feel like i should probably clarify that! [laughs].

A lot of the time it’s grabbing samples that aren’t a traditional drum sample… like some footsteps or a rattling pen jar, and finding something within that, that really hits the spot… and then chopping out one transient hit, to be the drum sample.

How did you get into studio engineering?

It’s kind of weird actually. So I studied audio engineering. I mostly did that because after I made all the choral songs that I talked about before, I was really frustrated with the mixes, and I was like ‘these just don’t sound good enough, and I have no idea how to make them sound better.’ So I went to school to figure out how to make them sound better, and in the process of that, we had to do certain things, like for example my school sent me to a music conference and I met my current boss, Andrei Eremin there, and then I realised as part of the following year’s curriculum I would have to do an internship, and I was like ‘oh wait, I need to actually intern somewhere and I just met this guy in the music industry, who is a mix engineer, who’s not a horrible sexist, maybe I should send him an email and see if that could work out?’

How long did it take you to develop your skills to a point where you were confident?

I feel like I’ve grown a lot in confidence this year. I think a bit part of that growth has been to do with reference tracks when I’m mixing. That really helps with consistency. I can look at a bunch of stems and listen to an artists demo and do something creative with it, and sometimes it will be bang on the artist’s vision and sometimes it might not be, if I don’t have another track or sonic reference that the artist has provided, or at least ticked off on, to say ‘heres something that already exists that sounds awesome, can we make my track sound as awesome as that, and still be its own unique self.’

Tell us about your latest release Dyscircadian

So i’ve been studio sitting… and one day I turned up at the studio and someone had literally done a shit on the stoop of the studio. My brain sort of went into denial, I was like ‘ is this cake mix?’ but it was not. And I had to obviously clean it up, and at the end of the day I was like, ‘I feel kind of weirdly emotionally exhausted by that experience. Then I went to catch the train to go and see a friend, and I got an email with some really bad news in it, on top of the shit cleaning experience and I was like ‘I think I have to make a drone EP.’

So I did. And I made it in a week. Obviously except for the track I made with Hannah. And the reason it came together so quickly is because every single person who I hit up to send me a drone, that i would turn into a song, sent one back within the space of three days! I was like, I have such good friends! It came together really quickly, I think it was a very emotional response to a situation.

What’s it like collaborating with other artists?

I think you need to select collaborators well, and think about whether your styles fit together, and whether your in the same place in terms of your musical journey. With Dyscircadian, it was pretty natural for me to chose the people that I worked with, because they all sit in this word of experimental music making, not even necessarily experimental, but sort of a DIY aesthetic. They all have a similar approach to their lives and their control over their production. And so I was like, all these people will be excited about this project. That’s what I thought and I was right!

The thing that has excited me most about this EP is because I was just receiving samples from people via email.

It was a bit of a Christmas time feeling. Just opening them up and being like, “ok someone has just sent me something that is going to inspire me to make a song, but I don’t know what direction it’s going to take me in.” It was a really sick way to make a record!

Once you received the drone samples, what was your process for building the songs?

Whenever I received a drone I would start by just forming a melody that would work as a hook. I don’t know if you can say there are hooks in drone music? [laughs] Just like a repeated chant I suppose. Most of the time I formed that alongside the lyrics. And then from there I would just see how the energy felt. If it was sort of lacking in spots. Then I would start to build a soundscape around it, once the vocals were in and I knew how the vocals would be structured for each song.

The way that knew when each song was finished was just measuring intensity. With a lot of the stuff that I am trying to make at the moment, outside of the drone realm, I’ve been measuring things by how relaxed they feel. How perfectly crafted the mood seems to be. But with these it was like, when is this raking down my sole with long fingernails?! [laughs] So it was definitely a cathartic and fun process.

How do you go about separating vocal parts in the mix?

Lots of different ways. Panning, EQ choices can help. In my last record I separated a lot of the vocals by effecting them in lots of weird alien ways. There is this one plugin called Argotlunar and it just makes it sound like you’re an alien living under water, and its super fun to use.

I guess it’s thinking about the space that each vocal lives in. Like, if it’s a distant thing that’s going to help in a misty backing-vocal way, or if it’s something that really needs to be in your face, and then using panning and reverbs accordingly to put it in that place.

What are your favourite plug-ins?

Well, I really love all the Fab Filter plug-ins. Just because they are so clinical. They are so clean, they’re so precise, they have a visual analyser, so you can see what you’re hearing. It’s quite honest too, its a pretty accurate visual representation.

In terms of fun plug-ins, I just bought the Sound Toys ones this year. I got little Alter Boy ages ago, and that is probably one of my favourite plug-ins of all time. It’s just so fun to use. The fact that it can pitch shift in real time is cool as well. There is a tiny bit of latency if you use it live, but because my music is kind of weird that doesn’t matter to much.

Where should indie artists invest the most money?

This is a really tricky one because I think it really differs from artist to artist. I think what you should invest your money in, is whatever is going to make you want to keep making music. So if having a lot of recognition from your peers is a big motivator for you, then invest in promotion. But if hearing the sound of your performance being shifted motivates you then probably buy the sound toys. I think for most people it’s a bit of both maybe. You want to have a certain level of control over your sound, and you want people to be hearing what you’re making as well. That’s kind of what I’ve done.

Do the research. Make sure that you know exactly what you’re getting. I really feel like it’s a very personal thing. Instead of investing your money first, invest your time first in the research side of things. 

When you perform live, what is that contraption in your hand?!

I haven’t used the contraption in a while, because it’s hard to dance with. But it’s called an AUUG Motion Synth. And it’s just an app that goes on your phone, and when you buy the app they send you a little hand grip thing, and you can put your phone in it, and open up the app and what I have been doing with it is controlling the volume of effects sends in Ableton through motion. Like for example the volume of a reverb send will increase, that sort of thing.

What else do you use when you perform live?

Mostly I use Push. I’ve recently been using a Novation Launch Control for effects and triggering some samples and things. Its actually pretty cheap, I think it was just over $100 and it’s literally just two rows of encoders and some pads. Because what I want to be able to do when I play live is have a synth or a drum pad on Push that I can just be playing, and not have to mess around to get to effects. I don’t want to have to move away from the drum pad to effect vocals or do any other things to other tracks. So the Launch Control is there for doing all the little extra bits.

What’s next for Aphir?

Well I’m making an album. It’s been a while in the making now. It’s a very different genre from Dyscircadian. It’s I guess the poppiest thing that I’ve done so far, but it’s still not really pop. It’s still pretty weird sounding music. But it’s making me really happy to use more familiar song forms. I guess what I’m trying to do is bring all the sounds from the experimental stuff that i’ve worked on, into a song format that I would listen to more often. I do listen to a lot of pop, and a lot of older pop music. So it’s nice to hear my favourite sounds in a structure that really floats my boat.

Advice on writers block?

I mostly get through it with lyrical inspiration. So if I sat down to make a beat from scratch with no ideas about lyrics or melody I probably wouldn’t be able to do it I don’t think.

Keeping a notebook or iPhone notes always available… Just writing down all those ideas and having that to come back to, is the biggest help for me. Because sometimes they actually turn out to be good ideas.

Do you still get nervous when you perform? If so how do you manage stage fright?

Have a whiskey! I’m not even joking! [laughs]. Yeah I get super nervous before I get on stage. Usually it dissipates throughout the show. And usually it’s a bit of having rehearsed so much that at the start when I’m nervous I can just do the motions, as if i’m just doing a job, until I relax and can get involved in how the show is going, how the feeling the room is and all that sort of stuff.

Elise and Aphir recording this interview at Melbourne Polytechnic

Dawter Podcast ep1, KAIAR

Welcome to the first episode of Dawter Podcast! This week I sit down with Melbourne dream-pop producer and songwriter, KAIAR. After releasing her debut self-titled EP in 2017, via Provenance Records,  KAIAR has received support and radio play from Triple J, Double J, Triple R and many more. Her dynamic and atmospheric live show has earned her support slots with the likes of Braille Face, Aphir, Estére (NZ) and others. In this episode, KAIAR talks about her latest single Human, as well as offering advice on production, live performance and collaboration.

Show notes

Have you always been working with electronic music?

When I was young I did singing lessons, then I taught myself piano to accompany. But I became really interested in electronic music because there was Grimes and FKA Twigs and I was like, they can do it, I can do it too! When I found out they were doing their own production I was like, wow, what am I doing?!

They have obviously been a big influence on your sound…

Yeah. It’s that heavenly sound that I love, and that comes from my background as well. I grew up in a religious environment. I was always singing, and I was always singing in the higher register so, it’s always been easy. In the particular religious group that my family followed, you sung three times a session, and you were doing that three times a week, so you were singing a lot.

How did that effect your feelings about music?

That experience effected the way I sing because in that group I felt like I always had to be, you know, pretty, or feminine, or you know, perfect. So singing in the higher register was easy for me, and it easily portrayed that kind of image. But also, the actual experience itself, influences a lot of my feelings about music as well. I have a lot to say about that experience, through the way I produce and through what I write about… If we are going to get specific I’d be talking about feelings of resenting that experience and also being grateful for it, thinking deeply, that sort of thing. If that makes sense?

What are your favourite plug-ins?

I love the Una Corda… It’s so beautiful, it’s like three piano samples layered on top of each other. So the sound and the frequency spectrum is always amazing. And I love Sound Toys, like their whole thing! Which I’m sure everybody loves. For reverb and stuff I love Valhalla Vintage. Those are my go to’s and they are really popular.

What about hardware?

So I use the Ableton Push, and that triggers my tracks and my samples, like vocal samples that I take out to play percussive elements in the instrumental bit of the song. For my more acoustic parts of the set, I’ve got my Novation 49 which is just a small midi keyboard. I like having a midi situation on stage because I can change the sounds and it limits how much I have to bring with me. So I can play the bass on that, I can play samples on that as well, I can trigger the drum track without having to go into my computer or the Push.

And also when I’m on stage I will also have my sound card which is the Scarlet, I actually forget the brand but it’s the red interface that’s quite popular. And I just run two vocal mics on stage and one is a dry and one is an effects. And I can turn off all effects with my Push as well. As long as on my computer, the CPU isn’t running too high, it works really well.

Do you do a lot of rehearsals?

I guess it depends how many new songs I’m going to play as well. I try not to over do it, and over think it. But I just make sure I know where everything is. I go through the technical part in my mind and make sure it flows. So I will do that a couple of times before a performance, especially if I haven’t done it in a while. If I’m gigging regularly it obviously comes a bit more naturally. It’s like muscle memory.

How do you deal with mistakes on stage?

If you make a mistake you just have to basically admit it, right? You’re just like, whoops, I triggered the drum track at the wrong time… Sometimes if I make a mistake, or I trigger something at the wrong time, I will just turn down the volume or stop it, and just try again at the next verse or chorus. Most of the time people don’t notice if you don’t make a thing of it either.

Tell us about your new song Human

The song’s about this idea that we close ourselves off. You get to a point in life where you’ve had a certain amount of relationships, and a certain amount of hurt, and there are pattens. You start to realise that you’re trying to protect yourself all the time, from people hurting you, so you close yourself off. It ends up totally messing up the relationship, when you feel that you have to close yourself off. That doesn’t benefit the relationship… I was thinking about that idea and thinking about a relationship from the past, and it’s almost like everyone has a shell on the outside and we’re not humans, we are like crabs, who have their exoskeleton. Thats where the idea came from.

The fabric you are wearing in the film clip is images of human cells…

So when I first contacted the designer I was like, oh I love this stuff, it’s like coral or something, and she was like, ‘no actually it’s a very microscopic image of muscle fibres…’ which is cool because it totally just tied in. It was perfect. She is an amazing designer.

How do you go about finding people to work with?

Sometimes it’s by chance. Like with Rob, the film maker that I worked with on both of my film clips, he actually contacted me, he was like ‘I like this song, I want to make visuals to it.’ So that was a happy accident. I guess for photographers and designers, that’s always a social media thing for me…

What about finding other musicians to collaborate with?

It’s like a community. It’s like, ‘hey we’re friends, we’re both passionate about music, let’s see what we can do.’ It’s always trial and error with collaborating. It’s always a learning process, even if you don’t end up releasing anything, you learn stuff from each other.

“It’s always trial and error with collaborating. It’s always a learning process, even if you don’t end up releasing anything, you learn stuff from each other”

How do you establish that community?

I think gigging. Thats probably the biggest part…I will go up to someone after their show and be like “that was amazing! We should do something one day” and you send them a link… It’s always just about making that connection… Often people will enjoy your show, but wont say anything to you, and it’s so nice for that one person to be like “hey! That was amazing!”

How do you balance working a “day job” and spending time on music?

It’s always a push and pull because you need money to do music, when you’re an independent artist. You’ve just got to be, kind of strict in a way, and create a time of day when you know you work well, and know that you can always be there for that. And that’s the only way I really can manage to keep making music, is to set aside 3-5 hours a day… If you’re gonna have to get up early to do it or you have to stay up late to do it.

If you wait till you’re inspired, you’ve got this rush of adrenaline to write everything down, get the production and get everything there, but if you’re not working on the skills all the time, you’re not going to be able to get there very quickly, and you’ll end up being disheartened. Thats why it’s always important to work, even though you might not make anything good. It’s just like exercise.

What do you think new artists and producers should invest their money in?

It depends on what you find most important. For me I want to make sure it sounds good, so spending money on mixing and mastering, and recording the vocals properly, and then I think you can get the visual stuff cheaper. It’s such a hard thing. Do I make sure the work is good or do I make sure people hear it? And you need both. I think you can do it cheaply, but maybe in the beginning stages you need people to see your name. There is that marketing idea of “recency” and people have to see your name three times before they’ll even click on the link. So that is important.

What about electronic music do you connect with the most?

I think because it is such a new sound, in the scheme of things. Like guitars and drums have been around since rock n’ roll and before that. Its almost like intangible. So it’s so interesting. It’s kind of endless as well. I love that about electronic music. You can f***k with something so much that its totally different from it’s source. I love that you can really make anything you want.

“I love that about electronic music. You can f***k wth something so much that it’s totally different from it’s source. I love that you can really make anything you want.”

You can find KAIAR on Facebook, Instagram, Spotify and Apple Music. Or you can visit her website www.kaiarmusic.com