Musicakes Bits: May 2010

Earlier this month I had a nice sunday afternoon chat with Science Project, two Local producers/performers about beats, the Brisbane scene and playing live, so for those that don't know here's a bit about the pair of them and what it is that they do.

Science Project consists of two members, 8 Man and Grimes, else known as Jad and Andy. They've been collaborating in the studio since 2007 making beats that carry rich, warm bass and laser synths alongside smoked out, Dub heavy beats. As such their sound is distanced from the Australian music scene at large, unique in its own way but perhaps more reminiscent of the Street Bass scene in Philadelphia or the Dubstep and Dancehall soundsystems of London. The Dub influence, though already apparent, was confirmed when I asked what brought them together musically: a love of the music of King Tubby and Lee Scratch Perry, something that can be best observed in the laid back yet infectious vibes on their releases thus far. However something that really sets Science Project aside from their contemporaries is their live show in which Jad cuts, samples and loops with an MPC and turntables whilst Andy syncs up with him on drums. Though not quite groundbreaking this format is a pretty major undertaking that can easily risk becoming something flat or alienating for an audience, as in the case of the 'Dj and the Drummer' Project or 'Legion of Two'. Despite this the pair manage to pull it off with style so I asked them how much work has gone into the Live set and how they got it so tight; they exchanged a weary look and laughed.

"Ah man, its a constantly evolving thing, sometimes something works and then something else doesn't, there was a lot of trial and error at the rehearsal stage." Andy, who also plays drums for local 10 Piece Funk band Boss Cats, outlined the difficulties of their performance, "When you're on stage with a live band you can afford to be a bit loose, because if you're making up one part of an overall sound little mistakes aren't as apparent to the audience. The rest of the sound carries you on and it's easy to pick it back up again. But for the Science Project live show I have to be constantly switched on and focused, the slightest mistake is going to be really obvious so everything has to run within a certain rehearsed structure or it can go badly wrong. This isn't to say that there isn't room for improvisation and cutting loose every now and then, it's just that the opportunity for improvisation has to be carefully planned in advance."

The cohesion required for their live set is equally important when writing the tracks and putting them together in the studio, "The usual process is that one of us gets an idea (and there's a lot of unfinished ideas still floating around), then sits back and lets the other do his thing. Sometimes it works and we go with it, at others it doesn't and we go back to the beginning." Considering the massively saturated music marketplace that has developed in the last few years and the subsequent pressure to find a formula to make more money, I asked if they felt pressured to make their music more commercial so as to make their sound radio friendly and more likely to accrue big sales, "Not at all, we just make music that sounds good to us, stuff that moves us. We keep things laid back and loose just finding vibes that we're feeling. Making incredibly technical music or playing to a set formula that works can be disrespectful to your audience, we just want to play good music, stuff that gets people dancing without compromising our own enjoyment." And as for the future they assure me that there's a lot more still to come, "We've also been collaborating with a variety of other artists which also helps to keep ideas fresh and opens up new perspectives all the time, so expect to see a lot more variation over the coming releases. We've also been hard at work on setting up our own label, Dub Temple Records, so in future we'll be releasing our own beats as well as inviting a number of other artists to contribute as well. We've also got Blastcorps (prolific producer/painter/DJ from Darwin) doing our mastering so everything is looking good."

In this light I wondered how well received their music would be by their local contemporaries; coming from the UK it's baffling to me that there's still such a focus upon Electro house and Cheese in the Brisbane scene. In it's various permutations the Beat music sound has rapidly infiltrated every corner of the globe, so it seems bizarre that a city with such prevalent nightlife as Brisbane's should be left behind. Jad explains, "The beats scene in Brisbane is interesting and it has the strength and scope to grow given the dedication of certain local promoters and a crop of up and coming talent in the area. It's just a matter of pushing the sound; however it is easy to see why many genres haven't taken off, bear in mind that a lot of music that is successful overseas is irrelevant here. Of course there are heads who appreciate those genres as with any underground music, but for music to achieve mass appeal, like Hiphop in the US or Dubstep in the UK, it needs to be relevant to the local population. The US Hiphop scene is hugely influenced by funk, soul and Motown because it is deeply rooted in African American culture, the same goes for music like Drum and Bass and Dubstep in the UK, both of which draw heavily from Reggae and Dub which is of course due to the strong Caribbean influence on British culture.”

“Equally if you look at Hiphop in a global context (or the colloquial equivalent) it is heavily laced with the traditional sounds of the culture around it. In Brazil you don't have producers and MC's aping the sound from LA, instead they draw their influences from Samba and Soca. In African countries like Angola they draw upon tribal music like Kuduru to make their sound relevant to the people that will support it. Even in Japan, where American influence has been heavily imprinted upon their recent culture, artists like Hifana and Dj Kentaro extensively sample ancient, traditional folk music to create a sound that is uniquely Japanese. It's because of this that so much of the music over here that is heavily influenced by American or British trends is so unlikely to succeed in the long run and can even be painful to listen to at times. What we need is to base music around the indigenous music in our locale, like beats from Aboriginal music, or that of the Torres Strait Islanders and Papa New Guineans, those guys have some mad rhythms, and it is those we need to tap into if we want such a culture to call our own”

Science Project's latest release Alchemystic EP is out now on Dub Temple You can find it on iTunes or go to www.myspace.com/scienceprojectdubs

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