symbols Magazine: I just finished watching your documentary from your time in India. It was really touching with people there. It seemed like you were so immersed in it, really into it.
SP: Yeah, to be honest I like that one. India was the most different place I’ve ever been to and it was cool to capture some of that stuff on film rather than the usual Kabul-festival kind of coverage; where you might be in a completely different location but sometimes those nightclub set-ups or those festival set-ups kind of look similar on camera. But India, as you saw on the documentary, it’s pretty different. It’s quite a different setting, visually. There’s just so much and stuff. And my memory of the trip is just really enjoyable, like the visuals that come to mind-- the old markets looking for the antique stores or, you know, standing on a brief looking over Bangalor or just driving around the crazy chaotic traffic and yeah, it was a really fun trip. So yeah, I was happy how that showed up in the doco.
sM: So what is the philosophy behind Sampology?
SP: The philosophy behind Sampology? What an interesting question. I guess I come from, at the core, I come from a hip hop background and when I say that I don’t mean in terms of genre, I mean more in terms of when I started doing music it was buying records and having turntables and wanting to emulate the people that I really loved. Some of them were hip hop DJs playing all kinds of music and combining it in a creative way, and another side was groups like the Avalanches who were taking lots of different things and juxtaposing it. So I think I’ve always taken the approach to trying to combine things to try and get a unique outcome. When I started DJ-ing, I remember I was playing a lot of different styles of music; I never played one genre in one set and when I started doing the visual shows, that’s what kind of excited me about that medium. Taking all of these different bits of content, whether it be music tracks, visuals from movies, TV shows, the internet, stuff like that, and combining it all together to create something unique and new that was ultimately engaging for the crowd and where I can kind of step on stage and have this show that I’ve put together. It’d be like a new experience for the crowd and be really engaging. I guess when I’m on stage and I get to perform, those moments it’s-- I don’t know, I find it interesting and other people might find it interesting. That’s kind of the ultimate feeling. It makes me happy when I can kind of be in those situations. I feel like that’s all of the stuff that I’ve done previously in the different arms and legs of creative stuff is kind of leading into everything for 2015. Which is all of my own music and working with a lot of Brisbane soul musicians, but with the backdrop of the music being all my own.
sM: I got a chance to see a little bit of the visuals that you were talking about and for those who haven’t seen them they really need to get to a show because they’re very colorful, very interesting. Where does the inspiration come from with your visuals?
SP: With the visuals for previous shows, for the AV shows, that’s more about taking it from a DJ point of view and grabbing all of these different bits and there’s no rules. I just kind of throw them together to make something new. Whereas with the live show, from working with my mom who’s an artist here in Brisbane, and all of the illustrations that make up the stuff for the live show is stuff that she’s drawn and then is brought to life with movement and it’s synced with all the music I’m making. So it’s like there’s two sides to visuals; one side being very sample-based, taking things and flipping it and juxtaposing it, the other side being my own original music, working with my mom, which is actually a really interesting, fun process. When you make music, you want it to represent you and have your own voice so by having a visual side of that for my music being from my mom, she’s the same, I might’ve picked up from her, artistically, there’s that little link there, with the visuals as well. So it’s fun.
sM: Does it translate, because she’s your mom, is she interpreting what she thinks the music represents for you or is she just doing it and then you kind of pick on it and go from there? How is it working with your mom in that aspect?
SP: It’s kind of impossible to put my finger on exactly what that is, but the actual process itself of her coming up with stuff has been from me identifying specific things like projects that she’s worked on. There was this one line and cut piece that she did for this exhibition and I saw it and I really liked it, and that was kind of the starting point for working with her on the project. There was a lot of time spent hanging out with her and just talking about different things, ‘cause she’s an artist as well, she’s pretty good at talking through the creative process just from... So yeah, it’s hard to put my finger on exactly where the link is, but there definitely is a link just ‘cause, obviously... she’s my mom.
sM: I read that there’s a theme for the audio-visual aspect of it. Is there one for the new material?
SP: Yeah, that’s something I’ve done in the past. I’ve done lots of things. For the visual tours I’ve done, for example, when I got back from India, that was in December last year, in January/February of the next year I did a kind of Bollywood tour. And before that tour, I think maybe September last year, I did a stimulation-themed audio-visual show, which is kind of raunchy footage. Nothing too raw or obscene, more kind of just raunchy, sexual-- still funny. I’ve done a Monster-Mash themed show. For the current one it’s more integrating the stuff I’ve done with my mom with the visuals and kind of a very tropical theme. But it’s not as direct as Bollywood or Stimulation or Monster-Mash. It’s more tropical and the same color palette.
sM: If you could be somewhere during any time period for an entire year being inspired, musically, where and when would it be?
SP: Oh, wow. I feel like there’s a few places I wanna be... It would be amazing to get to experience the nightclubbing experience in Paradise Garage, maybe in the early 80’s and its hay day. When Sloan Robby was working on Grace Jones’ album in the Bahamas and, a bunch of other people’s albums, that’d be pretty interesting to be a fly on the wall. Island Records was doing all those really nice early 80’s, kind of tropical, cross-overy tracks. Yeah that’d be interesting.
sM: Yeah. Your geek is showing by the way.
SP: Haha I don’t care. I’ve passed that point years ago.
sM: As a self-proclaimed “record geek”, do you avoid CDs as much as possible or do they serve a purpose instead of actual vinyl?
SP: No, I don’t avoid anything. I mean, I find record shopping really therapeutic. Just going in and kind of immersing myself in looking for music and switching off auto-pilot to my brain and just kind of focusing on something different. I don’t avoid CDs. I mean, sometimes I’ll find bits of music I didn’t know from my friends on Facebook on their wall and they’ll find it digitally and then maybe I’ll get it on vinyl at the end of the year or something like that. I identify with vinyl. But I definitely embrace technology. I mean, with the visual show I definitely embrace technology on that front because of the way I was having tomake creative ideas come to life that I wouldn’t be able to do without the technology.
sM: Australian versus United States “record geeks”, are there significant differences and similarities between the two of you? Do you find that you’ve more in common with Australian versus U.S.?
SP: I think it’s a pretty universal thing. I worked at a secondhand record store for about four years and there are crazy record people that would come into the store, like, the same kind of ten to twenty people that’d come in two times a week and there was something just a little bit off about them-- in a totally fine way. I always had this question: do crazy people like going to record stores and like, OCD try to find specific things? So is it crazy people that like records or records make you go crazy kind of thing?
I think, in terms of personalities and “record geeks”, I think it’s pretty universal. Once I started to going to America and buying records, you sold R&B records from the 70’s just so much cheaper ‘cause there’s obviously quite a large quantity of that stuff. Once I went to Detroit and went to their $2 room at the back. $2 records all in pretty good condition and I was buying The O-Jays and just kind of standard 70’s soul albums for $2 which, in Australia, would be $20 for the same quality. I couldn’t justify spending that much in Australia for that style of music so I really enjoy coming to America ‘cause I get to pick up stuff that I wouldn’t find in Australia that cheap. I’m definitely showing my geek now.
sM: It’s good! I’m sure you’ve been to Amoeba here in California?
SP: Yeah. I usually go when I’m in L.A., they always have good new stuff, new releases stocked pretty well. The secondhand stuff I’ll pick up in other stores. Amoeba’s so popular it’s kind of hard; it gets raided of all it’s good secondhand stuff but they’re really good with the new releases, always finding good stock of the import stuff, they’re really on point with that stuff.
sM: OK, last geek question. High Fidelity-- accurate “record geek” portrayal or no?
SP: I worked in a record store for four years so I think there’s a lot of things that are accurate about that. I remember before I worked in a record store, I definitely picked up on that attitude of, like, they think they’re superior to you in their music knowledge and that kind of stuff and it is intimidating sometimes. I really enjoyed working in a record store, it was perfect. I just spent six days a week talking to people about music and exchanging information. I never tried to be like a High Fidelity-style employee, but the one thing that wasn’t accurate was in the extras. I don’t think it’s in the movie, but in the extras there’s this scene they cut from the movie where he goes to an old lady’s house to buy some records that are being sold and it ends up being that it’s the lady’s husband, that they’re going through a divorce or something like that, so she wants to sell all of these expensive records, super-rare, expensive records for, like, $20 or something like that for this whole, huge collection and he says, “No, I can’t do that. You know, it’s not right.” So I don’t feel think that would be accurate. ‘Cause any record store owner or record buyer would just buy them all. So that’s the only thing I didn’t find accurate of that. Apart from that it was kind of accurate.
sM: Rob Gordon.
SP: Rob Gordon. That was the main character’s name? That’s right. Cool. I like that scene where he runs through the hypothetical situations in his mind about punching the dude that comes into the store, like...throwing an air conditioning unit on him or something.
sM: Yes, that was amazing! I love that part. I miss that movie, I haven’t seen it in a few years. It’s definitely a good movie. John Cusack is one of my favorites. Most memorable collaboration so far?
SP: I’d say the current ones that aren’t actually released yet. There’s this young guy called Jordan McCaye in Brisbane that’s just an amazing soul singer and I’ve got two tracks on the album that’s coming out next year that I’ve worked on with him and he’s super inspiring for me just ‘cause he’s from Brisbane. He lives about ten minutes from my house and he just spent years honing his vocal chords so I’ve been working with him. From previous ones that’ve been released, maybe the Beanie Man collaboration. ‘Cause that wasn’t ever meant to be released, that was just me and DJ Butcher, who’s another Brisbane producer, sampled his vocals. It was just meant to be a giveaway track and we finished the track, ended up sending it to his management and they all liked it and said, “Yeah, you can put it out officially.” So it wasn’t meant to be an official release but it came out officially. That was kind of a cool, unexpected collab release.
sM: How do you run into your vocalists and stuff? Is it something you’re just kind of putting your ear to the ground and it’s just coming towards you or...?
SP: You can do anything over the internet. It’s probably easy to just contact someone on the internet and work with them but I find from previous experience meeting people at shows or, if you’re on a festival somewhere, it’s pretty easy to meet and strike up a friendship with fellow musicians, producers-- people who do music. In Australia, it’s a pretty tight-knit community. Like, everyone kind of knows each other and it’s pretty easy to meet and become friends with each other so I find that the best situations for those collaborations are when you meet them in person, stay in contact and then do something, whether it be in the studio, over that point onwards. Yeah, the best situations are when you initially meet them in person.
sM: What about your wish list for the future? Do you have anyone that you’re chomping at the bit to work with?
sM: Yeah, think huge.
SP: Think huge… I don’t know huge, huge. My favorite reggae singer is probably, like, Barrington Levvy, that’d be cool. At the moment, I really wanna represent my city and just kind of try a little bit to develop and push the community aspect a little bit. It might not always be like that but just at the moment, it’s kind of what I’m feeling so it’s what I’m trying to roll with a little bit.
sM: That’s cool. What’s your current obsession at the moment? Like, what’s on constant rotation for you? What are you listening to?
SP: I really like the Taylor McFerrin album, it’s on Brain Feeder. It’s Bobby McFerrin’s son, Taylor McFerrin.
sM: What?! Never heard of Taylor.
SP: Yeah it’s his son, he’s a soul musician and he made this really amazing album that came out about four month ago released on the Flying Lotus label Brain Feeder and it’s really good. It’s a really good contemporary soul album. Actually watched him live in Brisbane. There’s this other really good Melbourne band called Piagus Coyote who’re really good and they programmed this really amazing night and it had a lot of local Melbourne soul bands. Taylor McFerrin, he didn’t have any other shows in Australia but he flew, from I think Europe, to Melbourne to play this one show so I watched the stream of that live last night. Yeah.
So what else am I listening to? There’s random Brazilian stuff, Souls of Mischief, The Sins album I liked, the Arca album, I think that’d kind of be like your style as well. The guy that produced the FKA Twigs album, he just put out a solo album that’s kind of all really dark electronic albums.
sM: That sounds like just up my alley.
SP: Yeah, it’s really moody, it’s really dark. His name’s Arca. The name of the album is Xen. It’s all kind of instrumental, there’s not really vocals on it. It’s just kind of cool to put on while you’re working on whatever in the background.
sM: What would you say is your home base? Like what resonates with you the most? I know you touched on Brazil, the beats of India, things like that, and soul music, reggae too. So what resonates the most with you?
SP: In terms of a genre name or just a sound?
sM: I guess you could do both.
SP: I think just warm textures. For example, in dance music, if I hear a dance track to house tempo that has a sampled 70’s drums or that kind of sampley warm vinyl tone to it, I like that. And it’s not specifically sampling vinyl that I like, it’s just more like a warm tone that I like. When I listen to reggae, a lot of that stuff is pretty warm so I like that about that and soul music, there’s that warmth in it in, maybe in the chords they’re using. Brazilian music, there’s a lot of warmth to the drums.
sM: I never thought about it like that, but it makes so much sense. Now, when someone asks me, “What’s your favorite genre of music?” It’s difficult, I can’t say, “I like this more than the other”, I think it’s the sound and the feeling and the textures of the music I get... Wow. OK, I never thought about it like that. That helps a lot.
SP: Yeah. I hadn’t really spent that much time to think about it either. But yeah, to go back to your question, warmth is what I identify with.
sM: OK. That makes sense. I have to start thinking in those terms now ‘cause it’s just easier to, maybe, translate that way as opposed to, like, what’s your favorite genre? It seems too simple to...
SP: Yeah. I think some people, like, gravitate towards different textures. Some like more abrasive, some more warmth, some sparse, super minimal, maybe like in the dance music spectrum, super minimal house. Ssome people really identify with dark. Some people like it really full and up there, energetic the whole time. I don’t know. I identify more with warm tones and textures.
sM: Cool. Do you have any tracks that you hear, you stop everything that you’re doing just to listen to?
SP: Yeah. Nina Simone, ‘cause her voice is really, really just, undeniably her-- like you couldn’t mistake it for anyone else’s voice. There’s this one track ‘When I Was a Young Girl’, it’s really full-on emotional... Like if you put your headphones on, just kind of forget everything else and just listen to that one track. Her delivery’s really full-on.
sM: Wow. I’ll have to listen to it, I don’t think I’ve heard that one. OK. Silly one. Favorite sexy-time track?
SP: Favorite sexy time track? Oh there’s a few I did when I did that Stimulation Tour. ‘Me and Mrs. Jones’ is a pretty safe bet. D’Angelo’s Untitled is pretty strong.
sM: What about something that no one would think about, like, just something completely random?
SP: There’s one like silly one by-- what’s Jack Black’s band called again?
sM: Tenacious D.
SP: I can’t remember the name of it... It’s not a sexy track, it’s more just like a ridiculous sexual-- I’m gonna look it up, it’s worth it.
sM: ‘Fuck Her Gently’ or something like that?
SP: Yeah I think that’s the one. That’s the silly one.
sM: Hahaha! I was kind of hoping it wouldn’t be that one but is.
SP: No, it just is for stupid reasons. I do like a Valentine’s Day theme. I like ‘Birthday Sex’, in general.
sM: Oh god.
SP: It’s just-- It’s actually pretty...
sM: That’s horrible.
SP: I like it. OK, maybe, ‘Spread’ by Outkast, that’s pretty good.
sM: OK, Outkast, yeah, I could deal with that, but ‘Birthday Sex’... Cool points gone.
SP: No, I’d say maybe ‘Prototype’ by Outkast, probably is more head on.
sM: That’s a good one. Ever hear of James Blake?
SP: Yeah of course.
SP: That was my favorite track of last year. Or whichever year it came out, that was my favorite track of that year.
sM: It’s amazing. I don’t know what it is about the-- I think it’s just… It’s guttural, it’s just like...
SP: ‘Cause it’s a really dynamic track, I mean-- like it starts off really softly and just gets really intense. It’s not like your regular pop track, it’s just kind of really loud all the way through. It’s just really gentle and vulnerable and then it gets really intense and goes back down again and I watched him perform it on Letterman, I don’t know, like twenty times or so.
sM: Yeah and the first few times I heard it, I didn’t know the package that came with it. I just wasn’t expecting the artist to look the way that he did.
sM: I was totally blown away and of course that just brings a whole other level of enjoyment to the track.
SP: So you listened to the track and you didn’t know what he looked like at that point?
sM: Yeah, had no idea. A girlfriend of mine, she was like, “You have to listen to this. You have to listen to it.” And I just-- I was there, stuck for maybe, like, twenty minutes listening to it on repeat.
SP: What were you visualizing him look like?
sM: I—Well, at first, I didn’t think that he was Caucasian, but I didn’t really know what to expect either way and then I saw him and I was like, “Oh wow. OK.” He’s relatively small and just looks kind of unimposing. I was just, really in awe and so, of course, after that I was obsessed and I had to look up everything there was to know about him as an artist. Now MY music geek is showing.
SP: That’s really cool.
sM: So tell me about future stuff, what do you have coming up?
SP: So, album next year. I’m just kind of finishing all that stuff over the summer in Australia, Christmas. Yeah that’s kind of the main priority. I’m kind of halfway through the Visual Tour here in Australia. Yeah, finishing the music.
sM: Coming back to L.A. any time soon?
SP: Hopefully, like March, April. That’s not locked in yet, but yeah. Hopefully around then would be really good.