A legend of Brisbane’s electronic music scene, Fergus Alexander has seen and heard it all. He is a DJ who has brought definition to the local house and techno community over two decades. Fergus is playing back to back with Mike Redfern at Dragonfruit Fridays pres. Jamie Stevens, at Capulet on Friday 24 August.
Q. Fergus Alexander, you first got behind the decks all the way back in the year 2000. Since then you have played countless gigs in Brisbane and surrounds, and witnessed a lot of change in our clubbing scene over the years. Where would you say things are at in Brisbane now? How do you feel about our scene in the current time?
A. Cheers John, that’s a pretty good question as there has been a bit of chatter about this on the various pages recently, so I’ll try to be as objective as possible. One thing that is for certain is that club culture, or the club culture that I grew up with is pretty much non-existent. Gone are the days where you could bounce from venue to venue to rock out to awesome music. It didn’t have to be a special event or anything, just our awesome local DJs doing their thing week in week out. Unfortunately for the most part it’s all due to our current group of muppet politicians imposing all these strict regulations around running bars and nightclubs that owning a club is no longer as viable as it used to be, so I take my hat off to venues such as Capulet and the like still fighting the good fight and ensuring people still have somewhere to get down and dirty on the dance floor.
In saying that though I’ve never been more excited about what is stirring in Brisbane’s electronic music underbelly. With a result of all this over regulation and club closures I feel that electronic music has gone back underground to a certain extent. There are lots of great crews now doing awesome things that exist outside of the usual 9pm-5am (or 3am) club environment. Parties are becoming much more innovative; day parties are a thing (great for older folk like myself). We have so many more awesome producers getting their music out there and being recognised for it, we have record label owners releasing music on both digital and vinyl, a lot of our current crop of DJ’s are playing around the country as well as overseas and of course we still have the party animals heading out to support all of this to ensure Brisbane can give it just as good as anywhere else.
Q. How did you become involved in Brisbane’s electronic music community? What were some of the early parties you went to, and what made you want to play records and make people dance?
A. Well as the story goes, I went to my first rave party 20 years ago and the rest, as they say, is history. But when you find something that you’re really passionate about of course you want to get more involved, it’s only natural really.
When I first started going out I was going to the rave parties at The Arena, my first one being Time Tunnel in 1998, so it will always hold a special place in my heart. The Creation dance parties were some of my favourite ones and they were where I first saw DJs such as Nick Warren and of course the man himself, Sasha. Getting to bust some shapes at System 6 was always a highlight, respect to the DJ Thief. If I wasn’t raving at The Arena, then I was almost always at The Tube. That’s where I first saw the great DJ Angus (RIP) in action and the 3am-5am closing set from Barking Boy was never to be missed. Occasionally I would venture to The Beat as well to see DJ Jen-e rock it out and of course the legend that was DJ Edwin, may he too rest in peace. Around 1999 I started venturing out to doof parties too so I got to meet a lot of the SEQ doof crew, forging some great friendships as well as getting to go to some extremely insane parties. There is just something special about dancing outdoors in the middle of nowhere.
I guess wanting to DJ was a natural progression from being on the dancefloor. I was inspired by a lot of the local DJs, particularly Magoo, but if I have to admit something though I’ve always liked performing and being in front of people, I did want to be an actor at one stage. But really there is something special about making people smile and when you’re playing records and you’re watching people from all walks of life smiling, getting down and having the time of their lives it’s an awesome feeling.
Q. In 2005 you created your own brand with Mike Redfern and BPM, called Logic Events, and together you blokes brought some big names to Brisbane, especially at the hallowed Bar Soma. That venue saw some of the best house and techno music Australia, and the world, has had to offer, in an intimate setting. I have some amazing memories from that place and I’m sure you do too. Tell us all about how Logic Events started, and how your own career as a DJ progressed during that period.
A. Bar Soma was something very special wasn’t it? I miss that place terribly. I remember quite vividly the first Logic we did there. We hosted Gui Boratto as part of his very first Australian tour on the back of his Chromophobia album release. We had a line-up at that stretched down to what was then The Fringe Bar, just couldn’t believe it. Bar Soma was completely heaving, sweat dripping off walls, punters hanging off rafters, Brazilian flags flying everywhere and three young DJs and promoters just in awe of it all.
Brisbane was in a bit of a funny time back when we started Logic in 2005. Whereas now we have quite a lot of independent crews putting on great events, but we don’t have a lot of clubs. Back then club culture in Brisbane was booming. Family was the jewel in the Brisbane and Australian dance music crown, Empire’s Middle and Moon bar were pumping out solid house and breaks week in week out, Monastery was alive and kicking, Alhambra and Press Club were throwing down proper deep house and the lock out had only just begun. Because we had quite a few clubs doing their thing it didn’t really make sense to have lots of independent crews running around trying to throw parties and because of that there was a lot of other great music that wasn’t being heard or played out, and quite a lot of international artists were by-passing Brisbane for the bright lights of Sydney and Melbourne.
Don’t get me wrong, there were always some brilliant acts that were picked up by the likes of Family, Empire etc. (Digweed, Deep Dish, Sasha, Slam, Jeff Mills etc.) and we had some great independent crews/parties such as Passion (the boat parties are stuff of legend) and Drop, who in my opinion pioneered the dirty house sound in Brisbane and held the loosest party Brisbane had ever seen (nothing has quite come that close yet but we certainly did try). But there were also a lot of artists just flying under the radar, plus a lot of sounds that myself, Mike, Ben and others were into just weren’t being played regularly, hence why we started the Logic parties. Our first party was held at the old Milkbar, which is now Honey B’s strip club just off Caxton St, and featured Australian progressive house legend Kasey Taylor. I don’t remember a great deal as I demolished the bar tab, fell off the stage and was put into a taxi (now that’s how you do it kids).
My DJ career progressed quite rapidly after starting Logic. During my formative years, bar a regular residency at Scene Café in 2002, if I played more than six gigs in a year then that was a great year. After Logic got off and running I found that I was being booked at other parties more often. There were festival appearances, club gigs in and around Brisbane and the Gold Coast, the occasional doof party, playing for other independent crews, and the odd appearance in Sydney and Melbourne playing at iconic venues such as The Bourbon, Brown Alley for Darkbeat, and Killing Time. Mike and I had also cemented ourselves as a bit of DJ duo as we often played back to back at Logic, so we got booked quite regularly for back to back gigs too. During 2007-2010 I think there was hardly a weekend where I wasn’t playing gigs or throwing parties, bloody great times indeed.
Q. It’s really nice to know that Logic persists to this day, unified with two other much loved events, as Together: Passion Drop Logic. The other two have been keeping things going for a few years as Passion Drop, and this year Logic joined them. How did that come to be?
A. It definitely felt great to get the band back together, that’s for sure, and I believe BPM has freed his weekends up, so it’ll be great to have him back on board for the next one. But basically, Mike and I were booked as the special guests for the October 2017 edition of Passion Drop and it was also our first official gig as back to back duo since 2010, and Mike’s first gig since moving back to Brisbane. We both moved overseas in 2010 and I came back in 2012. Mike moved back in 2014 but went straight to Melbourne before he and his now lovely wife, Kerry, moved to Brisbane in 2015.
Timelines aside, it was an absolutely rocking party, and seeing as we’re great friends with the Passion and Drop guys and our original parties all existed in similar eras they asked us if we wanted to come on board officially, so of course we said yes. And once again it was a totally amazing party, so I can’t wait for the next one.
Q. What else has been happening in Brisbane lately? Have there been any events that have really impressed you? Who is doing us proud?
A. Me personally, lots of beer related stuff, haha. I work in the industry and do a bit of home brewing on the side so as a result I’m often at a lot of beer related events and festivals. It shows on the waist line too lol.
I’m impressed by a lot of what I see at the minute. There are a lot of young crews who haven’t experienced the Brisbane that I once knew so they don’t have the prejudice. They just get on with it, keeping the Brisbane electronic music scene alive and on the map.
Big ups to the IWTFA crew who are flying the techno flag for Brisbane and being completely passionate about it, I have a lot of respect for Scøttie Chappell and Jamie Grenenger. Melt are doing great things, Jesse Kuch, APRÓ and Butterz are really pushing the proggy end of the spectrum so that makes me very happy. Jesse’s Open Records record label is really putting Aussie progressive house back on the map too, respect. Dan ‘The Man’ Burke and his Lemon & Lime series of parties. Seriously this guy deserves a freaking medal with all the big-name artists he’s helped bring to Brisbane, hell he’s got Nick Warren and Sasha playing in October and November respectively. I take my hat off to him. Dragonfruit is going from strength to strength with the brand pretty much becoming globally recognised.
Special shout out to all the ladies too. If there is one thing I have noticed is that we have more female talent than ever before, it’s fantastic. APRÓ, who I mentioned before, has come in leaps and bounds since I first met her. Then there’s Cassandra Kemp aka Cìrukè, Wilma, Chantal, and Gemma Van D is back in the hood too, she rocks. Kim Del La Haye is probably one of the hardest working DJs in the business, Emma Stevenson is on fire at the minute and Anna Sonnenberg is one of the most passionate individuals you will ever meet.
Q. You’ve played at a bunch of festivals in your time, including Earth Frequency, Manifest, Future Music Festival, Creamfields and Earthcore. How has the festival scene evolved to where it is now, compared to when you started playing at those events? What is it about the festival scene that makes it continue to grow?
A. I think the festival scene grew out of the rave scene, well from my perspective anyway. From the early rave parties that I went to (unfortunately I was a little too young for the parties at The Site and Strawberry Fields, etc.) which then led to the Adventjah festivals at the RNA, from there the day/night touring festivals such as Two Tribes and Summafielddayze (or Summadayze in Sydney) grew in size and popularity as dance music headed more towards the mainstream. Then after Hardware and Future split we had the likes of Stereosonic and Future Music Festival, not to mention the likes of WeLove and Parklife etc. before all those parties pretty much came to a grinding halt. On the other end of the spectrum there weren’t a lot of, or should I say regular, 2-3 outdoor electronic music festivals like there is now (in QLD anyway). I think all that changed when Earthcore came to QLD in 2005. Whilst Earthcore only did two festivals in QLD, 2005 and 2006, I believe it helped open the doors to show what could be possible.
What’s really great about the festival scene now is that the focus is towards quality, not quantity. When I started playing at festivals, with the exception of Earthcore and a couple of smaller 2-3 day outdoor events, it was more the day/night touring festivals and at one stage I’m pretty sure they were a dime a dozen. I don’t think that model proved to be sustainable in the end, well from what I believe anyway, you would have to talk to the promoters directly to find out. So, looking at the likes of say, Earth Frequency, Paul Abad and his team have done one amazing job. What originally started as a tree planting party many moons ago has become one of the best electronic music and lifestyle festivals in the country. He’s capped numbers at 5000 people which makes things much easier to manage if you know that’s what you’re aiming for every year, and from a punter perspective it means that the vibe so much more relaxed and intimate, and it’s also less taxing on the land. There is huge attention to detail paid to production and music curation, meticulously planned with nothing but quality, and he has a great relationship with the landowners and the council to ensure the longevity of the festival for years to come. And if we look at other festivals such as Manifest, Elements, Andromeda and more you can see that the focus is all about the quality of acts, not how many DJs with one big hit written for them by a ghost writer can we cram on an A3 poster, as well as quality of production, location and a whole lot more. I think I need a beer.
Q. In the considerable time you have been a DJ, you have seen a lot of venues and parties come and go. When you are feeling relaxed and nostalgic, and listening to classic tunes, what are some of the events that you find yourself recalling? What do you remember about Brisbane’s club scene in the past that you think newer promoters could learn from?
A. With the likes of Nick Warren and Sasha both coming back to Brisbane I have been thinking back to the Creation parties where I first saw them play. Nick was 2001 and Sasha was 2002. The very first Global Underground CD I bought was Nick Warren’s Budapest, which was also my first exposure to the progressive house sound, so seeing him play in 2001 was amazing.
Sasha had played in Brisbane in the 90s but that was before my time, so seeing him play for the very first time was pure magic. He played in Byron Bay a couple of nights later, so a big group of us all went down to see him in a more intimate setting and it was even more mind blowing. After that we all went up to the lighthouse to watch the sunrise and ended up hanging out with the Sweetchilli lads. That’s where I first met Daniel Crocetti and Crispin Kerr from Sweetchilli, who we ended up collaborating with a fair bit for our Logic nights, and also the legend that is Robbie Lowe.
Given how Logic was such a big part of my life I often find myself thinking about some of our parties. I was listening to Desyn Masiello’s Balance compilation recently, recalling when we hosted him for his Balance Tour. It was exciting as he had just started to blow up and I think he was our first international guest too. The party was massive, and we must have been great hosts as he did not want to fly to Adelaide the next afternoon, good times.
To be honest I think some of us older promoters could learn a thing or two from the newer promoters. Even though I sometimes wish the younger crews got to see Brisbane in days gone by, as in some ways we had it easier, more venue space, clubs etc. and less regulation, as nowadays you can’t serve certain drinks past midnight, there are ID scanners which cost a fortune and cause massive line ups, and alcohol can’t be served past 3am. However, there is no point dwelling in the past as you’ll never move forwards. So, it’s these new promoters that are finding ways to rise above all these shitty circumstances to move the scene forwards. Well done guys.
Q. Who are some Australian musicians whose sound you are digging at the moment? Can you recommend any recent tracks that have done it for you? Who should we keep an eye out for? What about local labels, do you have any tips?
A. Looking at the electronic side of things I am really digging the likes of Gavin Martin and his GMJ project. Gavin Martin was a name I heard quite a lot of in my younger days but never saw him play, so I was blown away when I found out he was GMJ. He’s making some incredible deep, emotive, melodic house music at the minute. Rich Curtis is a production powerhouse and Brissy success story, even has good taste in beer.
Also, my old mate Danny Muller aka Xan Müller. We met when we were 15 and got wasted together, which ended up in me throwing up all over myself and passing out. When I woke up I discovered that I wasn’t wearing the shirt I had on, instead a jacket, which happened to be Danny’s, so we’ve been mates ever since. He was one half of Brisbane early 2000’s electronic duo Kid Kay Ferris and is now releasing on under the moniker of Xan Müller. Check out his two remixes, Salt 2.0 by Namito, Mark Dynamix and Jimi J and Daily Intox by Leon Noise. Jamie Stevens, of course, is on fire at the moment. His latest release with Joe Miller on All Day I Dream, called Wanderjahr, is lush as. Mad props also to Jagwar Ma, Flight Facilities and also to RÜFÜS for getting the Sasha treatment on Last Night On Earth, that’s pretty fucking epic.
There are loads of great Aussie producers around at the moment and I like to think that as a result Australian music is at some of the healthiest levels it’s ever been at, but the ones to watch, in my opinion, are the likes of Aussie expat, now Japan based Anthony Huttley. He’s already had a number of releases out and they’re pretty special, his remix of /Son/Sun by Motion in particular. Chris George, who is making some amazing deep, lo-fi house, Christopher Brooks, Chris Walker (something about producers called Chris to be honest) is gearing up again from what I understand, Doppel is on fire at the moment and Pete Helskanki and his live loopy techno.
In terms of local labels Adam Swain and Leighton James have done amazing things with Buxton Records and Moon by Day and as I mentioned earlier, Jesse Kuch’s Open Records is on fire, particularly with recent signings and releases from the likes of Australian dance music royalty such as Luke Chable and Danny Bonnici. On the deeper, dubbier end of the spectrum, the Primary [colours] dub techno label from Echo Inspectors is brilliant and if you’re more of a fan of the broken beat then look no further than Brisbane’s Golden Orb Records. Ashley Hanson, aka Operon when in DnB mode or Integer when in dub mode, is releasing some dope stuff via his Golden Orb label.
Q. You are playing a back to back set with your mate Mike Redfern on Friday 24 August at Dragonfruit Fridays pres. Jamie Stevens, at Capulet in Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley. Jamie Stevens is an icon of Australian dance music and a lovely bloke, and I hear he has some amazing new productions to share with us. How do you two plan on complementing Jamie‘s set on the night?
A. Jamie is a master of his craft and a great mate, so it’s damn exciting to have him back in Brisbane and yes, he has assured me that there will be some new and exciting creations to share with us all. For Mike and I, we just plan on having fun whilst keeping things deep and groovy, ensuring the crowd is properly warmed up so Jamie can step up to the plate and smash the living hell out of it.
Facebook Event: Dragonfruit Fridays pres. Jamie Stevens