One of Brisbane’s established electronic executives, Malcolm brings a wealth of experience to his DJ sets, which encompass the lush, euphoric sounds of deep and progressive house and trance. Malcolm is playing at Elements Festival in QLD on the weekend of 19-21 October and supporting Nick Warren for Lemon & Lime at Capulet in Brisbane, on Sunday 28 October 2018.
Q. Malcolm, you have had quite a career as a DJ, and the future is still very bright. You’ve played a colourful spectrum of electronic music for party goers over the years. How do you feel about where things are at for you musically in the present day?
A. I’m really enjoying things musically and the bookings I’ve been fortunate to receive over the last few years. I took some time out in 2012, as the career path I was following, along with the study I was doing at the time didn’t leave any headspace for music. I’d held a long-term residency at The Met, where they gave me a great deal of musical freedom, playing both in Coco downstairs and Main Room. But toward the end I found myself distracted and feeling like I was just going through the motions, which bugged me as I have always believed that the state of mind you are in personally reflects in the energy we portray while playing and is therefore also reflective in the music and vibe we create. I think it’s really important as a DJ to know not only know your music intimately but to be able to read your dance floor and the room. To truly be able to perform I feel you need to connect with the music you’re playing so you deliver to your audience, no matter the venue or party.
Although that was a really weird time for me, I realised how important music was to me on many levels. That break enabled me to refocus on what was important to me musically, as clichéd as that may sound. I realised through that break then that I would rather play music that touched my soul a few times a year to people who came for the music, whether they recognised it or not. To me music has always resonated on many levels and now I appreciate that I get booked for what I do and my take on music. It’s also really humbling to be sought out in a crowd after a set and thanked for what you do.
Q. How did music come into your life when you were young? It’s something that is ever changing and evolving, and you have no doubt heard a lot of different sounds and styles in the decades that it has been an interest for you. Looking back, what were some of the pivotal moments where that interest shifted, and you became focused on electronic music?
A. Music came into my life at a very young age, with Mum dancing me around the living room while I was still floating around in her belly. I had a diverse influence in my early musical education due to the age gap between Mum & Dad. Dad was all about the classical and Mum was about progressive and new age stuff for the time in the seventies… educated from Brahms to Boney M., Sky to Strauss. My earliest fond musical memories are of listening to a Mercedes model car that was an AM radio in about grade four, and then in the formative teenage years, from Hot Chocolate to AC/DC and Joan Armatrading, Fleetwood Mac, ELO, Queen, Doctor Hook, and Ace Frehley‘s New York Groove stands out for some reason…
These developed further through the eighties with Depeche Mode, Devo, Visage, Simple Minds, Vangelis, Human League, Europe (yes, shameful but true), Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Kim Wilde, A Flock of Seagulls and Yazoo among others, which I’m sure you’ll start to see the connection with both analogue and synthesized sounds. There was something about the resonance of synthesized sounds and the emotion of music in general that has always resonated with me, which carried through into my club life. The emotion and resonance of a violin and a synthesizer, although from two different worlds, always spoke to me and continues to do so to this day.
Club life for me is the first shift musically, starting in the early nineties, which to be honest we were spoilt with a smorgasbord of sound both in the main stream and the underground. In those days you went to the Valley to hear music you’d never heard before and I certainly didn’t hear on mainstream radio, at venues like The Beat, The Site and the Roxy, and parties like Blackout, NASA, Advent*jah or Strawberry Fields.
Strawberry Fields was an incredible experience, I can remember Vision Four 5 playing their hit Everything You Need, which was massive on its own. But when they played live they ran through the build up from the breakdown three times, which, if you know the tune, made for an insane energy, and the crowd went absolutely bat shit crazy when that bassline kicked back in!
Some of Brisbane’s pioneers of electronica, Matt Kitshon, Mark Briais, Darren James and Jason Rouse to name a few, also played nights at many venues around town, which provided some great musical education. Standout club nights of the time were Grand Orbit on a Wednesday, Viva later in the years or we’d do a late-night run down the Gold Coast to the Tunnel. There was so much variety that had a profound influence on me, from the aforementioned, to others like Gracie, Edwin, Kesson, Jen-E, Barking Boy, Ken Jensen and Ricemeister.
Although it wasn’t on the dance floor I’ll never forget walking up to The Beat one night to see two very attractive brunettes either side of Edwin, carrying his record boxes and wearing knee high boots, short black shorts and t-shirts with bold white writing on their chests. One said “Edwin’s”, the other said “Bitches”… what a legend! Actually, that reminds me of another DJ’s girlfriend, but this time in white with “Dance With Me” on the front of her top, and “Jensen” across the back of her shorts, Ken Jensen at The Tube. Back then it was the hard house and Nu NRG that grabbed me.
Moving through the late nineties to early noughties, trance was a huge influence, with such emotive builds and keys that wrung every ounce of happy out of you till you thought you’d burst. The CD collection still contains mixed albums such as Slinky Moscow and all the coloured Gatecrasher series. A standout party memory was the turn of the millennium when I was in the UK for Gatecrasher in Don Valley Stadium. It was in a climate-controlled tent and an array of artists such as The Chemical Brothers, Carl Cox, Tall Paul, Paul Van Dyk, Scott Bond and Matt Hardwick. To hear that music on a sound sytem of that scale was magical… not to mention the vibe of that many people with their hands in the air. From memory Carl Cox saw the new year in twice by flying back through the time zones!
The next shift started in this same era with a sound that has stuck with me to this day, and that was the sound Paul Oakenfold was pushing along with the likes of Sasha & Digweed. This music spoke to me on a different level, it wasn’t reliant on the tempo or big filtered synths. It, for me, generated more anticipation with longer mixes, layers and its staging of sounds – enter Malcolm’s love of progressive! There were some amazing progressive parties, like Two Tribes, where I remember Dave Seaman doing one of the best rock star entries I can remember, walking in wearing an Akubra with corks hanging off it and drinking straight out of a magnum of Moet! A lot of Brisbane locals championed this sound too, the likes of Cosmo Cater, Scott Walker, Alan Ho, Magoo and others with venues such as the Orient and a rabbit warren to get to somewhere under the Elephant & Wheelbarrow? To this day I couldn’t tell you how to get in there but do remember stairs and what seemed to be a labyrinth of corridors. But a great night of music was had.
Deep Dish in Main Room of Family was one of most packed club nights I’ve been to in Brisbane. From memory there were 2500 people that night and you needed a shoehorn to move through the crowd. One of my fondest memories from the 2000s is hands down Hernan Cattaneo’s set in the Pod at Family, which from memory was about 2008? That was five hours of the most incredible and unrelenting progressive house I have ever heard. I had to start work at 6am and I was still on the dance floor at 5am. I have so many fond memories involving clubs and parties, but I think I’ve rabbited on enough on this question.
Q. You started DJing 20 years ago, in the late 1990s. Since then you have played at countless events around Australia and held residencies at a dozen or so clubs and venues, including at The Met in Brisbane. You must have some more stories to tell! What are some memories that stand out for you?
A. My first ever paid gig was not at all dance related but playing at the Inala tavern as music fill for The Radiators… that was an absolute baptism of fire and a very steep lesson in learning to program and play to the crowd. It was a tough gig, as my passion was for dance music, and the crowd wanted very little to none of that, lol. I also was amazed with the sound that could be made to come out of an electric guitar that night by their lead guitarist Stephen “Fess” Parker, what he did was pure wizardry!
My first paid residency was playing upstairs at Ja Ja’s Lounge on McLachlan street in the Valley, it was a cool and eclectic space where I could play music I loved with none of the dodgy requests from commercial venues. It was also another learning curve in how to progress a room across a longer set. They even had the guys from Powderfinger upstairs chilling one night, who thanked me for the tunes.
I have very fond memories of playing at Monastery (last known as Oh Hello!) which was an institution on a Saturday night. The first gig I did there was to play after a set with Matt Kitshon and Isaac James, where I was told they’d be playing a more stripped back house set… easy I thought! I packed two bags of house that I thought would fit beautifully, more along the funky line than bigger room house. I walked in about an hour before my set, which is something I still do to this day, to watch how the crowd reacts to what’s being played and also ensures you don’t play something the DJ before you has.
When I walked into the room the place was heaving with the usual solid house the venue was renowned for and was certainly not the stripped back house I’d been told by management. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a shot at the guys, this was a big lesson for me in how to pack your bags for a set. Always be prepared! Thankfully I didn’t live far from the club, so I drove home, up-ended my record bags all over the floor of the studio and frantically repacked with what was right and headed back in. If I’d played what I originally packed that night I certainly wouldn’t have ended up with the three-year residency that ensued.
That place was off the chart party times, and to be honest the diversity of what we could play was thanks to Matt and Baby Gee with what they played. Three-hour sets were the norm, where you’d play anything from Erick Morillo to a Pink Floyd white label remix, house, electro and what Gee branded “punk funk” were all the norm. There was no lockout, and if you were rostered on the closing set in Summer you’d be playing a five-hour set through until 7am, which is no mean feat playing vinyl. Big Jeff, Habebe, Reekay and Sharif, the Stafford Brothers with Bongo boy and many others kept that place heaving.
One party I was asked to headline was a tribal and progressive night put on at The Wickham by a great friend and DJ, David Abell, called Deep. This was a gamble at the time because Les Smith and Neroli had built an amazing reputation, making it the destination venue for the LGBTQ, with uplifting house and trance, and it had an amazing energy within. Anyway, roll on the night. I walked in to play, and the venue was pretty full, and I was nervous as hell as to how the music would be received, so much so when I stepped up to the turntables I was that nervous I could hardly put the needle on the record. That however was short lived, that was one of my most enjoyable sets. About an hour in I’d found my groove and started noticing an odd noise in the room whenever I’d drop a new track, which initially I thought was feedback through the stylus. So I checked the weights and balance of the tone arms, couldn’t find anything wrong there, was watching my levels (note: if you’re headlining you should not be redlining people, lol) and still could not for the life of me work it out, until I dropped a mix without my cans on and realised it was actually the crowd grunting each time I dropped a new track. Wow, what an amazing night of solid chugging tribal and progressive.
While I had a lot of latitude in both Coco downstairs and Main Room at The Met, who booked and continue to book some of the biggest names in dance music, I was fortunate enough to play after Nick Warren in Main Room. He played a solid set and left a good vibe in the room… there may have been a few fanboy moments backstage watching him play and waiting to start my set, following someone who influenced my taste in music. There was a particular flavour of house that worked well in Main Room and was certainly driven By Pete Smith, Andy and Nick Galea, which I thought I’d have to revert to after Nick Warren to keep the crowd, but I thought I’d give it a nudge by starting with a remix I’d been dying to play out, which was a remix of Hale Bopp by Dr. Kucho. Never did I expect a reaction like that, they loved it, and I kept that flavour for the rest of the night, weaving in loops of vocals and samples from current commercial tracks of the time… this is what I love about the flexibility of the technology available to us these days, having four CJDs makes this possible. I know Carl Cox used to play four and five decks back in the day, but to me that would be impossible. A CDJ however enables you to loop and re-edit on the fly, or even simply loop a bassline to keep the energy flowing through a breakdown that might usually lose the crowd’s interest.
Q. Some of the promoters that you have played for include Subtrakt, Auditree, NuBreed and Lemon & Lime. Brisbane has had a thriving underground electronic music scene thanks to these brands, some of which have come and gone. What would you like to say to them? There are a few new promoters cropping up and making their mark now. What advice can you give?
A. Always thank you for booking me, but more so for their passion and drive they and others have as a collective. Keep doing what you’re doing! We have a well-patroned and diverse scene here across techno, house, progressive and trance, where the internationals know us as a destination they want to come back to. Look at acts such as Hernan, Dubfire and Aly & Fila for example. Thank you also to forward thinking venues who think outside the box, have great music policy and cater to an intimate crowd, e.g. Capulet.
If you are a patron reading this, keep supporting and paying to attend these events, as this is what keeps them alive. At the end of the day no one does it to lose money. Share the event, tag your mates, and if you’ve enjoyed any shows share your thoughts on their pages as well, to feed the ever-hungry social media algorithms and encourage your friends to come along and do the same. The promoters here don’t do it just for the money, but if they can’t cover costs we won’t be getting them back.
Q. Lemon & Lime will be 10 years old next year. You’ve played at a bunch of events for what is one of Brisbane’s leading progressive, trance and techno promoters. I’ve been to heaps of Lemon & Lime parties and they are always so much fun. In my opinion the music is second to none, and we all have such a great time. What does being part of the Lemon & Lime family mean to you?
A. Firstly, well done Dan, ten years is an amazing achievement which from memory started out with Jaytech at Bar Soma and has turned into the premier brand it is today! I love the opportunity to play music and attending events equally.
The warmup set is an art form and a great responsibility to set the tone for the headline act, which I am lucky enough to have been schooled in with my time playing alongside Rousey at The Met. I also learned very quickly in my fist ever warmup many years ago how not to do it, a mistake I only made once. Always leave headroom and BPM for the headliner and plenty in the tanks for the dance floor. The headliner is the star of the show, not you.
Being part of the Lemon & Lime family gives me a great satisfaction, with continued bookings to play to people who are there solely for the music, which is an amazing feeling, and I’ve made some great friends with shared experiences through these parties and others. Dan has a great reputation as a promoter and I appreciate that he books me knowing I’ll play what’s right for the slot I’m booked. All of them are special as I get to warm the room for DJs who have influenced me musically over the years or moved me on the dance floor. Plus, it’s an opportunity to hear a side of them you wouldn’t normally get the opportunity to, and I can say honestly that most of the headliners I’ve warmed rooms for are incredibly humble.
Q. You have played at festivals around Australia, both in urban environments and out bush. Tell us about some of the experiences that you have had at festivals as a DJ and an attendee. What do festivals have to offer party goers? How does listening to and dancing to electronic music outside in nature affect people?
A. My first bush doof was a party put on by Bear Keen called Tupperware, I played a back to back techno set with Rob Glasgow. It was a true underground event in that the details of the party weren’t advised until a text on the day, with directions to head west out of Brisbane for a specified number of kilometres that took us ultimately down dirt roads following little yellow ribbons tied to trees in the forest, that if you blinked you’d miss. I still remember clearly walking down the dirt road to the party how crystal clear and tight the sound was, there’s nothing for it to bounce off so there is a noticeable difference in quality. The production and theming of these parties is something else, and at Tupperware as the sun went down and the lasers kicked in it was something which has stayed with me. Watching them scan through the trees and bounce off mirrors strategically placed completed the sensory experience.
I really enjoy them, there is a totally different vibe, a noticeable connectedness that you don’t get in clubs. The larger ones are lifestyle festivals with so much to offer and have something for everyone, with discussion facilitated by a wide range of presenters, yoga, massage, markets, tree plantings, seed exchanges, art galleries and kid spaces. It really caters for all walks of life along with the mind body and soul. Pack your open mind and check one out if you haven’t already.
To answer your dancing question, I’ve always enjoyed having a boogie… yes, more than just swinging the hips and nodding the head in the DJ booth. I can remember distinctly at Earth Frequency Festival last year as the skies opened up in the afternoon, feeling an incredible energy change as we danced in the rain. What an energy. Equally, I also heard what I can only describe as the perfectly choreographed sunrise set, some of the most beautiful earthly and textured progressive I’ve ever heard. I actually opted to not get out of the tent to go to the dance floor but lay back listening to it in the distance as the sun rose from the darkness.
Q. When it comes to electronic music you’re a man of varied tastes, and that is reflected in your diverse array of sets. How does playing different genres change your perspective? It must keep things interesting.
A. I love all music except R&B or dubstep, but I can see how and why those two work… just not my cup of tea. I take influence from many styles, not just those I play. I think my early trance influences show through in all the music I play today.
It does keep it interesting, as well as fresh and challenging. There has always been pigeonholing of genres and the array of them these days is vast. At the end of the day my sets have always encompassed house, techno and progressive, but I don’t usually distinguish between them or identify as a one genre DJ. To me if it fits you should play it.
One such challenge last year was at Elements Festival, where I had to bridge from a psytrance act before me into techno for the set after me, and incidentally for the rest of the night. I had to call on all my senses and repertoire to keep that dance floor alive, particularly given the tempo change.
Q. Thank you so much for recording an exclusive DJ set for Underground Sound Malcolm! It’s a melodic progressive house journey that I know many readers will love. I really enjoyed it. You and I discussed our mutual appreciation for progressive house when you played a warm up set for Jody Wisternoff in September. How did you select the tunes for this set?
A. Thank you for asking and I’m glad you enjoyed it. I hope other listeners do too! I did enjoy our discussion on music that day and the many prior. When I was looking through the collection for this set I wanted to be able to showcase what I can do, as these days people mostly only hear my warmup sets. Closing sets used to be my forte, so I took this opportunity to provide something that moves through tempo and style, to give you a taste of the later style rather than the early/warmup some may know of me. I do miss the days of three to eight-hour sets, but I think this mix should give listeners a good insight into some of my scope and taste.
Q. You’re playing outdoors at Elements Festival in South East Queensland, on the weekend of 19-21 October 2018. The line-up for the festival looks phenomenal. What do you have planned for that weekend? What sort of music will you be playing?
A. It is an incredible line-up, and I’ll be playing between Taglo and EEEMUS, which is a great fit for me. It’s a safe bet to say it will be a little tribal, a little ethereal and most definitely chunky, textured warm progressive that I’ll serve up from the prog kitchen! I’m definitely looking forward to Tranceducer and Tim Penners’ sets!
Q. On the afternoon of Sunday 28 October 2018 you will be supporting UK superstar and Jody Wisternoff‘s other half of Way Out West, Nick Warren, with Rich Curtis at Capulet here in Brisbane, for Lemon & Lime. I know that will be another very special day. There are still some final release tickets left for the event. What would you like to say to anyone who is thinking about coming?
A. Stop thinking, get your card out and buy a ticket! Rich is a master of his craft and has some great releases out at present, as well as being fresh back from his recent DJ tour. The man himself Nick is right on point at the moment from a production and a DJ perspective, and a lesson in how it’s done proper will definitely be given from one of the masters of this genre. Don’t be the one dwelling in the FOMO. If you’re still not convinced, check out some his back to back sets with Hernan Cattaneo or even his solo live sets online.
Facebook Event: Nick Warren (UK) Brisbane Show
Buy Tickets: https://www.moshtix.com.au/v2/event/nick-warren-brisbane-show/105923
01. Chris Sterio, GuyRo – Zen (Matter Remix) [Balkan Connection]
02. Upercent – Pulsacions (Nick Warren Remix) [Sincopat]
03. Ziger, Matan Caspi – Butterfly [Outta Limits]
04. MOii – Aram (Kade B Remix) [Mystic Carousel Records]
05. Dmitry Molosh – 2702 [Hope Recordings]
06. Kamilo Sanclemente – Secret Garden [Auditen Music]
07. Ezequiel Arias – No Paranoia [Or Two Strangers]
08. Black 8, Arrab – Sandwaves [The Soundgarden]
09. Luciano Scheffer – Signal [Massive Harmony Records]
10. Ziger – Infinity [Beat Boutique]
11. Quivver, Cristoph – In Name Only [Selador]
12. EDLands – Insomnia (Luciano Scheffer Remix) [Massive Harmony Records]