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- Gretta Ray: @re._stacks and Online Activism
By Jake Amy, Ella Clair, Hugh Heller, Yara Alkurd, Rose Bassett and Emma Volard Halfway through a year that has seen eruptions of public outrage at systemic discrimination, victims of sexual misconduct at the hands of Melbourne photographer Jack Stafford rallied together to share their experiences and call for justice. In a time when the isolated nature of life has necessitated an increasing reliance on online activism, Gretta Ray has sought to use her platform to support victims, and add her voice to the call for those in a position of privilege to take responsibility. This is the first interview in which Gretta has been outspoken on these issues since rising to prominence in the Australian music industry in her late teens. Jake had the opportunity to speak with Gretta last week. Recently, photographer Jack Stafford admitted to being an ‘abuser’ after Jaguar Jonze posted #MeToo accusations. What was going through your mind when this happened? That was a very confronting week. For all of us. And it did hit quite close to home because there were so many people that I knew, or knew of, who were affected by that particular scenario. I’ve always felt that the Australian music community is so close; we all know each other and collaborate with one another, and I love that. It seems that we all have each other’s backs until something like this occurs, and suddenly becomes very public. I mean, of course you hear about how these things are still very much prevalent in our scene all the time, but it is shocking when someone in your circles turns out to be causing damage to the people you know and your community. In terms of what was going through my mind, it’s hard to verbalise, to be honest. For the most part, I just feel really sad. There was a lot of anger, and of course a lot of frustration and concern for the people that came forward. I didn't have experiences [with the perpetrator] similar to those people. As much as I’m in awe of their bravery, I’m overcome with disappointment that this is still such a massive issue. If there was a silver lining amidst it all, it was the fact that women (and gender non-conforming) in the industry really flocked together instantly. It was really beautiful to see, and definitely restored some of my faith in knowing that there is an immense amount of support for each other in our circles. I had a lot of inspiring conversations with other women in the industry over the phone that week when the news broke… not to mention that it was definitely quite a shock for many of the guys as well. I found myself in multiple conversations with male friends of mine who asked, “What can I do better?”. Should bystanders still speak up if they fear falsely accusing someone of sexual misconduct? Yes, absolutely. Sure, at times there is a grey area to navigate before it becomes entirely clear that someone has done something really bad and really damaging, but the consequences of falsely accusing someone of sexual misconduct are nowhere near as bad as refusing to believe the victim. In doing so, you invalidate that victim’s experience, you potentially silence them forever, and furthermore contribute to the trauma that they’re already having to work through. And I know that the fear of falsely accusing someone of sexual misconduct is seemingly more difficult for men to navigate, because often it’s their male friends or family members who are the potential perpetrators. But I have always thought that until a case has been further unpacked and reached a point where it’s a “yes” or “no”, “this did or didn’t happen”, you believe the victim. You only have to see how many people were victim [to this photographer] to realise how ridiculous it is to not. As I'm talking to you, I'm realising now… like… wow, yeah. It's such an emotional topic. "The objective success of someone can be so blinding and disgustingly powerful in how it can silence somebody else, or in this case, so many people. It’s never enough to assume that everything’s okay, just because of someone’s success or popularity, in fact it’s incredibly dangerous." Why do you think there’s been a recent spike of artists speaking about this issue on social media, considering that this type of discrimination is happening all the time? Well, for me, the most shocking aspect of that scenario was the sheer amount of people who were affected by the same perpetrator (105 different people). Jaguar Jonze and @sheisaprodite have really helped shed light on the fact that these victims aren't alone. And not only are they not alone, but speaking up about their experience is potentially going to help somebody else speak out, and name their own experience. I’m really grateful to see the amazing, supportive space that has been cultivated and expanded over the past couple of weeks. Everyone should feel that this massive community has our back. Do you think that online activism has taken the place of offline activism? Hmm. It's interesting to think about that during this period of time, actually. I’ve usually associated offline activism with getting out into the real world, going to protests, showing up and having conversations with lots of different people in order to learn and to grow. I guess right now there are limitations that mean we can’t physically do that. I wouldn’t say that online activism has totally replaced offline activism. Regarding the current civil rights movement, I think online activism has assisted in further amplifying a) the issues at hand and b), the voices we should be listening to. I think the fact that we’re all connected on the internet at the moment has helped us to inspire one another to go out into the world and do that activist work properly. However, with online activism, I think there is a huge danger in people feeling like they’ve “done their part” by sharing one post or resource on their Instagram story. Doing one #blacklivesmatter post and then resuming your shit as normal is very worrying, and appears to be an easy vortex for people to fall into. I am trying my best to not do that, because there is so much work that I need to do; a lot that I need to learn and also to unlearn. To me, a big part of my offline activism right now has been reading, watching documentaries, listening to podcasts and learning from the incredible resources that are being shared. It’s unsettling how little I know, but I am inspired by my discomfort to remain as switched on as possible. I’m slowly but surely beginning to do the work that I need to. How do we spread these messages outside of our bubble? Yeah, that’s something that I’ve been really fascinated by. Naturally we surround ourselves with people that share our views. For a while there I thought, “Well, we’re all reposting the same thing”. It's good that we’re on the same page, but how can we actually push this further? For me, it’s come down to listening, being patient and open minded, and becoming more enlightened about certain topics so I can support my arguments when I find myself in a difficult discussion with someone who isn’t entirely on the same page as me. Working independently as a freelance creative, you’re not employed by anyone. Where can you go for help if you’ve experienced incidents like this? I’m mindful of speaking on someone’s behalf when I shouldn’t do so. I haven’t personally experienced an incident like this, so I don’t know where I would feel like I could or couldn’t go for help if I did. What I can say is that it has been really inspiring to see Jaguar Jones giving the victims of this recent incident a voice. She provided us with this amazing research she’d done about what next step those victims could take if they chose to, saying, “These are some options that you can take forward, here is why it would be good, here is why it’d be helpful”. Doing something like that… I just thought that was so incredible, selfless and responsible of her. I feel as though our industry is so small. We’re all mutual friends and most people are just a stone’s throw away. At its core, I think that this community is trusting, and particularly amongst women, I feel like we can talk about anything. In these scenarios, having those conversations with one another is a good place to start. You were 16 years old when you entered the industry. What was your experience? Yeah, I stepped into this industry when I was very young, and for the most part I've been lucky to have had a really wonderful community around me who inspire me to work hard and ensure that I’m connecting with great people. I worked with Charlotte Abroms for years and have had a lot of other really incredible women in my circles. When I started working on my first EP, I had no experience in working in studios, but I had so many ideas for how I wanted my songs to sound. I was 16. And I was so fortunate that the first producer that I worked with was Josh Barber. I feel like it’s a very common story for a young female artist to get put in a room with a male producer who, often without even realising, plays into the stereotype of taking control, overriding a female’s project just because they’re excited about it. That did not happen to me at all. Josh would wrap up every recording session with, “Are you happy? What is it that you want to do? You make the final call here”. It’s fundamental for mentors to provide emerging artists with the space to discover who they are. At the end of the day, it’s the artist’s project; they’re in the driver’s seat. The type of behaviour and approach to working with a younger artist who is trying to find their feet, is more impactful than I'll ever be able to put into words. I’ve never felt that I can’t use my voice, express my opinion, or make the final call and influence decisions in every session, co-write or rehearsal that I’ve gone into since working on my first EP. Josh’s brilliant mentorship played a large part in this being the outcome. Then again, amidst everything, it’s wild to think about the fact that, as a female, I’ve felt the need to thank men when they’ve provided this space for me…when that should actually just be the norm! The reality is, unfortunately it still isn’t. As women, we have this shitty ingrained tendency to thank a man just for being a decent human being, or apologise for things when we don’t need to. There are so many phenomenal female-led projects oozing confidence and boldness right now. That energy is solely because that woman is doing her own thing, trusting her gut and taking charge, and not because a man permitted her to do so. Does reformation come from empowering women? Um, yes, but not entirely. There has been a huge increase in conversation around gender inequality in the media, and though I feel like that has made an impact, and that we have made a lot of progress, there is still a heap of work to be done. I mean, to be specific to the music industry, one day I’ll be like, “Wow, look at all of these incredible female artists that are topping the Hottest 100. This is so great”, (Billie Eilish won the Hottest 100 this year and that was the first time a female has EVER won it). But then only two years ago at the Grammys, there was this insanely backwards comment made from the Recording Academy President, a male, who said, “Women need to step up”. I do think change has been made by empowering women, and of course we need to continue naming the issue and being loud about it. Gender inequality is something that we’re dealing with in every industry, and if we look at the issue globally… just look at who America voted in as their president. That alone clearly demonstrates that despite the fact that great things are happening, ultimately women are still being dismissed and spoken over. We’re still under threat and suffering. Empowering women isn’t all we need to do to make this change. I think while that’s great, let’s look at where the issues are actually coming from… what are we going to do about the men? You can gauge the extreme sensitivity within males when a comment such as, “And then, like all men do, he said this”, is made. Their ears perk up. So many of them feel attacked by that. I just wish we were more focused on educating the boys. J: I don’t think that should be your responsibility though. Men need to educate themselves. That's absolutely true. It’s not really up to the women at this point - they’re doing fucking great. What I mean is in society, as a whole, there needs to be more energy put into educating the boys. Reform, in a way, comes from empowering women, absolutely, but men need to sort out what they need to do in order to fix this huge issue. And I wish that was more of a priority. Even the terminology used about women being harassed… rather than saying, “Woman sexually harassed”, how about saying, “Another man has, yet again, sexually harassed a woman”? We're conditioned to talk about this stuff in a certain way, you know? That needs to change. I’ve spoken to a few guys in the industry about gender inequality and they have the opinion that, “If you’re good, you’ll get the gig”. What’s your opinion on this? Oh, well, that's just completely not true, is it? This industry is still very much dominated by men. Certain genres are even more so dominated by men. That is so disappointing to hear. Have you spoken to any other women about this? J: Oh, everyone thinks it’s bullshit. Of course it is. You know, that just further exemplifies my point that there needs to be so much more of a focus on educating men. That’s an ignorant comment, and I would think that there’s no doubt that the people who said that actually genuinely believe that it is the case. Boys: there is so much that you don’t know; there’s so much going on that you don't see, or worse, have come to normalise. You say that because the issue at hand doesn’t affect or impact you personally, and never has or will. I vividly remember playing a gig with Japanese Wallpaper when I was 17. At the merch desk after the show, I had these drunk boys towering over me, wrapping their arms around me without my permission. Like, the number of times I’ve had a guy run up to me after a show and assume he can hug me, kiss on the cheek even, or tell me “you’re hot”… that kind of stuff is so rampant. And what’s worse is, I remember at that particular gig, being so conscious of what I was doing, and assuring that I didn’t do the ‘wrong thing’, or behave too defensively… I was a young girl, I had no idea how to handle that scenario and shouldn't have had to. I just had this ingrained misogyny in my own brain telling me to “be nice” and “not make things difficult”. If there was anything that I could say to those guys who have that opinion of “if you’re good you’ll get the gig”… (apart from the fact that they need to do their research - remember when there were only 9 women in total on the 2018 Falls Festival line up?)… actually look for the gender inequality, I promise it won’t take you long to see it. Notice the issue rather than dismissing it. Look for the mistreatment, and then call it out. If you notice behaviour that doesn’t quite sit right, say something. Hold your mates accountable. Have the conversations, and do the work. The chain effect that I can only imagine that would have, would do a lot of good. Keep up to date with Gretta here We would like to acknowledge the Wurundjeri people who are the Traditional Custodians of the land on which we work and live, and recognise their continuing connection in our community. We would like to pay respect to the Elders both past and present of the Kulin Nation and extend that respect to other Indigenous Australians who have read this article.
- Scott Tinkler: Cancel Culture and James Morrison
By Jake Amy, Hugh Heller, Yara Alkurd, Rose Bassett, Ella Clair and Emma Volard In the last fortnight, it emerged that James Morrison, a titanic figure in the Australian jazz community, wrote a character reference for a male student, helping to strike a plea deal to 'downgrade his two rape charges to indecent assault'. After a surge in demand on social media for one of the Australian jazz “boys club” members to speak up about the misogyny that has plagued the scene, Attaboi invited 50 elite male musicians to discuss the issue. Only three replied, and one declined. Internationally-renowned trumpeter Scott Tinkler accepted our request for an interview. Jake spoke with him at length about the Morrison incident and the role of men in addressing inequality. Here is an abridged version of the conversation. Recently, Australian jazz musician and educator James Morrison wrote a character reference for a student who admitted to indecent assault. What do you think about this? It’s very difficult to comment on James writing a character reference for someone as I only read the ABC article. I don’t know what James’s relationship is with the perpetrator, but personally, it feels like he’s taking sides. To allow a student (who’s under a curfew) to enter Victoria in order to perform with his band, especially in a town where the victim was living, is just outrageous. It’s very hard to see any way that James will come out looking ‘good’ on that front. Not that it should matter. A whole other level of the problem comes from people worrying about how they are perceived politically. People are scared to comment on this James Morrison issue because it may affect their future relationship with him. Your relationship with James Morrison is not as important as upholding women's rights. (I guess I can talk so openly about this because any power that might be perceived of me or my name in the scene doesn't actually equate to anything. I'm not part of any university or corporation. No one has power over me and I don't have power over anyone else. I'm just a freelance musician living on a little island down south. I have nothing to lose. By talking to you about this, maybe I can actually learn something about the way I think). We could say that James wanted to help support both the victim and the perpetrator to help them through this? Maybe he didn't want to just ‘cancel’ this kid? I think it doesn’t matter what the reason is: the support to the perpetrator should not be given in the public realm. I think the way to do it is to offer therapy and change the way they think about life. I think James’s support given to the perpetrator is allowable to be very angry at. Why has there been such a code of silence in the jazz scene about these issues? It seems to me that there might be a large part of historical jazz culture which is quite misogynist. I mean, without a doubt there was. But I think the problem is a ‘systemic’ thing. Inequality exists throughout society on such a huge level and we can’t just say that there’s a problem in the jazz scene without addressing the fact that this problem exists in every aspect of society. I think the ‘code of silence’ you say may exist is not a vindictive thing, it’s just a horrible reflection of society and how people live. When I was younger, this was something that I didn’t think about. You’d hear little niggles here and there about things… ‘I can’t believe that teacher is going out with that young girl’... but it just wasn’t as open, as talked about, as acknowledged, and as in-your-face as it is now. Nowadays, these subjects are talked about more openly. The change is fantastic, but these issues are so deep and very systemic, and I think the level of inequality is rife beyond just ‘men and women’. (There’s obviously inequalities between people of differing colours, and on top of that, if you’re on the lower end of the income spectrum, to even think about having the life of a musician is pretty privileged anyway). "Inequality exists throughout society on such a huge level and we can’t just say that there’s a problem in the jazz scene without addressing the fact that this problem exists in every aspect of society." Why aren't we hearing from the older generation? I just don't know… Perhaps discussion is most visible online, and the perception that we’re not hearing from the older generation might be because they're simply not on Facebook. I guess I'm an older person now. Personally, I don't find Facebook to be a very healthy space in a lot of ways. Certainly I find it difficult to have discussions like this on there. Invariable trolls. As far as virtue signalling goes, I feel I've been far more active behind-the-scenes than I have on social media. If we're not hearing from the older generation on social media, I’d like to think that those people are actually being very active offline. The whole virtue signalling thing is a very touchy area… In a world with something such as ‘cancel culture’, things could go very badly for you if you hold a position at a university and you do say something which is interpreted a certain way. I have a problem with that. As a society, we need to be careful of knee-jerk reactions. It can be counterproductive to say ‘you're fucked, you’re out of here, we all hate you’. It can scare people away from growing. It should be okay for people to make a ‘slightly wrong’ comment because discussion is so important. (There's also a fine balance between allowing people to be wrong and convincing them that they're right). There are misogynist, racist musicians who you do find out about on places like Facebook. Those people do need to be taught in a positive, healthy way. In fact, I got ‘cancelled’ by someone the other day for no other reason than liking a post on Instagram. People might say, ‘oh God, that's typical of someone like him, he doesn't even realise he's being misogynist’. The truth is, they might be very right. I just need to be told. Then I'll learn and hopefully I won't do it again. I’ve definitely had ingrained, socialised ideas within myself that I didn't even realise I had. So many men I’ve talked to have the opinion that ‘if you’re good, you’ll get booked’. In relation to the recent issue, does that mean that ‘if you’re good, then criminal charges don’t matter’? That statement totally highlights the severe level of inequality in the scene. I would like to see James make a public statement on this. I'd like to watch his face and see him try to explain to us why he supported this perpetrator. Is it really just because he's a good musician? Being a good musician doesn't mean you're a good person. I was watching Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, a senator in America. She’s this young, vibrant, intelligent woman who was verbally abused by Ted Yoho, another senator. She rightly outed him. He apologized, but she said, ‘I'm not accepting your apology. I'm the same age as your daughter and you’re calling me a “fucking bitch”. It doesn't matter if you've got daughters. It doesn't matter if you’ve got a wife. It doesn't matter if you love your mother. You still abuse women’. It was a powerful speech. Just because you've got daughters and you love them, doesn't mean you can't be a rapist. Facilitating education is obviously a huge responsibility. Do you think that the values of our educators in tertiary systems reflect the values that we want to pass on to the next generation of musicians? I mean, we actually need to pass our values onto students much earlier than at university. Somewhere along the line in primary school and high school, females drop out of music. Historically, there've been a hell of a lot more male auditions for university music courses, compared to female. So, it's really not just at the university level that this needs to be addressed. It needs to be addressed well before that. There's a lot of boy-ish behaviour that occurs in high school. That teenage boy attitude probably needs to be put in check more than anything. Unfortunately, some boys carry their teenage attitudes into their 20’s and through into university. The education system has definitely changed a lot in the past 20 years. Places like Monash University and the Victorian College of the Arts (VCA) are actively hiring amazing women and seeking parity in the student body. It’s so fantastic to see empowering, female role models such as Andrea Keller and Sunny Kim being employed. J: What do you think about the implementation of quotas in universities for staffing and student intake? It's incredibly complex. It would be lovely to see parity in student intake, but I mean, one year I’d love to see 80% or even 90% women, just because most of the students were that good on a meritocracy level and it just so happened to go that way. My wife pointed out to me that there may be an overreaction to quotas. If we do try to achieve a quota, letting more women into a course may not be such a bad thing. Men have been so privileged in the past… Surely it doesn't hurt for there to be a bit of an opposite reaction for a while to try and balance it out. Have you experienced sexist ‘locker room’ talk, and is that when only males are present? Oh yeah, I reckon. And it depends on the scene, too. There's a ‘functional’ music world, like the ‘commercial’ music world, and in my experience, it can be a lot more misogynist and blokey. The ‘creative’ music scene is another sort of world that I've existed in since I was in my mid to late 20s, and I think it’s different. It’s such a different environment when you're playing in small jazz groups or working with people like Andrea Keller or international artists like Cindy Blackman. Do you think that there are different expectations from bookers for female and male musicians? I think that bookers do have different expectations. I think that there’s an expectation for women to ‘dress’. Not seductively, but in a way that they will have a ‘look’ about them. I don’t think that anybody would ever have a go at a guy about the way they dressed. I may be speaking out of my ass here, but this is actually what I see in advertising. But then again, I don’t think that my favorite female artists have ever presented themselves that way at all… For example, Linda Oh seems to be in control of her image. She presents herself honestly. I guess the thing is, it's not the really strong people that we have to worry about. It's the people who might be influenced the other way. [Again] it's not just a jazz thing: that’s a society thing. If you were tasked with forming a group to educate and rehabilitate young men in the music scene, where would you start? I actually think that the young men in the music scene would rehabilitate the older people in the music scene a lot better. Nowadays, I think there's a lot more ‘wokeness’ happening in the music scene, but young men still need to work with young women, play music together, and get the fuck over it. There was an all-male band who posted a big rave about supporting women in music. It was really positive and then someone else commented something along the lines of, ‘yeah, but you're all white blokes… what are you doing about it?’. I think that’s an interesting debate, and had the band leader sacked two guys and replaced them with women for the sake of ‘looking better’, that would not be the best way to go. There are other ways to allow women their strength. If someone asked me ‘how can we do better as men in the scene?’, I don't want to relinquish my identity [as a male]. I think [guys] need to be really conscious of how our actions and words affect others. It’s not that dissimilar from picking up your instrument and improvising. You need to have the same attitude with music as with the people around you. When you play, you'll learn how notes change in the environment that you're in. You'll learn how to change the sound of the chord, or the rhythm, or the texture, the tune or where the tunes are heading to, or what's happening dynamically in that situation. It's the same with your actions and words. We need to address those things and learn from them. When you play, you’ve got to have no fear in doing what you think is right. Keep up to date with Scott here We would like to acknowledge the Wurundjeri people who are the Traditional Custodians of the land on which we work and live, and recognise their continuing connection in our community. We would like to pay respect to the Elders both past and present of the Kulin Nation and extend that respect to other Indigenous Australians who have read this article.
- Charlotte Abroms: Gender Inequality in so-called Australia
By Charlotte Abroms, Jake Amy and Rose Bassett From Jake: Around March/April, Rose and I sat down to discuss an issue that had been getting on our nerves for some time. In late 2019, we both posted a Facebook status calling for specific experiences surrounding gendered discrimination. I couldn't believe how many comments and private messages I received... Crude passing comments. Inequitable opportunities. Belittlement. Unconscious discrimination. Stigmas I didn't think still existed. Wake the fuck up, Jake. My naivety as a privileged white male had blinded me from realising the blatant extent of the gender divide. It had been staring me in the face for years. Why was no one in my tertiary music course talking about this?! I was so angry at myself. I felt that my previous silence spoke volumes and it became so obvious that we (the male gender) disproportionately perpetuate this shit and how we must step up our game. It was so good to speak to Rose about this. Previously, I had liked to think that I was supportive of women in the scene. I realised that I needed to take any opportunity I could to facilitate so many more conversations. Rose and I knew we would have Attaboi as a platform to push minority voices, so, we both present this gender inequality series to you. I still have so much more to learn. As does any male reading this. From Charlotte: I would like to preface this article by saying that I am writing from my personal experience as a female manager. I acknowledge that there are an array of genders people identify as. When I use the terms ‘male’ and ‘female’, I would like to acknowledge that there are also people who don’t fit into those terms and likely also experience prejudice. I would also like to acknowledge that there are men of varying races, ethnicities and sexualities that experience discrimination within the workplace. These answers are specifically addressing the misogyny I have experienced personally, without discounting or excluding the experiences of others. Could you describe, if any, the worst misogyny that you’ve experienced working in the music industry? I have only worked in the music industry full time for three years. Prior to that I worked in acting and creative agencies. There’s the obvious misogyny I have experienced in the workplace; the boss who asked me to wear heels, the client who assumed I was an assistant and asked me to do a coffee run, the boss who joked that I had to wear a bikini on casual Fridays, the colleague who asked me when I was going to have babies (in a boardroom meeting in front of 15 clients I didn’t know), the few men who have raised their voices at me aggressively on the phone for no justifiable reason. The notion of misogyny I have experienced within the music industry has taken me a long time to articulate. Historically, there is a music manager archetype. He wears a suit, he has slick hair, he drives an expensive car. He’s often controlling and dominant. He commands a lot of respect. He usually has money. Sometimes he’s a bit more rock ‘n roll, he gets loose with the band, he thrives off attention from female fans. He’s usually a middle aged man. He’s always a man (and he always has slick hair). Often we find out he’s robbed the band. He’s the guy we see in the films, we read about him in the news and the autobiographies. I’ve met him a couple of times in real life actually! I’m nothing like him. Like any ingrained discrimination, people cast judgements on people they perceive to be ‘different’. In my experience, some men within the music industry are more aligned with this archetype, or they have an expectation that managers should be like him. Occasionally from these men, I’ve experienced a subtle sense of hostility, a somewhat underhanded punishment. These punishments have come in all forms; in an office it might be a little put-down (negging I believe it’s called in the dating world), a disregard for the woman’s input, interrupting the women in the room, closed body language towards the women and open body language towards the men, encouraging her idea until it almost comes to fruition and then pulling it for no real reason. I’ve experienced men who have tried to prevent my progression. In a venue it might be completely ignoring the women in the room, shaking the hands and greeting the men while not even making eye contact with the women. It might be the bouncers questioning the honesty and legitimacy of the female manager when she tries to go backstage with her AAA pass. It might be the venue manager asking the male session players to make key decisions and knowingly ignoring the manager who has just introduced herself. For an artist, it’s sometimes crew inferring that she doesn’t know how to use her own instruments and gear. What I have come to see and understand is that there is often an expectation for a female manager to provide feminine qualities. Women are supposed to be compassionate and empathetic, right? They are often nurturers. Sometimes these sensitive so-called ‘feminine’ qualities are perceived as maternal, you hear the term ‘Tour Mum’ thrown around a lot. If that’s your role, then there’s an expectation that you step aside to allow the men to fulfil their ‘masculine’ roles. As a female manager, I am taught not to rob him of respect or his position of leadership and authority. I learnt about this topic listening to a podcast with Ezra Klein and Kate Mann. I was searching for answers. I’ve been victim to the unnecessary penalties for unknowingly competing for a leadership role. I have never seen it as competition, I like collaboration. My clients appointed me with this leadership role, so in order to fulfil it and be the best I can be as a manager, I’ve had to challenge these social norms and expectations. I’ve observed within myself that I carry a lot more guilt than my male counterparts. I’ve been a much more apologetic leader at times, than what I have observed of them. What if I am all of those things? What if I am nurturing, empathetic, compassionate, sensitive, but I am also a capable leader? I didn’t understand this narrative until I had experienced enough small ‘punishments’ to really delve into the psychology behind it. There were too many times I didn’t feel I was being heard. I’ve been faced with more resentment when I have challenged an idea, than when a male has challenged that very idea. I’ve observed being interrupted more than the men in the room. I’ve wondered why the lack of eye contact, specifically with me? I might have come up with the idea, but I’ve been subtly excluded in an email thread because I am not a ‘bro’ or a ‘lad’ or a ‘gent’ or a ‘chap’ or a ‘mate’. The obvious solution to me is that we can’t just destroy these social norms around the expectation of the woman. We have to also look at societal expectations of men. It’s pivotal for everyone to understand that women are also capable leaders and that should not be threatening to other men in the room. There can also be more than one leader, it doesn’t matter what gender they identify as. It’s equally as important to acknowledge that men are allowed to be vulnerable, sensitive, compassionate and empathetic. Now more than ever! Luckily I work for myself, so I’ve had the ability to be able to choose the people I work with. Our teams are made up of clever, kind, caring, respectful people who don’t showcase this kind of behaviour, regardless of their gender. "Sadly, when I have seen powerful men call out gender inequality to other powerful men, the message has been understood more clearly and quickly than when I’ve tried." What barriers have presented themselves with managing female artists? I don’t know what it’s like to be a male manager working with a male band, so it’s difficult to pinpoint the barriers. What opportunities would any of us get, if we weren’t already who we are? I’ve had the pleasure of working with both male and female artists. I cannot pinpoint a difference in the artists themselves, based on their genders. I work with artists because of how their music connects to me, their creative ideas, ambition, followed by their moral compass. Everyone I’ve managed (men and women) have strong feminist values. They all consistently have a great sense of humour, so that has worked out well. The obvious barrier I’ve experienced is when the artists I manage are being asked to do something because of their gender. Often people are open about it, in saying that they are asking because they would like more women on the bill, or the panel or to feature more female-identifying artists on their playlist. I’m in two minds about this. I think this is showing signs of positive progression. People you least expect are becoming more considerate about diverse line ups when it comes to race and gender. At the same time, when they point out that it’s the primary reason they are asking, it can be devaluing to an artist. It’s not often you hear the term “male musician” or “male manager”, but we are often approached because they are looking to include more “female musicians” and “female managers”. It can be obvious (and again, devaluing) when it’s an afterthought. At the moment it’s a conscious effort, so I can see why people are spelling it out. The hope is that eventually it comes naturally to include people of all walks of life, because their music is good. What barriers have you experienced as a female manager? Again, I would need to have experienced being a male manager to answer this properly. I have a lot of close male friends who are managers, I don’t see too much of a difference in what we collectively experience. We go through similar challenges and successes. I am a firm believer that success comes first and foremost from the music. If the music connects to an audience, the manager’s job is to facilitate, build and guide. I have been lucky to work with artists whose music has resonated deeply with people and collectively we’ve been in receipt of some wonderful opportunities. When it comes to these opportunities, I haven’t noticed gender being a barrier, as a manager. I was recently in a situation where I was a guest backstage at a festival where all of the managers of the bands playing the festival were men. I found myself more drawn to spending time with artist friends than the managers. It didn’t feel like I was part of their community. This stuff was never obvious to me when I was younger but through a number of disappointing experiences, I’ve become more aware of the energy in the room. I think I’ve probably received a few less high fives than some male managers, metaphorically and literally, when the artists I work with have achieved similar milestones to the artists they work with. I will say I’ve been interrupted a lot, by people who I don’t work directly with. The people on our teams are progressive in their thinking. We work with people who don’t subscribe to that kind of behaviour. Within our team, we receive a lot of high fives. And we don’t need high fives these days anyway, there’s a viral pandemic! In 2020, it’s bizarre to think we are working in an industry that still has gender inequality. Why do you think it’s such a persistent/resilient issue? Sadly, it’s across every industry. I have only worked in creative industries which are probably a lot more progressive than most. I can’t imagine what it might be like in other fields and within other cultures. The most important thing is that people are educating themselves and others. It’s important that people are listening to experiences of minorities and becoming more inclusive and understanding. Misogyny is engrained in our society, males aren’t the only people that can exhibit misogynistic behaviour. Like any movement, it can take time to make significant changes. I’m thankful to my mother’s generation who fought for women’s rights in the 70’s. Because of that, I never questioned if I was any different to a man when it came came to my ambition. It took a long time to understand that I was experiencing sexism. We need to keep fast-tracking the process by opening everyone up to seeing people as people, as equals - no matter their gender, race, sexuality. It baffles me that anyone ever thought otherwise, but unfortunately I’ve learned a lot of people do. We can’t just speak about it though, we need to provide solutions. In relation to the amazing artists you book on a global scale, and thinking about Australia and its music scene, where do you think we sit on a global scale regarding gender equality? I have definitely observed a lot more women in senior positions within the music industry in other countries. I can see there are efforts being made by people in positions of power within Australia to bring this issue to the forefront and call out bad behaviour. It’s important that it’s not just women’s voices speaking about women’s issues. I’ve been in situations where high up men have called out possible gender-inequality in meetings and that’s also very effective… dare I say, more effective? I was in London a couple of years ago where a study came out about the lack of women in senior roles at record labels in Australia. Being new to the full-time music world myself, I had noticed that it wasn’t just a lack of women, but a general lack of diversity. The person (the head of the company actually!) asked me why it was this way in Australia. She said, “What’s the deal with Australia, why don’t they hire more women in senior roles?”. I really didn’t know the answer. I don’t know. Does anyone know? My friend and I discussed this yesterday and she thinks it’s because it benefits men to stay at the top of the pyramid as the most powerful, the face of the job. She said, “Learning more about the experiences of women and being more inclusive would be inconvenient/uncomfortable for them”. A young artist told me that they learnt at school that you have to “see it to be it”, so I’ve been forthcoming in speaking on panels and doing guest lectures, I want young women who love music to know that they can be a music manager. This is where I can forgive the sub-section phrase “female manager”, because if it encourages a younger generation, then it’s igniting change. As a female-identifying manager, do you find that you are sought out more often than male-identifying managers to talk on these issues, and can you elaborate on whether you think it’s a good or a bad thing for men to reach out to women to discuss these issues? Absolutely! There’s this great quote in Fleabag where they’re discussing the Women In Business Award and the fantastic character Belinda who was awarded the ‘Best Woman in Business’ (played by Kristin Scott Thomas) describes it as “infantilising bollocks.” She says, "It’s a subsection of success - it’s the fucking children’s table of awards". This dialogue helped me understand why I felt uncomfortable about female-specific awards and events. I don’t want to be asked to do something purely because I am a woman, I want to be asked because I’m good at my job and work with fantastic artists. I don’t want to be considered a sub-section, I want to be a manager, not a ‘female manager.’ Where I have an internal debate though, is that I want to be proud that I’m a female manager, in a largely male dominated role, and I want to be the “see it to be it” for younger managers. Talking on panels and writing interviews so frequently about this issue can sometimes be exhausting. I do it because I understand that it can help make positive changes, but sometimes I would prefer the focus was on the amazing things the artists I’ve worked with have achieved. It’s so important that everyone is asked to speak on gender inequality, not just women. If everyone is prompted to think about it in the same way, everyone will be more aware of the subtleties that it took me so long to understand. As I’ve said, sadly, when I have seen powerful men call out gender inequality to other powerful men, the message has been understood more clearly and quickly than when I’ve tried. I will reiterate that it’s important that men (not just men, everyone!) are also encouraged to be vulnerable, gentle and emotionally-driven. It is unhealthy to feel like those raw, wonderful, expressive human traits are to be hidden. Keep up to date with Charlotte here We would like to acknowledge the Wurundjeri people who are the Traditional Custodians of the land on which we work and live, and recognise their continuing connection in our community. We would like to pay respect to the Elders both past and present of the Kulin Nation and extend that respect to other Indigenous Australians who have read this article.
- DRMNGNOW on Music Revolution and Society
By Jake Amy and Hugh Heller For Neil Morris, we are at a potentially transformative moment in history. Artists are engaging with social injustice in a manner that is reminiscent of the revolutionary 1960s artistic movements, and the recent events of horrific treatment towards BIPOC people have prompted widespread questioning of the ongoing injustices inflicted upon First Nations peoples in so-called Australia. The coincidence of this with unprecedented isolation due to COVID-19 means that it is more important than ever for artists and allies to stay connected and work towards an equitable society. DRMNGNOW is at the cutting edge of this intersection between art and activism, and Jake had the opportunity to have a chat with him this week. What's been going through your mind recently? A lot of things. COVID-19 in and of itself has had quite a big impact on me as a First Nations person. Right now, my primary concern is how First Nations peoples can maintain their functioning in a way that fulfils whatever needs we may have. Globally, my concern is how something such as COVID-19 will disproportionately impact our First Nations peoples, and more generally peoples of colour and people within Western-colonial constructs. From a music standpoint, obviously there's a lack of income for everybody, which has a legitimate impact on our lives (including my own), but in one sense, there’s potentially a silver lining to this. Even though music falls into the medium of “entertainment” within Western-contemporary societies, it is still inextricably tied to justice and equity for First Nations peoples and practice of culture. Within a time such as COVID-19, I think that there is a chance to press ‘reset’ on parts of the music sector. When we roll back out, how can we reconstruct the industry in a way which is the most beneficial for the greatest number of people? What will be the considerations from a justice perspective? Historically, I’d thought about these things well before I entered into the world of music; in fact, a driving consideration in my decision to join the industry was to create space and opportunities for First Nations peoples, obtain liberation and observe how we value First Nations song. The tragic passing of George Floyd has had a flow-on effect to considerations around the value of Bla(c)k lives. In this country, and in being the land of a Blak Indigenous people, that is first and foremost First Nations peoples. Unfortunately, that type of conversation may have never reached the same fever pitch, but the momentum around that has prompted us to converse about what justice actually looks like and what justice actually looks like living on this land. Is justice driving society in this land? Is living a life that results in the greatest opportunity of sustainable survival driving society in this land? We need to get First Nations justice sorted out. We need to look at First Nations custodianship and sovereignty, and understand what implications that has in creating a just, equitable and sustainable society. Everybody has a role to play, whether we want it to be that way or not. What are two current music trends that you're most excited about? Firstly, in these troubling times, subject matter about current issues in our society becomes more and more relevant. I guess that we are reaching an interesting period of time at the moment, where we see that high-quality music exploring injustice is very much accepted and very much vital for people to be listening to. I feel that the music of this time may influence our society as much as the music of the 1960s liberation movements. Ultimately, artists drive the music sector, so they will definitely have a big role to play within this, but I feel like there's something in the wind that says we're ready to delve into that. It comes down to the question of whether or not those that have the most influence in our sector want to be a part of that. If not, then is there another way that they're willing to support that? In recent years, we've had big-time artists come out with some quite politically-charged content. Beyoncé, Childish Gambino… even though the content has been put within the larger assets of the sector sporadically, it definitely does feel like we could have this moment where it becomes more widespread. We have to realise that music is an influential sector in society, whether we want it to be that way or not. It has the ability to inform other parts of our world, even government decisions, to some degree. These issues are currently the most pressing for humanity. This very particular moment in history could shape the next couple of hundred years, or we could somehow just slip back into the humdrum of things as they were... that’s always a reality, isn’t it? Secondly, First Nations music and the rapid increase in talented young artists who make quality work. In my opinion, these artists are doing it in a way that reflects individual identities, not necessarily an homogenous First Nations identity, and there’s a diversity there which is really moving. I'm currently extremely excited about the ability of those artists to intertwine cultural aspects of their identity into their music. For me, an artist who is really doing that at the moment is Miiesha. She’s phenomenal. You raised over $1.8m in an online fundraiser for First Nations Fire Relief. What did you learn about the most from that experience? During the peak of the fires, there was a widespread sensitivity amongst humans for each other that I don't know I’d ever experienced in so-called Australia. For the first time in my life, it felt that there could be a pathway forward in doing work focussed on community survival whilst doing away with things that were distracting and creating divides. In that time, the most beautiful thing for First Nations people to bear witness to was how people's hearts can be so beautifully open in supporting something that is just. At times, I feel like there may be only a certain amount of individuals who are really down to help do the dirty work against the oppressive elements of society. It’s easy to be sceptical or get down sometimes - there are only so many people who ride the journey with the First Nations cause in a really robust way. In that moment, there was an enormous feeling of genuine, deep empathy that a lot of people do have for the First Nations cause in this land on a more global scale. I realised that there are a lot more people than what I might have initially expected to be on that journey with us, and those people came from all walks of life. Respect and love to those who made a commitment to that cause. It heightened my appreciation for allyship in a way that really filled my cup a lot. It was a beautiful thing to bear witness to, yet my work is still just one little piece of a very big puzzle. What are the social/political responsibilities of an artist? I’ll preface this by saying that personally, I uphold quite strong values around my responsibilities as an artist. For others, it may not be in their makeup as a human being to facilitate well on that front. Perceived responsibilities can lead to mental health issues for people who are pressured into becoming that kind of a person. It can lead to people losing interest in creating art altogether, so I get that. I respect that and understand that. The reality is that there are responsibilities as an artist. Whether we like it or not, we do have influence, especially on social media, and we can influence a lot of people. It doesn’t mean that everybody has to be an all-out “activist”. Not everybody is adept at that and it’s not necessarily the most effective way to navigate our responsibilities. However, at the very least, we need to be cognisant and conscious of our privilege and our platform and the way that that has the ability to influence. If you've got a million followers on your music page, that's a million people who you can take on a journey of understanding. That’s a lot of people. Say you’re one of the highest-selling artists in so-called Australia… You may have access to a social media page with this kind of global reach. You don’t have to be vocal about issues, but by recognising your privilege, you can influence opportunities that are given to the rest of the music industry through your bargaining power, through interacting in the industry on your own terms. I stretch that out to society as a whole as well. I think it’s vital to recognise position and privilege and how we can use that in enabling equality, equity and a just society. For me, that points back to the fact that in this land, you can't have an equitable and just society without First Nations leadership and First Nations sovereignty. I do feel a responsibility to advocate for human rights issues that First Nations people are subject to. I do feel that if I have some visibility, that is often more of a visibility than the First Nations person sitting next to me. I do feel that I have an opportunity to impact current issues by sharing content on my social platforms. Obviously, I want to depict a well-rounded perspective of the Indigenous experience. The complexities of the First Nations experience within this land are very diverse. One of the beautiful things about the social media era is that you can cultivate supportive groups of people who become engaged with you and your values who will then go on and do similar work themselves. Obviously, that's not everybody's reason for using social media - it can be purely about vanity and narcissism. "There is so much power in gender non-conforming artists, as well as other queer artists. Nobody else can offer the kind of power that they can deliver to the world. People need to realise that" Who are the people who engage with your social media content the most and what is the implication of that? Within so-called Australia, the people that I see engage quite frequently with my posts are Indigenous people and other black and brown populations. There’s also a lot of Anglo so-called Australian people. Furthermore, I think that there are a lot of people who are on their journey of understanding how they can best live in this land in a way that is sustainable for First Nations cultures. I’d hope that the Indigenous people who engage with my media find the content empowering; I’d hope that other BIPOC people resonate with the experiences I share and find value in understanding furthermore how they can stand correctly whilst living in this land. I think that First Nations visibility is increased by First Nations people who walk within all sectors of life and who present their own indigenised understanding of how they view their world. Someone who follows my page might also follow a few hundred other amazing Indigenous people: people are not musicians, who own a business with bush foods, who run a fitness company, an Indigenous law firm, an Indigenous architect. People can easily build an amazing knowledge system which becomes embedded into them to the point where they walk out into society and start to question things. “Couldn’t there be an Indigenous person contributing to that?” I think it’s really profound how people can receive a whole gamut of Indigenous information which is out there through social media. I'm always curious about what people get out of the content that I share, particularly my First Nations peers. Having conversations about social media use is healthy and it helps people. We can’t always see what impact we’re having, whether that may be positive or negative. In terms of allyship, that’s a really key space and there's a lot more discussion that needs to be had around what being an ally within the constructs of social media looks like. Currently, a lot of people want to be allies with causes that they support, but without a lived experience of their predicament we need to be wary of our protocol in maintaining a safe space. J: I’ve been particularly grateful for the resources that you've been sharing on your instagram page. It’s a pleasure. To be honest, I feel blessed to work in this place that we’re at in the world right now. It’s something that my ancestors would have done - work in the face of a greater adversity. If anything, I just feel like I’m doing my part to continue their work. If I can help to create awareness in our society, then I’m thankful. At the same time, I’m gaining as much understanding as anybody else is as well, from the work that everybody is doing. Why does music become considered “protest music”? A lot of people might call me an activist, though I feel that all I’m doing is acting on my greatest responsibilities as a First Nations person at this point in history. If circumstances were different in society, I'd be doing something else. Ultimately, cultivating a platform to raise awareness about injustices and/or living on country and interacting with land are both instances of carrying out First Nations custodianship. My role is to be a protector of the land and the ongoing survival of First Nations people. Before coming to music, I was working with my own people for a number of years in the Shepparton area of Yorta Yorta country. Throughout that time, there were concerns about how, as First Nations people, we could actually voice our needs without potentially losing the things that we were getting. There was a tipping point for me after the 2015 protests where I felt like I needed to find a way to start speaking on certain things in a manner that could get greater reach. I really set the intention of using my art for that purpose. It's been a very premeditated intention to use music to elevate the prospects of liberation for First Nations people. Those things considered, that's a great question. I find that “protest music” is a really interesting term. There’s not necessarily a power in calling music that. I don't denounce that songs aren’t protest songs, because they are. I think that “protest music”, which was a term that was used throughout the 1960s, is driven by the broader concept of what it means to rise up against a system of oppression. Obviously people of different identities have different experiences in society. What are the implications of this for artistic collaboration between people of differing identities? That’s such a valuable space, but it’s also a complex space. I feel that it’s vital because we can uncover things through these processes that we might not uncover otherwise, and you can present a sense of togetherness, of connection, of understanding. Art is such a sacred thing for me, and it’s a really big thing to collaborate with somebody because the sole driver behind my work is doing the work of my past ancestors, and doing it for future ancestors. The question is: how can the wholeness of that exist alongside a different kind of identity? I definitely take a lot of time around collaborating, even with other First Nations people. That’s a process in itself to make sure that what I'm doing and what they’re doing is going to benefit one another to the fullest extent and be the most powerful thing. I don’t know if “crossing over” has been valued to the fullest extent. Collaboration has been a beautiful thing in the arts sector in this country, but I think much of the amazing collaborative artwork has gone under the radar. If you can create an example of an amazing artistic collaboration, then that means more than just an artistic collaboration. In reflecting on collaborations that I’ve done with people from different ethnic backgrounds, on entering into important pieces of dialogue to create that work, on the largeness of the work that I do… I think of all the people that I’ve collaborated with as adopted family or something to that effect. They will always have their own identity, and they are their own ethnic group, but there’s this sense of a uniformity of connections through those works. I feel that the greatest way I could do a Welcome to Country for someone is to do an artistic work with them, to show them that I’m willing to open my spirit up to the fullness of that person in the same way that they are willing to do to me. Being able to enter into a dialogue and a synergy to create the work gives artistic collaboration a transformative element. It enhances connections between communities. It explores how identities in this land and this society might look like in the future, where we might not need allyship anymore. What would that society look like in which everybody gets it, and where everybody understands certain things in terms of a justice-based society that has a value for Indigenous sovereignty? What kind of collaborations would then happen within those spaces? What does that do to the identities of people, and to different roles for those types of identities and societies? I do think that artistic collaboration can give us a glimpse into what a post-colonial society can look like. It creates a post-colonialistic sense of liberation, that is seldom seen and seldom felt. What do you think are the next steps for addressing gender inequality in the Australian hip hop scene? There needs to be a lot more support around gender equality within the hip hop scene. I feel like Sampa The Great has single-handedly done a lot of the work around that. While she hasn’t necessarily been in the industry with that support from the outset, she has had an incredible amount of wonderful people who believe in her, (most often people from her own communities, from the African diaspora, in so-called Australia). I really admire Sampa for her respect for First Nations people. The beauty I see in Sampa’s story is how it can be so empowering and uniquely valuable when a woman is supported by their own community. There is so much power in gender non-conforming artists, as well as other queer artists. Nobody else can offer the kind of power that they can deliver to the world and for me there’s obviously an understanding that needs to take place for people to realise that. Everybody’s got their own taste, but for me, Sampa’s work is unmistakably powerful and has shown why we need to get behind these things and how the biggest steps are about equitable resources and contribution. There needs to be more resources put to supporting First Nations women and other black and brown women within music. What I’d like to see are academies for hip hop that have a focus purely on women. We should be looking to develop a specialist environment for them to be nurtured and developed. I feel this is crucial for gender non-conforming artists and queer artists as well. There also needs to be at least 50% non-male artists on the rosters within hip hop. That needs to be a benchmark that everyone needs to be aiming for and reaching. As long as we continue to have rosters that are more than 50% male, then we have a problem, and I feel that we’re at a point in society where the greatest content is going to come from women and gender non-conforming or queer artists. We’re in a time where these voices just need to be heard, and it’s their time to shine. I look at some radio playlists and think, “Why do these playlists still look like this?”. It needs to change, because everybody is going to benefit from that. If there was one aspect from the Australian hip hop scene that you could take to the world, what would that be? Barkaa. She’s an amazing artist and First Nations woman currently based on Eora countries in so-called Sydney. I see a real ancestral fire within her work - it’s just incidental that she also lives in Sydney, where colonist society originated in this land… I guess it makes sense that she has this level of fire and power and passion. I wish that the world could see this artist and how she’s a product of the Indigenous fight against the colony. There’s something incredibly powerful when I listen to her. I’m not hearing hip hop. I’m feeling a force of ancestors who are not happy and who are projecting themselves through this amazing young artist. As a First Nations people, I think there has been a beautiful and natural relationship with hip hop. A lot of artists with political and oppressive struggles have gravitated towards hip hop and they all have a certain way of expressing themselves in that genre. [Hip hop] is a groove-based music… I guess in this land, First Nations music is also groove-based music. There’s a synergy there. It’s so beautiful to see how First Nations people have then taken their identities into a medium such as hip hop. I think this crossover is the most special and unique element of hip hop in this country, given that it integrates people who have been of this land for over 60,000 years. Keep up to date with Neil on Instagram: @drmngnow We would like to acknowledge the Wurundjeri people who are the Traditional Custodians of the land on which we work and live, and recognise their continuing connection in our community. We would like to pay respect to the Elders both past and present of the Kulin Nation and extend that respect to other Indigenous Australians who have read this article. Photos provided by artist
- Allysha Joy: "Artivism", COVID-19 and Gender Bullshit
By Emma Volard, Jake Amy and Hugh Heller Our world is shaped by numerous social, economic and political forces, and the turmoil of our recent past has made painfully apparent how these forces are all entwined. Though art can provide us with a sense of relief or escape, it is not created in a vacuum outside of these forces. Choosing to make art, even if it is ostensibly apolitical, is a political and economic statement. In this interview, Allysha Joy discusses how her art engages with the forces around us, learning and evolving in 30/70, and the constant challenges of being a female-identifying artist in this day and age. Can you tell us a little about your childhood and where your passion for music came from? Straight to childhood! I guess I’ve always been a singer - my mum sings, my dad sings, both of my grandmothers sung, my sister sings… Lot’s of singing in my family! A really large part of my musical upbringing was church. We were pretty regular attendees at church as my grandfather is a minister. I guess ‘church’ is still a part of my music, even though I no longer attend it. I respect the spirituality, ritual and community [associated with it], and there is so much that we can learn from leaders of worship: how to engage an audience, how to make people feel something and how to cultivate a culture. I got pretty deep into jazz around the age of 12 or 13. I just started listening heaps. I never had any lessons on an instrument but I taught myself piano over the years. What was the process of learning an instrument later in life? I bought a piano two years before I wrote my debut album, ‘Acadie : Raw’. (Or maybe it was just a year, I can’t really remember now)... It was a moment in time where I decided to really commit to [learning the piano]. I was going to uni and had quit my job after studying in New York for a couple of months. In that period, a lot of music [that I was writing] felt like an act of feminism. So much of what was holding me back was the bullshit instilled in us females about not being good enough, and how [as artists, creating music] is not a valid use of our time. There’s also a mentality that you have to start learning a musical instrument when you’re five, otherwise you’ll never be good enough to make a career out of it… That’s all bullshit. What’s it like being a female-identifying artist in this day and age? As a female-identifying musician, it’s been such a journey. It is still so challenging. I have to constantly assert myself and pursue what it is that I want, unashamedly. [How you’re perceived as a female] goes so far beyond musicality and craft. It’s how you manage your life, your team, your finances, and how you assert yourself in the scene. I think people really struggle with women asserting themselves. It’s fucked. [Women and non-binary folk] need to do what it is that they want to do. I think that is activism: being loud, being yourself and aspiring for more… It’s fucking challenging and I don’t really feel like it has gotten much easier. As much as people think that it gets easier as your career develops, it doesn’t. It’s constant. It’s a constant grind. I have to work extra hard to even just suppress the barrage of societal pressure telling me that I should do the opposite of what I’m doing. “Is [being an artist] worth my time? I should just get a job - I’m not good enough”. This is drilled into my (and other women’s) head(s)... Body image [is yet another] ideal front-people are pressured by and susceptible to. I’ve noticed that you refer to yourself as an ‘artivist’. Could elaborate on what that means? I don’t like to quantify it, but most of my music is essentially about environmental, social or political change… Just ‘change’ really. I think that in 2020, it is an act of activism to be an artist. It’s anti-capitalist, anti-consumerist. It is a big part of creating a sense of community, maintaining culture, spreading a positive message, storytelling and getting back to why we exist as humans on this Earth. Beyond that, it’s important to support your community, not just within the art but also within the activism. You have to be a part of both worlds, otherwise your art is not representative of the time or of the people. I think some people would go so far as to say that all art is ‘politics’, because even not having an opinion is making a statement. You participate, whether you like it or not, just by opening your mouth or keeping it shut. No matter how we engage with the world, it is political and it is social. I think we're all growing and changing as artists. The better informed we all are, the more we can speak up. I don’t want to express my opinion in a forceful way (and I feel like at times I have)... I want to just express my opinion. The more we can engage in creating and learning, and empathetic understanding, the better we will be at our craft and the better a society we can cultivate. Sometimes there’s a bombardment of information and we get so confused about what we want to do within society and how we can participate. Often I think that capitalism wins over everything, so we forget to read for our own pleasure, engage within our community, and forget to just express our opinion in a loving way. We’re so often shut down. I was listening to 30/70’s ‘Fluid Motion’. Was there an overriding message that you intended to weave through the album? [‘Fluid Motion’ as a song] Is not only about us women asserting ourselves, but our inherent connection to Mother Earth: how we treat people who are ostracised by our community is the same as how we treat our planet. It’s about how [as a society], we’ve come to treat ideas of ownership of land and our First Nations people. I’m trying to encourage empathy and understanding. Living harmoniously is a very important thread throughout my music, particularly in that song and particularly in that album… There are so many different messages throughout ‘Fluid Motion’ as an album though... there’s even a tune about fucking! As part of 30/70, how have you seen your ‘sound’ develop over time? Our relationship as a collective has developed so much over time. It has affected how the music is made and produced. As 30/70 is so collaborative, individual, personal growth results in even bigger changes. There are six people who practice all the time. Everyone has grown together and it’s pretty inspiring to be around that energy. A recent change: thinking about a song’s production as we’re writing has had a huge impact on our [compositional] process. We’re writing another album at the moment, which is exciting, but so different to anything we’ve done before. Ziggy is overseas and we’re all separated. It’s weird, but it’s cool because it’s a chance to explore a different way. You’ve been on a few international tours with 30/70. What’s it like? Touring is so amazing yet so difficult. I’ve learned the importance of having really solid connections with the people you’re playing with and the team that you’re surrounded by. Being around good people, having fun and bringing that energy to stage is so important. The audience wants to be a part of your world. If you're creating a beautiful culture around your band, then you’ll have an amazing time touring. I’m so grateful to have built some amazing connections and had some amazing experiences. It can be super challenging… having good communication skills is massive… We were meant to be going overseas again (pretty much now), but I’m kind of glad that I’m not going. It’s nice to just be here in Australia, and centred, and calm: chilling out for a bit, and writing more, and practising. When I was going to return to Europe this year, I was planning to stay, so it is on the cards to move there and I think it will happen at some stage (but now that lockdown has happened, I’m glad I’m in Australia). Who are some artists that are inspiring you at the moment? A group that I find incredibly inspiring is Izy (who just moved to Melbourne)... Their skillset, but also their vibe, their energy. Further within that crew is Tiana Khasi, an incredible songwriter. I wish she knew it more… she’s such a badass. Also, Ziggy [Zeitgeist] is incredibly inspiring. He’s in Berlin at the moment, practising every day… I don’t know how he’s feeding himself or paying his rent, but I don’t think he cares. He’s the most dedicated dude I know. Other than music, what have you been doing with your time in isolation? At the moment, I’m living on Boon Wurrung country on the Peninsula. There was a lot of resistance at the beginning [of isolation] in remembering that it's okay to actually take time for yourself. Most of the time, it’s not a selfish act. You’re able to give more from a place of love to the people around you and the world. I’ve been doing a lot of self-care, getting really good sleep, eating well, and spending lots of time in the sun. I’m currently reading the book ‘Vagina’ [by Naomi Wolf], which is an incredible book I recommend to all. Any experience with ‘writer’s block’? Sometimes, I turn into stone. Being super honest, when I feel uninspired, I just feel shit. I do think that it’s good to not force it and actually be with. Sitting and obsessing over music can become painful. I prepare for the moments when I do feel inspired by journaling ideas. How do you think the music industry will be affected by the current situation? I feel that artists are doing okay at the moment. Everyone who is on the other side of the stage will need a lot of support coming out of this. It will take a long time to recover and I think that will be really hard. Of course, as artists, we all want to be paid for our craft, but it’ll be really interesting to see if that money is there. I think that we’ve all worked so hard to build a community that encourages artists to be paid fairly. It will be strange and challenging to have those conversations when everyone’s been struggling. As there won't be any international touring [for a little while], I think that it could be really beautiful to see the Australian music scene become a lot closer. Bigger festivals will have to support Australian musicians (and I think that will be really cool). At least within myself, I don’t really have much desire to perform at the moment. I don’t know if that’s because I’ve been spending heaps of time on my own and just lushing out in the sunshine and getting creative at home. It’ll be interesting to see who steps up, and who’s feeling a change… a course in myotherapy! I don’t know! [Throughout this period,] I’ve played live streams for Boiler Room, Isol-Aid and MLIVE. I’m really lucky that a couple of those were paid and [broadcast] to a pretty large audience, but they were also really stressful. Trying to go from relaxation mode into performance mode is just really strange. Coming out of isolation, I think that I really want to build a practice of preparing for shows and also coming down from shows. (For Isolaid, I really noticed a change in my energy [during] the lead-up to the gig and afterwards. I don’t think I had noticed as much [pre-COVID] - I was constantly running around, engaging socially, and then performing… I want it to become more ritualistic for myself. Do you have any advice for emerging musicians? I’ve got so much advice… “Take your shit seriously”, “Read the contract”, “Do it because you love it and all the other shit will fall into place”. There’s one little piece of jaded advice in there… but it’s real. Also, nobody talks about the admin. We gotta talk about admin! Do you have new stuff in the pipelines? Yeah. I’ve got a lot of music that I’ve been patiently waiting to put out. I’ve got an EP coming out with Clever Austin and an album coming out...I don’t know when. The EP will be out this year for sure, and the album of my solo shit will be out soon after that. Keep up to date with Allysha on her website We would like to acknowledge the Wurundjeri people who are the Traditional Custodians of the land on which we work and live, and recognise their continuing connection in our community. We would like to pay respect to the Elders both past and present of the Kulin Nation and extend that respect to other Indigenous Australians who have read this article. Please consider donating to one of these causes as part of Black Lives Matter.
- Tamara Murphy on Jazz and Gender
Written by Jake Amy Musicians at the forefront of their field consistently demonstrate excellence in musical ability, however across all employment streams within the music industry, the harsh reality for women is one of underrepresentation. I discussed the issue with esteemed bassist, composer and parent Tamara Murphy, who works alongside some of Australia's best music professionals (Kate Miller-Heidke, Harry James Angus, Ali McGregor, Clio Renner), as well as her cutting-edge approach to composition and improvisation which draws influence from The Necks, and her incredible contextual insight into music tradition (which can be further read about in her master’s thesis). I was reading your thesis. Why is jazz a ‘self-destructing’ artform? Any artform that tries to put itself under glass is going to eat itself up. In the early-90s there was a revival where jazz became defined as a certain thing that had once been. People began playing jazz in a particular way. If it didn’t sound like that, then it wasn't 'jazz'. I think that for any creative [artform], it is influenced by the time and the space in which it’s created. These days, there are so many different environments that music gets created in. Music becomes really unique because of this. I would argue that a lot of music fits under the jazz banner. 'Jazz' can be quite hard to define because it all sounds so different. Those of us who have studied jazz and improvisation know that there is a heap of music out there that isn’t under the 'jazz' banner, but know that it’s so 'jazz'. Think about Hiatus Kaiyote. Jazz has always been a dirty word and it still is a dirty word. I totally understand why people avoid using it. Heaps of people are convinced that they don’t like listening to ‘jazz music’ when they don't even really know much about it, or what it is and isn't. Why do we bother labelling genres? Back [in the 90’s], I think that labelling was mostly for ease-of-browsing at CD stores - it was totally a functional thing in terms of marketing. It was really different to how it is these days. Now, you’re not just looking for a new RnB tune on Spotify. You’re looking for ‘music for a rainy day’! With any genre of music, you have to know where you’re coming from in order to know where you're going. Understanding tradition helps inform and place your music somewhere contextually. It gives you somewhere to go from. That’s the way it is, and it happens in every artform. As musicians, where do you think we draw our influences from? Everywhere! I think that we draw ideas from anything and everything that we listen to and these days we have access to the world’s catalogue. The music that I've listened to really informs the way that I play and the way that I write. Last year, Laneous put out his album Monstera Deliciosa, which is one of the best albums that I heard last year. Laneous is a really great jazz guitarist, yet he plays all this other stuff which is ‘not jazz’, and it’s so exciting to listen to. I like the idea that stuff is really fused together, and when you hear his album, there’s Prince in there, there’s D’Angelo in there... Again, those two are totally jazz musicians who didn’t call their music jazz, but that language is totally in there! The live music scene in Melbourne is pretty healthy too, and I think that really informs a lot of things. Everyone plays with everyone else in a bunch of different incarnations, so there is a really nice exchange of ideas. Obviously there is still a lot of creating going on behind the scenes at the moment. When we go to gigs, the evolution of our language and identity develops really quickly. You hear, you’re there, you’re experiencing. It’s really visceral. When you remember a great gig, you don't just remember the music. You remember how it felt to be there. Straight away, it's part of you. I think that experiencing live music is a much better way to create a memory than having something on in the background, where you’re half listening. Can you talk about your latest album ‘Spirograph Studies’ and its process? When I was younger, I was trying to create some kind of stamp and presence. A lot of the writing for my first band Murphy’s Law was heavily influenced by Steve Coleman, Dave Holland and other artists composing in odd time signatures and creating pretty challenging music. As I got older, I lost a bit of momentum as a bandleader, and so I put bandleading on the shelf for a little while. Murphy’s Law never broke up, but some of the band members live internationally now, so as you could imagine, gigging has become pretty tricky! Over time, I felt as though I wanted to create again, but I just couldn't work out what it was. I had to do some soul searching and I had a desire to try and write stuff that I would listen to. I wanted something with a slower unfolding with elements of minimalism. A bit like The Necks. I wanted really simple music that had a sense of space in it. When I started writing for this project, I had to approach composition differently, because I heard a lot of textures and had totally specific sonic ideas. There’s one track in particular that has a ticking sound, and I got my poor drummer James McLean to experiment with all of these different drumsticks. We workshopped exactly what type of stick he would have to use, and exactly where on the cymbal he had to hit it. James has been unbelievably good about me being a total dictator! It’s been really fun trying to develop the idea of ‘no solos’. [We improvise] in more of a conversational way, which is taken from The Necks. The Necks is something I've grown up listening to for decades. I’m pretty proud to connect with such a beautiful Australian band that’s part of something that doesn't exist anywhere else in the world. In the late 90s, The Necks were meant to do an Australian tour, and for some reason, their drummer who lived in Berlin couldn’t make the Melbourne show, so they cut the tour short. My friend and I were massive fans, so we drove up to Sydney to see the gig. They recorded that gig and it ended up becoming the album, Piano Bass Drums, which is one of my favourite albums. It was such an exciting, visceral experience, and [The Necks] were a huge formative influence for Spirograph Studies. Due to the reliant and conversational nature of the improvisation, when recording, how did you consistently develop fresh ideas during takes? In a ‘conventional’ jazz album, an individual band member may take a solo. If the individual is unhappy with their solo, they may ask if they can try again. With the Spirograph Studies band, it’s different because we are collectively having a musical conversation the whole time. It’s also more about the shape of the whole piece. If I wasn’t happy with a take, my thought process might be to develop the piece for longer and not be in a rush to build. With this band, I’m being really fussy about the end product. The music and the people in this band really mean a lot to me. It’s a really nice thing to honour that by only putting music out which I’m absolutely behind. "Gender should definitely be talked about, but I feel that it’s often put on us [women] to do something about it. The change really has to come from the men, who are in the position to do something about it." There is still an underrepresentation of female and non-binary voices in our musical community. What’s it like being a musician who identifies as female? At school, I played in a mixed[-gender] soul band, and I became used to the idea that everyone just played together. I had noticed that there weren’t that many chicks on stage at gigs, but I never thought that being a female would be a liability. It was pretty weird when I went to university and there were only two female instrumentalists in my year. Now, I think that because I teach at a few universities, I have a different responsibility to be aware of gender issues, but I go through different stages all the time. When I look back, my experience could have been so different had I attended another school or generally not had the experiences that I did. I think that I was pretty lucky in that way. I've realised recently that I’ve been involved in lots of these conversations. Gender should definitely be talked about, but I feel that it’s often put on us [women] to do something about it. The change really has to come from the men, who are in the position to do something about it. I did read some of your other interviews. Did you ask the male musicians about gender? They are the musicians that you need to talk to about gender, because they have the power to actually make a change. I remember attending a conference on ‘gender in music’ a couple of years ago at Monash University. 95% of the people there were women. This said so much about the people who are actually trying to do something about it. When I become aware of the gender issue, it bothers me more. In the education system, where does change have to come from to directly support marginalised genders and identities? It's so complex. I think that the most change needs to happen in high schools. I’ve seen that females tend to drop out of playing improvised music at this age. Fortunately, the school that I went to had a super inclusive sense of community, with all genders, races, and sexualities. I felt totally encouraged the whole time, but in retrospect, that was probably an anomaly. Compared to other schools, I was so encouraged at that age and I think that is part of the reason why I'm doing what I'm doing. [Gender discrimination] also occurs in universities, and post-uni too... I get really frustrated when I see a new band coming out that consists of all guys. Dudes: you're meant to be the new generation. How are you still doing the same shit that people were doing 40 years ago when there was no choice? You have a choice now, and you’re still not helping. I reckon that if I was playing in bands that were 100% women, 100% of the time, I would be looking around and thinking, ‘This is weird, right?’... It sort of surprises me that men don't [have those thoughts] all the time. Perhaps they’re just used to it? It flummoxes me when it's a really big band of guys too. There was a compilation album that came out a few months ago. It had heaps of different bands. The back cover has a photo of all the musicians, and I think I saw only three women out of 30 people. What the fuck? We are in 2020. Come on. That is outrageous. How can people not see the issue when it is so obviously not okay? How do you effectively balance active consideration for gender/identity and choice of musician (based on their stylistic idiosyncrasies/‘sound’)? In general, I don’t think that men are being purposefully malicious and saying, ‘I’m not even going to consider women’. [Women] are probably not on their radar at all. In my phone, all of my colleagues are saved with a note with their instrument name in it. If I can't do a gig and I want to recommend a bass player, I simply type in ‘bass’ and everyone’s name comes up. I scroll through, choose, and at least I know that I've actually given everyone a fair go, regardless of any part of who they are, which is not their choice. It’s a tricky one too, because I can totally see the other side of it. My band does happen to be an equal split of men and women, but it wasn't engineered that way. I was only thinking about the ‘sound’ of the musicians. It just happened that one of them is a woman, and it happens that I'm a woman too! That already tips the scales a lot anyway. It sounds like you’ve taken foundational steps to curate a diverse database of musicians where you ultimately don’t consider a person’s identity so actively. Is that true? If you still end up with a 100% male band, at least you know that you have considered everyone. For my part, I would never want to be booked because I'm a woman. That’s pretty insulting in a way. To know that I haven't been considered at all because I'm a woman, that’s also really insulting. If I'm not the right person for the job and I don't get it, that’s fine. If I’m the right person for the job and I do get it, that’s great. I’ve been asked to do quite a few gigs where someone is putting together an all-female band. These days, I don’t think of that as being a good motivator for playing great music. When your main motivator is doing an ‘all-female thing’, regardless of musicianship, that’s not what I’m about. All I want to do is make great music. If it happens to be an amazing band which happens to only comprise women, then of course it’s fine. One of the best things that I can do for my gender is making sure my art is really good. Then it's a great example of what can actually be done. How can current artists be active in changing this predisposition to empower and support one another? Consider everyone who you’re booking. If you need a horn player, don’t just look to your closest mates… Try to widen the circle and think about who else is out there. There are so many amazing musicians around, especially in Melbourne, who are coming up and changing the face of our music scene. I guess that I also wish that guys were in these conversations more often. Thank you for reminding me of my responsibility. I've taken note and I'll be discussing this with more people, more often. Yeah - [discussion] is a really important thing. These issues are so obvious to me and probably not really obvious to guys who may just be accustomed to booking their mates… I think that guys become used to being around lots of guys all the time and they don’t really believe that anything’s wrong. You’ll probably have to ask the guys about this… I’m just speculating. So what's in the pipelines? I’ve finally picked all the takes for the new Spirograph Studies album, so hopefully that will be appearing later this year! I really want to record a trio album. I have to talk to everyone and make sure that they’re all on board before I tell you too much about it, but as soon as we get out of isolation, I want to spend a day in the studio and smash out heaps of tunes. I just recorded with Nat Bartsch before lockdown at ABC studios. She’s doing a lullaby band album and I think it should be coming in another month or two. Hopefully a few things will be appearing! Keep up to date with Tamara on her website We would like to acknowledge the Wurundjeri people who are the Traditional Custodians of the land on which we work and live, and recognise their continuing connection in our community. We would like to pay respect to the Elders both past and present of the Kulin Nation and extend that respect to other Indigenous Australians who have read this article. Thank you dearly to Tamara for your time. Interview with Tamara was conducted on 30 April 2020. Article first published 10 May 2020. Photographs taken by Hans-Jørgen Jahr, Tim McNeilage and @pix_by_ian. Written by Jake Amy, edited by Hugh Heller, contributions from Rosemary Bassett and Emma Volard.
- Lewis Moody on the Under-Appreciated Melbourne Scene
Written by Jake Amy Melbourne has proven itself to be at the cutting-edge of nu-jazz and jazz crossover musics. The influence of vibrant minority communities creates a fresh yet underappreciated arts scene, divergent to that anywhere else in the world. Lewis Moody is a keys player at the forefront of musical exploration, with extensive touring experience (Guy Sebastian, Alex Lahey, Bec Sandridge), fruitful interests in sound design and incredible insight of musical styles. His recent move to London highlights comparison between the Melbourne and London music scenes. In January I had the chance to chat to the incredibly humble instrumentalist and multidisciplinary artist over Skype. Where did it start? My parents enrolled me in piano lessons. I think I wanted to learn the saxophone but they said, 'Learn the piano and that will inform you'... I was not particularly sold. We walked into the first lesson. You sat down at an electric organ with two manuals and lots of buttons, drawbars, paddles and sounds. I saw all the buttons, played one note and said, 'I like this, I want to do this'! That pretty much just sums up my entire career... It's just fiddling with buttons! Where are you now? I just moved to London, in March last year. I'd been living in Melbourne for 6 or 7 years after I finished studying at WAAPA (in WA). I felt that I was just ready for a change - new city, new vibes, something different. It's been an interesting period of time, settling down in London. It's a massive city. Right now I'm trying to build a network and just relax into living here. If there was one aspect of the London music scene that you could bring back to Melbourne, what would that be? That's actually a funny question because they're very similar scenes. As a result, there is a lot of cross-pollination of Melbourne artists coming over and doing stuff in the jazz world here. The big difference is that in Melbourne, [jazz music] is very underground, very niche and only supported by a handful of people. It's kind of under-appreciated, for want of a better word. London is much bigger. It's a city of 9 million people and there is a big population of people who love this music. Church of Sound released their lineup for the first 3 or 4 months of 2020 - about 12 gigs. All of the first release tickets were all sold out within a day, and you're talking about a 250 capacity room for jazz crossover. The interest in that kind of music is totally next level. In Australia, the quality [of the music] is so good and the music is so happening. It's cutting edge, but it can fall into a heap because of how niche it is. At the same time, that's what makes it really good. You have to kill to get your music heard. As a result, the stuff that breaks through is really good. It's that double-edged thing, you know? I think also, there's such an incredibly deep and rich culture, musically in London, and it goes back so far. The Caribbean and West-African communities influence everything from jazz through to electronic music. It breathes. It's amazing to come and experience that first hand. I think that is a new thing in Australia. The different minority communities that are influencing the music scene are much fresher, much more new. I think Australia is still in its infancy, and while it's amazing to be here in London, which is almost one hundred years down the road, I wouldn't necessarily want Melbourne to be the same. There is a rich culture and community in Melbourne. It's just fresh and still developing. As an in-demand musician, how do you prioritise your work? I don't find myself really strapped for time. I'm definitely busy, but of my own making. I went through a period where I was cutting my teeth, career-wise, so I got deeper into the corporate world as the main motivator to earn a living. I had to make a conscious decision to start prioritising more touring work with pop artists and more art crossover music. Playing improvised music is my bread and butter, and it's as simple as earning 'x' amount of dollars on a Saturday night at a wedding in order to go and do a gig where the money doesn't matter. [Money] is not a factor for me. It's more about what we’re creating and building on. I think there's also this natural thing. It makes sense who you fall in with and the music you end up making. Especially if you're part of the furniture, musically, in a city. People know your vibe. If you're right for their project they're going to get in touch with you. I think things tend to happen pretty organically. You’ve just released some work with JK Group... Can you talk about the process? Yes! I produced/engineered/played on and mixed Josh Kelly's debut record! Josh is the sax player from 30/70, and it was such an amazing experience! I had a brief little stint renting some studio space at Josh's store in Thornbury. They have a back room there where I was working out of, and Josh and I were hanging out a lot. Already we were pretty aligned. In December 2018, Josh asked me to work on [his record], but I had already bought my ticket to London. Luckily, I had some studio hire remaining for the last two months of my time in Melbourne. I was subletting from Tom Strode at Rolling Stock Recording Rooms. We had this funny meeting where I said, 'Let's get this done well and truly before I leave for Europe', and Maggie (Josh’s wife) said, ‘I’m due in February’. Maggie was seven months pregnant, and it turned out that the only time we could do the two days of tracking fell on Maggie’s due date! Due to the time pressure, I basically cleared my schedule as much as I could. From the first day of tracking to the final day of mixing, there were only 14 days. When we were in the sessions we were like, ‘Okay Maggie, no spicy food, no exercising’! Anyway, it ended up working out beautifully, with Maggie around the studio the whole time, very heavily pregnant, also assistant engineering. We did the whole record in two weeks. We didn't rush anything - it just kind of ended up being like a perfect storm. The funny thing is it goes off to labels and has to line up with schedules, so even though it took only two weeks to make, it takes a year to release! Can you talk about the band? I mean, we had the dream team. Josh and I got to curate the whole process and we were really excited to get people who we flow with from the word ‘go’. Ziggy, Matt, Javier Fredes and I as the rhythm section. Working with Jave is actually a dream. I grew up sneaking into the Night Cat just to see Los Cabrones play, and I used to dream of playing with him. He’s the ultimate… We had James Bowers guest on a couple tracks. I’m on the rhodes and James is on the piano. James is just the most incredible piano player. Having him was wild. Audrey Powne is on a couple of things as well. It was such a nice experience to curate who we wanted, and it made the whole process so streamlined as we’d all worked heaps together. As a listener, I think your ‘sound’ is so distinctive, not only in the melodic content that you play, but also in terms of what keyboard sounds you use. At what stage of your process do you start to think about sound design? Like, from the earliest moment! Sound design has always been the first thing that I have thought about. As I was saying, when I was a little kid, fiddling with buttons was my main interest and motivator! When I was younger, I would pretty much only listen to music if it had electronic keys on it. I’m not sure if you ever saw The Genie? They were the rhythm section from the Cat Empire. I know that James Bowers will attest to this as well: they were everything! The music was similar to the Head Hunters - super groovy. Ollie McGill was always on three boards going nuts with effects. That was really where my passion in sound design started incorporating into my keyboard playing. Electronics are the ultimate gift for a piano player. There’s so much versatility in what you can sound like. How does that relate to your production work? I think that it’s all tied together. It’s so important for every sound that you ever create to be incredibly well thought out. Every great record is really considered. What the kick drum sounds like. What the snare sounds like. Bass sound, vocal sound. Nothing is ever just put down haphazardly. I think that's what goes into making good music. Care for detail. You’re playing with some incredible artists. Does the music become more arranged and specific the heavier into the pop world you go? It’s funny actually. I had this experience recently. I’ve always thought that the heavier you get into the pop world, the more rigid things become, and the more specific your role is. I just flew back to Australia to do Guy Sebastian’s tour, filling in for Grant Windsor. I got into the rehearsal and I'd learnt my parts and programmed my sounds. I was ready to be very particular. What I actually found was that I definitely had the freedom to say, ‘Hey, I want to put a dank white noise stab in this thing’, and Guy would say, ‘Yeah sure, let’s see what it sounds like’. That was really pleasantly surprising. I’ve heard that across the board. I got asked to play with Rita Ora, the UK singer. In rehearsal, somebody asked her guitarist, ‘How did these arrangements come about? Did the MD arrange it and send it out?’. He responded, ‘Nah, we kind of just get in a room and see what happens’. That really blew my mind. These people are operating at the highest level of pop music. You’re talking stadium gigs. To answer your question, it definitely depends on the gig. Some things I’ve done have been strictly robotic, which is perfectly reasonable, but when I got to experience working with someone such as Guy, it was all suddenly just way more open. "When I don't get opportunities that I was excited about the possibility of, I won’t think too hard about it. There’s most likely a myriad of reasons - I keep positive vibes. Nobody owes you anything. I’ve found that when I don't become bitter, it’s amazing how much things can turn around." What’s life like on the road? I’ve never done the ‘six-weeks-in-a-row’ kind-of touring. Most of the touring I’ve done in Australia is on weekends. Europe has a tighter touring circuit. In Europe you can do 18 shows in 21 days. Touring is such a great experience. You get to see a bunch of the world which you’ve never seen, but you basically work all day. The work is getting up at 4am to get on a plane, travelling all day in a shuttle bus squashed by your gear, rocking up at the venue, sound checking, whatever… that's the work. When you play the show for 50 minutes, that is the pay off. The best thing ever is playing to different crowds in different cities. I think that one thing that drives me nuts is hearing people complaining about touring. I would never. I feel so lucky to have the experiences that I've had. It’s so hard to get into that scene. You’re only there if you want to be there. It can be trying and testing at times... mainly the boredom. It's hours of sitting around waiting, but just get a book. What advice do you give to upcoming musicians? I mean I've had limited experience - I haven't done everything in the world. I think that having ‘hang chops’ is everything. Marty Holoubek coined that term. That doesn't mean that you have to homogenise your personality, and I think that the phrase ‘being a good hang’ can be misconstrued. Thinking that you have to smash beers every night with everybody is not the case. It’s more about your ability to get along with people. Be friendly, be interesting, be interested. When you move to a city, it doesn't matter how ‘good’ you are. People don’t stop booking their mates. What’s been an experience you’ve learnt from? I’ve worked with artists where I have given too much time and then realised that it’s not a situation where I'm going to be around to reap the rewards, for want of a better term. You might work with somebody and think that you’ll go really far and play stadiums, so you put in thousands of hours, for a project that’s not yours. You could find that suddenly you’re out of the gig. It’s really important not to become bitter when you feel let down. When I don't get opportunities that I was excited about the possibility of, I won’t think too hard about it. There’s most likely a myriad of reasons - I keep positive vibes. Nobody owes you anything. I’ve found that when I don't become bitter, it’s amazing how much things can turn around. In January, Lewis and I finished our interview after I asked him about upcoming work. Lewis messaged me a little update just yesterday about what he’s got to look forward to: It goes without saying that plans have been somewhat modified due to the isolation life, but in some respects there has been a silver lining. Living in London for the past 12 months has really inspired some new music, much more than I ever thought it would. I think from being surrounded by new sounds everyday, at parties or just even having NTS, WWFM or BB6 on in the house, it's amazing how much new music I feel like I've been absorbing. I've dived a bit deeper into electronic music than I thought I ever thought I would, and the isolation time has been really good for putting stuff down on paper. I've got about an album's worth of new music that I'm still finishing up. Fingers crossed it will see the light of day soon. As well as Josh's record, the new Zeitgeist Freedom Energy Exchange is out and we will be touring to support that release a little later in the year, hopefully including Australia. Recently I've been working with a Melbourne rapper and good friend Soliloquy, producing a couple of albums, the first of which is mastered and ready to go, so we might start hearing a little of that soon. The second of which he just came over to Europe to write. We tracked some drums with Ziggy in Berlin and then did a 10-day intensive at my studio in London. I'm stoked with what we have but it might be a minute before that hits the airwaves. Keep an eye on him though. Otherwise, a little mixing and a lot more writing hopefully, at least until we get back to some kind of normality. It's easy to feel like the industry is never going to recover from this but I have a feeling, especially in Europe, it's going to bounce back quickly. Keep up to date with Lewis on Instagram: @itsmoocho We would like to acknowledge the Wurundjeri people who are the Traditional Custodians of the land on which we work and live, and recognise their continuing connection in our community. We would like to pay respect to the Elders both past and present of the Kulin Nation and extend that respect to other Indigenous Australians who have read this article. Thank you dearly to Lewis for your time. Interview with Lewis was conducted on 10 and 11 January 2020. Article first published 26 April 2020. Photographs taken by Rhys Newling, Finding Figaro, Ian Laidlaw and Shane Benson. Written by Jake Amy, edited by Hugh Heller.