Australia’s hotbed of uniquely exciting talent is once again in the spotlight as two of Melbourne’s most exciting DJ/Producers, John Baptiste & Liam Sieker, combine their immense creativity to unleash a trio of outstanding tracks, collectively titled ‘Neon Skies’, on Tripswitch’s impressive Onedotsixtwo label. So, we thought this is a perfect opportunity for DMCWORLD to sit down with the guys and find out what’s been going on…
John and Liam, a big welcome to DMCWORLD and congratulations on the release of ‘Neon Skies’. The first thing we want to know is what’s the story behind this exciting collaborative project?
J & L – We came up with the concept when we were playing around with some ideas in the studio. We had recently got our hands on the brand new Behringer VC340 Analog Vocoder and had set out with the idea to record some vocals for a track. This eventuated into ‘Neon Sky’, which then turned into the whole release. The idea is that ‘Neon Sky’ takes you into the ‘Neon Sunset’, followed by an uplifting ‘Neon Sunrise’ – a perfect night of music.
For anyone not familiar with your music, how would you describe your individual styles? Can you put your finger on the elements of your music that make it so distinctive?
L: I think our sounds definitely vary. I’ve been working further into the progressive sound and working with percussion and rolling bassy tones. I think together we make something unique every time and I like our ability to mesh our styles together and meet in the middle on projects in the studio.
J: My sound and style is more focused on driving and minimal techno, anything you can really bang your head to while still being sexy enough to get your hips moving.
Talk us through these tracks? How does the creative process work when you’re making music together?
J: Our styles are definitely different, in the studio and in our sets. That’s what I really enjoy about us coming together in the studio. We generally start with some ideas and are able to compliment each other’s vision to create something that we wouldn’t normally create, and I love that process.
J: When we get in the studio, we generally take turns finding a rhythm and then additively building to it. We play across a bunch of hardware and software until we find something unique and having a deep appreciation of each other styles makes it easy for us to cross the barrier between our production methods and work together easily.
‘Neon Skies’ also features two remixes courtesy of Argentinian duo Analog Jungs (who tackle ‘Neon Sky’) and India’s wonderfully named Weird Sounding Dude (who reworks ‘Neon Sunset’). What do you think of their interpretation of your work?
J & L: Analog Jungs and Weird Sounding Dude are both key players in the progressive scene worldwide at the moment! They have been building a strong following and garner massive respect from artists around the world such as: Nick Warren, Hernan Cattaneo, Dimitry Molosh and Guy J, so to have them remix our music is a huge honour in itself! Their remixes sound great and provide a fresh take on our unique ideas. The amazing builds and tension in the Analog Jungs remix is awesome and Weird Sounding Dude’s use of percussion is always timeless!
L: I think a great release has to have diversity for the DJ’s and listeners to be able to explore the different options they have to offer. And I think this pack does that!
Tell us something about the psychological effects of music that totally blows your mind?
L: I think, for me, I love that feeling when you go to an event and you don’t fully know what you are going to get. I think sometimes people fall into a trap of delivering what’s expected of them, but when someone truly surprises me on a dancefloor then that feeling of elation is irreplaceable. That switch when someone truly captures a crowd and has them in the palm of their hand is one of the most powerful experiences to witness.
Let’s rewind for a moment, what are your earliest musical memories?
L: For me, I’ve played guitar from a young age, grown up with heavy metal influenced brothers, who then got into psytrance at festivals, which then expanded to all kinds of electronic music. My first big concert was Muse in Melbourne, when I was a teenager. My first club experience was a small bar (Killing Time in Melbourne) many years back, and my first festival experience would have to have been Guy J closing Rainbow Serpent festival in 2013.
J: Music has always been a big part of my life and there are many chapters I could mention. But, if we are going to rewind to the earliest… I would have to say it would be dancing and singing along to my dad’s Beatles records on the family dining table, singing into a wooden spoon as a pretend microphone.
At what point did you get into producing and DJing? Who/what have been big influences in your music career so far?
L: I started DJing when I was 17-18 and someone lent me a set of decks. I then jumped into Ableton and have been producing consistently up until now. I started out really being inspired by a mixed bag of artists like Oliver Huntemann, Guy J, Extrawelt and Trentemoller, but as I have grown I’ve moved into making my own style of techy prog and try to inspire myself as much as possible.
J: My first experience with music software was when I was 13. My best mate Raf was a prodigy with computers and illegally downloaded me a dodgy copy of Dance ejay. At the same time I had a huge love for drumming, which led to joining a heavy metal band with some mates. Around the time I turned 19, my passion for electronic music overtook the band and as a result I started missing band practice because I would lose track of time in the studio making weird sounds and exploring synthesis. Once my tracks were picked up by local labels I soon after fell into DJíng… The rest is a blur of long studio hours and late night gigs! My influences are too long and varied to list… anything that feels like it truly comes from the soul I guess?
What piece of studio equipment couldn’t you live without?
L: I think me and John will agree and I have John to thank for this, as he sold me my first pair of Hedd speakers and they have definitely become my most important asset / greatest addition.
J: Geez that’s a tough one, but yeah I’m with Liam, my Hedd speakers are my babies.
How’s the music scene holding up in Australia? How do you think the scene is going to change positively to recover and develop in new ways?
L: That’s a tough question, because in one way it has ground to a complete halt, but it has birthed a whole new virtual market for people to explore going forward. Live streams like Nick Warren & The Soundgarden showcases, or virtual dancefloors that you can literally explore with VR is an interesting and futuristic concept, nothing like the real thing though.
Overall people in Melbourne are itching to get back to the dance floor and we can feel the energy globally, so out the other side is only going to be bigger and better than before. With the border closures happening I feel the local scenes are going to explode and local talent is going to become far more sought after.
J: The scene has evolved beautifully musically compared to what it once was. The dance floor culture here is one of a kind. However, as an Australian, when you travel overseas and experience the level of professionalism and production that goes into throwing an unforgettable experience… it’s amazing and also disappointing when looking back at how things are back home. Our councils and governments make it extremely difficult for our industry to grow to that next level that we all know is possible. Australia is a cooking pot for raw talent and potential, it’s a real shame we don’t get the level of support the arts do in other countries.
Who in your home city of Melbourne deserves a shout out for keeping the positivity flowing during this pandemic scenario?
L: There are some pretty amazing things happening in Australia despite all this chaos. Clubs like the Breakfast Club replacing their Monday fiesta with online streams and keeping Mondays a little less dreary throughout our winter; to labels like Beat&Path, Open Records, Recovery Collective and Ugenius Music staying busy and releasing plenty of local Australian music to keep us sane throughout winter here; to artists like GMJ & Matter starting their new record label with a bang, whilst staying busy with their releases on standout labels worldwide. I also know that there is an album due to come out from John Baptiste & Samwise in a few months time! So there is plenty going on right now in Australia!
J: Everyone that’s not being distracted by the noise… following their passions and lifting people around them.
If you could play for a whole night with any DJ (ever), who would be at the top of your wish list?
L: That’s a tough one as there are plenty… But, I think my friend Kasper Koman would be a great artist to play all night with!
J: Wehbba, any day…everyday.
If you could remix any track by any artist (ever) what would be at the top of your wish list?
L: ‘Once in a Blue Moon’ by Guy J, which literally has had me in tears of joy at the Rainbow Serpent Festival in 2013! So, to remix that would be pretty special.
And finally, what’s the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
L: Don’t try and be someone else, just aim to do what you do best. When I apply that to things then it always works out one way or another for me.
J: I wasn’t told this by anyone in particular – it’s just something I’ve come to realise: You never clock music, you are always a student… the quest is never over, so don’t get too comfortable with where you’re at.
Thanks for your time – much appreciated!
John Baptiste & Liam Sieker – Neon Skies (onedotsixtwo) ODST0030