your little castle
A Chat with
[ 16-03-2017 ]
Text by Adam Rivett
In the face of such wanton eclecticism my notes wander far and wide. Lists of deep cuts, famous collaborators (Arthur Verocai, Tony Allen, Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo i.e. half of Daft Punk) – even heaven forbid, questions and angles that I hope will lead us into the heavier topics: the language of pop and the international market, issues of influence and translation, the very nature of genre itself.
Mind Gamers are a band who’ve played only a handful of gigs, are still working on their debut album, and at this moment rehearse at the nearby Bakehouse Studios for a performance tomorrow night at the State Library of Victoria. They are, by any standard of journalistic assessment, a new entity that only wants to look forward.
Bakehouse Studios is a sprawl of hallways and refurbished rooms, which might at any time (and often simultaneously) bleed nine types of noise. Bands lounge in the courtyard, hold meeting in the kitchen. There’s gear everywhere. Each room is decorated in a unique style – some festooned with books or record sleeves or photos of famous bands, a few particularly tiny rooms flaunting some trompe l’oeil trickery.
When I asked about the band I’m directed upstairs. On the second floor I find a small collection of serious uncommunicative tech people moving about a large room covered with neon green sheeting of the kind you see behind the scenes footage of CGI-heavy blockbusters. Some kind of 3D panoramic camera – expensive, and one of only a few in the country, I’m told – sits in the dead centre of the room. Later tonight the band will shoot a music video here. The small team of professionals fuss over angles, the exact arrangement of objects. There is much referring back to laptops, much tweaking of lighting. The instruments sitting around the room are, for now, a secondary concern.
Eventually I track down the band. They’re momentarily lost between two forms of music. The real rehearsing has been going on nearly all day, whereas tonight’s performance, I learn later, involves miming and the pretend paying of instruments – non-performance as performance, imitation as the real thing. Behind the green sheeting and other abandoned pianos and warehouse junk we find a backstage area – dominated by a light bulb-framed mirror, like an old timey star dressing room – where we can sit for half an hour and chat.
They explain how the band came to be. Stricker (drummer with Melbourne band Midnight Juggernauts) and Kirby have collaborated with Tellier before, Kirby in particular quite closely, playing the lion’s share of keyboards on Tellier’s My God Is Blue and L’Aventura, and touring for both records. The creation of L’Aventura seems a particularly happy memory for both – recording with legendary electronic composer and producer Jean-Michel Jarre in his personal studio, they had access to top end equipment, particularly synths (“all the best synths on earth” Tellier says, sincere and a little awed).
The recording process for the new record has been a little more scattered, taking in Paris, Los Angeles, Sydney, “some stuff in Mexico” and, most crucially, an extended stay on the Greek island of Hydra (“full of donkeys, fantastique”). The record will, they hope, be out next year. They admit that it can be hard dealing with the geographical separations, the delays, grabbing time and working space as it presents itself. Tellier sees it as a challenge – in his own inimitable half-broken English: “If you listen you can’t imagine we are in the middle of a rubbish tip, no?”
I ask how each song was developed given these challenges.
John: It’s weird, we work the tracks up in stages. Sometimes there’s two of us, sometimes we’re all in different places emailing back and forth. The process is always changing. Since we’ve been here we’ve been rehearsing – and that informs the process. Since we’ve been in Australia, that’s flipped everything. Being together, rehearsing, preparing for a gig, playing it live.
Daniel (turning to Sébastien): You mentioned this earlier, the computer thing.
Sébastien: There is something in a computer, in the soul of a computer – it’s not a regular soul, but it becomes a soul. We’ve tried to catch that. We try to imagine, in fact, what’s next – after the computer. There will be something else. We try to discover the secret of the next part.
Daniel: But with emotion. I just saw the trailer for the remake of Ghost In The Shell – that makes me think about that same sort of concept. So much so far has been in the studio, but playing here, bringing it into the room, it changes it again.
Me: Some synth music, some heavily computerized music… some of those records, even the ones you’ve worked on, the synth textures are warm, enticing, heartfelt. They’re moving. Other times electronic music feels really asexual and remote. How do you work in that style while trying to avoid that?