Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Egotripping discusses the finer points of the Auraltered State series with Lucas Abela

New South Wales gets Auraltered
James Ryan talks with Lucas Abela about his new project, Auraltered State.

One man who undeniably loves both art and sound is Lucas Abela, who has been working hard to ensure that the more experimental and innovative, but not necessarily very accessible side of music has a place it can call home. A co-founder of the DualPlover record label and artist-run performance space Lan Franchi's Memorial Discotheque, and performing as noise artist Justice Yeldham, Abela has a resume that can't be measured by chart success so much as the following his events have generated, and the bizarre excellence of the acts he's supported with them. Now he's organised Auraltered State - a series of eight performances comprising artists from across New South Wales. Ego Tripping's James Ryan asks him more...

While there are some Sydney stalwarts like Gary Bradbury appearing as part of the Auraltered States showcase, I see a lot of new names that I'm less familiar with. What was the response like when you were putting the roster together? Did it change your impression of what was happening across New South Wales in terms of experimental music?
Not really, I’m extremely familiar with all the acts playing. The festival or series is about the NSW underground, something I like to think I know like the back of my hand. I purposely haven’t booked the entire series, which runs 'til November, as I’m hoping to leave places open for new acts that may pop up during the year. I’m always excited about new generations of players and want Auraltered State to represent not just where we are or were, but where we are going.

The most apparent thread that runs through your listing are the visceral descriptions of confronting acts that don't quite fit into an established indie or electronic format and yet they seem to be active and creatively thriving. To my ears a number of acts also shared a frenzied but elated frustration in their sound. What set apart these acts for Auraltered State, and how much is "inaccessible" an insipid assumption about experimental music?
I don’t see any of the acts as inaccessible and booked them from the point of view of acts I think put on a good show and are both aurally and visually appealing to me. I can’t see why so called ‘experimental music’ can't also be entertaining beyond the audio - not that this is a prerequisite. For instance, Bradbury won’t be as visually engaging as the Vonn Krapp Family, unless he’s off his meds?

Sometimes punters can be intimidated by how serious some experimental acts can seem, but Auraltered States is presenting itself with humour and irreverence as well as a desire to push past the usual parameters. How important a factor is "fun" in art-music? Does it break the ice between performers and audiences or is it a part of the work itself?
Firstly, we should try and put the term ‘experimental music’ to bed in this interview, as it means nothing now as the experiment has ended and its now a genre with little experimentation by its fan-core artists. Like c’mon, they are little better than Wolfmother playing original interpretations of someone else’s experiments. For this reason I like to steer clear of the term, even though it’s an easy way to describe what’s going on. It has the wrong connotations for me and should be avoided.
In the press release I used the terms ‘more entertaining, innovative, unusual and new thought artists’ which hopefully describes what I’m trying to achieve here a little better. You ask about fun and yes, some of the acts I program will definitely be fun. Vonn Krapp Family for instance are a perfect example of a fun band that are also engaging musically. Other acts I plan to program, like Singing Sadie, also fit into this, but you’d be wrong to assume that is the principal driving factor.
What interests me is difference, even if it’s a slight difference; bands like Naked on the Vague who are at first glance an obvious example of the post punk revival, but to me unlike the others aren’t a genre cover band, but are bringing something new to it, furthering the music somehow. Innovation, no matter how slight, is extremely important to me. We just finished an entire decade without a musical revolution of any sort. People claim the 90s were shit, but at least they had techo. The last decade was the decade of revival where the biggest band coming out of the country was a Black Sabbath cover band who forgot the correct lyrics so just made up new ones! I truly hope we can get over this nostalgic ‘all music has been made’ trip and get on with buiness of fucking people's minds with a new music.
Last decade I fantasised that it was just because I was old and out of touch and somewhere in the world outside of my knowledge a music was going on where a youth were reinventing the wheel and minds were peeling. But I’m getting more and more worried that this didn’t happen and the new generation are just happy with playing dress up. It's why there is no real excitement at shows these days. As much as people say they love Kings Of Leon, Muse, or whoever the media shrouds as the new great band of our time, it’s inescapable when you listen that it's uninventive drivel, and because you’ve unconsciously heard it all before, you won’t scream like they did when rock and roll first came crashing down on society’s heads. Now rock and roll is society. For fuck's sake, AC/DC were on the cover of the Daily Telegraph today.
If I could have one wish for this new decade it’s that the new abandon the old and squeeze shit through the ears of today’s complacent music audience.

It's difficult to imagine the issues you and your collaborators have had to deal with in organising these events, with such a diverse range of acts. What drives you to do so? Is it important to make a space for that percentage of performers that don't fit in? Why?
It’s just because they don’t fit in is exactly why I champion such acts. ‘Experimental‘ festivals in general can be a very dry experience, except for the What Is? Music festival that has always brought us bang for buck and is a serious influence on the way I like to program music. Which is: 1) Contrasting acts: Who in their right mind wants to watch a series of carbon copy acts one after another? 2) No headliners: Each and every act I book is a headliner- no warm ups, just killer all the way. 3) Scene mixing: If this city is to work we must bring together some of our disparate scenes. We probably could have a better live music scene than Melbourne if somehow these fractured groups could meet and go to each others gigs, but that’s another interview…


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