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SHOCKONE Local Prodigy


Following a huge show headlining Breakfest on Boxing Day, local bass music wunderkind ShockOne is back to support the Prodigy in Perth next Thursday, January 24 at RAC Arena. MIA CAMPBELL-FOULKES caught up with the man brought up Karl Thomas in Esperance (who used to play in the band Xygen with Rob Swire and Gareth McGrillen pre-Pendulum and Knife Party) to discuss fanboying over the Prodigy, dystopian concept albums and existential crises.

What was your first experience with The Prodigy? Are you a massive fan?

Am I a massive fan? They’re basically the reason I make music. I remember it clearly, the first song I had ever heard from the Prodigy was Charly (from 1992’s Experience). My cousin had Experience on tape, I must have been 10 or 11, and she was like, “listen to this, there’s a cat meowing in this song,” and this one sound struck me as so bizarre, so I listened to the whole tape and I was obsessed with it from that point on basically. I started listening to Staying Up Late and taping Rhythm Trippin’ on RTRFM when I was 11 or 12. So it is a really, really big deal, even the possibility of meeting them is spinning me out.

Yeah, so do you think you’ll be doing a little bit of sucking up if you get the chance?

Fanboying? Yeah, there’s always that age old saying of don’t meet your idols. Because the only other act on that level of influence and ‘fanboyism’ is the Chemical Brothers and I met them years ago at a Future Music afterparty and I kept it really brief. It was like “Hi, I just want to say thank you for all your music, cool see ya later I’m not going to bother you anymore.”

Do you think that The Prodigy were the height of dance music back then?

It’s funny, the age that we are in, we see them as the first wave of rave-electronic. In actual fact they were the first commercial crossover of rave music. In the UK 80s/ 90s rave scene they were seen as ‘selling out’ so to speak. But there’s no way I would have found any of the other stuff if it wasn’t for them. There’s a reason they were considered commercial, because Liam Howlett wrote amazing songs that weren’t just rave tracks. You could say that again for the generation of kids that discovered drum ‘n’ bass through Pendulum.

It’s that element of songwriting that sets certain electronic music apart from others – music that can work both in the club and on radio and in your car. It’s accessibility; the best music is accessible and we could be getting into a very wide breach of conversation, but I listen to a lot of very, very inaccessible, experimental music and I love it but I’m also very realistic. You aren’t going to listen to ambient electronica when you’re having drinks on a Friday night. Anyway I won’t go on about that because we’ll end up doing this interview for 2 hours.

So how the hell do you balance touring or even creating music with having a baby and a family?

It is full on. It helps that she’s got an amazing mum (Asia) who enables me to come to work everyday. The difference for me has just been focus – I’ve actually become more productive since Willow came along. My life is literally studio, touring and that’s it because there’s no room for anything else. We’ve both been going out a lot less and I’m on the crunch end of writing an album, so it’s been an intense year and I’ve enjoyed that. It’s just a case of time management, focus and balancing it all. To be honest it’s much harder to be a stay at home mum than a touring DJ.

Yeah, so this is a conversation that I’ve had recently where a few guys were of the opinion that it becomes as difficult for men as it does for women when having a baby and I said I’m not sure if it’s exactly the same as Anna Lunoe being on stage in her third trimester playing a hectic set and then actually having the child…

I follow Anna quite closely we’ve only chatted briefly in the past and she’s an inspiration, she really is.

Right?!

And knowing how intense it is and watching her do it is mind blowing, and in a similar thing Asia went back to Uni last semester and it’s just mental, I don’t know how she got through it. She’s studying at home whereas I come to the studio and I can focus, I could not work from home.

Yeah even studying in itself is so hard to not get distracted and then if you add a baby to the equation, you’ve gotta want it pretty bad…

Yeah it’s funny though, before you have kids you don’t realise how much fucking time you have. Nobody who doesn’t have kids can say “I don’t have time”. Yes you do, shut up, you absolutely do. My reaction to that is it just makes me hustle harder. It’s amazing what you can achieve when you’re thrown into any deep end of life. It’s that cliche ‘The way out is through’, it’s just head down, ass up and that’s when I’m my happiest. You find a way.

So the happy family life with the white picket fence and also the crazy touring DJ is a possible, achievable lifestyle for those young budding producers?

For sure, I mean I held out on it for a long time, I was really worried as to how I would react. I just get stuff done quicker now and on a Saturday I am home with the both of them, that’s a non-negotiable. Deadlines can wait. It’s basically like constantly having a foot up your arse.

Has having Willow affected any of the decisions you’ve made in life? Do you still want to go hammer and tongs with the music or do you think more of security?

Like both, for me, security in my life is going hammer and tongs in music. Just work even harder and build the empire so to speak. That’s the best way I can provide for her and give her an awesome life. Asia is still studying so if I don’t do tours, there’s no food.

So back to music, you’ve released two singles this year, what’s the response been like?

Yeah, it feels like I’ve done more. I’ve basically got two albums worth of stuff sitting here! When you release music, all you can do is put it out into the world and then it’s not yours anymore. I’m just happy that people seem to be digging my new music. This year’s really been about momentum for me because I haven’t put out an album in a pretty long time and I feel a real groundswell building and that’s really nice.

Yeah so your last album was released in 2013?

Yeah in 2013 Universes came out and I haven’t been slacking off, I’ve been in studio almost every day since then. I built a recording studio and I moved countries, but it’s crazy that it was the five year anniversary in April and I’m like, how the hell did that happen? I realised that I’d been writing music waiting for the album to present itself to me. It’s that thing of the subconscious pulling things together and I liken it to building a world, not just an album, and this world is very influenced by movies like Beyond the Black Rainbow, THX 1138 to a lesser extent Blade Runner.

Like Dystopian?

Dystopian is the perfect word. I knew I had to imagine existing in a world where those movies existed, and now I have a pretty strong narrative – and I hate calling it a concept album, but it’s the closest thing you’ll get to a concept album with this music.

Has there ever been a time where you were like, “Nup, this is shit…”

[Laughs] Every second day man. Some days you feel really close and you can see the finish line for the album and then other days I feel like I’ve got no music in me, I’ve forgotten how to make it, I hate it and I want to quit. The amount of times I’ve come home and told Asia I’m quitting music is embarrassing.

It’s like saying I’m never drinking again and sure enough there you are doing it again…

Exactly. Asia’s like sure, whatever and I go back and do it again the next day. The whole ‘suffering for your art’ is a very true thing.

Also if you’re trying to create something that you can’t relate it to, and you’ve got no one to confirm what’s in your head, it would be super tough…

Any creative endeavor worth doing is hard. Of course it’s hard. The self doubt for me is such a huge driver to keep pushing. I’ve said this before, I’ve always likened it to someone giving you a giant jigsaw puzzle with 1000 pieces and you can’t see see what the finished picture is until you’re done. When you’ve finished it, it was obvious, of course it was that – it makes sense now, but until you’ve done that you’re just putting infinite pieces together and trying to make them fit.

And that’s what keeps drawing me back is that it never gets easier. Everything’s a different challenge, there’s a constant learning curve which is really rewarding. You start to recognise the struggle as not necessarily a negative thing. The pain, those blocks, I’ve come to recognise as signposts that I’m doing something that hasn’t been done before, a tiny bit groundbreaking or innovative, I take that as a positive and keep pushing.

So you’ve left us with a lot to think about and a few possible existential crises…

Yep, do love a good existential crisis.

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