Play On is a meticulously curated operation that showcases both electronic and classical music in a Collingwood underground car park. We had a chat with founder Lydia Dobbin about it’s foundations, as well as Melbourne techno royalty Chiara Kickdrum ahead of her live set at the party this Friday. Photos from Alan Weedon.
Why did Play On come about?
Lydia: We started Play On because we wanted to create a new night where we could hear classical and electronic dance music on the same bill. We were interested to see how presenting these two seemingly very different musical genres side by side would feel, and whether re-contextualising them – taking classical music out of the concert hall and dance music out of the club – would create new ways of listening, and offer new ways to engage with this music.
We felt like this kind of event was missing from the Melbourne scene, and was something that ambitious and devoted Melbourne music audiences would respond to… and the response has totally exceeded our expectations!
In your eyes, is there a creative crossover between electronic and classical music?
Lydia: Absolutely. A lot of the electronic acts we’ve worked with have some kind of classical training, which informs their writing and approach to making electronic music. And it also works the other way – a lot of so-called ‘classical’ artists working today are influenced by electronic music, or use electronics in their own writing. Of course composers like Stockhausen paved the way with this back in the 60s.
Chiara, tell us about your musical background. Have you experienced this creative crossover? How did you end up producing electronic music?
Chiara: I come from a classical background. I started playing the piano when I was 7. Then, I went on a bit of journey and started collecting rock and metal records- Deep Purple, King Crimson, Slayer… all the rare Japanese editions, it became a bit of an obsession. During university I was playing and listening to lots of jazz, and after moving to Melbourne in 2004, it just happened that the first friends I made were techno and hip-hop DJs.
My first Aussie boyfriend had the best collection of house and techno records from the 90’s, so I started listening to all of them while he was going to work and I was home on my own. That’s when I realised that I wanted to produce electronic music. It took me a while, but in 2010 I went back to university at RMIT in Melbourne to study Sound Art. That was where I learnt some of the basics of electronic music production, and eventually bought my first drum machine in 2012.
What do you do with yourself outside of music and how do these things influence your creative process?
Chiara: I meditate quite regularly. It calms and resets my mind. When I meditate, I can focus a lot easier, which allows me to have more creative power for developing interesting work. I also read a lot.
When I was kid, I never used to read. I don’t think I had ever read a book until the end! But now I read a lot of books, blogs, articles, all kinds of stuff. At the moment I am reading a book called ‘Deep Work’, which talks about how to work without interruptions or distractions and go in a state of transcendence almost, similar to a meditative state. Carl Jung (psychoanalyst), built a tower in the woods where he could go for days at a time and focus his mind.
I love reading autobiographies, reading about people’s lives and creative processes. I get a lot of inspiration from the people that I admire. Depending on what I am working on, I would listen to particular composers or producers and I find that ends up influencing what I create, as well as the way I work. I’ve just finished writing music for a short film and have been listening to soundtracks 24/7.
Walking also helps, especially if I’m in the studio all day.
Tell us about your studio set up. Does it differ much from your live show set up?
Chiara: My studio is very simple, and I like it that way. I have an Elektron Analog RYTM, an Access Virus TI Desktop and a midi controller keyboard. I use a lot of soft synths, such as Omnisphere and Native Instruments. I like working with minimal gear as I find myself wasting too much time going through sounds and never get anything done otherwise. If I need something in particular, I would try to find a soft synth for that particular hardware or go to MESS (Melbourne Electronic Sound Studios) where they have a very big collection of hardware synths (analog, digital and modular) available for use. My live setup is very similar, though I usually also have an APC40, which I use as a controller. I’ve been thinking of getting away from the computer and just using one machine for my live set, but I haven’t quite got there yet.
Do you find playing live sets influences the work you do in the studio?
Chiara: Playing live definitely influences my studio production. I create sounds that I can test out in the club, and come back to the studio with a clearer idea of what works and what doesn’t, both spatially and for the crowd.
Your live set is very minimalistic. Sounds within are constantly, yet subtly, morphing and evolving. How do you feel about playing after a classical group, the Chryalsis Trio, who are stylistically so different to you?
Chiara: Nervous and excited! I am going to try and incorporate some classical elements to this live set, some piano and orchestral samples (probably processed). It’s something that I’ve been wanting to do for a while and this is the perfect opportunity. It will still be quite minimal though.
Play On events take place in the Collingwood flats carpark. Why this choice of venue, Lydia?
Lydia: Acoustically this space is pretty perfect for classical music. The car park’s low ceilings and concrete walls and roof mean that there is a long reverb time, which enables us to present the classical set un-amplified, which to us it the purest way to experience it, especially when listening to music written 300 or 400 years ago.
It also is a perfect place to dance to electronic music. Because it’s underground it’s dark 24/7 and has a kind of bunker feel. In terms of Melbourne venues it’s pretty unique, and you really feel like you could be anywhere in the world.