Fiction Lab Australia LABCAST 01 - Jamie Stevens

by Isabel Thomson Officer

Jamie Stevens is without a doubt one of Australia’s finest electronic artists with a career that spans well over two decades. Catapulting into the spotlight with his band Infusion in 1998, the group were best known for hits such as “Girls Can Be Cruel”, “Natural” and “Better World”. Touring relentlessly all over the world with Infusion, Stevens won two incredibly prestigious ARIA music awards (for our American readers that’s the equivalent of a Grammy Down Under!). 

Since his band days, Stevens has matured into one of Australia’s most respected and talented underground artists with a string of highly praised releases behind him on top labels including Microcastle, Bedrock, Lost & Found, Armadillo, and Crossfrontier Audio. His 2013 track “The Wonder of You” released on Microcastle was an instant club hit with Guy J proclaiming it to be “one of the greatest musical pieces of all time”. 

Stevens has well and truly earned his stripes as a producer and remixer of exceptional melodic and progressive grooves which has earned him the support of international heavyweights including Sasha, Guy J, Joris Voorn, Hernan Cattaneo and Lee Burridge. Djing regularly in his hometown of Melbourne at the infamous Tramp Bar and Revolver Upstairs, his sets have also secured him regular spots at revered Aussie festivals like Rainbow Serpent and Let Them Eat Cake. Not only that, but Stevens also runs the mentor initiative program at Steve Ward’s Chameleon Recordings where he fosters up and coming Australian talent with a knack for production. Stevens does all this whilst remaining incredibly humble and down to earth. If you’re not impressed yet, well you should be. 

We are thrilled to kick off our first ever FictionLab Australia Labchat with one of Australia’s best. We really couldn’t think of a better artist to launch with and Stevens has supplied us with a stunning exclusive mix. We sat down with him to get the lowdown on what the scene is like Down Under, Aussie up and coming talent we should be paying attention to, and what’s next for this award-winning DJ.

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How would you describe the underground house and techno scene in Australia? How has it changed and evolved since you started making music?
In general, it’s incredibly strong here, perhaps even stronger than ever. We have a great range of crews putting on excellent events all over the country and a very enthusiastic younger generation. 

How does the scene compare to North America and Europe? 
Well, it has been a while since I’ve been to North America so it would be folly of me to compare. To be honest, Australia’s scene is quite broad as our states are very separated. Melbourne’s scene is quite different to Sydney’s which is quite different to Brisbane’s and Perth’s and Canberra’s. Our population is tiny and very separated compared to Europe and North America so things work in different ways over here. In Melbourne, we have big events happening most weekends and it’s been like that for a number of years now. Sydney has gone through a huge change due to politics and licensing changes which forced a lot of closures and has in turn, after a number of difficult years, has brought about a whole new energy. It’s become a lot more ‘underground’, going back to warehouses and things like that. Having said that, there are also some thriving club nights too like S.A.S.H. Brisbane’s scene has exploded over the past couple of years with passionate support for deep house and techno, as has Canberra. So yes, things are very healthy down here!

What most excites you about Australian underground dance music?
The fact that we have such a broad range of music and enthusiasm. We also have more producers making amazing music than ever before. Australians have always had a way of absorbing all kinds of influences creating something quite unique and that has continued which is really exciting and wonderful to be a part of.

How would you describe your sound? How has it evolved over the year?
Describing my own sound has always been difficult for me. I like to think it is an amalgamation of drama, storytelling and strong grooves. I guess my sound has become a little less schizophrenic than, say, 6-8 years ago. I’m much more comfortable exploring particular sounds and themes. I certainly feel I’ve found a sound that I’m really excited to explore more which is this world of primal percussion, 70s and 80s electronica and contemporary classical. It’s a world that exists very clearly in my head and right now and I’m really enjoying getting these sounds out.

Who are some of the Aussie up and coming DJ's and producers America and Australia should be paying attention to?
We have so, so many across the broad electronic music spectrum… Where do I start? Joe Miller, Doppel, Steve Ward’s new material, Moontide, The Oddness, Retza, Uone, Dean Benson, The Recovery Collective crew, The Wildwood crew, The Journey, Sundelin, Eddie Hale, Charles Oliver, Tahl, The Rework crew, Jamie Grenenger, the S.A.S.H DJs in Sydney, Halen, Marcus Holder, Made in Paris, Orde Rede. So many and I’m sure I’m forgetting loads! That obviously doesn’t include a lot of people who have been around a while and still absolutely smashing it.

You're based in Melbourne. What are your favorite places/parties/festivals to play?
We are lucky to have some excellent venues and events in this city. Club-wise I have a residency at a club called Tramp on Saturday nights which I enjoy immensely. A very young and enthusiastic crowd. Killing Time, New Guernica, My Aeon, Pawn & Co. and Revolver are also great to play in and there seems to be great new places opening all the time. Festival-wise, playing at Rainbow Serpent Festival is a yearly highlight.

You've released music on top international labels like MicroCastle and Crossfrontier Audio. What about Australian labels? Are there any America should be paying attention to?
Beat & Path, Chameleon Recordings, Open Recordings, Motorik, Recovery Collective…I’m sure I’m forgetting quite a few!

What has been your career highlight to date as a producer and DJ?
Way too many highlights. I’ve been extremely lucky to have been at this since the mid 90s - that’s many years imbued with incredible moments. Putting in a lot of heart and energy into what I make and having people come up and tell you how much they connect to and love the music or that they get taken on a trip with my DJ sets is always special to hear. It certainly sounds like a cliche but it’s so true; how many other careers can you name where you’re able to connect with people like that? It’s an amazing feeling travelling around the world, connecting through music.

You've already won two ARIAs from your time with the band Infusion, which is an amazing feat for any Australian artist. Not to mention gaining support from heavyweights such as Lee Burridge, Joris Voorn, Hernan Cattaneo and Sasha. Where to from here? What are you working on at the moment? 
Exploring more of what I can do in the studio. It’s a never-ending mission. I want to combine more live recordings with the electronics and hopefully come up with a full album. I’ve got the concepts of what I want to explore, the themes and things like that so now I just need to find the time to focus on it, experiment and see what happens. I’ve been finishing off a number of tracks right now for a few labels and I have remixes coming out soon for Retza, D-Nox, Li-Polymer and a couple of other artists.

You run the mentor initiative program at Steve Ward's Chameleon Recordings. Can you tell us more about it?
It was an idea Steve had to help people we felt had huge potential and just needed some guidance or a helping hand. It was a great experience and I’ve gone on to run one-on-one tutoring sessions which is usually somewhat more technically based but mentoring is also a part of it. It depends on what stage they’re at and how seriously they’re taking their production. This is absolutely something I love to be able to do to help people as I’ve been in this music world for decades and have had many, many experiences that I have learned, usually the hard way. When I started doing this, it was a different culture to what we have now, different expectations and possibilities and I’ve experienced all these changes so I feel I can perhaps help in my own, small way.

Where can Australians and the rest of the world come hear you play next? What's your tour schedule like for the rest of 2017?
Well, I have my monthly residency at Tramp plus some other gigs in Melbourne for a crew called Arteq and one in Sydney for Kltr. I always have my upcoming gigs on my Facebook music page (https://www.facebook.com/jamiestevensmusic/)  for anyone interested.

Any plans for a visit Stateside sometime soon?
I’ve been wanting to get back over there for so long now. We used to get to the States a couple of times a year with Infusion and we loved it so it’s certainly very high on my agenda for next year. Would love to go back to LA, Chicago and of course NYC because it’s such a great city.

Tell us about this exclusive mix you've put together (i.e. artists/tracks featured, the vibe, what inspired it etc.)
This is a real snapshot of where I’m at right now in both my DJing and studio work. There’s a plethora of incredible music that I love to try and thread a bit of a story with. Getting lost in a trance, being somewhat hypnotised by sounds and rhythms is what drew me to electronic music and continues to inform what I make and how I DJ. I love twists and turns whilst being pulled into strong grooves. I’ve included a couple of my own works here as well as people that are really doing it for me right now.

1. Alex Tomb & Marianne in the Woods - “Probability 6” [Several Reasons Recordings]
2. Nandu - “Triade” [This And That]
3. Fugitive Sense - “From The Other Side” [200 Records]
4. ARP - “Kiotyroko (Aidens Emo Retouch) (JS Edit) [Cinematique]
5. Stevie R & Delfin feat. Greg Rawson - “Jalemba (Mathias Schober's Rhythm Rework)” [Chapter 24]
6. Luka Sambe & Filter Bear - “Hebe XVI (Charles Webster Mix 1)” [Lost & Found]
7. Eins Tiefer - “Hoop” [Tenampa]
8. D-Nox and Santiago Franch - “Multitude (Jamie Stevens Remix)” [Beat Boutique]
9. Orde Rede “Alkaline” [Open Recordings]
10. Jamie Stevens - “Seven Ways” [Selador]
11. Infinite Boys - “Vutta” [MoBlack Records]
12. Coffee Pot - “Lievito” [Coffee Pot]
13. AMPISH - “Heartbreak” [Bad Pony Recordings]

*Own drum machine loops interspersed through the mix.