A lot of Australian rock musicians have started making electronic music in the last few years. Whether it be liberation from relying on alcoholic bandmates, the result of time spent discovering one's self in Berlin, or a genuine collective re-engagement with club culture, the number of bass players / drummers suddenly wielding laptop projects has been on the steady increase. Very few rockers have made the transition to club land with such devastating impact as Justin Fuller. Known around Australia for his work in respected experimental acts Zond, Tax and Mum Smokes, Fuller's electronic solo work is so bloody great it's hurting the feelings of audiences of all persuasions. Juddering polyrhythmic synth stabs collide with mournful electronic skitterings and otherworldly atmospherics over a punishing dancefloor thud. Fuller's performances are capable of sending even the most blog-hardened music nerd into fits of ecstatic hyperbole. After years of existing solely as a must-see live entity, Fuller has now released his first cassette on revered noise imprint Sabbatical. We caught up for a cup of tea and a chat about polyrthyms, self-hypnosis and yelling at people.
THUMP: You've played guitar in bands for years, jammed with Lou Reed, and made a name for yourself as an experimental sound artist. How did you make the shift into electronic music?
Justin Fuller: I suppose I've always made electronic music. I did noise stuff in the 90s, some that I'd regard as electronic – I used to use anything I had at hand. The first musical equipment I owned was a microphone and a Boss Heavy Metal pedal. I used to just plug the microphone into the pedal and drag it around. I love guitars, but I got mine originally just to make sound. I saw guitar as a sound device as opposed to an instrument, and then eventually I learnt how to play it.
What you're doing now is techno, in a sense. How did you get there from noise?
I used to listen to techno in my teens, before it was called techno, which happened in the 90s. I used to listen to things like A Guy Called Gerald and 808 State. I was into that, and I was into hip-hop and metal. Then I kind of got into the metal side of noise things. Once I'd been doing noise for a while it started to go into a more ambient soundscape-y place. Then I just got bored and started putting beats into it. I was thinking of going back into the awesome part of my teenage years - I wanted it to have more bass. Originally it was just a 4/4 kick drum because I just wanted it minimal, and then I gradually added more, to the point where you could call it techno now, I suppose.
I've seen you turn The Liberty Social into a sweaty fucking mosh-box, with kids going absolutely mental. That's a huge leap from the noise scene.
Yeah. It is a huge leap from sitting on the ground with microphones and ten clock radios plugged into distortion pedal, screaming and trying to be Merzbow or something. I still love all that stuff, but I've always loved techno, and it has always been the weirder side of techno. There can still be noise in my shows too, depending on the environment and expectations of the night. Sometimes I'll want to go against that as well – if people want one thing I'll deliberately do the other – it depends on how I'm feeling at the time.
There's an almost proggy polyrhythmic aspect to your sound, yet also a brutal club sensibility. What's the concept behind this combination of elements
Basically I just like things going out of time - there's no real concept. I've always liked two blinking lights that seem like they are going the same speed but eventually go out off sync, and then come back. Maybe I'm like Homer Simpson -I can looks at two blinking lights going out of sync and then back into sync for ages. I've been like that my whole life, I like things coming back into a regimented thing and then just going totally out, in loops.
I've noticed your audiences starting to get really varied - that your music is starting to appeal to a bigger crowd - not just noise or electronic people.
Yeah and that's the goal really. I love that lots of different people are into it, it's all music, it's all sound, so that makes me feel good about the world (laughs).
You're known around Melbourne as the master of the heckle. How important do you think this kind of crowd participation is in terms of keeping people honest about their music?
I obviously enjoy that kind of thing. Melbourne audiences are so standoffish. I don't heckle as much these days, and I have said some awful things in the past, but I do enjoy it. I like to be heckled myself too. It has to have a bit of humour to it, it can't just be straight abuse, but if someone's being totally unoriginal, you've got to let them know.
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