After finishing my interview with Ben Plant, the creative force behind newly signed EMI recording artist Miami Horror from Melbourne, Australia, Ben asked me a question. He asked whether I knew much about electronic music, and the trends in this genre. Unfortunately it was painfully obvious during the course of our interview that I didn’t. He went on to tell me about how so many of the current trends had gotten boring and outdated. Well, at least, this wasn’t news to me, for frankly I’ve never really been into the techno, trance, trip hop, rave or whatever scene because I found the repetitive and bass driven beats really boring and not much fun to dance too. Moreover, when I go out to see live music, I want to see musicians, rather than some dude or chick scratching discs, moving sliders, and or turning knobs. Maybe if the last time I tripped on acid (never did ‘x’) hadn’t been when I was thirteen, I’d better relate to this genre.
With that aside, I’m not sure how you exactly categorize or label Miami Horror, since they’re a synthesis of so many sounds ranging from disco, prog rock like ELO, some 80’s like Talking Heads, trip hop and so many other sounds to neatly pigeon hole. But I do know one thing, I absolutely love this group! Their sound being a fusion of so many other sounds made them quite distinctive. They played their last gig on their first US 12 stop tour at a small 350 capacity venue in Santa Monica to a packed sold out house of wildly enthusiastic fans dancing all over the place, who caught on to the buzz over this group via the internet. Before the band’s sound check, I sat down with Ben Plant and we had the following conversation largely about the production of Miami Horror’s music especially regarding the production of the band’s new LP Illumination, and how the band could perform live and reproduce the produced sound..
EXAM: What are some of the production techniques you used to make your new LP Illumination?
BP: It’s quite different from the older stuff. Quite a few less layers, like some of the old mixes had up to 100 tracks on the EP…that’s just a lot of little sounds and copies and stuff like that. where this is limited to 20 to 25 tracks with some of them being pretty insignificant. I decided to make this album a bit looser with the production rather than hours and hours of making it really tight. We did that for a few songs. By hours and hours, I actually mean months and months. Just made the whole thing sound looser and alive, not as compressed and electronic
EXAM: Did you produce your own LP
BP: I mixed it all except for one song I produced, which we then got some one professional to mix it.
EXAM: With the looser sound, you’re more able to translate that into a live performance
BP: Yes, basically because we were having trouble with the EP [Sometimes]. It was so electronica, so how could we actually perform it live. So we didn’t like that awkwardness so we made sure with the album I let josh influence the tracks more and add guitar. Aaron had some weird effects, and just take it a step further than just a self produced dance record.
EXAM: That’s what I was wondering how your audience would react if the live show sounded so different from the LP
BP: What we try to do is take what we’ve done on the record and make it a lot wider adding more guitar and stuff like that. So songs that don’t have guitar we add to and we’re creating a lot of effects and layering stuff live which we didn’t do with the EP. With the EP, I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to keep it more electronic sounding. I guess too now with the ways trends are going, people are more open to more experimental sounding stuff and really taking stuff further.
EXAM: What’s your stage plot?
BP: We have two key boards toward the front on the sides, with the guitar in the middle upfront, and the drums in the back. Sometimes we have the drums in the rear corner if we don’t have enough space. The drums create most of the beat with live symbols. We have some drum samples for the low frequencies.
EXAM: Was the band assembled for the tour or for the production?
BP: Kind of just built over time. Like Josh already helped out with the vocals. And Dan was always hanging around writing vocals as well. Josh then got his friend Aaron to jam. It was more about building a touring band first, then it worked out really with us just collaborating with one another
EXAM: How did EMI discover you?
BP: That’s because I did a remix of one of their bands, an Australian band’s song. They [EMI} said that song wasn’t taking off too much until my remix help step it up and get it more radio playing. And so then they were now interested in hearing what I was doing.
EXAM: Have they EMI been offering tour support?
BP: No we have been doing it all ourselves.
EXAM: How many shows have you done on your current tour?
BP: Twelve, I mean that’s all you’d really want to do with concerts. But we could definitively fit more in next time, maybe 15 or 16. It would be good though to be able to drive 4 or 5 hours a day as opposed to going to the airport and dealing with all that stuff
EXAM: The Santa Monica show is your last show in the US?
EXAM: Then you’re back in Australia for a some more gigs?
BP: Yes, not too many more this summer. The whole point is to let the record sink in because we’ve already toured so much
EXAM: Our winter is Australia’s summer
EXAM: Where and what type of venues have your US shows been in?
BP: mainly in venues of 300 to 500 people.
EXAM: Did you piggy back any larger know acts?
BP: No, we played a lot of clubs, so those shows there we’re already crowds for them
EXAM: What about Europe?
BP: Have a European booker, and started to book, but decided to wait and that we were going to push the LP first.
EXAM: Is this your first time to the states? How is it different establishing yourself here versus in Australia which is a much smaller market?
BP: I think because it is a smaller market, you can get noticed a lot easier. So there’s less competition but at the same time, but people from here really assume we’d be able to set up in the US just as easy because there are a lot electronic bands but we stand out from them because of the live element, the full band thing. In the end I don’t think there’s too much difference unless you’re more like a rock band.
EXAM: In your genre you don’t think there is that much of a difference because you’ve already differentiated your band by being electronic but still a live act rather than just scratching and spinning?
BP: Yes, and some how the package is meant to be more original
EXAM: You’ve described that package as “Electronic Prog Rock”?
BP: There too many words really. We don’t have a genre.
EXAM: You’re establishing your own genre?
BP: Yeah to a certain degree. It’s hard to say to we created our own thing since it’s similar to some other things but still different enough to not really call it that. And so it’s like disco influenced, psychedelic influenced, just a little bit prog influenced and mostly “dancey.”
EXAM: You were a DJ?
BP: I was DJ’ing for years before for fun.
EXAM: That’s kool, thanks!
BP: You’re welcome