Melbourne-based producer Steve Law has been one of the genuine trail-blazers of the more inventive side of Australia's electronic
muzak scene for nigh on 15 years, and released his first Zen Paradox album - "Eternal Brainwave" - over a decade
Now Law has unleashed the latest Zen Paradox offering, titled "Numinosum", through the Electronic Emotional
Music imprint - and Andrez caught up with him for an email whip-around this August... read on, McDuff...
Andrez: First of all, congrats on the new Zen Paradox album! To someone who hasn't yet had a chance to listen in, how would
you describe the album - in 21 words or less?
Steve: The album is a pretty diverse exploration of contemporary electronic music.
Andrez: It's been a dozen-odd years since you released the first Zen Paradox album, "Eternal Brainwave", on
Psy-Harmonics in Australia, then globally through Nova Zembla. How do you feel about that album now?
Steve: I think it still stands up ok. It's certainly quite different sounding to "Numinosum", though I think
you can still see some elements of "Eternal Brainwave" in the new album.
Andrez: In what way would you assess that your music has most developed over the intervening period?
Steve: I'm always learning more about music production, and listening to more and more different music, so this is certainly
going to be reflected in the music I'm making now. Technology has also progressed quite a bit in that time. I didn't have
a computer back in those days - it's mind-blowing what you can do with a computer these days, compared to a studio full of
hardware back then.
Andrez: By the same token, what's remained the same?
Steve: It's still electronic music!
Andrez: When I first caught your live Zen Paradox sets, back in 1993, you were supporting bands like Snog or This Digital
Ocean, but by the mid '90s you'd become a party headliner in Melbourne in your own right. From yhat viewpoint, how do you
think that the city's electronic music scene has developed over the ensuing decade?
Steve: It has developed enormously over the past 10 years or so. I think the biggest development (and not necessarily
a good one) has been the genrefication of electronic music/techno. Back at the beginning of the '90s it was simply techno
or electronic music, but since then a huge number of "sub-genres" have developed, each with their own dedicated
following. I think this tends to fragment the scene quite a bit, and unfortunately people often tend to have a blinkered approach
towards any music outside of the particular sound they are into.
Also in the early days a party was a big occasion (and a lot more "underground"), with only a handful of people
organising them. And there were only a few clubs playing this music. There're tons of events and clubs these days.
Andrez: Why do you think that Melbourne was such an inspiring and diverse place to make music in back in the latter half
of the '90s?
Steve: I think it still is! It's a great city - I'm not sure why, but there has always been a great artistic vibe here.
Andrez: How easy is it for local electronic musicians to get live gigs in Melbourne these days?
Steve: Unfortunately, the live techno scene is not as healthy as it was some years ago. Speaking for myself, I know the
amount of techno gigs I do these days is miniscule compared to several years ago (and I know of other respected artists in
this town who are in the same situation). Hopefully it's just a phase, though - these things tend to happen in cycles. Lately
at the bigger parties (and in clubs) things have gotten a lot more commercial, and that doesn't leave much room for live performers
who are pushing their own unique sound.
On the other hand, more experimental and improvised music has been flourishing in Melbourne over the past few years. I've
been doing a lot more of these sorts of gigs recently, which has been a lot of fun (unfortunately not as helpful for paying
the bills, though!).
Andrez: How do you think the city (promoters AND audiences) could best change?
Steve: Stop getting stuck in all these mini genres!!! There's an amazing variety of music out there - it isn't that hard
to appreciate a wider range of things.
Andrez: Who do you (personally) consider to be the more interesting people doing live muzak or production work in Melbourne
in the mid '00s?
Steve: As I already said, a lot of the more interesting people in the techno scene haven't been doing as much recently.
One new guy who has certainly impressed me (live) is Pat Stormont.
There're a lot of people doing interesting stuff in the non-techno areas, such as Robin Fox and Ai Yamamoto. People who
have been around for a while like Dave Thrussel and Adam Raisbeck are still doing great things.
Andrez: What about your own approach to live music these days? How would you describe the "typical" Steve Law
set in mid-2005?
Steve: I guess the first thing I would say is that there isn't really a typical Steve Law set! Looking at the live performances
I've done over the past couple of years, I'm amazed myself at how much they have varied. The performance I deliver will vary
according to the event I'm performing at.
Andrez: What is it about playing live that continues to appeal to you as a musician?
Steve: The possibility of being able to communicate directly with an audience more than anything else. There is something
quite amazing about performing in front of an energetic/attentive crowd, which pushes you to do things you would never do
alone in the studio. I've come up with so many ideas for new pieces of music as a result of this.
I've also been doing a lot of live improvisation with other musicians in recent times, something that I absolutely love
doing. There really is a certain kind of magic performing with skilled improvisers and creating something truly unique, just
for that moment in time.
Andrez: What kind of gear/software are you using these days?
Steve: I got a laptop a couple of years ago, which has had a huge impact on my music production (and live performance).
I use Logic Audio for most of my studio work and arranging, while Ableton Live has revolutionised my live performance. It
is also a fantastic tool for coming up with new ideas for compositions in the studio - possibly my favourite musical tool
ever! I still have a lot of old analogue synthesizers, and they still get regular use. It's great to be able to use the sounds
from the analogue machines and then push them further with computer processing.
Andrez: What's your favourite food in the world?
Steve: Wow, that's a tough one - there's so much amazing food in this world! I'm very partial to a really good vindaloo,
but then there's Sichuan hotpot, Cambodian raw beef salad, uni (sea-urchin roe), fish + chips from Huskisson in Jervis Bay
(with the wharf in Cooktown coming a close second!), mature washed-rind cheese, mulligatawny soup, kimchi - ah, the choices,
Steve: Well, I like things that have an impact - so bland foods definitely don't do it for me!
Andrez: You've played internationally in a helluva lot of places - can you give us a bit of a summary?
Steve: Besides Australia, I've played in Holland, Germany, Denmark, Switzerland, Belgium, UK, Italy, France, Spain, the
USA and Malaysia.
Andrez: Of the old crew who set the scene in Melbourne production-wise in the mid '90s, it's only really you and Voiteck
who have continued running with the proverbial baton. What do you think this is?
Steve: Well, I know that music really is our life - it's a necessary form of expression for both of us, so regardless
of what happens around us we will continue our musical exploration.
Andrez: You and Voiteck did some scintillating live sets and studio time together as the Sonic Voyagers - are you going
to work together again some time soon?
Steve: I hope so - we have discussed this recently, but we will just have to see how things pan out for both of us in
the near future. I know I'm certainly keen, but I guess it will happen if and when circumstances permit.
Andrez: Tell us about your other projects aside from Zen Paradox...
Steve: There have been quite a few over the past few years. I'm currently performing in two bands, Black Cab and High
Pass Filter (who I'm sure you remember from a few years back). Black Cab are ex-Foil guys. They asked me to become part of
their live show, but it looks like I'll be having quite an input on their follow-up album, which we have just started working
I've also been working with Andrew Garton in a few guises, most notably as part of his Terminal Quartet (along with Ollie
Olsen) and Son of Science projects. I'm travelling to Korea with him and Ollie in November to work on a big project over there.
As I mentioned earlier, I've been doing a lot of live collaborations with various improvisers, including James Wilkinson
(trombone, conch), Sean Baxter (drums, junk), Stephen Richards (horns, effects pedals), Ai Yamamoto (laptop) and Tom Fryer
(guitar). Some of them (and others) I've also been working with in the studio.
I've also been working on a variety of solo stuff. I have
another project called Solitary Soul, and I have 3 albums worth of material recorded for that project over the past couple
of years. I've done some electro-acoustic stuff which I hope to release under my own name soon, which I'm really happy with.
Andrez: Which CDs, MDs, MP3s or vinyl are you listening to these days? And which artists or labels insire you most?
Steve: Unfortunately I haven't been able to afford to buy a whole lot of new music over the past couple of years. I really
like Cristian Vogel's new album (and the stuff he did with Jamie Liddell as Super_Collider). I've been listening to a lot
of improvised stuff. I like some of the stuff on 12k very much - I also like Radiohead a lot!
Andrez: Which three artists, DJs, musicians or whatever do you think have had the most impact on your own creative psyche?
Steve: It's very hard to name just three - Kraftwerk, Brian Eno and John Cage are three that come immediately to mind.
Andrez: A paraphrase from RoboCop - do you have special messages for all the aspiring electronic musicians reading at
Steve: Don't be afraid to venture into the unknown!
Andrez: And how do you prefer your coffee? Black or white?
FOR MORE INFO ABOUT ZEN PARADOX & THE NEW ALBUM CHECK OUT:
ZEN PARADOX HOMEPAGE
ELECTRONIC EMOTIONAL MUSIC