Now in his mid-twenties, Melbourne based producer, DJ, performer and radio host (3RRR, 102.7fm) Andras Fox has spent the last few years carving out a considered reputation for himself worldwide. He's accomplished this through a series of loved vinyl and cassette releases via Home Loan Records, Audio Parallax Records, Two Bright Lakes, Dopeness Galore, This Thing Records & Tapes (and soon Mexican Summer and Chapter Music), as well as acclaimed DJ sets and live performances. An ever-developing master of tactile, humanistic electronica, while his DIY home recordings are informed by a slippery interzone connecting 80s Library Music, Chicago House and G-Funk (and their associated subcultures) his creative mindset is as much about the here, the now, and the future.
In advance of his debut New Zealand performances in Auckland and Wellington, UnderTheRadar spoke with Fox about his inspirations, process, development, the importance of vinyl, and the potential for beautiful disaster during live performance. Friendly and thoughtful, he had a lot to say...
UTR: Would it be safe to say the shadow of the late eighties and early nineties looms large over your music?
FOX: It's safe to say that a lot of the music that I listen to, and am inspired by, hails from that era. But I'd like to hope that it's not purely a nostalgia trip. I use a lot of older equipment because it works nicely for the sort of stuff that I like to make. As far as the reason why I listen to a lot of the eighties references, it's because there was a nice culture existing at the time. It was a nice meeting point between the beginning of small bands, portable studios and home recording equipment. That is still where I am at. I guess that is just the closest reference point I can find? It sounds like what I want to continue pushing forwards into the future.
This reminds me of the process and approach of Dam-Funk, someone who is interested in continuing to write and develop what he calls "modern funk" as a logical progression from the p-funk and g-funk music he discovered in his youth...
Yeah. I am interested in contemporary equipment. It's not really like an analog/digital thing for me. I use a lot of hardware, but that is mainly because it's what I've worked with to get the kinds of sounds I want. A lot of that has been using digital tools like Ableton and stuff as far as the mixing and arrangement goes. But, I just use the hardware because that is the way I like to make music, working with a bunch of other people and stuff.
When did you start discovering these wellsprings of sound and culture that have inspired you?
I dabbled with production and bits and pieces of gear when I was in high school. I guess I missed the whole playing in rock band boat. I guess that was a little bit sad in hindsight. I went straight into wanting to make vaguely dance music. As far as finding a nice reference point I think it was just through collecting records. I got a bit sick of the seventies funk/soul thing. I started realising the stuff from the early eighties had a particular appeal because it still had those acoustic and mic-ed instruments and magnets in guitars and stuff, but it also had this eighties flavour going on. It wasn't so late that it became strictly electronic, so it was this nice little meeting place between sounds I liked.
When you talk collecting records, you mean collecting vinyl records right?
Yeah. I've been collecting records since around the same time. Vinyl is a no-brainer for me. The same disclaimer applies though: I really like purely digital music in some respects. But as far as a format that allows people to meet other people and this culture that I live in to exist, it's pretty hard to imagine it existing without vinyl. I go to record shops, meet people, and they tell me stories about other records they have owned, found, or can recommend. It's the way this niche community is structured. The first thing I do when I go to another city, or overseas, or even on the weekend, is go check out some record stores. I like looking for stuff online as well, but it doesn't make for a very interesting life.
Why did you start collecting vinyl?
I realised I wasn't going to make it as a BMXer or snowboarding star. I was kind of enjoying playing video games and listening to music while cruising around. I thought, if I'm not going to make it as an action star, maybe music is a way to do a similar thing with my life. I started buying terrible trance from Sanity when they used to have a record store in their business, which is hard to imagine these days. It was a chain of generic large run-of-the-mill corporate music retailers. They weren't very interesting, but they had these dance and electronic stores around the year 2000, back when trance and hard dance was really big. All that really terrible stuff. Basically my granddad saw this strange nightclub DJ console, all built into a portable table. It had two turntables and a rotary mixer and a gooseneck microphone and an amplifier and a lamp all built into this one huge rolling case thing. For some reason I decided it was something I wanted when I was thirteen. I got that for a couple of hundred dollars. Then I spent awhile trying to work out how to DJ with two belt-drive turntables and no pitch adjust. Which I guess is a good way to learn.
How does this all lead to you releasing music and playing shows?
I'm a really stubborn person. I just stuck with what I was doing for awhile, then I think someone put me onto the Red Bull Music Academy. Throughout high school I was DJing at parties, friends birthdays and the like. Doing all that really traumatising but quite entertaining stuff. I was just dabbling on the side and slowly pottering away at it. I had a couple of people suggest smaller labels who might want to release stuff digitally. I did that with one label in the UK. He ended up getting some funding and offered to do a P&D deal to press one of the records. Then you just slowly make friends with other people, like any other creative industry. Slowly the world opens up a bit. DJing is something I have been doing consistently since late high school. I would do one thing, hopefully do it well, and that is kind of just what I do now.
As far as playing live with my friend Oscar Key Sung who does vocals, that collaboration happened naturally. He was living in my house and we made some demos. When it came to releasing them, people were asking us to play live. I had to work out a way to perform my music live, which was kind of a new thing to me. It was for the most part a studio practice as opposed to a live performance thing.
Have you enjoyed interpreting it from a studio practice into a live experience?
I don't know if enjoy is the right word for it. I like the challenge. I like the organisational aspect of it. I like the rehearsal. I like finding ways to do it in a particular way. It's often frustrating, as any fiddly task is. I enjoy the work of performing stuff live. I feel like I've earned it if people have a nice night, or they say that the music was good. That is a nice feeling. Generally I'm a little bit stressed out beforehand. I might be keen to blow off a bit of steam afterwards. It's not like a relaxed, pleasurable experience, but the best things in life aren't always pleasurable.
I'm not trying to be Chopin, it's just in my mind I'm always imagining a way to do it better. I'm doing things in a complicated way on purpose, and that makes it easier for things to go wrong. I think that is something I actually enjoy, the disastrous element of playing live. I can be a pretty serious guy sometimes, but it's also good to have a sense of humor about what you do.
Andras Fox is playing on the 5th of September at Havana Bar in Wellington and the 6th of September at Cassette Number Nine in Auckland. See over here for details and ticketing.
Take a sneak peek at the projections for the Wellington show here.
Andras has two new records due out in September and October, Cafe Romantica with Oscar Key Sung (via Chapter Music) and Vibrate on Silent (via Mexican Summer).