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Roland Tings

Roland Tings

Interviewed by
Courtney Sanders
Wednesday 6th November, 2013 8:46AM

Roland Tings is the moniker of solo, Melbourne-based electronic artist Rohan Newman. He played Camp a Low Hum at the beginning of the year and has spent the rest of 2013 touring internationally, playing festivals in Croatia, Tokyo and, most recently, Portugal, just casually. He's heading back to New Zealand this month to play A Low Hum's multi-city, multi-date Square Wave electronic music festival, and UnderTheRadar caught up with Newman to discuss how he has developed the Roland Tings sound and why he's psyched to come back to New Zealand.

You recently released Tomita's Basement/Cagean Sea. It sounds like the idea and inspiration for this one came from an interesting place?

They were actually written almost a year apart, but they are both based off the same concept - taking a recognisable idea or sound or technique that has an obvious link to a particular time/place/person and then putting that inside or next to another idea - sometimes the two things complement each other, sometimes they clash but its the interaction of them that makes things interesting. Also they're both kinda unhinged.

You recorded it in a basement in Berlin - tell us a little bit about that process and how it affected the sound/outcome?

It wasn’t really recorded in a basement. I recorded the original version of 'Tomitas Basement' in Melbourne, then re recorded it at my friends house in Berlin when I was crashing there for a week. I had just bought a Doepfer Dark Energy synth module - which I now use for all my live shows. I needed a way to test it so I got the midi sequence for the weird lead line from 'Tomitas Basement' and fed it into the synth and recorded the output. So I don't really know if Berlin had much to do with this one - other than the fact that I bought the synth there. 'Cagean Sea' was recorded in my bedroom in Melbourne last summer, using (amongst other things) the worlds shittiest casio keyboard, I did the high hats in the loungeroom while I made a sandwich.

Speaking of being overseas, you've been touring heavily, across the world over the past while. Have you had any particularly memorable experiences? Is there anywhere in particular you feel a particular affinity towards? Or anywhere where you thought your set went down particularly well?

I was actually just in Portugal and I really liked the vibe there. Lisbon seems like a good place - kinda has everything you could need from a city. Hangin' in Oslo with the Full Pupp crew was good, playing between James Blake and Daniele Baldelli at FOR Festival on an island in Croatia was amazing, visiting Palais De Tokyo in Paris, dancing to Lovefingers / Chida / Cos Mes going back-to-back in London at sunrise, Camp A Low Hum next to the Lagoon, some weird mornings in Berlin in summertime in the garten at About:Blank.

You've only been making music for a few years> How do you think what you are into sonically has changed and progressed over that time?

I've gone through a lot of changes - but I guess there are things that remain constant. I'm always a sucker for melody and drama. A big change has been my attention to detail - I can hear more things I was unable to notice before, textures and small things like that.

Is there anything in particular that you are referencing, or are particularly inspired by right now?

I've been moving a lot - lots of trains, planes, bus rides, going straight from clubs into transits - so I get to listen to a lot of music in those strange situations. Hopefully whatever I do next references some of these surreal moments. There's always a select bunch of DJs that inspire me with what they do - guys like Tiago, Andras Fox, Michael Kucyk, Gerd Janson, Lovefingers, Phuong Dan…the list goes on.

Your visual and sonic aesthetic is heavily tied into the eighties, and in interviews you talk a lot about staying technologically true to this decade as well. What draws you toward this sound and aesthetic do you think?

I think the first things I did for 100% SILK I definitely went in that direction, I hadn't had much exposure to house music - so when I first started hearing stuff like Larry Heard or Robert Hood - the rawness of it hit me really hard. I had never really made a house track because I wasn't aware that it could sound like THOSE records - as soon as I heard that stuff it blew my mind and I just had to know how they made it. So I did some research, worked out the equipment and then did my best to pretend I had the same equipment with plug-ins on my work computer - I made one track and sent it to Amanda from 100% SILK. She liked it so I kinda used the same principles for the rest of the EP.

But I'm not really some kind of 80s fetishist - I don't really have much interest in making “retro” music or anything like that. I'm just making things that interest me.

You're tied into both 100% Silk and Modular's sub-label, Club Mod. Tell us about how you became involved with both of these labels and what you like about working with each.

With Modular I had been sending tracks to Michael Kucyk for a while - he's been a huge help and a constant inspiration with Noise In My Head. He suggested that maybe it would be cool to put some of them out with Modular and that was that.

For 100% SILK I just sent a track to Amanda and she wanted to put it out. I didn't have any other tracks so it took a while to actually sit down and get an EP together - but she was really supportive and gave me a lot of great advice.

I guess that's what I like about both labels - they’re run by people I trust and people that genuinely have a huge love for music. Its really great to meet people like that, and even better when you can get an honest opinion from them.

You've Melbourne-based yeah? Is there a strong electronic music community there? If so, why do you think this is and who are some of the other artists who you admire / play with in the scene?

There's lots of amazing people making things happen in Melbourne right now. Andras Fox, Michael Ozone, Tornado Wallace, Zanzibar Chanel, Belltowers, Otologic & Animals Dancing, Standish Carlyon - they're all providing for the community. As for why Melbourne has a strong electronic music community - I don't know if I can speak for everyone, but I think for me growing up in Australia I really didn't have much exposure to electronic music as a kid. Everything was always about rock 'n' roll. Always guitars, punk, hardcore & indie stuff. For a long time I had a really negative association with dance music. When I first moved to Melbourne I met a lot of people that were in the same boat, who were all discovering going out to clubs and listening to loud dance music. I think where Melbourne is at right now is a logical extension of this - the people that were kids getting psyched on dance music in 2007 are now making good tracks.

More generally, Australia is pretty well known for its appreciation and creation of electronic music, particularly through Modular Records. Why do you think Australia has been particularly profound in this genre?

It's weird to think about that, because its not like Australia has one particular identifiable sounds - nothing you hear and you go “Oh man that's GOTTA BE Australian” in the same way you can say that about French House or Detroit or whatever. There's no common production technique or anything like that. I think Flume and Cut Copy and The Presets all sounds pretty different.

As for the ubiquity of Australian electronic music, I dunno, I think we have had, still have and will always have a shitload of guitar bands that are absolutely crushing it everywhere - probably a lot more than electronic artists. I'd like to see more acceptance of electronic music - but who knows if that will happen.

What are you working on at the moment?

I'm actually staying with a friend in Holland for a few days between shows, we have been jamming for a while with the gear we have on hand & making some recordings. Also working on the artwork for the LP and trying to think of a way to get an SH 101 for cheap.

What are your plans for the next couple of years?

Well I have an album coming out, and I hope to head back to Europe in 2014 and maybe the USA if I can make it happen. I guess I just want to continue to make records and not die in some kind of horrible accident.

You're heading over to New Zealand for Square Wave Festival - are you looking forward to coming back? How did you find it last time you were here?

Camp A Low Hum was one of the best shows I've ever played and everyone I met in NZ was a legend. I drank many warm double browns and I'm hoping to have a similar experience this time. Maybe with cold beer this time.

When Blink approached you about Square Wave Festival, what did you think about the multi-city concept?

I have a lot of faith in anything Blink does - I think it's amazing that someone is putting their arse on the line to support something they believe in. Its an ambitious concept and I hope that it inspires some more kids in NZ to get into that metaphorical basement and start working on music.


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