Hi Mark, what are
you up to at the moment?
I’ve just finished moving house! We didn’t
move too far away though. About five minutes drive.
I’ve just set up my computer and I’m excited
about writing some new songs. I’ve got all these
ideas that I’m looking forward to trying.
Come Here When You Sleepwalk is your
first album as Clue To Kalo, but it is not your first
album. How did you come to music?
I used to make tapes when I was little. I’d
write out some lyrics, make up a simple melody to go
with it, and then sing into the tape recorder. I’d
do the guitar and drums with my mouth as well. Kind
of like a five-year old Michael Winslow. I’ve
never learned to play an instrument, and I don’t
know anything about musical theory, so everything I’ve
learned to produce recorded music has been to replace
my mouth instruments with real ones.
How is Clue To Kalo different from your other
project, Super Science?
I’m not doing Super Science anymore.
When I first started making music, I chose the name
to release a couple of CD-Rs that eventually became
the Super Science album. That stuff was a bit more overtly
electronic, and a little more of a mess-around. It’s
strange for me now that some of that stuff is out there,
as mp3 or on the album, because they feel like rough
drafts. I see a lot of those songs as me teaching myself
how to write.
Can you tell us more about Come Here…?
What is the inspiration behind it?
I was having a difficult time with relationships and
not feeling very good about things, and writing those
songs was how I made myself feel better. I have a tendency
to tie myself up in knots in times of personal crises,
think about things too much. Writing songs clears my
head. The energy I get from it reminds me that there
are a lot of wonderful things around that I can do,
like make music, and that I don’t need to dwell
on the bullshit. It puts things into perspective. The
lyrics of the record are very simple and straightforward.
They might be seen as trite but they were how I was
feeling at the time, and I didn’t feel like dressing
it all up in tricky language. If you’re heartbroken
or in love it’s funny how many of the clichés
ring true. You’re in those situations and they’re
confusing, so often you can find yourself thinking of
it in terms of what you’ve seen on TV or heard
in pop music, because you don’t know what else
to do. Instead of fighting against that I went with
There are comparisons made between this album
and Dntel’s Life Is Full Of Possibilities.
How do you think these two records are similar in some
They both blend guitars, vocals and lyrics about lovers
with electronic sounds. I can see why people are drawing
comparisons between them, and I don’t mind at
How do you feel about your music being compared
to other records around?
It’s okay with me. It gives people a context.
It means that someone who liked the Dntel album might
go out and listen to my record, and maybe enjoy it.
Selling records relies on the association of music with
other music. It leads you to chase up similar artists,
your favourite band’s favourite band, all the
artists on a certain record label …
Although the album is not released until now,
Boom Bip put it in his list of the best albums of last
year. How did you feel about such recognition?
Really good actually. As you might expect. Boom Bip’s
great. I hadn’t even realised he’d heard
the record. I just got up one day, checked my email,
and found a link to his list. Of course you always have
doubts about what you do, so such pats on the back can
be really encouraging. I should write to him and say
You seem to mix electronic and acoustic instrumentation
on this album. Do you actually play any instrument on
No. I wish I could play an instrument, but I just don’t
have the co-ordination or the patience to learn. All
of the instruments are played by friends of mine. The
bass guitar and drums were played by Simon and Morgan.
I went round to their house with my mini-disc recorder
and asked them to improvise for awhile. They were nice
enough to do it even though they were pretty hung-over.
I loaded that stuff on to my computer and cut it up,
constructed new melodies and rhythms from what they’d
given me. The other friend that helped me out, Cybele,
sang the instructions (in German) from the back of a
CD-R. It was 12 seconds long but it sounded good and
I wrote four songs with it. You can hear her on the
second-till-last track of the record.
You also sing on this album, which remains
a relatively rare occurrence for electronic artists.
Have you always mixed songs and instrumentals in your
No, for a while I didn’t think of it. In mid-high
school my two favourite bands were Joy Division and
Swans. I also listened to some generic goth music. I
became interested in electronic music in year 10 because
my brother’s friend had Aphex Twin’s Selected
Ambient Works 2. It sounded like darkwave ambient
to a 15-year old youth all dressed in black. I still
sort of think it does, actually. My brother’s
friend was older than me and I looked up to him, so
I ended up listening to it a lot.
I was excited about it because it sounded different
but at the same time like something I could conceivably
make. I’d given up on music a few years earlier
because I thought you had to know how to play an instrument
to write it. Electronica sounded like it could be produced
by anybody with a computer and a keyboard. I started
making it myself but I certainly felt that distinction
between electronic sounds and ‘real’ instruments.
It just felt like you were expected to use either one
or the other. As I became less interested in electronica
and more in ‘band’ music, I wanted to try
and blend them together. I sang on a track, got some
nice feedback, and so kept singing. Then I recorded
live instruments and started using them too.
What do you think it brings to the compositions?
I’m not sure. It’s completely a
matter of taste. The majority of stuff I listen to now
is music played with traditional instruments. The electronic
music I enjoy usually has some kind of acoustic or organic
element to it. I just like the sound of real instruments.
I think that as my taste in music has changed, so has
the kind of music I want to make. Ultimately I try to
write songs that I’d listen to and enjoy if they
were written by somebody else, and because I usually
listen to records that use those kinds of sounds, they
make their way into my songs.
What inspires you to write? Is the process
different when you write an instrumental track than
when you write a song?
No. I usually add the vocals last. At some point in
the writing process it usually occurs to me that the
song would sound better with vocals than without them.
I wait till I’ve finished the music, then write
some lyrics that fit a melody line I’ve come up
with (I usually write the lyrics quickly). As far as
what inspires me to write … I guess that there
are some things you have to do to make yourself happier
than you would otherwise be. I write music because when
I don’t I get unhappy.
What made you originally want to play music?
Is there anyone in particular who has had an influence
on your work?
Not really. There’s not one artist who has inspired
my particularly. I tend to discover artists every now
and then who give me butterflies, and make me want to
reassess my own approach to music. I’m listening
a lot to Forever Changes by Love at the moment.
I know there are a lot of reasons why I could never
make a record quite like that … like the fact
that it’s no longer 1967, for a start. But those
magical records are the ones that make me want to keep
There seem to be very few Australians involved
in electronic music. Is it really the case?
No, although I can understand why you might think that.
There are great things going on in Australia, but because
there’s a lack of a cohesive scene, they often
happen below the surface. Even Adelaide, which is known
as being a bit of a hole and kind of scary, has had
some great things going on. Three friends of mine –
Cornel who does Qua, and Jason and Cailan who are Pretty
Boy Crossover – are all originally from Adelaide
and produce fantastic music. Unfortunately, there’s
just not a lot of visibility for that kind of stuff
in Australia. I think the music they produce is as good
as the music coming out of Europe and the US, and I
really believe that if their music was heard outside
of Australia people would love it.
Where are the hotspots of electronic music
I guess Melbourne and Sydney, because those are the
largest cities. Melbourne is the city that most people
from Adelaide move to when they get too depressed to
live here any longer. So the three friends I just mentioned
have all made the exodus from Adelaide to Melbourne.
I’ll probably do it at some point. I’ve
realised that if all my friends are going, there’s
not a lot except sentimentality and anxiety keeping
One of the tracks on your first CD-R was called
Tortoise Are Overrated. Was that a reference
to the band, and is it your feeling about them? Why?
Yeah, that’s a reference to the band. That song
title is an in-joke, pretty much. When I was a snotty
teen, and was afraid of being no good at music, all
the indie kids in Adelaide were into Stereolab and Tortoise.
And so a girl that I liked didn’t like my music,
but thought that Tortoise were the bee’s knees,
and so I told her and any indie hipster I came across
that Tortoise were overrated. Of course, later when
I stopped being bitter I realised how ridiculous it
all was, and thought it would make for an amusing song
title. I just thought the idea of arbitrarily singling
out someone and dissing them in a song name was funny.
Actually, I think Tortoise are pretty good.
Your first album as Super Science was released on Australian
label Surgery, and despite getting good reviews, it
was only released in Australia. How did you get to work
with Mush Records in the US and Leaf in the UK?
I met some members of Anticon at the 2001 Sound Summit
Festival in Newcastle. Doseone, Sole and Jel were there
performing. Seb Chan, who organises Sound Summit, recommended
my music to them. They asked for a CD and said they
liked it, which was enough of a thrill at the time.
Then Doseone took a CD-R of some of my new songs back
to Mush, and Mush asked me to sign with them. Mush licensed
the record to Leaf in Europe. And that’s the story
of my ‘big break’. It’s been an amazing
time. Mush and Leaf are both great labels, and I’d
love to continue working with them.
Clue To Kalo live is you plus two other musicians.
Does this mean that the next incarnation of the project
on record will feature more people?
This record had a few friends helping out with sounds,
and I’d like to expand this on the next record.
I’d love to write some songs specifically for
the three-piece, record us performing, and then take
those songs and rework them on the computer. There are
lots of different approaches that I want to try. I enjoy
working with my friends, so I’m sure I’ll
recruit more of them as I go along. I’ve just
written a couple of songs with some sounds from my friends
Col and Vic. They have a record out as Vic Conrad &
The First Third on Woronzow that you should check out.
How would you describe Clue To Kalo live?
It’s a bit more of a rock show. As well as the
vocals and laptop sounds, there are drums, guitar, harmonica,
turntables. We want to bring as many sounds into our
performances as we can. Curtis wants to use an accordion.
I want Alan to play the glasses. In Adelaide you can
find yourself performing with bands that are quite different
to you stylistically. When I started doing solo shows
here I rarely played with other electronic-based artists,
because there are just not many around. Some of our
friends are involved with the hardcore scene here, and
we’ve played a few shows with those bands. I really
like to find us in the middle of that situation. I find
the attitude of those friends pretty inspiring. Last
week we played with my friend Tom’s band that
kind of sounds like Godspeed and My Bloody Valentine.
Watching that stuff has made me aware that I want to
make our performances have a real energy. After playing
as a band, it’s difficult to go back to just the
laptop and a microphone.
Are you planning to tour Europe and the US
after the album is released?
Nothing’s been finalised yet, but it’s being
talked about and we’d definitely love to. I’ve
never been out of Australia, so it’s an exciting
What are you listening to at the moment?
While moving house I found Yo La Tengo’s I
Can Hear The Heart Beating As One. I lost it about
a year and a half ago. I’d always suspected it
was behind the TV, but it wasn’t until the removal
people came in and took everything away that my suspicions
were confirmed. So I’m rediscovering that. It’s
like buying it all over again!
The electronic scene is constantly changing
at the moment, with new genres and artists coming out
all the time. Who do you think will make a mark in the
next few years?
It’s hard to say. I’d love to see
more Australian artists get recognised overseas. It
sometimes feels like you’re at the arse-end of
everything over here, that the rest of the world is
out of reach. Melbourne is the closest big city to Adelaide
and that’s over a thousand kilometres away. But
there are exciting things going on here that people
should know about. Hrvatski was in Australia a couple
of years ago and he said it felt like Seattle before
grunge broke. So it’s exciting to think that maybe
things will blow up at some point and we’ll all
dress up in flannel shirts and crowd surf.
What’s next for you?
Well, right now I’m going to go and eat
the ‘cookies and cream’ ice-cream I bought
myself today. Then we’re playing a show tomorrow
night, which should be fun. This coming year I want
to make a good record, some short films, work some more
on my book and my thesis, put out a literature zine
of some kind. As much as I can do, really.
Email interview February 2003
Thank you to Mark