This season sees Simon Lewicki celebrating three decades of mischief since Groove Terminator.
Starting out as a hip-hop DJ in his hometown of Adelaide from 1987, Lewicki made his way to the climbing club scene of Sydney in the mid-’90s. From there he swerved into building a couple of artist records with Virgin/EMI — 2000’s Road Kill along with 2002’s Electrifying Mojo— who cemented the GT title and made him a local festival circuit.
The two Groove Terminator LPs came in a formative time. Even though Road Twist nodded to Fatboy Slim with a sample-driven big beat sound, its own follow up featured digital maestro Andy Page as an studio collaborator. The mid-2000s watched up Lewicki team with Sam Littlemore for the project Tonite however there was room for standalone GT about the bar circuit.
30 years on from Lewicki, that awakening and his alter ego are specialists of the arena. In his life, the DJ-producer repetitions house music on the weekends and performs his 9-5 as A&R Manager for Publishing and Recordings for TMRW Music Group (previously Ministry of Sound Australia.)
Lewicki can also be on board as the Director of Orchestrated after seeing the MOS Reunion Tour’s sold-out success. The displays in Melbourne and Sydney will reimagine dancing classics with a live symphony orchestra, together with GT also joined by Daniel Merriweather and Owl Eyes. The toughest part is determining which particular anthems make the trimoff.
“We’ve got a working set-list that’s true to what Australian classics have been,” Lewicki informs inthemix. “You whittle it down out there to what is likely to sound great with an orchestra behind it. I could’ve easily done a four-hour show with this much stuff.”
Sinking into the spirit of celebrating the past of Orchestrated, inthemix requested us to walk .
What’s life like as a DJ before you made your very first album, Road Kill?
It’ll seem weird to people however I did that the very first. It was completely illegal but I sold thousands and thousands of duplicates. I get people hitting me up on it. It was a time in a community of a couple thousand people. Everyone was really in it and super-critical of their standard of mixing.
I transferred to Sydney so I grabbed the tail-end of the expat celebrations. Subsequently with guys like Phil [Smart] and [Sugar] Ray doing Tweekin’ to a Friday night , there was an extraordinary party vibe. I really don’t know when the medication had something to do with this, however, the music in Adelaide was a ton quicker than Sydney, so it took me some time to slow down it! That’s when I started getting more into that very first wave of filter house, which occurred together with the arrival of Daft Punk.
I signed about two years. I was the first DJ and they had no clue what to do with me personally.
Can it be a surprise for you as well that you were suddenly an artist with a record deal?
Josh Abrahams Paul Mac and I got picked up around exactly the exact same moment. And a wave of executives came in and everybody got dropped together with me. Obviously Josh then proceeded to make ‘Addicted To Bass’ and Paul had the biggest listing of his career [3000 Feet High] two decades after that.
Kathy McCabe, who’s currently in the Tele, was A&Ring afterward, and I believed it was eyesight on their own behalf. I can not even begin to imagine the type of discussions she had been having with EMI in the moment, who had activated their having anything that is not done for most of the ’90s. They proceeded to get an wonderful run.
Was there a specific release out there in the time that turned EMI onto you?
I had a record out on Dance Pool [‘It’s On’] and I had done a remix for [UK dance-pop group] Dead or Alive that had gone gold. I had been given an advance, so I did everything you’d usually do if you’re granted a whack of money get onto a plane and go to Europe. I ended up with most of an album thank god, but it still took me a year and a half.
“I really don’t know if the medication had something to do with this, however, the audio in Adelaide was much quicker than Sydney”
It was to make a record back then — I delivered it fairly cheaply but to get a sampler was 8000 back. I started off as a hip-hop DJ and that I approached things with this particular magpie sensibility. I was fortunate they coughed up.
Were the advances then unlike anything that an artist would see now?
Well, here’s a good example. I had been signed to Virgin to make a listing. Most folks would have gone off and purchased a house and still exercised a way. I chose to utilize it all to make the record. You get to a point where you’re running out of money.
“I really don’t think people have an opportunity on documents as much nowadays.”
Fortunately my buddy Tim [McGee] worked in Central [Station Records]. Also he went and I told him I had so I flicked that off to him and sold it in the united kingdom to Ministry. We got roughly a $50,000 advance for this. This was the kind of money that floated about back then. I thought, ‘Oh, this is fairly easy, I could definitely keep doing so!’
And those sorts of numbers dried up. I really don’t think nowadays people have an opportunity on documents as much. If you’ve got every label on the planet is going to be knocking down your door to throw money at you. However, no one’s going to take a chance.
Can Road Kill take its cues from what was occurring internationally with digital music at the moment?
You can certainly hear the effect of ol’ Norman Cook on that record. I was a fan. To me it was really important to take everything I had been into — punk, hip-hop, breakbeats, house audio, and also the pop up I climbed up on — and then mash it all together.
‘Here Comes Another One’ was based on an MC5 riff. Subsequently [The Fifth Dimension’s] ‘Let The Sunshine In’ [sampled on GT’s ‘One More Time (The Sunshine Song)’] is such a ’60s anthem of the moment. I had been hanging out with Fatboy Slim a little, and I truly wished to make a record that he would play in his collection. This was my intention for that one. After it was heard by the label, they were like, ‘No, ‘ that’s your only.’
I had been looking back at some older Big Day Out line-ups, and I first saw your title in 1996.
I did in a row like ten Big Day Outs, and now I feel the previous four or five I had been in the touring party. It had been me and Paul and Bexta Mac — it was a community with the people about the line-ups everywhere. I’m still friends with all those people now.
I recall playing [the ‘ Chemical Brothers’] ‘Block Rockin’ Beats’ at the Boiler Room when that record was huge, and the reaction was just over the top. In 1997, The Prodigy was the very first digital action to perform the main stage, and I remember thinking ‘Oh yeah, we have arrived, we are taking over today.’ It was a great moment.
“The 2006 era needed The Presets, Cut Copy, Sneaky Sound System; I believe time stood up any place on the planet and always will.”
The line-ups was crazy, since you’d have then and Aphex Twin OMC [of ‘How Bizarre’ celebrity]. It would not be merely techno all day. I believe that the diversity was super-important and informative. There was a lot of tribalism happening with genres ‘I like techno’ or ‘I just like happy hardcore’. You’d see it with all the tribes dressed in their way in Central Station Records. But everybody comes together in the Boiler Room.
From the early 2000s, when Road Kill came out, there is a groundswell of other Australian digital groups: you’d Pnau, Sonic Animation, Resin Dogs, The Avalanches…
Yeah, you noticed it when it was time to collect a tour to get a record. I toured with Sonic Animation and I toured with Grinspoon, you understand? It was like, ‘They both play Big Day Out, they could go!’
I know that the songs the Pnau boys had been making before they found nightclubs was full-on psytrance. And they had this moment, found Derrick Carter and DJ Sneak, and went stateside. Then the Avalanches album is just one of the best to ever come from this country stop. I recall that being the soundtrack of summer hanging out with…oh, I’m not even going to name-drop, however a few touring DJs! That album was being played with nonstop.
In that 2005-2008 period once you started Tonite Just, the audio coming from Australia felt very connected to an worldwide phenomenon.
From the early 2000s everybody was in their own lane setting out their records. Then I think that the advent of having the ability to record in-the-box and not go into studios attracted the cost of production right down.
This 2006 era had Cut Copy, The Presets, Sneaky [Sound System]; I think will and always that moment stood up any place in the world. Those documents had a large influence. I recall seeing DJ AM do an open format hip-hop/rock/party set and going to LA, playing [the Just remix of Sneaky Sound System’s] ‘Pictures’ in its middle. That wave of electro — with a clean sawtooth wave, a snare and a kick — only sounds great loud. You can not beat it.
As a young DJ, you’re Australian runner-up from the DMC DJ competition. The tools of the trade have changed quite a great deal since then…
When I started DJing, I did not even see [Technics] 1200s for two decades. It was this idea that there! It had been like, what? These were the types of discussions.
You are able to learn to DJ in about 90 minutes so the bar has lowered. The thing that’s not likely to change is that the art of DJing is understanding what tune to play next. That is any time period, any genre, ever. That’s how you rock a celebration: understand what tune to play following the one that’s playing.
Orchestrated together with the Ministry Of Sound Orchestra strikes Melbourne’s Hamer Hall on Friday August 11 and Sydney’s State Theatre on Friday August 18. Tickets are now on sale.
Jack Tregoning is an independent writer based in New York. He’s about Twitter.
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