Wednesday, January 27, 2010
City of Satellites, Sydney/Adelaide
Current band rollcall?
Jarrod Manuel and Thomas Diakomichalis.
City of Satellites has been around since …
2007 – but we’ve played music together in different line-ups since our 1990s high school days.
Let's play Six Degrees of City of Satellites. What are some interesting musical links you could come up with?
Our friend Beth’s uncle plays guitar with Dragon. Yeah!
First song ever written?
Jarrod: Embarrassing - This Is The New Beat, the title says enough, come on people be fair, I was nine years old and obsessed with Michael Jackson.
Thomas: Hmm, probably one of these sombre, minimalist piano pieces I’d write as an angsty teen. Not sure what they were called, probably Untitled #13.
Music making for you began when …
Jarrod: I had always had an interest in music and my parents would have records playing all the time, but it wasn’t until we had a student, John, come and board with our family when I was four. I was annoying him (as usual), so he handed me a stereo speaker and told me to hold it and be quiet; then he played Beat It. From there I became obsessed with Michael Jackson, but more importantly, music/sounds/entertainment (although I didn’t realise it at the time). So while it would be years before I’d actually start writing my own music, I think it all started then.
Thomas: Well, I took piano lessons from a young age, but it all really began when I would set up arrays of empty, upside-down ice cream tubs in my parents’ lounge and try to emulate Def Leppard’s one-armed drummer, or Tommy Lee, circa Dr. Feelgood.
Most unusual sound/instrument you've used in your music?
Probably the warble sound at the end of Machine Is My Animal - the synth had way too many effects on it including a crazy sub-woofer effect (don’t really know why). We thought it sounded like a ghost, if a ghost made sound.
Strangest gig you've ever played?
Strangest AND first gig I believe - as young teens with dyed hair, we played in the front bar of a town called Wilmington in rural South Australia, during their rodeo weekend. We were heckled off stage for not playing enough AC/DC.
Do you pin up images when recording to help inspire your songs? (Or put up other things in the studio for the same effect?)
Jarrod: No, never - just listening to music is the best source of inspiration, but for me, it’s probably more based around emotion. Having said that, my recording room looks out over a garden, so I find nature can be very inspirational too.
Thomas: Don’t pin anything up, but I’ll sometimes indirectly use an image as inspiration – almost try to provide a soundtrack for the scene or the impression it’s left on me. My studio is pretty stark and looks onto Harris Street in Ultimo, so no inspiration in nature for me unfortunately, unless broke drunks stumbling away from the casino count as “nature”?
Unlikeliest thing to influence your music?
Jarrod: Guy Sebastian (no offence to the man, but it’s just very unlikely).
Thomas: Any track/album – whether I like the music or not – that’s obviously just a great performance committed to “tape”. Always serves to remind me that great music doesn’t need to be complicated.
Most unconventional topic you've covered in your lyrics?
Talking to Ian Curtis while watching skeletons and sketches in some other world …
Do you think the country/city/town you live in affects your music in any way?
Maybe not the country/city/town itself, but our geographical situation most definitely affects our music; in fact, with us living in entirely different cities, it is a significant defining factor in our songwriting process. What began as a technical nightmare of sending works in progress to one another through the mail, wrestling with incompatible plugins, and juggling files between PC and Mac, we finally got it all together, and now enjoy and even exploit the serendipitous nature of working on a track up to a certain point, and then releasing control of it to the other member to work on in isolation. Tracks often develop into things we couldn’t have conceived alone, or maybe even achieved if we were working in the same room together.
You would love to record with …
Skywalker Sound – we’re both suckers for new technology, and well, if anyone would have ALL the latest gadgets it would have to be George Lucas and crew! Also, Tony Doogan at Mogwai’s Castle of Doom Studios; Mogwai have been a big influence over the years, and Tony and Mogwai’s recordings strike a beautiful balance of raw guitar and drum sounds with an open-arms embrace of newer digital techniques/synths/plugins. Brian Eno. Iva Davies.
Favourite person you have performed with/recorded with …
Kathy Naunton at dB Mastering. She interprets our sounds and overall vision precisely, and is a really nice person to boot!
Outside of City of Satellites, you spend your time …
Working too much, and wishing we had more time for music. Jarrod works as a cinema usher and budding projectionist in Adelaide, and Thomas works as a PS3 video game designer in Sydney. We’re both football fans and watch games when we can - Jarrod is mildly obsessed with the Eagles in the SANFL, while Thomas is a passionate advocate of The Beautiful Game (aka soccer).
Next for you is …
We have the official CD release of our debut album Machine Is My Animal in late January; we're having a video for BMX directed by our friend Dael Oates, and we're working out how the hell the two of us are going to actually perform the music from our releases live. Having recorded both our EP and album totally independently in bedrooms and basements on opposite sides of the country, we suffered some pretty severe cabin fever, so we’re really eager to get back to (relative) basics, stand on the same stage, and play music live again!
If record stores had to come up with a new genre name to file your music under, it would be called … (feel free to come up with the craziest-sounding-yet-most-accurate name)
Hard to answer, as our music is basically just rock music. So no new genres, just put us under Rock’n’Roll - we know, boring, but that’s just what it is!
One of the first nights I played a track from the City of Satellites EP, my guest happened to be Aaron Curnow, who runs the Spunk record label (best-known for introducing bands like The Middle East and The Arcade Fire to Australian audiences). When he got home, he emailed me wanting to know who the track was by. I think City of Satellites' sleepy-eyed electronica has that definite "who was that?" effect on people. I've been playing the album, Machine Is My Animal since November, and it's nice to see that it's starting to get some fanfare, now that it's had a proper physical release. It'll be interesting to see how music – originally created as well-travelled 1s and 0s sent across two different states – will get translated onstage. Head to the band's MySpace for more info.