Xan Müller: Welcome to another episode of "two dudes with headphones"... Haptic I sincerely hope you're well mate! For those who haven't heard, since our last party you're now a proud dad. And I'm not just saying "proud" for the sake of the phrase, you actually do seem to have found your zen centre with fatherhood, congratulations friend. So, we started a label..! It's been just on two years now since we hatched Surveillance Party (that's right isn't it, two years?). Much has changed in the way we're organised, but our vision seems to carry through. How do you reckon you would describe our goals, our approach to music?
Haptic: Hello my friend! mmm 2 years feels like much longer so much has happened! I think we are the same as we always have been. Inclusive, social, respectful. I think we shun cynicism and resignation in pursuit of enthusiasm. Its not very cool is it? Or is it... Do you feel the same way?
Xan Müller: Yep I think this is correct. I think I very deliberately try and avoid things that are cool. I think that cool things today become terribly old tomorrow. By the time you knock up a track, polish it, master it, get artwork done, post it, promote it, play it out, the style isn't in fashion anymore. We aim for originality. We also aim to challenge traditional methods.
Haptic: I completely agree with the notion that chasing the fashion musically is a pointless exercise- because it constrains ones self expression and also because its usually a pretty self defeating exercise in terms of results. But I think originality starts not even with a musical idea but with people. I see the people who have gravitated around Surveillance Party in the past two years and they couldn't be more different to one another. They all dress and talk differently, they are from all walks of life. Diversity could be the access point to freedom of expression and that in turn leads to original work. Like you don't sit down and think "I'm going to write a track to please people in X scene" do you?
Xan Müller: I have to admit I've been guilty of doing that. Then I realised my mistake. I was trying to crack into a scene. The scene is an abstract, a facade. It's not really a tangible environment within which to experience success with music. It's fickle, it's fluid and it's unreliable. I decided that the best course of action was to create a scene. I couldn't get on a label, so I joined forces to create one. I didn't have staff to help so I set up an internship program. I couldn't find a good venue, so I moved into a warehouse and had parties at home. I didn't have management so I used my colleagues, my peers, my collaborators to bounce off, to represent me, to support me. I went from playing to empty rooms to selling out packed warehouses and touring interstate acts. Heheh. Where to now?
Haptic: Oh I didn't realise we were being so honest haha. Ok well then let me say this. I think there is such a thing as being too beholden to your own wild creative spirit. For example some time ago you asked me to put a few demos together for a drum and bass gig and now 18 months later I'm finishing an album of progressive intellectually laden drum and bass. Talk about direction shifts on a whim with no thought! But you Xan Müller (and forgive me readers) I have always found very inspirational. You talk a big game like so many people and then you turn around and actually strive to make those things a reality with no compromise in the face of setback. And this is what I will say to anyone in the Surveillance Party artists or friendship periphery- luck is overemphasized. Taking those actions, getting into something and living and dying for it, thats what makes stuff happen. I see Bernie 'VJ B' Davies and Nefarius Gelfling the Surveillance Party vision crew constantly going to these extreme lengths to make their ideas a reality for very little tangible reward and it both humbles me and inspires me to go up again into that next gear.
Xan Müller: Yeah I'm constantly impressed by the efforts of our artists, not just musically. I truly think it's easier than it's ever been to create and perform quality music - we have computers and music lessons to help us lol. So we have no shortage of music to choose from. But the extra stuff is where it often counts. Lady Blah Blah and Kim Jong Wang from No Illuminati showed up to mop a post-party warehouse. Animatic lent CDJs. Dotmicro lent a mixer and showed up early. Ponez humbly takes opening sets because he's such a great opener. Don't get me wrong, these guys are all bringing stellar music. But yeah, the extras are sweet when you get the right attitude going.
Haptic: Let me ask you this then- and I would not normally say this about a music movement because either there would be no reason to or the answer would be self evident. As this strange momentum keeps picking up pace, I ask not so much where is Surveillance Party heading, but what is Surveillance Party for? It might seem strange to ask what a record label is for but I will say that I think in our case I think we are heading to a different destination to other labels, I just feel like every now and then I catch a glimpse of it then its gone. Or to put it another way what could happen when you combine an accelerating movement with an empowered and engaged "audience"? Am I talking too abstractly here?
Xan Müller: Nah I get you. It's a timely question. Ultimately, if information is to have a purpose attributed, it would be 1) to exist, 2) to propogate. Effective art propogates. I want to create a lasting impression on musical history. I want us to create a genre.
Haptic: See there you go again with your intimidatingly uncompromising statements. If it was anyone else I would laugh. Ok so you want Surveillance Party to lead to the creation of a new genre of music. How? Let me speculate one possible path to that for you. All we really need is for the artists we currently have in our orbit to to wake up one day and start cross pollinating like crazy. For instance imagine if Dotmicro and Lauren V. Smith fused chip tunes with that concrete dark industrial electro, and put No Illuminati vocals over the top of it? And so many other possible collaborative permutations. But for me, I want our "audience" our "user base", to revolt and take over Surveillance Party. I want to wake up being stabbed in the back by ten thousand angry fans who feel they need to take the reigns cause they've had a collective hallucination about where this new genre needs to go and decided that to get there they need the blood of the leadership.
Xan Müller: Aah I like that. And I'll tell you why: I trust our audience. I trust them because they don't trust "the scene". Like you and me, they've shunned it. They are already helping to create the sound probably, if you think about it...
Haptic: Yes they might be. Do you play sets at Surveillance Parties that are different to what you would normally do?
Xan Müller: Yes actually to a degree. I just play original and free music, always playing the tracks out of my collection that I want to hear, not ones that people normally find acceptible genre-wise. And yeah, the freeform tracks seem to somehow go down the best. How can the audience get more involved Mr Haptic? What can an enthusiastic individual out there do to shape the movement?
Haptic: I think by bringing a raw injection of their own pure self expression. Look at Electra Spectre. She dances with light and brings her pet rats to the parties cause why the fuck wouldn't she. Look at Jasmin Jade Warwick she brings herself and she is her own artwork. Bernie 'VJ B' Davies makes oil paintings, digitises them, then turns them into live projections. I wish that every single ticket holder bought that freaky thing that they do to Surveillance Parties. I want to be surprised. I want to be inspired and moved by the creativity and originality of other human beings, and experience the shared intimacy that brings!
Xan Müller: Here are a few things we stumbled on, very accidentally: 1) an original and malleable space, 2) a stage that is not a raised structure, but a ground-level zone in which to share, 3) a mixed social aesthetic.
Haptic: Well maybe we should push those things as far as we possibly can then and see what arises? Its not a record label really its an experiment!
Xan Müller: Look, here are my plans for next year (people should read this knowing that Haptic, CC and I conduct our own little projects where we think we will get results, and we trust each other to do so): I want to release several compilations across a range of genres, from folk through indie, electronica and full blown dance floor genres, just like your typical Surveillance Party. I want to release a series of events culminating in something big at the end of the year. Anyone who wants to join in, they are more than welcome. But you know what? I'm sure all of that can change at the drop of a hat...
Haptic: I will help push towards those goals. And I know you and CC know from our private conversations that I want to knit together my own international networks with Surveillance Party in Oz. I feel like we have flint and steel waiting here. AFFKT to headline a Surveillance Party next year? Why not?
Xan Müller: Yeah I like that you're pushing the international side of things with your remixes. You've clocked up some massive tracks this year. People might not know but you were number #1 on Beatport (iTunes for DJ nerds) half way through 2015, which is fucking huge. Personally I concentrate on the local music landscape. I'm fascinated with the interplay between musicians and the actual music industry - finding our place, defining ourselves as an entity in an unforgiving commercial climate. And I think the unfathomable strength that Courtney Calloway brings to the organisation is her dedication to the way that humans interact - the way we share music on a social level. She and I did a lot of work on it last year, really brainstorming the finer details of the shared music experience. It got me thinking about why people don't pay for recorded music anymore, yet at the same time live music is enjoying a renaissance. It's about the discovery of music - making a personal connection. We applied a lot of what we taught ourselves to building the audience network. And it worked. That's what I love about working with you and CC - you guys get results.
Haptic: I find Courtney Calloways grasp of social media, and its implied understanding of human nature a little bit intimidating to be honest. I'm glad she is on our side and not someone else's smile emoticon But its the experience, the experience of the person who comes to the show and who they meet there and what happens, that counts right? Or is it more arcane than that? Personally when I go to a gig I want to meet 5-10 people who are so engaging that I actually have to remember their names and have those intense conversations and remember everything about them AND I have to have a mind blowingly awesome musical experience.
Xan Müller: Personally I always pull human experience back to the idea of a tribe in the wilderness. What would a neolithic person want?
Haptic: Safety, community, fun. What else is there?
Xan Müller: I have noticed that the function of music is to accompany social activities. That is music's purpose in my opinion. And I believe that doesn't exclude solitary listening.
Haptic: I'm an old fashioned hippy. I want music to build bridges and stop wars smile emoticon
Xan Müller: I used to want to stop wars with my art. I just feel that my pedestrian life experience doesn't have too much to say other than: I don't like control. To control others is to perpetrate some degree of evil.
Haptic: Well I think that dovetails with our earlier theme of uninhibited self expression quite nicely don't you? Bring on 2016 I say. Let this Hydra grow.
Xan Müller: Peace out Haptic smile emoticon
Haptic: Thank you my friend you too x
Tracey L Ellis: Interesting discussion. Follow your heart, not fashion. My 2 cents worth. XX
No Illuminati: Thanks for putting so much hard work in guys! SP#1 and SP#2 go down as some of the most fun sets we've played, mainly due to the awesome crowd and lack of douche-bags. We're keen as fuck for SP#3 grin emoticon
Courtney Calloway: You guys never cease to amaze me with your intellect, passion and creativity. Everything that Surveillance Party has become, has grown right out of the core of you both.
Reading this just really set how fucking great we are as a unit, as MXC, as a label and as a community and now everyone wants to be apart of it, and they not just on the outer, watching or observing music and the party either. They are right in it, they create it, the fans are the crew and everyone there just wants to be family to another and feel the magic.
Cannot express how proud I am to you both and the whole SP extended crew smile emoticon