Interview: Future Classic
We talk to Nathan McLay about Berlin playgrounds, festivals held in castles and their new DJ compilation.
The guys from one of Australia's most respected music collective Future Classic, have just released their first compilation. Put together by Nathan McLay, Chad Gillard and James McInnes, the record is full of exclusive and unreleased tracks from the likes of Flume, Softwar and Worst Friends, and traverses the aural fields of surf rock, heavy club tunes and indie-flavoured summer jams. Sound amazing? It is! We caught up with Nathan to talk about what it's like being the founder of a internationally acclaimed slashie label, based right here in Sydney town.
Jerico Mandybur: What should people expect from the Future Classic DJs compilation?
Nathan McLay: I guess we're generally known for traversing quite a bit of territory, musically. So true to form, it goes from sort of ambient to disco, to a bit of house stuff, to indie jams as well. So it covers a fair bit of territory.
How did the release come about? Did you guys have a specific vision for the project?
We wanted to do something that had some new music in it, because we got bored of compilations that are full of old stuff that's already out there. We had 20 tracks in mind and we wanted half of them to be exclusive, so we approached ten artists for new music and then chose ten from our back catalogue to go with it.
What's the best song on the record to chill out on the beach to?
Definitely the last jam; Worst Friends which is made of Slow Hands from NY city who's part of the Wolf + Lamb crew, and a guy called Tom Croose from LA who's like a total hippie surfer. They remixed an indie kind of surf rock duo called Gung Ho from Brisbane... It's the last track on the record and it's got a nice credits-of-a-skate-film type vibe. It's a nice summer tune.
What's the best song to go wild on the dance floor to?
Danny Daze's 'Zone' is a pretty big track. He's been doing some amazing stuff over the last couple of years and that one... we were pretty lucky to be offered an exclusive from him. It's such a good dance floor jam.
What's the best song to make out to?
Well, probably the first song — it's ambient and chilled out. Anything could happen.
That's the 'Slow Hands' track?
That's right. Slow Hands indeed.
What was it like recording the mix at the Beatport office in Berlin?
It was good. I actually did the mix live myself, because I was working out of the UK and Germany. I was in Berlin and they invited me in ... and it was like 80 minutes to do the mix, and then it was done. [Laughs] We didn't want it to be computer-created; we wanted it to be live and hand-made.
Do you ever feel like moving your base of operations to Europe? What do you like about working out of Australia?
I love Australia — it's sunny, it's pretty chilled out, the fruit and veg is great, the people are nice, the beaches are good. It's an awesome place to live, but it is a bit far away and definitely spending time in the states and in Europe every year is pretty important to what we do. Next year we're planning on spending some more time overseas- we've been invited by some festivals to do some showcases over there and some nice clubs. So we'll definitely go on the road for a while next year. A bunch of our artists are travelling pretty regularly anyway.
What's the best venue or festival that you've ever played at?
This recent trip to Berlin, I played at a venue called Wilde Renate, and it was an old share house that they used to throw illegal parties in and it's since become a legal venue, but it's basically like two rooms in a terrace house and then a courtyard and a sort of dungeon. It runs from Friday to Sunday and that was pretty fun. It was basically like a whole lot of people walk into this room as soon as it opens and it's just nuts for four hours. From 2 till 6am I think I was playing, and I was the only set.
How did Future Classic get started? Can you take us back to where it all began?
It started just as a 12inch vinyl label. I was working at Inertia, setting up digital stuff with iTunes, when that was launching and building online stores, and I was travelling to Europe for them and DJing at the same time. A European distributor asked us what all this music was and if we wanted to have a label, and that they would do the pressing and distribution for it, and help get it going, so I ended up deciding that would be fun. Chad came on board pretty soon after and he was actually the first full time staffer, 'cause I worked at Inertia during the day. I'd come back to our terrace house and he'd be working on the label. The real job was paying the bills [laughs]. We started touring a couple of acts, doing some club shows and parties with some German DJs. It kind of came from that really, and now we're running around doing all this stuff.
Did you ever think you'd be doing what you're doing, or did it arise organically for you guys?
It evolved organically, but I always wanted to do this. So it was definitely always on the agenda to kind of work with music and projects, and be quite self-guided ... do it on our own terms.
What artists or demos are you most proud of discovering?
Right now we're really excited about the Flume album, which is out in November and is amazing. He's 20 years old and we found him a year ago. He entered our demo comp and we had, like, 500 entrants, so we discovered him through that. Now he's playing to 5,000 people in a tent at Splendour and a whole bunch of other festivals like Parklife. The album's just great. It's all different influences. We feed him a lot of the music that we're into and he kind of takes influences from all over the place, but then puts it all in a blender and comes out with his own style, which is great. So him, and a new band called Panama that we just started working with. They've got an EP, which is out in October and it's really good. And there's a 12inch with some amazing remixes. There's a mix from the UK — I won't say who they are. Then there's a techno mix from Germany and there's another deeper house mix. So that's super exciting. The artwork's beautifully done and there's a video with a director that I met in a playground in Berlin [laughs].
I was hanging out with my little one year old girl and this guy was randomly in the playground with his little boy. He was just hanging out and I was like "Man, what do you do?" ...The Berlin playground scene is pretty happening actually. There are a lot of pretty cool parents around. And there are just awesome playgrounds. He's made videos for The Knife and stuff like that, and I had a video clip that I had commissioned, so I said "How about doing a video for us?" So he gave me his reel; it was great.
Say you could curate your dream club night and it could feature anyone dead or alive, who would play?
Wow, dead or alive! Jerico, we'd definitely have two rooms, and they'd definitely be small. There'd be 300 people in each room max, 'cause there's no parameters right? The dead room would probably be — we better not say the 'dead' room, 'cause some of them might still be alive. We'd probably have to have Fleetwood Mac playing in the old school room. Maybe some disco; some Sister Sledge. Probably Gilgamesh, for quite an old school vibe in there. In the 'new' room; the young room — what am I enjoying right now? Actually, we'd have probably have Four Tet and Caribou playing back-to-back. All night. That'll do [laughs]. You're gonna get pretty sheepish seeing all those other acts in the old room, so new room just wants to be a whole night of interesting, weird stuff. Keep it simple.
Four Tet and Caribou played in Leon when I was there. I was so tired and I'd been out of three nights and I was like "I'm definitely going home. I'm not going to stay out." But I got kind of dragged out. Then I was like "I'm definitely not going to watch this whole set" and they were just so amazing, so I stayed till the end. It was probably the best DJ set I saw.
Oh and speaking of your dead slash alive club night; is there a famous venue that would be the perfect location for such a night?
Maybe a castle somewhere. That would be pretty fun. I spoke to this French label that's been doing a project out in the country. It's like there own festival and they get artists to go and write for a week before the festival. Then they put them all together, and they perform all of the work that they've been collaborating on, in this castle and the surrounds. So that would be fun. Then we could have outdoor stages and some scungy tunnels as well. Put Caribou in there.
If you could remix one song for the rest of your life, what would you choose?
I'd probably say I'd go for something stupid like INXS's 'Need You Tonight'.
Is there any upcoming Future Classic stuff that we should know about?
We've got an Adult Disco party coming up at GoodGod with Kenji Takimi, which is on the 21st of September. We're also doing an all-night residency at GoodGod on the 12th of October. We're playing at Melbourne Music Week, and then there's some festival announcements coming up in the new year, which will be pretty exciting as well.