Interview: Lord Echo Sound System

Multi-instrumentalist producer, engineer and DJ, Lord Echo will be bringing his worldly beats to the opening weekend of The Riverbank Palais, Adelaide Festival's floating party-station on the Torrens riverbank. Before he hits the stage on Saturday night with Lisa Tomlins and Mara TK (Electric Wire Hustle), we had a chat about what's in store for the performance and his musical journey thus far.

You paved your career path in New Zealand. With such a unique and innovative music style, how challenging has it been to crack the market and get your music out to the world?

I guess things like cracking the market and getting my music out to the world have not really been on my priority list, so no it hasn't been challenging. Lord Echo has always been my outlet where I focused on trying to make music that I liked that was still useful for DJs. I want to satisfy my own creative desires, but still be of use to other people I guess. I've gone from making no effort at all in terms of release on my first record - no promo, no singles, no videos, etc to working on a proper release plan for the first time ever with my third record Harmonies, that's about to come out early April. Having labels (UK based Soundway and Japan based Wonderful Noise) means that's easier to do, and to be honest I'm quite enjoying a break from working on music to work on the release - it's soooo much easier. 

Tell us a bit about the challenges of smoothly combining such a broad range of genres.

I guess one of the technical challenges is that certain genres will often have a corresponding mixing style, so that reggae might have a really prominent bass, disco might have a prominent kick drum and afro beat might have a really prominent percussion element. You can only have three or so things really prominent, so arranging the songs well becomes really key and I'm still really learning to do that. I guess genres favour certain tempo ranges as well, so trying to find a reggae feel for a disco track can be challenging for example. This makes it sound a little calculated, and when I'm actually making music it's not like that. You just throw a bunch of ideas around and see what moves you. It's afterwards that you might look back and realise why you had such a hard time making one tune work while another was really easy.

What influence/to what extent have The Black Seeds influenced you as Lord Echo?

I guess mainly in the sense of getting the opportunity to cut my teeth making records with time and money! I was still into all the same music I am now before I was in The Black Seeds, so I feel like the stylistic influences aren't so great. But I guess people in that band have both played me cool music and been really supportive of me as a musician/producer/engineer, so from that point of view it was a really supportive learning environment and without it I would never have had the opportunity to make all the mistakes I've made, lol. 

In an interview on The Lumiere in 2013, you said, “You’re not going to make a lot of money so why would you bother putting up with any bullshit or any dicks to not make any money?” Has your opinion changed? How have you combatted dicks who get in your way?

That's true, haha. And no my opinion hasn't changed. There are certain necessary evils in life. Sometimes you've no choice but to play the game. But often you can choose who you play it with - honestly, life is too short to waste your time with people that don't share your values. I'm not a confrontational person, so I prefer just to keep well out of the way of people I see that either talk too much or care about radically different things to me. I just wanna get on and make art and work hard and do that with people that feel the same way about what ever it is that they do - be it journalism, design, film, music, photography, management, etc. Thankfully musicians are on the whole a great class of people I think, and I feel that particularly in New Zealand as it's so small and there's such a lack of a serious money making music industry that people have less incentive to stand on each others faces to get another step up the ladder and tend to care more about music and each other. From what I've seen of the rest of the world, it's not as common else where.

You're coming down as part of Adelaide Festival, have you ever played at a unique venue like the Riverbank Palais before?

I love this about Arts Festivals! The venues are always so great. But this is really next level - a floating venue, I can't wait! It's really inspiring for performers I think. Once you've played in a few types of bars you've played in them all. I love things that are temporary, I love nights that people put extra effort into making special and I really appreciate all the effort that goes into these types of things. We've been working up a great set, I'm looking forward to playing some of the songs of the new album out - they're sounding really great IMO and this will be the perfect environment to let them loose on.

Catch Lord Echo with Lisa Tomlins and Mara TK at Adelaide Festival's Riverbank Palais this Saturday night.

Tickets and info here.