Interview with S3RL
Neko Nation returns to Purrth on Caturday, March 4th, the mega anime party returns as the official after party for the Madman Anime Festival. This event will be featuring special guest, DJ S3RL, easily one of the most popular hardcore and pop culture music producers not just in Australia but across the world.
Before our upcoming show, we sit down and have a lengthy chat with S3RL about his past tours, upcoming productions and more into the world of S3RL in preparation for his tour of Perth video game arcades and of course Neko Nation Purrth!
More details on Neko Nation Purrth
Tickets for Neko Nation Purrth can be found at Tokyo Underground, the ticket form below or at: https://nekopurrth-autumn2017.eventbrite.com.au
How has life been for you recently? Especially after finally making the switch to doing music production and Djing full time.
The biggest change in my life over the last couple of years has been having a son, that on top of my label doing well has been keeping me very busy. It’s definitely a full time job, but one that I love doing.
How did the name S3RL first come about?
This is the most asked question I’ve ever had, so I’m going to direct you to a video of me explaining it poorly –
In your record label, EMFA Records, what does EMFA actually stand for?
It doesn’t actually stand for anything, it’s more of a play on words, using my amazing sense of comedy. The slogan is “Music always starts with an M” as in ‘M’ is for Music. If you say “M for Music” fast is sounds like ‘Emfa Music’. Please hold your applause until the end.
You have mentioned that when growing up one of your first experiences was with the program Music 2000 on the PS1. In the days long before Youtube tutorials, did you find this to be somewhat helpful before eventually moving to Reason?
Well it definitely helped me learn the basics of music production before moving on to a more advanced and complicated sequencer. In saying that it would have been much easier using YouTube tutorials to learn rather than just using the in-built help menus. I think it’s much easier to learn music production these days.
When you first started raving and experimenting with making music, what sort of DJs and producers were you into and looked up too?
I used to love all of Scott Brown’s work initially. Also Blumchen, a lesser known German (I think) group. Most of the bigger UK hardcore guys like Styles, Gammer, Sharkey, Kevin Energy, Hixxy etc all influenced me too of course.
Before you got your first major record deal with the Nu Energy Collective, you were well known in the rave scene and (still) regularly attended a lot of raves. Do you feel that going out regularly and stomping to music at raves was incredibly helpful to you in regards to producing music?
Yeah definitely. I knew what I liked dancing too and what made me want to get up on the dance floor so I based my tracks on that. As far as I’m concerned, if it didn’t make me want to dance then it’s not good enough to play at events.
You had your first major break in 2005 when you were signed to Kevin Energy and Sharkey’s Nu Energy Collective label. Tell us a bit about how that came about?
There was a local show (in Brisbane) with both of them headlining so they were in town for a few days. A friend of mine was lucky enough to hang out with them while they were here and gave them a CD with some of my productions on it. I had no idea that had happened so when I got an email about a month later I was pretty surprised. He liked what he heard and asked to sign up my ‘Transformers’ remix to his label which at the time was one of the biggest in the hardcore scene. From there I really stepped up my game and started taking production a lot more seriously.
How was it playing in Japan, what was the experience like, especially coming in as a DJ who doesn’t speak or have any tracks in Japanese, how did the crowd react to your music?
I was actually surprised because when I first got to the show I had people coming up to me and recognizing me. Most of them could barely understand English and were still requesting songs. Then when I did get up and play they all knew all the words in English. I was blown away.
What was it like to travel all over the place in 2016? Which countries and cities did you visit?
It was pretty hectic! Last year I got to Norway for the first time, twice, all over the US and over Australia. I had the last couple of months to get home and catch up on making more music.
What has it been like touring over in America which is home of probably your largest fanbase outside of Australia?
It’s great getting to travel all over and see the different scenes and how they are unique from each other. I’ve made a lot of friends over there so whenever I’m in town it’s always good to catch up with everyone.
What are the fans like and how do their raves compare to what we have in Australia?
The main difference I notice between our events and theirs is that there’s no line between what we call ‘raves’ and ‘festivals’. Generally for us in Australia, raves are all the hard underground music that would never get airtime on a commercial radio station – and festivals are where all the commercial stuff gets played. In the US it’s all mixed you’ll hear just about every genre getting played at the same event, sometimes even in the same set. The weird thing for me is that it’s normal for them. You’ll see hardcore kandi ravers getting down to dubstep and electro whereas here it would be unheard of.
A few of your tracks such as Friendzoned and Laptop DJ have caused a bit of controversy, is there a serious message that you have been trying to get across with these songs or have people been reading into it too much into it and taking it too seriously?
Well I’ve always said that any publicity is good publicity. I didn’t really mean for those tracks to be so controversial but I guess I was asking for it. With Press Play Walk Away it was just a funny idea I had when I was in the US with SynthWulf (the other guy on the track). The moment that made me really want to make the track is when I saw 3 DJ’s on stage taking turns at pressing a single button for their whole set. Amazing. The track was just in fun though, I know laptop DJing is the future of things so it was more a joke than anything. With FriendZoned that was a case of it being taken way out of context but again it wasn’t serious at all. Pretty much nothing I do is serious, haha. I think I should’ve wrote it a little differently perhaps but the message I was going for was that if a girl keeps going back to the douche after constantly douching her, do you really want to be with someone like that?
One of your less serious tracks was the Fer Sure remix you did for Medic Droid? How did that remix come about, especially coming from two acts with very different styles of music?
I was a big fan of The Medic Droid around the time they were first taking off. Purely out of coincidence around that time I had been talking to a US label about a track I’d just released ‘Pretty Rave Girl’. Turns out that they managed TMD and they asked if I’d like to remix a track for them. I jumped on it straight away and amazingly the remix ended up being as popular if not more than the original.
Are there any plans to do other unique collaborations like Medic Droid in the future? Is there a particular band that you would love to do a remix for?
The band broke up not long after they became big unfortunately but I still talk to one of the band members, the lead guitarist. We’ve always talked about doing a project together but I guess it’s a matter of waiting for the right timing. I have used his guitar skills in a few of my track though, like ‘Kamehameha’, that’s all him on guitar.
The last few years haven’t been too great for the happy hardcore scene when you compare it to massive growth and popularity in genres such as trap, dubstep and electro. We’ve seen the likes of Sonny Moore and Pendulum move to Skrillex and Knife Party respectively. While you haven’t made any dubstep or electro tracks, did you ever consider making one?
Nah I could never make something that I’m not passionate about. To me that’s selling out and something I don’t want to do. Changing what you’re passionate about because it’s suddenly more popular doesn’t count either, haha. I’ve made some slower commercial-ish tracks before but they’re always basically just slowed down versions of what I already do. Even then I prefer to stay with what I love.
Can you tell us a bit about the change in style of music recently, what has motivated you to change your style with your more recent tracks?
I’m never purposely changing styles. I just make what I want to, and I guess what I want to make changes over time. I like to do a variation of tracks (even if people say all my stuff sounds the same). Like I’ll do my regular cheesy catchy vocal track, I’ll do a harder one every so often, an instrumental when I get the inspiration for it, then there’s remixes and game tracks etc.
I occasionally get inspired by other genres when I hear a really good track, but I can never bring myself to do a whole track in another genre. Instead, I just make a hardcore track with those influences. Over time I guess some of the influences stick and my style changes in some way. I think it’s good to evolve and stay up to date, but still keep a signature sound. I really like how Infected Mushroom have been around for so long, always popular, always evolving, but still always with their signature sound. I want that for me.
Some of your tracks such as “Pika Girl”, “Kamehamaha”, “Neon Genesis”, “Butterfly” and “Finish Him” are based off animes and video games. What were some of your favourite animes and video games when growing up and what are you watching and playing now?
I think the first anime I ever loved is still my favourite today. Street Fighter the Animated Movie. I first saw it because I love the game and it blew me away. I usually like movies over the series but I really got into Evangelion when that was on TV. Still definitely my favourite series. As for games I love 2D fighting and a few 3D fighting games. So all the variations of Street Fighter, Marvel vs Capcom, Tekken, Mortal Kombat etc. I don’t really get into any other types of games apart from old school Sega/Nintendo/Arcade stuff for nostalgia hits.
Tell us a bit about some of the exciting projects you’ve been working on, we’ve heard that you’ve been working on some music for video games?
Yes, I’ve done a few tracks like that lately. Two tracks for Capcom’s beat game “CrossXBeats”, one is already out and the other is still to be released. I’m excited for that one to come out cos I think it’s one of the best tracks I’ve done in a while! It’s called “Light of my Life” by S3RL feat S3RL. Apart from that I made a track for a card game called “MegaCorp” called “Will to Be”, and a couple more Norway Russe tracks like the previous year’s.
I also have my next “S3RL Presents… ” mix coming up in April. I’m working on it now among other things. It’s going to be hard to top my last mix getting over 1M views on YouTube, but I will try. Keep an eye out for Sanic somewhere in the video when it comes out, he’ll take you to a secret bonus track 😉
We’re starting to see so more and more anime fans really getting into your music, do you have any plans or intentions to play at any anime conventions in Australia?
I’d definitely be up for playing more cons but from my experience with them (excluding Neko) the music/DJ organizers usually are pretty shut off with who they get to play at their shows. In the US it’s even worse. They like to keep the limelight to themselves from what everyone tells me. But if anyone reading this is interested in bringing me out then I’m 100% down.
Besides music production and Djing, what sort of things does DJ S3RL enjoy in his spare time, if you have any that is!
Like I said earlier, I love producing in my spare time, but I can’t do that all the time. I have a sports motorbike (2015 R1) that I love riding, but I don’t have my license because it doesn’t last long on the bike. Apart from that I spend time with my family and friends, and just do Australian people stuff.
Lastly you’ve been well known for your incredible kandi collection, what are some of the most unique and favourite pieces of kandi that you have received while touring?
I’ve had so many over the years. I had an almost life sized Pikachu cuff with a tail and everything. One time I had a touch screen pocket organizer attached to one. A GameBoy made of kandi with a little game made of kandi that fit into it. One with a toy gun shot little foam aeroplanes into the crowd. Too many to list =O