I N T E R V I E W
Luke Rowell aka Disasteradio
By Arpie Shirehorse
HUP was lucky enough to catch up with electro-pop wizard Luke Rowell aka Disasteradio ahead of his set at The Others Way Hamilton Sideshow, this coming Thursday Aug 31 at Nivara Lounge.
Congrats on the new album (Sweatshop)! It got to number 9 in the NZ charts last week….you should be a happy chap?! Real happy! totally ridiculous that I made this dumb thing in my bedroom and sometimes my garage and it got on the charts.. #9 is as good to me as #1, my parents posted about it on facebook, so sick! The fact that the NZ music industry are counting Bandcamp and Spotify streams to charts really excites me, hopefully it means more visibility for young people making music & independent musicians here.
Do you have any favourite tracks off it? I particularly like ‘Wake Up On Earth’ People like that song a lot, I fell down the rabbit hole a bit when I was mixing it (I got stuck layering all the sounds together right) so that drove me nuts...the idea was to stack a harmony like ELO's tune "Twilight". Personally I really like how Free WiFi ended up, I have been working on that tune since 2008, it was a joy to watch it move into a kind of 12" breakdown jammy thing, just a bit.. kinda a bit something with lots of variations like "Tour De France" by Kraftwerk.
Are there any plans to go overseas again soon? I'm hoping to get back to Europe soon, especially missing Czech Republic lately, been thinking about so many classic people I met there, but I've been so lucky this year - The Philadelphia Institute for Contemporary Art had my other project Eyeliner over for a big vaporwave show as part of an exhibition (Myths Of The Marble the exhibition was so good!!) .. and the show was amazing too! Like Laurie Anderson had some shows there in the '80s .. so yeah, already been so blessed for that stuff, hoping for a real hot summer here in Wellington too as well, and just kicking back for a bit.
What is your inspiration to keep going these days, and how has that changed since you first started out in 1999? The more I've worked on music the more and more fascinating it gets. It's so weird that you can take so much pleasure in the simple act of hearing .. like sometimes that flips me out! You hear music but it's also at the intersections of all these different languages, like there's music theory, aesthetics & taste, literal language in the form of lyrics.. conjuring up something with all these ideas seems like pure magic.
Do you envisage an end point to Disasteradio? Personally I would love to see you doing this when you’re 70 plus. Not really, I think it'll be hilarious to never quit it, and think of the back catalogue I'll have by then. That is partly why I took so long doing Sweatshop. In the actual period of synthpop, it basically crests from 1978 to '86 and a lot of those groups put out bad records in the late '80s - I've always been mindful of not feeling forced and also not attempting to add too many more variables to the mix at once. I consider often the idea of working slowly - working with intent. Computers don't make it easy.
You’re coming back to Hamilton! Any lasting memories of visits/shows/bands here, good or bad? THE BAKE HOUSE, I hope it's still there but I love a good late night bakery, when I was there with The Sneaks I remember sleeping on someone's couch and smelling like the bake house. So many cool memories of Ward Lane shows, maybe I played at some place called Digger's with The Coolies and that was HILARIOUS. I remember driving up with my brother's band Tried For Treason when I was 13, they had a hall show with This Night Creeps, that would have been in 1996 or so. Such inspiring times to see those bands play!
Is the Wellington scene in rude health at the moment? Any neat bands we should make a special effort to hear? My house downtown got demolished so I've been mostly stuck out in the 'burbs and I'm feeling all out of touch, but I've been loving seeing HEX play this year, really loving their songwriting as well as a firm commitment to THE RIFF. Been sticking my teeth into the really inventive harmonic textures and rhythms in this new EP by Courtesy Caller too https://courtesycaller.bandcamp.com/album/a-pleasant-climb-for-some . Not an NZ release but I've been loving this reissue of this windsurfing documentary soundtrack from 1984 too https://pacificcitysoundvisions.bandcamp.com/album/tradewinds-the-wavesailing-film - the recording just sounds so perfect to me.
Are we on the cusp of political change in NZ do you think? Probably like everyone else, I feel like *everywhere* is on the cusp of political change.. but I hope it starts with welfare and prison reform ASAP. Also really gutted about the treatment of Metiria Turei, she is amazing and I hope the dialogue she started means people in need here get looked after a lot better.
I once saw you and a pal in standing next to a small red car in a ditch on the side of the road heading north from Wellington after my old band had played there (Wellington, not the ditch) the night before. We offered help but you declined. How did you get out? Oh yeah! A farmer turned up with a truck and pulled us out - my brother and I were driving back from a show of mine in Auckland. I think we were both pretty much in shock at that point. We slid out at 110kph, pulled a 180 and hit the ditch backwards. I remember laughing uncontrollably when I got out of the car because we didn't die. My seat was like 15 degrees turned out from the impact, when I got back in the car I was almost facing the right-hand-side mirror. We had just changed the CD to "This Isn't Me" by 411.. I nearly died to uplifting hardcore.
What's your favourite meal to cook for yourself? Oh man, I am loving making Sichuan style dry fried green beans and pork mince, also Lao has a pork stew with hardboiled eggs called Thom Khem which I love making up in a big pot.. also big fan of making Korean beef Dolsot Bibimbap from scratch but that takes hours to do all the side dishes. Also I've been making pizza dough from scratch quite a bit and cooking it in a skillet. Oh no I sound like a foodie.
If you could curate a show anywhere in the world, featuring three bands dead or alive, who/where and what are we drinking? Debussy himself solo on piano, then Thin Lizzy c. 1981 then Electric Light Orchestra doing their album TIME. Oh also maybe Suzanne Ciani and Add N To (X) and Tangerine Dream and Kanye West somewhere on the bill too. I'm drinking Tsingtao (it's cheap and thirst-quenching) and Franjelico sours.