In this series, Gilles Peterson, one of the world’s most influential DJs, hosts live sessions with innovative musicians you’ve (probably) never heard of. In this episode, it’s Australian four-piece, Mildlife.
Born and raised in Melbourne, Mildlife have crafted a sound entirely of their own, a sort of jazz-kraut-psych-disco hybrid. Gilles, the band and their collaborator Maria Moles chatted about ACDC, creative pain and the difference between Brits and Australians...
Gilles: Tell us a little bit about Mildlife. Where do you come from? Where did you start?
Kevin: We all went to the same high school and started jamming as teenagers. Well Tom, James and I did, Adam was a couple of years younger.
Gilles: Melbourne is a sprawling town, it’s all over the place. Whereabouts was the school?
Kevin: North East, on the suburban fringe. A lot of space to get out into the nature, kick a footy, cause mischief and all that.
Gilles: What was the music you listened to at school?
Kevin: It was just guitar music, classic rock. Some of the pychier stuff but mainly Led Zep.
Gilles: Where does the groove come from?
Kevin: A bit of Can, a bit of disco. We wanted to make music that people could dance to. It’s such a good feeling when the energy in the room means that people start moving. I’ve always liked groove music.
Gilles: There’s a buzz about Melbourne at the moment – there’s certainly something going on. I’ve been going to Australia for 20 years now and in the early days it was all about Sydney but that’s changed...
Kev: There’s a big record culture in Melbourne. Good stores have opened up in the suburbs and big DJ nights go on now. There’s a good bar scene where the DJs go to play more eclectic stuff. There are two really good community radio stations – KPS & Triple R. Those two have been really good to us.
Gilles: For somebody who doesn’t know the Melbourne scene, who’s one local artist that people might know? Is it Kylie?
Kev: Yeah, I guess. ACDC? I don’t know if they are 100% Melbourne but they are pretty iconic Melbourne.
Kev: Flea! Yeah, good one! He’s from Melbourne. I don’t think he spends much time there now though.
Gilles: What’s your favorite part of making music?
Adam: I like discovering something that takes me into a new place – for me that’s a big part of it. I also like it when we take a jam and capture that essence to turn it into something we originally intended. That’s super rewarding because it takes a bit of work to get to that point.
Kevin: Yeah, the jamming, that's the best bit. The creating is the most frustrating but also the best bit.
Adam: There were some depressing times creating the album – when the ideas just weren’t there or just weren’t great. When you finally get something you’re happy with, it’s really rewarding.
Gilles: If you could collaborate with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be?
Kev: The enigma of Prince for me. Just hear him leading a band and picking out things. That would be quite a thrill. What do you guys reckon?
Adam: Holger Czukay, The Can bass player. He’s just a wacky guy...
Thomas: Sun Ra, for sure.
Gilles: Why Sun Ra?
Thomas: Just being in the room with that guy and being in the band would be crazy. A massive experience.
Maria: Maybe someone like Elvin Jones? To play together and get some of that energy could be fun.
Old fashioned radio has been very good to us. Radio still has the authority that it’s always had.
Gilles: Tell us what you’re listening to at the moment. How do you find new stuff?
Thomas: We all share. A lot of our friends in Melbourne are DJs so you go to a bar and you’ll be like what’s this one? What’s that one? I also really enjoy trying to understand the catalogue of an artist so I’m currently trying to get into Brian Eno’s body of work.
Thomas: We’re all listening to Nu Guinea at the moment. We hung out with them and that collective listening experience is really great.
Kev: I love their whole ‘doing a homage to their native land’ thing. I didn’t realise the record has a whole bunch of Napolese dialect in the lyrics, that a non Italian speaker wouldn’t pick up. I love that.
Gilles: How do you think people are discovering your music?
Kev: Old fashioned radio has been very good to us. It puts it in people’s ears. Radio still has the authority that it’s always had. Bandcamp has been amazing. I hope it keeps growing because it’s a really solid platform – it’s artists first. It isn’t algorithms, it’s real people talking about music. Music is all about people and communication and algorithms take a lot of soul out of music.
Gilles: How is it being out of Melbourne? Do you feel the crowd reacts differently?
Kev: It’s hard to tell if it’s the novelty of being in a different country but it seems everyone is so much more passionate about music. The feedback you get is so detailed, it’s about sections.
Thomas: I’ve got this theory that Brits are better at small talk than Aussies. They come up and talk about the music.It doesn’t seem to be this stale conversation of “great set.”
Gilles: If you didn’t do music what would each one of you be doing?
Adam: I remember in Year 7 I wanted to be a paleontologist. There’s something really appealing about digging holes and looking for those lost animals. That or a carpenter, like my dad.
Thomas: Kevin and I, running parallel to music, we do graphic design. So I guess we’d do that.
Maria: When I was a kid I always really liked massaging so maybe a masseuse? But yeah, now I don’t think I’d like that. I’m glad I’m playing music instead.
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