Sydney’s own Basenji has come a long way since producing under disco-house duo “Pablo J and the Lobsterettes” with none other than Future Classic label mate Wave Racer. Since then the Aussie musician has worked tirelessly to cultivate his own unique sound: organically synthesized colorful production driven by intoxicating melodies and sparkling-clean mixing. Since his first song release only a year ago, Basenji’s music has helped put Australia on the map as well as provide a platform for electronic music’s hottest new genre, “future bass” to grow and flourish. Coming off of a nationwide tour with Hermitude and prepping to drop his debut EP, Basenji stays humble amidst his impressive accomplishments. We had the opportunity to virtually sit down with the man himself and talk future bass, touring, and what the future holds for one of Australia’s most talented musicians.
RTT: What was the experience like going on a nationwide tour with Hermitude?
Great! Every show was sold out. Hermitude is a lot bigger than I am and has been around a lot longer so it was an honor being able to share the stage with them. But yeah everyone really got into my sets in every city, some of the biggest shows I’ve ever played were on that tour. It was an amazing experience.
What can someone expect from a typical Basenji set?
I try to play stuff that people haven’t heard before. I could play all the obvious crowd pleasers but what’s the point in that? Anyone can do that. I also try to play tracks that people find more challenging, music they’re not normally used to hearing because when I go out and someone does that that’s when I find new music I like. But in terms of the vibe I generally keep my sets pretty upbeat and don’t play anything too dark or too heavy.
How would you describe your musical style without using genres?
I try to change up my music constantly so it’s difficult to come up with words to describe it. I’d say colorful is a pretty good adjective. On my upcoming EP I’m working on a lot stuff right now that’s really different from my previous work. Some tracks are quite busy, withdrawn, chilled out, and even a bit more melancholy. You’ll see!
What’s the ideal setting or environment that your music should be listened in?
A bunch of stuff I make I wouldn’t really label as “club music” but people play it in clubs (including myself) anyways. For instance my song “Dawn.” It bangs a bit but overall it’s just a cute, light-hearted song so it’s funny when the big dudes in the front row are going off to it. With that being said I try to produce songs that you’re not quite sure where you’re supposed to listen to them. You’re not sure if you should listen when you go for a walk, when you have friends over, at the club, etc. With my music I’m constantly trying to make sure I don’t go too much either way. I don’t want to make a song that people only want to listen to on the radio or only want to listen to when they go out. This sort of duality is really important.
Your latest song “Petals” is your first official collaboration with a vocalist. What was the creative process like working with Scenic?
I made the instrumental a long time ago and sat on it for a while. I got some singers to send me some ideas but nothing really stuck. Then future classic, who manages Scenic, got us both in the studio together and it just worked out. It’s a different type of song than what I usually release, but people are getting into it and it’s getting radio play as well which is awesome.
What’s unique about the Australian music scene?
It’s funny because people say that Australians have a distinct sound but I feel like we’re all just copying international artists (laughs). On the Hermitude tour I’ve been playing this Cosmo’s Midnight x Wave Racer track but other than that I haven’t really been playing any Australian music. There are heaps of people in Australia making good music and maybe it’s just because I’m right in the middle of it that I find it hard to see any uniform qualities. We’re all just trying to make good music like any other artist would. We’re not trying to make “Australian sounding” music. If you asked me to open my software and make an Australian sounding song I wouldn’t know what to do.
You as well as other Australian artists (Flume, Wave Racer, Cosmo’s Midnight, etc.) are largely responsible for sparking this rising future bass genre craze in EDM. Where do you see “Future Bass” going in the future?
It’s funny because it’s called future bass but it doesn’t really feel like the future yet. It’s so ambitious (laughs). Genres are funny. I think the most important thing moving forward is that everyone tries their hardest to be competitive. I don’t mean it’s a race to get anywhere necessarily, but people should constantly be trying to push the envelope. And that doesn’t mean trying to produce the biggest brightest sounding music, but doing something more subtle that makes people think about what their hearing. Stuff that makes people stop and ask themselves “wait do I like this, is it too weird?” It’s going be exciting when future bass becomes so over-saturated that in order to stand out people have to do something really different. There’s a bit of that already. When people break free and do something truly innovative that’s when the interesting music comes out.
Best advice for up and coming musicians?
My best advice would be to never be dismissive. When you go to a club or a festival and there’s an act playing that you’re not into at all, check them out anyways and see what it is that people like about them. They might exist in a completely different world of music that you’re into but that’s irrelevant! What is it that they’re doing that you DO like? Figuring out why people like something that you don’t is the first step to becoming an intuitive producer. It’s an exercise about learning how to see things from the outside. I try to go to as many shows as I can for that reason. If you’re always dismissive about music it cuts off so many learning opportunities. Why cut yourself off from another world of music?