March into the archives : The Avalanches

The following interview with some guy from The Avalanches was published in BMA Magazine in November 1998. Picture with the author taken by 'Pling at their Canberra show earlier in the year.

You may have been fortunate enough to see The Avalanches earlier this year at the BMA sixth birthday or just recently when they were here supporting Public Enemy. They'll return to Canberra this month and spoke to us to bring everyone up to date on their show.

You've just finished touring with Public Enemy, would did that go?

"Excellent. We expected the most unfriendly hardcore dudes and they were almost nicer than anyone we've ever met. In fact I think PE perceived us as 12-year olds. They kind of took us under their wing and explained the facts of life to us."

So they were paternal?

"Chuck D especially. Flav in a kind of supercilious way. Flav's pretty much unlike anyone we've ever met but he was fantastic. They were all so friendly, I mean we had soundchecks where I think they sort of dug it to a degree and Chuck even talked about the possibility of distributing our records."

So when are we going to see an album from The Avalanches?

"Maybe next year. I think the plan is to do an EP again. I especially want to aim it at 12 inches. We want to get in the clubs. I'd love to get DJs to play our music. It's kind of moving in different directions. And that's gonna kind of help us with doing our EPs in that we don't need a concept for each one. Kind of like the way we started, we never really thought we'd be hiphop. We wanted to be all yelping and screaming but it's sort of -- I mean we all listen to hiphop but -- the new stuff doesn't go down that route."

When The Avalanches came out it was so obvious there'd been a vacuum for an Australian hiphop act.

"It does but we don't want the responsibility."

You live show doesn't really seem like a hiphop show. You've got those influences in your music but there's a whole different icing on top.

"Yeah, it's like everyone wants to talk about how we sound like the Beastie Boys. I don't think say that about our new stuff though, it's sort of '70s electronic music and a lot of house music and disco. The other thing we're trying in the studio -- I don't know how, we're still experimenting -- is to get orchestral parts and jazz chords and string songs together which have structures without beats. It's sort of like pop music, kind of psychedelic like Mercury Rev or the Beach Boys."

Sort of like you're drawing on whatever sonic elements you can get your hands on?

"Yeah, well, we've got a pretty nice abount of vinyl to draw on and to go crazy with. I still don't really play any parts. We still pretty much sample everything."

Have you guys really got a garage full of vinyl?

"Yeah, I got a garage and I got a house full. The garage is only for seven inches! They're useless. There's no point in having them. That was just a by-product of a steal I got, it was only $500 for the room! Two thousand LPs and four thousand singles!"

So, there's some good stuff in there?

"The best bit was 150 production records from '60s soundtracks, I would have paid $500 for these alone. It's just ten seconds of either jingle music or sound effects or spooky noises. That itself is free of copyrights, so that was the best thing about it."

Speaking of samples, there's one that I am curious about...

"Ha ha! We haven't cleared any! Only if it's live can I tell you."

What about the guitar riff at the beginning of the second verse in 'Rock city'?

"We've used that sample on about four different tracks. That's from the record that changed our life. It's by Koichi Oki and the name of the record is Yamaha Superstar. Seriously, we were a guitar band when first heard this record. It's a demonstration record for this fantastic, out of space organ that Yamaha brought out in the late '60s and this guy does covers. The best example is the first track, 'Light my fire'. The organ is so out of time and so extremely mixed that we were just blown away. So we just threw away the guitars and bought organs!"