Scatterbrain, from the Blue Mountains to Bass Mountains, community radio, supporting the local scene

Scatterbrain, from the Blue Mountains to Bass Mountains, community radio, supporting the local scene

Thursday, 23 April 2015

by: Rosie Rae, Bondi Beach Radio Marketing Manager

Joel Pearson aka Scatterbrain is a Sydney-based DJ/producer and community radio show host. Joel’s musical journey began in his hometown Wentworth Falls in the Blue Mountains, working on the community radio programme Surrounded by Silence at Radio Blue Mountains from 2009. He’s since moved on to working on the bass-centric program Bass Mountains on Bondi Beach Radio, as well as specialising in new UK music on FBi Radio’s The Selector.

Bondi Beach Radio Marketing Manager Rosie Rae catches up with Joel in advance of his set at Afterlife Drum & Bass this ANZAC Day.

Rosie – What initially drew you towards dance music, particularly bass music?

Joel – I think in a lot of ways it was texture and rhythm that I had not previously been exposed to in other kinds of music. I’d been active playing cello in the school orchestra, as a kid and a teenager and I think jungle and dubstep in particular really ignited my imagination.

Rosie – Who has been the biggest influence on your style of production?

Joel – I look at producers like Boxcutter, Burial and drum & bass from the likes of Remarc; the footwork of Om Unit and those kinds of guys. Mark Pritchard is one of my main influences.

Rosie – If you had to choose, who would you say a few of your favourite producers are?

Joel – I think the all time stand-outs are guys like Aphex Twin and Squarepusher. But right now, stuff from Om Unit, his album on Metalheadz last year was fantastic. And all of the Exit Records crew, particularly dBridge and Instra:mental.

Rosie – Do you think there are any labels you really click with, or would aim to work with in the future?

Joel – Exit’s one that I would aim for, it’s a bit of a dream. Aiming a bit smaller there’s labels like Dred Collective in the UK that are putting out a lot of jungle and footwork music at the moment that I’m quite inspired by, so I’d like to get in touch with crews like that around the world.

Rosie – Your show Bass Mountains on Bondi Beach Radio is about showcasing a diverse range of music that really pushes the boundaries of genre. What did you find appealing about working with community radio?

Joel – I think it’s that possibility to broaden people’s horizons, or access people who are actively engaged in music outside the mainstream. One of the strengths I think that community radio broadcasting has is that kind of listenership. For me as a DJ I think it was really good to have that foundation at radio Blue Mountains 89.1 in Katoomba, I was basically the only dance music orientated show on the program grid there; they’ve got stuff from blues, classical, jazz and that kind of thing. It’s great to see people who are passionate about music in different ways still kind of communicate in a similar wavelength.

Rosie – How do you think radio has shaped your skills in music production?

Joel – Maybe not radio as such, but listening to a wide variety of music and mixing different styles enhanced my production skills. Listening to music critically, in terms of the mixing, arrangement and structure in particular has been really important for me.

Rosie – It’s always exciting to work with amazing international artists such as Ulterior Motive. What was your first reaction when you found out you were on the bill at this event?

Joel – My jaw dropped, I was pretty astounded. I had gotten some good feedback from Angei of Bass Drop after the set I had played for her at the Sly Fox on New Years Day, and she had expressed interest in booking me again but I really had no idea what was in store so soon.

Rosie – You’ve worked a lot with the guys behind Afterlife Drum & Bass in Sydney, how would you say that their events have helped shape/facilitate the local drum & bass scene?

Joel – I think having a free event with a fantastic sound system like DSS is really important for Sydney, especially with the loss of the Void club night a couple of years ago, run by DJ Victim. While that wasn’t strictly a drum & bass night there’s a certain intersection of different crowds that come together at a night like Afterlife, as they did at Void. Whether you’re into dubstep or drum & bass or more experimental music, there’s an open-mindedness at nights like that, and I think that really helps foster a sense of community.

Rosie – On top of working with community radio you’ve also been working a bit with the guys behind CDR Sydney. Can you tell us a little bit about the where this project began?

Joel – CDR itself has been running for about 14 years now, and I’ve been involved since late 2013. I started helping out with just running the event on the night and then a few months later I was on board as one of the key coordinators. I work with two other coordinators at the moment; Nick Forrest (of Communications Records) and Sofie Loizou (AKA Anomie). Together we book the 107 Projects art space in Redfern, bring in a big sound system. Previously we had Hijack, but we have the Grounded system at the up coming event. Then we get the wheels turning on promotion and get interesting artists to come and have a chat with us on the couch, do a live interview and engage with Sydney producers and have them play their latest material on the sound system.

Rosie – Given the strong dip in Sydney’s nightlife since introduction of the lockout laws, what advice would you give local producers trying to make it on the scene?

Joel – I think it’s really important to get involved with nights like CDR where a lockout is not at play. I know there’s other gigs like the one at Knox Street bar that’s fostering a good scene of producers and people playing their own tunes. Local nights like Free the Beats, which also happened at 107 in Redfern, are really great places to start. If you go out to nights and engage with other people, find out who else is producing and collaborate with them. Build connections and have a network, whether that’s through SoundCloud or Facebook groups. That’s one of the ways I’ve started to get some good critical feedback on my work.

Rosie – You’re currently putting together an application for the Red Bull Music Academy. Did you always see this as a logical progression for you as a producer? What inspired you to take the steps?

Joel – I’ve known about Red Bull Music Academy for a number of years. I heard about it through Lorna Clarkson and Sofie Loizou, who were both quite encouraging about the whole prospect. I applied once before back in 2013 unsuccessfully, and I just submitted my application for Paris 2015. It feels like a really good opportunity, even just to be applying. Whether or not I get accepted in is almost irrelevant for the simple fact that setting a goal, such as polishing some music to professional standard and thinking about things in those terms puts a person in good stead for the future.

Rosie – What’s next for Scatterbrain?

Joel – I’ve got a couple of releases in the pipeline for this year. I’d like to at least get my first EP out and an EP of remixes quite soon. I’ve got plenty of tracks in the works that’d I’d like to get out later on in the year. I think the main thing is just to keep making music, that’s the number one prerogative.

Rosie – Thanks so much for sitting down with me. Really looking forward to your gig at Afterlife this ANZAC Day!

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