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The Presets Turn up the Bass

It’s no secret we love a good party in Darwin, and we’re also partial to a bit of Dry season action by the beach. So when beach, party and blissful weather combine, with some of the hottest music acts kicking around Australia in tow, it’s a dream concoction.

Multi-award-winning duo Julian Hamilton and Kim Moyes – aka The Presets – have earned their stripes as one of the country’s biggest names in electronic music, and they’re coming to Larrakia Country for the 20th anniversary year of BASSINTHEGRASS Music Festival. Tierney Seccull caught up with Hamilton for a chinwag.

We are very bloody excited that you are coming to Darwin for BASSINTHEGRASS Music Festival. You’ve played massive festivals around the world, including Glastonbury and Coachella, what enticed you to BASS?
It’s a great gig, it’s a great festival, and it’s one of my favourites in the country. We love any chance to get up to Darwin, it’s such a beautiful part of the world, and one of the main reasons for us to make the trip across the country to come and visit you guys.

When was your last trip to Darwin?
Oh, goodness, now you’re testing my memory! We’ve done BASSINTHEGRASS before and also played the car races up there. Every time we go, the weather’s nice and warm and the beer is nice and cold, and the sprinklers are going strong on the main strip there!

We do like to keep our visitors nice and hydrated, and nice and cool.
Well, I appreciate it [laughs].

Something you may not know is that 2023 marks the 20th anniversary of BASS. It also marks 20 years since you launched your first LP Blow Up in 2003. Congratulations!
Oh, thank you very much. Look at us both, BASSINTHEGRASS and The Presets still going strong 20 years later [laughs].

We love it, and we’re very grateful for you both. How does it feel to still be touring and sharing your beats two decades later?
It’s amazing, it really is amazing. We’re so very lucky and grateful that we still get to do it 20 years later, and that people still come to the shows. We’ve watched bands kind of come and go along the way, and somehow, we’re still managing to hang tough, still playing gigs. Like I said, we’re really lucky and really grateful to still be doing it.

Absolutely, I think you’ve found the secret formula! Being in the game for 20 years means you’ve sound tracked a lot of our lives. When you think of how music can rouse nostalgic memories from the past, how does it feel to have played a hand in that?
It’s really humbling, I won’t lie. It’s fabulous when people come and stop me on the street or after a show, and say they love a song from way back when. Now we’re finding that people are coming up and saying “I love a song from your last record, and my parents really loved your first album when they went to see you play 20 years ago,” you know? It’s crossing generations now, which is crazy.

We’re really grateful, and it’s very humbling. We’re very lucky to write songs that have become part of someone’s lives, it’s very special.

I can hear the smile on your face when you talk about that, being on the phone I don’t know that you’ve got a grin on your chops, but it certainly sounds like it.
No, I do, I really do! 20 years ago when we did those first shows in tiny little clubs in Sydney, I guess we’d hoped we’d have a career in music, but I don’t think either of us dreamed this band would still be going 20 years later. So yeah, it’s been a fabulous career and we’re very, very grateful for the opportunity. And for people to stick with us.

I remember lining up in a nightclub queue in 2008 when ‘My People’ was unleashed, the whole line started singing and dancing – it really took the world by storm. That’s one of my Presets memories – being happy lining up in a nightclub queue, if you can believe it!
[laughs]. Oh, that’s wonderful. Yeah look, it was a magical time and I do remember that period very fondly. Everyone has their own favourite songs from over the years … it’s fabulous that we get to be part of people’s histories.

This Boy’s in Love’ was my MySpace background track! The Presets hit the scene just as social media profiles were becoming mainstream. How do you think technology has impacted The Presets – or the music industry – over the years?
Oh, gosh, well yeah. It’s crazy how much it has. When we first started, we recorded a demo in our kitchen – we actually had a demo CD that we took to record label people trying to get a record deal. No one would dream of printing something on a physical CD and putting it in someone’s hand today [laughs]. We signed a record deal, and had to make records in expensive studios, and you don’t need to do that anymore.

We had to try and get publicists to try and get our name in magazines and newspapers, you know, it was such a different world back then. And now it’s so much easier to put out your own music, promote your own music, distribute and create your own music. People are doing it from their bedrooms now!

When we first started, there was no Facebook or Twitter or SoundCloud. Like you say, MySpace was just starting, which was really a fabulous tool for bands and fans alike. You could have your top eight friends, you could have your favourite song playing, we could put up our tour dates, our photos, our top songs – it was a really good all-in-one interface for us to interact with our fans.

But, you know, things change and you gotta roll with the changes. And now it seems like there’s a million platforms for us to engage with our fans.

Well, you’re doing it well! You’ve worked with countless music legends in the past, and played a tonne of festivals, does anything stand out in your mind as a highlight?
There have certainly been magic moments along the way. I certainly remember when ‘My People’ came out and we were suddenly playing really big shows. But I mean, before that, I remember the first time we sold out a tiny club in Sydney, and sold 150 tickets, that was a huge sting for us back then.

Now later in our career, the fact we still get to play shows and people still remember us and still like our music, that’s a very cool thing. I guess the one thing that has stood out for us over the years is the longevity, and the fact that people still remember us, that’s really special.

Any new music on the cards?
We’re always working on new music. It’s a different sort of world now, back in the day, you always had to be working on a new album, and the new album would be coming out in the next couple of years. I guess the industry has kind of changed so much now that albums aren’t so important, there’s a lot more singles, EPs, remixes and collaborations with other artists. There’s always little bits and pieces on the boil, we’re always making new tunes, so you’ll hear some new sounds from us very soon.

It's so good to hear you guys are still making tunes, with no plans to wind down.
Oh, totally, I don’t think we’re ever gonna wind down, we love this band so much. And I don’t know what else we’d do – we’ve gone too far to start another career path. I think it’s serious now [laughs].

[Laughs] Yeah, it’s serious now. You can choose not to answer this question, but your significant other is the formidable Janice Petersen, newsreader for SBS World News. Ever considered a sneaky SBS news cover, à la 'ABC News Theme', Pendulum style? [laughs].
That’d be a good idea! Look, I’ll put it to her – it is a great soundtrack, the SBS World News theme. Maybe I’ll go have a tinker and see what I can come up with. Maybe I can even get Janice to twist their arms and see if they’ll use it on the show?

Ah, that would be pretty epic! Any plans while you’re visiting Darwin?
There’s a few things we love doing when we’re up there. I can’t remember what it’s called, but there’s like a boat club with a bar and a swimming pool, which we’ve been to over the years … we always end up having an Emu Export or something up there. I really love Mindil Beach Markets, of course, so I’d love to go and check that out. I love my ais kacang, a Malaysian icy, syrupy dessert, so I might head down there for some wok-fried barramundi and some ais kacang!

COST $140

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