I’M GOING TO STRAIGHT OUT ADMIT I DIDN’T THINK I’D LIKE STEVEN. IN A CLASSIC NEWCASTLE-IS-TOO-SMALL KIND OF WAY, I THOUGHT HE HAD AN IMAGE OF ARROGANCE – AND SEEING SOME OF HIS SUCCESS SO FAR IN HIS CAREER, I DIDN’T EVEN REALLY BLAME HIM. BUT WHEN HE RESPONDED TO AN EMAIL ABOUT HAVING A CHAT AND SEEMED GENUINELY KEEN, I FIGURED IT COULDN’T HURT TO GIVE HIM A CHANCE AND HAVE A CHAT OVER COFFEE. I SOON LEARNED THAT MY FIRST IMPRESSION WAS SO WRONG.
It was early one morning when we caught up for that coffee in local Hamilton haunt Suspension Espresso on Beaumont Street. Over a couple of lattes, I came to realise that Steven was probably more shy than arrogant, and that we shared something in common: a strong and overwhelming passion for music, especially electronic music (and we knew heaps of the same people). This kid has just had one of his songs named as one of the top five songs at Field Day in the UK this year, so it is fair to say he is blowing up. Here is our chat.
If you go to a party and you start chatting to someone, how do you introduce yourself?
Steven: So someone I’ve never met before? I go to uni, I study IT there, I’m in my second-and-a-half year, I did last year part-time while I focused a bit more on music. I also travel around DJing a bit, doing music, writing music, putting out records.
When you say music, you mean electronic music? Can you define that a little more?
It’s kind of just sample-based house, then there is the complete opposite which is the new techno stuff I’ve been making – little bit on the ‘Saffron Smoke’ tip, if anyone’s heard that, little heavier than that. Little more Matrixman, Berlin kind of stuff. Then there’s the stuff I make under another name which is a bit more samply, bit more crunchy.
Are they just two different directions you expect to always be there, or are you still trying to work out what you like?
There is still a lot of crossover. Sometimes I’ll just find myself writing something and I’m completely confused because I’m not sure where it goes. I don’t just sit down and go ‘right, I’m going to make this song today’. With each song, I just write something and see where it goes. A lot of crossover – who knows if that’s the end? There could be a third or a fourth direction, I don’t know.
That’s true of a lot of prolific producers though, isn’t it?
Yeah, if you go on like Discog and look up some of the older guys – even like Frankie Knuckles or Boo Williams – and check out aliases, the list is just so long.
I noticed a tweet you sent to Mall Grab, something like ‘You are the first person I’ve known to love changing their name as much as I do’.
That’s kind of funny – we both dipped in and out of DJing and music, we’ve both always been interested. I’ve noticed I always came up with new DJ names and new things, whereas other people had the same one for ages and so did he. I remember specifically before his first release saying to him, ‘Man, this is heaps good, all you need to do is pick one name and go for it’. He was sending me a few names and I was like ‘nah, Mall Grab’, ‘cause he sent that in a list of options. It was just a funny little thing.
It almost seems counter-brand – which is kind of part of the brand itself?
Yeah, exactly. I feel like once you get to a certain level people start to recognise you more than just your artist or DJ name, so they’re more interested in what you’re doing, rather than just what’s attached to your DJ name.
So as long as you keep the same personal name, you can keep changing your DJ name?
Ha! Yeah, when I start changing my given name and my surname, then we’re in trouble.
IT. Is this all just a love of computers?
Well, kind of, yeah. I’m not going to say that I’m the most technically proficient person – I know my way around computers and I could build a computer, stuff like that – but it was also a strategic choice, because I feel like it’s a growing industry. Also something I’m interested in. Well, yeah, I’m always on a computer.
So are you signed exclusively with Boys Noize records?
What happens is I have to send them my next release and they have first right of refusal. They have accepted it, so my new EP will be coming out in August. Funnily enough I got Keiran and Joel (of Monday Morning – see previous issues) to do a remix, so it’ll be three of my tracks and a remix of one of them by Monday Morning. So that should be pretty cool.
Boys Noize Records seems like a really good fit. Is Boys Noize someone you would consider an idol?
Definitely one of the first people I really started listening to and recognised. It was really weird to talk to him and have music coming out on his label, and to meet him as well. Super nice guy – I know plenty of people would say his is one of the most respected people in the industry, just because he is so genuinely nice to everyone and he is so open-minded.
I saw a photo of both of you – were you on a boat?
Yeah, we were at – I’m not exactly sure what it’s called – the Island, I think? That little floating pontoon bar. He was playing there, it was a tiny area, but there were a few lounges up there and we were just catching up for the first time, so it was pretty cool.
Was that a product of you being in conversations with him?
That was only earlier this year, when I did my first EP for him last year in May, so we had talked a fair bit just through email and stuff. Had never met him in person. So that was cool to meet him, and I was playing that night with him.
That has got to be a pretty surreal experience, sitting there on a boat chatting with one of your idols.
Definitely. It was. The photo turned out great as well.
You’ve co-managed a festival called Cosmetic?
Oh yeah, Cosmetic. So it was just me and a friend of mine, Hayden – we’ve always wanted to do our own parties in Newcastle; we just waited and waited for years. We really wanted to do one so we contacted my uncle Yianni who takes care of a few venues around Newcastle and were just like, ‘What do you think of this?’ We only had about two or three weeks to turn it around and get something going, [but it] turned out really well. The venue was really happy, crowd was great and everyone had fun, which is the most important part. We’ve got some more stuff coming up which should be cool as well. Definitely going to be more parties – what we’re doing is starting a weekly party at the Queens Wharf Hotel on Sundays, starting in July.
So locally, you’ve got Mall Grab – are there other people I might not have heard about who are inspiring you or you are part of that network?
I’m probably going to forget someone and get in trouble for that, but there are a few people I’ll rattle off! There’s Joel and Keiran that you already know; Keiran is always sending me stuff and it’s always good, literally always good. There’s another local guy, Robbie Church, who is really good; he played at a Transmit party at King Street Hotel and he really impressed me – I think he’d just turned 18. Some of the music he’s sending me is really good. There are cool parties like ColourSound. Phil Smart is really cool and I think he just put out a new release as well. He’s a cool dude.
Who else? Matt Meler, obviously. I just realised he lives in the same street as me. For the kind of music I’m into, I’m not sure if there would be that many people in Newcastle making it. People definitely like it. It’s underestimated how liked and accessible house and even disco is.
Ned Kelly as well. Everyone respects that guy.
If someone came to visit in Newcastle – say Boys Noize – where would you need to take them to show off the city?
I say it’s a record store, but it’s not really a record store – it’s kinda like this guy who has a warehouse out in Wallsend – just to have a look. I’d take him there, just to get him sniffling cause there’s heaps of dust out there.
I’d probably take him to Doughheads – anyone that knows me knows I eat a lot. I’d probably come here, Suspension; I’ve been coming here a bit, nice and close to home. I like going to Greenroof. Maybe Queens Wharf Hotel.
Like he said, Stephane1993 has a new EP out in August on BNR. There are whispers of a release or two before the end of the year with Motorik Records, some touring, a weekly event starting in July and graduation from uni. Basically, Steven has a heap to keep him on track for the next 12 months and it will be exciting to watch his growth. Check him out on all your favourite social media and find his music too!