Fergus Sweetland is becoming an established name in the Australia underground techno scene.
He has been brewing up some itchy originals and DJ weapons that have been impressing crowds with his engaging sets for some time now.
His use of melodies and rhythm have helped define a unique sound and with it, a new definition of Australian techno.
We got to know the man, Fergus Sweetland, ahead of his 3-hour techno journey across 3-CDJs this weekend for Comfort Club in Sydney.
SR: You have a very defined sound as an artist that remains unique and cutting edge. What has influenced you to gravitate towards your current Techno vibe?
FS: Originally what got me into it was hearing Marcel Dettmann play at Rainbow Serpent 2015. Prior to that, I was more into house sounds. I think it was the natural evolution of musical taste for me. Right time, place and setting.
The sounds Marcel was laying down was stuff that I hadn’t experienced before. It was all about intricate rhythms, high hats that sounded as sharp as a samurai sword, soundscapes that took you beyond the solar system as well as a healthy dose of heavy and groovy basslines. It opened up a new world to me. At that moment I let go of any pre-conceptions of electronic music that I had and gave myself up to something new.
I try to look for new sounds and rhythms to keep things interesting for myself, not just create something that’s been done before. Keeping things evolving is key. The genre came from innovation so I want to continue that and be an innovator.
SR: Explain the setup you use for your Sweetland gigs and what punters can expect for your 3hr set at Comfort Club?
FS: I’ll be running three CDJ’s and a Roland TR8 drum machine to take the crowd on a bit of sonic journey. I’ll be layering up all sorts of rhythms and grooves. With the TR8, I’ll be doing more layering, maybe even a little drum machine solo or two.
After mixing on two decks for a few years, it wasn’t engaging me enough and I couldn’t get my mixes to sound how I wanted them to. Just going from track to track is fine, but you eventually will need to reduce the mix to just the single track that’s playing so you can bring in your next selection. The beauty of techno is that you can layer up the sounds seamlessly and constantly keep new ones popping up and rolling in so there is a never a lull. The people’s experience is entirely in your control.
After seeing Rødhåd play on three decks, I knew that’s where I had to go with my mixing. You simply can’t go as far with just two decks. Having the ability to always cue up sounds, tracks and vocals is crucial for a techno mix, plus for myself, it’s that much more engaging. You really lock in and focus on the mix.
SR: You have a great balance as an artist in that your performances and just as exciting and engaging as your productions. Many artists struggle to excel in just one of these areas. What would be your advice to up and comers to ensure they can be as well rounded as yourself?
FS: Why thank you! I think what helped me out a lot was putting all my work into perspective with each other. It’s all about the idea that you want to define yourself as an artist. I wanted my productions to compliment my DJ sets, and vice versa, so I starting making tracks that interested me, with the intention of having them played in a DJ set, especially to give my set its own flavour. This compliments the tracks also, as they don’t sound like other beats that I’m mixing, plus the more mixing I do, the more ideas for tracks I get.
I wanted to get into live performance too, to help lend a perspective on how a set is structured. So I dived deep into that. I’m apart of a techno duo called Back Burners with a very good friend of mine. The idea is about live improvisation techno (no computers, just hardware).
This was the idea, but the other crucial ingredient is time. You’re only human, so you can’t expect to just be good at what you do in a short amount of time. Allow yourself the time to develop in all areas that you apply yourself too.
SR: Production wise, what’s next from Sweetland?
FS: An album. Hopefully… I’ve already made one attempt at it but it didn’t go past a certain point. I think what discouraged me from working on it more was my mixdown/production skills. So recently I’ve just been putting the time into making my tracks sound as crisp as possible.
I think it’s crucial as a producer to be good at this because once you’ve learnt how to make anything sound good, it’s easy to apply your ideas for tracks and get a quality product at the end. Plus I find it very enjoyable delving into the sound engineering world. That’s where my head’s at currently. I haven’t given up on the idea of an album, just need to get my ideas for it in order. Hopefully before then, an EP or two along the way.
SR: The word ‘Techno’ gets thrown around very loosely these days. What would be your interpretation?
FS: This is something I think I might be overly opinionated about. Techno to me means the sounds of the future. It’s more than just having a 4/4 beat and some “deep” bassline. It’s about continually innovating sounds so that the music is constantly exploring new territories. Techno gets thrown around a lot like a blanket term for other types of dance music, music that’s kind of missed this point and not deserved to be called techno. A lot of “techno” can be quite safe, just the same old ideas and sounds that are never taken the next few steps further.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing because other types of dance music are laying a good foundation for people who are into it to evolve and explore new sounds and experience proper techno. I would just encourage anyone to give it a good crack and check out some artists who are at the forefront of the genre currently. You won’t ever regret it!
SR: You have played large festivals, bush doofs and club gigs across Australia. What are 3 gigs that stood as and why?
FS: Strawberry Fields 2015 – That was insane. A massive group of my friends came along to see me play. They set such a proper vibe on the dance floor and soon the crowd swelled considerable. Was good to not hold back and play some quick paced belting techno, and to then see everyone love it.
Meanwhile, Sydney – Best venue I’ve ever played at. It’s the biggest shame that that night got discontinued because the quality of the setup was amazing. Plus the crowd were very open to some heavier techno beats and enjoyed every minute of it. Even when i screwed up and all the music cut out completely, they just started cheering. Amazing.
Stoney Roads Party, Chippendale – Best club set I’ve played. Again, the crowd was so on point, and I played some driving techno. The lapped up every minute of it so it was great to see people get around the sounds.
SR: Melbourne has beaten lockout laws and now has a flourishing cultural arts scene. Sydney on the other hand is still battling these draconian laws despite a growing amount of evidence proving they are ineffective. How has Melbourne’s healthy scene allowed you to flourish as an artists and what advice would you have for us to have these laws overturned?
FS: Melbourne’s scene has been on a steady rise and it’s only set to get bigger which is awesome, because it presents the locals with the opportunity to get put on the global stage as the techno/music culture here grows. People are open to hearing something new and different and are willing to seek it out. More and more crews are putting on nights and the sounds of techno are being heard more often. This allows some healthy competition, which is good. I think as a DJ and producer, I’m quite competitive, but you need to be because that will push me to develope my skills further and prove myself as an artist.
It’s got to be shown to those in charge in Sydney that music as a creative art doesn’t fuel violence, it brings people together who share a common interest. But it’s very hard to try and tell a politician otherwise as they would have never experienced going out to a venue for some electronic music. There is a change of an era, and a part of that change is that more people are into the creative arts. It’s the duty of a government to care for all its people, not shut off a thriving culture for the next generation.
I think what needs to happen is that the people who are in control of these laws need to see that the music culture has nothing to do with the violence that occurs. Violent people are out there, but that’s human nature (as sad as it is to say) and putting a lock out law on a city to try and curb that was never going to work. It’s some unrelated remedy to try and fix a situation without thinking about who the laws will affect and what will happen to the image of your city on the world stage.
Have a listen to Sweetland’s unique sound in his latest mix for Comfort Club
As well as some of his DJ weapons below;
Like what you hear? Be sure to head along to Comfort Club this Saturday for an epic 3 hour set across 3 CDJ’s and a Drum Machine.