Future Music

The Presets

Modular Recordings, 2008


For Julian Hamilton and Kim Moyes, life in The Presets was bonkers. Back-to-back tours of the world supporting The Rapture, Ladytron, and Soulwax saw them hitting the stage. Life on the road was hard. There was barely enough time to send a postcard back home to their folks in Oz, let alone make a new album.

“We were working our arses off,” says Julian. “We had a very clear idea of the music we wanted to make, but the life we were living meant everything was too hectic to find time to do it.”

A plan was hatched – get back to Australia, and decamp to the sleepy town of Bangalow, tucked away in New South Wales.

“We set up our studio on a farm,” says Kim. “It was the calm we needed. And that’s when Apocalypso began.”

This would be The Presets’ second album. A monster smash hit, clocking up triple platinum sales down-under, propelled by its mix of fierce electronic­a, politicise­d lyrics, and earworm melodies.

In their idyllic Australian farmstead ‘bubble’ they pushed themselves, and then channelled their broadest influences. Inspiratio­ns veered from the vocal cut-up techniques of pop merchants like Stock, Aitken & Waterman, to classy French house. Then they pinged from the electro boogie of Prince, to the vocal delivery of Joy Division and PiL.

“We didn’t worry too hard about whether or not things were ‘cool’,” says Julian. “We were just having fun and enjoying it. And if it felt good, we did it.”

Their rural retreat was brief, but it set that album in motion. Life back on the road beckoned, and Apocalypso would be completed in any spare moment they could find.

“It was finished, literally, on tour again,” says Kim. “We were putting together bits and pieces for songs in bedrooms in Berlin apartments, in between playing nightclubs over there, and then travelling over to Barcelona to play festivals.

“It was crazy, but you can hear that energy in the album we were making. It was a soundtrack to those times.”

Kicking & Screaming

Julian Hamilton: “This was one that definitely started life on the road because we were in Los Angeles on the US leg of The Rapture tour.

“We were on stage, soundcheck­ing, and then I remember just finding a cool sound in the [Korg]

MS-20 and I just started playing this fiddly melody [starts miming it]

‘duh-do-duh-dah-duh-do-duh-dah’, and just started jamming this riff.

“Kim kinda got into it, and I think he might have started playing drums over it. We both quite liked it, and looked at each other and said, ‘We better remember that one!’. Then when we got home we went and made it into an actual song [laughs].”

Kim Moyes: “A lot of the time when you’re making music you’re just in the studio as much as you can, working. The ideas don’t just come magically, out of nowhere. But, occasional­ly, sometimes, they do.”

My People

Julian: “We never thought this track would be so big! [27 weeks in the ARIA Top 50, and Platinum sales].

“We were mixing it in the studio, and it wasn’t quite there. We were all settling and going, ‘Oh. It’ll do.’ Meanwhile the label were really excited about This Boy’s In Love,

which was gonna be the next single.

“They’d got this hot LA engineer [John Fields] to mix This Boy’s In Love. We were getting ready to send My People to all the radio people, and all systems were go. Then I remember calling our manager late one night and asking if there was still time to send it to John for a ‘pop mix’. We did, and it ended up sounding great. It came out, and changed the world for us.”

A New Sky

Kim: “This one was a beat we really developed when we were on tour in Berlin. We had a few days off between festivals and we were fleshing out a lot of the ideas that came from Bangalow.

“It felt like it had a bit of attitude to it. It was a relatively simple beat

Track by track with The Presets

with a simple bassline, and a guitar sample that was cut up. At some point, when we got back and were thinking more seriously about the album, this was something we threw in the pot.

“Jules then put some lyrics on it, and there was some more back and forth, trying to flesh it out. It was one of those ones that was never really pegged as a single, but was just fun to work on. And the arrangemen­t was intuitive and... free.”

This Boy’s In Love

Julian: “This was one of the ones we started in Bangalow, on the farm, with a [Studio Electronic­s] Omega 8 synth. We programmed this Giorgio Moroder-style bassline sequence, grooving along.

“We always liked this jam. We went out of our minds with the percussion and beats, though, trying to make them feel good… I don’t know if we ever did [laughs].

“I added some Joy Division-type vocal chords. It wasn’t working. Then

I did these angelic ‘Ahhhs’ to make it sound a bit more romantic. Then I thought, ‘What if I just lose the shit, Joy Division wannabe-type stuff, and use the angelic stuff?’. I just changed the words and kept the ‘Ahhhs’, and that became the chorus.

“We might throw heaps at a track then mute a bunch of stuff until you go, ‘Oh. That really works!’ You’ve always gotta trust yourself.”


Kim: “This is our Prince copy, or something, isn’t it? It’s like a funk track… or future funk. I dunno. I guess we always had that influence.

“We’d just be jamming on synths on the farm and our stuff started to feel good. At that preliminar­y stage you don’t really know what style you’re channellin­g.

“Then, once Jules had a crack at it vocally, it turned into a bit of an electro-funk jam. When I heard this one come back with the words on it, I just thought it was hilarious. It was so silly and funny, you know?

“We were having genuine laugh out loud moments, which is always good… or maybe not! [laughs].

“It was a lot of fun to make and a really good light-hearted moment on the record. And it connected with a lot of different people.”

Talk Like That

Julian: “I don’t know where those opening chords came from. I guess I was trying to come up with a ‘classic build up’, before the drop… before they were called ‘drops’ [laughs].

“I just had this interestin­g bassline going. Then I started to play that rising pattern underneath. Then I put these weird, kinda Baroque chords on.

“It sounds like music from The Muppets, with The Count, you know? It had a Dracula feel. It was so silly. We really went there with the ridiculous­ness of it.”

Kim: “This, Anywhere and Eucalyptus were the last three tracks we wrote for the record. There was a general consensus that there could be more…

energy across the album. They were all written and finished within a week. Some of these tracks are rough around the edges, but have that distilled furiousnes­s to them. That really leaps off the page.”


Julian: “This had a faster, breakneck kind of energy to it. We were looking to fill that hole on the album.”

Kim: “I was going through all the tracks with the Omega, recording like 25 different sounds and then cutting them up in different ways, to create a funny, swirling stereo image with a hypnotic and psychedeli­c effect. I did that on the chorus here.

“Then we had the most basic 909 beat that we re-recorded through a bunch of distortion pedals, just to get something happening.

“It certainly evolved into a much more vicious beat after we started playing it live. It took on a whole different attitude and energy with a drum kit on it.”

Julian: “It’s a bit of a brother or sister track to My People. It’s another of those ‘angry young man, fuck the world’ things [laughs].”

If I Know You

Julian: “This came from the early farm sessions, built around the Omega 8 – that damn Omega 8 again! [laughs].

“We were really into the music of Fred Falke and that ‘French touch’ sound. We tried to make this French house thing.

“I wrote some lyrics, then it became this big New Romantic/ Human League thing, meets French house, and a big, weird synth opera [laughs].

“Kim heard it and said, ‘I don’t know if it’s working’. Deep down, I felt the same way.

“We tore it all apart, and built it into this deeper, techno thing – much more minimal. It worked really well.

“Although the big boomy operatic vocals remained. It always felt like a miss-match. I should have re-recorded them. Anyway, that’s how it ended up. And that’s probably why it works. It’s weird. [laughs].”


Kim: “It’s a bit dorky, but I always loved that Stock, Aitken & Waterman ’80s pop music sound, where the vocals were all cut up and played across a keyboard.

“That was a real vibe, and it wasn’t really being done a lot back in 2008. So we did it. Did it a lot [laughs]. You can really hear it at the start of this track. It was really fun.

“I don’t think that we did it first, or started a trend, or anything – I’m not trying to suggest that… but it is actually everywhere now. That choppy vocal style is a big thing. It must have been in everyone’s heads at the same time [laughs].

“We just thought it’d be something cool and retro in electro, you know?”


Kim: “I remember this track always having a legit emotional feeling. I don’t think we thought too much about it. It was just making this thing into what it needed to be.

“It was made like Eucalyptus, where I took this basic chord progressio­n, then turned it into something very colourful.

“Then it was a case of recording layers of synth sounds and cutting them up at different times.

“There was something in there that was reminding me of the Blade Runner soundtrack by Vangelis.

“Then it was just, ‘Maybe this’ll work? Maybe that’ll work?’ We probably had an hour spare in the studio to throw some stuff on it and see whether or not it felt good.

“It was never something that felt very laboured. It was just what to do with this great chord progressio­n that we loved.”


Julian: “This came together at the end, when we were mixing. We had the 303 going.”

Kim: “I think it was the last thing that we did. It’s pretty poetic that it’s the last track on the album.

“I remember it was Christmas

Eve, 2007, and we were recording passes of the Omega at BJB [Studios, Sydney], and passes of the 303, and Jules had these beautiful layered melodies for the vocals. We were in the studio feeling that it was done.”

Julian: “There’s a lyric, ‘Put on that dress you like/The one with birds on it’. That was a dress my girlfriend owned, and she tried to put it in a garage sale the other day. I said, ‘You can’t sell that! It’s in a song!’ I’ve stuck it in the attic now [laughs].”

Kim: “Dude! We should turn it into a merch item! [laughs] Ten dollars!”


For all the breaking news on Australia’s biggest ever dance act you could want, visit: thepresets.com

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 ??  ?? The Presets will be performing at The Drop Festival in plenty of locations across Australia and New Zealand this March and April.
Worth getting the glow sticks out for, if you’re in that hemisphere. Elsewhere on the bill you’ll find further Aussies Boy & Bear, Allday, Ball Park Music, DZ Deathrays, GRAACE, and Kita Alexander. Click around thedropliv­e. com for more info, brah.
The Presets will be performing at The Drop Festival in plenty of locations across Australia and New Zealand this March and April. Worth getting the glow sticks out for, if you’re in that hemisphere. Elsewhere on the bill you’ll find further Aussies Boy & Bear, Allday, Ball Park Music, DZ Deathrays, GRAACE, and Kita Alexander. Click around thedropliv­e. com for more info, brah.
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