With two splendid albums on Australia’s Preservation imprint, Tony Dupé, aka Saddleback, deserves to be a household name, at least where modern classical and electronic music are served on a regular basis. “Night Maps” is one of 2007’s finest releases and the most fully realized work to date from an artist to be watched.
Almost, I’m in one of the comfy gold armchairs.
I live in this nice wooden house with only cows for neighbours and I work full time making albums for people, songwriters mainly. It's a great environment for creativity and sanity. I really love instruments so I have way too many and I use them making arrangements for people and making music for Saddleback. I have an analog and digital equipment and all the rooms have a nice warm reverb. It's a productive life.
Doing production pays the bills and allows me to experiment, create and relate to music for many hours a week. I like working in response and working with other people provides that situation. When doing Saddleback, the musical conversations are more internal which is harder and probably more revealing and challenging for me personally. They are both good in
different ways, I guess.
A few albums I have produced have been released in Europe for Holly Thorsby and Jack Ladder. Other people that I am working with are quite unknown but very talented artists. It's quite hard here to be heard and appreciated.
It is very hard here. There are definitely a healthy number of people making music and probably good communities within the city, but the audience is small though committed. Which means nobody can make money from it. We desperately need other audiences but as you say we are a long way away. Since I have chosen music as my life I have poured all my energy into understanding it and ignoring commerce. You really need to shout loud to be heard from Australia. I am working on about six different albums for various people but for one of them I am creating all the music. Her name is Lauren Horton and she makes up songs without music, and I make the music under just a vocal. It's challenging but so much fun. I get to play everything!
I have known Andrew [Khedoori of Preservation] for many years and have always valued his opinion. When I was working on my first album [“Everything’s a Love Letter”] I gave him a copy and he encouraged me and showed interest in releasing it. The label does a great job of presenting their releases with Mark Gowing as designer. They are a great team with a distinctive touch.
Having worked in a music store for years my listening and influences are pretty wide and (I think) quite subconscious. I really love minimalism, people like Arvo Part and Steve Reich, I love the ECM label (especially John Surman), but I also really love Django and early jazz, Chet Baker, organic electronica on the Leaf label, Morr Music and Karaoke Kalk, folk music old and new, songwriters like Smog, Will Oldham, Joanna Newsom, Satie, Chopin, Debussy, Jobim, Tom Waits. If my music sounds like any of these people then that's fine but I would prefer that it sounded like me.
Because of my love of instruments and sound and my desire to use my ears to navigate me, my inspiration is generally to try to release how I feel into the performance. So I am sometimes surprised by what comes out and then I shape it and respond to it again. I’m
mainly just improvising and then listening to what I like, keeping it, building around it, repeating it and playing again. This goes on always just keeping what I like and trying to sense what the music wants to do. Sometimes it dies in your hands and other times it flowers and flowers. I love it and get totally lost in it.
I just started as a lost teenager drawn to music, played in bands and started making albums for my band in a house by the sea in a small country town. I thought it was the best part of playing music so I set myself up in the house for half of the week each week and worked in Sydney two hours away running a CD store for the other half. Over several years I made many albums and slowly got more instruments. Then I moved to a house on Saddleback Mountain which was nearby to where I was and kept working away. Eventually I moved to the country full time and now I can just get by but I have spent thousands of hours playing and listening and I feel happy with my skills. I feel fluent and I yearn for deep, meaningful conversation.
I don't think I can look at my music in any other way that you might look at a close relative. It might sound silly but I try to let go of it when it leaves here and bid it the best of luck. Go find some friends, I tell it.
It's the local council for the small town that I lived near who have small grants for local artists. It was a small amount but everything helps when you are a musician. The funding situation here is pretty bad because the arts are not really understood or encouraged by the bureaucrats. Personally I feel that it is much better to find an audience than meet the criteria of some arbitrary board. I am fairly self sufficient because I have my studio so I can make music without funding, it just takes longer.
It's tricky. I performed after the first album using some loops and improvising over them with a small group of piano, cello, bass, trumpet and drums. I’ve been too daunted to try with this one because I live two hours from the players and it would take a lot of work. I will probably try something soon, though.
I have found that working with Pro Tools, which is very sympathetic to working in a collage fashion, it is quite easy to cut things up and move them around. It's great to just grab notes and move them, repeat them and just play with them. Everything that I use was made within the track so they have a rhythmic and melodic relationship, so there is great freedom for happy accidents and synchronicity. I never use click tracks, they are always musical fragments repeated which to me have flavour. I really love loops for their rhythmic precision which helps for instruments that I can't play as well. I do need live playing with them for me to feel the music breathe and have more fluid lines.
I was in Germany when the photos were taken and a friend was staying who was listening to Pat Garrett. He works for the designer who half-runs my label who came and took the photos. I felt the music made sense here and I thought it represented it in essence and mood. I like human music and I’m interested in how humans live and how they work. I like when I hear music and I think, where does this actually come from, with what and why.
My relationship with Australia is mainly through the land, the sea and the trees and the sense of space, the colours and sounds. I feel mainly adrift from the society.
I would love to move to Europe for a period of time and see what comes out of me in a different environment. I feel like new inspiration would be good, new challenges, new culture. I hope to find more opportunities to make music in response to things and to develop and expand my language. I’d also like to get my music heard more broadly because I am finally proud of where I am at.
I would love the opportunity to play in Europe especially but it hasn't happened yet. Hopefully next year.
The first album "Everything's A Love Letter" will be reissued with some remixes in 2008. I hope to travel to Europe in 2008 to stay awhile and record a new album. I will also be creating a soundtrack for an animation with the artist Emma Magenta. I’m hoping for more collaborations and music for film, theatre, dance would also be exciting.
-- Jan-Arne Sohns (19 December, 2007)