Talking Fringe with the Filthy Children Collective

Canecutter and Ilki performing as part of the Filthy Children Collective. Photo by Kynan Peru-Watt

It’s that time of year again – Sydney is once more gripped by Fringe Festival Fever. From the sweltering sands of the Northern Beaches to the winding alleys of the Inner West, men, women and children of all ages are erupting into spontaneous explosions of poetry and song, swept away by the freaky wave. Even I was not immune from the fever; after three days of deep sweats and delirium, I stirred from my bed with but one mission – to get in on the action. But how? What was to be my in?

It was at this point that I remembered my Close and Personal association with the fine lads from the Filthy Children Collective. ‘You confounded goose!’ I said to myself, ‘FilChil is playing Freda’s in Chippendale this Saturday the 13th of September as part of the Fringe Festival!’ With that I was off, pedal to the metal in my trusted Camry, desperately searching for those elusive electronic musicians from Sydney’s Inner West, so that I might turn them upside down and feast on the information that dribbled out. It took some sleuthing, but I was eventually able to track down Martin Peploe (Kuwait Paragraphic) and Jesse Ledesma (Paper Galaxy), although I was denied any artist inversion and had to settle for an interview instead. They relayed to me their thoughts on the Fringe, live electronic music and beyond, as well as a choice selection of other artists’ tracks as picked by the collective as a whole.

Firstly, what experience do you want people to come away from the Fringe gig with?

Martin: Have fun, play some’s just a party, and as far as I’m concerned that’s what it should be. [It’s] a party extravaganza thing, but [the festival organisers] want an art installation...It was all put together pretty quickly, [but] everyone’s pretty on board with it, and that’s all it really needs for people to have a good time.

Jesse: Just hearing something a bit unusual...hearing some fringe music.

The stereotypical image of electronic musicians is often of a sole person in their room working obsessively, whereas a collective is the opposite – a big group-mind kind of thing – what are the pluses and minuses of working in a collective?

M: People think of electronic music as people sitting at home on their computers [and] that’s how we organise as well. We were talking [recently] and someone was saying ‘it’s annoying sometimes, working through Facebook,’ and it was like yeah, [but] we didn’t really have anything like that back in the ‘90s or anything – so it would have been harder then. We kind of take it for granted, I guess. It doesn’t take that much to just check the group and make sure everyone’s on board with things, and communicate and stuff like that – and people do.

The other thing is that at the end of the day we’re pretty relaxed about stuff; it doesn’t feel like work or a job and sometimes it’s hard balancing that and organising stuff as well, because everyone’s busy with other things.

J: I think [when] organising through the internet, there’s a certain communication barrier you face. I imagine collectives were built out of small communities of people possibly living [or working] in the same space

Another stereotype is that when playing live, electronic musicians just rock up with their laptop and press spacebar, but I’ve seen firsthand that that’s not the case. What’s the preparation aspect of live electronic music?

J: I think with live electronic music you build your own instrument, and for some people that’s a very basic instrument. So you build a spacebar, for example. But that’s not to say it’s a simple thing because you’re still building the template; you build the song and then you present the song. So in a way it’s not like a live performance; it’s more like a presentation or an exhibition. But then you have the actual playing part of it, which is something that the musician has to build up themselves.

For me personally [there was a time when] I was just doing that. I was just pressing play, and putting a lot of effort into pre-planning the gig, which I still think is valid but not as fun. It’s not as engaging for the audience I think, and it’s not as engaging for myself, but it’s just a new way to make music

M: Absolutely, there’s no right or’s about what people prefer. And recently [we] both decided ...that we’d prefer to do something a bit more live. And it’ll be mad because you can record it every time and just have these mixes of unique stuff that will never happen again, because you’ll never hit the same thing twice or have the same kind of parameter in the same position.

Or you’re vibing off a room

M: Yeah absolutely. So I’m looking forward to doing that...because making a new live set, you can save off a new version and go ‘I’m gonna have different drums on this one’ [and] all of a sudden you’ve got a new live set. That’s a really basic example, but I’ve found it really easy to stitch together new stuff to play live out of stuff we’ve recorded. Just hours and hours of jamming, and getting all sorts of sounds out of things, and making loops out of them and turning them into instruments and things like that. We’ve got a lot of material to work with and there’s no excuse not to do it now we’ve got the technology.

I think in the future, at least for me... the studio tracks will come out of the live stuff and those kind of ideas. Because you might hit upon something and go ‘I can definitely see that being fleshed out into a song’...or it fits an aesthetic that I’m going for...and it’s really exciting, all the possibilities with that.

J: I’m definitely more interested in incorporating spontaneity into the live experience, and that includes mistakes, triumphs and failures. I think there’s not enough of that in electronic music, because it’s such a premeditated kind of art form when you’re presenting it to people. I find there’s a real disconnect when it comes to performer and audience because the audience isn’t necessarily going on a journey with the performer.

To what extent do you think that you work to give the casual punter a ‘way in’ to experimental music?

J: I don’t see too much of a difference between me and a casual punter, so I feel like whatever I can kind of hold onto and enjoy, people are gonna enjoy a little bit, at the very least.

M: As musicians we listen to a lot of music that we like to think is entertaining, and we like to think that filters through into what we do. I think most people’s baseline is to enjoy things. It’s not that often that you go out and see something and think ‘that was completely shit’. With that in mind, I don’t really care. You whatever and I’ve found that [even if] sometimes you’ll clear that floor, [some] people stick around, then they’ll come up after and be like ‘that was really good’.

[So the ones who stay] really enjoy it. It’s just that I don’t really have much perception of the vibe of the room or anything, and I can’t really tailor my set to I just go up and play songs. I’ve never had a bad experience with it.

J: But I think that vibing out on the room is something that the DJ has brought to live performance; because DJs have just these arsenals of music, they don’t necessarily have a style themselves but they [can] cater to a room. I feel like that’s a skill that has been incorporated into music recently, because before that bands would only play [what they can remember]. So in that sense, finding a middle ground between...feeling the room but not just letting [the room dictate it entirely] which is a very hard line I think; a very fine line.

Finally, this is the cliché question, the live music in Sydney question. What has your experience been in the time that you’ve been going to gigs in Sydney? Is it a big part of your life?

J: It’s not a big part...

M: I’m the same, and I think we both understand the irony of that. But also I think we’re just more into making music, and performing for other people that want to consume it and check it out. And other musicians at the same gigs as well. That’s the other cool thing, you’ll play gigs on nights when other musicians are playing, and that’s how you meet people, that’s how you check out what other people are up to. So there’s a cool scene in that sense. I think that’s really thriving at the moment.

The Filthy Children Collective performs at Freda’s in Chippendale this Saturday the 13th. They can be found on Facebook here.