Monday, December 21, 2009

Muscles interview (2009)

Many of dance music’s greatest forerunners are, let’s face it, more your skinny geeky-types. We think of lads happy to noodle away behind banks of sequences, hiding their fragile frames ala Fatboy Slim and Chemical Brothers. Yet in 2007, it was Muscles that was on everyone’s lips when the subject of hot new dance acts came up. The one-man producer/songwriter wiz Muscles, that is. Melbourne’s Chris Copolus (as they call him at home) and his debut album Guns Babes Lemonade – a meaty and moody set of filthy dance selections – rode the pig all through the summer of that year well into 2008, backed up by the hit single Ice Cream. Now after a low key year well spent mixing some new flavours, he’s getting ready to mount that hog again and show the weak how to win over a crowd at any worthwhile dance festival going this summer. 

“I like to go for a bike ride three times a week, but that’s all I really do to keep in any kind of shape.” Muscles tells me from his Melbourne home, when very briefly the subject of discipline and physical fitness comes up. “I’m pretty disciplined in terms of work, so when I’m not writing songs I’m looking up bands mySpace’s and stuff, because when I’m doing shows or festivals I like to know what the support acts are about.”

Working within such a fickle scene as what the dance one is, how willing would he be to alter his sound depending on what’s popular? “Not at all, really I mean, my first album wasn’t really that club/DJ friendly anyway, I see myself as more of a songwriter than a guy who just churns out tracks styled and ready for the clubs only to be forgotten in three months.” He continues, “I think the American Indie scene can be just as fickle, and maybe the UK, but I like Australia because I think we bank the best of everything from overseas.” Muscles has spent most of the year working towards the follow up to Guns Babes Lemonade. His approach has been to take his time after the rush of the debut, “In 2008 I stopped touring the last album and I’ve since built up a kind of work schedule for myself, writing and experimenting with new sounds and trying to get an album together where every song is completely different from the last. I’ve also been learning the guitar just to add a little background texture to the songs. I’m still at learning stage, but I wanna get really good, so I practice everyday.”

After such a massive debut and year of touring, I wonder how much has life changed for the country raised Victorian? “I have been doing some growing up in the last year and playing so many shows I think I’ve become a better singer as well.” He explains; “I’m doing more harmonising and getting better at writing melody now, which is something I didn’t really feel confident in doing on the first album.” He continues, “Although I feel like this new album is going to be a more mature one, at the same time I feel like I’m growing more immature as I get older, like I’m learning to be more playful and relaxed.” He laughs. “I’m 25 years old now, and I want to still be doing this for a long time yet. When the first album came out and I realised after how fast the time went, I decided to slow it down and enjoy the work and try to grow as an artist.”

Big success on a debut album can be a killer, so how does Muscles see his chance at living up to the rush of that first album? “Well I’m definitely a long term planner, so yeah I can see myself making music for a long time yet.” On the subject of totally moving away from the dance music field, he says; “I would only go that way if the songs were still memorable and I wasn’t alienating my audience. So at the moment I don’t want to stray too far from what I do as Muscles.”

Apart from preparing a new album due mid 2010, Muscles has embarked on DJing as new side project for the off-time between tours. As a career move though, he’s not convinced of the benefits; “The best thing about DJing is there’s no soundchecks or equipment you have to drag through the airport you just pack a bag and get on the plane, go to the venue have a few drinks and play a few tunes but singing live I compare to playing a game of soccer I guess. I’m exhorting lot more energy on stage and the buzz is so much greater. You can’t compare the two when it comes to the feeling you get.” A Muscles DJ setlist could incorporate anything from Daft Punk to ‘70s disco. He enjoys giving a nod to the his forgoers in dance, and when it comes to a little homage, he explains he pays his dues to the masters; “There are occasional references in my own work to old songs people might not pick up on, like Ice Cream for example, which went “Ice Cream’s gonna save the day again” and just by adding the word ‘again’ I was making a little reference to Joy Division, Love Will Tear Us Apart. They’re obviously not anything alike musically, and I wasn’t making any comment about that song, but it was there in the back of my mind.” He adds, somewhat self-effacingly of his tear-away hit single; “Ice Cream felt like a bit of a fluke in that nobody could really figure out why everyone liked it so much, so with the second album I think it’ll be tricky picking a first single and working out what will be popular because I really didn’t know what people would make of me the first time around.”

Over the summer season, Muscles is on the bill for three major dance events in Melbourne including one on New Years Eve during which time he plans to test some new songs out live, but what in hindsight is his greatest live gig to date? “I’m banned from playing The Forum in Sydney.” He states triumphantly, “I went to do another tour and was going to play The Forum again but the promoter said no, it was too crazy last time. The fans went absolutely crazy and, I dunno maybe something got damaged or the noise was too much, but whatever it was they didn’t want a repeat of it.” He laughs.


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