Parralox are pop duo Amii Jackson and John von Ahlen.
December 2012 sees the long-awaited new international digital single release of « Sharper Than A Knife » by hot new Australian electronic pop duo Parralox which will be available worldwide on all iTunes stores.
After their recent performances at the Poptronik Festival in Spain and Electronic Summer in Sweden, Parralox finishes out the year with a bang as « Sharper Than A Knife » goes global with a set of remixes to suit any particular flavor of dance music.
Hello Parralox, What goes on?
It’s a lovely sunny, sunday afternoon in Melbourne and I’ve spent the first half of the day celebrating the 2nd birthday of my lovely dog Jack! There’s a Japanese restaurant next to the recording studio (Yamato) and the owner has 2 children who totally adore Jack, so we had a little party for him with cake and candles. After that little bit of excitement I was back in the studio, working on music, web stuff and some video editing. I don’t take days off. Music is a full time job/passion 🙂
Tell us about the new single called ‘Sharper Than A Knife’.
Well, it’s a track originally from our first album (Electricity). Our previous management decided to release Creep and then Sharper Than A Knife as he considered them our strongest tracks at the time. A lot of fans have been curious why we would revisit the past and release these tracks, and I guess the idea was to « relaunch » the band to the public at large, who had never heard of us before. So for our current fans it’s probably not the most exciting time in regards to hearding new Parralox music, although the new mixes are brilliant and the new video clip will be a lot of fun. We actually produced FIVE video clips for Sharper Than A Knife, which has to be some sort of insane record. You will get to see them all at some stage.
What is the meaning behind the title, ‘Sharper Than A Knife’?
That song came to me in a dream. This will sound very obvious, and I guess it is really, but I was listening to « The Knife » the night before and I thought it would be good to write a song with the word « Knife » in the lyric, because it sounds cool and I love that band. I think there was also some stuff going on in my life on a personal level that manifested itself in the lyric. I wasn’t in a relationship but the idea of not accepting someone for who they are, and wishing they were something else, was very relevant for me at the time. That’s the beauty of the subconscious, it can turn you into a songwriter without even knowing it.
On the EP tracklist there is one track by Pete Hammond, were you fans of his work for Stock Aitken & Waterman?
Were, and still are. Most people who know me, know that I am a bit of an 80’s tragic. I still listen to a lot of music from that period, and that naturally includes SAW. It’s far too easy to bag them as crap producers and songwriters, but the facts speak for themselves. That team had a string of hits for many years, and they were innovators quite frankly. Sure, their music wasn’t for everyone, but what they did they did well.
Moreover if you had to make a cover of one of Stock Aitken &Waterman’s titles, which one would you pick? I know this is a difficult choice. (But I wish Parralox could make a cover of a track by SAW).
I guess I’d have to choose one of my top 3 SAW songs, namely I Don’t Believe In Miracles (Sinitta), What Do I Have To Do (Kylie) or Love, Truth & Honesty (Bananarama). To be honest, there are at least another 10 songs that I could pick. As far as getting your wish, we recorded one of those tracks last year (not telling which one though!)
You covered ‘Creep’ . Why did you choose this song?
Creep was actually a last minute addition to our debut album Electricity. I thought I’d whip up something quickly and tried to think of the most guitar based song I could, which I would then convert to synthetic. I’d recently watched South Park and was reminded of Creep (from one of my all time favourite episodes « Scott Tenorman must die ») and remembered what a brilliant, emotional song it was. I thought it would be the perfect song to convert to « digital », so to speak. Most people love it or hate it. I know we had some trouble getting it on UK radio, as the original track is almost an institution and it’s almost blasphemy to do a cover version. When I recorded it, it was just supposed to be a fun, bonus track on our album. I never thought it would be a lead single 3 years later!
Your previous album is already two years old, have you been working on a new one?
Yes, Parralox never stopped recording new songs. I personally felt very frustrated at having to re-release the old songs and basically stop releasing new material. We’d been releasing a new album once a year and then all of a sudden it just stops. But I kept on writing and recording, and eventually created a side project called The Sound Of the Crowd, in order to release all these Parralox songs I’d written. Some of the tracks were a little dark, or not the right « fit » for Parralox, so it worked out nicely.
We already have an album full of cover versions ready to be released, and enough tracks for a new album too. But there won’t be any sign of a new album for at least another 6 months. I’m pushing to get the cover versions released ASAP.
When creating songs, do you go into the studio with pre-written lyrics and themes, or do you create the music first? What is the creative process like?
Like all creative processes, it varies. Some of my songs come to me in my dreams, and I force myself awake and record the melody into my phone, which is always by my side when I sleep for that very purpose. As for creating songs while I’m awake, it all boils down to inspiration. Where the inspiration comes from is another story. And who knows WHERE inspiration comes from? I find myself agreeing a lot with what David Lynch has to say on the subject of creativity and inspiration. It’s like some magical source of ideas that channel themselves into you, and you have to be in the right place and time to catch it and interpret it. Sometimes it can be something as simple as a title to inspire a song. Or a book I’ve read (Caves Of Steel inspired me to write How Do You Break A Robot’s Heart?). Sometimes I’ll hear a sound on a synth, or a riff and I know myself well enough to know that I can take that little flame and turn it into a full blown song.
What song took you the longest to do? Why?
I guess it’s the one Parralox song that I am still working on to this very day. It has a totally killer chord structure and melody, but I still havent found the right lyrics to do justice to the song. It’s probably the best song I haven’t written yet! 😉 It’s been in the studio for nearly 2 years now. I’m working with another vocalist who might be able to do something with it (Andy Bell from Erasure). As far as an officially released song is concerned, that would have to be « Universe, I Love You ». Again, I had a melody and chord structure I was very happy with, but not the lyrical content to complete the picture. I think I’d just watched some documentary on the creation of the universe and I had the idea of the universe as conscious entity talking to itself. What I mean is that we, as conscious beings composed of star stuff, are essentially one component of the universe with the attributes of self awareness. And I thought of the dialogue that the universe might have with itself, and I just had this vision of this surging, positive energy which ended up being the lyrical narrative of the song.
The shortest? Why?
Most Parralox tracks are written and recorded in a day. There have been times when Roxy or Amy would arrive at the studio and I’d ask them to wait in the lounge and have a cup of tea while I finish writing some lyrics etc for a song I’d started that morning. Then we’d have the vocal session, I’d edit the vocals, do a mix and bam! Song done. I’ve learnt that the immediacy in that sort of process is great, because you really can capture lightning in a bottle. I’m a quick worker in the studio. Left to my own devices I can start with nothing in the morning and have a complete song by evening. I just freak out sometimes when I look at my body of work and think « how the hell did I do that? »
Parralox is signed to the Conzoom Records label. How did you get involved with them? How are they different from other labels?
I’ve known Ingo from conzoom for many years. I think I originally met when he was running a German webzine and he interviewed me when I was in my previous band The Tenth Stage. I then met him in London in 2008 when we saw the Yazoo Reconnected tour. When he started his record label, it was a natural progression for us to sign, because we both got along so well. And the fact that he was passionate about releasing CDs was the real clincher. I know we are living in a digital world, but I’m just not ready to let go of the physical aspect of music. The older readers will know about the joys of casettes and vinyl records. Sadly, this experience will never be felt by the younger readers, unless they have a time machine I don’t know about.
How do you think electronic music has evolved throughout the years?
It’s turned from quirky, nerdy, thrilling and obscure into complete mind numbing boredom rubbish in just under 4 decades! Back in the 50’s there was no « electronic music » as such, although there was musique conrete and there were obviously pioneers like Leon Theremin, Louis and Bebe Barron, Henri Pousseur, Robert Moog, Edgard Varèse and Delia Derbyshire to name a few. Once synthesizers entered the landscape everyone freaked out and thought they would put all musicians out of a job. Apparently you could press a button and a synthesizer would write a song and create all the music and make 50 musicians redundant. Initially it was inconcievable that synthesizers and computers would be able to create entire compositions, but we’ve all heard of Kraftwerk right? Then it was inconcievable that synths and computers could become part of the mainstream music process. Martin Rushent speculated in the 80s that one day « music might be made entirely using nothing but computers ». Not sure if I quoted correctly, but at that time it was such a new and emerging technology, not many people could foresee that this technology would advance so far and enter the mainstream and become a standard part of our workflow.
It’s not all bleak though. Thanks to all the above we found some truly innovative bands had formed, and I don’t need to mention their names, because we all know who they are and what they did for electronic music.
Electronic music USED to be electronic music, at least pre-90’s. Once technology caught up, the equipment became so sophisticated that you can now create any musical style using nothing but « electronics ». Most people will listen to songs on the radio and have no idea that not one guitar, drum or « real » instrument was used to make all the sounds. And at the end of the day it really doesn’t matter at all. As long as people are being creative and making they music that they love, that’s what counts.
What do you think music industry, in general, needs these days?
I could complain about all the things that are wrong with the music industry, and more specifically, the TV/Entertainment industry, but it would be pointless. I’m disappointed to see shows like Idol and X-factor on TV, not that I actually watch them at all (I stopped watching TV years ago). But it seems that the « music » is becoming less important than the « fame ». Those shows all look a little nasty and superficial to me, but that’s the world we are living in now. Clearly not everyone feels the same way, and thankfully musical tastes and styles are so varied there is room for everyone. I could complain about the decline of CD and vinyl, but I myself am guilty of riding the wave of new technology. As I’ve said in other interviews, the internet has been the best, and worst, thing to happen to the music industry. Prior to the emergence of the internet you had no option but to be signed to a major/indy record label, but now anyone can make some noise and post it to soundcloud.
I suppose if I had to pinpoint one thing, it would be that it’s sad to see the decline of the true A&R role. Long gone are the days when a label would sign an artist and foster their development and growth. Nowadays the labels want the band ready to step onto the worldstage, having done the hard yards. And I can understand that, given today’s focus on cost effectiveness. You only need to look at Kate Bush’s history to know exactly what I’m talking about.
Word association time. When I say a name, you say the first word that pops in your head. Okay?
– West End Girls – Awesome
– MDNA – Unfocused
– Kylie – Focused
– The Nineties – Bucketheads
– Paris – Pierre et Gilles
Any closing words for TEEZ’FM listeners?
Life is short and precious, so make the most of it. Don’t waste a single day, be as productive as possible, and be kind to your fellow humans and animals
Thanks to Parralox
Interview by Thierry Jaussaud / (Trad : Valencia Ehrhart)