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SixthSense Talks #6 – Eartheogen

SS: Hey bro, thanks again for joining us. Congrats on the upcoming Tweaked Tiki remix VA, it’s amazing to see so many artists having their own take on some of your best productions. How did the idea behind Tweaked Tiki Remix VA come about ?

EG:Hey bro thanks for having me, and thank you, it’s been a fair while in the making but it’s a great feeling to have it finally all come together. I kind of just started making remix packs of my music a few years back, starting out with ‘Tweaking Tiki’ as that one in particular was requested a fair amount. From there I made a few more, and the remixes trickled in, some other great ones have already been released on other platforms, but at some point last year I put a call out to those who had grabbed the packs, and sent me previews over the years. I also got in touch with Lukey from Universal Tribe Records about getting the ball rolling. We ended up with quite an epic collection of real quality submissions of songs from a few different releases, ‘Tech Tales 6’ on Electric Power Pole Records, ‘Serpent Rising’ and ‘Living Art’ on Zenon Records, and ‘Schumann Resonance’ on Universal Tribe Records, featuring both emerging and established artists from Australia and overseas.

SS: So tell us more about your musical journey. What was the first instrument you learnt to play. Were you always involved with music from a young age ?

EG: Yea music has always played a pretty substantial role in my life. Growing up in a musical family, I started to play guitar at 8 years old, as well as studying it all through school, and then later working in music shops. During high school I was constantly recording my own compositions on a 4 track tape recorder, playing guitar, slapping cooking pots and putting rice into a jar to make a shaker, you know, all that sort of stuff to try and fake the kind of instruments you ideally wanted in your song. I entered competitions through school as a solo performer/songwriter and in bands. I also played in a couple of original bands after school playing in pubs and bars around the South Island of New Zealand. Going back though, when we got our first computer, while I was at primary school, a Commodore Amiga 500 which had a CPU speed of 7MHz, and had been upgraded to 2MB of RAM hahaha. Anyway, there was a program called OctaMED, which was a ‘tracker’ style program mainly used to make music for computer games. But I was using it to make backing tracks for my compositions, using the 4 channels 8bit mono audio tracks it boasted. It was almost like coding a song, google trackers or OctaMED. Tracks took forever to make! Eventually, I started using the same program on our first PC, where I began making electronic music on its 64 channels of pristine 16bit stereo audio… with effects!!!! Since those early days, I’ve always been messing around learning new production skills and trying out different styles. Getting the program Reason and its little bro Rebirth was instrumental in me starting to learn synthesis and modular circuitry. Bear in mind that in those days there were no YouTube tutorials to walk you through, so I’d just move the different knobs and sliders and listen to what it did to the sound. It was so magical and so fun experimenting and making all these wacky sounds! I was hooked.

SS: The sound you create through this Eartheogen project fits in the 1% category of music that is other worldly, and your sound is actually quite unique. As you bring in influences from different musical genres into your melting pot of psychedelic, bush-prog. What drove you to creating the Eartheogen project, and what was your biggest inspirational push to make this special kind of psychedelic dance music ?

EG: As I mentioned before I spent a lot of time over the years messing around with computers and music. Usually just playing around, never expecting anything to come of it really. But there was a defining moment when I found Tom Cosm’s tutorials on YouTube, and then his music. His way of explaining how to make various elements of a song in Ableton, while also encouraging you to try and think of different ways to use the tools you have available to you, whatever DAW you use, was revolutionary for me, and the kick it gave to my production levels and creativity were huge! It was very shortly after finding Tom’s amazing music and tutorials that I coined the alias Eartheogen. Through a play on words, Earth – my connection to, in particular my homeland Aotearoa, and a word used to describe medicines that can be used to facilitate a spiritual experience – Entheogen (translates from greek to – create the divine within).

SS: Over the years, you’ve landed some epic releases on labels that we rinse on the daily. Some ground-breaking releases on Zenon Records, Universal Tribe and even the famous Tech Tales compilations. Which one of your releases was the most rewarding and what is your favourite track?

EG: I think my most rewarding release was my very first EP ‘Schumann Resonance’ through Universal Tribe Records, because it was where my journey as a producer really started to gain momentum. When I moved to Melbourne in 2013 I was itching to get more into music, and I had no idea what it was I was actually going to do as I was still playing more guitar than writing electronic stuff at this stage. But I went to a Universal Tribe gig and started following them, and eventually saw a post saying they were looking for new artists to join the crew. So I got in touch and Lukey seemed to like what he heard, much to my amazement, and the rest is history writing itself really. It’s been such a beautiful, amazing, and wild ride so far, and that EP is where the project became a reality. My favourite track is usually the last one I have written, cause you’re always learning new stuff and upping your game, so ‘Psithurism’ on Bush Foods 3 (Zenon Records) is probably my favourite at the moment. 

SS: Let’s talk shop for a sec. What’s your studio setup like, what are you running. Any modular / semi-modular synths ? Do you incorporate them much in your writing process? What’s your favourite soft synth or plugin. And how do you get your harmonics sounding so lush, almost like Jesus playing a harp on cloud 9.

EG: Yess shop talk!! Haha! I write in Ableton these days and have done for about 10 years now. I have a pretty decent but slowly ageing iMac, a Behringer Neutron semi-modular synth, a Native Instrument Kontrol keyboard controller, a Novation Control XL for mixing and tweaking. As far as the audio interface and monitor, I’m still using my ancient Focusrite Saffire 6 soundcard, and Dynaudio BM5a MKII monitors, as well as AKG K240 and Focal Elear cans. 

My favourite soft synth is Operator in Ableton. Without a doubt it is used multiple times in every song I make, it’s such an underrated beast. As much of a cliche as it is, I use my ears to get my music sounding the way it does. I mean, I use visual tools like frequency analysers etc to get an idea of what’s happening in the frequency ranges that I can hear, specifically in the low end. But mostly I trust my ears. My AKG headphones I have owned for 13-14 years, so even though they are far from the best option out there for reference monitoring, I know the areas that they colour the sound so I can sculpt my sounds to suit.

SS: Along with your epic releases, you’ve also graced some of the biggest festivals that operate within our subculture. Any favourite gigs you can remember and most importantly, any funny moments at festivals you care to share with us?

EG: Locally I’d have to say Earth Frequency Festival in QLD, Twisted Frequency Festival in NZ, Tanglewood Festival in VIC, Indigo Evolution in NSW. Internationally, New Caledonia was really cool with my buddy Arketech. I played a gig in Switzerland a couple of years ago with Sumiruna and Gumnut which was a lot of fun, and of course Momento Demento in Croatia, that shit blew my mind!!! It was without a doubt the most fun and the biggest buzz I’ve ever had on stage. It was amazing and insanely fulfilling to have the opportunity to play to a crowd like that in a place like that. That memory is top shelf <3

SS: How long did you live in New Zealand for, where were you born ?. What was the festival culture like over there when you were living there. What inspired your decision to trek over the ditch and live in Australia?

EG: I lived in Dunedin, New Zealand (where I was born) my whole life until I was 26 when I moved to Australia for the first time. The main reason for jumping the ditch was to see the world. I’d seen a decent amount of the country I’m lucky enough to call home, so I was really curious to discover different places and cultures around the world. Australia is the no brainer starting point due to the fact Kiwis don’t need a visa to live here, and the wage difference meant I could save a lot more money so I could get out and explore the world. 

The festival scene in New Zealand, when I got into it in the late nineties, was huge! Considering the population of the entire country, there was one festival in particular called The Gathering which drew crowds around 12,000!! The Gathering was my entry into larger scale events. It was held up at Cannan Downs on Takaka Hill, which is an absolutely magical part of the world, and had 7 different zones spread scattered amongst the enchanted forests. I found my people, freedom, beautiful joyful souls, all coming together in their unique ways to celebrate life and music and connection. It was life affirming! The smaller parties were also very cool, intimate little gatherings. For me they were usually the ones down in Dunedin where I lived, that were often run by a crew called ‘Eudemony Tribe’. I actually wrote a song a couple of years back called ‘Eudemony’ that drew form my experiences back at those parties. The late 90’s were the years my passion for this scene began, and over the next few years I continued to trek up to Golden Bay area to attend various festivals and doofs, and generally get up to the lush warm surrounds of that part of the country.

SS: Although you live in the land of Oz, I can bet my bottom dollar that you are probably still a die-hard All Black. Were you big on Rugby Union growing up ? If so, any favourite memories as an All Black supporter and who is your favourite All Black?

EG: Hahaha yea I do love my rugby, but more so now that I live in Oz because when you live in NZ it’s very regularly jammed down your throat from every angle, because it is our country’s main sport. I mean I still watched it now and then while I lived in NZ, but now that I’m in Australia it’s a bit of a nostalgic thing to sit down and watch the All Black smash the Wallabies hahaha. My wife Kassi was born in South Africa and is half Australian, so during rugby season we are enemies! I’m not a big fan boy of rugby but if I had to choose a player or two I’d have to go for Jonah Lomu (surprise!) and Christian Cullen. Both players could usually beat the first couple of players they encountered

SS: Iso has had a lot of us creating more. Has this been the same for you.

EG: Bro! It’s been a rollercoaster, as I’m sure it’s been for so many people! I’ve been lucky enough to still have some work throughout this so far, which has kept me fairly sane for most of it. I’ve definitely had my moments where it all just became a bit much, but for the most part, I’ve found this time quite uninspiring. I draw on experience to inspire my music, and with so much stuff happening this year worldwide, and not much happening personally it’s been really hard for me to get into that zone where you just channel the flow and things come out of your subconscious and materialise as sonic journeys. The good news is I’ve lately been having some good sessions in the studio again. Sometimes not even trying to make music, but just staying in touch with that feeling of wonder through creation that captured me all those years ago.

SS: Any big plans in the near future for Eartheogen ? What can we expect from you over the next 12 months.

EG: I’m working away slowly on various projects with a few different artists, as well as my own things. Some of the proggy, techy, psychedelic stuff most people know me for, I’m also making a forest track for a new Aussie forest label called Arcaciac Records that Pspiralife is in the process of launching, and some mid/down tempo cruiser stuff too hahaha, fingers in all the pies! 

Other than that I’m just really really REALLY keen to get back out into the bush with everyone and stomp out all the tension that this crazy year has given us, I need it!!!

Thanks for your time Phil. We love you and we cannot wait to host you again at one of our parties.

Absolutely my pleasure man, I can’t wait for that time too!! Thanks so much, Jed and everyone out there for your support over the years, it’s the experiences I have meeting and getting to know everyone through these parties, that are a lot of my life’s favorite moments. Till the next one, mad love.