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Frontside

Author: Ben Shepherd
Sunday, 1 January 1995
"It's really been like a two year project, but the last few tracks on it are only a couple of months old," says Frontside member Chris Arkley-Smith. 'It' is the debut long player from the Melbourne protagonists, who have caused quite a stir with their first two singles, Dammerung and LBP, and 'they' are Frontside, whose new album is ready to take the world by storm. And in this case the world is an appropriate term, the album has been licensed to TVT records, and will be sitting atop record store shelves in Canada, Mexico, and most importantly America. Europe is a mere formality.

Yet don't expect the frantic breakbeat action of recent single LBP to be an accurate reflection of the rest of the album, nor the ethereal and hypnotic Mind Distortion. It travels along like a ship, sailing calm waters one minute, only to be shaking and restless the next, floating aimlessly atop a current of acidic 303 mayhem. The consistency lies in the fact that there is no consistency. Their agenda is that they have no agenda. In a strange way this is quite comforting, and the album takes shape more or less like a live set. Or does it- "Our live set is more techno than the album. The album is quite diverse whereas our live set is usually quite a bit harder." With that said a listen to the album shows quite a distinct approach to production. You can tell production techniques and more importantly, boundaries, are being pushed in the studio. They don't even use a real 303, but still manage to come up with that bubble and squeak sound that is so pleasing to the ear. "On the album there is not actually a real 303. Some of the really hard 303 in LBP and Mind Distortion is done on a synth known as the Prophecy."

This innovation appealed to the national youth broadcaster, Triple J, who added the pairs triumphant and majestic debut Dammerung to high rotation, which ensured a healthy buzz in anticipation of the album. Even a certain bread manufacturer used Frontside in an advertisement directed purely at the teen market. They were a toothy, pimply, young chaps favourite band. Such publicity must have placed enormous pressure on the group to perform- "Basically a lot of the album was written before Sasha got onto Dammerung and JJJ got onto it. We really like the album and its basically how we want it and we did actually chuck songs off because we had too many. But we didn't really feel any pressure, as in 'this has gotta be good' because we were already pleased with it." Funnily enough, the majority of the album was recorded before a record deal appeared. Financial constraints must have played a problem, Arkley Smith explains "The setup has changed over the last couple of years because we have got some money, basically(on the album) we pushed everything we had until we couldn't push it any further and then we bought something new. The equipment we've got, we really pushed to its limits."

Both members of Frontside, Arkley-Smith and Scott Simon emerged out of the mid 80's ska and hardcore scene. This guitar based background has managed to help them in the studio. "Scott is a guitarist, with Dammerung he actually wrote the melody on guitar some time ago with no electronic stuff around. Scott started off as a guitarist and there's always guitars lying around the studio and sometimes it is easier to work out melodies on guitar rather than keyboard." I can't imagine Scott belting out a nasty 303 solo on his guitar, and neither can Chris when asked this question. "No," he replies quickly, "not really, the 303 stuff is very mechanical and its quite easy to sequence those lines. Any complex kind of melody Scott likes to fiddle about on guitar, that's his thing."

After discovering the dance scene, Scott and Chris gradually moved away from eachother. Chris concentrated on producing in the earlier part of the 90's, whilst Scott moved to Frankfurt and began Djing under the alias of Scott 23 in various underground clubs around Germany. The pair were linked

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