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Zen Paradox (Steve Law)

Author: Andrez
Sunday, January 1, 1995
Mention the name Zen Paradox and you'll more than likely draw a hint of recognition - not only here in Melbourne where he's produced tracks for almost all the underground techno labels over the past five years, but in other Australian cities and especially across Europe and America. Steve Law is the man behind the project, and while he may be one of the Melbourne's quiet achievers he lets his music speak for itself and that continues to resound around the world.

I couldn't resist naming this article after the Jim Jarmusch film of the same title, because I have this theory that techno music producers and DJ's strongly resemble many of their counterparts in the film industry both in application and personality. Just as a friend recently dubbed me the Jean-Luc Godard of DJing (probably because of all the accidental jump-cuts/starts rather than artistic endeavours), you could easily see Steve Law filling the shoes of Jim Jarmusch - a respected contemporary director who's at various stages ingenious, a perfectionist, and ethereal in his technique. Don't ask me where Voiteck and Honeysmack fit into this equation, but I think you get the gist.

More to the point, Steve's passage through into this rather enviable position hasn't been an overnight effort, let alone something he's achieved in the past twelve months. After fiddling with tape loops and the abstract sounds of kitchen utensils he eventually bought his first piece of analogue equipment 14 years ago, and after a long-winded apprenticeship with electronic and experimental music - dabbling with a show on PBS-FM and performing with industrial-techno band Foil - Steve established his solo Zen Paradox project in 1992. A quick succession of albums followed, first through local label Psy-Harmonics then Belgian label Nova Zembla, and three successful European tours. While it may seem a long haul, this effort has installed Steve Law as one of the most respected and cutting edge techno producers at work in this country.

It would be interesting to know what motivates this man to continue with various forms of music that have yet to break through to the mainstream in Australia - if ever his own music really will. "I've just loved electronic music since I was very young. It's an obsession. It's a release of creativity as well and just a general emotional release for me - and I still feel it has a long way to go yet!"

The inspired workload continues, as Steve goes on to explain: "I've been working on the new Zen Paradox album for awhile; its probably going to be called 'Legal Alien'." I can't resist asking why. "Probably because I feel like an alien sometimes," he quips. "It's also the isolation thing, I guess. The album is a progression on from my last album 'Catharsis' but it also carries through some similar themes I guess - some of the housey rhythms that I introduced last time are still there but worked through in another way, and it's a little more minimal but still textured. The acid side of things has totally disappeared now; I'm a bit tired of that sound. I still use the 303, but in different ways that are a little more quirky."

Aliases and collaborations are something Steve seems keen to explore. He's worked with Voiteck as the Sonic Voyagers, with Andrew Orion as Starseed Transmission, and more recently alongside Mai-Linh Cleary and Sayaka Yabuki; independently his aliases have included Mutagenic Mind and Mr Suspicious - which is set for a release through Azwan Transmissions. "It's a new project I'm working on, and the EP should be out shortly and it's called 'Sensual Pulse'. The Mr Suspicious sound is definitely more oriented towards a funky, housey groove while Zen Paradox is more experimental and with a darker hue over it."

While some artists simply switch on the DAT recorder and lay down a track within a matter of minutes, the Steve Law approach is a lot more methodical and can take days on end. He agrees that he's a bit of a perfecti