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Stephen Mallinder - Interplanetary Beats

Author: Jo Vraca
Thursday, September 13, 2001
Offworld Sounds' Stephen Mallinder laughs as he muses over his early, tumultuous days on tour with Cabaret Voltaire. "I got thrown off the stage by somebody from the audience," he recalls of the band's first gig which landed him in hospital. "They just didn't like what we were doing. It was a racket, it was a real scary racket and people weren't ready for it, they'd never heard it. We did get a few volatile reactions. There were fights at every gig. We were quite mad.

"The first gig we ever did, they told us we could play disco and we said yeah of course we can play disco but when we couldn't they beat us up. We did some of the early punk gigs and we'd get thrown off the bus. We got thrown of the Banshees tour. We were just quite difficult really but not because we set out to be particularly difficult. They were like 'you're just too fucking weird guys, come back in a few years.'"

That was 1974. Brian Eno and Roxy Music had broken through the pop'n'roll du jour and had created a new sound that was astounding the masses while David Bowie illuminated the airwaves with a new brand of pop and the new punk mentality was but a glimmer in Malcolm McLaren's eye. And Cabaret Voltaire was born from a fascination with tape loops and synthesisers that could emulate the post-modern sounds of an industrial age enlightening such artists as New Order and Primal Scream along the way. It was from this "pioneer spirit" that the Cabs formed in Sheffield, England. "We really didn't give a fuck," Mallinder recalls, "so there weren't rules but as technology's done, it's created its own set of rules. The irony is, we used to say in the early days, that you basically don't have to be a musician, your ideas are counted and are the most important thing and how you constructed it and everything like that. And now the adage is that you don't have to be a musician, most probably you have to be an engineer. So what we have is instead of all those musos making music, we have a load of engineers making music. And I'm still a bit of a Luddite; I still try and retain that spirit. I'm up with all the technology but I'm not the best programmer in the world, I'm not the best engineer in the world and I kind of think it needs that a little bit because we have people making music because they can rather than because they should."

Jump forward a few decades and Mallinder has relocated to Australia, in Perth of all places, trying to keep a low profile, hosting a radio show on Perth's RTR, working on independent films and basically becoming a music fan all over again. "I stopped making music and started buying music and that was the other thing, my first impressions of Australia came from the American bias and that sort of thing but the more I came over here, I lost all of the shackles of tribalism that you get, particularly in England where music is very shallow; at that time it was very pop… I felt liberated because I didn't have to answer to anyone. I spent a lot of time writing and listening to music."

But keeping low profile is obviously not the greatest of Mallinder's talents. In 1996, he co-founded Offworld Sounds with Pete Carroll, another Brit ex-pat who also happens to be related to the Happy Mondays' Ryder brothers. The label's first release 'Bibleopoly' by Sassi and Loco (Mallinder and Travis Calley from Yummy Fur) created a stir upon its release in 1997 and remains a highly-acclaimed vision of Australian beats'n'electronica. Yet, Mallinder admits that Sassi and Loco was simply a side project - which could possibly explain why their album, 'Boom Claat', has only just been released after three years of recording. "It was the first thing I did when I came out to Australia. After about ten months I started working on some tracks and again, I didn't go out of my way to start making music. I suppose I've got a very soft spot for Sassi and Loco because it was at a time when I was doing music purely for fun and it wasn't in any context. I had just set<