TF Archives

Paul Mac interview

Author: Andrew James
Friday, October 21, 2005

In musical terms it's rare to see anyone come full circle, plumbing the depths of the underground and also shining through to mainstream success. Usually it's inherently difficult, due to different audiences having different tastes. But not so for Paul Mac, the producer who's been a part of the Australian electronic scene since very early days. To techno boffins he's best known for his work in seminal tech group Itch-E And Scratch-E, scoring their most prominent hit with the shimmering Sweetness and Light. To rock fans, he's one half of Daniel Johns' side project The Dissociatives. To pop fans, he's just the guy behind hits like The Sound Of Breaking Up and Just The Thing. So who is the real Paul- We set out to discover…

Since the success of his 2001 album '3000 Feet High', Paul's been busy working on The Dissociatives, recording an album and touring in support of it around the globe. But he's back with a new solo album, 'Panic Room', set for release in the near future. Moving from his Blue Mountains workspace, he set up a Sydney studio that was soundproof and boasted surveillance cameras (hence 'Panic Room'). So, now the work's done, surely publicising the album through interviews is what he enjoys, right- "Oh, it's exactly the opposite. I find the fun time's in the studio and this is the work time when you've gotta talk about it."

Oh, so he finds it hard- "Yeah, I mean I don't like to, it's like everything is in the music. I mean it's all about the mood and it's all about the lyrics and it's all about the sound of it. And talking about it tends to narrow it down rather than open it up, I think. I mean occasionally there's stories about the creation of it that people wouldn't have known had they not read about it, and that can shed new light on some of the ways that things happen and the singers and how stuff came into being."

Paul wrote a track by track rundown of 'Panic Room', explaining the creation of the songs, which accompanies advance copies. It seems like every second song was created in another place, be it Amsterdam, New York, whatever. It makes it seem like a very international project. "Um, I mean most of it was done at home. I think it was more just having the time and I s'pose I was traveling a bit, doing The Dissociatives and doing other stuff. And that was really to cool to break out of the headset, 'cause I think after the last record, I was quite like, 'fuck, how am I gonna follow this up-' It was really like that because I'd had quite a long period of doing weirdo underground techno with Itch-E And Scratch-E and stuff like that and remixes and shit. Suddenly you do an album and it crosses over and you think, 'fuck, now what- Will I ever come up with Just the Thing again-'

So initially I did panic a bit. I went over to London and did some co-writing with some people and had a bunch of songs but at the same time I also did The Dissociatives while I was over there. And when I got home it was like, 'Oh, this stuff sucks! I would never listen to this album and none of my friends would' and that became the benchmark, you know- And I threw away all of those songs except for a couple I really liked. Then I think the best thing about The Dissociatives was that it gave me the confidence to do whatever it is that I do and that's when the more moody stuff started coming out. And all the songs that I most prefer on the album are the ones towards the back where I think it gets more emotionally interesting."

That's true, the last few tracks all seem to deal with love and loss. "Yeah [laughs]. I'm starting to paint myself as this relationship expert which I so aren't, but I do tend to write from that space. For instance the Luke Steele [of Sleepy Jackson fame] song is an incredibly personal song. My father died and I wrote that<