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Sugar's Bionic Wonderland

Author: Katie Elles
Monday, 4 August 2003
Widely regarded as Australia's leading live psy-trance artist, Sugar (aka Felix Hamer) is famous for captivating audiences at some of Melbourne's most renowned outdoor parties and raves. Over the last decade, his explosive sets have detonated on stages at Every Picture Tells A Story, Kryal Castle, Cyber Trek, Aurora, and Brunswick Street Festival, Reclaim the Streets and Green Ant Full Moon parties.

This week, Sugar is set to blow the Kinetik crew's collective consciousness with a taste of his second album 'Bionic Wonderland.' This latest release features eleven tracks including trance anthem 'Indigo Bongo,' the smooth sounds of 'Waterfront' and the cranking bass lines of 'Inflight.'

"I spent around eighteen months making the album with a year full-on of it," says Sugar. "Except when I was doing work on Rainbow [Green Ant's Rainbow Serpent Festival], which took a couple of months."

As a member of the Green Ant collective, Sugar is part of a tribe of DJs, musicians, artists, producers and promoters who all share the same vision: 'to create spiritually empowering rituals that awaken the spirit, mind and body.' This pursuit has resulted in a seven-year collaboration that still sees the crew organising successful psy- trance, outdoor bush parties - although Sugar concedes things have changed considerably since the early days.

"The parties got bigger and now they've gotten smaller again. We had a bit of a boom around the millennium and there were more parties back then - they were smaller ones but there were definitely more of them." So, why does he think the scene has slowed down-

"People lost too much money and it became too hard to cover the cost of putting on a warehouse party. You've got to bring every single thing in and it's more inner city living now so, there's less warehouses for people to get."

Through the production of Green Ant events, Sugar and cohorts Krusty and Frank Venuto saw the need for a respected outlet to release their own and other artists' creations within the emerging trance scene. In response, they established the Green Ant dance label in 1997 by drawing upon their own talents and resources of the underground community.

Since then, the label has released a number of successful albums including the 'The Trance Journey' and 'Ambi-Ant Beatz' series. Tekno Renegade Magazine's December 1999/January 2000 issue voted his track 'Tuff Cookee' as the number one single for 1999 and Green Ant's 'Earth Breed' placed in the top three albums.

As co-owner & studio engineer for the Green Ant label, Sugar has overseen the release of nine CDs to date, and aside from his solo alias, he also works in the studio alongside others including Krusty and Marianella as 'The House of Pagan Christians' and Frank Venuto as 'Tshinta.'

With a production career spanning over sixteen years, Sugar started making tunes at high school but admits, "It wasn't very good back then, actually it was probably pretty crap but you have to start somewhere."

"I started getting interested in synthesizers at around twelve when I got my first electronic keyboard, although I had played keyboard before. Then I got my first electronic synth when I was fifteen and my first drum machine when I was sixteen."

"I was attracted to the sound of the synthesiser early on and heard it in the movies of the day like 'Bladerunner' and 'Midnight Express.' 'Gallipoli' used a piece of music by a French dude which was quite pioneering in the 1970's and after listening to that I thought that's what I want to do."

When asked to comment on some of the major changes he witnessed over the years Sugar immediately responds by saying "the computer." He sees the introduction of the computer as having a monumental impact on the world of music production, describing it as "the be all an end all in the studio these days."

Sugar will start making new tunes for the summer season (on his computer no doubt) in a couple of months. For now, he is bus