A beginner’s guide to the Melbourne sound with Will Sparks

A couple of weeks back, Ministry of Sound announced their latest compilation. This Is…Melbourne Bangers pledged to “bring clubbers a refreshing slant on electro; packed with soaring filthy bass lines, bottom heavy DF fillers and hard-hitting rhythms”. In other words, the compilation picked up where previous MOS releases left off: tapping into the sound of the moment just as it’s blowing up. In 2011, it was dubstep. Earlier this year, it was trap. Now, it’s Melbourne-made bangers.

They’re clearly onto something. Last week, high-flying Dutchman Laidback Luke name-checked the ‘Melbourne sound’, as it’s been dubbed, in a Huffington Post column written from his home halfway across the world. “I’ve been supporting the Melbourne sound at the moment and even trying to produce it,” he wrote. “Globally, it’s a new and fresh sound that I see as a little brother of the Dutch sound and a nice new challenge to me!” While the sound’s been making waves overseas, it’s a 20-year-old guy from Melbourne who’s been the focal point of the divisive movement. Right now, Will Sparks – who’s track Ah Yeah! recently soared all the way to the #3 spot on the Beatport overall charts – is sitting on about 47,000 eager Facebook fans. That is, for reference, almost double what the now-platinum selling Flume had when he released his self-titled album.

So with the genre getting bigger by the day, we got the man at the centre of it all to talk us through what, exactly, the Melbourne sound is. Over to you, Will…

For the beginners…what is the ‘Melbourne Sound’?

“It’s kind of like slowed-down psy-trance in terms of structure, also with electro and – if you want – dubby sounds in it. It’s also very ‘Dutch-y’. Everyone who writes Melbourne music is different from one another. For example, I’m trying to put in progressive house and breaks sounds as well as vocals. There’s so much you can put into a track which is still ‘Melbourne’. People describe Melbourne as ‘Bounce’, and the perfect example of that is Ode to Oi by TJR and my track Ah Yeah!.

Ode to Oi by TJR was probably the best. My inspiration Joel Fletcher is another big Melbourne artist who is incredibly talented. He’s had a lot of charting tracks, and so have Orkestrated who were around from the start. The sound keeps changing, but it retains that same offbeat, minimal style.

The Melbourne sound has been around for a while, though it’s only lately that it’s really taken off. I think thanks to social networking and Soundcloud it’s had a chance to go around the world. Back when it first started things like Facebook fan pages weren’t around and so there wasn’t as much hype around it. It’s really progressed since it started with like Orkestrated, Kalus and others…people like myself and Joel Fletcher have done something different with it: it’s getting better sounding and people are liking it more.

It’s been around for so long that some people in Melbourne do get sick of it. Melbourne is probably the place where the most people out of everywhere hate the Melbourne sound, but there are also a lot of people who still love it. It’s new to those people. The same thing happened with the Dutch sound that blew up in Laidback Luke’s country.”

The international attention

“I think it’s all about Beatport. Ah Yeah! charted on Beatport: it got up to number three on the overall charts. That obviously got noticed by a few big guys like A-Trak, Calvin Harris and David Guetta, and they all started playing it. The Melbourne sound really got noticed from that track and really took off from there, I think.

Twelve months ago I was hardly getting gigs in Melbourne, now I’m booked out basically every weekend all across Australia and flying three and four times a week. It’s crazy how other states are liking it and how it’s blown up internationally. I’ve got an American and European tour coming up soon; it’s crazy how quickly it’s all happened.

I was really surprised at the Ministry Of Sound compilation. I know over the years Ministry of Sound has been all for the big room, universally-liked music. The stuff that we’re doing now is coming through and is the new big thing, so I’m really happy see them recognising that and taking what we’re doing on board. I think the whole of Australia and the world are noticing it too. I think if you told me twelve months ago that they were going to do the mix I wouldn’t have believed it though.”

Will it last?

“I think it has a lot more to offer. Genres always progress because new influences come in, and personally I try not to make the same thing every time. I have tracks I’ve written which are totally different to what I normally write. I think it will stay around. Things like dubstep and trap are dying down a bit – maybe it’s just that sound. But this Melbourne sound has staying power because it’s easy to listen to: it’s kind of progressive/electro house, and that will never end.

I think it will get noticed by a lot of people: it can only get bigger. However, it depends how we progress the sound. I hope it ends up in festivals – it kind of already is, but only a few tracks are being played at the big festivals. But I think it definitely has more to offer.”

How it went large for Will Sparks

“I was never particularly good at school; I was always really into music. However I played guitar and was into heavy metal, death metal and all that kind of stuff. So I guess I was also into the harder genres. Then one night when I was underage I jumped the fence at a club and went inside and Kalus was playing. He was the Melbourne ‘Godfather’ at the time and I instantly fell in love and just wanted to be like him.

Then Joel Fletcher jumped on after and he was even better. I just couldn’t believe it. And I just knew that’s what I wanted to do. So I got some computer software, played around with it, picked it up straight away and kept practicing. I also got a lot of help from other DJs like Samual James. And I just kept making tracks, kept getting more followers on Soundcloud, and people started playing my songs out…and here I am.

I think the most important thing is that when your fan-base grows and you get bigger, you need to stay modest. Just be yourself and be nice to everyone – give everyone the time of day. Any time someone comes up to me it still makes me feel good, and I still shake their hand and have a conversation with them. I’m really inspired by Laidback Luke because he’s the same way. You just need to give everyone the time of day, never be stupid with what you post or say, and just be smart about your image.”