Inside the album: Mike Callander’s ‘Antarctica’

Here’s a track-by-track account of the process and inspiration behind my debut album, Antarctica. As I wrote about it I listened to the album again myself for the first time in a while, so if you’re planning on checking it out for yourself, why not do it now as you read?

Track 1: Antarctica

This is the title track for the album (obviously) but I named this track first, because I had originally sampled a Melbourne band with the same name (though the sample never made it to the final version). I was briefly in a band called The Queen’s Head, and we toured with Antarctica through Germany and Eastern Europe in the summer of 2010. My time on tour with them was an incredible experience, but also inspired some pretty mixed emotions while I was stuck in the back of a tour van for ten hours a day, sleeping about an hour a night, partying way too hard and feeling both smothered and isolated at the same time. You know, typical band-on-tour feelings.

So while I was discovering incredible new environments like the Estonian forest and the Polish countryside, I had plenty of doubt about whether I should have put my life (including a new relationship and my studies in Sound Engineering) on hold to be there. At the end of it I came home to a virtually empty DJ schedule and the prospect of financial ruin.

The whole thing felt like I was on this expedition to discover something worthwhile, but that the discovery might also kill me. So with all of that in my head I sat down to record my feelings on being home. Antarctica is therefore dark and disjointed, but the recording process was my most efficient. I guess I really had to put this out because the whole thing came together in a couple of hours.

Track 2: Still Lost

In 2008 I worked on a track called Lost which we released on Haul Music in early 2010 (after some significant revisions). A large part of the atmospheric content of that came from field recordings I’d done in Thailand, and so when I ended up using some subsequent recordings from a more recent trip to Thailand on this album I wanted to make a reference to the original inspiration. Lost and Still Lost don’t sound at all similar, but they aim for the same kind of atmosphere.

For me it’s that super-late-night sound that Matthew Dear does incredibly well under his Audion guise. It’d be a dream for me to achieve the kind of effectiveness with one of my tracks that I so often hear in his… I’ll keep trying. But if you have a good listen to the synths I’ve used toward the second half of this track I hope you can get a sense of how much I love what he does and how it has influenced my production.

Track 3: The Blinding Light & The Darkness

This track sums me up in a nutshell. Most DJs wouldn’t touch this because the arrangement is too disjointed for your standard punter, but then I have guys like Alex Smoke telling me that it’s “totally dancefloor” (though you can barely hear anything from the original in his remix!). When Dave Seaman licensed it to his Renaissance Masters CD I was honestly shocked that he’d be able to work it into his sets, but it turns out he edited the crap out of it to make it fit. This is the story of my production life!

Overall I guess this is the track that many people recognised as a standout from the album, but other people find it flawed. That’s a function of the way I make music, I suppose, because I try to limit the production process to a time and place, and even when I listen back and hear things that I might change, I often leave them as they are because I meant it to be that way at the time, and the changes alter the mood of what I’d originally set out to achieve.

Next page