ITM’s Looking Local: Picnic, Sydney

Times are good for Sydney’s house and disco fiends. One of the crews consistently doing good things around town is Picnic. Moving between clubs and warehouses, the party is dedicated to bringing good vibes to the dancefloor. Its mission has been assisted by true legends like Greg Wilson, Maurice Fulton and Derrick May, with plenty more to follow in that vein. For this edition of Looking Local, we spoke to Picnic flag-bearer Kali about doing it for all the right reasons.

When The Revenge first toured Australia, he was openly surprised that there’s a thriving scene for disco and house here. Do you think there’s a good thing going on in Sydney?

Yeah. His first impressions included the first Co-Op gig and then a Picnic Sunday warehouse jam the very next day! He’s a good sport. Both were rammed and totally different vibes. At Co-Op he busted out an edits/disco driven party set, Picnic he went deep into the rabbit hole with warped house. Both crowds lapped it up! I don’t think he expected such receptive crowds and full dancefloors. He was a pretty happy Scotsman.

Sydney definitely has a good thing going on. Although we have a capped population of people into underground music, there are enough people to support everyone’s unique twist on parties. You just have to be clever with timing and realistic about your overheads (I’m slowly learning this) if you want to achieve any longevity.

There are so many crews setting the bar higher and higher and really considering the dancers’ total experience. Parties like Mad Racket, Adult Disco, Slow Blow, HA HA Industries, Paradise Lost, Death Strobe, Co-Op and People Must Jam are all run by friends that are first and foremost passionate about music. Some are run by guys that have been DJing for four years, some by people that have been DJing for two decades…they’re all good parties. Each is so different but linked by a common passion for similar music.

Earlier this year, you hosted Derrick May at 202 Broadway. Do you hope to put on more acts outside the disco/house mould in the future?

Hell yes! That was such an incredible experience. I was so scared about everything not being perfect for Derrick, just because he is such a legend. I was so excited to be offered the gig and really wanted to do justice to the whole day and the man himself as much as possible.

It was one of the best weekends of my life; we had Maurice Fulton the night before, co-presented with Niche and Dan De Caires. Needless to say I bawled my eyes out as his finished he set. Happy tears.

I have a dream list of people I’d love to do shows with – looks like Carl Craig is out of the question for the next couple of years – but I hope to be able to tick some of those boxes.

Also I guess, for me, ‘disco DJs’ have always played across many genres. Maybe because of the recent disco revival the true spirit has been a bit lost. My favourite DJs are those that play their favourite disco, boogie, house, deep house and dub records in the one set. Picnic was always meant to be a platform for DJs to feel musically free and it’s my goal to continue to book legends that reflect this!

What are some of the challenges that come with putting on a party like Picnic in Sydney?

Well, there are some issues, like it’s illegal to bomb the city with posters (although sometimes I wonder if that’s more related to my love of street art than promo!) and the expensive drinks at some venues. But where there is a will there is a way and you can pick and choose your venues to an extent. And really, a challenge is just something to learn from. The biggest challenges are often personal. Being confident about what you’re doing and then doing it well. Like any job, being well organised will help you get around any challenges.

What’s the vision from here on in? Any guests that you’ve got your eye on for the future?

We have loads locked in and more in the pipeline. Bottin from Italy coming up at GoodGod Small Club this Friday 24 September, which we’re really excited about. Hey Convict (Golf Channel) from Melbourne coming up to do our first ever Picnic dress up party at GoodGod on 23 October – the theme is Australiana.

Rick Wade (Rush Hour) on Sunday 14 November; Picnic Xmas party in December and we’re locking in NYE as we speak. The Revenge and Brennan Green at The Civic Underground January 8; DJ Harvey and DJ Garth in mid-January 2011, and that ’s just the stuff I can talk about!


Leading the way at Picnic this weekend is disco slow-burner Bottin, whose 12-inches on the likes of Eskimo Records and Italians Do It Better have kept him in high demand. He gives us a few minute’s attention from his Sydney hotel room.

What are your first impressions of Australia on this visit so far?

I still haven’t seen very much, but I find Sydney rather safe and laidback compared to most big cities I’ve been. And I like that.

Are you still based in Venice? Is there a good scene and community there for the music you love?

Yes I am based in Venice island and no, there is no scene at all for electronic music. The only other producer I know is my friend Spiller of Groovejet fame. We used to run a label together, but none of the artists where local.

What do you love most about working with analogue gear when you’re making music?

It’s very intuitive; you can’t really replace the hands-on approach. You can make great music with software, I’m sure of that, but it’s a completely different work-flow.

And I don’t like to face the computer screen too much when I’m making music. I use the computer just like a very evolved multi-track recorder. 99-percent of the sounds in my production are generated externally or taped from acoustic or electric musical instruments. I do use a few samples, usually in very tiny slices. Those I get from records I dig out at flea markets.

You’re playing some great intimate clubs in Australia. Is that the best kind of party for you, when it’s up close and personal?

I like everything – big venues, small venues. Early sets, late night ones. I always have fun no matter what. But everyone knows that one can play more leftfield and adventurous music when the crowd is more attentive. When you play for big crowds most of the people are not there for you. Sometimes they are not even interested in the music.

Any records you’re looking forward to trying out on the people in Australia?

I’m working on some new edits and remixes as we speak. There’s a pretty decent soundsystem in my hotel room. Also I will be testing a couple of tunes I produced in Ibiza a few weeks back together with Justus Könchke and Rusty Egan.

Picnic takes over GoodGod Small Club this Friday 24 September. Party ringleader Kali has put together a special Picnic mix for ITM-FM – have a listen here. Stay tuned for future tours from DJ Harvey, The Revenge, Rick Wade, DJ Garth and more.