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PhDJ: Indie, dance and videotape

PHDJ would have to be one of the most influential people in Australian indie culture today. He runs the eternally popular Purple Sneakers nights at the Abercrombie in Sydney, as well as managing the omni-directional Boundary Sounds. Known as Martin to his friends, he’s become a staple in the Aussie independent music scene, popping up everywhere and anywhere there is a party on. Having supported the likes of !!!, Le Tigre, The Presets and Mattafix, and played festivals including Splendour In The Grass and Parklife, his services are obviously in high demand.

Some of his more recent activities include DJing at the Ivy for a new Playboy night that is on the verge of having a reality TV program based around the staff and punters attending the nights. He is also out on tour with Oz indie heavyweights bLuejuice and The Paper Scissors, DJing at the afterparties but more importantly, recording all the tour’s shenanigans with a handycam for a series of tour diaries to be released on YouTube and the Boundary Sounds website. The tour had been in the works for 6 months, but PH says he only jumped on board recently. “All those guys (bLuejuice and TPS) are mates of mine,” he tells me from north of Sydney on a couple of days relaxing. “Jake from bLuejuice actually worked at Boundary Sounds for a while, and I wanted to document what it was like on a struggling indie tour. Everyone has seen tour diaries from big bands like U2 and stuff but it’s a really different perspective for some smaller acts.”

There will be 9 episodes in the series across the 13-date tour (which is already well underway), and PH says that he is using the experience for some good practice on another video project he has in the wings. “I really want to make a movie about the concept of indie. It’s not just some sort of music genre, it has progressed from an ideal and a sound to an aesthetic from back at the beginnings through labels like Rough Trade and Factory.”

BLuejuice are a quasi-hip hop/funk collective that have found a lot of recent success with latest album Problems and more specifically, lead single Vitriol that wound up at number 11 on Triple J’s Hottest 100. The Paper Scissors are more traditional alt-pop rockers that have also had success with their debut LP Less Talk More Paper Scissors. Single We Don’t Walk was used on some jeans commercial and had a dance floor makeover by fellow Sydneysiders Hey Now which transformed it into an electro banger.

So why the change from behind the decks to behind the camera? “I consider myself as having secondary creativity. I’m not really a content producer; I don’t really see myself as having that spark of creative vision. I think I’m more of an entertainer and a refiner, rather than a creative genius. Take Jake from bLuejuice, he has that real storytelling ability whereas I feel I can help people with production and filtering of ideas and production.”

PH obviously has a lot of friends throughout the industry and I enquire whether he’ll have any problems lifting the dirt on his mates and being an objective cameraman. “Nah it will be fine. They’re pretty crazy individuals and they know they’re being filmed so whatever happens on stage is likely to be filmed and they know that. There could be anything from nudity to vomiting; Stav and Jake (bLuejuice front men) can get fairly loose at times. The show at the Gaelic Club in Sydney was just huge, it sold out and there was a bit of a stage invasion, which I’m sure the lads always enjoy.”

But he also explains there will be behind the scenes footage to give viewers an insight as to what goes in to planning a tour like ‘Less Talk More Problems’. “We’re going to really get into the engine room of the tour and talk to people like band managers and the crap they have to put up with. Also the venue managers and maybe even some bar staff and bouncers, who knows. I’ve just got to try and make sense of it all, I suppose it’s easier with video editing rather than editing as a DJ as you don’t have a crowd hanging on your every move.”

PH is clear that he won’t be removing any of his fingers from his various pies around the Sydney scene to make his indie documentary throughout the year. “I will be busy but everything will be running as normal. It’s just something I’m really interested in, the clichés and stereotypes now attached to indie and how major corporations are now using that aesthetic to target market youth audiences. It used to be based around an attitude when it started and I’m aiming to speak to the originators of the scene in the UK throughout the year and hopefully have something out maybe at the end of next year.”

Until then you have the ‘Less Talk More Problems’ tour to catch PH or get along to Purple Sneakers, Destroy All Lines or their Levity Label partnership night. And even though it’s still a while away, a little bird has told me to keep your eyes peeled for an enormous NYE lineup for the new Purple Sneakers party at Sydney Uni that may have a distinctly British feel to it.

Catch the remaining dates of the ‘Less Talk More Problems’ tour, and watch out for the guy with the video camera!

Sat 10th May: Newcastle, Live show @ Cambridge Hotel, after-party @ King Street Hotel

Fri 16th May: Canberra, Live Show @ Transit Bar, after-party @ Transit Bar

Sat 17th May: Melbourne, live show @ East Brunswick, after-party @ Ding Dong Lounge

Sat 31st May: Brisbane, live show @ Step Inn, afterparty @ Common People

And catch episode 1 of the tour diary here…