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The birth of an Australian dance classic

1995 was the first year that an ARIA was awarded for Best Dance Release, to ‘Sweetness and Light’; do you feel like the track ushered in a new age of legitimacy for Australian dance music?

PM: “I thought so, that was part of why I made THAT speech. I thought that the music industry was all macho rock pigs, who just didn’t ‘get’ or ‘respect’ the music we were trying to make.”

AR: “I never thought it was a dance track per se, but a tune which used dance motifs as a starting point, and then launched into a colourful world that seemed to imply that something, or someone, was letting go of something. In a highly abstracted but very intense and present way, it seemed to evoke emotional release.”

And naturally we have to talk about the ARIA acceptance speech [in which Paul Mac and former third band member Sheriff Lindo controversially thanked “the ecstasy dealers of Australia”). You’ve described it as the ‘best decision of your career,’ do you still feel that’s true?

PM: “Totally. I don’t regret a thing. I was trying to point out the DIY nature of our music. It was made in a bedroom, played by public radio and DJs, danced to by ravers…and that’s where my stream of consciousness jumped to the ‘ecstasy dealers’ part. Whatever, I still believe every word of it.”

AR: “I wasn’t there. I stayed home and watched it on TV. I don’t like crowds of people.”

There’s an amazing clip on YouTube as well, shot at what looks like dawn at a ‘90s rave: what do you remember about that?

AR: “I know the clip you’re talking about. It’s at Happy Valley II or III, and it was footage shot there by video maker Jay Richards, an old friend who’s made quite a few clips for Itch-E & Scratch-E, and my other projects, over the years. In fact, he was shooting a new clip for me last week. He’s brilliant, he has a superb eye, and some kind of innate sense of what people will want to see many years later. He made that video way back in 1993 and rescued it about a decade later from an old hard drive. That one was never the official clip – it came to light only a few years ago but is very much of the time and mood.”

What impact did the track’s success have on your career? How do you feel about it, looking back?

PM: “It was good for me. Every band and their dog wanted a remix by that ‘ecstasy dealer guy’. I got so much work and notoriety out of it which lead me to work with some of the people I love working with, like Daniel Johns.”

AR: “It’s a tune without lyrics that seems to evoke something very lyrical. The aforementioned Jay Richards once told me ‘It draws the sap from your emotional wound’. I laughed my head off when he said that, it was so funny, but it was right on the mark. We once got a letter from someone saying he was listening to it to heal himself, and that it had helped him get through a difficult time in his life. I like the fact it seems to be a genuinely useful tune.

“Truthfully, though, it hasn’t affected my career that much, and I find it hard to think about the creative process from a career perspective anyway. Creativity doesn’t have to become a career if that approach doesn’t suit your particular personality. It can be a humble day-to-day transaction with the world, like gardening or cooking.”

Did the track itself bring commercial success?

PM: “Not that I know of. Our indie label Volition was responsible for a lot of that early techno stuff in Sydney. They got inhaled by Sony and promptly collapsed. We never saw any money from that stuff. Good times!”

AR: “No. The reputation it gave us seems to have arrived much later. Taken over a twenty year period, though, it’s been a nice, consistent little earner. It’s paid for unwelcome and unexpectedly high electricity bills.”

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