an interview with Joel Stern
What are you doing at the moment?
Musically, I’m working on a solo LP. It’s kind of like abstract sound collages. Electronics and home-made instruments. Right now it’s very sonic but I want it to be more psychological. So I’m kind of just working on trying to add elements so that people aren’t just listening to it, but they’re kind of like getting psychologically affected. I’m not quite sure how to say anything more about that except that I’ve gotten really interested in … I’ve got a work in the University of Queensland Art Museum right now in part of a show called New Psychedelia. That’s five sound-works that deal with hypnotism and hypnotherapy, so I’m really interested in the power of sound to control people’s minds and manipulate.
You’re going to hypnotise us all with your solo record?
Well, yeah! As long as people are willing. I wouldn’t do it against anyone’s will. I’m working on some more conceptual sort of sound-art pieces like that.
I’ve organised a really huge event for the Melbourne International Jazz Festival called Overground. I’m the co-curator of that and that’s at Melbourne Town Hall, there’s about 100 artists involved, and it’s like just a crazy event of improvised and experimental music.
The band, Sky Needle, is really probably the most enjoyable collaborative music project that I’m doing. There’s four of us in the band. I really, really respect and admire the other three artists a lot. They’re not just band members, they’re artists with really great individual practices. They’re all visual artists as well as musicians and all kind of doing shows all over the place. It’s just a really stimulating sort of group to be in. We’re kind of like an art band I suppose. So we have a lot of different opportunities to play because of that. It’s kind of funny because some rock n’ roll bands – like we played at X & Y with (The) Scrapes and Heart Flew (Like an Arrow) an supported Omar (Souleyman) and stuff, and another day we’d be playing like at UQ Art Museum or Gertrude Street in Melbourne or something. So it’s different contexts. It’s fun pretending to be a rock n’ roll band with our kind of pathetic, poverty-stricken instruments.
We’ve got a new 7” about to come out. We have the records but we’re doing hand-made covers with a woman who’s the book binder at the State Library (of Queensland). We’re doing screen prints and they’re going to be kind of special. We’re putting 200 out. It’s called ‘Creeper Town’. So that’s sort of imminent.
Sky Needle are touring Indonesia in July. It’s a really interesting tour. We’re doing a festival in Yogyakarta that’s more kind of like an international media arts festival so there’ll be lots of people from around the world, and it’s more of a sophisticated sort of scene there, but then we’re going to a couple of villages as well and just collaborating with local people and just staying in the village. That will be totally just crazy.
Have you ever done anything like that before?
I did a couple of gigs two years ago with Sarah Spencer from Blank Realm. We went over together for a couple of months and did some duo shows there. We really just went on a holiday, but we ended up playing some gigs. Then I kind of became aware of the scene over there. This is the first time going back. That was at the beginning of 2009.
There are two Indonesian artists coming to the Melbourne Jazz Festival too. Noise artists. There’s a scene happening there now that’s really cool. Especially Yogyakarta is sort of like this city of culture in Java, and there’s heaps of artists there and everyone just gets around on motorbikes and it’s really wild and lots of parties and punks and squat shows. This Australian girl, from Melbourne [is] now the curator of the National Museum in Yogyakarta and she’s been putting on these gigs there called Yes No Wave and lots of people have been touring. It’s about time we had sort of more bands and artists going to Indonesia and then coming here.
New Psychedelia runs from May 7th to July 3rd at UQ Art Museum