During Far Out Magazine’s time at the BBC 6 Music Festival in Manchester, we spoke to Australian trio Jagwar Ma just a couple of hours before they took to the stage in Room 2.
The band opened up about their love for the UK, the thrill of playing warehouses and the challenges involved in straddling live and electronic music.
How do you feel to be back in Manchester for the 6 Music Festival?
We’re living in London now and we’ve got a couple of weeks until we head to the US so this really came at a perfect time for us. We’ve been living in Europe for about two years now, on and off anyway between here and Australia.
In terms of coming over for this one, we’ve only really just finished the Australian festival season, so it doesn’t seem that strange having it in February – the season kind of never ends.
We always feel really confident about going out and playing in Manchester, in fact there’s something about the whole of the UK in general. Despite the fact that the climate gets colder, people get warmer, you know?
Do you think brings with it a greater level of energy?
The first show we played in Manchester was a bit strange because it was full of old guys, so there wasn’t that kind of exuberant energy in that way. It was at Deaf Institute, but it was ‘arms folded’ kinds of guys, chewing gum you know, but then we came back and played at Gorilla and the young people had finally heard of us. That was one of our favourite shows last year.
Festivals are very different [to headline shows] though, because you get a very mixed cross-section of people.
Have you had much experience of performing at warehouse-style venues like this one?
We like the kind of tinned roof venues like this, it might come from going to raves when we were younger. You get that big cavernous sound that suits electronic music. When you throw those electronic pulses out through speakers in a big room it gives it this sound that you can’t get anywhere else. It lets the music breath.
There aren’t that many places where you get that really, there’s a few clubs in Amsterdam and just in Europe in general. It’s incredible how small the sound system actually is, all you really need is the room to be able to make it work. It’s kind of the opposite way when you have live instruments too, it can work better to have the dryness of a smaller space.
Are the electronic elements of Manchester’s musical legacy something that have ever influenced your work?
I would say there are a host of [Manchester] rock bands that were influenced by electronics, but we come down more on the sort of 808 State side of things. Acts like that are awesome but we don’t listen to them any more than bands from other places in the world, for example Chicago, New York, Detroit or, of course, Australia.
In terms of a gateway into electronic music, early Warp Records stuff like Aphex Twin and LFO was always good. When I was primarily into bands through punk rock, grunge or funk ‘n’ soul, Warp Records was this go to place where you knew you could find great electronic stuff.
Do you find it easy to straddle live and electronic music?
It’s not necessarily easy, but it’s something that has come naturally to us because we are so passionate about those two separate worlds. There has to always be an element coming from both sides. We’re quite conscious that we don’t just become an electronic band, but at the same time there’s no chance of us ever becoming a full-on rock ‘n’ roll act.
Throughout the making of our record, there were definitely a few decisions that were made as way of keeping things on an even keel.
Sometimes in that process you’re not actually consciously thinking about it, you’re just ‘doing’, but that was a concerted effort. In each song there is a balance, but then within the whole record there is a balance too and that’s something we were particularly happy with.