What do you do in the music industry?
I am a songwriter, a producer and a director. I work primarily with Indigenous Hip Hop Project's around Australia working with young people in Indigenous communities. I have a strong passion for Indigenous affairs but I’m also responsible for developing artists. So whenever I see talent I try and bring it out and provide that talent with the tools, and resources, and collaborators that they can use to get a kick-start on their journey as an artist.
We put the most professional and talented young people together and we create work – shows and performances – that will engage the entire community while we are there, as well as empowering young people through working on their strengths to enable them to mentor and be role models for others to aspire to.
I made the space for Indigenous communities to share their stories and skills and to collaborate. This process is guided through with extremely high production and performance values to create unique and creative professional productions. I approach each and every job with the same professionalism and enthusiasm, working within a best practice model. This means that my role is guided by the community and the participants, ensuring cultural sensitivity.
Co founder of NLS
How did you get to where you are today?
I’ve always been surrounded by really creative people. From a young age, I started our in rock eisteddfods and went on to work towards a Bachelor of Arts majoring in dance and drama at Deakin. Through this I learnt what it’s like to be in a collaborative, creative process and was involved in literally hundreds of these mini creative processes and productions over those four years.
At the same time I was also dancing and working commercially, and through this I got to experience what it was like to tour and travel while working creatively. For example I worked extensively in China and Hong Kong.
I’d always really enjoyed working with young people and had seen the power of art as a tool for engagement, but it wasn’t until 2005 when I visited Yiyili that my life changed forever and the IHHP program was born.
What is your relevant training or experience?
I undertook a BA with Deakin majoring in dance and art but I didn’t complete it as I took an opportunity to tour through Asia as a dancer. This was an unreal experience and I learnt so much through it. In terms of music, when I was younger I was always in bands both commercial and alternative, and I think this has been key to my current work. While I was in bands I spent a lot of time trying to master the art of writing an awesome pop song by analyzing arrangements and so forth.
I was doing all this during the time that music kind of moved away from the 90s grunge scene and started becoming a commercialized and sexualized industry. For me it was identifying that being a successful artist is dependent on seeing yourself as a business, and being able to sell your product. Every single artist is a business and you can’t be so entrenched in the creative process that you fail to get yourself out there and selling your product. You’re only as good as your list job so you’ve got to keep bringing it and bringing it and bringing it. Accordingly, my work became about entertainment and selling that entertainment. I think it’s also because of this that I don’t see myself as a musician in the pure sense – more as a producer/songwriter/director.
Crucial to my career has been business management. I excelled at school in business, but even outside that world I had always worked really hard from a young age, with my first job at 11 years old as a paperboy. From that I learnt to really appreciate working hard for your money, and subsequent roles taught me about sales and promotion and the importance of really good customer service.
Who are your influences and why?
My influences have changed with every stage I’ve been through as an artist. Michael Jackson is a huge influence as are people and bands like Led Zeppelin, Janes Addiction, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Rage Against the Machine, Radiohead – and basically everything Thom Yorke touches! I just love music, all sorts of music!
I grew up listening to a lot of 70s rock and roll, and my Dad had a huge influence with this, introducing me to artists like Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath and the Doobie Brothers. I love earthy stuff too like John Butler and Xavier Rudd, and funk artists like Tina Turner and Betty Davis – but I have a huge love for the blues, artists like Howlin’ Wolf and BB King and John Lee Hooker. I love Jimmi Hendrix! He is a gift that was given to the world – his soul coming directly through an instrument.
I love artists like Beastie Boys, Public Enemy, Grandmaster Flash. The entire culture of hip-hop is a huge inspiration. In my early twenties I spent a lot of time with a group of artists called Psy Corroboree where we got put on loads of dance parties and I became really involved with and inspired by the dance/house scene.
I think everything in everyone’s life is constantly imitating and inspiring their art and their craft. I don’t think you can narrow your influences down to your major inspirations… Life itself – everything from your relationship, your family, your upbringing, the environment you’re raised in, the media you’re surrounded by, the weather, culture, the food that you eat, the people that you associate with, your technology, the colour of your skin – everything has an affect on your art. All we’re doing is telling stories, and a lot of them time we’re pinching and borrowing and regurgitating and imitating the things that resonate with us.
In relation to that, my work is reflective of the ways in which I try to be true to Indigenous culture and their communities and my love for them and their culture.
What are your ultimate goals for your work within the music industry?
Ultimately I want Next Level Studios to have its own record label and production company producing amazing dance, music and video productions at world class standards.
I want to continue taking our work to higher levels of production. I want to create opportunities for Indigenous communities to share their powerful stories and bring them to life so the whole world can see the beauty of Australia and our Indigenous peoples.
I want to continue creating employment opportunities for Indigenous artists, and to integrate our projects into the education system to have a transformational change on education and how we teach literacy and numeracy.
I want to move towards changing attitudes and behavioral choices around health through inclusive and community driven and created campaigns that will really change people’s lives. I think we can do this by working on strengths to break the cycle of disadvantage and dependence and creating consolidated change.
What can you offer people who use NLS?
I can connect people with whoever and whatever they need to write amazing songs, produce amazing music, get amazing mixes, master their music at the highest level and create high quality experiences and products.
While I can connect people with everything they need, I can also hook them up with just the space, tools and equipment they need to take their artistry to a new level by themselves.
I’m also happy to offer honesty – directions and opinions regarding where they are at and how they can move forward.
My advice is to not make excuses. You’ve just got to do it. You can’t rely on other people to make it happen for you. You have to know your own industry. You have to treat yourself and your art form as a business. And while you need to allow the time to give one hundred percent to the creative processes you need to generate material, you need to have a firm grasp on the business side of the industry so you can be informed about the decisions that really do affect you.
You’ve got to keep aiming high and dreaming big, because you can never aim high enough and you can never dream big enough. But people who talk about it and are going to, or should done, or could have done, or would have done get very quickly swallowed up by the people who practice G.S.D. (get shit done!).