Having inflicted a five-year wait on his fans, Australia’s one-man party machine, Muscles, is about to launch his sophomore album, Manhood, and head back out on the road. Pearl Davies spoke with Muscles about finding his feet in the music industry and his new stage show.
What are the benefits of a stage name?
There were a few names before Muscles but this is the one that stuck, and I forget the other ones. I guess you can’t rhyme it with anything negative, from a press point of view, and generally it’s strong and it sticks. I think if I went under my own name, it would be strange, having to split yourself into two different people. If I was Muscles every day I’d probably be dead.
You self-released your first album and burned 80 copies..?Yeah, back in 2005/2006, when I first started doing open mic nights, I met a lot of bands and they asked me about it. I just gave them away at gigs.
In 2009 you had a disagreement with a festival organiser, and the resulting media made you think about retiring from the industry - what happened there?It’s not just me. There are a lot of other artists, such as Missy Higgins, that have felt the same. I think it’s more the stress of touring - when you tour for too long and you’re away from your friends, family and those you love, you kind of get in this weird tour mentality. I just needed a break, a holiday. I never went on holidays, it was all focused on my career. I never knew how things would be — doing an album; touring; going overseas, supporting The Chemical Brothers, and meeting all my heroes; playing these huge gigs. It made me want to step back and think about why I started doing Muscles in the first place.
You were added, last minute, to the first ever V-Festival line-up, due to a cancellation of another artist — do you think that contributed to your exposure and success?I definitely think doing festivals contributes to your exposure. You play in front of people that have never even heard of you. I can’t wait for Splendour in the Grass and can’t wait for my album launch tour which starts this week. I’m bringing a whole different live show. There’s a helmet I wear on my head with colours that go with the synthesiser. I have some customised Muscles sunglasses – they’re like LED, with an ‘M’ up the top. It’ll be more interactive, more colours. Just from an audiovisual experience, it’ll blow people’s socks off, I think.
Triple J and other community radio stations picked you up six months prior to you getting a record deal. How important is community radio to you and what differentiates it from commercial radio?From my point of view as a songwriter and producer, dance music has pretty much taken over the top 40 — really over the top, really auto-tuned. I don’t know how long it will last but I’ve really stood my ground with this second album. There’s no sampling of old jazz records or collaborations with other people. It’s all just Muscles, just party.
Why so long between albums?Well, talking to other artists, we all seem to take our time. The music industry in general, it’s all very innovated and online as well as doing video clips and touring. I think every artist needs to find what their image is and how they want to present themselves and what opportunities come from that. There’s just so many bands out there, so many DJs, so many artists that crave attention, putting pictures up of themselves and their girlfriends. I really want to take a step back from that.
Your new album, Manhood, has just been released — what’s it about and what else is coming our way?I think it’s perfect and I think it’s exactly what the fans want. The first couple of tracks are reminiscent of the first album, very pop and very over the top. Then it will take a detour into the future sound of Muscles - a lot darker, a lot more club-like. I think I’m shedding my pop influences. I’m moving into a darker, moodier, more abstract kind of music. I want to take risks, I don’t just want to be recreating 80s disco. I’m in a position where my label’s been really good and they’re like ‘’just go off and make your crazy album”.
Muscles performs at the Woodport Inn,Erina, on Saturday July 7.