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PostPosted: 26 Jun 2002 23:00    Post subject: freeNRGan interview with editor Graham St John



an interview with editor Graham St John

"freeNRG : notes from the edge of the dance floor" is a book about music - electronic music, the sounds, and methods of creating and sharing these sounds with other likeminded individuals. It's about people, the passionate people who live on the fringe of society celebrating electronic music with their DiY ideals and also the spiritualistic insights that music can bring. It's about technology, and how technology can be used to spread ideas and keep people informed. It's about information, information that cannot be suppressed by traditional media. And it's about history, the history of one sector of the Australian electronic music community, which to this day, hasn't been documented as completely as has been done by this book. It's a book of great importance. Anyone who deems themselves passionate about electronic music should have a read and also keep it as a reference as to how electronic music industry in Australia eveolved.

"freeNRG : notes from the edge of the dance floor" is an amazing book, not only because of the topics covered, or the depth and breadth of research done by the contributors and Graham St John, but also because of the amount of personal insight gained from reading the ideas of the people interviewed. In great detail, the book delves into the undercurrents of one of the more active aspects of the Australian electronic music community, gains insight into the collective's mind and philosophies - their social, ecological and technology based roots and leads the reader on a journey in which their ideas may be forever changed. Each chapter includes a comprehensive listing of references which, if the reader were to avidly follow, would lead them on new paths of discovery and knowledge.

Here is the transcript of a quick chat with Graham St John at the Sydney launch of freeNRG held at Frigid@Hopetoun Hotel on 17th March. In the spirit of the DiY/DiO nature of the book's topics, a free party was held for the Melbourne launch on Friday the 22nd March.

::: AliaK
>>> Graham St John

>>> I'm Graham St John, the editor and compiler of "freeNRG - notes from the edge of the dance floor". I guess the best way to describe it is the fact that it's all about how art is raised to inspire the imagination, is mobilised in the service of a cause. The art being electronic music, techno music and the various aesthetics that orbit around electronic music throughout the 90s. The causes are many - from establishing s sense of community, to intercultural reconcilement, to defending natural heritage. It's kind of an undercultural history, or a history of the underculture of the 90s, which has really been only documented in subterranean sort of formats - preaching to the converted. This is a book that hopes to reach a lot more people in the broader community.

::: Definitely, I don't think I've ever seen one written as an actual book, I've only seen articles on the websites and email lists so it's good to see. You've done a great deal of research for this work, cross-references and in-depth studies..

>>> It's a pretty solid compilation

::: How long did it take to compile?

>>> It was pretty miraculous really - it only took a little over about 14 months from conception to holding it in my hand. There's an electronic version as well - it's also available as an e-book (pdf), so it can be experienced in an electronic format.

::: Will it have updates of future events and future studies?

>>> Well yeah, there's a possibility for a second print run as well. It's pretty uncertain territory, electronic publishing, e-book publishing, it's never been successful in the past but I think there's an international tech-savvy readership for this type of thing and the very fact that there has not been this type of documentation of the culture of electronic music in Australia even though there's a lot of stuff coming out of the UK and their experiences there, and the States - this is the first compilation of such very inspiring stories.

::: Australia's got such a long history, such a tribal history, it seems sometimes that we haven't really delved into it as much as we could, but this book seems to do that?

>>> It does. Like I said, there's an underculture, a very vibrant thriving underculture that is captured in this book. The connection between politics and electronic music culture is the thing that's inspired me, particularly Earthdream. Earthdream 2000 was the principle inspiration for the book - I met half the contributors on Earthdream. It's an ongoing and annual phenomenon and there's a pretty good website associated with that to check out []. Labrats who are sort of half of Combat Wombat, is another story documented in one of the chapters in the book. Theirs is one of the most inspiring stories! If this book inspires others to perform such feats then it will have served its purpose.

::: So you go to a lot of the parties out bush and out west?

>>> Yeah I try to get out as much as I can with limited finances. Earthdream 2000, was a good experience, a good example of committing to 4 or 5 months in the desert. It's a nomadic party, and the principle node in the party protest movement in this country. We went all the way from Roxby Downs right through Central Australia and various Aboriginal communities, to Darwin and then East Timor and beyond. It wasn't just electronic music it was a whole raft of performances, youth cultural sort of formations who are committed to celebrating and defending natural and cultural heritage, who are committed to defending the planet from the nuclear industry and committed to engaging in solidarity with indigenous communities and various causes, Native Title, beleaguered communities who are subject to the incursions of uranium mines and again Labrats and Ohms Not Bombs are principle nodes in that kind of activity.

::: Did you find you had much support when you went around? Did everyone join in and celebrate with you?

>>> Yeah, we had a great deal of support from local communities, not only Aboriginal communities but white communities. In places like Coober Pedy, especially once they'd seen what we were doing - creating murals in towns and linking up with local organizations and youth organizations. Bringing some pretty spectacular performances to remote communities and giving those communities an opportunity to interact performatively as well. So it wasn't just performing for communities, it was an intercultural performance.

::: I'm from Brisbane originally, and I noticed that you've got a chapter from Kathleen Williamson. Did you enjoy meeting her? She does a great job up in Brisbane supporting the local community and spreading the word.

>>> Yeah, Kath's phenomenal, she's a legend! I met her for the first time on Earthdream, although we'd been communicating online for quite sometime and she's one of these examples of one of the many brilliant people I met on that event - it was sort of like a repository, a mobile sort of repository for the creative, people into creative resistance at various times. She's a great proginator if you like, of the new sense of opposition amongst younger people, or not so young people, to the current regime. She's very inspiring
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