Australia’s dance scene is one of intricacy and community. A soundscape often not holistically represented on the airwaves nor the mainstream, it’s been forced to flourish in the shadows, to make use of the underground to give proper shine to its various talents. Such circumstances however help push art forward, all the while bonding artists together.
Such an example can be seen in Sydney/Eora’s Skeleten and Moktar and Melbourne/Naarm-based producer Jennifer Loveless. All experiencing critical acclaim with their own projects, the three musos have now joined forces for a very special remix package, with Moktar and Loveless putting their own unique spins on Skeletens latest single ‘Live In Another World’, out now.
All three iterations are the track are consequently perched upon opposite sides of the, Moktar meshing it with his signature infusion of culture and Loveless’ dance-focused enhancement of the the meditative original. It’s an embodiment of the elixir that manifests from the connection of different sounds and production styles, and is a testament to just how special the Aussie dance scene is.
We caught up with the three producers over Zoom to get the drop on the new remixes and talk about community in Australia’s dance scene. Check it below.
Skeleten: The thing I love about remixes is that its always a remix of the feeling of the song. Something that understands or connects with the attitude of the original and puts it into a different context, so it can be understood in a new way. So its not about trying to change completely, but it’s an understanding and response to the feeling and energy of the original.
Moktar: I totally agree with that. I get really drawn to certain parts of tracks, so if there’s something that I know will work with a style that I’m really familiar with, I try to infuse both without taking too much away from the original. With this remix I was really drawn toward this part at the end where it comes into the breakdown and it has this really nice repetitive hookline in the vocals. I knew I could work with that and be comfortable with it.
Jennifer Loveless: I’m pretty similar. I often don’t like to add new elements to remixes, rather just reworking and reconfiguring the stems. But I was drawn to the end of the song as well because you could hear how it would work on a dance floor. So yeah definitely, my remix accentuates and extends the last bit of that song.
Skeleten: I feel like both of you did that exact thing where you could tell what you picked out of the original and highlighted which bar gave you that feeling. And it’s nice to hear you be like “This is what I get out of this track.”
Jennifer Loveless: It reminds my of one of my favourite tracks ever which is ‘Middle’ by Matthew Herbert. The drums really drew me in the most, along with the harps. But that end part reminded me of that track and I was like “this is my opportunity to make something that resembles one of my favourite tracks.”
Skeleten: When you sent through that reference it made me hear what you were hearing and be like “Aw yeah!” which was great.
Moktar: I came at it from a different angle. I don’t know if you guys know but I was actually kind of part of Skeleten [laughs].
Skeleten: When we were first putting the band together and testing the live stuff Mok was in there slapping bass.
Jennifer Loveless: Are you a bass player?
Moktar: I try to be [laughs]. But I do love playing bass. But before I had heard any of the releases I was involved with rehearsing the tracks, and that track was always my track. I was having trouble following through with the little licks of the other tracks, but this one was always my favourite to play and is my favourite track on the EP.
Moktar: So when Russell [Skeleten] asked me to remix it I was like “100%,” and it ended up being the track I liked the most. I felt like I was ready for it even through im not part of the band, just being like “this is my contribution” [laughs].
Skeleten: Yeah, so these are the second lot of remixes that we’ve had. Mok had been sending me some of his new stuff which is coming out now which everyone is realising is incredible. But because of that history we’ve had, we were already talking about and working on the project. It was such an obvious choice. I was like “This is the perfect time for Mok to get involved.”
Skeleten: And I’ve always obviously been an admirer of Jen’s mixes and I had heard your Butter sessions EP and I knew I wanted her to do something for it because I knew that Mock’s stuff is very percussive and clubby, but I also really admire the energy in Jen’s mixes and the more floor to the floor world.
Skeleten: It was also a chance to involve the Melbourne crew I love and do a little bit of a Sydney to Melbourne connection as well, which I think is really nice.
Moktar: I remember somehow being drawn into the discussion of who was going to be on the remixes. I had listened to a lot of Jen’s new EP from the Butter sessions during that time as well. And Vic from Astral had hit me up about who else would be down for it. And I was like “I’ve already mentioned Jennifer,” but they had already had you on the email [laughs]. So I think it was meant to be.
Jennifer Loveless: I love that.
Skeleten: It was a pretty easy decision. It was pretty much the first choices of people who we wanted to work with. Thank you both so much for agreeing to do it.
Jennifer Loveless: No problem. I’m really picky about remixes because I think I’m always nervous that I can’t deliver, but as soon as I heard the track, I definitely wanted to do it. It was kind of a no-brainer.
Skeleten: I’ve been very much interested in the idea of utopias and the ability to imagine worlds that are better than the current one. Just in terms of emphasising the power of a positive imagination to change things. I think a lot of that comes out in the music because music is one of the best ways to imagine good energies and better worlds. That’s essentially what I was writing about in the track, even though it’s more so just trying to capture that feeling.
Jennifer Loveless: I think you did that really well. And obviously I think both me and Mok got the brief from that. In my head, I was imagining where it could be played and lately/for the last two years, I’ve just been wanting to be anywhere, but I’ve just been stuck indoors here in Naarm/Melbourne. I think a lot of the things in the remix are in line with the things that I’ve been writing, which have been for things that are outdoors and joyous and like daytime party-esque.
Jennifer Loveless: Lately I’ve not really had the head space to listen to anything that’s too dark because I think it doesn’t really help my mental. At least it doesn’t help my mental state right now.
Moktar: I remember the first time I heard the master of the track it was like going through the ups and downs of lockdown. I was talking to my housemate at the time and I was just like, “Oh my God, this is the track that I want to hear at a day party or at a festival with the sun out.” This is the track. It’s such a vibe track that you want to be out in sun listening to. That’s how it speaks to me anyway.
Skeleten: It’s so nice that it’s clear we’re all making music for celebrations and dance parties and outdoor and festivals and everything, because that’s where you feel things can be better. And you feel that’s where there’s genuine engagement and positivity and positive thinking. I guess having the track remixed to be played out by DJs and experienced by people on a dance floor, it’s just part of that. That’s where it’s meant to be.
Skeleten: I think I heard Mok’s first and I immediately heard what you’d done at the end where it’s this big build. When the vocals come in at the end with that huge groove that you’d made, I was like “This is huge.” It was so nice to hear Mok’s response to it because we’ve been mates for so long and it’s so nice to do that together.
Skeleten: And then I heard Jen’s after that. I was kind of expecting something a bit different and I was expecting something more like your EP. I don’t know what I was expecting. But then I listened to it and it took me by surprise. It was more of like a slow burn because as you were saying, you don’t like changing it in the same way.
Skeleten: But then it started to dawn on me, in terms of how special it was in the way that the song flows and the way that it captures that endless movement. And then I was like “This is perfect.” It was a really nice difference there.
Moktar: I loved Jennifer’s touch on it because you notice just how smooth your progressions are. I don’t know if I’m just talking out off my ass about this, but when I listen to it, I can definitely see the technical view of how you’re approaching it as a DJ as well and not just a producer, which is really cool.
Jennifer Loveless: Yeah. And for yours, Mokta, I remember you actually sent me yours when we ran into each other at Hope Street in between lockdowns. I didn’t listen to it straight away and I’m actually glad that I didn’t, because I think it would have fucked with my head a little [laughs]. Because you obviously have such a signature sound and you really did that to the track.
Jennifer Loveless: You can hear that track and be like “That’s Mokta,” which is so sick for an artist to achieve. I was quite proud of mine, but if I had heard yours whilst I was finalizing mine, I think it definitely would have made me feel very confused. But I’m still happy with what I made and I think the two remixes compliment each other super well.
Skeleten: I was just going to say they’re both a real testament to both of your expertise in such a perfect way. You can really hear what you’re both about.
Skeleten: Especially now more than ever, music is meant to be that point of connection, and we’re missing that. I think we just want to connect in as many ways as possible, and so when you’re showing that we’re trying to do the same thing and we feel the same respect and atmosphere about how we want to live, it just seems like it’s a really nice sense of fellowship that I think is really characteristic of the dance scene.
Moktar: There’s such a uniqueness to every part of the world and what we have in Australia, it’s such a cool thing. I think just to be able to draw inspiration from one another and know that this is our thing and makes it so community based in that sense. It’s really sick. No matter what we do it’s always going to be unique, together.
Jennifer Loveless: Definitely. And even during these last few years, we haven’t really had the feedback that we would usually get from being at and playing shows. So working on things together is a nice reminder that we’re not alone. Like it’s not just me by myself trying to push music to nobody [laughs].
Jennifer Loveless: Just from a technical point of view and because our numbers in Melbourne are sort of similar to Sydney’s, maybe we’re winning by a bit right now [laughs], but I feel like there’ll be this little bubble between us or something, that’s my hope for the summer.
Moktar: I guess it’s always going to be really hard to say in terms of reopening and capacity and whatnot, but I feel like there’s always going to be people throwing parties no matter what. They’re always going to be illegal at this point anyway. I heard of a lot of doofs happening while I was in Melbourne so I think while there will be capacity in most places, there are probably always going to be those secret parties. Not that I’m promoting any of it [laughs], but it’s just the natural thing. I think that’s how some people will cope with it while it’s still up in the air.
Skeleten: The interesting thing is that a lot of the scene, especially in Australia but all around the world obviously, has been built on parties that are illegal and how you need to break laws to come together. But at the same time, there’s a real sense of community and responsibility that comes with that. It’s kind of ironic because in these kinds of times where some people would be trying to breaking the law is to try and have parties and stuff, promoters and the scene in general are always really aware of community and aware of safety.
Skeleten: And that’s what we’ve always been about, so while the government restrictions are always leaving nightclubs and leaving music till the last minute, the scene is trying to be super respectful and cautious. It’ll be an interesting thing to see how that comes back and hopefully there can be more acknowledgement of what these promoters do to make people safe as opposed to this demonising of the nightclubs. We can’t go to nightclubs, even though people go to other places.
Jennifer Loveless: Nothing has happened [laughs].
Skeleten: But I do think there’s a real sense of everyone realizing the value of being able to share that kind of music. I’m hopeful that we’re going to have a really big renaissance in a way.
Jennifer Loveless: I think that’s true. If anything good has come these two years, one of them would be the fact that people maybe understand and place a little bit more value on entertainment and the arts, because that’s kind of the thing that we’ve been lacking the most and that is the thing that brings people together. And I think people might be a bit more understanding about how these things cost money and these are people’s livelihoods. Hopefully that comes through when we get back to it.
Jennifer Loveless: There are so many things. For me, the scene is actually like 80% of my life, a lot of my friends are from that scene. I’m a transplant here in Melbourne as well. I met a lot of people who I would consider family through the scene. I love that Melbourne always has people pursuing their creativity in all these different ways. Like someone will have a local radio station or some really cool wine or a magazine and they’ll all feed into each other.
Skeleten: I think Australia in general, and between Melbourne and Sydney especially, there’s a real sense of sharing because it’s not the London or Berlin scene. It’s small and there’s not that much money in it, so everyone’s in it because they love it. Everyone’s in it because they care about other people’s art and making things that they’re interested in, along with making the world better and enjoying life. And so, that really shows through how a lot of people connect.
Moktar: I totally agree. Comparing it to most places in Europe, we really don’t have that much really backing us too much. We’ve gone off of what we have and there’s just a lot of support for each other, which is great. So many people put in so much of their time, energy and money into making these parties happen as well. It’s crazy what the lengths people would do just for others just to have a good time. And yeah, I think it’s more about the vibe and less about making money in this scene.
Skeleten: Isn’t that always the best way?
Jennifer Loveless: We sort of already have had that, right? In that phase between the lockdowns. But I think it’s going to be really weird and awkward because everyone’s so under-socialised and then people are going to be hitting it a little bit too hard too early. I think we need a few and then we’ll get back to that place where it’s super good and exciting. But then again, maybe everyone learned from the last time and everyone will just be really good on the way back.
Skeleten: It might be like when you first bring a puppy home, like they’re just so excited that they end up just running around chasing their tail. Might be like that at first, but then they’ll sink into true euphoria after that.
Jennifer Loveless: I mean, as a performer, I’ve been waking up to European and UK stories every morning and just seeing these huge crowds. I’m a bit like, “I don’t know how to do that. How do people do that? That’s crazy.” It’s just it’s been so long and I feel so out of practice [laughs].
Skeleten: I’m sure it’ll feel like home again after a little while.
Moktar: Yeah, I think it’s just the social aspect about it. Going straight back into parties would just be like second nature in that sense, but I think just the social part of it will be overwhelming for me. Like I know I’m going to get to a point where I’ll be like “I’m so tired!” [laughs] and I just won’t be like used to it at all. But I might keep it on the low, maybe I’ll hit a couple of pubs before I go too hard [laughs].