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Sampology

11.10.2021

Artist Interview

Sampology is a Meanjin based producer, DJ, vinyl enthusiast and radio host for Worldwide FM.

The past six years have seen him grow beautifully and authentically as a world class artist. His works to date include his own stunning EPs Natural Selections (2016) and Mt Glorious (2018), as well as producing fellow Meanjin artists Tiana Khasi’s Meghalaya EP and First Beige’s Mirrors EP.

His most recent offering and debut album Regrowth (2021) is a bathing of warm gorgeous tones, hammock rhythms, soulful vocals and decadent harmonies, released on his own imprint Middle Name Records. The album is stitched together by community, with over 40 musicians contributing to the album’s recording sessions.

Collaborators include Allysha Joy, Beau Diakowicz, Laneous, Jace XL, James Chatburn, Seven Davis Jnr and Silentjay and many more.

Connecting with music and the industry

"From 10 until 15 I was in a cathedral choir, singing weekdays for an hour and then two services every Sunday. At 15 I discovered turntables and record culture through my older brother who had decks and cousins who were in an electronic band. 

My first DJ set in a club was at a long-gone venue called The Milk Bar on Caxton Street playing the warmup for my cousin’s band. Spinning records I loved through a sound system was such a revelation. I played a handful of gigs at both clubs and live music venues before I had even turned 18. After one year at Uni I decided to defer indefinitely, which was the point I decided to pursue what I've been doing since as my primary path. 

In high school my cousins taught me how to use Logic music software at the same time as I was buying records. I'd catch the bus into the city or valley to Rocking Horse & Butter Beats to look through both their second hand and new releases, which dropped at the end of each week. At the same time, I was reading online reviews of releases on UK stores and Turntable Lab in NYC."

Filmed by Danny Camara & Josh Maguire at Tivoli Theatre Brisbane from Sam's supporting set for The Avalanches (2018)

DJing

"DJing is very important to me and what I've been able to learn so far, I truly value that. 

I never competed in any DJ battles, but super early on I was very much into turntablism and the creativity from that culture. People like Invisible Scratch Pickles & Kid Koala made teenage me want to put my hands on records and see how many tricks I could develop. When I then started playing out in venues those skills were eventually utilised to combine and transition between different musical genres and tempos in a fun way. I still find that initial time spent super useful today.

What I value in DJ culture is finding and sharing music. This results in learning a lot about music history as well as song structure, arrangement and how people move to different rhythms in a space. I rely on so much of what I've learnt through DJing in studio work."

Live mix recorded from to deck of HMAS Vampire, a decommissioned Navy ship currently located at the National Maritime Museum, Sydney Australia.

Composition

"When I first began producing I wouldn’t have been able to define why I gravitated to making anything. I now realise my favourite feeling is that flow state while something is being created.

It's also quite rewarding to have these completed documents of your history as projects you've released. At the time I got a lot of inspiration from the fact there were other people in my hometown, and around Australia, who were making and releasing music. That visibility made it seem achievable."

 

Growing as an artist

"I know I've grown in my own unique way. I didn’t study music after school, and my music theory is pieced together in a mish mash of ways. At times my DIY methods have been pretty humbling, but I feel like I'm starting to carve my own little path with my recent discography. I've gotten more thankful and confident in my own specific methods more recently I reckon. Some people who saw me perform about 6 or so years ago might know me for a visual show I used to do. That was a significant creative phase for me that I'm extremely thankful I pursued and extremely thankful I ended 5 years ago. 


I know if I hadn't ended that phase it would have been impossible to move into the next phase. All this stuff is hindsight really, I probably won't know where I'm at right now for another few years. Looking back on where I was as a teenager, I had a lot of naïve confidence because I was unaware how unlikely and difficult a path the creative arts are. But I was blissfully unaware for those years and just enjoyed following my passions and interests. 

 

Also, kind of full circle, but the last few years I've been realising how much I love lush vocal group music I was involved in as a kid and then as a teenager thought it wasn’t cool so put it aside."


What feelings or concepts do you connect with in music, art and life that motivate you?

"The feeling I connect to is described beautifully in 'In My Room' by the Beach Boys.

That time spent as a teenager alone in your room listening to an album in your headphones. That was something I thought a lot about while completing Regrowth (2021), imagining myself as a teenager listening alone in a room with headphones.

I also appreciate and connect with hip hop culture in the idea that it’s always repurposing and evolving. From Prince Paul to The Avalanches and Masters at Work, I feel there's a really inspiring thread that I identify with."


Regrowth (2021)

This record is a bathing of warm gorgeous tones, hammock rhythms, soulful vocals and decadent harmonies. A true Sampology piece. What did you want to do differently with this project that you hadn't done before?

"Thank you so very much. I knew I wanted to do something specific, but I don't know what that was. I think it's searching for an environment the album can live in. 

Releasing music is daunting because there's so much of it already in existence, so I tried to lean into what I felt like my own musical biology was as well as my surroundings and try to contribute that into the world.

There was no conscious goal with instrumentation. It's more a reflection and evolution of my teenage influences, which were rich tapestries in sample collages. I'm talking 3 Feet High And Rising (De La Soul), Entroducing (DJ Shadow) and Since I Left You (The Avalanches) as some quick references.

I knew I didn’t want the sounds to sound like samples, like adding vinyl crackle. I'm not really interested in that, it's more about the lush feeling of another alternate, magical world. I love that feeling of consuming art and remembering oh shit, anything is possible."


Another Sampology trademark is the countless collaborations between musicians, friends and family. Why do you think you're drawn to this style of production?

"I 100% could not have come close to making this album without all the feature artists and the session musicians. Even just spending more time with instrumentalists in the jazz and soul scene here in Meanjin in the last few years has impacted the record. 

People like Sam Maguire/Sam Stosuur who plays bass on the album is such a kind human who inadvertently introduced me to a lot of those people in the process. 

The reason I was drawn to this style is you get something so rich out of including so many different personalities playing as well as their different instruments. Every acoustic instrument being one of a kind. If you think of listening to a rich emotional orchestral performance, you are actually listening to all of those different people, as well as each of their unique instruments sing together.

That’s what I think of with the words lush and rich. In the future I might keep employing this method, but it's really about what the project calls for to define that. I’d like to keep evolving and exploring for future projects."


The visuals for the project were cut together from footage taken by your late grandfather many years ago throughout his travels. How did this collaboration come about? What do you feel it brings to the project?

"For years I'd had a box of his footage that needed converting. When the world stopped during the first significant lockdown in 2020 it provided the perfect time to get around to going through that footage.

In addition to the hours of super8 travel footage I found there was footage of me as a kid flying on a green screen I had never seen. The 'Flying Sampo' silhouette is what became of that short scene I found which you can see on the album cover. 

I'd like to think the inclusion of this footage and collaboration with my grandad brought some deeper personality to the project. It was a weird and wonderful collaboration with him, as he passed away back in 2003.  "

Photography by Daniel Rafet Grima


The beginnings of a song when composing

"It's different every time. ‘Memories In Flight’ for example came from me setting up microphones around a harp and pressing record while I tried to understand how to play a harp. Then I found a little section to play keys over and then brought in either repurposed recordings I'd done, like string quartets and choir, or new elements like playing vibraphone.

Sometimes I'll play or chop up drums and build on top of that. On some of the tracks, for the second step I played samples of my Dad on double bass over drums to try to find a bass line."

 

Production workflows

"Firstly, committing to making something new as much as possible in 20 minutes, and allowing for the possibility for it to suck.

To carve out the sound side it's primarily about using my own sample banks I've constructed from hours of me pointing microphones at acoustic instruments or synth jams and then spending the time to chop those up and organise them. So they are easily accessible when I'm in the flow of making stuff."

 


Meanjin scene

"Things have gone up and down and up again, which I feel like we're in right now. I reckon that it comes down to people supporting each other across different scenes. Jazz heads going to dance gigs and visa versa has been really positive. 

Meanjin isn't big enough to support these super niche genre scenes, but the upside is there's more opportunity for people to cross collaborate and be exposed to more open creative work without genre boundaries. I'm always conscious that a scene can change fast and there's always potential for things to turn to shit if people don't water the roots.

If punters buy tickets to independent artists and promoters’ events, that does so much to sustain and grow an even stronger and more enjoyable night life. I think there’s a lot to get excited about our own style here and rejoice in our own sounds and stories. I’m keen to see that build more and more into the future hopefully."

 

Favourite venues and most memorable gigs

"25th anniversary of 3 Feet High and Rising at the Tivoli was special, also being able to play in that venue supporting The Avalanches a few years ago was significant. The Zoo holds a special place in my heart as it's the first venue I attended, sneaking in through the back door while I was still in high school. 

There was a period a few years back when The Bearded Lady in West End had residencies where bands like Vulture Street Tape Gang would perform improvised sets. I see The End around the corner is continuing that energy with some of their nights."

The Avalanches at The Tivoli (2018) supported by Sampology. Photography by Lachlan Douglas.

Beyond 2021

"The last few years I've been building Middle Name Records through my own releases and my side project Middle Name Dance Band. The next phase of that is releasing other artists' projects. I'm conscious to do that in the best possible way in a well thought out, patient way."

Shout outs

"In being prompted with the great questions above it makes me appreciate the butterfly effect. I really love what I'm able to do at the moment and that couldn’t have happened without people I've either briefly or significantly spent time with IRL or online. So shoutout to all the nice and kind people. And if you've taken an interest in my creative work and read this far, shout out to you."

Links

Regrowth (2021)

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Soundcloud

Website

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