Thursday, July 31, 2014

#TBT INTERVIEW : James Ash (Rogue Traders)

When James Ash started writing music, he hoped that maybe one day, he would get to put a record out. Little did he know that not only would he release four albums as part of the Rogue Traders but that their music would win an ARIA, tour the world and even inspire a 'Doctor Who' episode.
James was more than happy to sit down with our #TBT interviewer Brad to reveal all about his time in the Rogue Traders and his new dance project Jealous Much?

James initially started producing house tracks under the guise Union State with fellow music enthusiast Steve Davis. “Steve and I were, and still are, music geeks who just dreamed of putting records out,” he tells us. "We never entertained the idea of being big or even popular.”

In the early 2000s, James and Steve decided to change their group’s name to mark a new chapter in their career. “I remember walking my dog and thinking of other names we could call us,” James recalls. “About that time, Guy Ritchie was becoming popular and it was really cool to be English again, so we thought, ‘Let’s go with a name that sounds like we’re two dodgy dudes’. I saw the movie with the rogue trader, just through the glass of the video library, rang Steve up and said, ‘What about that?’”. The Rogue Traders were born.

James initially resisted the band pursuing mainstream success. “You’ve got to remember that we were serious DJs who had grown up around house music,” he reveals. “The idea of going pop at that stage was quite weird. We wanted a hit, but we wanted a hit like Armand Van Helden had with ‘U Don’t Know Me’, which was a credible crossover track."

At a meeting with their label Vicious in 2002, such a crossover hit became a serious possibility when their label boss asked if they wanted to remix an INXS song. It was a perfect twist of fate.

“Years before this (in 1999), I was in England with Steve and he has a massive record collection. I said to him, ‘I want you to go and pick a record on the shelf without looking and whatever record you pick off we’re gonna remix it and make it a hit.’ That record turned out to be a 7" of INXS’ ‘Need You Tonight’”

Consequently, when fate came calling three years later, the boys rejigged that very remix and ‘One Of My Kind’ was born. “When it was a hit (winning an ARIA for Best Dance Release and peaking at No.10 on the ARIA charts), it was a fantastic feeling and I kind of became addicted to that. It changed our mindset very quickly.”

Their mindset wasn’t the only thing that changed. “Suddenly everyone knew us but we were just known as the guys that remixed INXS. We weren’t producers or writers in our own right and we felt very insecure about ourselves,” James admits.

“After that album (2003’s ‘We Know What You’re Up To’), we were in a really low place. I’m not sure if we ever talked about this but Steve was virtually bankrupt and had to go back to England and I was living really close to the margins. It’s hard to really express it because you have this perception of some kind of success and we were DJing a lot, but by the time we took everything out, we made no money off that first album at all.”

The band kept writing music and eventually signed a development deal with Sony Music. As part of the transition, they became a fully-fledged band with a new lead singer in former 'Neighbours' actress (now 'X Factor' judge) Natalie Bassingthwaighte. Their 2005 album ‘Here Comes The Drums’ ended up going four times platinum and spawned mega-hits such as ‘Voodoo Child’ and ‘Watching You’.

Amazingly, James tells us that the Rogues had total artistic freedom when making their albums (“It might be unusual but in our experience, it just was”), and even had a large say in choosing singles. “I remember (for their third album ‘Better In The Dark’) we led with ‘Don’t You Wanna Feel’, which was us pushing that. I think Sony might have wanted to lead with (second single) ‘I Never Liked You’ instead. So yeah, sometimes we got our own way, even over what they wanted.”

One song the band didn’t get their way with was ‘In Love Again’. “We wanted to put it out as a CD single in Australia,” James tells us. “It ended up being our biggest song as far as radio is concerned. Sony said, ‘Look, it’s driving people to the album’ so they were happy with that. It was hard to fault their logic really.” James also tells us that he hoped to release ‘In Love Again’ as their second British single rather than ‘Watching You’.

In the UK, they released ‘Voodoo Child’ as their first single to rapturous success. Not only did it go top five, but TV show 'Doctor Who' even named an episode after it. We ask James what it was like breaking such a difficult market.

“It was tough but it was also glorious,” he happily recalls. "We were holed up in a hotel in West London, we were on the second last 'Top Of The Pops' and we were going around in limos. We played the Shepherd’s Bush Empire and there were queues of people at two in the afternoon waiting to see us! It was a pop dream.”

It wasn’t all glamorous though, as a large part of the promotional duties fell into James’ lap. How did he cope with all the interviews? “I’ve never done any media training but before all of this I was on radio (as a presenter on Kiss FM and Hitz FM) and had interviewed hundreds of people, so I was aware of the kind of questions I would be asked and the answers I was expected to give. I always made a point of having a lot of fun with it. Very often, I’d turn the interview on its head a bit because I would get bored. It would do your nut in after a while!”

Did he ever live out any rock star fantasies? “I think the most rock star thing was after we did 'Top Of The Pops' and we all piled into a limo, drove to the east end of London and had a curry! That was one of the highest moments. We were No.3, just ahead of Lily Allen, we were staying at the same hotel as Pink, and it felt like anything was possible.”

Speaking of Pink, does James have any funny stories about anyone he’s met? “We had a few strange ones! I remember we were in the green room with The Veronicas and Ben Lee and we were all sitting around and it was really awkward,” he laughs. “I also remember making a real idiot of myself, getting Nat’s phone, and drunk dialing someone from the cast of 'Neighbours', which was a very silly thing to do.”

Soon after the release of the band’s third album, 2007’s ‘Better In The Dark’, things came to a head when Natalie left the band.

“I just think that she wanted to explore other avenues," James explains. "Obviously I was heartbroken, but Nat and I are still very close. At the end of the day I said, ‘Ok, if you need to do this, you need to do this.'”

That didn’t stop the media from looking for a scandal. “I remember I got a call from Kyle Sandilands going, ‘Come on man, get on the radio with me and tell me what’s really happened’ and I was like, ‘Dude, there’s no scandal.’ It was just something she needed to do."

Despite being offered a reality show to replace Natalie (“All that would have happened is that people would have gotten really tired of us and our credibility would have evaporated”), James was determined to find someone who wasn’t looking to be found. He eventually offered the spot to Sydney singer/songwriter Mindi Jackson.

Their first single with Mindi, ‘Love Is A War’, was sadly the beginning of the end. “Obviously, it’s a point of history that ‘Love Is A War’ was a big flop and it seemed to be obvious to everyone but us,” James admits.

Their follow up singles, ‘Would You Raise Your Hands?’ and ‘Hearts Beat As One’, also failed to fire. A video for the former was filmed and directed by Squared Division but has never seen the light of day. For the first time, James is able to tell us why it was never released.

“It was really cool; we were in a music box. We had weird kind of mannequin dancers and it looked like a 1970s TV performance. I think what happened was that Sony weren’t happy with Mindi’s look in it. I’ve got that video and it’s a good clip.”

Soon after, Sony informally dropped the band. “It’s funny because we kind of went full circle," James explains. "We went from being the guys who just wanted someone to hear our music to suddenly being really successful and then just wanting people to listen to our music again. That was the only goal; there wasn’t any money to be made or anything like that.”

Sony eventually released the Rogue Traders’ fourth album, ‘Night Of The Living Drums’, alongside a greatest hits in 2011.
Despite Wikipedia's claims otherwise, James confirms that the Rogue Traders split soon after being dropped. “It felt like the right time to stop. We could’ve kept driving out records, but musically, times were changing. There’s a great line here... ‘The secret of a great performer is knowing when to get off the stage!’”

It didn’t help that social media had just exploded, and seemed to enjoy exploiting the band’s misery.

“Suddenly I’m being flamed and there are all these blogs that seemed to be delighted that we were finding things hard. I was sick of trying to make people happy. I went straight out and had the chance to do other things and I was very keen to do them."

One of those "other things" is his new dance project Jealous Much?

“Jealous Much? is about looking at dance music and dismantling the rules of it,” James explains. “When you listen to a normal dance track, whether you realise it or not, there are rules that people follow when they make a track; how it’s arranged, the kind of sounds that are used, the order that everything is put together.

"I find it really boring to listen to most dance music because it’s so sequential and everything fits the pattern, so for me Jealous Much? is about trying to surprise people with dance music and work outside any particular genre. I’m not trying to be obscure for the sake of it but what I’m trying to do is shape the listener and demand their attention."

James initially kept his identity as Jealous Much? anonymous so as to avoid any stigma attached to his former life in the Rogue Traders. “I didn’t want people to go, ‘What do you know about contemporary cutting edge dance music?’ even though it’s my normal mode,” he says. “Rogue Traders was my life for over ten years but when I began writing as Jealous Much?, it was a relief because I didn’t have to go ‘Ok right, we need a chorus that feels a bit like (‘Voodoo Child’) here because that’s what people are going to be expecting’. I can literally just explore.”

James has fond memories of his time in the Rogue Traders, but there's one in particular that sticks in his mind.

“I think one of the best moments was getting off the plane in England and my mum picking me up from the airport in her little car and her saying ‘watch this’. She put on Radio1 and within ten minutes they were playing ‘Voodoo Child’.

"We had very devoted fans that would come to every gig that we would do around the country, whether we were in Townsville or Adelaide. That was actually pretty wonderful; they were up the front every show. A couple of them even ended up becoming friends! I also signed my fair share of boobs, which is also a surreal experience."

Sadly for those fans and their body parts, it’s unlikely that the Rogue Traders will ever reunite. “It sounds like a very nostalgic thing to do, but to be honest right now it’s all about Jealous Much?” James tells us. “You’ve got to look forward. I feel so proud of our legacy but you can’t live in that past. You’ve got to forward a new future and that’s what I’m doing now."

Rogue Traders' back catalogue is available on iTunes.
Check out Jealous Much? on Soundcloud HERE and like them on Facebook HERE.

PRINNIE : One Night

With her profile raised significantly as the backstage mentor on 'The Voice Kids' and a guest spot on 'The Voice' tour over the past week, the timing couldn't be more perfect for Prinnie Stevens to launch the latest chapter in her music career... her latest single 'One Night'.
Lifted from the forthcoming EP of the same name (released on August 08), the track is an smooth, upbeat dance/pop number that she and her team no doubt hope has what it takes to score some major airplay from the nation's commercial networks.
The clip sees Ms Prinnie readying herself for a night on the town. She gets that and manages to hook up with her real-life boyfriend.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014


It's clear by now that Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga love working with each other. Having teamed up in 2011 for a cover of 'The Lady Is A Tramp' for Tony's album 'Duets II', the duo are back together again, albeit this time for an entire album.
It's called 'Cheek To Cheek' and Universal Music has confirmed it for an Australian release in the middle of September.
The LP will feature both duets and solo numbers performed by the duo, from lead single 'Anything Goes' (below) to 'Sophisticated Lady', 'Lush Life' and 'It Don't Mean A Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)'.
"'Cheek To Cheek' came out of a very organic friendship and relationship that Tony and I have built over the years and it truly was a collaborative effort," Gaga says of the new album. "It was important to Tony that this was a jazz record. I’ve been singing jazz since I was a child and really wanted to show the authentic side of the genre. We made an album of jazz classics, but it has a modern twist."
"I have been singing the Great American Songbook my entire career and all along forging a bridge between pop and jazz music," says Mister Bennett. "Creating this album with Lady Gaga has been a beautiful experience as she is a fantastic singer and I am hoping that all her fans will embrace this music and swing along with it."
'Cheek To Cheek' will be released in Australia on Friday September 19.
The single 'Anything Goes' is available now.


Dami Im has given her fans a little taste of her new single 'Gladiator', just hours before it's due to start impacting at Australian radio.
As previously mentioned on the site, the track was co-penned by Dami, along with the same songwriting team who wrote her previous hit 'Super Love'.
'Gladiator' is a little slower in tempo than its predecessor, but what we hear so far we like.
Take a listen below. 'Gladiator' is due at digital and physical retail on Friday August 08.

TOURING : The Madden Brothers

Currently impressing audiences across the country with their double act on 'The Voice Kids', the Joel and Benji - aka The Madden Brothers - have this morning announced that they'll tour Australia later this year.
Their single 'We Are Done' is already a platinum-certified smash and we've been told there's plenty more good groove where it came from... the boys' new album 'Greetings From California', which is due for release in the middle of September.
No doubt the gents will be delving into the Good Charlotte best-of box to deliver long-time fans a couple of nuggets for the run of shows, which kicks off in Melbourne on Friday October 31.
Pre-sales kick off tomorrow at 2pm, with general public tickets on sale from 10am on Monday August 04.

October 31 : Melbourne (Hisense Arena)
November 01 : Sydney (Qantas Credit Union Arena)
November 02 : Gold Coast (Convention Centre)
November 06 : Adelaide (AEC Theatre)
November 07 : Perth (Crown Theatre)


• Dami Im's new single 'Gladiator' will be officially serviced to media tomorrow ahead of its digital release next Friday. Describing the single as an "anthemic pop track", Sony confirms it was co-penned with Trinity Music, who also wrote previous single 'Super Love'. The official video is set to premiere on Thursday August 07.
• Among the songs Dami will be competing with for airtime over the next week or so are the new Duke Dumont single 'Won't Look Back', Milky Chance's new single 'Flashed Junk Mind', Naughty Boy's Home' and Wes Carr's new dance track 'Anthem'. Naturally, you'll discover a larger list of the new tunes this week on our FACEBOOK page tomorrow.
• Warner Music has confirmed the upcoming local release of Stevie Nicks' new album '24 Karat Gold : Songs From The Vault'. And it's good news for the Fleetwood Mac vocalist's local fans, who'll be the among the first in the world to get their hands on a copy. Produced by Dave Stewart (along with Waddy Wachtel and Stevie herself), '24 Karat Gold' will be released in Australia on Friday October 03.

• Also confirming the forthcoming release of an album is Brisbane DJ tyDi. The new album is called 'Redefined' (cover above) and features vocal collaborations with the likes of Sinead Burgess, Michael Paynter and Dashboard Confessional's Chris Carrabba. Comprising 20 tracks in all, 'Redefined' is due on Tuesday September 30.
• A new volume in the popular 'Balance' series is incoming. Volume 25 sees New York house legend Danny Tenaglia taking over production duties on the two disc set, a preview of which is available HERE. It's out on Friday September 05.
• A huge collection of some of Australia's finest vocalists will assemble in Sydney in October to celebrate the 90th birthday of the Hordern Pavilion. Presented by WSFM, the 'Pure Gold Live' event has been billed as a "mega concert" and it's not hard to work out why, with a dozen acts confirmed to take the stage including Wendy Matthews, Dragon, Eurogliders, Ganggajang, Mi-Sex, Machinations, Moving Pictures, 1927, Pseudo Echo and more. Tickets for the October 25 gig are on sale from noon on Monday August 11.

• British boyband Rixton may have hit the top spot on last week's British singles chart, but they've fallen dramatically to position No.8 in their second week, replaced in the top spot by Ms Cheryl Cole and her new single 'Crazy Stupid Love'. It's the singer's fourth solo UK No.1; all four of the lead singles from her albums have now hit the top spot in Britain. Magic!'s former Aussie hit 'Rude' hits No.2 (up from No.50), while Ella Henderson's gorgeous 'Ghost' improves to No.3; it's still in the charts after seven weeks. Charli XCX's 'Boom Clap' also hits this week's top ten, bulleting from No.158 to No.6. Cher Lloyd's comeback to the UK market seemingly isn't working; 'Sirens' debuting at No.41.
• And there's no challenge to Ed Sheeran's throne atop the British albums chart this week. In fact, there is no new entry to speak of within the top five this week. The closest anyone got to debuting in the top five was La Roux and her album 'Trouble In Paradise', which came in at No.6.


We last caught up with young Melbourne starlet Rachel Costanzo in August last year, following the release of her impressive debut single 'Blindside'.
12 months on and she's back with a new single - and a forthcoming EP, both of which aim to give audiences a fresh new listen to the singer's musical wares.
'Starlight' is the new track. Co-penned with Michael Paynter and Michael DeLorenzis from MSquared Productions, it's a high-energy dance/pop number with a catchy chorus and slick production.
"'Starlight' is about escaping from your day to day life and doing things you've always wished of," Rachel said of the track.
The escapism featured in the clip includes a trip to bayside Melbourne and a night-time shuffle down to the Docklands precinct, with the observation wheel as a backdrop. It's all pretty convincing.
'Starlight' is due digitally this Friday; the self-titled EP will drop on Friday August 22.

HILARY DUFF : Chasing The Sun

It's staggering to think it's been seven long years since Hilary Duff released her last album 'Dignity'. Back in 2007, the little site you're currently reading wasn't even around and the only Duff moments we've covered in our six and a bit year history have revolved around her 2008 'Best Of Hilary Duff' compilation.
A selection of film and TV roles have occupied her time during the past six years, but there's been no new music to speak of... until now.
'Chasing The Sun' was announced recently as the lead single from Hilary's long-awaited fifth studio album. Not only did the single premiere globally on digital retailers yesterday, but Hils took the opportunity to reveal the official video too.
It's cute. A summery guitar-driven pop track with a similarly cute video that sees Hilary daydreaming of sharing the beach with a hunky topless man. But is it different enough from her old tunes to tempt her former fandom into buying? It's already been in the top 30 on iTunes, so we guess so.