One of Australia’s best kept secrets Magda Bytnerowicz talks home grown music
Ever since the mid 2000s, Sydney-based Magda Bytnerowicz has been solidifying her credentials as DJ with a deft touch. Capable of warming up a room for fanatic house heads, or closing after a techno god (or two) – she garners plenty of respect as a peak slot selector in her own right.
In 2013, Magda joined the ranks of a few local Djs being invited to headline at Sydney’s prestigious long-running institution Mad Racket, as well as appearing at the inaugural Inner Varnika festival, and making her international debut at Cabaret in Tokyo. Over the last few years, her skills and choice of music hasn’t gone unnoticed, having put together mixes for the likes of mnml ssgs, Sound of Thought and Steve O’Sullivan’s Mosaic Mix Series. We reached across continents to discover a little more about the lady in question and delve into her extensive knowledge of home grown labels. Here’s what she came back with…
Did you grow up with a lot of music in your household?
“I actually didn’t, my parents weren’t particularly musical and I wasn’t shipped off to music lessons of any kind as a child or anything like that really. I discovered music naturally, on my own. The first couple of songs I really remember from childhood I heard at school: Red Hot Chilli Peppers’ “Under the Bridge” and Warren G’s “Regulate”. That led me into a pre-teen pop music phase, the peak of which was my obsession with East 17! Thankfully I was introduced to grunge and alternate music somewhere around year 7 or 8 by my best mate at the time, as well as the national youth radio station Triple J, and that’s what I listened to for a few years.”
What first hooked you into the electronic music scene?
“I was introduced to Roni Size & Reprazent’s “New Forms” in year 9. I think anyone that knows this album can imagine the impact it would have had on a dorky 15 year old! This was also the era of that Fatboy Slim big beat sound and early Prodigy rave breaks which were huge in Australia at the time, which started to introduce more diverse sounds into my listening. The minute I turned 18, I started going out clubbing, back when it was possible to go out Thursday through to Sunday in Sydney. I mostly frequented the breaks/drum ’n’ bass night at the legendary old Sublime nightclub on Pitt St, then started getting more deeply into the underground parties presented by community radio station 2SER, as well as some bigger tech-house parties at the Metro Theatre like Sabotage. The summer at the end of high school I attended the biggest annual touring festival at the time, ‘The Big Day Out’, which had an absolutely legendary lineup, notably Underworld. I remember being reluctantly dragged into the (original!) Boiler Room, whinging that I hated the lager song, and emerging euphorically several hours later, deeply impacted by the physicality of losing myself in the dance.
Who would you say your local heroes are?
“For a kid out in the suburbs that counted the days until they could legally get into a club, the only escape was radio, and that’s where I found my first heroes. Saturdays on Triple J featured local and international DJs, and I tape recorded the program every week. Then on 2SER I found Simon Caldwell presenting All Funked Up, the Clan Analog chaps serving up wonky jams, Steve Sonius and Junior B on the house tip and Biz-E serving Detroit realness. In terms of DJ heroes, I was hugely influenced by Simon Caldwell as well as the slightly tougher sounds of Phil Smart, Sugar Ray and Ken Cloud from their Tweekin’ days. When I made it to my first Mad Racket in the mid-2000s, I was hooked on the vibe, venue, excellent musical policy and the eventual feeling of being with family.”
What do you think makes a good dj?
“I think a lot of what makes a good DJ is being a dancer, a fan of the music and the moments created in the club. A true DJ wants to create those moments for others, for the pleasure of it. On top of that, I honestly think you get better with experience. The more you listen and gig, the better you (should) become. The skill and patience required to craft a journey take a long time to learn. It’s easy to play the current top 50 bangers or the ‘best deep house as curated by online experts’ these days, it’s much harder to convince people to take a leap with you into the unknown second-hand bins of treasures from the past.”
And vice-versa, what do you think makes a good producer?
“What I appreciate and listen for is emotion, a distinct creative vision and clarity in execution. It depends whether I’m listening for pleasure or for DJ sets too. I tend to play a lot of melodic stuff so I like it when production is top notch so that I can EQ effectively, on the flipside when I’m playing more stripped back stuff I really want to find some emotion in that simplicity, you know? I ask a little more of music made for listening, whether it be in the artistic intent or the attention to detail in production. That said, I’m happiest when I get all of the love and detail in a release made for the dancefloor!”
You’ve built a sterling reputation in Australia, what do you feel has been your biggest moment?
“Well, a few spring to mind. The community in Australia is pretty small compared to the rest of the world, so making things happen for yourself often involves getting your hands dirty with promoting. My most successful project to date was 4our (in collaboration with Trinity), which took off like a rocket and led to us being able to host musical heroes like Steffi, XDB, Eric Cloutier and Eli Verveine. In terms of local recognition, being asked to play the first Inner Varnika festival the same year as I was invited to join my Mad Racket heroes under the copper ceiling was pretty special. Most recently, warming up for Derrick May and getting the opportunity to play at The Sydney Opera House for VIVID LIVE x Goodgod two years running has been hugely rewarding.”
As someone who has a family, how do you manage to juggle everything?
“I was initially a little lost without the possibility of regularly playing records at home until I remembered that the attribute that I value most highly in myself as a DJ is knowing my music inside out, and I can listen to it almost anywhere. A good pair of headphones, a Spotify premium account (and Soundcloud, Bandcamp and YouTube!) plus tons of data on my phone get me by. As for physically fitting everything in, DJing has always been a weekend thing for me. I’ve always had a full time job, so that friction was resolved a long time ago. I cut down on the number of gigs I took on in the last year so as not to stretch myself and everyone around me. The only thing I’ve had to let go of is promoting parties – anyone who has run any kind of regular event knows how much effort and project management it takes.”
You’ve touched a bit of production in the past – do you see it as something you want to make more time for?
“Not any time soon, as I think I would take years to get anywhere I was happy with again. And since I work all week on a computer, I’m not particularly happy producing in the box. My preference would be mucking about with outboard gear, but right now I don’t have the time to learn it all, or the funds to acquire it. So buying and playing records it is!”
And on that note, let’s talk about home grown labels/music from your perspective (and record crates).
“Here’s what I’d call legit techno, well mostly…”
Trippy hypnotic techno label in the PVH and Dozzy vein, releasing limited runs of 180gm vinyl and high res digital, mostly via bandcamp. I love the care that small labels like this take with their whole package: from curation, to artwork, to small runs of high quality pressings. So far, the artists released here are from Melbourne and Adelaide and my current fave is the booming Berghain vibes of Ground Loop’s Don’t Slip.
I’d venture to say that Butter Sessions was the label that spearheaded the resurgence of underground vinyl labels in Australia around 5 years ago. Run by Melbourne’s Sleep D, BS has been especially important as a launch platform for a plethora of Aussie artists, releasing early recordings from Dan White, Cale Sexton and Albrecht La’Brooy. The releases cover a lot of ground musically, from heads down techno to spacey broken beat to arpy EBM. For an aesthetic snapshot check out “Domestic Documents”, a double 12” curated alongside that other Aussie dusty fingered digger, Noise in My Head, with Volume 2 just released.
For further listening, their Butter Sessions podcast has hours of amazing sets from friends at home and abroad.
From the first release by Infinite Loops I really vibed on Adelaide’s Nightime Drama. The label has a really strong aesthetic and it’s really great to see their support for local artists solidify (Infinite Loops and Metamethod have been making incredible and hard to find music since the mid 90s under various aliases). Adelaide also has a ludicrous techno history worth an article all on its own. Recently joined by Sydney’s Trinity in an A&R role – here’s my fave of hers, featuring a wonderfully low slung Daniela La Luz remix:
A Colourful Storm
An incredibly diverse label, again from Melbourne, run by head and legend Moopie. Covering the industrial, experimental end of the spectrum but with some surprise razor sharp broken beat thrown in by Sydney expat Mark/Klon Dump for good measure, this is A&R at its finest.
Founded in Melbourne by Little Nobody in 1995, now run out of Sydney by Sebastian Bayne, if? has a huge back catalogue of techno well worth digging through. Seb’s still one of the Sydney techno scene’s vital organs, running parties, hosting tours and djing. Respect!
Founded in Sydney in the mid 90s by DJ Hi-Shock (now releasing as Advanced Human) to release proper techno, of necessity split into a number of sub-labels to cater for the volume and variety of techno being made. Including releases from well known as well as emerging global names as well as Australian artists, this is a seminal group of labels.
Mostly focused on ambient releases as exemplified by their own music, Albrecht La’Brooy have shown a knack for collecting gorgeously produced music from their (generally) Melbourne based peers. Frequently though, there’s a sneaky dub-ish techno kicker on the flip.
Power Station + Power Cuts
Run by Kris Baha, (who also collaborates with sort-of-no-longer-Sydney’s Dreems as Die Orangen) Power Station and its sublabel Power Cuts, generally feature super funky industrial and EBM influenced music, I guess right on the edge of what some might consider techno, but it’s too compelling not to include, so much interesting stuff being released here.
Harold’s Steeplejack focuses on grittier, chunkier sonics. Quite a new label, the third 12 from newcomer Nali (to be released later this year) features a range of bleepy club-oriented techno.
Sydney’s phile have been making modular analogue techno for several years now as well as using the Deep Seeded moniker to foster the local electronic scene. Not surprising they’ve also turned to releasing records, with the first DSR coming from phile themselves. Menacing and with interesting instrumentation, I’m really interested to hear where this label goes next…
Masters of deep dub techno, Echo Inspectors, have been pressing heavy dub techno excursions to 180gm vinyl since 2012, with guest remixes by scene stalwarts like Luke Hess and Steve O’Sullivan. Top lads to boot.
And some more…
“Here’s a selection of what I wouldn’t call techno if we’re honest”
Relatively new label run by Shedbug and Rudolf C. Leaning heavily on classic analogue sounds and super tight production, this is really mature sounding music from a bunch of young upstarts. I wouldn’t call most of it techno, more proper house music with techno influences, and in the case of Hymns releases, the gorgeous and gritty future of electro.
There’s something brewing in Melbourne at the moment for this kind of deep, brooding, Lobster Theremin leaning stuff. Dubby explorations, driving house that leans towards techno and exquisite programming are the name of the game and it’s really nice to see this network of artists and labels growing.
Rings Around Saturn aka Dan White put me onto the first release from this little label – again, straight outta Melbourne – label owner Booshank’s Fjord Falcon EP, a doozy of a release. Kinda lo-fi, but housey and lovely, and just wonderfully interesting, crafted music with a divine ambient trip on flip. The second release from Escape Artist is equally diverse, with more of a look into boompty left-field acid tinged groovers. A famous record store would say TIIIIIIIP.
Untzz Twelve Inch & Big Doint
Now defunct labels out of Adelaide, Untzz gave a platform to a bunch of Adelaide artists making excellent house music, from lushy noodly excursions to banging disco edits. (Big Doint in particular heavy on the edits). Reminiscent of MCDE, Sound Stream and Floating Points releases, it’s well worth hunting down these dance floor burners. I think they might have also been the first Aussie crew to make it onto Boiler Room, no mean feat.
Heavy Melbourne party crew Animals Dancing (their New Years Day parties are legendary and guests have included Prosumer, PLO Man, Optimo and a ton more) turned to releasing 3 perfectly on point records from Suzanne Kraft and Tornado Wallace under various aliases. All the releases are sought after crowd destroying chuggy monsters.
Sydney’s turn! Another party crew (out to Rimbombo) turned to releasing records, Ken Oath has dropped 5 exquisite Aussie only releases so far in 2017, with a gorgeous LP from Angophora on the way. Covering gorgeous soulful boogie, pitched down house, lush ambient trips and the occasional wonky electro turn, I can’t wait to see what they do in 2018 (hopefully bigger pressing runs are part of plan!).
Outer Time Inner Space
This one’s extra close to my heart, run by all round Sydney legend, sweetheart and badman, Hugh, originally as a tiny (physical) record store, now as an online record store and label, OTIS wanders down the garden path of jazzy broken beat focused releases, the most recent offering is from Hugh himself joined by another Sydney expat, Jon Watts. A clear nod to LTJ Bukem era drum n bass at its best, this is the absolute business.
Another Sydney label releasing 12”s more in the dusty deep house vein, reminiscent of some Firecracker vibes as well as the smoother side of Detroit. Some really lovely tunes in here, perfect for very very early or very very late, or that time when those moments are one and the same…
Good Company (Perth)
Wonderfully diverse label from western outpost, Perth, dedicated to traversing all points of the musical spectrum, from low slung boogie jams to just so summery house to beastly analogue techno jams, all primo cuts deserving of any hype you might see online. Phil Stroud’s work in particular is exceptional.
Sydney/Melbourne party & fashion ambassadors PELVIS finally started releasing records, and they are heavily dancefloor focused. The Mystik Menn EP clearly owes a debt to Dance Mania, Luca Lozano’s King Blade is a hectic breakbeat trip and DJ Tools Volume 1 covers all your warehouse jam needs. Mall Grab’s rework of Dance Freak has heavy NYC nostalgia vibes.
Red Ember Records (Perth)
What a story this is – long forgotten deep cuts from Perth’s Ewan Jansen and co were resurrected on a double 12” in early 2017 so that desperate vinyl freaks unable to find or afford purchasing one of the original insanely limited lathe cut runs could finally breathe deep house & techno sighs of relief. This reissue seems to have reinvigorated Ewan’s career too, with new releases seeing the light of day on Butter Sessions and Inner Balance amongst others.
Last but not least
“Oh yeah, here’s some tips on Aussie artists to watch!”
Sydney’s Cop Envy, part of masterful party crew Heavenly, has been delivering one standout release after another in the last 12 months or so. To my ears, he’s been influenced by the UK’s broken beat influenced techno scene and the likes Kowton, Pearson Sound etc, but with his own twist. I’ve been digging the Cry Baby Records 002 release and his more straight down the line work as Sean Thomas, but my hands down fave that does absolutely blissful things on a dancefloor is this stripped back piece with genius sample on Templar Sound:
Young gun Lou Karsh has very quickly proven himself to be one to watch, playing blistering live sets across Sydney and Melbourne, self-releasing on his own imprint LKR, as well getting picked up on the UK’s Tomahawk under his Reptant alias.
Kane’s been making immersive, dystopian techno-ish electronics his own for several years and the dedication to craft is audible. I wouldn’t call it club music, it’s challenging and paranoid with small shimmers of light, but much like Ben Frost’s work, it’s impossible to ignore.
Chiara’s cemented her position in the Melbourne techno scene over the last couple of years on the basis of her thumping live and DJ sets, and has a couple of releases, on Domestic Documents Volume 1 and this trippy treat. I’d love to hear more productions released.
I have very little info about Consulate and I kind of like it that way. He’s been playing a few shows around Australia this year, live or DJ, I’m not sure. Ravey, jungley, breaksy, EBMy, weirdo vibes about in everything I’ve heard and it’s bloody wonderful. Also half of Senate who have been released on Perth’s Good Company.