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The Presets Reflect On Australia’s Golden Age Of Electronic Music

27 June 2023 | 11:24 am | Bryget Chrisfield

“People are almost starting to fall over the cymbals; they’re that close… The energy just keeps ramping up, and you keep feeding off each other, and you walk away completely soaking wet, maybe, like, half your clothes are off now….”

The Presets

The Presets (Credit: Ben Sullivan)

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As The Presets prepare to rekindle the “hedonism and debauchery” of legendary nightclubs such as Sydney’s Club 77 and Melbourne’s Honkytonks (we still miss that Rave Juice!) on their "20 Years. 20 Nights" DJ tour, we take a hazy trip down rave-memory lane with Kim Moyes

He reminisces about “super-fast happy hardcore” pumping outta the car stezza of fellow Preset Julian Hamilton’s Ford Laser, calling 0055 numbers for directions to spontaneous underground raves, Abel El’toro’s genre-bending DJ sets at Mr Goodbar’s legendary Warm Up night, trying to identify choons pre-Shazam, Australia’s golden age of electronic music, supporting Daft Punk and so much more. 

Supporting Daft Punk (Never Ever Land, 2007) 

Line-up: Daft Punk, SebastiAn and Kavinsky (Ed Banger), Cut Copy, Van She, The Presets, Muscles, The Bang Gang Deejays.

Kim Moyes (The Presets): “That was amazing and sort of like the beginning of everything going exponentially crazy for us. We were in the studio recording and doing the final mixes of the first half of [2008’s] Apocalypso [the first dance album to win the ARIA Award for Album Of The Year], and I think we were kind of rushing to get a couple of the tracks out and into our live set; I think My People had just come out that week. But then the first Daft Punk show we did was in Sydney, and we were the main support – before Daft Punk came on – so there were already, like, 50,000 people there in the crowd. And we played My People for the very first time and Kicking And Screaming for the very first time, and Kicking And Screaming wasn’t even out yet!

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“I remember feeling like I was gonna fall off my drum stool [as a result of] the energy from the crowd coupled with whatever my nerves were. I was super-excited to be there, as a huge Daft Punk fan, and I remember coming off the stage just being like, ‘Wow!’ It was such a blur. And then everyone would be coming up afterwards going, ‘So that was kind of amazing!’ [laughs] And I’m like, ‘Really? Really?’ But then, I guess I didn’t really see it from their perspective. And you’re sort of looking at it from the crowd’s perspective, in the huge arena, and that amount of people going nuts to the song: our very first airing of My People. It was just kinda like, ‘Wow!’ Such a gift. It was amazing that it worked, and it sorta hasn’t really lost any of its potency since then.”

Seeing old photos of The Presets “jumping on each other in band rooms” and thinking, “Who is that?” 

“It’s kind of overwhelming at times – you know, the version of yourself 20 years ago is very different to the version that you are now – and, yeah! It’s funny going back through some of those old photos that are being posted up on Instagram and some of those montages of us, like, jumping on each other in band rooms and things like that. It’s almost a bit like, ‘Who is that?’

“Certainly, our scene back in the day was palpable and was quite amazing; even at the time, you knew it was something special ‘cause we’d been kicking around in bands [including Prop] and playing music for probably even ten years before we started The Presets. I’ll be honest with you; it’s a little hard to remember a lot of it [laughs], you know, for many reasons….”

Australia’s golden age of electronic music

“I think the first time we got around the country was supporting Cut Copy in these very small rooms – like, [playing] for 100 people – and that was a great time. They had just released their first record [2004’s Bright Like Neon Love], and we’d forged a really strong bond with them. And the same with the Midnight Juggernauts, like, whenever we got to do shows with either of those bands – or there was a couple where we all got to do shows together – it was just, you know, everyone was doing a similar thing, and it just sorta happened. 

"It wasn’t a conscious thing where everyone was like, ‘Oh, great! Let’s do this hybrid electropop-meets-rock kind of thing,’ you know? [laughs] Everybody stumbled on it in their own way, and so it just felt – even at the time – authentic and special. And everyone was coming at it from a different angle, and it wasn’t competitive or anything like that; it was just like, ‘Wow, this actually feels like we’re in the eye of a storm of something special’.

“It was probably just a really amazing circumstance that we ended up affiliated with Ksubi and Bang Gang, and I think that part of Pav [Modular founder, Steve Pavlovic]’s genius was bringing these cultural aspects together and sort of threading it together from the ground up and, yeah! It was just amazing, and we got so many free clothes [laughs].”

Loose Stateside basement shows in Cleveland & NY’s legendary Cake Shop 

“I mean, the first couple of years was its own crazy event – it’s all blurred into one. Especially when we were touring the States and the UK – you know, on our first couple of tours – you kinda just got thrown into whatever room. There was this typical first stop for bands when you get to New York called the Cake Shop. I think it literally was a cake shop, and after hours their basement would fit maybe 40 or 50 people. You’d just set up on the ground with a makeshift sound system, and if you got a bit of a crowd, it might be interesting. But generally, people were coming to check out who you were, and we weren’t super-well known, so there wasn’t much of an opportunity for things to go crazy.

“But then, every now and again, you’d hit one random spot. And there’s one in particular that we always talk about it where it was the first time we played in Cleveland [Ohio]. It was the same kinda thing: it was a restaurant, café thing, and they set it up like an indie-dance night – midweek, in the basement – and it fit maybe 100 people. And I think it was probably a Wednesday or Thursday night [that The Presets played], and we didn’t know what to expect; Cleveland wasn’t really much on our radar apart from Spinal Tap [laughs].

“But, yeah! So it ended up being completely packed for the small room that it was, and I’m sitting there on the drums, and it feels like people are almost starting to fall over the cymbals they’re that close. And, you know, when it’s like that, and everyone’s really up for it and appreciative that you’ve come out to their out-of-the-way town? The energy just keeps ramping up, and you keep feeding off each other, and I just remember that one being a particularly crazy set where you walk away completely soaking wet, maybe, like, half your clothes are off now – yeah! It’s like, ‘Wow, I didn’t expect that!’ Those kinds of things happen every now and again, they’re kind of rare, and they’re always a bit surprising.”

“Super-fast happy hardcore” pumping outta the car stezza in Julian’s Ford Laser 

“I was pretty well-behaved and pretty studious throughout high school. I mean, I lived up on the Northern Beaches, so getting to and from the city wasn’t always so easy with public transport, and I didn’t have a car, so I just had my head in the books throughout high school. 

“And then when I went to uni [Sydney Conservatorium of Music] – that’s a bit more when I started to venture out to clubs and go to raves. So we’re talking, like, 1995, and it’s about the same time that Julian [Hamilton] and I met. He was a bit more of an early raver than I was. And, you know, I wasn’t around then, but when I first met him, he was into gabba and happy hardcore. You’d get in his little Ford Laser, and he always had this super-fast happy hardcore on the car stereo and lived a little bit more central to clubs and stuff like that. I think there were probably a few underage clubs going on at the time, so his experience was a little bit different. But, yeah, we used to venture out to raves. So I think we caught the tail end of the 0055 [raves] – you know, ring the number on the night to find out where the spot is – and that was very fun.

“Sometimes you’d end up driving out somewhere around Botany, and then there’d just be a couple of hippy-looking dreadlock dudes walking around aimlessly telling us that it’d been shut down – they would be shut down before they even began. But there were a couple that we got to check out. There was one really memorable one in what is now a big block of apartments that’s on the corner of Regent Street and Renwick Street in Redfern, and it was just literally an abandoned block. And they were so amazing, those kinda things, it was just so exciting, especially at that part of your life when it’s just adventure and, ‘What’s gonna happen? How late is this night gonna be?’ And the music and the environment were just in some kind of crazy dystopian harmony. Yeah, it was a really good time.”

Abel El’toro’s genre-bending DJ sets at Mr Goodbar’s legendary Warm Up night

“The first one that comes to mind, which is an absolute classic, is Higher State Of Consciousness by Josh Wink, and there was this Wednesday night called Warm Up that we used to go to at Mr Goodbar in Oxford Street. It was run by Abel El’toro, who was a legendary rave DJ; he used to put on Happy Valley parties. So he had a weekly night there, and he was – he still is! – a really great DJ. But it was at the time when there would be a lot of Beastie Boys and Rage Against The Machine, and he wouldn’t be afraid to throw that stuff down along with, like, acid and techno. And I think his night even took over from another night by this collective called Clan Analogue – I think they’re still going as well – which were, like, a bunch of synth nerds. And they had a weekly night there, too, where people would come in and bring all their synthesisers and set up and play this kind of acid-rave music, but live. 

“So we got to see all that sort of stuff. We got to see this hybrid thing coming in where mixing up music from the radio with dance music kind of made sense on the dancefloor; you know, rock’n’roll and hip hop and things like that were all getting mixed together. There were some really memorable experiences there, and it was great to have a weekly haunt to go to. So that was hugely important for us.

“But when I think back to some of those dancefloor experiences – especially at Warm Up with Abel playing that acid track, Higher State Of Consciousness, and then Killing In The Name and things like that, all in one night – I just [remember it] being so insane. And there were a bunch of 303 tracks going around like Fatboy Slim had Everybody Needs A 303.” 

How Clan Analogue informed Prop

“The Clan Analogue thing – we really looked up to those guys, and we formed a little bit of a bond with one of the guys who was the organiser of that collective. They sort of took us under their wing a little bit, gave us some gigs, and the Prop attitude was: we were trying to make that sort of music but on acoustic instruments like vibraphones and marimbas. We were trying to figure out this music that we liked that was so exciting – that was completely electronic, and we didn’t know how it was made – and then just transferred it onto the instruments that we were studying at uni. So that was our mission, in a way. I don’t know how successful it was [laughs].” 

Identifying choons pre-Shazam

“I remember Chemical Beats by The Chemical Brothers was a big one, and it would be played all the time, and I had no idea what it was for what seemed like about six months. And I think I remember going on the radio at 2SER, community radio, and they were using it as a promo. We were in there getting interviewed, and I’m like, ‘What the fuck is this track called? I’ve been looking for it for ages!’ And they went, ‘Oh, it’s just Chemical Brothers. Whatever’ – it wasn’t even that much of a dig. And, yeah! That shit was happening all the time where you hear some track out, and it would get under your skin instantly, but you’re kind of like going to the record store and flicking through and then hopefully finding something. I never had the courage to go up to the record store shop assistant and, like, try to sing them partial bits of what I remembered from the dancefloor, but I think that was happening a lot back then.”

Which reminds us of this absolute classic:

Approach the DJ booth at your own risk 

“I like it when people do that [ask for the name of a choon he’s dropped while he’s DJing] now, and people generally just come up and take a photo. But nowadays, people come up asking you to play stuff and even have it cued up on their phone! And it’s like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ [laughs].”

The Presets DJs’ evolution 

“I’ve always DJed myself, and whenever we’ve toured the States or Europe, I often get picked up to go and do a little DJ set at a club here and there or an afterparty. But The Presets doing a Presets DJ show hasn’t really been a thing – well, it’s relatively new.

“So we started doing that about 12 months ago – there were a few opportunities, post-Covid, to do some stuff. So we’ve just been figuring it out as we go along. And I think given that we’ve been making music together for 20-plus years and going out to clubs and stuff for even longer, there’s a kind of unsaid understanding when we get up there, and we start playing. And I think that there’s an expectation for it to be a certain thing already – because it’s the two of us – so there’s a natural level of energy that we gravitate towards. 

“Sometimes we were booked to play slightly out of the central city areas – maybe a little bit more suburban or regional – and we just found that it was sooo fun and in your face, and it really reminded us of when we first started and were developing a name for ourselves. And at some of those gigs – just because of the nature of the venues, they were really small – there’s not really much of a stage sometimes, and you set up on the ground, and people are right there, right next to you. And you might only have about 100 people in the room, but it’s a really wild energy. So, yeah! We started to get these flashbacks of that feeling with some of these DJ sets that we were doing out in the burbs.” 

Testing mixes on Club 77’s “ratty sound system”  

“At the beginning of the year, we did a little DJ set thing at Club 77, which – even outside of The Presets, as fans of music and people who used to go to clubs in our younger days – has been a mainstay for us. And we used to play there with our old band [Prop], we played a couple of early Presets shows there, Bang Gang [legendary club night] moved over there as its second home after Moulin Rouge. So it’s been somewhere that we’ve been to so often.

“And even when we were making our first record [2005’s Beams], we were doing mixes at the studio in Surry Hills, and we would take the mixes down to Club 77 to test on their ratty sound system just to see how things were translating. So in a lotta ways, it’s been a little home away from home for us, and that DJ set that we did at the beginning of the year really felt important in a way, and I don’t really know why.”

The Presets DJs: “freewheeling and a bit chaotic” 

“There’s a bunch of songs that we have earmarked over the years – important things for the band and things that have been influences, or even references when we’re making music – so it’s a chance for us to kinda throw them into the mix. Then there’s a bunch of really great Presets remixes that we pepper in there that have always worked, and I always throw a few of them into my personal DJ sets, and I have been for, like, the last 15 years. So it’s nothing new from what I do normally, but just in the context of the two of us up there, it sort of makes sense. It’s sort of like the club, side version of our personality, and it’s a bit freewheeling and a bit chaotic and, you know, sometimes it’s a bit clunky, but it’s always fun and surprising and kind of the antithesis to what our live show is, which is highly prepared and programmed and sorta dialled in, because there’s all these moving parts and things that need to be managed. But this is us getting up there and just going splat for a couple of hours.”

Honkytonks flashbacks

“I think Honkytonks was – well, maybe a little bit classier than Club 77, but they were like the answers to each other, you know? Certainly, they were very similar in, like, hedonism and debauchery. Mike Delany, the owner, was often [DJing in the female toilets] – it was his prized position [laughs]. We would often end up at Honkytonks or Third Class [which Honkytonks morphed into] after a show, and I DJed there so many times as well, so, yeah! That’s the spirit that we’re trying to rekindle for this DJ tour, for sure.”

Rave Juice appreciation society 

Rave Juice: a Third Class house specialty containing Agua, a Bolivian spirit made with coca leaves, and Red Bull, often served in a plastic bag containing a glow stick.

“Oh, yeah, the Rave Juice! It also used to come in a plastic bag, and sometimes there was MDMA in there [laughs].”

The Presets will embark on a massive, 20-date tour across Australia from July to September. You can find tickets here.



Friday, July 14 - Village Green Hotel, Mulgrave

Saturday, July 15 - Pier Bandroom, Frankston

Thursday, July 20 - Beach Hotel, Byron Bay

Friday, July 21 - Friday's Riverside, Brisbane

Saturday, July 22 - Kings Beach Tavern, Caloundra

Friday, July 28 - Burleigh Bazaar, Gold Coast

Saturday, July 29 - C.EX, Coffs Harbour

Friday, August 4 - Shoal Bay Country Club, Shoal Bay 

Saturday, August 5 - Drifters Wharf, Central Coast

Thursday, August 10 - Gilligan's, Cairns

Friday, August 11 - Kirwan Tavern (Outdoors), Townsville

Saturday, August 12 - Magnums Hotel, Airlie Beach

Friday, August 18 - Beer Deluxe, Albury

Saturday, August 19 - Torquay Hotel, Torquay

Friday, August 25 - UOW Uni Bar, Wollongong

Saturday, August 26 - Kambri Anu, Canberra

Wednesday, August 30 - The Station, Perisher 

Friday, September 1 - Miranda Hotel, Sydney 

Saturday, September 2 - Dee Why RSL, Sydney 

Saturday, September 9 - Monsoons, Darwin