He has been heralded as a master of all sorts of things – I do remember calling him the master of disco-nouveau some time ago. Times might have changed up a little since then, but Sydney’s Ajax now calls Melbourne home, and he gives me the impression that he likes being all things to all people. Flipping tracks – as opposed to burgers – came around the mid '90s when he got into making nu-wave compilations on tapes for friends. Still a youngster – and openly honest about his lack of direction – he claims it was okay to be part of the new culture.
Indeed, his early years seemed filled with a lack of direction yet he confronts it with an honestly and openness that’s refreshing – though rarely discovered. “After school, came years of university and a bit of lecturing here and there – I became totally convoluted! After uni I wanted to become a copywriter at David Jones; I didn’t get the job – so I became a DJ instead!”
And what could be more lacklustre a description of his style, than calling him a party DJ? “Playing party tunes – it sounds so lame, doesn’t it? But then it’s not that far off it really! I do a lot of my own re-edits and remixes so I guess I play something that you may have or have not heard before. There’s a lot of great music out there; lots of cool labels; lots of cool dudes with cool haircuts!”
Anyway, it’s good to see he hasn’t lost much of his charm or his humor. But we get back to home base for a moment, and the fact that he is a little torn. “I’ve been down here for over two years now and I must say my heart is stuck between the two. I watched this documentary about how difficult it is for refugees to adjust to a new country and how a little piece of them is missing in their new homeland. I admit it seems petty for me to comment like that when I am only an hour flight away, but I must say, every time I go back I feel like I have missed something.
“It’s almost like when you get to a party late and it’s just finishing up; there’s this guy crashed out with puke on his Holden satin boxers – that’s pretty much all that remains. And I feel like I am one of the biggest wankers down here, where as up there I was way down the ranking so have tried to readjust, my um, err, wanking? Also my mum and dad don't come down here because they don't like everyone talking about AFL, so I have to meet them halfway in Sydney as they live in Coffs Harbor.”
Still, the lad has been keeping busy in the studio, working on a lot of projects, such as Parachute Youth, Twinsy and some other secret stuff with some unmentionable bigger names. He also suggests he is focusing on his own stuff. “Some of it’s producing, some of it is more the A&R type stuff signed to my label and a fair bit in between. Actually, I was co-producing Twinsy and helping out Parachute Youth and putting my two bob in. My personal stuff is quite different sounding again, like a cross between Booka Shade and DJ Zinc. To be honest, I had the fucking month from hell recently; I had some man issues and did a hospital stint and then had some legal issues and got baptised in fire so all projects and production going on were on hold. Basically, I locked myself in a bedroom for two weeks and played strategy games but I’m back on the horse now!”
Last time we spoke, the golden boy had finished the Billion Dollar House Party compilation. Speaking a little about it, he might not necessarily looking forward to doing too many more. “Look, with commercial released mix CDs you can never truly do what you want to do because of legal implications. For example, Basement Jaxx have a clause that if you wish to use any of their material on a mix CD you can only mix into the first and last 15 seconds of their songs. I can’t get interested anymore in those kind of ventures. I would rather just have complete control and Soundcloud that nugget!”
Of course, he also has his Sweat it Out pumping out the odd hit or two. “Yeah, the label is going nuts – it’s my pride and joy. As I said before, I’m working on Parachute Youth with their next single and album. There is the Yolanda Be Cool album; and new act by the name of Caseno – think Ian Curtis meets early Cut Copy; and then maybe a new Twinsy single and my real favorites – What So Not – who have just been completely adorned by Major Lazor.” And he uses a wonderful superlative to describe how they called him at 4am to tell him so!
So over the years, clearly, he has done his time as the golden boy of Australian dance music. I question him if there is there pressure to keep doing that, getting better and better – or does he have a more philosophical point of view? As in, is it just a point in his career that will keep on moving regardless? He answers with this: “well, yeah I put that stuff to the side and get on with the new stuff! To be honest, at best, it’s a double-edged sword. At worst, it’s like a shackle. Sometimes, I kind of wish I had never won any of those DJ awards. Yes, I know I sound like a whining bitch but DJ awards are like the Logies or like winning a medal for potato peeling – you secretly love them at the time but when you look back at them, you ask yourself, ‘Is that it?’ Because dance music is so utterly transient, it almost seems pointless!”
Yet despite being hailed all manner of great things, he is just a guy grappling with his own ego. Calling it all hype, he describes himself as simply a party in a person who loves records. “I get excited by new music; by playing to 50 people, by just saying, ‘Hey Mum look it’s me’. People generally like the music I play. I'm just trying to give them a good time. I guess if you can do that for a while, then you'll be super. I like to mix things up a bit. To be honest, I think I am slightly more stash-the-hash rather than crash-and-bash these days. Maybe it’s Melbourne? New software makes it easier to edit tracks down before hand so you make less mistakes and less dumb drunk decisions, but the downside is it can be more clinical and less abrasive and punk in its attitude.”
He names his highlights and game changers in his career in quick succession too, seemingly as though having recited them plenty of times before. “Well, I started as a DJ in about 1997. I quit university and lecturing in 2000 to fully focus on partying! I did that mashed CD in 2001 as well, which was exciting. I did Bang Gang in 2003 and won a few DJ awards. I also wasted a lot of money on Star Wars toys for a few years there, between 2005 and 2008. Later on, did a bit of touring around the US, UK and Europe. I played a few festivals and gigs in between and now it’s 2012 and I’m paying years of back taxes and fines! Other than that, that’s what keeps me busy. I don’t really have any hobbies other than going for a surf here and there. Carlton doesn’t really pump right now but I love cleaning up my dog’s winnings and reading with one eye open.”
So yes, Ajax is coming of age. Only recently considered the young ‘it’ boy of grimy Australian house and electro, he should be positioning himself for a run at the world. Seemingly, a string of successful hits and a monster following around the country aren’t enough. It’s time to conquer all. And while he won’t admit it in such explicit terms, the enthusiasm and dedication are evident in his voice. Make no mistake about it – Ajax is a stalwart of the Australian music scene. And deservedly so.
AJAX plays Live On The Lanes alongside P-Money [NZ] at Strike QV on Thursday May 24.