We chat with the renowned music producer and mixer about the records that have shaped his career and have got him to where he is today: at the top of Melbourne’s tree when it comes to music technicality and inquisition.
Red Hot Chili Peppers – Blood Sugar Sex Magik
I still consider this one of the greatest records ever made and it will always have a special spot in my heart. The Red Hot Chili Peppers were the first band I discovered and connected with on my own – although it wasn’t until the mid ‘90s that I got into them.
I love everything about this record. I was a guitarist, and John Frusciante was an inspiration, blending precision with such fluidity. I tried to emulate his style; the groove, the funk, with a touch of rock – it is just perfect. The documentary about this record, Funky Monks, definitely inspired me to want to spend a lot of time in recording studios. It looked like a dream.
Dr Dre – 2001
I got into break-dancing in the early 2000s, and started listening to more hip hop. I attended a class renowned break-dance crew Wickid Force taught, where I met Dougy Mandagi from The Temper Trap, although I knew him as Chriz back then. We’d break-dance, and freestyle rap battle. One day, my cousin Matt lent me 2001 and when I put it on, I kept it on repeat! There was a punchiness and fullness that I hadn’t heard in hip hop before. It felt like the next progression.
My cousin later went on to play with Dougy in The Temper Trap during their formative years. It’s funny how connections are made.
Radiohead – OK Computer
When I lived in Elwood, I used to get up early and walk by the beach listening to songs on my old iPod. Streaming didn’t exist, and I never pirated music. I would go to JB Hi-Fi regularly, buy a bunch of CDs that were on sale, and import them to iTunes.
One day, I had just reached the halfway point of my walk and a few steps into the return and Radiohead’s ‘Airbag’ came on. Wow, it was the first time I actually heard it. This modern, forward-thinking approach on processing real instruments with crunchy distortions, pitch shifting, and this ‘melodic ambience’ was hypnotic.
My brain is already attracted to technicalities and prior to this, I thought “there’s music, and there’s electronic music”. OK Computer taught me the two can meet in the middle. Technology can be so full of soul.
Sigur Rós – ()
Another song on the mix CD that Kelly Lane made for me was ‘Untitled #1 – Vaka’ from Sigur Ros’ () album. It’s a beautiful sonic world that is so welcoming, mesmerising, warm and layered, ruled by a gentle voice singing non-lexical vocables in the form of hopelandic – the language they wrote to express and connect with music explorers from all corners. It’s pretty hard to think of any artist that does melodic ambience better than Sigur Rós do it.
Aqualung – Still Life
On one of my early recording sessions as an engineer at the now-closed studio The Sound Vault, I met Kelly Lane, who was SYN FM’s program manager at the time. Kelly plays violin with Darren Middleton from Powerfinger these days and I credit her with opening my ears to a world of magical music.
She made me a mix CD, and one of the artists was Aqualung. The song was named ‘Strange and Beautiful (I’ll Put a Spell on You)’, a hypnotic love song with piano, filtered drums, reversed percussion, a Moog bass with portamento and gentle auto-tuned vocals. Still Life was Aqualung’s second album and its big songs were ‘Brighter Than Sunshine’ and ‘Easier To Lie’. I still love this record so much and can put it on and be emotionally teleported back to my early 20s in an instant.
At this time, I was more focused on writing and performing music. My writing had been heavily influenced by the funk grooves of the Red Hot Chili Peppers… but when I heard Still Life, I knew the sort of music I wanted to write. I saw Aqualung perform at the Northcote Social club years later and it was such a great show – I even went total ‘fanboy’ afterward and lined up to have Matt Hales sign the CDs I brought with me.
These records definitely had a major impact during the early years of my music production career, and decades later, it’s exciting to hear how sounds have cross-pollinated. What I love most about music these days is the acceptance of eclecticism. In the ‘90s, it seemed kids had to commit to one genre, and anything that strayed from the group’s ‘strict musical guidelines’ transformed you into an outcast. What a wonderful time for creative expression we now live in.
To find our more about Simon Moro’s work, head over to his website.