Into The Distance.
Long time Deus friend SURAHN (Sidwho?) sat down with us to answer some questions about his hometown, his influences and his longtime affection for motorcycles. He also dropped on us an exclusive upcoming single “Into The Distance” and a breezy summer mix. Heres some of a lot he had to say:
You live in South Australia but travel the world - how would you describe home in 3 sentences ?
The Coorong, where i live, is remote. It’s a sanctuary to birds, fish, plants, sand, and my family and i. We thrive off the energy here. It keeps me sane in the customs line up at LAX and gives me solace when sometimes the entertainment industry throws shade on the real romance of living right.
Talk us through your musical progression from a youngster to now ... Instrumentation , live shows and releases ... How did it all infold?
It all started when i was the letter C in Christmas in an italian children’s play as a 6 year old. Flash forward through studying instruments of all kinds, explosive rock bands smashed together with disco bands in my early 20’s whilst i was DJing in clubs. I was super lucky growing up in Adelaide. We had a healthy live music scene along side an amazing techno and disco scene, so there really was no excuse not to feel apart of the bigger picture. I released some things with the first band i was in The Swiss, which did well on limited 12 inch vinyl disco fronts, then we toured with our rock band Morals Of A Minor and became a rock n roll cliche. I grew my hair really long and pretended and flirted with substance abuse. Once that all imploded i started putting my own stuff out as Sidwho? with Future Classic. I put a handful of wobbly disco records out with them before they were a household name and that gave me the confidence to try writing more song based solo material. The first Surahn EP came out on DFA which was a goal i set myself when i would fan out on LCD Soundsystem and all the DFA’s guys. I recorded some things from the new LP at James Murphy’s studio which was wild. His studio is a complete analogue adventure playground in the west side of NYC. I slept in there for a few nights whilst tracking “ Wanted To Fly”, my first single off the LP.
Then i guess the last 7 years was Empire Of The Sun land. A strange island full of quasi mystical experiences and crazy shows. Playing after Prince, in front of 100k people in Mexico, on television in the US and every major music festival on the planet. It was trip. Sometimes i laugh about how intense that whole period was, but mainly reflect on all the incredible times i had on the road with my friends, doing what i love.
What are some of your most treasured memories ?
The musical ones revolve around great performances and studio experiences. Playing after Prince to 80k people in Portugal with Empire was a trip, stalking David Bowie one night after a show to give his manager my demo, recording and writing with Usher over the years, it’s all been pretty wild. But in amongst all of that, i still love the raw emotion of singing a song for someone, just in front of me, the intimacy strikes me. And i love playing with the guys i have grown up, Tony Mitolo ( The Swiss, Empire Of The Sun ) & Luke Million.
Music is like a cosmic children’s book that taught me how to live, and every time that special kind of harmony comes to me it’s like the universe is cradling me, reading the words of that book to me.
You love motorbikes - why ?
I grew up riding in McLaren Vale doing vintage and hanging with my cousins. I associate it with freedom and becoming a man. I’m more of a bike guy than a car guy. I ride an old 80’s Rat Kawasaki VN750 around the Fleurieu Peninsular and i have an 81 XLX dirt bike i use for the beach. When ever i travel i try and hire bikes and see the country side. I have been lucky enough to ride a Harley a few times across America with a mate and those trips are memorable. The first time my girlfriend ( now wife ) came to LA with me we rode with the Vintage Venice Motorcycle Club from the coast to the Hills and ended up Rainbow Room being blown out by the whole awesome bike culture on the west coast of the US. I remember seeing he grin in the review mirror as wide as open piano. Lucky times.
Being able to ride a mechanical horse with an engine and soak in the smells, having the wind beating at your face, locking into the rhythm of time, it’s all good stuff. I’m not a maniac though, i ride like a 60 year old. I really get into the psychology of good riding and i love the medium of bike building as art. There’s so many lines on a bike, shapes both masculine and feminine, it really shows beauty in texture, be it leather , steel or glass. My dream bike is an old 70’s CB750 or a 70’s HD iron head. I love those bikes.
Who do you admire ?
Apart from my incredible wife and resilient kids, I end up admiring animals the most and the strongest characters of nature like the Sea and the Wind. There’s a simplicity in their being that i think all of us as humans need to remind ourselves to be, a way of existing with out complication.
Do you enjoy fatherhood? Why?
I have two boys, Salvador ( 9 ) and Theodore ( 2 months ). Being a dad is the greatest gift of life. My boys are good boys and i’m so excited for them and the life they have.
I love watching them grow and learn. My eldest is a city boy and when he stays with us in the country we end up doing a lot of things like fishing and gardening to help him stay grounded. Teddy my youngest will be a little Storm Boy before we know it. Those two have a wonderful life ahead of them.
What did David Bowie mean to you ?
" Imagine if David Bowie was your president. Then none of us would have to pay the rent. You need a face to put to a name, you need a race to put to a game. Its not that I don't believe in love, it's just that I believe in you. It's a gang. "
These were lyrics I penned back in 2009 for my solo debut disco 12 inch release, Vote Bowie For President. It was around the time of Obama running for office and I was a huge fan of the president elect . It was the first time in years since I had fanned out on anyone, the natural thought process leading me to the lyrical segue for that Sidwho? record.
A year or so before this i handed Bowie's manager my demo, as a well suited young aspiring solo artist after seeing him live in concert. Weeping while he sang Heroes to me, i plotted how i was going to give him the demo of mine burning a hole in my jacket.
My first vinyl record I remember playing as a young person was Young Americans. I had an empty record sleeve of his fruity LP Pinups on my wall next to a Dali poster, blurring my eyes to merge the two. I used to play Fame over and over again, staring at them both and combining all three elements into a surreal adolescent soup .... Fantasizing about the sublime. Studying the funk, the feel and the lyrical reveal.
I always thwarted knowing that Lennon featured on that tune, bouncing off David, only ramming home the irony of two of the worlds biggest celebrities singing " fame ".
I watched his movies, particularly Christiana F, the story of the obsessive fan turning into a drug addict and Bowies role in it all.
I obsessed over Bowie like everyone else in their teens over the ages. Delving deeper and deeper into his catalogue. Every time being blown away at what would be revealed. I’d buy vinyl immediately if I flicked through a crate and saw his name. Just to have him. Even the live albums. I'd wait till I was home again to study him in private. It was pure indulgence. He was was one of the only white artists I was obsessive about at the time. I could effortlessly listen to " Win " ( a deep cut on Young Amercian's ) and Aretha Franklin in one sitting with out a hint of irony or disconnect. He was always willing to involve his soulful side. His folk roots in jangled 12 string ditties and seaside pirate hymns fascinated me too. How could he be so broad?
It wasn't until I myself became a man that I realized he really had special powers. I Relocated his sex-funk tune Fascination into the front of my brain. He would invite the listener into his prose, sometimes lulling them into a false sense of security with funk and soul grooves, only to drop you off at the station, no where near your stop.\
"Throwing darts in lovers eyes".
I went through teenage turmoil and young adult hood along with the planet and it was David's records clutched under my arm that kept me afloat. It was a life long devotion to music that bound us together and a belief I had as a young man that I too would become as bright as his star. It was blind faith in his shape shifting high brow manifesto.
I started to experiment with drugs, Boys and singing like a grown man as a result of my indoctrination. It felt OK to be weird, because .... Well.... Bowie. Mystery and intellect were cool. Challenging poetry and rock n roll lived together in a sacred place built by Bowie. For anyone aspiring to deliver anything more interesting than the norm it was his Church we would pray in. Whether that be in music, fashion or just your social, creative outlook.
His genius was always measured in perfect parts the clever and the calculated.
He employed the exquisite corpse methods. The famed William boroughs technique of writing lyrics in short punchy sentences and cutting them out into strips to re arrange and find conjunction through chance. He played with Eno's Oblique Strategies cards, a choose your own adventure approach for studio recording jaunts.
He inspired me. Daily. Often hourly. I channeled him every time I stepped on stage. He would lead me to letting go. Helping me access my inner freak, my raw sexual self and my manhood. I could wear tights and little tops with out fear to fail. A huge task growing up in a little town. For a couple of years in my early twenties I fronted a sex rock band, steaming full speed ahead with a healthy drug addiction and determination to change myself and the world. I never doubted myself because..... Well..... Bowie.
And as I grew and leant and morphed through my own changes, he was there. In his brilliant self, always shining. Setting a standard. I began my yearly trips to New York. Every single time I would land at JFK I would think of the chance meeting with Bowie. I'd heard first hand accounts of him an Imman parting the street as they swooned around corners in the west side of Manhattan where they lived. Engineers I had the pleasure of working with were bound to secrecy when working with him at Magic Box. I was spell bound. Was it unhealthy? A little secret obsession one might say.
I can talk Bowie for hours, his music is engrained into my DNA and his style and intellect are untouchable.
When I read he had left us, there was silence in my head. Like someone had fired a shot gun right next to my ears. I looked blankly at the feed RIP scrolled forth. I swallowed profusely for minutes gulping tears and trying to regain myself. My instinct was to play him, like I gather most of the planet did as soon as the news broke. I fled the house to the rocks at the beach to stare to the horizon and listen to Young Americans.
Through out my life I have doubted being so devoted to music. Why am I doing this? What is this manic persistence really worth? The isolation, the obsession.
It dawned on me after hearing the dying fade of “ Fame, the final track, watching waves crash and crawl over the rocks.
Legacy. His 25 albums have been left behind as a monument to the very definition of creative output, change and pursuit of beautiful imperfection.
We can all be more creative, more clever, more caring and stylish. Let David Bowie live on for all eternity and let his cosmic force into your life to feel comfort in being unique and different.