Ask The Presets how they enjoyed the ARIA Awards this year, and the answer is simple – they didn’t. Despite winning Best Group and Best Dance Release, and becoming the first dance act in ARIA history to take home Album of the Year, Julian Hamilton and Kim Moyes couldn’t get out of there quick enough.
”The whole experience was very weird for us,” Hamilton reveals. “And I hope… God, I was going to say I hope we never have to go through it again. It would be nice to win again, but in the future maybe well just make music that’ll never be considered nominate-able.”
Off the back of their second record Apocalypso – a thrilling mix of doomsday dance and twisted pop – these club punks have become this year’s hottest crossover act and it’s a transition that scares them. When Hamilton told Channel Ten host James Kerley on the ARIA red carpet, “We’re terrified. This is not us. We’re happier in a dark nightclub somewhere,” he wasn’t being humble.
As usual, Music partner Moyes is far less diplomatic. “We’d never really considered how it’d feel to come out of a limousine onto the red carpet. I had my girlfriend with me and she was quivering like a frightened little animal,” he says, breathing fire. “We had people screaming at us and taking photos and it was like ‘what the fuck is this shit?’”
“We didn’t make music so we can walk down red carpets and get our photos taken for TV Week magazine and then get asked ridiculous questions like ‘what does it mean for you to be at the ARIAs?’ It’s like ‘what does it mean for the ARIAs for us to be here?’ Some people get it round the wrong way.”
“It’s great that we got recognised by our peers but we’re musicians who just make music for fun and because we can’t help it, not so we can win awards. I’d happily do something to make sure that that wouldn’t happen again,” he spits, before adding “I don’t want to sound ungrateful either – it was a cool thing that happened too.”
They may have wanted to run away screaming but thankfully for the rest of us, they didn’t. Anyone in danger of nodding off during yet another Gabriella Cilmi acceptance speech (she won six awards in total) got their wake-up call when The Presets closed the show with a storming version of ‘My People’. Looking like futuristic shamans who’d dressed themselves in a toy shop, they had the Acer Arena crowd dancing in the aisles.
“We were nervous as hell throughout the whole show and we had to keep our heads on and not drink too much wine, because we were the last ones to perform,” says Hamilton.
Adds Moyes: “We couldn’t really eat either because of the timing of the food while we were accepting awards and doing interviews backstage. Plus it was a pretty fuckin’ disgusting meal anyway. By the end, we were both flat and I just wanted to go home.”
Instead, the pair went hard, cutting loose at their label Modular’s after-party in Kings Cross. Hamilton maintains he had an early one, although in Preset terms, that means 5am.
“I think Kim represented a bit harder than I did – bless him. He spends my party dollars and I spend his sleep dollars,” he laughs.
”That’s generally the case, isn’t it?” Moyes smirks. “I don’t know what time I got home, but I’m not telling you anything.”
“Do you think it’s going to get that big?” Moyes wondered aloud during Rolling Stone’s interview back in March. “I feel like it could, but I don’t want to think about it too much.”
He didn’t have to wait long to find out. Fuelled by the success of ‘My People’ and electric shows at the Laneway and V Festivals, Apocalypso debuted at number one a month later. It’s since gone double-platinum, selling over 140,000 copies and hasn’t left the Top 30 all year.
Stranger still, ‘My People’ has become a staple on commercial radio playlists arounf the country and soared into the Top 20. Suddenly, the most brutal track they’d ever made was their most successful and it was everywhere – in clubs, in shops, on TV in montages for Sports Tonight, the Olympics and even the Melbourne Cup (they recently licensed it for an A-League commercial).
“The Presets brought balls back to mainstream dance without all the clichés,” says Jaime Chaux, music director for Sydney FM radio station, 2DayFM. “Initially ‘My People’ was such an extreme sound for commercial radio but it grew organically with a strong buzz you could ignore.”
And the hits kept coming with ‘This Boy’s In Love’ and ‘Talk Like That’ both being added to radio across the board. The Nova network even started playing ‘Yippiyo-ay’ (a song about handjobs) without it being an official single. t’s a fact that still does their head in.
“I can remember eight months ago going into commercial radio stations and they were introducing us to audiences,” adds Hamilton. “Now they talk about us in the same breath as Delta Goodrem and Beyonce. That’s really weird for us.”
Along the way – although they’d be loathe to admit it – The Presets have led a local electronic boom that’s captured both the energy and audiences of the traditional rock scene. Melbourne three-piece and Modular label mates Cut Copy debuted at number one with their album In Ghost Colours two weeks before The Presets while a resurgent Pnau,Midnight Juggernauts and Ladyhawke also enjoyed widespread attention.
“There was a time when rock fans wouldn’t be caught dead at a dance gig,” says Presets manager Will Larnach-Jones. “We’re not seeing the polarised reactions from listeners and audience goers that there once was in the past. It just comes from people opening their minds up and being less precious about being pidgeon-holed. People are just far more interested in things being good.”
“I definitely get the feeling that dance music is being taken more seriously now,” says Hamilton. “The classic rock thing that people always cling when they think about Australian music is becoming more and more distant. I think people like to hold onto the idea of it just because nolstagic. I don’t even know what the Australian sound is anymore and no doubt we’re confused the issue even more.”
As Moyes points out, the strangest thing about The Presets’ success this year is that they haven’t been here to enjoy it. “If we’ve had a number one record, we’ve been on the road somewhere overseas where it’s not as big. It’s only when you come back and you’re walking along the street and you hear a song coming from two shops that you realise how big it is.”
This year they’ve toured the U.K. four times, Europe three and the States twice, making 2008 the official year of jet lag.
“I’ve got Qantas pyjamas coming out of my ass at home,” adds Hamilton. “I’ve actually stopped stealing them. Now I just leave them on the plane.”
And with the touring comes the endless interviews. “Every day after soundcheck in America we’ll do two or three phoners. It’s the kids with their blogs that no one ever reads or cares about in every city you go to. It’s such bullshit and I can’t wait till the blog era is over because it’s just these fuckwits with their heads up their ass,” laughs Hamilton.
“I can’t tell you how many people just use Wikipedia for their questions. We always get the same six questions. We should put on our Wiki page ‘we fucking hate it when journalists check this page to ask us questions.’”
Thankfully this month will be a Wiki-free zone as they hop off the touring carousel for some much needed home time. “I hope I won’t know myself,” says Moyes about being back in Sydney. “I don’t know who I am anymore. I just started a detox cleanse and I’m really looking forward to doing that. I’m curious about how much better I’ll feel after such a gruelling couple of years. I’m looking forward to eating healthy and doing nothing.”
He’s also dying to get back into the studio. “It’s been a long time since we’ve been able to make music just for the hell of it. I’m looking forward to being creative rather than just touring around being a zombie.”
Adds Hamilton: “We haven’t been able to write because we’ve been touring so much and your priorities are ‘where do we do our laundry?’ and ‘where can we get a good cup of coffee?’ But we do have vague musical thoughts floating round in our heads now, but it’s just been too hard to grab onto them.”
As yet, they haven’t discussed a follow-up album and there’s no rush either (according to their manager, Apocalypso still boasts at least three potential singles). One thing’s for sure, though, when they do get stuck into it, they’ll definitely be flicking the safety off.
“I’m terrified to think what we’ll pull on you guys next,” says Hamilton with a smirk. “I think the next record is going to be an hour-long instrumental just to get the hell out. We thought ‘My People’ was weird enough not to get played, but it turned out to be the smash of the year.”