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Jamie Stevens
Photo: Dan Urbano/urbanophoto.com









Frank Xavier
Photo: Dan Urbano/urbanophoto.com






Manuel Sharrad
Photo: Dan Urbano/urbanophoto.com







"Girls Can Be Cruel" limited edition vinyl











written by Jules Mari

With live guest gigs at top U.K. clubs like Renaissance and Fabric - as well as at prestigious outdoor events such as Creamfields UK, Creamfields Argentina, and Glastonbury 2004, Infusion has become "a force to be reckoned with" as Muzik Magazine would say. Made up of three members - Frank Xavier, Manuel Sharrad, and Jamie Stevens (whom we were lucky enough to interview for this article) - Infusion has intelligently infiltrated the electronic music scene with their talent.

Infusion has already made their mark by playing alongside acts such as the Chemical Brothers, Underworld, Paul Oakenfold, and Carl Cox - as well as having shared the bill with Oasis, Black Eyed Peas, Nelly Furtado, and many others. In their homeland of Australia, Infusion has a dedicated following with sold out shows across the country, multiple ARIA Award nominations (the Australian version of the U.S. Grammy), and many Australian Dance Music Awards. Having made their mark in their home territory, they're sure to take the world by storm as they tour the remainder of the globe.

Click here to win one of only 500 limited edition
"Girls Can Be Cruel" 12 inch vinyl records!

We hooked up with Jamie Stevens of Infusion while he was on a tour stop in Boston to ask him questions such as - what goes on in the making of their live show, what core pieces of equipment they use, and how they identify their roles in different creative environments. And now, more about Infusion!

Jules Mari: How do the three of you split up your roles in the band? Do you have specific roles, or do you collaborate?

Jamie Stevens: We really collaborate. It's different when we're playing live, we have set roles in what we do because it's dependant on which equipment we're in charge of. Like, live, Frank has the sequencer and the hardware that drives all the sounds - so he sort of does all the arrangements. He has access to all the elements of the tracks come up - on and off, so, kick drum, hats, bass, all the sounds, it's all live - on off, on off.

What kind of sequencer do you use when you're playing live?

It's an Akai MPC4000.

So you don't use laptops? No, no, it's all hardware. You can't really sit there. It's all very physical. Everything's in loops, so there's no 'the track starts here and ends there'. It's all in an endless loop and those sounds come on and off by physically turning and hitting these pads and turning them on and off -so that's how we play live - so it's that (MPC4000) and a sampler that has lots of sounds.

What kind of sampler do you use?

An Akai Z4. So we've got all those individual outputs. Eight out of the MPC and eight out of the Z4 - and they come into like, a 28 channel disk. So we have all those individual sounds - snare, kicks, bass - and they all come into individual channels - so we can EQ all of those individually - treat them all, ya know, like a live mix.

We also have an MPC1000, and that's synchronized, and I have control of that -and I bring in the secondary loops which helps us kind of transition between tracks and kind of make up little transitions as we go - add little elements over on top of other tracks, things like that... and also two Lexicon effects.

What about sampling, do you use any samples from other sources?

No, not at all, we create all our own samples. We've always loved making our own sounds, sort of like Depeche Mode had all these sounds that didn't sound like anyone else, and that's what we love. Like I said, for me, sound and music are one and the same, so that's your fingerprint of your sound. Oh, there was one sample we used on a one-sided 12" called "Do To You" that we used. They cleared that - it was by a group called the Machinations.

What kind of sequencer do you use in the studio?

Logic Audio even though it's not really supported anymore for PC... it's all just Mac now... but we still use that.

So PC as opposed to Mac?

Yeah, well, Frank loves his PCs and finds them very easy to use and if something's wrong, he can get inside of them, and they're cheap, too. With the three of us, we each wanted to have our own workstations and swap sounds and files, so the whole idea of PCs became a cost effective thing.

When you're playing live, do you loop any of the vocals that come through?

Sample them? He (Manuel) has a delay pedal and sometimes he goes through that and sometimes he'll do his own delays and loops on that - and he does his own processing and stuff like that. And within the MPC we have like forty tracks (songs) that we've got in there that we can choose from. There's no actual set list - it's kind of like, whatever is working - we don't know what we're going to play until we actually get up there and start playing and then we'll just wing it - is basically how we do it. We can play forty-five minutes, or we can play two and a half hours or three hours or something like that, ya know... but usually it's one and a half to two hours that we feel pretty comfortable playing. Um, but sometimes when you have an incredible crowd, you just want to keep going and do more and more tracks.

Do you all three of you sing?

No, just Manuel. On the album, Frank sings as well on a couple of tracks. But live, it's just Manuel singing at the moment because we only finished the album a couple of months ago. We haven't had a chance to kind of work for him (Frank) to sing during our live sets.

Did you guys start making music right away when you met?

The second day after I met Manuel we actually started writing music, yeah... I sat down next to him in English class and we started talking about music and... just like that... When we were in school, I'd go over to his house, and we'd have a little four-track recorder, analog synth, and a drum machine and we made a couple of these songs and stuff like that.

What is your musical background?

Frank was really into hip hop and people like Japan, Gary Newman, and Human League - from a pretty young age, too - probably because his sister used to listen to a lot of similar music as well. But he was doing stuff in his bedroom as a kid like with hardware sequencers and stuff. He also had some musical training as well. And Manuel's family is very musical. His Mom's a music teacher and his sister is doing an Opera degree. Manuel also did years of piano training from a young age. And me, I am completely self-taught. I just learned writing music on a Commodore 64 computer and it used to have little notes on the staves and I would just hear it and I would look at it and know what it sounds like and know what the note is and over time I learned how to play music by listening to records and playing along to records.

I always found that music and sound were one and the same. So I didn't really differentiate between the two I guess. That's what got me into electronic sound because there's something about being able to manipulate sound as well as the pitch - it became one thing for me. I come from more of a visual arts background. I was going to be a graphic designer and I was always for painting and drawing so I pretty much saw that music was pretty much the same thing for me as well but I didn't really think about music as a career and then things kind of went their way and ended up like this.

Once you got your first single created, how did you get it out there?

It was actually out through Sony. We did this big party the first time we actually played and it was only a few months after we had formed - this was before Frank had joined. This is actually in '94. We had played this big rave with about three and a half, four thousand people and one of the big DJs there in Sydney saw us play and said he liked what we were doing - and he said "you should come to my studio and see what we can come up with". So we went to his studio and recorded a track called "Smoke Screen" with some slow kind of hip hop sounding thing that we came up with and his brother worked for Sony and he ended up releasing it and like, ok, cool! And then it got nominated for an ARIA which is like the Australian Grammy's kind of thing. And we were like, um, ok! We were pretty lucky because the national radio station there, the only national radio station, really, called Triple J, supported it and have been supporting us ever since so it's been really lucky from the start. Right from the get-go we've had some really nice support...

As far as defining moments you've had as a band...

I can think of three specific ones as measuring how we advanced along our career. The first one would be after we released stuff through Sony. We decided to go with this independent label called Thunk, which is based in Sydney, and we released a single called "Spike" which was a tech-house kind of track. We did a remix of it. The original was a breaks kind of thing so we did a remix of it in a tech-house version and it was picked up by so many people - and we just didn't expect it. We got lots and lots of support and press coverage for that track so we got recognized by a lot of DJs because of that.

The second one was, when we played our first international gig. Which was after we got management - which was a big turning point - and it's the same management company we have now - and we got our first international gig at Fabric in London. It was an eye opener to realize that people in London enjoyed what we did as well. Just playing around Australia we didn't know how we stood up against internationals so it was pretty fantastic.

And the third one was playing Creamfields in Argentina - playing in front of fifteen thousand people. That was - unbelievable. It was a big outdoor thing, people jumping up and down. Those were the three defining moments.

Do you find there are differences between your studio album and what you play live?

Oh, yeah, there are definitely differences. We kind of see the live thing as - it's fun for us. We've always had to play clubs and we've really enjoyed that. It keeps us on our toes by not having preprogrammed sets. I don't think we'd have the same kind of intensity if everything was preprogrammed.

The sound we have now is more or less the sound we began with. Over time we've had this secret side to us that's been developing in the studio that a lot of other people don't know about. We don't really get the opportunity to play that stuff live because we're not really in those kinds of environments. (It's) much slower, more musical kinds of things that would be hard to play live. Usually if we do something in the studio of that nature, we'll rework it, remix it in our sequences, and do a live version for those kinds of environments. So, yeah, there is a big difference, and I think it's getting more and more further apart as time goes on, particularly with this album. We kind of like that, and I think next year we're going to change our live set a bit more, expand it a bit more.

While we're working on the album, we focus on what we want to write rather than think about playing it live. But with the album we wanted to create a good album with good music and just write as a band - let's just do it for ourselves and see what happens. I think people will be pretty surprised by it (the album) because it is rather different. We thought the same thing when we did our first album, which came out through Thunk a few years ago. We thought - oh, people aren't going to know where this is coming from because it's so different from our live stuff - but it got really well accepted. I'm not worried about it, I'm just curious just to see what people's reactions are going to be because now it's done and just sit back and go, "I know it's different, I know it's different..."

Do you guys do your own mastering of your music?

No, we went to a guy called John Davis in the U.K. because we were actually in the U.K. at the time so we did the mastering there as well. Not because we didn't want to do it in Australia, but we were already in the U.K. He did stuff for Daft Punk and Chemical Brothers and he was really cool. But the thing with the mastering, too, we didn't want a loud, you know, where everything has to be the loudest. So when we met him we were like, we don't want the loudest record possible, and he went, "thank God!" We just want things to breath and have lots of space. So there's lots of space in the record and lots of quiet moments we didn't want to lose - a kind of openness. So he was really cool to work with. We're always there mastering because we try to be there every step of the way. Because every little bit of the process counts.

Is there any pressure from the major label as opposed to being on Thunk?

I wish there was - it would be an interesting little battle - but no! It's really weird, the stuff we played them originally before we signed, saying this is what we're going to do... and they were like, "excellent!"... ok, cool, we were waiting for them to start "oh, well, that verse is a bit... or maybe could be a bit more this..." but it never came... not one word like that...

What do you feel your musical direction is going to be on the next album?

Well, there are some tracks we didn't get to finish for the album. It's pretty exciting to think about what we're going to do because there was a sound we were really comfortable in making. I don't know exactly what it was, or is, I don't know how to pinpoint the sound. I think we've found a particular palette that I think we'll explore later. There's no particular combination of sounds, it's kind of hard to explain, actually... But yeah, there definitely is a particular sound we want to explore on the next album. But it won't be until the end of next year.

Thanks Jamie!

Keep Infusion in your radar screen in 2005 when their first major label LP is due to for release.

For more information on Infusion, check out their official website at www.infusion.net.au



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