written by Jules
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.
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!
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
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
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?
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
Did you guys start making music right away when
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
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
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
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.
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