Maroubra: 28°C, Partly Cloudy, 70% Humidity. Hot and humid in the summer, warm and dry in the winter.
Kreuzberg: 3°C, Snow Showers, 89% Humidity. Warm and temperate in the summer, cool and cloudy in the winter.
In Australia, the welcome transition into summer time has begun. Radiant solar rays beam down onto sandy beaches and fractured desert landscapes, growing the vibrant flora littered throughout the country. On the contrary, Germany is rapidly descending into winter, bringing with it frost-biting winds, enveloping clouds of snow and frigid temperatures. Best wrap up warm.
"I was walking down the street yesterday and it was -3, and I just started laughing out loud!"
Having recently moved from Sydney to Berlin, Mikey Melas, better known as Jensen Interceptor, is about to experience his first winter as an adopted Berliner. Though the freezing climate of his new surroundings poses some potential challenges, the political climate of his native home already sent shivers down his spine. Aggressive licensing laws favouring property developers over party goers has been detrimental to the city’s night economy.
“The government changed all the licensing laws which made it hard to get a license if you wanted one, and if you already had one, it was almost impossible to run a business and remain profitable…The whole nightlife within Sydney has completely changed, after 12 o’clock there’s no one in the streets. It feels more unsafe than it did 10 years ago.”
Whilst the obvious targets of independent venues and clubs have been dealt a massive blow, small local businesses have felt the impact of this governmental command. In the Interceptor’s opinion, premature closing hours won’t limit social unrest and indecent public behaviour.
“Any person with the smallest amount of aggression leaving a party and wanting to cause some trouble, you put a burrito or kebab in their hand, 10 out of 10 times there’s no way they’re gonna ditch the kebab and start a blue with someone.”
The only exception to the rule? Sydney’s Star Casino, open for business 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
“It makes no sense – who wants to go party in a casino?”
By targeting youth culture, opportunities as a dance music producer throughout Australia have dwindled. Melbourne is seemingly the last bastion of hedonistic hope Down Under, offering extended party hours and a surplus of talented creatives. Though the obvious suggestion may be to relocate to Victoria’s capital, such a solution is only superficially viable. Even with the talent and skill of Melas, establishing yourself amongst the already dense dance population is an incredibly challenging task, with regular time behind the decks at a premium. As a result, there has been something of a musical brain drain, with artists and producers setting their sights on Europe.
“A lot of the most talented producers I know from Melbourne have come over to Europe: Kris Baha, Francis Inferno Orchestra, the Salt Mines crew, Shed Bug, Lou Karsh, Fantastic Man. They’re all flocking over here now cos it’s really tough over there.”
Joining these musical migrants on their voyage over to the Northern Hemisphere, Melas views this change as a welcome new chapter and the start of his career proper. The rich club climate of Berlin seems tropical in comparison to Australia’s, providing vocational possibilities as a result of long-standing appreciation and celebration of electronic music.
“I genuinely have an opportunity here to make a living off what I love doing. I’ve been slugging it out for a while now, and was like 'this is it – it has to happen now.' Otherwise I’d probably have to give up on music and get a job as an accountant or in advertising.”
Being able to focus wholeheartedly on music is something Jensen Interceptor fans should rejoice at the news of. Already a master beatsmith of pulsating electro tunes, chilling EBM joints and slamming 808 jams, Melas can now further develop his trademark sound. It seems crazy to think that the Australian producer wasn’t a studio hermit before with his busy release schedule and the undeniable quality of his output. Though he fails to see cohesivity in his output, his efficiency within the studio is a skill recognised by one of the great French producers, a “total OG”: Michel Amato, a.k.a. The Hacker.
When Amato was touring around Australia, the duo collaborated on the Trigger Zone EP, the maiden release on Melas and Brendan Zacharias’ imprint International Chrome. This was during a particularly productive period for the then Sydney-based producer, with the two sonic sorcerers churning out the three track 12” in two days!
“Michel caught me at the right time. He came into the studio and did a lot of the melodic things – turn on the SH101 and just like bang bang bang in 30 secs just have the dopest EBM line or riff. I was just going ham on the computer, and he was blown away. He was like 'Holy shit! You’ve pretty much structured out the track in ten mins. That can take me weeks some times.' We were just going nuts!”
Collaboration and cross-continental studio time is something Berlin affords Melas on a far more accessible level. 5 hour flights go much further in Europe than they do in Australia, transporting passengers into new national territories. Trains, too, wind through mountains, fields and cities, breaching borders and regionalised dialects: before you know it, German signs have been replaced by Danish directions.
“I can just hop on a train or plane and be in another country. I can be in London, doing sessions and working with my crew over there, the Cultivated guys. I can go to Dublin and that’s just a couple of hours. In Australia, you can fly for 5 hours and still be in Australia.”
As a DJ, international travel invites new clubbing experiences, exposing performers to regionalised crowds and their modes of practice. Compared to the phone wielding crowds back home, waving Spotify playlists and Youtube links incessantly in his face, Melas has been captivated by European club dwellers on previous trips to the continent. Experimentalism and novelty are celebrated and welcome, allowing for originality and the chance to try something new. Weirdness isn’t always a bad thing.
“In Europe, people just want it to be weirder, harder, darker, faster. Something different. If anything, they’ve been asking to not hear something they don’t know.”
Though travelling has allowed Melas to encounter more receptive crowds and more viable career prospects, journeys across park boundaries in Maroubra may be the most meaningful. Morning strolls amongst the flower-blanketed beds and luscious grass separated Melas from label partner Brendan Zacharias’ studio, providing vital fresh air before rip-roaring sessions of music-making. This may have been the last journey he took whilst still a Sydney local.
“We just finished an EP the day I flew out to Berlin. My flight was at 9 and I left the studio at 5, went straight home, grabbed my bags and went to the airport. That’s probably gonna be the one thing I miss the most. I’d literally just walk through the park and I’d be at his studio.”
The relationship between the two label partners, producers and friends is something Melas treasures. Since Damon Kirkham of Instra:mental introduced them at a gig, the pair have found a rare synergy in the studio. Working to each other’s’ strengths has allowed for a rapid release rate without a drop in quality, signalling a clear mutual focus and near telepathic thinking. Zacharias’ ability as a sound engineer and mix master is a quality that keeps Melas on his toes.
“He’s always surprising me with his strength for production. He’s really got it. In a few years’ time, people will be forgetting about my name and he’ll be the guy. He’s a real talent”.
Zacharias isn’t the only person Melas has said goodbye to as he faces a new social climate. Possibly the most important, supportive and inspirational figure in his life has seen the Australian producer up sticks: his mother. To say Melas’ career as Jensen Interceptor is owed to his mother Louisa is an understatement.
“The reason for naming the album Mother is because I was gonna give up on music a while ago. I was really struggling in Sydney…I was working part-time and not really happy. My mum could see that without me even admitting it to her, as mums do. She just said you’re obviously passionate about this music thing, you want to give it a good go. Are you gonna get to the end of your days and have so many regrets and be upset with yourself if you didn’t really give it a red hot crack?”
And a red hot crack is exactly what it got. Naming his debut LP after the great woman was a touching tribute, a “small token of my love and appreciation she gave me.” Though more of an Abba, Nina Simone or Creedence fan, Louisa takes every opportunity to listen to the engine-revving beats produced by her son, or share articles and reviews with her friends over social media. Despite admitting the impossibility of ever repaying such motherly love, Melas has dreamed of sharing his musical journey with her, an idea warmer than any of the sun’s rays beating down on the beach back home.
“She’s an absolute legend. My goal is to get her over here when I have a really big show, and bring her along. ”