Master of his craft – an insight into Simon Lam

One half of Kllo and Couture, founding member of I’lls (RIP) and a solo artist as Nearly Ontario, Simon Lam is undoubtably prolific. If involvement in numerous musical projects as artist wasn’t enough, he’s also mixed, produced and mastered the work of countless others. A trusted Melbourne audio engineer, he’s has had a hand in the work of Woodes, Buoy, Jaala, Charlie Lim, Good Morning, Lucianblomkamp and many more.

Music has been an essential element of Simon’s life since childhood. In our interview, he talks about the transition from music as a hobby, to music as full time employment.

Listen To The Full Chat Here:

Simon performing with Kllo.

A curated playlist:

“It’s really weird” – Simon Lam. 

Crazy Bald Heads – Firstborn

This is just a really important track for me, in my later life. I heard it on a Four Tet recording of his set at Fabric in London. I don’t know, I guess it was the first song I heard that was a UK garage track other than hearing Crag David remixes (before they were ironic).

This was the first time I’d really connected with any kind of dance music. Before I’d associated dance music with ‘doof doof’ which is a super preliminary view. This was the first song of it’s kind that I heard. And it changed everything for me.

Ramadan Man – Glut

I found this from reading a really old interview with Jamie XX. I think it was just after The XX put out their first record. I don’t know, I think that track has just defined a lot of the stuff that I’ve wanted to do over the last 2 years. It drew a solid line between dance music and pretty sounds.

The song really just hit me. It starts off with drums and vocal samples for a long time, then some really nice keys come in. It’s dance music but it’s so compositional. Without sounding like a dickhead, it’s kind of meaningful. I think that’s the point where I realised dance music could really be something.

Jack Ladder – Cold Feet

I don’t listen to a lot of music like this, but something about the production of this song really interested me. I did a lot of research on the producer, Burke Reid, and he recorded with the band in a mansion somewhere in America. There was a lot of crazy things – like putting the drum kit on the bottom floor of the mansion and taking a mic up to the 3rd floor to get a really roomy sound.

Things like that got me really interested in the process of recording, and what a producer can do in terms of completely changing a sound. Making the song mean more through production. That initiated a long line of late nights, reading up on gear and different techniques. All of the different stuff you can do in the never-ending journey of perfecting audio.

Every House – The Ocean Party

I played drums for The Ocean Party for a couple of years. Maybe even 3? I’m not too sure. But that was the first track I played with them. It was kind of like an audition at their place. I was either 17 or very freshly 18 at the time and it was a pivotal moment. I left school early to take a tram to their place, and I remember carefully trying to put on my coolest clothes and trying to play that song with the shakiest hands, being so scared. But it was great, that band was my introduction to the gigging scene in Melbourne – and also every other city. They do a ridiculous amount of touring. It’s really nostalgic for me.

Sufjan Stevens – The Mistress Witch from McClure or the Mind That knows itself

I’m a bit self conscious about this one, but let’s just be honest here. I love Sufjan Stevens. I have since the moment I heard his music. I think I was dabbling in experimental, soundscape stuff for a while when I was in my teens. But once I head Sufjan’s stuff, that’s what made me want to make songs. It showed me the importance of structure and lyrics as well.

I grew up on Sigur Ros and Radiohead – for one, Sigur Ros is in a different language and Radiohead you can’t understand a word Thom Yorke says, so I wasn’t too attached to lyrics. But Sufjan was the first time I was like, ‘oh lyrics kind of mean something.’ His lyrics are so visual, especially in this track. You don’t need to know what it means in order to see something.

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