Return to site

Introducing: Joshua Harry Hall

An interview with multi-dsciplinary artist and head of Sub Club, Joshua Harry Hall who will be joining us for Tessellate (Dis)connect

· Crate Mates Writings

You create and work with sound, video, projections, installations and perform fire art. What form of expression do you enjoy most and why?
No preferred expression, rather a desire to create worlds around a thought. Music is by far the tool I most rely on to convey my feelings, from pain to elation, but around that I always see a visual narrative. Sometimes it’s direct, like a film-clip, other times it’s colour pallets or shapes - so I want to pair as often as I can the things I see with the music to help bridge the gap between the inner, solitary world and the outer, shared world.

Movement is just as effective. Considering subtle body language can heavily influence the way we navigate others in social and physical contexts, but I injured my knee contact-dancing a while back so I’m restricted in dance and fire play. I’m not sure when I’ll have the ability and confidence back to push that side of me, so I’m doing my best to direct that energy elsewhere.

How would you describe your artistic style?
Balanced. My output can be quite varied. Definitely in live settings I often make completely new sets dependent on the space/time of the event, but the common thread is balance. Either on a track to track basis or a whole show, I feel it takes the underside of something to give context to the top. If something is bleak, there should be something uplifting, but not at all to uplift – instead to give more weight to the darkness. If things are feeling crowded, clustered, and claustrophobic, it’s easier to digest when given space. To play with tempos, genres, lighting, visuals etc. - gives movement to mood. I don’t want people to move on from feelings dismissively, I want them to get through them with a sense of resolution.

broken image

Where do you go to draw inspiration for your sound?
Nowhere. Sitting in the throne of a destructive lifestyle’s enough to get the juices flowing, it’s my cabin in the woods.

You have created multidisciplinary art for spaces like festivals. How do you feel about art and sound in the same space?
Mind altering. There’s an essay by Aldous Huxley titled “Heaven and Hell”, exploring the history of mysticism induced by bright objects, jewels, and geodesic patterns. For example, the invention of glass changed places of worship, from alters to cathedrals of stained-glass windows, to captivate you in awe as the expanse of space and colour is unlike anything in the natural world. Such states of consciousness can open our minds to consider ideas that are beyond our lived experience. We have evolved not to have those pathways open at all times, as it’s no benefit to us in terms of survival to be fixated on, say, the beauty of dew glistening on morning grass.

At this point in history, I believe strongly in pairing all forms of art in festival environments and other immersive spaces, as a point of difference to daily life. With the right intention and curation, these platforms can be a means to open minds and see things from new perspectives, helping move through social, political, and environmental challenges by connecting people from diverse backgrounds.
Unfortunately, this can be overlooked in the same way that some substances can be abused and therefore ignored for their therapeutic benefit. So too does the rise of one-dimensional profit-based events create a climate easy for the powers that be to wipe out culturally significant festivals and venues, ignoring benefits and options to work constructively to reduce whatever negatives that may be (disproportionately) associated.

broken image

We hear that at (Dis)connect you plan to perform live in the middle of the floor area so that people can interact with the performance from all sides. What do you hope to bring to (Dis)connect on the night?

Mainly to break from the audience just staring at the artist at the front of the room. It does make sense in a lot of cases, especially if the sound is coming from the stage/booth specifically. I’ve found in the past though when an audience is given more freedom where they want to stand in the room and where they direct their focus, an interesting dynamic is formed. With the theme of (Dis)connect, I’m playing with the idea that it’s possible to feel more connection as a result of disrupting the central area, which is otherwise the point at which a crowd comes together.
I’m intending to incorporate tape-loops and be quite hands on with four-track cassette players, some custom instruments, and modified Walkmans – so if someone wants to see what’s going on a little more they can, yet the freedom’s there to go stare at the visuals and listen with no pressure to look at an artist.

How has the concept of 'disconnection' played a role in your life?
I guess there’s always a sense of separation between the self and the other, so on a general level I grapple with feelings of alienation even amongst close friends and intimate partners. On a deeper level, surrendering to the moment, the flow of life, and accepting that you are the sum of your actions is a useful tool to disconnect from fears and anxieties that can hold us back.

broken image

As the mind behind Sub Club Melbourne, what has been challenging, surprising and most rewarding for you?
The challenging part was starting out, being the new kid on the block. It was hard in the beginning to find the right people to work with because the best people running the kinds of events we’d want already had ties to the right venues, and longer relationships with the bookers/managers etc. - which is a good thing. It’s great to be apart of a community, rather than a scene that’s competing against itself. I had no interest in convincing nights to change what they were doing and come to Sub Club, nor did we want to come straight out of the gates and claim SCM is “this” kind of club, for “these” kinds of people, playing “that” kind of music. It’s always grown organically... waiting for the people to make up their mind about how they felt in our space. It should be the people creating the energy that becomes the expectation of the space.
So it took time for people running parties to realise I wasn’t operating conventionally. There was a lot of declining certain parties because I didn’t like their attitude or motivations in-person, or felt that there’s enough venues to cater to certain sounds. I didn’t want to pay for the quiet nights, or closed nights, with the wrong kind of people just because they could get the numbers. I didn’t want events affiliated with Red Bull and Boiler Room for the exposure or the status. I guess that’s the punk ethos kicking in not wanting to put up advertising that otherwise isn’t in the space due to contractual agreements. There was one party that had a beer affiliated with it which wasn’t communicated, so I chucked the posters in the bin and saved all the slabs for kick-ons.

It should be the people creating the energy that becomes the expectation of the space

What’s surprising is now we’re getting a lot of great feedback from some of the bigger internationals ahead of their gig. They’re coming down confident they’re in a good space – it’s not the craziest club, or the biggest, or the most innovative – but what’s being passed on by other artists that have come through is positive and reassuring, which feeds in to rewards. The space isn’t perfect but after five years it’s starting to pay off. It’s nice to be part of an interesting time for Melbourne – our local artists are killing it at the moment, often out-playing internationals, and they’re standing out when they go abroad – it’s great to be part of the narrative when people overseas are scratching their head and wondering what’s in our water.

In regards to Tessellate, I’ve always made a point to separate my art from the club, not use the space to leverage my own agenda. It’s rewarding and comforting to have people like the Tesselate crew ask me to contribute to nights in the club, it’s great to share that side of me down there - it’s the other side of the coin.

Tell us about your piano at Sub Club. How did you distort its sound?
The piano’s mine, it’s 135 years old, and when I was moving in to my new studio I acquired a Yamaha CP70 – they’re like an electric baby-grand – and didn’t feel like getting the upright up the warehouse stairs, so I got it moved to Sub Club. It doesn’t operate like a standard piano though because I’ve prepared it with nuts and bolts in between some of the strings to create more percussive sounds, or tense bell-like sounds that resonate through the body. Some of the higher strings have gaffer tape over them and fabric to dampen the sound, similar to some mallet instruments. I’ve got contact mics installed across the harp so I can run it through my mixer and effects pedals, so it’s quite versatile. I’m looking forward to sharing those sounds at Tessellate.

broken image