Curating music events in 2014 are a demanding challenge. With the large number of music festivals, club tours, promotional gig and what not, music events with a unique concept have become somewhat of rarity these days. In order to give back to the people that support them, Ta-ku has teamed up with his manager Saran and HOWLS partner in crime Kit pop to curate a special event in their hometown of Perth, Australia. Called Handpicked, the event will take place on March 7 (see event flyer below) and will host live sets from Ryan Hemsworth and Flying Lotus. In addition to that, the team has put together a one off 7" split release containing a track from Ta-ku and Ryan Hemsworth. In our conversation with Ta-ku, the Perth native shares some exclusive details on the background of the event, its unique concept, the Australian music scene and why it is important to support your local values.
How did Handpicked as a concept start? Where does the idea originate from?
Handpicked is an original Perth event. For the last couple of years, my manager Saran has put an event together, where he, as the name suggests, handpicks artists that will perform at the event. With the third installment coming up, the main idea behind Handpicked is to invite three different artists that usually would not visit a place like Perth, where we are all from, and have them perform one single event at a really cool venue. This will happen once a year.
For this year's installment, Handpicked hosts live sets from yourself, Ryan Hemsworth and Flying Lotus. What is the strategy behind putting together Handpicked lineups?
Both artists are in Australia at that time so it was natural for us to invite them over. It really is planned and convenient at the same time. As far as the sound is concerned, we are all different type of artists but having us perform at the same event, first Ryan, then me, then FlyLo, it all works out in regards of musical taste and bridging the gap between each other. Moving forward, we are trying to export the concept around the globe and do Handpicked in places you wouldn't expect it with three amazing artists and really curate better events.
What is Perth's, and on a larger scale, Australian music scene, like these days and what does an event like Handpicked offer to the market Down Under?
Perth has always been an isolated town. When you think of Australia, you think of Sidney, Melbourne. Perth is never on your radar, it has never been a hotspot. That's always been Perth's Achilles heel but that's also something that has always been charming about Perth at the same time. Every now and then, when some music talent emerges from Perth, people will be like, "Oh, the artist is from there?" Perth is a big state but a relatively small city with a rich music scene. However, when big international artists or tours for that matter would come over to Australia, they would skip Perth because it was not financially viable for them to stop by. When I announced an event like Handpicked through my social media page, people from around the world were wondering why I was doing it in Perth, and not in Sydney or L.A. (laughs). I think that's exactly what makes it cool and Perth needs this sort of cultural kick on the backside.
When I take look at the Australian map, I can see that Sydney, Melbourne or even Brisbane are all located on the Eastern part of the Australian continent, while Perth is on the exact opposite, Australia's west coast. And a lot of people that have never been to Australia tend to underestimate the distances between these places.
Yeah (laughs), we've been separated culturally and musically but I think it is slowly changing for the better and an event like Handpicked definitely does change things. We have people from Sydney or overseas that expressed interest in coming over and attend the show, which is crazy. It is good for Perth but it is also good that the people are aware where the event is and are still keen to go regardless the distance.
What about the Australian music scene in general? How does it differ from the markets in Europe and the U.S.?
The audience and the listenership is more invested and engaged over here. We have a strong music culture as well as a strong independent radio culture. There's a lot of artists like myself, Flume, Chet Faker that are producers, beatmakers, indie-electronic artists that wouldn't really get any radio airplay in the U.S. or Europe but in Australia, they are. They are getting heard, getting recognized and tour quite regularly around here. It's quite healthy. The audience is highly engaged, very cooperative and supportive. It's a blessing. Australia's buzzing right now musically. I'm worried, however, that the market might get to the point of over-saturation, so it is incredibly important that there's an event like Handpicked that creates something totally different.
How does a night like Handpicked look like? Besides their respective sets, will the artists also interact on the stage?
We spent a lot of time deliberating on where the event should be held, in what order the performances should take place, and what we should have at the gig. So we would love to have three artists interact and there definitely will be some sort of crossover engagement when it comes to the sets. There's also a video of all three of us that will hopefully launch after the show so people get the insight of what happened at Handpicked. One thing we noticed is that people really don't come to support the early slot so we were thinking of ways to change that culture and give the audience an incentive to show up early. That's why we came up with the idea of the free 7" vinyl. The first 1,000 people that walk through the gate will receive a limited 7" vinyl with an A-side from Ryan Hemsworth and the B-side from myself. Doing things like that make the audience a part of the event rather not just an observer. It makes an event a little more special for the people and give them something tangible as well. Gigs aren't cheap these days given the artist fees and logistics, so it's really important to make the people who support these shows at least to walk away with something.
What would be the ultimate Handpicked experience for the visitor?
I really want everyone to have fun and break down the barrier of artist and fan. I want the audience to be fully immersed into the show. I'd like to be out for the night and not stuck backstage. It'd be cool to hang out with the fans. We also have local supporters and local food that will be at the gig. It will be a very Perth-orientated event and support your local values. Listening and experience a night of good music. There will also be some interesting layouts in regards of the stage. We are thinking of putting the stage in the middle of the crowd, offering a 360-stage where the audience can witness the music around the stage rather than just stand behind it.
Will it be an Open Air event and what's the capacity of the venue?
It will be held at Perth's Freemantle Arts Centre, which is the city's quiet spot, right next to the ocean. It has a capacity of close to 4,000. They are known for doing accoustic gigs and have never done any electronic, hip-hop gigs before. It's located in a residential area, so it will only run from 6p.m. till 10p.m., which is cool because you will be there for sundown and the main act will go down right after sundown.
In regards to the future of Handpicked, is this this something you will be involved with as a regular performing guest or rather remain active behind-the-scenes?
My manager and I are working on a few things at the moment and Handpicked is something I want to push from behind-the-scenes, not necessarily with me playing in it, but helping coordinate and organize and curating it with different artists that would be interested in doing something similar. It should not be too difficult as there are many artists with tons of talent that would be interested in getting involved in something like this.
Will Handpicked events host local artists as well?
It makes sense to have one local staple and that would be the focal point of the night. They come from the city, it is the city they represent. It only makes sense in terms of sense of community and supporting your local values.