Lars Brandle, music journalist, High Rotation
Each of those photographs and posters could tell a thousand words, or more ...
Brisbane’s music has produced some of the country’s most important artists. Bands such as The Saints, Powderfinger, The Grates, Regurgitator and countless others cut their teeth in venues across town before making it big, each contributing a unique thread to the scene’s layered musical tapestry. Lars Brandle is a music journalist that has spent large portions of his career documenting musical endeavour of Brisbane artists, as well as that of some of the world’s biggest music stars. With a lengthy career working for vaunted music institution Billboard, Lars has seen it all. Even after all this time, the Brisbane-born and based writer still has a soft spot for Brisbane music, making him uniquely suited to give his input on Museum of Brisbane’s latest exhibition High Rotation. The exhibition is running until April next year, filled with videos, photos, memorabilia and stories plucked from the past 30 years of the music scene. We caught up with Lars to chat about his beginnings as a music journalist, his own musical dabbling and what he has contributed to High Rotation.
We’d love to start at the beginning – was there a song, album or musical experience that you’d credit with kick-starting your lifelong love of music?
My Mum’s record collection was full of gems. The Beatles, Bob Dylan. Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds terrified and impressed the hell out of me. The one that really got me going was Walter Carlos’ soundtrack to A Clockwork Orange. That record planted the seeds for my love of electronic music. Sadly, you won’t find the album on Spotify. I keep looking, hoping.
The world of music journalism is a competitive field – how did you get your start in the industry and what was your approach to establishing a presence and reputation?
Many moons ago, when I was a young lad studying journalism at UQ, I got my foot in the door at Time Off. Sean Sennett, Simon McKenzie and Andrew Stafford were the senior guys. My career took off after I moved to the U.K., did some freelancing, worked at the FT and landed an editorial position with Billboard, aged 26. I was persistent, motivated and I worked hard. Simple stuff. Aussies fit in well just about anywhere.
You’ve been working in the industry for a couple of decades now! Do you have any particularly memorable encounters or stories from your career to date that you can share?
Next March will be 20 years since I joined Billboard. That’s a ridiculous number. I’ve met and interviewed many of the big stars. I’ve done Q&As on stage at conferences with DJs Carl Cox and Sasha, sat for chats with Nile Rodgers, Peter Gabriel, Alison Moyer, Tiesto, Alan Walker, and did the keynote interview with Michael Gudinski at Bigsound. I’ve also had the strange experience where I’ve interviewed my childhood heroes Duran Duran and Jean-Michel Jarre, who separately reposted my articles on their social media accounts. Wild. One of my favourite moments was hanging out with Paul Weller backstage at Royal Albert Hall in London just moments before he went on. Man, he was actually nervous. Nervous about messing up, and having to talk to a crowd of 5000. Even the greats suffer with nerves like us mere mortals.
How has the music journalism industry changed (for better or worse) since you started writing about it for a living?
Thanks to the Internet, it’s no longer a problem getting published. There are no gatekeepers. The problem is standing out from the crowd, and making a living from writing is as tough as it ever was.
As part of Museum of Brisbane’s new High Rotation exhibition, you and some other phenomenal music journalists helped unearth untold stories from the scene. Can you give us a bit of insight into that process and what sort of tales you have contributed to the exhibition?
I have a deep connection with the local music scene. I grew up in Brisbane, moved to London for 12 years, then came home. I love it here. In the mid-to-late 90s, I played in a band. No, we didn’t make it big, but we were part of an excellent scene. I grew up with so many of the acts featured at the exhibition. One of the pieces I wrote was on the extraordinary DJ Angus, who is sadly no longer with us. He was a talent like you wouldn’t believe. Go read up on him.
Have you been able to experience the exhibition yet? If so, what was one part that you really enjoyed?
I’ve visited the exhibition twice. I can’t wait to go again, with some spare time on my hands. The “wall of fame” is my fave section. Each of those photographs and posters could tell a thousand words, or more.
Over the course of your career you’ve written about a broad spectrum of musical acts from around the globe. In your opinion, what are some qualities of the Brisbane’s sound that sets it apart from music made elsewhere?
Brisbane’s musicians typically get it done without attitude. And we pretty-well cover all the bases in contemporary music, from pop, to indie, electronic, rock, country. We also have an enviable collection of live music venues in the city and the Valley, and we host the country’s biggest music convention and conference, BIGSOUND.
What do you think it is about the city itself that has helped forge such a steady output of quality music?
Our languid manner certainly helps. Bands are, essentially, gangs of friends. And most of those gangs come together in their late teens, early 20s. From my experience, Brisbanites just love to hang out with their mates.
Finally, of the current crop of Brisbane-based musicians currently making noise, what acts are you enjoying and/or predict will enjoy sustained success in the future
I’m loving Mallrat right now. Her latest EP Driving Music has so many hooks. It’s such a clever pop record. I’m astonished that Jeremy Neale isn’t flying in his own private jet. He’s such a talent and ought to be a household name.