Industry Q&A with Lance Ferguson (Bamboos/Lanu)
Lance Ferguson is one of those tirelessly prolific contributors to music who’s bio packs some serious industrial weight. A Melbournian of New Zealand heritage, Lance’s influence can be felt in a multitude of ways. He is best known as founding member and guitarist of Melbourne soul treat “The Bamboos” which he started in 2001 and is now distributed globally and has played some of the biggest festivals in Oz including Blues And Roots, Meredith, Falls Festival, Golden Plains as well as touring several times globally. He most recently released “Her 12 Faces” with his project “LANU” which features collaborations with Megan Washington amongst others. Lance has a deal with Tru Thoughts (UK) and has released music in various forms with outfits such as such as Ubiquity (USA), Inertia (Aus), Freestyle (UK), Kaydee (USA), Soul Source (Japan), Equatorial, Local People & Bamboo Shack (AUS). He has collaborated on musical projects with artists including: Quantic (U.K), Lyrics Born (U.S), Alice Russell (U.K), TY (U.K), Aloe Blacc (U.S), Ohmega Watts (U.S), Megan Washington (AUS), Kero One (U.S), Kylie Auldist (AUS) Paul MacInnes (SWED) & Tyra Hammond (NZ). Lance spoke to Blank Tape about what it has taken him to get to such a point.
1. Any advice for young fresh artists trying to break into the music scene?
These days record sales can become negligible in terms of ‘real’ income if you are making music that is left of the centre. A musician who is not blatantly operating in the Pop world can best make a living from what they are doing by generating income from live performance and publishing/sync opportunities. I don’t mean to over-emphasize the money side of things – but if artists cannot devote themselves completely to their music without needing ‘day-jobs’ then how can we hope for things to develop and progress? Though there are some remarkable exceptions, the boundaries are seldom broken by hobbyists.
So in brief I would say to anybody starting out that if they want to be able to make a living as an artist then they need to:
a. Make sure you have a kick-ass live show. The visceral and real experience of seeing and hearing your music live is something that cannot be re-created or ripped off. Make sure that when people see/hear you live that they are blown away. This applies equally to live bands as well as DJ’s or producers who are presenting their music in a solo context.
b. Get your publishing happening. I don’t mean just APRA. If your label has your publishing too then chase them up to make sure they are pitching your music for TV shows/Ads. etc etc. if you don’t have a publisher then arrange some meetings and supply them with your full catalogue of tracks. It is no serious reflection on your music if it is used on some lame TV show. it’s not like you made it (the music) for that – but this income will enable you to keep doing what you are doing.
2. When did you (make that choice / realize that you were) a professional musician?
When I moved to Melbourne from Auckland N.Z in the early 90’s I decided that I wanted to be a professional musician. I studied Jazz at the College Of The Arts and played around on the Melbourne Jazz/Funk/Soul scene as a freelance/session guitarist for years before getting into the production side of things. Concurrently I was deep into DJ/Club culture and D&B, Hip Hop, Techno and House and this eventually sparked an interest to make some music that was not necessarily based around playing my ‘primary’ instrument.
3. Whats your view on the Melbourne music scene?
The Melbourne scene is so diverse it is almost ridiculous. There are so many scenes in so many different genres and you can’t do it all. On any given night you can go and check out world-class live Jazz, Flamenco, Indie, Punk, Alt Country and everything in between. The club scene is equally as diverse and deep with everything from Dub-Step and Bass music to Electro, House, Hip Hop etc etc. Though most people would associate me with the Funk thing – I have aspired to not really be a part of any ‘one’ scene in Melbourne and I don’t really go out to many specific Funk or Soul nights in general. I prefer to hear live Jazz: Uptown Jazz Cafe in Brunswick St, Fitzroy is where it’s at.
4. You’ve released a plethora of music, what’s your initial approach to an album?
I try to direct my listening time to music that is in the same genre and style of any upcoming project for the weeks leading into writing/recording etc. Complete saturation – it’s the best way for me to focus in on a sound. It seems very obvious but it is unbelievably effective. In the car, at breakfast, iPhone etc… And always the best stuff in the genre. You always need to measure the shit you’re doing against the absolute best that there is – new and/or old. This is not to say that you should imitate – but you should KNOW what is out there and what is great and know where the bar has been set creatively and production-wise.
5. You have agreements with record labels all over the world, how did you establish them?
I am signed to Tru Thoughts, but have released & licensed stuff on other labels like Ubiquity (U.S) , inertia (Aus) & Freestyle (U.K). The first thing I did for Tru Thoughts was a a Bamboos live remix/re-work for WIll ‘Quantic’ Hollands project The Limp Twins. Later I was DJing at The Brighton Jazz Rooms in the U.K and handed Tru Thoughts Label/A&R boss Rob Luis a cdr with some Bamboos and Lanu stuff. He signed both projects to the label and we have been working together ever since. I have produced 9 full-length albums for them over the various projects since 2006. Working with an extremely pro-active and ambitious indie label can sometimes be more effective than the major label option. Whereas a major will take punts on a few acts and see which one sticks, a good Indie will develop artists and invest more long-term energy and resources. This is a generalisation but in my experience and observation it holds true.
6. Could you tell us about your solo project LANU?
The Lanu project is a way for me to release my solo work away from The Bamboos. The Bamboos has taken on a life of it’s own – but it is only one part of the picture in terms of the music I listen to and enjoy creating. The first Lanu album ‘This Is My Home’ was influenced by West-London Broken Beat and the Detroit sound. The latest album ‘Her 12 Faces’ is completely different and brings in elements of Folk, Pop, Exotica, Electronica and Shoe Gaze. Listening back to the first Lanu record 4 years on after release it sounds to me like the emphasis at the time was more on production ‘cleverness’ for it’s own sake. Now for me the emphasis is on the emotional impact of the music and so things can be stripped back and reduced down to the essential kernel of the idea. I have been really fortunate to have involved people like Aloe Blacc, Quantic and Megan Washington in the journey between these two approaches.
7. Your latest release “Her 12 faces” is a beautiful record, how did you conduct the recording process?
Unlike ‘This Is My Home’ which I completely recorded/programmed at home – ‘Her 12 Faces’ was largely recorded at John Castles Shed Studio here in Melbourne. Some tracks I pre-produced at home and then took in to record live elements. Tracks like ‘Beautiful Trash’, ‘Hold Me Down’ & ‘More Than This’ were recorded fully live at The Shed. Two tracks ‘Jean Paul’ & ‘Portrait In 50hz’ were programmed and mixed at home. Megan Washington came in for one afternoon to do her thing and I also enlisted the talents of Ross Irwin for string arrangements and (Blanktapes very own!) Simon Mavin on keyboards.
8. When can we expect the next release?
The next Lanu single ‘Fall’ is out in July/Aug with another great video clip from Lucy Dyson. Black Feeling VOL. 2 and another album I produced for a female Soul vocalist will be out on Freestyle in the next couple of months. I have just recorded a Jazz-based album and am currently working on the the 5th Bamboos studio album and Kylie Auldist’s 3rd album for release on Tru Thoughts in early 2012.
9. Who are your three fav Australian artists
At the moment:
3. Megan Washington
10. What are you three fav venues in Melbourne
1. Uptown Jazz Cafe
2. Cherry Bar
3. The Corner Hotel
Beautiful Trash feat. Megan Washington by LANU