The New Pollutants are about to contaminate your mind with their latest release “Urban Professional Nightmares”, a snapshot of their work of the last 18 months. I managed to speak with Mister Benjamin Speed, who provides the spoken component of this 8-bit wonder band from Adelaide. “We describe ourselves as an intelligent mash-up of 8-bit hip hop, beat driven experimental electronica, weird head-bobbing, banging beats and curious sound bytes which are reminiscent of 80’s and 90’s computer game soundtracks, dark themes from futuristic films and thought provoking yet baffling beat poetry,” Speed says of the Pollutants sound. “Hmm… that is a mouthful! We just think we make pop music really!” he jokes.
Coming together around 3 years ago, Speed met DJ Tr!p through mutual friend Red Rabbit, who plays experimental electronica at the Exeter. In late 2001 at the ‘This Is Not Art’ festival in Newcastle, a fortuitous accident led Speed and Tr!p to form a bond. “I had a broken toe and Tr!p has a limp so we were the ones walking way behind everyone because of our physical conditions, and we ended up talking and joking about together for most of the trip”. Both seem to have a love of the weird, which comes through in their music. “We are influenced by many things around us, not just music. As far as music goes, we do not care which genre of music we listen to, as long as it is good, and sometimes if it so bad it goes full circle and becomes good again. In fact we prefer it if we listen to as many different styles of music as possible.”
Something that makes them stand out is their use of 8-bit technology, through DJ Tr!ps’ Commodore Amiga. “The Commodore Amiga has only 8 bit sampling and 4 mono channel sequencing parameters. His whole sound is very lo-fi. Because I use a new computer for music, the nature of my sound is more hi-fi. We make songs on both computers but Tr!p’s contraption is definitely a defining sound. We bring finished songs from his computer and I always have to take them on to mine and hi-fi them up a bit,” Speed says of their unique production techniques. “It is a good mash I think,” he adds. “When we have composed what we describe as our ‘pop’ sounding songs they usually come out very different to what normal pop/electronic/hip hop music is today. This is just because of our backgrounds in music and where we come from. We also deliberately go out of our way to make weird tunes! We make some very experimental stuff but usually don’t play them at our gigs much. We make music people want to hear in their homes as well as when they want to have fun too.”
With the amount of lawsuits against artists and the public in general for copyright breaches, the use of sampled sounds could be detrimental to a rising young group. “Tr!p is a untraceable button man who wont even tell ME where the samples he gets are mutated from!” Speed says of their material. “He is so paranoid about being caught by the sample police, or ASIO or the FBI, or something, that his music studio and computer is like a top secret fortress of solitude. Me on the other hand, I don’t really care because really, unless we are selling more than 50 000 albums, (which we haven’t yet but are working on) no one actually cares because, as Underworld so eloquently put it – we live underneath the radar.” Speed is self confessedly brash. “If there are sample police out there I’m like, “You want me? Come and get me!” On that note, we obviously steer well, well clear of using obvious samples that are really bad… so much so we have gone full circle and put a song on our 12” with all of these bad samples on it! But don’t worry; it only goes for 40 seconds,” he adds.
With their critically acclaimed debut album and airplay on a wide variety of radio stations, they have been all over the country at various festivals over the last year or so. “Our live performances are a manic, fun and extremely energetic mash of live and recorded material that always kills me because I jump around so much”, Speed says. “So far the best show we have performed at was the Big Day Out this year. We got to meet Kraftwerk before our performance and chatted to them while we were setting up. We found out they bought our first album the day before they met us too! At the gig I was jumping around so hard I smashed the table and my computer fell off and my microphone broke… we pulled the computer back on and loaded up our last track and I used Tr!p’s headphones as a mic. After doing that we got a big cheer from the crowd to round off our set.”