Sugar: Welcome to "Bionic Wonderland"

Author: Mark 'Barkus' Luckey
Date: Dec 1, 2003
Views: 2483

Interview with Sugar, Australian producer and one of the driving forces behind Green Ant and Rainbow Serpent Festival.

Contact: This article was written with the mushroom online edit function

Catching up with Sugar in his Melbourne home was a far cry from last time I saw him, rocking the crowd at the 2003 Rainbow Serpent Festival. Not only did Sugar play one of the best received sets for the entire festival, but he is a founding member of “Green Ant” - the crew who put on the annual Rainbow Serpent, spending months planning and committing to the cause. At this year's festival he previewed some of the tracks soon-to-be released on his forthcoming CD “Bionic Wonderland”.

Sugar (aka Felix Hamer) is a veteran of the Australian dance music scene. He started dj'ing back in 1986 and playing techno around 1991. It is a scary concept for some of us -- Sugar has been mixing since some of us were in primary school! It's not surprising that his influences include everything from Jean Michel Jarre, New Order, Pink Floyd and Pet Shop Boys. Interestingly he would rather not know who an artist is - “these days I like to go to a party and not know who I'm listening to …. experience the music like a punter.... be inspired by a wall of sound… that gets me going….”

Sugar plays both live as well as mixing pre-cut tracks. He loves the challenge “…. I get asked to play all sorts of gigs…. you have to be prepared…. I love playing live…. Its my thing…. everything is a work in progress until I cut the final track. With new stuff, I try slightly different mixes and see what works for the crowd - it's a real buzz.” He defines his musical style as something along the lines of “Psygressive, GOA, hard trance - not quite as minimal as progressive, not quite as full on as GOA, a few hooks and pulls… ”.

His first memory of sending a crowd wild with his live style goes back to DCP parties in 1993 – “300 to 400 people going nuts, getting into it….yeah, it felt really good and everyone was so cool and supportive”. He believes the most important thing about a good party or venue is the people – “I have been to warehouse parties with 300 people, two speakers and strobe light…… and it's just gone off…people going wild... a fancy venue without a vibe and positive energy from an enthused crowd just won't cut it.”

Sugar seems to love playing outdoors, although is quick to emphasise he likes the indoor medium as well. In terms of the difference in playing indoors vs. outdoors, his witty response was “10 to 15 BPM” - then everyone else in the room laughed at me! “Music outdoors often has to be harder and faster to create the intensity…. a tune that is fantastic on an open air, packed-earth dance floor may be just too confronting and hard in a closed area with four walls… just too much”. What did he think of his set at “Rainbow” this year – he humbly responded “I loved it, had a ball… I was amazed the punters kept going as it had been so hot through the day, such adverse climatic conditions – the guys dancing all night, all day - amazing” (Saturday afternoon at Rainbow Serpent Festival had temperatures recorded of between 47 and 51 degrees – did not go below 30

His favourite technological advance, wait for it, is the computer. “10, even 5 years ago, if you didn't have a 909 or a 303 you didn't have the kick or the acid bass lines…. you actually needed the hardware to create the sound…. these days computers are amazing… you can fit all of the hardware into a software package…. plug-in's for new sound effects…” For those of us a little unfamiliar with the terminology, a 303, 808 and 909 are synthesiser boxes used for creating dance tunes way back when. His other bit of favourite technology is his “mini moog” - another synthesiser…. I think…..I dunno really…

At NRG6 he will be playing a mix of old and new tunes, getting the best from his albums and seeing what the punters think. I asked him about the process of recording and engineering his latest CD - “18 months …. having time off to prepare for the festival…” I asked him how he took feedback after pouring in so much heart and soul into an artistic project. Krusty, another Green Ant member, quickly quipped “Depends how good-looking she is….” - Sugar threw a wet teabag at him. “Sometimes it's hard…. I generally ask what they like, what they didn't like….try and learn…the classic is when someone says it doesn't go off as much as the last CD… that they don't recognise any of the new tracks….”. The room bursts out with laughter.

Unlike many of his devoted fans, he will find it difficult to listen to the CD when it is completed. I was lucky to be one of the sweaty, exhilarated crowd at Rainbow this year – I heard some of the tracks – as a preview, “Indigo Bongo” was released as the opening track on Green Ant's compilation “Psyborganic Transmission” last year. My guess is “Bionic Wonderland” will go down a treat.

Sugar was great to chat to -- almost two decades experience in mixing, producing, events production and promotion and live performance.

Bionic Wonderland is now available through Green Ant records at along with the entire Green Ant catalogue as well as other Australian and international psychedelia.

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