Australian musicians Luke Steele and Jarrod Rogers have previously enjoyed both critical and commercial success in their own respective realms. Steele is best remembered from his time as the frontman for the multi-platinum selling act, Empire Of The Sun, while Rogers has produced and written for artists like Charli XCX, Rita Ora, Lana Del Rey and Avicii.
Sometime in 2018 Steele and Rogers first met in Los Angeles where Steele was working on the Dreams album with Daniel Johns. In short, a strong connect between the two was forged which led to the creation of their new collaboration H3000. It’s a dreamy electronic project with an emphasis on otherworldly futuristic soundscapes. With that in mind, I recently caught up with the duo to chat about their experimental project and new self-titled debut album. Here is some of what we talked about.
Your new project feels like a love letter to electronic music’s past wrapped up in a dreamy futuristic sound. Is that a fair assessment? And if so, what inspired it?
Jarrad: Everything is fair in music. It’s what each listener gets out of it and that’s awesome hearing how it resonates with you! How it speaks to you. We’re music fans. We are music sponges. We make music and during that process different influences come through at different times. We are definitely huge fans of electronic music, Kraft Work, Skrillex, old, new, it’s all part of our pallet.
Luke: Thank you, I guess we love the latest and greatest, the new invention. Artists with deep palettes – Gaussian Curve, Squarepusher, Royksopp, Ulrich Schnauss.
In a short examination of synth pop who were the pioneers that had their greatest influence upon how you approach music and music production values?
Luke: Kraftwerk, Daft Punk and the Chemical Brothers have always been pioneers for me. They hold tones and the sonic landscape in real high demand. They seem very disciplined with what makes the cut or not.
I read somewhere recently that rules around how to make a great electronic album aren’t necessarily set in stone. That in effect rules are meant to be broken. What does a H3000 productional call for? What are some of the sonic hallmarks that are unique to your project?
Jarrad: Hopefully freedom is what comes through in our work. We don’t like to put rules around many things. We love melody, we love toys, we love rhythm…I’d say we are more bent on breaking rules, doing things that feel inspired regardless of whether they fit the norm more than asking ourselves ‘what should be done’ if that makes sense?
Luke: We like mistakes even though the music is very polished. Sometimes it’s a paradox, the most lo fi thing can take on hi fidelity properties by what it’s doing. We do love high octane records but, things with punch and sonic boom.
Do you have an old piece of tech that you just love to death that worked well on this new project?
Jarrad: Probably my old guitar pedals. A lot of things went through these bad boys. Electro Harmonics had me at hello to be honest. They just bring a vibe and depth to most things you throw through them. Adds that layer of character to a sound that is really important when your trying to make something that feels inspired and unique
Luke: I used the original vp330 vocoder from the 70s a lot . I got this from Japan years ago and its so part of the vocal textures I like to build. The string machine on it also is incredible for layers.
I recently read an interview where you said that “the band (H3000) is about the heavens and what will be the issues of the heart in the year 3000.” With that in mind, it would be tempting to envision the year 3000 as a dystopian place but you seemingly have done the reverse. There is a lot of warmth to your world, especially sonically. Is that your hope that we will overcome our current short failings and general gloom as humans?
Jarrad: Absolutely! Love that connection you’ve made. We want love to be the pandemic in the year 3000!
Luke: Now more than ever we need fervent hope. Hope that is real, deep and led by God. No one has prepared for the gloom of today, it’s unprecedented and the last card has been shown. So from now on, it’s a personal endeavour, the march to ones own salvation whatever that looks like – the final battle. The issues of the heart are being confused more rapidly than ever cause there is so much imbalance. It’s a bold vision to see the music transport such bold issues, but why not? It definitely is our super power!
You have so many interesting visuals (music videos) that tie in with tracks like July Heat, Human Heart and Flames. Which is your favourite and why?
Luke: ‘Running’ is my favourite. It’s the landscape of what the avatars were built on.
Which track of the new album did you have the most fun with? And why?
Jarrad: ‘Human Heart’ was a mad whirlwind of a track. We discovered a lot in the making of this record. It’s sometimes the way. Certain records become guide posts for what else comes through on the project. This one made me laugh so many times throughout the process. I was constantly blown away by where it lead us!
The vocal effects and layers are incredible across the album. Was this something that was integral to its futuristic feel?
Luke: After visiting Japan I fell in love more with the colour, processing, feeling of vocal effects. The human voice is so personal, when you bend it out of shape it becomes foreign to the soul. Kind of like when you see plastic surgeon girls, they look like aliens .
One of my favourite tracks is Running. Can you tell us the inspiration behind it?
Jarrad: Sonically we were going for something that felt massive. A stadium record. Something you could play at Wembley and whole place would be swept up in the emotion! Let’s hope we all get to experience that one day!!
Luke: ‘Running’ came about when someone who I thought was my friend was in fact my enemy and had plans for my failure. It’s amazing how deep people will go to send you down. It’s like a modern game for some. That song was a confirmation of a saviour. When man trips you up, God is the one that will give you a hand.
Finally, I can’t let you go without picking your brain about the album artwork and its futuristic symbolism. Can you tell me how it came about and its meaning?
Luke: The symbolism is the clothes the music is wearing. We wanted it to be bold, a statement of an unknown special world beyond this one and that’s where we ended up .