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  • Vasili Papathanasopoulos

25 YEARS OF GROOVE ARMADA: MILKY INTERVIEWS TOM FINDLAY

GA25 is out November 11!

Image: Supplied.


British dance powerhouse duo Groove Armada are celebrating their 25th anniversary, and are bringing the party down under! Next month, the duo will share their compilation album, GA25, and hit our shores for a run of shows. We caught up with Tom Findlay to chat about the release, the tour and celebrating 25 years.


Kicking off in Sydney on November 17, the tour will continue on to Brisbane on November 18, before the final show takes place in Perth on November 20. Tickets are on sale to the general public from 9am local Thursday 21 July, with presale kicking off from 9am local Wednesday 20 July


Having burst onto the scene in 1997, GROOVE ARMADA have been instrumental in shaping contemporary dance music, through their genre-bending soundscapes that have earned them critical acclaim. Twenty years on and the duo are still dominating, with nearly two million monthly listeners on Spotify and have collaborations with or remixes of countless high profile artists, including Madonna, Paul Simon, Fatboy Slim, Calvin Harris, Neneh Cherry and Bryan Ferry. Their eighth studio album, Edge of the Horizon, arrived in 2020.



Before we get into your upcoming Australian tour, it’s been 25 years since you made your debut with At The River. You’ll be celebrating that not only with the tour but the release of GA25, which will bring together some of your most iconic tracks. How difficult was it to curate 25 years of work into one 25-track compilation release?


It's sort of, it's easier than you think in the sense that there's a certain set of expectations from the label that the big hits will be there. So you kind of go through every album, and I guess on every album there's probably two or three that were like "hits", you know, the top forties or whatever did well internationally. So by the time you've done that with six records, you've kind of got about 17, and then it's a few personal favourites. I mean there's lots of stuff that's not on there that I would love to be on there. But in a sense I don't mind. That gives people incentive to go digging into the records again and finding that stuff. I mean there's tracks on Lovebox, especially some of the work we did with Richie Havens, and Edge of the Horizon and Black Light which is kind of really a seminal record in a sense. It's quite nice that those records stay in their entirety, you know? So I think they're kind of, it's a hits record so you just do the hits, right? You don't, don't overthink it. And then we wanted to put some new material out there as well, some bits have been working on. So that was important to us, that it wasn't just, just a kind of retread, you know?




Yeah, I love that and the idea that it's essentially just a teaser for your entire catalogue. It must've also been nice going through your trove of music to and re-experiencing your music. What emotions arose when putting the album together? What are your thoughts looking back on the past 25 years of Groove Armada?


The weird thing is, because the new versions on GA25, even though they're old tracks they're all remasters. So theres ones where they've gone back into old sessions. So they just bring back memories of the places you recorded them and, how you felt at that time, you know? So I mean Easy is one that was kind of odd bringing that back because it's so hard. Most of the stuff actually stays, so we use Logic but I'll be on a version of Logic that's 20 versions ago and you just keep your fingers crossed that the thing will even load. I remember that Easy we recorded in the Abbey Road Studios, you know, where the Beatles recorded their stuff. So that just brought back memories of being in that room with a kind of, it must have been a 16 piece string thing and you're standing there just kind of awed by the fact that you've got all these people doing this work. I remember Making Lovebox, which we kind of made in a tiny really dirty grotty studio on Curtain Road in Shoreditch. And so it's the places and your feelings at that time, but mainly the kind of locations that come back, you kind of remember that and different emotions at that time. Quite a lot of stress I think I remember around Lovebox, for whatever reason things were quite hard at that time and you go back into some of the hits and songs I made in this room that I'm speaking to you from now. So yeah, it's just the memories of that actual process I think is what comes back so strongly.




That's so lovely. Funnily enough, I was with my sister last night and she was humming along to one of your songs. Now she had no idea I'd be interviewing you today, and even though she knows your music I asked her what made her think of that song [Superstylin'] at that point in time, and she told me she'd be seeing some of Groove Armada's songs being used on TikTok. What are your thoughts on the impact of social media in terms of creating a resurgence of music from the 90s and 00’s on current charts? Obviously you guys were quite instrumental in shaping contemporary dance music as well.


For me, and I guess I'm talking about streaming here as well a little bit, but the kind of people's accessing of digital music online, you know, so streaming and social media is kind of like, as a musician you have mixed thoughts about the digitization of music and what it's done to our income stream. It's not been great in that respect. We've had those conversations a million times about artists getting proper recompense for that kind of stuff. But the upside of it is that it does keep this music alive and brings it to new audiences. Like that mad video they did for Dreams by Fleetwood Mac and the Kate Bush one Running Up That Hill that was on whatever it was [Stranger Things].All these tracks have come back, great pieces of music. I really noticed that recently. We've just on a set of shows in UK summer and we've played a few festivals where they're kind of like those multi-generational festivals. So the mums and dads are there and they're into our stuff and we're probably their age, but then their kids are with them too. And they were coming to our shows and really kind of filling out the shows and they know the songs and they know the songs because of that. And without that, this music kind of would've died. It would just end up on kind of, you know, record shelves and stuff. So in that sense, I'm really in favour of it. That's the real upside for me, of people of connecting my music. If it gives it more of a shelf life and it means that when people come to our shows, they can sing along to the songs and your sister can have a little hum along then I'm all for that.




Yeah, it's such an interesting one but also so beautiful that these platforms do carve out a space that highlights music from all eras. Now in great news, you'll be here in less than a month which is super exciting! I'm guessing you'll be playing like most of the songs from GA25, but what else do you have in store for anyone heading to one of the shows?


It's most of the hits with different versions sometimes, obviously different interpretations of the songs. I think when you do things live, you need to kind of paint things more in black and white. The drama needs to be a bit greater. The drops can be a bit longer and the impacts a bit heavier. It's basically that set. It's a full live band so there's seven of us on stage basically. A really great live show. Same crew actually that we've been out with for years and years, actually the same band pretty much from the last time we came to Australia, which was probably back in like 2010 or something like that, 2011, a long time ago. So I'm really happy we finally made this happen because this is it. I mean this is our last ever live run and Australia has been such a formative part of our career. I was kind of re-remembering making Vertigo and coming out there to Australia that time and hearing the album everywhere and this sort of sense of like, this stuff that we'd done in our bedrooms, it's suddenly kind of got this kind of international audience and it was kind of really mental. I'm just really thrilled that we finally pulled it together because these offers have come and gone and we've sort of not been able to do them. And then obviously the pandemic came and that made things complicated. So it's just a relief that we're finally making it happen.




We're so excited to get you guys down here again! As you mentioned, this is the final tour. How have you gone about crafting like an overall live experience for this run of shows, and how important are the live shows in terms of connecting with your audiences?


I think it's really a huge part of what we do. I think when I kind of look back on our career at some point in my life when I feel ready to do that, then I think that the way that we've done dance music live is probably the thing I'm most proud of, you know? And I think even now, I think it's getting better, but like, you know, there's some amazing people. I mean I wouldn't say Tame Impala are a dance band, but there's the aspect of that. But people making live dance music now really, there's no question. But when we started out there was no one really doing that, you know, and there was no real copy book for how you did that. So we kind of had to work it all out ourselves and it took a lot of trial and error to get to a point where we're really happy with what we do. So I guess it's not so much about, this is hopefully more of a product of this live show as a product of 15 years of trial and error and experiences to get to the point where it's as good as we feel this stuff can now be. Like we feel really confident about it. We're gonna come out and do a couple of days rehearsal actually in Australia, but there's been years and years of getting to the point where hopefully these will be some fabulous gigs.




I can't wait to see it. How do you think dance music translates into a live setting? Because I think going a dance show is like completely different than going pretty much any other genre of shows. Cause I feel like audiences are are bit more focused on living in the moment and their inhibitions are a bit lower. Why do you think dance music has that shift in its live shows?


I guess it's that sort of sense of like, I guess you come from a culture where you're writing music where, I mean obviously it's about the quality of the music and the beauty music, but a lot of it is about the drama. It's about creating moments and that's about what you're trying to do when you are writing music for the dance floor. So I think, yeah, you're right that people come and they just kind of get their rocks off hopefully. That's the vibe, you know? We have little moments, there are tracks like At The River and one called Cards to Your Heart where maybe people can have a bit more of a swoon. But yeah, most the time we judge the quality vibe of a gig by how sweaty the room is really. That's the vibe.




Love it, will be hot and sweaty in Australia for sure! Which songs are you most excited to play on this run of shows?


There's a few. I mean I really love the version of Edge of the Horizon. It's nice that we are doing something new, you know, like it's kind of exciting to do something like that and that track seems to be really doing well live. So that's been nice. Paper Romance is a really, really great version of that track. I think it really takes the album version and really takes it on some. Something about Chicago that we do that is heavy and the way that we blend that into, I don't wanna give too much away, but into one of the real anthems is very clever. So I always enjoy that moment, I kind of feel that. At The River is fun, I get to play the bass guitar, which I don't do very often, so that's always a fun one. So yeah, I guess those the ones that are highlights for me.




In my opinion, I think Groove Armada were pretty instrumental in shaping contemporary dance music. Who do you think are like this generation's dance innovators? Are there any artists that you think we should all be listening to?


I mean the people that I kind of think that the ones that have got there and doing a scale, I mean Bicep from the UK are really great. I think they've got such a distinctive sound and I think they're Irish actually, but they've got a really distinctive sound. They're the ones I feel that are really taking a mantle and moving things forward. In terms of other people that I've loved, I mean a lot of it's from a kind of house music background I'm thinking. There's a guy called Jasssons whose house house music I really love. I'll tell you who, you're gonna have to help me. You know the big Aussie duo who are really fun. I've been seeing him all summer, you know, guy and a girl.




Confidence Man?


Exactly, Confidence Man. I've really, really enjoyed this because I've just happened to be on the same set of shows with them across the summer. So I saw a lot of them. I just saw that the kind of, the stagecraft was great, the sense of joy in what they did was really great. Crowd reception was fantastic. They were good. I wouldn't say they're dance music, but Khruangbin are amazing as a show. It's just a brilliant show, like a really fluid, amazing show that I saw that at Glastonbury and they blew my mind actually.



Biggest musical influences?


I mean it really kind of goes back. Probably Prince I just love. He isn't really an influence, but he's kind of like everything goes back to him for me really in terms of me wanting to make music. As a sort of, as a broadcaster, Giles Peterson was somebody that I listened to a lot as a kid growing up and was sort of very into acid jazz. So those two people I think in different ways.




Dream collaboration?


It would've been Prince again, and I wanted that so much, but it never really happened. So that, that would've been the one.




An album that has had the most impact on you?


I'm gonna try to think of something that is not Prince because Sign of the Times is one that I just love so much. Again, it's not really had an impact on me musically, but one that I always go back to is What's Going On by Marvin Gay is a kind of perfect record. That's never really fails.




If you could create the soundtrack for any film, which one would it be?


Great question. I'll tell you one I loved, which the soundtrack was just brilliant anyway, so I would've liked to be part of the soundtrack. A film called The Worst Person in the World, which is like a Norwegian film. I would've liked to be part of that soundtrack.




What are you like thinking whilst you're performing?


That's such a good question. It varies enormously. Sometimes nothing at all. Sometimes about what I'm gonna do later, sometimes often about kind of, you know, worrying about whether everyone's enjoying themselves, just thinking about ways that we could change the show. Sometimes just really sort of thinking how mad it is that I'm up here doing this thing and it just feels utterly surreal. So mainly it's that one, just how odd it is that I'm up here.




First concert you went to?


First one I can really remember was a band called The J.B.'s, which is the James Brown backing band. I saw them in a place called The Town and Country Club in London. So that's probably the first, I must have been about 14 or something. It was basically his horn section and they used to do these kind of funk songs, but they were amazing so probably them.




Best concert you've been to?


There's been a few. I mean obviously I've seen Prince twice and I guess it's hard for me to get past that because he's just, you know, yeah. I guess seeing him at the O2 in London, which was in about 2015, and and I'd seen him before. And it's just a kind of mastery of everything, how amazing a band are and that you never really sort of know what he's gonna play and nothing ever disappoints because his catalog is just insane. So yeah, seeing him I think in about 2015 just felt like an absolute dream come true and it didn't disappoint in any way at all.




Would you rather be a Spice Girl or a Backstreet Boy?


I think the Backstreet Boys are a little bit cooler for me [laughs]. I think I'd get away with it a bit more as well.




Most memorable show you’ve ever performed?


I mean there's a couple. There's ones in Australia in Centennial Park, which was amazing and playing the Myer Music Bowl is just one of my favourite venues in Melbourne, so I just remember that venue so much. So either of them in Australia, and the UK definitely playing this place called the John Peel Stage at Glastonbury in 2010 when we just had did difficult year, you know, and had lost a little bit faith in what we were doing and that gig was just so sort of life affirming. Glastonbury can kind of do that, can change the way you feel about yourself and music in like one hour, you know? And that did it for us.




Do you have a guilty music pleasure or if you don't really think anything's guilty, maybe something that you listen to that those close to you would be surprised by?


[Laughs] I mean I absolutely do. I love like that kind of seventies what they call yacht rock, you know, Blue Eyed Soul. So like Hall & Oates, The Doobie Brothers. I listen to that all the time. During the pandemic, it was like my comfort music. I listened to it every day, helped me through it. So yeah, I made an album called Music for Pleasure, which is a compilation album with all that stuff on. So that's my guilty pleasure. I don't feel guilty about it, but it is a guilty pleasure.




An artist you think has had the most influence on the music industry?


I mean it's difficult to say. He's a controversial figure but someone like Michael Jackson I think has done a huge amount. Let's say Quincy Jones, he's produced a lot of albums that I've loved, especially Thriller.




What advice would your current self, give your future self, for a year from now?


Just don't overthink things so much. Basically [laughs], don't sweat it, it'll all be fine.




The moment you knew you wanted to be a musician?


It's a couple of different moments. There's this sort of seminal moment at a rave hearing, a track called Going Back to My Roots by Richie Havens and just hearing that song and feeling that was kind of transcendent kind of moment for me in terms of the kind of power of music. And then I think sort of when it became like a possibility for me was a year that I spent in New York and I started working and promoting there and then I sort of realised that this wasn't just an enthusiasm for me. This was something that had real meaning for me. So I think that year made the idea of actually working in music feel possible.



GA25 is out November 11!


GROOVE ARMADA AUSTRALIAN TOUR


Wednesday 16 November 2022 – Hordern Pavilion, Sydney SECOND & FINAL SHOW

Thursday 17 November 2022 – Hordern Pavilion, Sydney SOLD OUT Friday 18 November 2022 – Fortitude Music Hall, Brisbane SOLD OUT

Saturday 19 November 2022 – Harvest Rock, Adelaide Sunday 20 November – Kings Park & Botanic Gardens, Perth SOLD OUT



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