One of the most eagerly anticipated releases of 2020 has been Planisphere’s Definitive Transmissions on For Those That Knoe. Dave Swatten, hailing from Perth, Australia had released his debut record, the South EP on his InnerTone label back in 2000. A track on Chris Gray’s Deep4Life would follow, before a wait of 20 years until the next release. Thanks to the great “We’re Going Deep” group on Facebook, Ben Boe, the owner of For Those That Knoe caught wind that Dave had a few copies of the South EP available, and snapped one up. Taking a chance, Ben asked if Dave had any further plans and music that he may be interested in releasing. Over the course of the next year or so Dave sent some music to Ben from his archives, and the release was starting to take shape.
October 2019, and the 11 tracks for the release had been agreed upon, entitled Definitive Transmissions. Since then, there had been a few ups and downs in the production process, not to mention adding COVID to the mix just to make things that tad more difficult. Finally, in September of this year, the record was released. Resplendent in it’s visual and aural beauty, this release is definitely one of the best of 2020. Full of lovely deep vibes, and echoes of Larry Heard, this is a record to put on your turntable and kick back and let the music take you away.
I reached out to Dave to see if he would satiate my inquisitive mind and answer a few questions. Thankfully he agreed.
Who were your biggest influences on you way back when?
I have listened to a range of music genres starting from a young age with punk/new wave of the late 1970s and early 80s, through to immersing myself deeply into reggae and various African musicians in the 80s (Salif Keita, King Sunny Ade, Manu Dibango) to ultimately discovering house/techno in the late 1980s – so I’ve picked up a lot of influences along the way.
Reggae music gave me the focus on a deep spiritual edge to music – the message in the music. With an emphasis on the drum and the bass and with songs about struggle, self-affirmation, peace and love I was open to absorbing music that strengthened and touched the soul. Too many great musicians to mention.
At the same time I was listening to a lot of David Sylvian’s solo work – particularly his album Brilliant Trees and his later collaboration with Holger Czukay Flux + Mutability. Also Brian Eno’s Before and After Science – with one track Throughout Hollow Lands having a particular impact with its feeling of beautiful melancholy. Also, some of Ryuichi Sakamoto’s work and his great collaboration Summer Nerves LP with the Kakutougi Session.
I was drawing and studying animation in the late 1980s and doing a lot of cut and paste imagery so when I heard the cut & scratch techniques of some of the electro artists of the time I could relate as I could see the music visually. I got into the syncopation of the music, the futuristic feel it gave to the music. At the same time I heard Marshall Jefferson’s Move Your Body and Silk Hurley’s Jack Your Body and here the syncopated beats and the infectious repetition took things to a whole new level. I remember House Train by Risse another Silk production which had more of a vocal and the dream scape of Fingers Inc’s Distant Planet. It was the spaciousness of this track that got me. It was a track that had a far horizon line, a vast panorama. The sustained synth chords together with a positive vocal message of escape really got me. The big deep chords of Mystery of Love by Fingers Inc had all the same magic. I was hooked on Chicago house music. These were tracks heavy on rhythm and with stripped back simple messages on the human condition. To me these had the same effect on me like reggae had done earlier. Also the acid sounds of Phuture and others got me with its hypnotic groove – I loved the early acid.
I got a copy of Techno – The New Sound of Detroit about a year later and this added a new dimension. I was blown away by the electronic wizardry of these guys and the intense sonic force that was in the music – the soundtrack to the motor city. I love the works of Juan Atkins in particular.
How and when did you get involved with creating music?
I could say it began way back in 1979. I was 12 years old at that time. There was a Monday night punk/new wave radio show from one of the universities in Perth, now Curtin radio but it was 6NR at the time and broadcast on the am band. My brother and I sent in a track called ‘the day the radio fell on the floor’ – an anti-commercial radio track – it was terrible. Since then it was on and off again bedroom recordings which got more serious around 1990 when was able to record 4 single tracks onto tape. However anything I recorded back then was either lost or scrubbed…not worth a listen now.
What gear did you/do you use when producing music?
My first production gear was:
Tascam Porta One 4 track cassette recorder
Yamaha MT3X cassette recorder
Roland SH-1 synth
Roland 707 drum machine
Roland 808 drum machine
Ensoniq Mirage sampler keyboard
Yamaha DX7 synth
Korg Polysix synth
Korg D16 digital 16 track recorder
Korg Triton Pro synth/workstation
Mackie ProFX10 mixer
Some of the tracks on this release are from the South EP that you put out on your own label. How was that experience, being at the early beginnings of the internet, and in a city like Perth, not only far away from the rest of Australia, but the globe?
At the time I was just simply keen to get a piece of Perth house music out there on vinyl. I put that EP out without too much forward thinking. I didn’t promo it that well and without the social media that’s prevalent today it was always destined to remain in just a few people’s hands – mainly in Perth. However the process was a good experience to go through and I would do things differently now.
Are all of these tracks on Definitive Transmissions from around the time of the South EP, or does it cover a range of years?
The tracks from the South EP were recorded in 1999. Two of the tracks from the EP Greys & Blues and Illusions are on this Definitive Transmissions release, with another track Moonlight Serenade being the original take which is a punchier version which never made it on the South EP. One other track Reflections is earlier – from the straight to cassette days. All other tracks are recorded much later from 2016 to 2019.
Being from Perth, what, if any, role did Ben Stinga’s Underground Solution show on RTR FM have on you and your musical endeavours? Was there a big deep house scene around that time?
Isolation brings out passionate people because they have to be the explorer to search out the good things going on in the world and work hard to raise its profile. It also breeds a passionate community – followers keen to embrace something new and the isolation keeps things pure without the white noise.
Perth has had many passionate folk dedicated to raising the profile of many genres of music over the years – more per capita – through to the early days of 6NR radio to the development of University radio 6UVS FM which then became 6RTR FM. Colin Bridges started his long (one of the longest) running dance music shows on 6UVS FM in mid/late 1980s every Friday morning from 1am to 6 am and in those early years he was throwing out those quality house and techno tunes of the day. Listening to those shows at that time of the morning with a tape deck set to record were good times.
Ben Stinga’s Strictly Rhythm show on what was then 6UVS FM (RTR FM) on Saturday nights (which later became Underground Solution) was to me extraordinary to hear. I didn’t know of anyone else who liked US house music at the time and with that level of passion. The listener numbers grew over the years and so did the Perth deep house community. Ben started selling some of the cream of true underground house music – predominantly from the U.S – as a small display in one of the cult record shops in Perth city. This is something Ben had to persuade the owner to do and luckily he did. Ben would have done a great sales pitch. I first met Ben at this record display as he noted I had a couple of choice records under my arm. From then on because of our passion we became good mates. Seeing Ben take this record display and help turn it into a record shop devoted to underground house and techno showed how big the fan base had become. Ben’s radio show gave me a platform to showcase a couple of my tunes at the time. I’m not sure if I was ever expecting Ben to play them on his show but he did which showed his dedication to promoting the underground and getting it out there to those who needed to hear it.
I read in Chris Gray’s book, Mechanics of Me, that he became aware of Ben’s show, and house/techno fans in Perth, via the IRC channels #313 and #housemix. Is this how he became aware of your music, and which lead to the track on the Deep South Experience release on Deep4Life?
Ben would have highlighted to Chris the unique house scene that had developed in Perth. Not only was it the radio show and the record shop, there were also club nights which enabled folk like myself to get out and DJ playing the true underground – not the hi-energy shit Perth clubs were mostly feeding out. One night in particular, on a Thursday night in a downstairs bar underneath a major performing theatre was Vibe and this was the one night to be at. This got big. It eventually had to move further down to the other side of the city and it was here Chris Gray played a DJ set. Chris returned back to the States with a deep affection for Perth and in further communications Ben helped to promote some Perth recording artists for a possible project. One thing led to another and I was sending Chris a down tempo track called Glass Stars which he liked and seemed to fit nicely amongst the other tracks on the Deep South compilation.
Fellow Perth producers Ewan Jansen and Justin Zerbst featured on that release. Were you aware of their music at the time?
I hadn’t heard anything from these guys at the time. I think they were busy hanging out on their own collecting synths. My memory is cloudy but I met Ewan & Justin just after the release of Deep South Experience. It was good to have the wider representation of Perth on that compilation and set those guys off to bigger and better things.
Can we expect more music from you in the future?
Definitely. I aim to resurrect InnerTone from the grave; and if I can get some other stuff released via any other quality labels that would be good. I’m in a better place now after becoming quite disillusioned with the whole electronic/house music thing for a number of years in the early 2000’s. I was sick of hearing about DJ’s and what superstars they were meant to be and how the term house and deep house was being used to describe any new shit.
I’ve got to say it was only hearing stuff from Patrice Scott/Sistrum, Keith Worthy and Reggie Dokes around 2009 that re-inspired me and got me listening to and buying house music again.
Away from music, what are your interests?
In no particular order:
Painting/drawing – which is my other creative outlet when not in the music recording space.
Enjoying my family life and looking after my 19 month old son.
Gardening, either creating or simply being amongst it.
Socialising with good company around cold drinks
For an added Aussie angle, Eagles or Dockers?
I am more of a local football fan – Perth FC* in the WAFL. Their ground is just down the road from my house in Perth. It was easy to wander down and spend a hazy afternoon on the grass in the sun and watch a game. Great that you can jump the fence a quarter time and run around the field.
* Editor note – For those sport minded people, you should note the loyalty of this man. Until this year, Perth FC had not made this finals since 1997, and haven’t won a premiership in 43 years. Even more heartbreaking when you realise there are only 10 teams in the competition. That’s commitment!!
We have a copy of Definitive Transmissions to give away to one lucky listener of our show, or reader of this interview. All you need to do is share this post, or check out our Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or Soundcloud pages. Good Luck!!!