Monday, September 25, 2023

We caught up via chat with John Rousvanis and Simon Quinn of Melbourne-based electronic act The Safety Word to talk about their history, future plans, and how they came up with a collaborative tri-album remix project with some of the best producers around.

The Safety Word (REMIXED Volume 1) is set to drop on Friday (July 24). It is the first of three remix albums that the pair has curated. Volume 1 will feature remixes by Men Imitating Machines, Robodop Snei, Eckul, Increment, and Numatica, as well as collaborations with PurpleZain and Spectoral. The genres covered on Volume 1 range from glitch, progressive house, future-pop, alternative R&B, synth-pop, dub and hip-hop.

Hi, Simon. Hi, John. How are you guys keeping?

John: I’m a bit overwhelmed at the moment due to the current circumstances going on in the world but looking forward to hitting the studio this Thursday to finish off two brand new songs.

Simon: I’m going well, thanks. On school holidays at the moment so this is my fun time. Learning how to edit videos in Premier and After Effects and smashing out some remixes for other acts.

When we discovered you in May, we didn’t really talk about how you met and what prompted you to begin working together as The Safety Word. Do you mind telling us a bit of your story? Who coined the name?

John: I’ve been a big admirer of Simon’s music and just Simon in general. We were both in quite established bands on the Melbourne scene, so I hit him up with the idea of  starting a side project. After having a couple of jams we both knew we were onto something really special and it soon became our main focus.

Simon: We didn’t have a name for the first six months or so but when we played our first show we had to come up with something catchy that we thought would stand out. It definitely gets a strong reaction from people hearing it the first time. To me the name isn’t something sexualized and more represents that the music can wrap you up like in a safe place and soothe your soul.

What is your songwriting process? Do you have like, a secret formula? Who are your influences?

John: We get together and jam and then see what happens organically. Mainly I go for a vibe and move forward from there. We do have a secret formula, but that’s a secret! Living life is one of my biggest influences and approaching instruments and sounds in an unconventional manner is always inspirational, artist and cultures from different points of history  have been influencing me lately such as Tarteria and esoteric studies. 

Simon: I try to be as consistent as possible. I try to write music everyday even if it’s just for 15 minutes. The idea of this is to develop good habits and exercise my musical brain. The thing is you never know when you’re going to have a good idea and by creating little snippets of ideas everyday whether it be a beat, melody, or a really nice progression. I find that this way there’s not as much pressure as you have a large pool of inspiration to dip into when we go to write a new song. One secret I have discovered is the daily practice known as SPLURGING as taught by Mike Monday, look him up. It will change your life.

We get together and jam and then see what happens organically. Mainly I go for a vibe and move forward from there. We do have a secret formula, but that’s a secret!

John Rousvanis

Last month you announced that you have been very busy working on a series of remix albums due July through September. Who initiated the project and what inspired it?

Simon:  I help run a Facebook group called Live Electronic Musicians of Melbourne who put out a double compilation album earlier in 2020 featuring 32 of our groups members. The compilation raised money for the Australian bush fire crisis. It was through this project that I began to see the power of collaborating online and the power of just asking. It started as just an remix EP but quickly grew into three albums as more and more producers were finding out about the project and asking if they could be a part of it.

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So you’re collaborating with at least 20 producers in this project, including Men Imitating Machines, Spectoral, Eckul, to name a few. How did you decide whom to collaborate with and what were the arrangements?

Simon: Yes, it’s 24 producers we are working with. Many of the producers were approached as we really admire their creative output and could imagine them taking our songs in interesting new directions. We decided to not put any limitations on their creativity and gave the producers full artistic control to rework, reshape and reimagine our songs however they saw fit. This has produced some really fantastic results and I’ve been constantly blown away by the sheer talent and diversity on display in these amazing productions.

We decided to not put any limitations on their creativity and gave the producers full artistic control to rework, reshape and reimagine our songs however they saw fit.

Simon Quinn

This is definitely some overwhelming pursuit that requires a great deal of time to realize. How were you guys able to make this happen?

John: Simon really had the vision and willpower magic to organize and bring it all together and it really is a fantastic project. It’s so incredible to see how all these artists’ individual works come together as a cohesive piece of art.

Did you decide on which song a collaborator appears or did you let all of them choose?

Simon: We asked them to look through our back catalog and choose something that really inspired them.  Occasionally we had an artist in mind for a particular song but more often than not they actually felt really strongly about remixing a different track than we had in mind.

You said you’re dropping your sophomore album in October. Any spoilers?

John: We are currently working on the final songs to complete a 9-track album. Each track is thought of as a single and we worked carefully one track at time to allow the songs to come into their own. The album will give a feeling of time and growth and you will hear the journey that we were going through at different periods of our life over the last year.

Simon: There’s some incredible songs that we are really proud of on both these three remix albums dropping over the next three months as well as our sophomore album which will be out before the end of the year. 2020 has been a really difficult year for everybody around the world but I just feel so lucky to have music in my life. It may sound like a cliche but having the ability to work with the collaborators on these remix albums as well as with John on our own music has kept me focused through this pandemic and optimistic for the future. I really can’t wait to share this incredible music with you all.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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