RGM Introducing – We Interview hello image

Hiya folks thanks for joining us in the virtual RGM lounge today, grab a brew and take a seat.

What made you decide to start the band?

Well, the “hello image” moniker is much more of an experimental, art, noise recording project, than a “band” per se. While it’s gone through various iterations over the years – some albums and associated live performances being more band/songwriting-driven than others – hello image is really just a name that I began using around 2009 to label and band together the hundreds upon hundreds of songs, poems, drones, noise I’ve been writing and recording since I was about 10 or 11 years old.

I moved all the time as kid, living in a dozen or so countries by the time I was 18 in what was a pretty nomadic existence, and continue to do so. And while I’ve always played in bands or groups, the dynamics in those situations always felt artistically compromised, very identity and image oriented – hence the semi-sarcastic project name, hello image, which is also a reference to the opening line of The Cure song ‘M’ – and risk averse. 

Essentially in a band arrangement, there’s an unspoken rule that you’re basically not allowed to be “bad”, so if you want to record a song that’s 15 minutes of pulsating, overdriven bass rumbling 60 Hz with a repeated lyrical refrain on top, that’s just not cool. So you very quickly get stuck creating things that you hope ppl will like, while pretending you’re just being yourself. 

I love highly produced, Fleetwood Mac or Michael Jackson or Nirvana styled popular music, but I also like horribly recorded gramophones of the Delta blues or jazz, or the electronic noise experimentation of Suicide or Throbbing Gristle, or just stuff that’s really really amateur and bad. I love it all.

So hello image is a place where I can experiment with and enjoy all of those things freely without concern.

Introduce us all to the members and your musical history?

Hello image is really the solo recording project of Australian born, Egyptian raised multiinstrumentalist Steven Viney. While various friends and partners have come into its orbit over the years, helping to write or inspire songs, or perform them live, such as my current partner Nicole Music, who helped me write and pull together our new EP DOTS, the project is ultimately my baby. I maintain full custody.

While I’m a physicists by means of education, I grew up in a very artistic household – my Mum was a painter, my Dad was a musical conductor, so I just informally learned how to play most instruments by the time I was a pre-teen, and began writing songs almost as soon as I could play a chord. Over the years as I went through various phases – minimal techno, beat poetry, death metal, etc – my writing morphed and evolved in tandem. I suppose my MO/goal through it all, is to not be a tourist dabbling in genres, but instead, I try to incorporate everything I’ve ever heard or felt into everything I create, in some way or another. 

Whats one question you’re sick of being asked when interviewed?

Not sick of any questions! While questions around “influences” or whatever are painfully frustrating, because my music is as equally inspired by things I dislike, as it is things I love; equally inspired by Bill Hicks or the Ninja Turtles Theme Song, as it is Etta James or Kurt Cobain. So it’s frustrating and more often than not, misleading. But it’s a necessary evil when discussing music verbally, or categorising it on Apple Music, so it’s also understandable.

What’s your favourite song right now from another band currently on your local circuit?

We’ve been in lockdown for two years, so there’s hardly been a local “circuit” in recent times, but some new albums I’ve loved by lesser known Australian artists would be things like Fuzz Jam by the Lazy Eyes, or the album Pop Soap by Kosmetika.

What support is out there for new artists in Melbourne?

Melbourne is an awesome place to be an artist. It has a rich history of various creative, alternative, punk and techno scenes with tons of venues and non-jaded fans, and the underlying infrastructure to support or host or broadcast unsigned bands with paid gigs or on community. But it’s also disconnected from the world, less so now with the internet, but it’s a real strength as nothing ever gets too oversaturated or trendy. It’s a good place.

Who is inspiring you at the minute on the Melbourne unsigned scene?

While not new, I’d have to say my favourite Australian/Melbourne artist of the last few years is Spike Fuck. She’s a really amazing songwriter, really simple but psychologically complex music, with a unique aesthetic. She’s probably been my biggest local inspiration in the last five years, at least as songwriter and performer, for sure.

What would you like to see more of in Melbourne?

More international, touring bands coming through on small to medium tours. Because it’s so far away and expensive to get here, managers and promoters feel compelled to get the biggest bang for their buck when international artists come through, as a result, it’s impossible to see most renowned artists from abroad play anywhere but an arena. I miss being able to randomly catch my favourite London or NYC band in a 50 capacity venue for $10 on a Wednesday night rehearsing or having an intimate listening party or whatever.

We have just started RGM Australia , sharing Aussie artists in the UK, what’re your thoughts on UK music?

Historically speaking, the UK’s mark on popular music is indelible and undeniable. From The Beatles to Throbbing Gristle, to The Cure to Aphex Twin, to Amy Winehouse etc. Hell, even ppl like Jimi Hendrix and Nirvana got popular in the UK before the US. I also used to live in London around 2003, so I have very fond memories of the art, culture and music scenes there, and its irreverent people. I do have to say however in the last decade or so, I haven’t seen much seriously impressive art coming out of the UK. Maybe that’s because I’m abroad, I’m sure it exists. But when I left London, it was transforming a city for the rich, with most artist friends moving elsewhere, clubs closing down etc, and that’s never a good thing. But a lot of my still-favourite artists are British: Craig Richards, Portishead, The Horrors, etc. But unfortunately, I’m not too in tune with anything super exciting that’s new. Maybe I’m just too old now!

What useless party trick /talent do you have? 

I’m really good at smoke bombing my way out of large gatherings – I guess that’s useful, though.

What was the most fun you have had on stage?

While we’ve been in lockdown for a long time, performing these new tracks off of our new EP DOTS has been the most fun I’ve had in years. Just getting to blast loud electronic music, not having to carry or play instruments, while just singing, it’s really fun and exciting, and new for me. 

What was the worst experience on stage?

I never really had a terrible stage experience – perhaps some of the most frustrating, are when the sound is just horribly off, and unphased with all the wrong frequencies cutting through, right off the bat from the first song, and with an unsympathetic in-house engineer, you’ve just gotta plough through a whole set while unavoidably disliking what you’re hearing. It’s painful for you, the audience, everyone. Haha.

Tell us something about each member that you think people would be surprised about? 

I grew up in Egypt, I speak Arabic and have a masters degree in quantum physics. Nicole is Chilean-Croatian, and even though her last name is spelt Music, it’s pronounced Moo-sitch.

Do you sign up to any conspiracy theories? 

They’re fun to entertain because like believing in God, most of them are built around the assumption that somewhere out there, there’s a legion of hyperintelligent, organised human beings or entities. Life experience has made it that I no longer believe that to be the case. Haha. I think most of what we attribute to conspiracies, just boils down to human error and stupidity, and subsequent misunderstandings and misinterpretations by those removed from the details. 

Right now, what’s pissing you of the most in the industry?

The “industry” itself. The very notion of “industry” to me is anathema to the creative, experimental spirit. Industries come with chains of production, distribution, standards, styles, etc. It has the effect of constantly trying to standardise something that in spirit, should not be standardised. And as a result, everything sounds the same. And I’m not talking about fuzzed-out guitars versus a flute concerto, or electronic techno vs jazz. Those things are all superficially different. But they become the same, as what we know as the “industry” standardises certain compressors, vocal frequencies, production methods, which over time, shape listening habits. So now we live in an era where if recorded music is not perfectly balanced, with plenty of high end, and compressed just right for digital devices, people won’t understand it, it’ll just sound bad. But that’s because their ears have been conditioned. If you listen to music centred around 500 Hz all day every day, anything outside of that range, just sounds “wrong” – that’s what’s wrong.

Talk me through the thought process behind the EP?

Well, Melbourne’s been in pretty harsh lockdown since March 2020, give or take a few shortlived, moments of freedom. After not having recorded much for a few years, I found myself at home all day and night, every day, with my partner Nicole, and a lot of free time on my hands. Usually with hello image, I’d write most songs on an instrument – piano, or guitar – but this time round, I was really craving loud, overwhelming electronic music. Kind of like that feeling you get when you’re walking up to a club about to open the door, or in a backroom with a friend, where the music is loud and electronic, but muffled behind the wall. But there’s a certain excitement that comes with that. It’s like a tease. I really got obsessed with recreating that type of feeling in lockdown, so started to just play around with loops, midi controllers and sequencing to make these loud intense trashy 90s techno throwback type tunes. And we’d dance around the house. I wrote 8 or 9 songs in this way, and had a blast doing it, and at some point, decided to draw a circle around four of the tracks, and put them out in public. I called it DOTS, because of all the natural connotations around connecting the dots, or my love for the psychedelia of dot matrices, but it’s also an acronym for Don’t Over Think Shit, because in lockdown, where you’re just on your own staring into the void, that was the MO not to go crazy.

What was the recording process like?

I think I covered that above! I just had a lot of fun with it, breaking all kinds of rules. If I want to hammer or overwhelm a certain frequency range with bass, vocals and drums, so it just sounds like a neighbours house party, I just went for it, and I loved it. Naturally a lot of feedback is around inaudible vocals etc, but a lot of that is intentional, it was a vibe. I actually spent a lot of time writing and rewriting the lyrics, and they’re very carefully constructed, about very personal and intimate themes around the nature of life and the passage of time. One would think that if that’s the case I would make the vocals front and centre, but that wasn’t the goal. It’s supposed to be loud, fun, frustrating, inaudible in ways, kinda like how in the pre internet era you’d get half a phrase or rhythm stuck in your head, and the only way to find the song was to hum it around to people with the wrong lyrics until someone recognised it. That was all part of the vibe and process with DOTS.

What was the biggest learning curve in writing the EP?

To just have fun, and trust yourself. If you’re having fun writing, creating, experimenting with sounds, that’s the end all and be all, everything else zones out into obscurity. It’s irrelevant. 

Would you change anything now its finished?

That’s a slippery slope. There’s infinite ways songs could be mixed or mastered or redone for various platforms etc. So while I may think about ways I might remix something differently in the future etc, this recorded came out exactly the way I wanted. It’s a snapshot and photograph of a very intimate time at home with my partner, having a great time, revisiting old records and just having fun. So no, I wouldn’t change any thing unless given a significant reason to.

What are your plans for the year ahead 

Hopefully playing some regular gigs around town, and plans to record another EP as a kind of follow up. Electronic again I think, but perhaps with cleaner, more concise production, and less childish, nostalgic excitement.

Is there anything else you would like to share with the world?

I guess the only thing I’d say to any potential listeners, is if you’re going to listen to DOTS, and it sounds weird, just give it 15 minutes. Turn it up really really loud, and try decipher what’s going on. There’s method in the muddiness. 

Other than that, thanks for listening – bring on 2022.