Words by Rachel Short
Photography by Duncographic
Anyone can call themselves a beat maker in Melbourne these days, but what does it mean to really make it your career? Meet Amin Payne, one of the most dedicated and talented beat makers in town.
“I didn’t know anyone when I moved here. I took the risk of starting from zero and working my way up. I had a decent network in Auckland and I gave it up to come here.” Payne relocated to Melbourne from Auckland late 2009. He felt that he’d reached his threshold in New Zealand and was ready to develop in a new environment. “It was a good decision because there are more platforms & opportunities here; there’s more diversity in the music,” he says.
“People are more open minded musically in the sense that isn’t just about what’s hyped or what’s packing clubs right now.” The most important part of Payne’s job as a DJ and producer is attracting people to events where they will be able to hear music that isn’t played all over the city. “In places where there’s a mash of cultures, you’re always going to find interesting things.”
After doing a sound engineering course at SAE in New Zealand, Payne worked hospitality jobs to support his bedroom music production. Two years into his new life in Australia, he found a nine-to-five job so that he could start DJing and making connections with like-minded folks. “It wasn’t long after I started DJing that I released a Curtis Mayfield tribute,” he recalls.
“It got a really good response and that inspired me to furthering my beat making adventures.”
He released the tribute through his Bandcamp site for free and soon had people from all over the world talking about it. As a follow-up he then released a Gil Scott-Heron tribute. This release attracted the attention of prominent Melbourne DJ Kano and Payne was invited to play in 2012’s Red Bull Suite, a project that involved a fifteen-piece orchestra, two turntablists, two beat makers and Aloe Blacc & Ladi6. “It was a really humbling experience because I couldn’t read or write music and I was working with this orchestra and I was terrified that I wouldn’t be able to deliver,” Payne admits.
“I was so nervous, but as the project started unfolding I knew it was destiny. It had all happened because I could do what they needed.”
For Payne, networking is one of the most important aspects of his career. He notes that most of his networking is very online based.
“Before I got into the scene, it was mainly SoundCloud connecting with other beat makers that I found enjoying their sound.
“I was featured on Ennio Styles show on Triple R in late 2010 and he’d discovered me on Soundcloud and couldn’t believe that we lived in the same city. One of the powers Soundcloud has.”
He says the main social media platforms that keep beat makers in touch with bookers, managers and promoters are Facebook, Soundcloud, Bandcamp and Twitter. Although not a huge user of Twitter, it recently nabbed Payne a gig in Japan. “I put word out that I was going to be in Tokyo and one of the beat makers (BUGSEED) who I used to chat with hit me up and asked me to play a show there. That’s why you need social media. It’s not just about self-promotion and marketing, it’s the fact that it opens doors.”
Following the Bull Suite, Payne quit his day job and threw himself into music full time. Being the co-founder of Condensed Milk with Jackson Miles, a little local beats & events collective, they started releasing compilations and putting on events around Melbourne. “We started throwing parties and events because we felt like there was a gap for the kind of music we wanted to hear out” Payne says.
“People would come and actually dance and we were playing underground exclusive music, nothing mainstream.” Condensed Milk has been a significant part of his movement – showcasing talent is something that is super important to them. “We’ve put out our own and friends music, but we look for other musicians as well even internationally. Some of them are too shy to come out, but we encourage them to perform and kind of provide that platform for them to start doing things.”
To find these musicians, Payne and Miles sift through SoundCloud and Bandcamp and attend local gigs to find stand-out tracks from non-established or lesser-known artists. Many of the artists are bedroom performers but Payne has branched out to involve bigger names too.
“We started with friends and non-established artists on the compilations, then we stepped it up and asked more artists we looked up to and that inspire us such as Moods, Suff Daddy & Afta-1’ – and most of them said yes.” The Condensed Milk collective have taken a break from releasing anything of late, but continue to be a part of events around Melbourne, namely Residency at Section 8 on Tuesday nights and recently taking out the annual Battle8, where collectives from around town play against each other.
Payne is on the artist roster at The Operatives – a collective of multi-talented musicians and curators of the clandestine Espionage gigs. They are responsible for impressive tours and most recently, a record label which helps promote Australian artists to a global audience. Through The Operatives Payne has seen countless opportunities to work with some of Australia’s best DJs and musicians. He has been invited to play Let Them Eat Cake for the last two years and has shared stages with the likes of Flying Lotus and Gaslamp Killer. His latest collaboration, due out soon, comes with fellow Operatives artist, Sean Deans. “It’s a hip hop, future funk kind of deal with a few housy tracks thrown in. We have vocals featuring Dallas from Fat Freddy’s Drop and some local talent like Cazeaux OSLO, Jace XL & SilentJay (backing vocalist from Hiatus Kaiyote).
Payne is constantly collaborating with other artists from all over the world, continuing the networking process and reaping the benefits. He says working with other artists is one of the greatest learning curves he could have experienced.
Payne also notes the importance of collaborations in exposing other talent to the rest of the world. “If I put out something with say one of my collaborators from Germany, I’m putting his name out here and he’s putting my name out in Germany. We’re working together because we’re making music that we like, but we’re helping each other at the same time.
“It’s a job, but a job that I enjoy. I like educating people about music they’re not familiar with and seeing them enjoy it is always a bonus.”