Regarded in the Australian progressive house scene as one of it premier talents, Karl Pilbrow’s passion and appreciation for music has been a lifelong affair. Originally coming from New Zealand, he moved to Melbourne in early 2012.
In the years following, Karl began to experience the outdoor festival culture the city is renowned for, he could not help but fall in love with electronic music. This new-found affection took him to all parts of the globe, intent on learning more about the outdoor music culture, the communities involved, and most importantly…the music.
Atmospheric, melodic, uplifting and groovy, Karl has dedicated himself to refining a sound that is true to himself and the music that inspires him. In a career that only began five years ago, Karl’s meteoric rise already seen many highlights. These include playing sunset on Sunset at Rainbow Serpent 2019, warming up for Guy J and Roger Martinez, playing after Nick Warren. He has also had releases on Hernan Cattaneo’s label Sudbeat Music and Kasey Taylor’s Vapour Recordings.
Karl is also an integral part of community events company Wildwood, not only as a resident DJ but as an event manager and curator for Wildwood Podcast series. This has produced the perfect creative outlet for both his music and his love for festival culture.
Hi Karl, thanks for taking the time to speak with me for Progresivna Suza. How has 2022 been for you?
Hey Suza family, it’s my absolute pleasure to chat with you.
Last year felt like was the start of normality here in Melbourne, after our strict covid lockdowns, so it was great to be back playing shows here and abroad.
You moved to Melbourne in early 2012. Before moving, talk to us about growing up and living in New Zealand, how has it affected your musical taste and the music you make?
Growing up in New Zealand was great, it’s such a beautiful place to live and the lifestyle is super relaxed and easygoing. There is a big dub reggae and liquid drum and bass culture over there which really played a role in my introduction and taste in electronic music moving forward. For me those two genres opened me up to the emotional side of electronic music so it definitely had a big influence on wanting to make music with a lot of feeling and energy behind it.
Where was your first gig and who have you played alongside – can you recall any memorable moments?
So my first gig was about six years now and was actually at one of our Wildwood parties before we launched the podcast series. I was so nervous that I was struggling to push the cue button on the CDJ.
In the space of six years, I’ve been very fortunate to support artists such as Guy J, Hernan Cattaneo, Nick Warren, John Digweed and Sasha. But for me the one that will always stand out is playing on the Sunset Stage at Rainbow Serpent Festival in 2019.
What were some of the main challenges when starting out as a DJ and how have they changed over time?
For me it was really having the confidence to put myself out there. Melbourne has such a competitive music scene so trusting in the process and learning just to focus on my own music and abilities took a bit of getting used to.
Now it is all about putting out good content and staying active, thankfully social media provides many tools for artists to use to reach wider audiences and put themselves exactly where they want to be seen/heard.
Melbourne has of late become quite a hotspot for Progressive sounds. What’s it like to make music in this city and what is happening there?
There’s no doubt that we have seen some amazing music coming out of this city and that has created a pretty tight community of creatives, we are all pushing and supporting each other and that is what its all about.
When did you first start making music? How long did it take you to find your own sound as a producer?
I first started taking production lessons from Jamie Stevens four years ago and then from Kasey three years ago. To have been taught from two incredible world renowned artists like this really helped fast track my abilities, ear for production and overall experience.
I think in terms of finding my sound as a producer, it is really just a reflection of the taste in the music I like to play in my sets, that in itself is ever evolving and I think that is being reflected in my more recent productions.
Is it possible today to be a well-known name in the world of electronic music if the performer is not engaged in production? How important is that part in the big picture?
Unfortunately I feel that the years of being successful as a DJ are long gone. The industry is just too competitive now.
You and Kasey Taylor joined forces in couple of releases. Tell us about your production process behind and do you plan more frequent collaborations in the future with Kasey or maybe someone else?
So Kasey and I have written a few records together now, it’s been an absolute pleasure to have collaborated and learnt from someone with so much talent and experience. In terms of the production process, we never really go into the studio and say ”let’s write a record that’s on this vibe or that vibe”. Sometimes we’ve gone into the studio with the intention of going for a certain idea or sound only to come out the other end with something completely different!
We do a lot of manipulating with sounds and samples, it’s all about finding the right sounds in the right frequencies and space. We use lots of FX resampled, FX can create that extra layer of sound, rhythm or texture that you can’t normally achieve with a straight up synth. We have been super busy working so you can expect to see some big releases from us throughout the year.
Who currently inspires you musically the most and brings you back to the studio to work on new material?
At the moment I would have to say Mike Rish, GMJ & Matter, Jamie Stevens and Kasey Taylor. It’s super inspiring to hear what all these artists are creating and how passionate and driven they are. These guys are all a part of the Melbourne music scene I spoke about, so it’s inspiring to see these people succeed.
Let’s talk a bit about ”Wildwood Podcast Series”, podcast released weekly, that showcases Australian and international artists. How did you come up with the name for your show and what is important to you for each episode to include?
About seven years ago we started running these intimate parties, funnily enough the property we used was called ”Wildwood retreat” so we used that as inspiration for the name. These parties and that place gave myself and many others a place to hone in our skills and express ourselves and ultimately that was the driving force behind creating a platform for others to do so. Almost 300 podcasts later we are still going strong.
As of this year we have decided to slightly scale back the amount of podcasts released, we are moving away from weekly releases and into fortnightly. We want to really focus of more quality over quantity, also it gives each mix the space to breath. For us we are massive believers in that music is art and is an expression, so the artist that is booked has the complete creative freedom to put together whatever they like. We are also going to be running more parties under the brand’s name using the same process as I detailed above.
For the end, can you share with our readers part of your upcoming projects. Do you have anything exciting planned?
You will be seeing a few releases from myself and a few from Kasey and I this year, unfortunately I can’t announce anything yet but keep your eyes and ears peeled. We’ve all some got some Wildwood festivals, Podcast showcases and collaborations planned. It’s going to be another big year.
Thanks for this great conversation. Best of luck in your future projects!
Many thanks for having me legends, it’s amazing what you are doing for the progressive scene so its my absolute pleasure to be a part of this.