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CHAOS IN THE CBD FOR CORRIDOR | CHAOS IN THE CBD FOR CORRIDOR | CHAOS IN THE CBD FOR CORRIDOR | CHAOS IN THE CBD FOR CORRIDOR
INTERVIEW WITH CHAOS IN THE CBD
CM: Conor McKeon
BHH: Ben Helliker-Hales
LHH: Louis Helliker-Hales
CM: Water is a central motif in your music. Titles reference it, and many of your songs have this almost oceanic quality. Can you talk a little bit about your relationship to water and its influence in your work?
BHH: There’s definitely a deep attachment. We grew up right next to the beach, you know? And had another 5 different beaches around our peninsula. Every day after school, if it’s sunny out, you’d go down to the water and jump off the wharf.
LHH: I think it's a subconscious thing, too, like If I'm trying to go to sleep, I'm putting on waves crashing or the sounds of rain.
BHH: I’ve always put water in a lot of my music, beds of it. We did a big hike with our father a few years ago and did loads of field recordings of streams and waterfalls.
CM: It's highly meditative.
CM: Do you meditate?
LHH: I do a little bit.
BHH: He’s not like a guru yet *laughs*
LHH: Just like 20 minutes a day, every day. I'll sometimes do it before a show. I deal with a lot of anxiety, so the routine helps. A lot of it is about knowing what works for my body and what works for me.
CM: It's helpful for seeing through the irrationality of anxious thoughts.
LHH: For sure.
CM: Are there other things in your life that you find meditative?
LHH: I smoke a lot of weed, and that helps with the self-awareness thing. I sometimes get hyper-aware and I find weed and meditation settle me down a little bit.
BHH: I like walking, like really long walks. I’ll listen to my music and critique and try to find new ways to approach it.
CM: I find it very grounding.
BHH: Me too.
CM: So you go for walks to get into a creative process, and not to remove yourself from it.
BHH: It’s more about allowing myself to listen subjectively, and from a different perspective.
LHH: It’s almost like you’re a reviewer. And you can get away from all the chatter of life, and spend an hour decompressing and categorizing things.
BHH: It’s a way to find space and calm.
LHH: The studio’s another meditative place, where when he’s in here he’s almost in a trance. And it can be hard to interact with him, and just get his attention, but it’s also a very cool thing to witness. He’s just consumed by it.
CM: do you find being brothers helps with the communicative part of collaboration?
LHH: Yeah, you can be a lot more brutally honest with one another when you're family. There’s not the worry about hurting each other’s feelings, and I think that makes a stronger working relationship, creatively.
CM: And speaking of family, I read a resident adviser write up of you guys, and it included a text from your Mom where she shared all the music she’d been listening to. Have you always shared similar taste in music?
BHH: Definitely, and we still share music with each other, quite a lot.
LHH: Especially the more funky, soulful stuff that (Ben) really likes.
BHH: And more kind of techy, balearic stuff, she really loves that.
LHH: Our parents are English, so we were exposed to a lot of New Wave growing up. The Cure, China Crisis, Joy Division, New Order. It was kind of endless. There was always music around. We were always going to the CD store at the mall, we’d always come home with a few CDs, whether it be Beastie Boys, “Hello Nasty”, and they would become fans and want to listen.
BHH: Even our uncles were putting us onto things all the time. Dizzy Rascal, more modern stuff.
CM I suppose then you were consuming lots of british comedy.
LHH: For sure, lots of Monty Python.
CM: My grandparents had the old Fawlty Towers VHS tapes.
BHH: Exactly. Black Books, too. Everyone in our family is quite funny.
LHH: But like, kind of naughty.
BHH: Everybody’s got a joke. And our friends, too, in New Zealand.
LHH: I think a big part of it is making sure to bring you down if you ever think you’re the shit. There’s a lot of taking the piss out of each other. In that way you learn to make fun of yourself. And then to this day, I like Eric Andre, Nathan Fielder, Tim and Eric. Something a little zanier. So that’s always in my mind somewhere, when it comes to editing.
CM: I get the sense you guys have somewhat different personalities, or at least different tastes in music.
LHH, BHH: Yeah, definitely.
CM: How do you work that into your collaborative process?
BHH: We communicate really well, and quite a lot, and that’s important especially in the DJing process. Just how we’re going to approach things.
LHH: And then, by this stage, we really know what each other likes and doesn't like. And so we're in a space now where I can go off and listen to fucking Taylor Swift or something, and know we’re always going to meet in the middle.
CM: Did the decision to meld house and jazz grow out of that?
LHH: With the influences we had growing up, it became a natural thing. They work so well together. The first jazzy thing we did, Midnight in Peckham, really worked for us, so we just organically started making more of that sound. And it was becoming quite popular at the time in South London, around 2014.
CM: You’ve been in South London, and away from New Zealand for some time, but do you still feel in some way that you’re representing New Zealand?
LHH: Yeah, I mean there’s a disconnect because we don't live there anymore, it’s just not practical, but that’s our home.
BHH: It’s always home. And our memories from starting out will always be there. How our sound has developed is just re-referencing experiences from when we first went clubbing and discovered early tech house.
LHH: And it’s funny, now the stuff we play we think oh this sounds just like something we heard then. So it’s all come full circle.
CM: I know you've worked with New Zealand musicians, which must help keep some semblance of home.
BHH: You think the same, because you come from the same place. And the music that they make is very similar to the music we make, just maybe different rhythms.
CM: You wrote something in the bio for one your bandcamp records that I loved. “It's an honor to rejuvenate these records, to keep the flames alive is very important to us.” Have you always felt that way? Or is that something you learn as you get older?
BHH: We started thinking that way once we became more educated about the history of the music and the legends of this music.
LHH: I think from our very early introduction into like Chicago and Detroit house music and stuff like that, like, we always were conscious that this was an important thing that needed to be respected.
BHH: We were lucky to have mentors who were older and told us the stories.
LHH: And then we were lucky enough to be a part of a Red Bull program started by (legendary Detroit producer) Recloose, where he put us in a room for two weeks with Bill Brewster, who's a DJ historian, and who wrote “Last Night a DJ Saved My Life.”
BHH: And so we were in a room with him and his just encyclopedic knowledge of dance music and disco. They’re almost like fables.
LHH: Or pub stories. Coming from New Zealand, it’s very different for us, and so we always had that interest in it and respect for it.
CM: If America’s good at anything, it’s mythology.
BHH: But then also you hear stories of the UK in the early 90s, in small towns like Wigan where massive things were going on.
LHH: Keeping that alive is important, the story alive.
BHH: It’s history.
LHH: Part of respecting the music is to research, and educate yourself. And that’s not to say people can’t get excited about something they’re hearing for the first time, that’s new to them. But I think it’s important to go back and understand where it came from.
BHH: It’s the same as fashion, how things come in trends and waves, and if you care about it you’ll understand where those trends and waves originated from, and cross-reference, and understand that nothing is ever really new.
CM: I wonder if your relationship to water, and the ocean, somehow subconsciously informs that approach. But then speaking of fashion, can you tell us a little about your relationship with Corridor?
LHH: So there’s really only one clothing store nearby that sells what we’d normally wear, and I went in looking for a shirt to wear at a gig that night, and I found a shirt I loved, which turned out to be a Corridor shirt.
BHH: And it turned out a lot of our friends in New York were connected to Corridor, we just didn’t know at the time.
LHH: Just like a weird, serendipitous thing. And then we were all at the party with Dan and all our New York friends and it turns out they’re all friends. It’s just a very small world.
CM: Oh that’s funny, those are my friends, too *laughs* You know Greg and Brown and Hank?
LHH: Yeah, and Jake. We were just with them in Mexico, at that restaurant?
LHH: *laughs* Yeah, Choza.
CM: So Hank, Brown, and Lloyd are on my bowling team.
LHH: Oh no way, see there you go. So yeah whenever we come to New York we have this whole crew, and we have a similar sense of humor, about the same age. Lots of laughs for sure.
CM: So I know you’re busy so I want to let you go. Anything coming up that you’d like to promote?
LHH, BHH: We have a new Fabric compilation coming out soon that we’re really excited about. : https://www.fabriclondon.com/posts/fabric-presents-chaos-in-the-cbd
Can’t wait to listen. We’ll have to kick it when you’re back in the city.
LHH: For sure man, let’s go bowling.
New Zealand brothers Ben and Louis Helliker-Hales are Chaos In The CBD. Stream their new compilation here.