When I first watched B-Syde perform, his talent was self-evident. After all, it’s not everyday you see someone rocking husky vocals, a looper, keyboard, guitar and mixing gear all at the same time.
Yet, there’s more to this 20-something from SE QLD than obvious musical mastery. What makes B-Syde shine is his unbridled love for the creative community he’s embraced.
What do you think makes the Aussie doof scene so unique?
We’re very lucky that a bunch of festivals like Earth Frequency, Rabbits Eat Lettuce and Bohemian Beatfreaks are all burners essentially. They all promote the concept of theme camps. Once you attend a theme camp you understand the concept of connectivity and participation in any form and effort – you don’t have to be artistic to get involved. You can cook hash browns, you can set up a phone that will call God, all sorts of weird things. That’s the stuff I really love, music is my life but I love seeing crazy stuff in our brains come to life.
Speaking of creative brains coming to life, how would you describe your sound now?
It’s really changed a lot over the years. I still flow and rhyme, but I’m definitely more of an MC or a lyricist than a rapper.
The most recent change has been that I’ve done some upgrades to my equipment to allow maximum improvisation. Now it’s kind of like what Beardyman does and FKJ do. They have the ability with their equipment to go into this wormhole of ideas. So that’s the latest evolution of my music. I’m still going to be playing some of my songs, but in my set there are a lot of songs that you’ll hear reincarnated in a different form. You may never hear that form again, it’ll just be that one time.
My equipment allows me to take a whole song and turns it into a melody, which I can turn into another song and then another. These days I’m definitely going for the spontaneous improvisational dance-y electronic elements.
How did you come up with your name?
I’ve always named my stuff around my name in one way or another, Blair – B-Syde. The element that timed it all together is that back in the day the b-side of a record was an alternative to the a-side and it was something different. When I started B-Syde there weren’t a lot of loopers out there, so I felt I was bringing something a bit different.
You’re a looper and master multi-instrumentalist, but is there any instrument you can’t play?
I borrowed a trumpet off my friend…
One day I’ll definitely learn that for sure because brass has such a nice place in my heart. But something everyone needs to know about brass is that if you’re living in a share house with no soundproof practice space, and if you’re conscious of those living around you, it’s hard to get better because at the start you sound really bad and it’s really loud. To get a grasp of it is you have to get a lot of energy and air into it. And it sounded so bad, so I put that one to rest. Might need a soundproof shipping container… that’s a goal.
Are you working towards a dream?
I have lots of dreams I’m working towards. I’ve been a part of this industry working as B-Syde and MastaRyte has come up alongside it, as a part of being a creative entity and having more to offer.
The newest thing I’m doing is my live electronic production workshops, which has been amazing way to connect with like minded souls on another level.
I look at the industry and I want to be a continuous part of it. I definitely have laid my roots here in Australia and New Zealand, I can’t see that changing for my spring and summer seasons. Maybe I’ll take one off in a blue moon, but I’ll always I’ll come back and be a part of them.
I’m building myself as an entity and a person. I’m very lucky to meet people from all around the world and be part of these crews. I don’t put in the same level of energy as the core crew members do, I believe my position in the community is to be a connector. Like a few people, I’m a nomad, jumping between different things and connecting the dots.
That’s why I’ve made the Festive Collective page and group: We’ve created a resource of festivals and rough application dates. I realised I was tuned into the details of events across the country, and my friends were missing opportunities simply because they didn’t know. So now I take 30 seconds to share that with the community. It’s grown to the point where other people are now jumping in there and sharing things I was unaware of. My belief is that if we all collectively prop each other up we don’t need managers and booking agents, we can be a worldwide community where we allow each other to thrive.
Which of your tracks is your favourite right now?
I really like my new EP, the song Reality is one of the ones that has developed over the years. I wrote it a few years ago and it’s taken a few different forms. It got back-benched for a while, and every now and then I’ll jam a track and then I’ll test out an old song I don’t play any more and it’ll be given new life again. It’s relative to what I was saying about improv and how it all grows. It starts off acoustic guitars then into bass then into a warped out electronic jam. It’s got all the elements I’m definitely focussing on these days.
How many sets have you done?
I don’t know about sets, but I counted the other day and since 2012 I’ve done maybe 52 festivals. The majority of them would be since 2016, I just did a couple when I lived in Canada and overseas.
I just punched out the gigs all the time before that, it’s got to be at least few hundred. But I’ve gotten to the point where I am trying to dial it back to the significant ones, the festivals, and to focus my creative energy on making those performances big and unique and distinct from each other. I’d also like to give B-Syde an audiovisual element. I have a few friends that do VJ stuff and I’m thinking about different ways to do it. I think my first point of contact would be talking to Omegachild. He’s a good friend of mine and his audiovisual setup is amazing.
Favourite set so far?
New Zealand has been really good to me. Both Twisted Frequencies I’ve played in the last two years were always amazing. I’ve managed to go from a completely empty tent to 200 people in there within the first 30 seconds of playing, which is absolutely amazing. I also played this beautiful festival down near Queenstown called Biophilia which was amazing.
There’s just something about New Zealand, it’s the quaintness of it. It’s small. When you do something different over there everyone wants to take you home to their parents place and give you dinner. Which is such a beautiful thing.
What’s your favourite festival?
Earth Frequency Festival because it was my first doof ever and I went to it in 2012 when it was at Landcruiser. It was very free back then. After that, I moved overseas and went to Burning Man and Shambhala three times, these massive beautiful events that don’t have the same restrictions we have in Australia.
And then to come back and notice a burning culture here was really cool. Earth Freq has gone through so much adversity and hard times over the last four years. After it all, I feel like they’re a good role model and a model in general for how they took it all on board. They did it with positivity and they did the right thing with the social constraints given to them and they’ve come back as a powerhouse and worked every year and found unity between the doofing community and the government and law enforcement. Everyone stereotypes communities when they’re not a part of them, and Earth Freq did a good job of showing that they’re a loving community that looks after each other and supports each other. I think it’s cool that a couple of guys with dreads sit down with a board of police commissioners and councillors and come to a happy medium when it comes to certain laws and guidelines.
What are your top three influences right now?
FKJ (French Kiwi Juice), he’s a French performer that does live electronic live looping, he’s a multi-instrumentalist that does everything… he’s ridiculous. He’s Red Bull sponsored and he’s got amazing videos of him playing on the salt flats of Bolivia and crazy stuff like that.
Beardyman is always a good one.
And I’d like to say that number three would be the community I surround myself with. The first two are more musical but honestly on a day-to-day basis I live with a bunch of people who run the West End Fire Festival and the The Sideshow space and they give me the momentum to go go go! Everyone around me are crushing it right now and that’s such a beautiful thing to be a part of. We never have a conversation that’s not inspiring or energy lifting.
Before I started performing, I attended lots of festivals, so switching into my professional brain has been a struggle for me and for many others I know. It’s a work in progress.
That said, it’s coming on its own accord with getting older. I can’t do it like I used to do it anymore. It’s actually really nice and I prefer my energy when I’m there just enjoying the vibe with pure honest connections.
And then just riding the wave has been a big thing. I was go, go, go, for so long thinking that if I took a second to not do music I thought I was going to miss out on an opportunity. I’m just realising now that it’s got momentum and I still put in that energy and hard work, but it’s also about allowing it to just kind of flow. I think initially you have to go all in, but once the momentum is there and once you’ve given that energy and made those connections you kind of have to allow yourself to free fall and flow in the wind. You try, try, try, for something in particular and you can’t get it and the moment it happens it just comes to your doorstep.
There’s nothing worse than someone coming up and asking me for a request when I’m clearly playing live music. You’d think that the guitar and the microphone would give it away but sometimes it just goes over people’s heads. But there’s a way around that. There’s a way of communicating what I’m doing to the masses that are completely unaware. How do I adapt that into my performance? I try to find the positive way forward out of the negative.
Another little thing is, as a promoter, and I’ve done it myself, I always do my best to be at an event from start to finish or at least to come for the majority of it. I understand really big acts are in demand and they have to come in and out and I totally get that, but I often see people come in and then run away when they’re being supported by others. I think the way forward for all of us as a community worldwide is to collectively support each other as much as possible.
What can people look forward to when it comes to your Tropical Bloom set?
This is going to be the furthest north I’ve ever played in Australia, which I’m excited about. People can look forward to a unique experience. They’ll hear some songs they know that might be reworked into something else. And there’ll be a lot of energy: The beauty of the improvisational stuff is that half the time I’m not sure what I’m doing but that’s such a thrill and an energy rush when I do something that sounds amazing and I had no idea it was coming. And hopefully we can get a few other guys on the bill who are friends of mine up on stage as well.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I think a lot of musicians and creatives out there in general hold off putting themselves out there or allowing themselves to try something they’re interested in, and what they should know if they aren’t already aware is that we are SO lucky in Australia and New Zealand to have the level of applications we have available to us.
It’s not like that anywhere else in the world – if you go to the US or Canada or Europe, they have applications but take such small numbers. Here we have a creative community where they actually take applicants. That’s how I got into Rainbow Serpent, Rabbits Eat Lettuce, Earth Frequency, Manifest. I got into all of those via applications, just putting myself out there. There are groups like mine that are constantly connecting artists with resources and having honest conversations on how to push forward, how to improve your fee negotiation skills, what to say.
So if you’re thinking about doing something but you don’t think you’re capable, think again. Reach out because everyone is capable.