Over the past few years, Australian-born AVDJ mastermind Sampology has established himself as one of the country’s pioneering producers. Rising to notoriety with his captivating and truly unique audiovisual sets, Sampology has come a long way since humble bedroom beginnings in 2008 with a line of massive festival appearances and a string of studio releases, including last year’s debut album, all solidifying his position as a cult act. Sitting down with the man himself before he hits the road as part of Absolut’s THE BLUE ROOM project, Sam Poggioli, the infamously cheeky producer tells us all about his, quote, “headfuck” of a career.
How do you describe what you do to people you’ve just met?
What I’m better known for in the last few years is definitely the AV show. It’s me taking a whole bunch of video – stuff from the internet, movies, TV and stuff I’ve created myself – and a whole bunch of audio. I’m kind of constructing a whole set out of it that I perform in front of people on turntables and a bunch of equipment with a huge screen behind me.
I do some DJ sets and I produce as well, so I dunno. I just like to make creative projects but the AV show is definitely what I’m better known for at the moment.
So do you see yourself more as a live performer than a producer?
I think it’s 50-50. When I first started getting into music it was through just listening to records, finding music and sharing music with my friends and that kind of thing, and then that developed into DJing and working on music in the studio.
But then I remember when I played my first gig and there’s that situation of, “You’re playing music and people are dancing in front of you,” and that’s a huge, completely new thing. So I think one influences the other: playing live inspires production, and production influences how I’m going to present stuff as well so they’re both awesome.
Before you started Sampology I know you worked in a record store for four years. Have you always surrounded yourself closely with music?
When I was really young, like 14 or 15, I had cousins that were 10 years older than me that were in a live electronica group, so they were a huge influence on me when I was in high school. They started showing me records and showing me music production and then I started dabbling in DJing and I worked in the record store, Butter Beats, for four years.
I feel like, looking back on it, that educational experience of working in a record store five days a week, physically being around so much music of all genres and having to basically learn as much as possible so I could be a good salesman, was an invaluable experience as well. Personally, I think the best thing about doing music as somewhat of a career is that you’re constantly spending time educating yourself about more about stuff you don’t know about music, so I think what I enjoy most about it is the educational experience.
As you were saying, nowadays you’re most known for your audiovisual sets. What inspired the idea to bring a visual component to your performances?
It’s something I’ve always been interested in but it was just a matter of the technology catching up to allow me to do it the way I wanted to do it. In 2008 that’s when the technology allowed you to basically use an existing DJ setup – which at the time for me was two turntables and a mixer – along with something like Serato, and instead of using audio files on your computer you just replace them with movie files. Basically it enables you to mix between records like you would in a DJ set but mix between any audiovisual content you want. Before that you had to go and buy like $4000 DVDJs and that’s the only way you could present that type of show. So yeah, it was just a matter of the technology catching up and allowing people to do it in a more familiar way which I was stoked about and I jumped on straight away.
I’m guessing the hardest part – or at least most time consuming – would be sourcing the actual content. Is that what you spend most of your time doing?
Yeah, and I’m really bad at it too because I’ll be watching something – like a documentary, TV show, something on YouTube – and I end up zoning out. I get caught up in movies really easily and forget I’m meant to be working. [Laughs.]
But it’s weird, because since 2008 I’ve been spending a lot of my time sourcing content, I find myself in social situations saying something along the lines of, “Yeah, that’s a bit like that scene in that movie where that dude says –” and obviously it’s just come out of the fact I’m always sourcing content.
I definitely imagine you as someone who would just have an endless supply of pop culture references.
Yeah, yeah. It’s not like I’m trying, but that’s definitely true.
So how do you go about piecing together the AV shows? Because it involves both sound and images it’d be more than double the workload of a regular set, right?
Pretty much. I approach the AV sets as an extension of the ways I like to put together a special DJ set: I like one thing to transition into the next thing and make sense, but the entire set has a dynamic through the whole show. Also, the visual has to line up with whatever audio is playing at that point in time, but it also make sense going to the next thing and going to the next thing after that.
It’s a lot more work to find the right combinations that I want to use, and I’ll usually pre-prepare the whole set, but at the same time I prepare little extra bits that I can go into depending on the crowd and the venue so at a few points in the set I can go off into a different direction then bring it back sort of thing.
But yeah, to be honest, how would I describe it… It’s the most rewarding and enjoyable headfuck. [Laughs.] It definitely is a head fuck at the end of the day.
What kind of artists and producers are you liking at the moment?
I don’t know – I always listen to all genres but definitely the more soulful shit at the moment. I feel like the last few years everyone’s completely off the noisy shit which I’m happy about and for the first time in ages I feel like young people and crowds in general are a lot more open to being challenged musically as well, and from a DJ’s perspective that’s awesome.
You spent some time earlier in the year playing shows in the US and Asia, how were those tours?
Really great. I played about 11 shows through Canada and the US earlier in the year and I did two trips to Asia in the last few months, to Shanghai and Bali, but there’s a whole other story about the recent time I played in Bali about a month ago.
I played after John Legend in front of about two-and-a-half thousand people on this beach setup and the stage got bum-rushed by about 20 Balinese authority. Actually the next day was so crazy. I just filmed myself talking about what happened the night before because I wanted to keep it fresh – I think at the end of the tour I’m gonna upload that video of what happened but that’s another story in itself. It was pretty funny and hectic and I’ve never experienced anything like it before, especially being in Bali. It didn’t have anything to do with anything I did in the set but it was all in all pretty funny and turned out to be a good thing.
But Asia’s really great as well. With a lot of the places you play in Asia, you see in the crowd when you’re playing in front of them that it’s kind of a new experience for them, because they’re starting to get a whole new group of international artists that perform in different ways. So for me it’s perfect because what I do is kind of new for them. I’ve had a really good time in Asia.
You’re currently playing the AV Stimulation Tour across the country as a national tour. How’s that been going so far?
It’s really good – I mean I’ve done quite a few AV tours already through Australia, so a lot of people in the crowd would’ve been to previous shows of mine and brought their friends. I’m really hyped because it’s a completely new show and it’s a completely new theme.
Actually, last weekend in Sydney, half an hour after I finished, one of the event organisers told me that during the show he got a message through on the radio saying two people were having sex up the back at the end of my set – like there were these chairs up the back in the dark and there were two people caught having sex which yeah I was pretty stoked about.
Wouldn’t that have to be the ultimate sign that people enjoyed your show?
They enjoyed it so much they couldn’t keep it in their pants, yeah.
What if there’s a baby called Sampology in nine months time?
It’s really funny on Sunday at the FBI Show in Sydney, one of my really good friends told me she was pregnant on the day and then like a few hours later the thing happened with the people having sex during the show and it was just like, weird.
In terms of the rest of 2013, what have you got up your sleeve?
More music releases is my main priority at the moment, so that’s the main focus. There’ll be more shows coming, and I’m still locking that in at the moment, but the main priority is just my own original music. I’ve got a stack of music I’m really excited to let people hear but I definitely wouldn’t say the A-word yet.
One thing you’ve got coming up is your collaboration with Absolut Vodka for the Blue Room Project. Could you tell me a little about how that tour is going to pan out?
I’m really excited about it. Basically they’ve put a call-out to four creative people – which I’m one of – to collaborate on a project and then present it in November at the actual shows and the events happening. So, yeah, it’s a clean palette if people want to think of an idea and then bring it to someone like me through the Absolut program. If people have some crazy idea they want to be involved in then hit me up.