the avalanches' robbie chater shares the records that changed his life
Music's sample king takes us on his journey.
Photography Steve Gullick. L-R James Dela Cruz, Robbie Chater and Tony Di Blasi.
When the Avalanches released their debut album Since I Left You in 2000 they established themselves as one of the most original and interesting bands in the world. Featuring over 3,500 vinyl samples, the record was an epic feat and a labour of love that won lots of important awards and produced the genre-spanning anthems with hilariously iconic video clips Frontier Psychiatrist and Since I Left You. Thanks to the musical chemistry of members Robbie Chater, Tony Di Blasi, DJ Dexter, James Dela Cruz, Gordon McQuilten and Peter Whitford, The Avalanches took the art of sample-based music to new heights as they were invited to play alongside long-time influences like the Beastie Boys, Public Enemy and Beck. And while they left fans longing to hear more it would be sixteen years before their next album, Wildflower was released.
With a new streamlined line up consisting of Robbie and Tony, after years of rumour, hype and speculation, Wildflower was the perfect follow up album to finally put fans, old and new, out of their misery. Relying a little less heavily on samples for the new record, the band recruited artists like Danny Brown, Father John Misty and Biz Markie to provide original vocals and it was worth the wait.
Ahead of their appearance at Sugar Mountain Festival later this month, we spoke to Robbie, one of the most knowledgeable men in music, about the songs and albums that have stuck with him, inspired him and possibly even made him cry.
What's the first song you remember hearing?
I have a vague memory of driving with my old man in a panel van down to Werribee beach one summer and Blondie's Heart of Glass was playing on the radio. I didn't understand it or know why I liked it but I was fascinated. Her falsetto mesmerised me. I must have been four or five.
Blondie, Heart of Glass
What music did you grow up on?
My parents record collection was the first music I heard: The Band, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell and lots of strange folk music I could wrap my head around.
The Band, The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down
Neil Young, Don't Let it Bring You Down
Joni Mitchell, A Case of You
Was there a particular song that made you want to make music?
Not really, it was just a love of music and a need to be kinda be immersed in it..just to survive haha. To me it became as essential as air and water. Then hearing Big Audio Dynamite and De La Soul's Three Feet High And Rising and trying to figure out how they made those records was a turning point. I began making pause tapes in my teens and from then on I was addicted to manipulating sound.
De La Soul, Me Myself and I
Big Audio Dynamite, Sightsee MC
What was the first record you bought?
Dire Straits, Brothers in Arms.
Dire Straits, Brothers in Arms
What was the scene like when you began making music with The Avalanches in the late 90s. What song/songs remind you of that time?
We used to roll up to our early shows in Melbourne with samplers and keyboards and turntables and the road crew were always like, "what the fuck!?". Melbourne was a thriving punk rock town at that time and Au Go Go records was at the centre of that musical universe, in my mind at least. The Meanies and Spiderbait were playing all the time. We were lucky there was such a strong live scene and so many pubs to play in. A lot of the bands around then were very supportive.
From that time I remember the Camp Lo songs, Luchini and Black Nostalgic...we used to drop the Camp Lo record at every show whenever the s900 sampler crashed onstage.
Camp Lo, Luchini
Camp Lo, Black Nostaljack
Then which songs reminds you of the 2000s?
Those early Kanye records, LCD Soundsystem, The Knife and Dilla were all a breath of fresh air at different times.
Kanye West, Flashing Lights
LCD Soundsystem, Losing My Edge
J Dilla, Last Donut of the Night
The Knife, Heartbeats
What is a rare gem you're proud to own?
Mmm, maybe a high school record I have of some kids singing The Beatles, Come Together, or Sun Ra's Dreaming which I have on 7". I feel like he's questioning the nature of reality on that track.
Sun Ra, Dreaming
Which song that always makes you want to dance?
Solange's Losing You
Solange, Losing You
Which song/s do you wish you had written?
The Beach Boy's All I Wanna Do ....that chord change in the middle, so ethereal and out of this world.
Beach Boys, All I Wanna Do
Is there a track you find truly inspirational?
I heard a track called Georgia + Mass by Philly-based artist Moor Mother recently...unrestrained and courageous with a cool ass Pharoah Sanders sample.
Which artist or track do you play when you're sad?
Sometimes early Springsteen. Or The Band have some really sad songs. Otherwise Marvin Gaye's What's Goin' On, Don't Worry Baby by The Beach Boys or Summertime by Vince Staples. This Day by The Sleepy Jackson makes me kinda sad. I heard To Her Door by Paul Kelly on the radio recently and got what he was singing about for the first time, that was a melancholy moment.
Marvin Gaye, What's Going On
The Beach Boys, Don't Worry Baby
Vince Staples, Summertime
Paul Kelly, To Her Door
And finally, what was the last piece of music you bought?
Let me check my iTunes...um, Here Come The Warm Jets by Brian Eno. I didn't expect it to be so glam!
Brian Eno, Here Come the Warm Jets
The Avalanches have just been added to the Sugar Mountain lineup. For the full lineup and ticket information check out their website.
Text Briony Wright
Photography Steve Gullick