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Interview: ShockOne Chats About His New Album, ‘Organism Algorithm’

Renowned in the electronic music realm, ShockOne stands as a trailblazer in the Australian drum & bass landscape. Recognised for his groundbreaking contributions, the Perth-based artist has crafted an impressive discography, featuring the ARIA-chart-topping ‘Universus’ and various other exceptional bodies of work. Unveiling a unique synthesis of sonic exploration and technical prowess, ShockOne’s decade-long journey in the industry has solidified his status as a respected figure. The release of his third studio album, ‘Organism Algorithm,’ marks a pivotal moment in his career, signalling not only a culmination of experience but also a forward surge into new realms of innovation. With a charged creative spirit, ShockOne demonstrates that he is poised and energized for the next phase of his musical evolution. We recently caught up with ShockOne to dive deeper into the new album.

Congrats on the new album and thanks so much for chatting to AAA Backstage. To kick things off, could you share some insights into the specific experiences or moments that inspired the creation of ‘Organism Algorithm’? How did these experiences shape the overall narrative of the album?

Thanks, and no problem! To take a bit of a wide angle less at this question, for me it’s a general feeling of isolation and disconnectedness in my life and an observation that a similar sentiment seems to be prevalent in society that inspired the last few years of my work. I hate to be a downer, but sometimes I get this gut feeling that we as species are running blindly, at full speed towards the cliff edge with no sign of us slowing down 😂

As a pioneer in the Australian Drum and Bass scene, how do you feel your sound has evolved with this album compared to your previous work? Are there any particular elements or techniques you’ve explored for the first time in ‘Organism Algorithm’?

I would like to think my music is in a state of constant evolution. Not particularly because I think I need to evolve to remain relevant (which is definitely true for anyone) but more because I’ve learned that my interest in the craft comes from a place of curiosity and always learning something new. The longer I do this, the less it’s about the ‘finished product’ and more about the process of getting there, and therefore the less it becomes about pleasing an audience and the more it becomes about writing for myself and the process itself enriching my life. I think this is the way it should always be for an artist to be honest, but unfortunately there is this thing called money, and we all need it to live. I’m a strong believer that commerce will always corrupt art, but it’s a necessary evil you have to deal with if you want to make a living making music  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

The title track “Organism Algorithm’ probably represents me at my most… free on this album. This tune literally came out of me experimenting new forms of bass/sound design, and it just kind of appeared with no effort. 

You mentioned that the album is a window into your creativity over the last few years. Could you walk us through your creative process? How do you translate the complexities of your thoughts and emotions into the intricate sounds and compositions we hear in the album?

I often feel that I’m not writing the right style of music to truly express my thoughts, lets be real, its rave music, no one wants to get super cerebral at the rave 😛 As with all of my previous albums, these kinds of thoughts and concepts serve more as a framework to work within, a world for the songs to exist in. For example my previous album ‘A dark machine’ was quite literally the soundtrack to a movie I had/still have in my head. I dont have the skills or budget to make film, so I wrote the soundtrack instead. If I don’t have some kind of conceptual boundaries in place when I work I suffer from option paralysis terribly. So these concepts simply provide a world for the music to exist  in. When I’m writing I ask myself ‘Does this idea/piece of music fit into that world?’ If it does it belongs on the album, if it doesn’t it goes in the pile of things to finish in the future usually…

‘Organism Algorithm’ is a captivating title. Could you delve deeper into the meaning behind it and how it ties into the exploration of identity and self in the age of AI? How did this concept influence the overall theme of the album?

The title comes from a passage in a book I read that said (to paraphrase), the more neuroscientists learn about our neurology and how it impacts our behaviour, the more they’re coming to the conclusion that our brain function can be reduced to a bunch of biochemical algorithms. Which I found to be quite profound. It brings the whole notion of free will and identity into question. Are my thoughts really ‘my’ thoughts if they’re nothing more than algorithmic calculations designed to ensure survival and proliferation of the DNA etc. Looking at the current state of A.I. through this lens make for some interesting conundrums…. IF our brains work algorithmically how are we so different from A.I. what difference does it make whether an intelligence is formed biologically or artificially? I think humanity has some major existential dilemmas on the horizon both in a figurative and literal sense. The title and ideas on the album are just my way of exploring these concepts.

Your fascination with the blurred lines between human and artificial intelligence is intriguing. How do you see this theme manifesting in the tracks on the album? Are there specific moments that directly address this concept?

Even though its not technically AI, the first song I start exploring these ideas with was ‘Follow me’ Which was the first song I wrote that felt like the beginning of a new album cycle to me. It’s pretty self explanatory if you listen to the lyrics, but I basically noticed that the ‘Follow’ button was kind of ubiquitous in society and how it has become this kind of social metric of how  many followers you have, whether you’re a company, public figure or plain old regular human. I feel like we’ve kind of become a slave to it, and to all these completely meaningless data point measurements. How many instagram followers do I have? How many monthly listeners have I got on spotify? And we’re all just yelling our thoughts and experiences into the void with the hope we’ll get some kind of validation and that micro dopamine hit we’ve all been trained to be constantly chasing through social media addiction. One afternoon, the total absurdity of it all kind of slapped me in the face and the lyrics for that song came pouring out (and my sister Reija helped me hone them cause she’s the wordsmith of the family). That train of thought then kind of extended out into AI and how we’re implementing it into our every day lives now. I guess to cut a long story short, my main question is, at what point do we as a species hand the authority to our own lives over to AI? At what point will we stop deciding what to have for dinner, and we just ask our personal AI that’s been recording & analysing our nutritional consumption and therefore can tell us what we SHOULD eat. AI who should I date? AI what should I do for a career? and so on…. 

The visual aspect of an album often complements its auditory journey. Can you shed some light on the design choices for the album artwork and how it reflects or enhances the themes explored in ‘Organism Algorithm’?

The artwork was designed by long time collaborator Scott Mellow from Think Tank design. He designed the art for A dark machine and almost all my art work since. Essentially the art reflects my personal deep sense of isolation and aloneness through the process of writing this album. Both in the sense of how it relates to what I’ve been talking about, In a hyperconnected world I find myself making less and less meaningful connections with humans as our primary communication reality has now become that of social media…on a more personal level, sitting in a room alone with no windows for 8 hours a day isn’t great for your mental health. I don’t if it’s all in my head or not, but I often get the feeling when I’m writing of like ‘Does anyone even care if I do this? if I write this music? I get the feeling a lot of creative people are feeling that way lately, with the devaluation of art across all disciplines, you kind of get this ‘Whats the f***ing point’ feeling, which I find to be very isolating… So yeh artwork = shockone sadboi goes for a walk in the arid dystopian tundra that is modern life 😀 

Are there any collaborations on this album that stood out to you or pushed you creatively? Additionally, what external influences, musical or otherwise, played a significant role in shaping the album’s direction?

I mean all the collaborations on the album are amazing. My main decider for working with people is simply if they’re rad people on the same wavelength as me that are fun to work, simple as that. Each person brought a difference aspect to what ever they worked on. Quite often it was an idea that I was stuck on where someone came in and gave a fresh perspective on it to help it get over the line. There are many factors weighing on the artist these days. The way people interact with and consume music has definitely impacted my creative process. I feel like I can’t be as self indulgent because I’m acutely aware of short attention spans and how fickle audience behaviour is on platforms like spotify. A good example of this is that the opening track ‘Alone’ actually has a different ‘special’ intro on the vinyl version of the album. This is a longer indulgent intro that I’ve been using as my set intro for a while now. But I felt (and many agreed) that it was just a bit too long for spotify and ran the risk of people skipping the song on playlists etc. So if you want that version, you got to buy thevinyl! These factors weigh heavily on the the creative decisions of artists these days. 

How do you envision translating the essence of ‘Organism Algorithm’ into your live performances? What do you hope the audience takes away from the experience of hearing these tracks in a live setting?

I mean, at the end of the day it’s simple. I just want people to be able to lose themselves at a show, forget about normal life, dance until they feel like they’re going go collapse 😀 

Written by Chris Lamaro