Key Australian music collaborator Groove Terminator, formerly known as GT, has been anything but quiet since hitting the dance music scene back in the late 1990s. He’s joined hands with fellow muso Sam La More – more than once – under the banner of Tonite Only, created his own dance/rock outfit, dubbed Jump Jump Dance Dance, and helped overlook production of Ministry of Sound Classics in Sydney and Ministry of Sound: Orchestrated which is about to hit Perth.
Groove Terminator knows the trend for dance music turning to symphonic arrangements is far from waning, especially since a lot of the folks who got into dance music in the first place are now, well, getting on. Already we’ve seen and heard the blissful combined likes of Pete Tong and the Heritage Orchestra, Craig David and Les Siècles Orchestra, and Armand van Helden’s Symphonica with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, relishing all of it.
Now come a host of artists set to work with the Perth Symphony Orchestra to bring you Ministry of Sound: Orchestrated, a celebration of classic dance tunes fronted by guest vocalists including Daniel Merriweather, Alison Limerick and Ilan Kidron of The Potbelleez.
Here, Groove Terminator chats with Cream about the changes in dance music over the decades, why punters are getting so into the symphonic dance sound, and how, if he wasn’t in the music industry, he may have ended up working with animals. But then, you could say he already has been…
Interview by Antonino Tati
Were you always musical as a kid; did you play any instruments?
I was pretty musically-obsessed as a kid. I used to perform shows at sleepovers with my friends, miming to songs by The Beatles, Stones and Sex Pistols. I usually mimed playing the keys; well, an ironing board, really, or the drums. But I never really learned an instrument per se except for five years of drumming, much to my mum’s horror.
What sort of music did you listen to growing up?
Mum’s taste was pretty edgy I guess ’cause she was really young when she had me. So The Ramones were one of the first bands I loved, alongside Kraftwerk and The Who. I even went to see The Ramones play in 1978-ish when I was 8 or 9. Then my mum introduced me to Grandmaster Flash’s Adventures on the Wheels of Steel when I was going through my Duran Duran phase, and that was the record – along with Malcom Mclaren’s Duck Rock – that changed everything for me.
How did you break into the music industry?
My mum and stepdad were heavily involved in community radio and when I was 13 or 14, I’d go in after sports on Saturdays while mum did her show. I’d make my own mixtapes in the record library, and eventually this lead to someone offering to train me up on the desk. I used to [present] an after-school radio show with friends from high school. I also started sneaking out to clubs – gay and straight – around this time and was mesmerized by all the wonderful counter cultures that I’d only seen in music videos and magazines like The Face. I knew then I wanted to be a DJ at those clubs.
As a DJ and record producer, what skills would you say someone needs to be able to crossover in those two areas of musical delivery?
Try not to be an asshole, and it helps to have good taste in music. The only rule of DJ-ing that I think is absolutely important is that you need to know what record to play after the one [currently] playing. The rest is all trimmings and decoration.
You enjoyed a huge array of hits on the club scene, particularly in the late ’90s and early ’00s. How do you see music having changed since then?
The fundamentals are still the same, but the trends feel so much quicker now. The technology for music-making hasn’t moved as far in the last eight years like it did, say, in the ’90s which tends to impact the sound and production a lot [here he refers to Ableton and the arrival of dubstep, future-bass and trap]. Sonically nothing much has changed since 2010 and the rest is just regurgitated variations on a theme, which is okay too. The barrier to entry is now very low for DJ-ing. Also, these days, I don’t have to spend 10-30 hours of my week hanging out at a record store pretending to be best friends with the asshole behind the counter so I can get the good tunes at $20 a 12”. I don’t miss that part at all. But I do miss the DJ camaraderie.
You’ve had songs feature on several Ministry of Sound compilations. What is it about a Ministry compilation that makes it so much more special than other comps?
What’s the main point of difference? Back in the day it was the hugest deal to get a track on an MoS compilation, especially The Annual. It not only meant some great royalties, but a very good chance you could get a hit record out of it. Those days are long gone.
How would you compare the music in the charts today, compared to, say, that of the 1990s?
There’s a lot of amazing and great music around today but it’s so darn hard for most people to cut through the noise to find it! Who has the time? This is my day job, so I know how hard it is to get a song or artist noticed these days; and not always the best stuff floats to the top. That said, there was a ton of garbage records around in the ’90s too!
You’re playing a big part in putting together ‘Ministry of Sound: Orchestrated’, where classic tracks that have featured prominently on Ministry releases, are getting the symphonic treatment. How did you get involved in the project?
The idea came about after we had some super-successful ‘Reunion’ parties that were really well received. We wanted to keep that idea and spirit going, but with a twist. Hence, enter the Orchestra…
There is such a massive fascination with symphonic music at the moment. Everyone from Pete Tong to Paloma Faith, Armand van Helden to Craig David, has put on a symphonic show. Why are we going through this interesting phase in live music delivery?
We’ve seen this for years with the Fleetwood Macs and so forth, so why can’t we have this for our generation’s music too? Anyone can pull up the 1998 Annual or whatever and be transported right back to where they were at that point in time which is the wonderful power of music and the hold it has over us. Getting to then do that same thing but on steroids with an Orchestra and with 2000-5000 people in the same room is just that but on another greater level. I see it from the reactions at our Orchestrated shows that the audience feels the same way
I’m going to cut to the chase here, GT, do you think many of these artists are just getting on in life, getting a little older, and perhaps settling for more laidback music?
Ha! It’s definitely much nicer backstage at these types of shows than at a warehouse in the middle of nowhere. I wonder if The Prodigy would ever do an orchestra show?
Wouldn’t that be twisted? Hey, if you weren’t making music, DJ-ing, or putting on productions such as Ministry/Orchestrated today, what would Groove Terminator be doing with his life?
I honestly have no idea; music has literally been my whole adult life so far, but maybe I’d be working with animals? Yet more in a rescue scenario than a circus one. Ha ha!
‘Ministry of Sound: Orchestrated’ will take over Kings Park and Botanic Garden on Saturday 24 March, 2018.
Classic tracks from iconic artists like Massive Attack, Fatboy Slim, Moby, Underworld, and Shapeshifters will be rearranged, remixed and reimagined in a brand new Australian production, taking the audience on a trip through the best moments in dance music.