Sustaining culture in community with FBi Click’s head honcho, Sandro Dallarmi
Every Tuesday for the past three years has seen Purple Sneakers premiere a brand new block of content in the form of a two hour radio show, broadcast by Sydney community digital station, FBi Click.
An accessible platform for emerging artists, legendary local veterans and those passionate fans and collectives that keep the community flexing, FBi Click created an entity that became a resourceful go-to safe haven during a time where Sydney’s dance music culture needed it most.
Allowing a voice for the permanence of Motorik, Astral People, Goodgod Small Club, Sweat It Out and Halfway Crooks‘ shows, it also invited special guest residencies from the likes of UNDR Ctrl and Sidechains to elevate our incredibly gifted and unique culture that exists in Sydney.
Like any advanced technology, digital radio is burgeoning, which left FBi Radio the decision to hang up the Click boots in order for the main station to co-exist on both the FM band and DAB+. Gone but not forgotten, its three year stint concluded last week, and saw the Motorik, Bare Necessities, Picnic, Body Promise and Purple Sneakers shows roll with the punches and graduate to live radio.
An incredibly integral piece to Sydney’s cultural landscape, FBi Click could not have survived without the devotion and passion of its operator, Sandro Dallarmi.
Also the host to FBi Radio show Switch and acclaimed DJ, the humble Sandro generously spent his lunch in the rain with us for a chat ahead of his set at our 11th birthday next week.
Throwing back to 2014. Sydney’s infamous lockout laws had just come into effect, damaging our city’s culture. What do you remember of the dance music scene at that time?
I have one real standout memory of going to a couple of parties – a Stoney Roads birthday party and then seeing DZ Deathrays at The Standard and then buying a ticket to see Four Tet that night off my friend at The Standard. I bought a roadie from the bottle shop and walked over to Goodgod, getting there at 3am and staying until the sun came up, just dancing. That was really fun.
The spontaneity, as people have said, is what we’ve lost, and obviously the freedom to express that. We can’t do that anymore! We kinda have to pick one thing and go, and hope the cops don’t shut it down [laughs], which is just obviously not as fun.
Was that Four Tet’s Laneway sideshow?
I’m not sure. I was still getting into dance music at that time even. This would have been 2013? I was still pretty fresh. I got a show in August of that year on FBi [Radio] where I’d only been doing it for 18 months, like blogging, learning Ableton and all of that. So it was a pretty exciting time. Now for people starting up, it’s not like that. I was talking to my friend yesterday, and she’s never experienced Sydney without lockouts and feels like she’s really missed out. It’s pretty sad.
A few months after lockouts, FBi Click was launched. What inspired the birth of the station?
I wasn’t brought in until after the idea was born already, so it was Dan Zilber [former FBi Radio Music Director], Evan Kaldor [FBi Radio Managing Director at the time], and Caroline Gates [FBi Radio Program Coordinator]. They had an opportunity to do something different on digital radio at FBi where they were like, “We’re able to broadcast on digital, what are going to do with this?” So they thought, “we can rebroadcast the main station or we can try something different.” They came up with a few different ideas, and one of them was a dance music station.
I think this is before lockouts were even a thing, they came up with this idea, and it just happened that way. They gave it a name, brought it to life and brought me on board to run it. Dan, our Music Director for 12 or 13 years, left and so it was just kind of my baby where I learnt on my feet for three years.
Were you chosen to do that, or were you asked to do it?
No, Dan just came up to me – it was so casual, just like, “Hey so we’ve got this idea and I think it would be really cool if you would run it,” and I was like, “Ahh okay! That’s amazing!” So I put a lot of myself into that. There was no money at the start, then there was one day a week paid, then two days a week, and then eventually three where I could live off that. By that point I’d quit all my other jobs and went all in which was pretty intense, but it’s been really good.
What drew you to Click so much to make you want to give everything else up?
I’ve always liked discovering something new, and being able to support that, so I did that through my show bringing through artists like Basenji, Wave Racer, Cosmo’s Midnight, Hayden James, Kilter and Slumberjack, loads of people when they were fresh, giving them a platform and then seeing them grow which was really exciting. Especially because of the sound that was surrounding that and the energy of that scene and seeing where it went. Click gave me the opportunity to do that on a bit more of a cultural level [instead of] like, “I’ve got a great song, it’s going to be a hit.” [It was] more, “This is bringing people together, it’s going to be in a place under one banner and is meaningful in a different way”.
So something like Sidechains where Nick Luke introduced me to those guys. I wasn’t too aware of them and he was like, “You should do something with them,” and I was like, “Yes! Good plan.” So I got them in for a residency, gave them a show.
Seeing that whole thing grow and being really supportive has been cool, especially amongst all the lockouts and everything that’s been going on. Cool stuff can still come through; like Flow Fi where they’re playing more sort of rap and beats and they’re this international collective, but still based in Sydney, and they’re pulling in people from China and New Zealand and all these places. No one really knows about it, but they’re just doing really cool stuff, and seeing where that leads.
Maybe there really isn’t an artist who pushes through like Denzel [Sterling] and Jess [Chapman] from Sidechains, who are making their own music which is representative of what that’s about, and going that step further. I’m sure they’ll start to play festivals and stuff soon. That was a whole new thing for me, so now I’m going to see how I can marry those two worlds together, in terms of the music stuff and the cultural stuff. I just love unity and cool young people just doing their own thing. It gets me excited.
With the programming of Click, why collectives and not volunteers of FBi Radio?
I think they wanted to represent everything that was going on in Sydney, because every show is a specialist show, and they wanted to have a really good cross section of everything that was happening in Sydney by bringing it all together in one body. That really did help with lockouts, we needed a bit of cohesiveness around the scene, so that was part of bringing that together.
So we got people like Motorik, Picnic, and you guys Purple Sneakers to all do shows and throw some parties together [which was really fun and we’ll hopefully throw another soon]. Again, it wasn’t like we knew that this was going to be so important to Sydney, we didn’t know the lockouts were going to happen, but you know it turned out pretty well. We got to provide an area for people who like club music to come together and enjoy that in one space. I thought we made something unique, and wished we could push it to go a bit longer where we could reach greater heights, but it was cool while it lasted.
I think it’s really nice when you say it just began as this simple concept and really grew into something that no one knew was coming.
Yeah! It was just like FBi loves dance music, let’s celebrate it! And then it was like, actually no this is going to be important.
A few months into the life of Click, it had already gained respect and momentum. Why do you think community is so important in our local music scene?
I think we have a very small scene, so everyone knows each other so you’ve got to be friendly and have that sense of community, otherwise there’s just going to be egos everywhere which wouldn’t be a nice place to be. Especially when culturally you have dance music splitting into its own little segments, whether it’s around a genre or a certain type of personality or fashion or whatever it is. It’s nice that people feel they belong to a group on all levels of life, and I think that’s true in music as well; especially dance music where you can come together on a regular basis and do this group activity together – dancing. It’s nice to know that your friends are there.
Then to have something like FBi Click, to take it a step higher and bringing it all together.
What have you noticed change in the club culture since the evolution of Click?
I don’t think we’ve affected club culture much, I just think we’ve been a sort of lifeline for… Maybe we’ve allowed some things more longevity by giving them something to come back to every week. You can’t really do weekly club nights anymore, but you can do a weekly radio show so it was something to come back to consistently and be like, “We still exist! Come listen to our radio show.” I don’t think we directly impacted what is happening in clubs.
Do you think Click had anything to do with the rise of the warehouse party?
I think that kind of was it’s own beast. We definitely supported it, and there’s shows on FBi 94.5 and Click that hone this house and techno sound that’s coming in now for people that are looking into the roots of dance music for inspiration, and we definitely supported that. There’s just some really passionate people in the scene who have made that happen, and are throwing parties consistently, making music and just doing their thing. We were there to give it a leg up.
Do you think Click would have become what it is had you kept your other work commitments and treated is as a side project?
Well I was the only employee, and realistically it needed someone to commit. It was a 24/7 baby that often would have tantrums, so you have to just be there to be like, “Okay, it’s 3am and the station’s not working. I need to fix this.” It got me up early and late, it literally was my baby.
It was also just trying to find that next thing, and looking around being involved in the scene, trying to lift things up. It would have worked better if we had more money and more people involved, but ultimately this was always going to end as digital radio is growing and FBi needs to be across that and can’t have a niche station on there forever.
What was the biggest challenge that you faced running the station?
Having a life outside the station. It became obsessive, definitely the focal point of my life, and that kind of affected me negatively as well. My mental health kind of dipped because I was so intent on making this thing better. [I]t was under a lot of pressure whether it be from the lockout laws or just the fact that we didn’t have much funding it was hard to make cool shit happen, so I took a lot of that on myself that became pretty defeating. It got hard towards the end, it was definitely challenging.
I guess that’s when you know you’re passionate about it.
Totally! I was never going to stop, even though it was probably detrimental to my health to keep going [laughs]. I’m always passion over money.
What did you learn the most from running the station? Even if it was something for you internally?
I learnt a lot practically, it enhanced the way I think about music, in a way outside of your gut. Having those music meetings with the Music Director and going, “Okay, this song is from a local female artist, it’s interesting culturally for these reasons,” you know? And realising why music has value beyond, “Oh this is cool and I like it” and how it affects culture again. Going back to that grassroots thing, where there’s this cultural thing happening, there’s this club night happening and the music that comes from that and how it feeds back. It’s being right on the ground and seeing that feedback loop between music and culture. I think that is something that has really impacted me.
You’ve learnt to become more objective then?
I’m just as passionate, it’s just taking that step back to see music from another perspective.
It was a pretty integral embodiment of our dance music culture, do you think the scene would have taken a different shape without Click being there? It really did tie everything in together having all of these different collectives and people who are all about that culture in one hub.
Again, I wish I could’ve done more. The number one thing I would’ve done more is to throw more parties which is what Sydney needs a lot of right now. That does help bring people together, where you’re literally in the same room playing tunes and looking at the CDJ of the DJ next to you and going, “Oh that’s cool” and making that connection – that’s something that’s important that we didn’t do enough of, but again we want to do more of now.
I do think it was a positive thing, and that maybe it would have been harder for new things to pop their head up and gain recognition without something like FBi Click. So I’m proud that we were able to do that. Especially with stuff like the residency – just getting a new crew in to do four radio shows and just represent themselves and tell their own story, play the music they want to play and let their friends in. We had rappers freestyling and people doing guest mixes and back to backs, it was pretty loose and fast, really fun.
You allowed free reign because you trusted in what these people were doing.
Yeah! Plus no one was listening to it too critically, like no one was going, “Oh you can’t say that or swear. You can’t do certain things,” which are technically the rules, but we kind of got away with it which was nice. So there was a bit of freedom there, which was fun.
Just a thought, when you say you didn’t throw enough parties with Click, do you think it could turn into some sort of party series? Now that the station has finished, could it’s name carry on into that field?
I think we’ve decided that the FBi Click brand name is gone, like that’s finished, but FBi definitely still want to support dance music in Sydney in a big way. Whether it’s under that name or not, it doesn’t really matter. I mean I want to throw more parties in Sydney. I threw a warehouse party in Sydney recently which was the best thing I’ve done in a long time, but that was just under my name. We’re going to do a party for FBi hopefully next month, and then maybe do more. I would love that. This city definitely needs more parties, but also more venues so we have to be gradient.
You also host your own show Switch on FBi Radio, and you DJ too. What do you aim to share with people in these pursuits? Is there a particular ethos?
I think Australia has a really broad spectrum of music that is created, especially in dance music, despite our small population. On the show I like to expand that as much as I can. I’ve done some mixes which are one a year – annually, that are like a wrap-up of Australian dance music for that year. When I get to that, all of the stuff is so different, and blending it all together; I love the process of that and I love going back to it. I listen to my own mixes, yes [laughs]. So that’s what I try to do with the show as well.
It is pretty high energy and it is a party show – it was on a Saturday night, now Fridays at 10pm. I like dance music that’s fun and creative. When that balance is found, someone like Swick – one of my faves at the moment, his music is really weird, but when you listen to it for the first time you want to dance, but your ear also pricks up. That’s my favourite type of music, where you’re like, “What is this!” yet look down and your body is moving. That’s the stuff I try to play a lot of, and also representing a lot of Sydney and Australian stuff, and pushing forward female artists which is really important in dance music right now.
You’ll be DJing at our birthday next week. Do you have any fond Purple Sneakers memories?
I’m too young! I grew up in Newcastle and so didn’t experience it. I have friends who have DJ’d and partied there, so I’ve heard the legend, but yeah. I started going out in Sydney when I first started DJing at World Bar for MUM on a Friday night which was a pretty similar vibe, you could play whatever you wanted at a pretty loose party – but of course no comparison! I’m looking forward to experiencing it myself, I’ve never really properly done it before. It’s going to be fun.
What can we expect to hear in your set on the night?
Probably a lot like my show, it’s going to be a blend of lots of different things. Pretty high energy, weird and fun. I don’t know yet, I’ll see who’s playing before me and after, because it’s always fun to try and work between the other DJs and play off them a little bit. Then I’ll be dancing a lot in the crowd as well [laughs].
Are there any Sydneysiders that we should be looking out for in terms or producers, DJs and collectives?
Clypso who I know you guys are across is doing some cool stuff. I met her at a production workshop last year, and just heard her and was like this is awesome. I started talking to her, and hooked her up with Ribongia. They got into the studio a little bit, and she’s been talking to some labels and I taught her how to DJ the other day. I feel like she’s going to do some cool shit.
There’s so many others as well, like I said Swick is one of my faves. The whole NLV Records crew [Nina Las Vegas’ label] is really cool. Kimchi Princi is doing some cool stuff, Slim Set… I could go on for ages [laughs].
What’s next for you now that Click is finished?
That’s the big question, isn’t it? I’ve got lots of ideas but for the next few months I’m still at FBi – I’m now the “FBi Program Manager – Dance” so that’s me for the next couple of months. Who knows after then, I mean I’ll still be doing the show, hopefully run more parties. I still want to do more radio stuff, I still like to be the radio dance music guy who DJs as well, I want to keep that combo going in some sort of capacity.
Words by Hannah Galvin.