Finding a place in the international dance community with Sortagoth

Producer, DJ and member of the Sidechains crew, SORTAGOTH is a super unique presence in the Australian dance music community. By day she’s Jessica Chapman, a few years into a law degree and working with an insurance firm, but by night she tears up the club as Sortagoth with her taste for speedy BPMs and heavy kicks.

We’ve been a fan of her work and the Sidechains crew for a while now so of course we had to ask Sortagoth to represent at our upcoming Purple Sneakers 11th Birthday Party. Through the Sidechains parties, the style of left of centre dance music they love has a place to flourish, and by doing their own thing they’ve caught the attention of dance music fans across the world.

Sortagoth‘s unique sound is unrelenting and bouncy, and seeing her dance the hardest to her own sets always inspires the audience to match her energy. We got a chance to pick her brains about her musical inspirations, the intersection of pop and dance music and building friendships in the international scene.

You study law alongside pursuing your producing and DJing, is Sortagoth a kind of outlet for you to let loose after studying? 

It didn’t really start that way. I started DJing first with Flexmami, and that was right before Sidechains had started which was about 3 years ago. I was a year into my degree just chillin’ without much of an idea of what I wanted to do, so it was just something fun on the side. Then I started learning to produce and really liking that and making the stuff I wanted to hear in the club. When I made my LIZ remix I just thought, “Why has no one made it sound like this yet,” so I just made a faster version that was fun for the club. It’s like an outlet when I need a distraction or something to do that isn’t just non stop study.

Who are you inspirations when it comes to music production?

It definitely started with Ducky, she was the first girl I found making the kind of stuff I imagined myself making if I did it, or the stuff I imagined playing. When I discovered Rave Tools and found out it was started by her it was like a shining light. From there I discovered Masayoshi Iimori, and SOPHIE. Their influence is pretty obvious through my track, ‘Latex,’ but Masayoshi is more my inspiration for drops. I think he makes the coolest sounds that are just really interesting but still really accessible to people in the club. Like it’s not so weird that people are like, “What is going on?!” It’s just fun.

Masayoshi and Ducky are pretty versatile artists and can make huge bangers as well as more subdued tracks, would you want to expand your sound a little like them too?

I’ve imagined making happy hardcore before – don’t know if I’d be able to do it but I’d like to give it a try. I’d also like to try the more pop style of production where you can make a really interesting but minimalist beat and put it under a really nice pop vocal, like SOPHIE‘s production for Liz and Charli XCX. Love to give that a go.

You got to head out to Japan at the start of the year and met up with some hyper club heavy weights and play some shows, how was that?

It was fun! There were heaps of people from online I really wanted to meet that I got to, like I wanted to meet T5UMUT5UMU, so I messaged him on Twitter beforehand and told him I was coming and that I’d be at his Tokyo gig, and he asked if I wanted to play with him. And I was like, “Of course!” I wasn’t sure how it was going to go because he didn’t speak much fluent English but I turned up and he said, “Do you want to start at 150 bpm?” and I was like cool we’re speaking the same language [laughs]. We ended up playing back to back, the songs he was playing was exactly the stuff I want to play, so it was like a match made in heaven.

Everyone over there was really lovely, like we met heaps of random people in Osaka that just knew of Sidechains already. It was really weird for people to know who you are all the way over in Japan. Everyone was really open to everything too, when Grasps_, Denzel Sterling and I all played in Osaka, we all played totally different sets and everybody was having fun and dancing to all of them, they were all really open minded.

And you and the Sidechains crew finally got to meet up with some collaborators right? 

Yeah, we went to a few gigs with the dos・ing gang and hung out a few times, and it was cool to finally meet them in person after chatting on the internet and releasing our songs. We met the guys from Betapack as well, which is this like 3 person production crew, and went on their radio show for Block FM. They were really lovely as well. It’s just really interesting that there’s so many people in the scene in Japan and it kind reflects our scene over here, we have so much in common that I never really thought about.

These scenes overseas seem obsessed with this kind of niche hyper club, like PC Music and Trekkie Trax have huge followings outside of Aus. Do you feel like your music gets a good reaction here?

There seems to be a level of interest in it in the underground but not necessarily on an external gig level. There’s not that many places that push that kind of sound. I do get a few one offs like if an international artist kinda like us comes here. It’s nice that random little pockets of opportunities keep coming up, but I feel like it could get bigger. If acts like Charli XCX get more mainstream over here, pushing that weird sound while still being accessible, it’ll give us a chance to reach a wider audience.

But it’s not huge, I have more listeners in America and Japan than I do here according to Soundcloud. I think my music fits into those scenes more, but that doesn’t mean I’m totally out of the scene here. I feel people will get used to it, it’s taken us years to introduce genres that are already huge overseas to Australia, like jersey club is barely a thing. But we’ll get there eventually.

Sidechains is already a great start for that, being such a tight little community of fans and artists. Why do you think it’s become so popular and has become kinda like a little family?

I think it started with the fact that it was supporting local acts, specifically producers that weren’t really picked up for gigs anywhere else. A lot of gigs with locals in Sydney are focussed on DJs that already have established audiences, whereas Sidechains was a chance for artists and DJ’s to play whatever they wanted to play and feel comfortable there. From that, people just told their friends and started coming together. The fashion side of it started growing too with people coming in wearing their favourite gear that they wouldn’t feel comfortable wearing anywhere else, and then bonding with people based on that and their love of music. It’s grown now to where you can walk in and know pretty much everyone in the room, or know people in there are like you.

Was that the same kinda feel when you tagged along on the recent Mallrat tour that Sidechains presented? Was the reaction good outside of Sydney?

It was really interesting, I didn’t get to go all around the country for Mallrat‘s tour but from what I heard of the Melbourne show it was kinda like a Sidechains but with a different more energetic crowd filled with younger people, because Mallrat is young too. Our usual crowd is like early to mid twenties so it was good to get these kids into the Sidechains sound too. In Brisbane it was wild; Oh Boy, Denzel and I went back to back for an hour and half and it was just massive friendship fun times. There was a lot of people there and so many people at the Sydney show too. They were different to normal Sidechains nights ’cause the crowds were filled with new people but being there still felt comfortable and had the same kinda vibes. Especially because the supports we picked were the same people we love supporting like Donatatchi and Oh Boy, so it was just a chance to introduce ourselves to more people and let more of them in.

Along with touring artists Sidechains is now also a radio show and a label, did that evolution of the club night come naturally?

The fact that we started supporting producers made it easier to do things like the first compilation, the people who were in that compilation had either played Sidechains or went on to play in the future. It was a natural thing to support them in that way as well as giving them gigs. From there, it’s just really fun to extend the community more internationally, so we’re releasing stuff from people overseas and showcasing stuff on our show. Then more people know about us and we get to link up with those likeminded people from all over the world eventually. It’s a good way to broaden our little community and it seems to have worked so far.

What’s a highlight of yours from all the Sidechains parties?

Oh there’s so many! Me personally I loved supporting Masayoshi Iimori, because we got to hang out with him all day and take him to the zoo and do touristy things. And then getting to play with him was really cool. The end of the Sydney Mallrat show when she played ‘Uninvited’ is another highlight, and everyone sings along to every single word without fail. Definitely the SOPHIE show too, every part of that. Being able to have that atmosphere at Sidechains with the smoke and the strobes was so on point, and exactly what I wanted, it was kinda like an out of body experience.

You’re part of the loaded Purple Sneakers 11th Birthday lineup, who else are you excited to see on Saturday?

I’m super keen to see Ninajirachi play because I’ve never seen her play yet, somehow I’ve missed all her Sydney gigs so this is finally a chance to see her. Plus she only just turned 18 I think, which is wild to me. I always love a good Sandro set, that’s going to be wild. I’d like to see Kimchi Princi again as well, her stage presence is just killer.

Are you looking to release any more banging tunes this year or maybe do some collaborations? 

I might have an international collab coming out in the next few months, plus I’m working on a new track featuring my own vocals but my laptop recently died so I haven’t had a chance to work on it as much as I’d like. That should be coming out soon too I hope, I’m really into that. I’d like to approach some vocalists too and see what I can do with them, I think that’d be the next step for me after I get another original out. I want to not get too stuck in doing remixes, even though they’re really fun.

So what’s in the future looking like for Sortagoth?

I’d love to play more gigs and go back to Japan, meet more international pals, and just make more connections and have more friends. I want to represent the sound I make in Australia. I don’t feel like anyone makes really boppy happy club music, there’s a lot of darker underground club music happening but I feel like people shouldn’t be afraid to make it a bit more poppy and accessible and I want to spearhead that for a while and see how that goes. I’d like to push the movement ’cause I feel like there’s a place for it here.

Vivid Sydney Presents Purple Sneakers Eleventh Birthday

Date: Saturday 17th June 2017
Venue: The Lord Gladstone
Time: 5pm – 3am
Address: 115 Regent Street, Chippendale, Sydney
Price: Free entry
FB event here

Lineup in alphabetical order:

Bad Deep
Caitlin & Hannah
Christopher Port (DJ Set)
Fling Fling
Gussy (Live)
Heaps Gay DJs
Kali Picnic
Keep It Disco
Kimchi Princi (Live)
Low Ton
Matka
Mowgli May
Ninajirachi (Live)
OKBadlands (Live)
Purple Sneakers DJs
Sandro Dallarmi
Sidehustle
Sortagoth
SURG
Trench Records
Volumes
Willaris. K (Live)

WORDS BY HOLLY O’NEILL

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About:

Does a bit of DJing, a bit of producing and now, a bit of writing too.