Cosmo’s Midnight: Sonics and a new EP

Cosmo’s Midnight have been making fat ripples on the Australian electronic music scene. Going to one of their sets is an experience: Your feet are nudged by this disco-driven beat, your head floats with the buoyant-with-electric-buzz synths, and there is always an accompanying vocal sample that was most probably found by Jason and the Argonauts on some tragic, god-defying journey. After my chat with Cosmo’s Midnight’s Pat, I realised that the boys are all about pinching glittering gems from the funkadelic past, and recasting them in their future-facing crown. Rather than merely appreciating their influences, they seek to revive them. Do not get me wrong, Cosmo’s Midnight is not a merely referential project; all of its musical retrospectivity is coupled with a carefully produced, forward thinking style. It’s the kind of style that ignites your spine, sets it aflame, with a galactic-groove. I can imagine their songs being played in space-bars across the cosmos; I see three-armed reptilians and pink-feathered star-beings jiving just as we do, in a semiconscious, orgasmic fit of face and body.

Lucky for us, they will continue to enchant the universe and its denizens with their tunes. Read our interview to learn more about Cosmo’s Midnight’s varied influences, work ethic, collaboration style and, most importantly, a new EP.

It wasn’t too long ago that your prog-house moniker, Cosmo&Paat, was being thrown around. I remember that time. I think I still have some of those tracks. How did you guys get started? And what has it been like travelling from your artistic origin point? 

I started in year 11 at high school. My older brother got Ableton, because he liked DJing and heard that Ableton was this new thing that was good for it. So he got it, stuck with it for a little bit, and then gave up. I got interested in it and started using it a whole bunch. I was like, ‘I want to try and make some music’. But, I had never done music before. I was making shitty mashups and stuff, like building a funk bass-line and throwing some Eminem acapella over the top. Then I started making electro, because that was what I was into in high school. It then progressed into trance and prog-house. Seriously though, I am glad that I was into that, because it taught me a lot about production. Those styles of music were really production heavy, and were thus a really good base. Basically, it set a good standard for the new stuff that I was moving on to. But I’m glad I don’t do all those different styles anymore. It was good but I had to move on.

Both of you have very eclectic influences. For example on The Dofflin there is an Aaliyah sample. I know that Cosmo’s Midnight have been influenced by Flylo’s Cosmogramma, some old R&B and then there is the house influence. But from your perspective, what have been your biggest influences, in the past and now? 

Back then before anything happened, I think I was really fascinated by DeadMau5‘s production, because it was incredibly clean and quite musical for EDM. Now, my inspirations are very wide. Disco has been a really big one for me, with the likes of Boney M., Chic and Silver Convention. Their chord progressions and sense of rhythm, you know, after translating that into a half-time template it works really well. I have also been listening to this guy from Russia called 813, Flylo and a bit of Breakbot. Justice and Daft Punk are also really big influences for me. I know they are on everyone’s lists of inspirations.

These guys are all pioneers but also revivalists. They are bringing back older sounds and genres, you know, finding ways to resurrect them. 

Yeah, that is why Justice, Daft Punk and Breakbot are so fascinating. They were reviving 70s and 80s disco, and making it fresh again. I am not claiming to do that as well. But, I think that we are sort of finding a old sound and putting a new spin on it. Our stuff is quite R&B and soul inspired, especially the stuff I have been writing lately like Walk With Me. 

Yeah. Walk With Me (feat. KUČKA) reminds me of UK garage R&B, the kind being released by Nao on her EP February 15 or even Aluna George. What has it been like synthesisng this high-production, clean sound for songs like Walk With Me

Walk With Me has been a real project. I think that it has been almost two years in the making. Not 2 years of consistent writing, it’s just been in the background, and I never wanted to let it go because I liked it so much. So I wrote the chord progression about two years ago, and then never touched again until sometime last year. I was like, ‘Wow, I really like this’, so I started writing the drums and the bass, and putting new chord patches under it. Originally, I had an acapella sample of Jill Scott on Cross My Mind. But clearing the track, you know, for copyright purposes, was not cheap. Luckily, I stumbled across KUČKA online, who has a very unique voice. So then we linked up in Sydney, and recorded the vocal across a couple of sessions. Man, she is amazing, so I was super stoked. I really wanted to get the track right, so I just spent a lot of time on it.

Well, it has obviously paid off, because it is doing quite well. You said in a previous interview that you “want to make music that is more timeless, than timely”. What does that mean and how are you doing it? 

I feel like the way you achieve that is instead of trying to be ‘trending’, and hop onto bandwagon sounds, you just try to exist as you are. Exist in all the genres, without claiming one for yourself, or locking it up with your sonic identity. Like the reason Walk with Me works is because it has elements of the past whilst being a bit futurist. Its varied in its inspiration. It is just not one thing. So, I think if you focus on good song-writing, you know, writing a good, enjoyable song, it ends up being timeless. I think good song-writing is the most important thing in any kind of music. Technical ability comes after that. It seems kind of arrogant to say our music is timeless, but that is just what we are aiming for.

I totally get what you are saying. It is about doing music for music’s sake, and not being attached to a trend or a certain way of writing, because people are into it. In terms of yourself and Cosmo working together – you are clearly a technical perfectionist who likes to talk about all the details – what is the shared process for putting a song together, like Walk With Me or Snare?  

I am a details-oriented producer. I spend ages mixing down tracks and getting each sound in its right space. Cos is more of an ideas person. He comes up with a lot of core ideas. We bounce tracks back and forth between each other. Sometimes I’ll start a track, and then send it to him; he will write for a bit and them I will write for a bit. He always offers new, kind of obscure stuff, which is great because having a second person makes songwriting so much more interesting. You can only come up with so many ideas yourself. Even though we make music under Cosmo’s Midnight, we have different styles. Specifically, he really likes sample-driven, rhythmic, percussion stuff, and does really weird processing on sounds. He is not as good at mixing and sound design as myself but he is very left-field, and brings in lots of outlandish samples and production techniques. He definitely has a bit more of a curve ball approach to production, which is cool.

So you smooth out the bumps, you know, create the sonic architecture, and he brings all the weird, abstract stuff.

Yeah. I just slot it in. We just do a bit of everything. But he certainly tends to be more left-field and I do more precise engineering.

The next big thing coming up for Cosmo’s Midnight is OutsideIn festival. You are obviously looking forward to it. Will you be working with a new live set?

Yeah, we are debuting a new live set, which is going to be super cool. We did a trial run of our live performance at the Porter Robinson show at Enmore Theatre. I am using an SPDSX sampling pad. It’s one that quite a few people are using right now, and for good reason, because it is just so sick. Its a 9 pad drum machine sampler, and you can do so much more with it, like trigger stems, loop stuff or just use it as a straight drum machine. I have just been slicing up tracks and putting parts to it, so I can play them on the SPD with drumsticks. So we played Walk with Me and I was just doing some of the drums on the SPD, and we took out the vocal stem so that KUČKA could sing it live. It was amazing. I enjoyed it so much more than just playing a song.

So you are elevating your live set to a more performance-focused level.

Yeah. I really just do it because I enjoy it more. There is only so much two people can do in a DJ set. I want to have fun. I really want to push myself. I can play the keys to write songs, but I have only done it a few times. Its pretty nerve-racking. But I want to lift our music on the performance level.

Cosmo’s Midnight have been tempting us with new material since late march. A sophomore EP or something new is apparently coming out. Have you been in the studio writing? If so, what have you put together?

I have been writing so much lately. I have been working on this EP for a long time. I want to make sure that I get it right. If you get an idea for how long Walk With Me took to make, the whole EP involved a lot of work, a lot of sound curating. You are trying to curate sounds and samples in a way that faithfully represents your personal sound. I have gone and finished tracks and then thrown them off the EP, and then put them back on. I am just trying to make sure that I choose all the right tracks. But, at the moment, I have got like 6 songs that my brother and I wrote. We are just in the stages of finishing now. I reckon that we will finish this month. It has just been really labour intensive. Some of the tracks include collaborations with other artists, and none of them work with Ableton. So we had to work with stem files, which are baked wav samples. They were a nightmare to mix. Some of the songs are so layered and intense that mixing them down has been an absolute chore. Apart from that I have been working on remixes in the background. We have two remixes that we have finished as well. So we have the whole EP and two remixes. I cannot wait to drop it all.

You can catch Cosmo’s Midnight at this year’s OutsideIn Festival on September 26. See here for more details.