Disasteradio
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Disasteradio

Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand | INDIE

Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand | INDIE
Band Alternative EDM

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"80s beats and fun from digital pop master"

Girls, there really is only one thing to do. Strap on that double belt and get down. And boys, make like Simon Le Bon, pull on that one leather glove, and join them.

And as Disasteradio (made up of Wellington’s Luke Rowell and his computer) says, “I hope you are compatible with digital pop”.

Yes, there are moments on Visions that conjure up Body Electric’s Pulsing, and Believe In Yourself recalls Take On Me, but this is the sound of 80s fun without the lashings of cheese.

Rowell’s secret? Ensuring he indulges his wild obsession with synth pop and new wave but teams it with the inventiveness and credibility of German humanoids Kraftwerk on stealth tracks like Marathon and Stairdancer. Plus, there’s a humanness brought out by his tongue-in-cheek humour which shows there really is blood flowing through this computer-generated music. When he says, via a laidback vocoder vocal, “we’re gonna have some fun, we’re feeling awesome cause the day is young”, you really do feel awesome.

Visions is more interesting and less irritating than the farts and bleeps Daft Punk have come up with. If anything, Disasteradio’s sound may date but this is his sixth album and it’s sounding better than ever
- NZ HERALD (Largest daily Newspaper in NZ)


"Visions"

Picture Matthew Broderick as your all-American high school over-achiever, Molly Ringwald as a cute minister’s daughter with a nasty streak. How can this perfect couple defeat the hard-arsed Reagan conservatism that is keeping them from their destiny?

I don’t want to spoil the ending, but it involves a car that has doors that open vertically, a letterman’s jacket and a tear-jerker compromise ending that has both the kids and the grandparents smiling all the way home. John Hughes is the director. The music? Strictly Disasteradio.

Visions is Disasteradio’s fifth album, but the first to be made a big fuss of and be released all proper by long-time number-one fan Blink and the Cult of A Low Hum. And it’s really good. It’s just as cheesy as the film it seems to have been written for, all synthy keys and cowbells, but it has an honesty and passion that seems to be lacking in the swamp of soulless, wannabe Madchester ‘Nu-Rave’ neon revival. While the sounds and the techniques are all retro, the songs aren’t nostalgic, and what seems to set Visions apart from Disasteradio’s earlier stuff is the prevalence of actual pop songs on the album.

The retro-futurist warnings of latest single ‘Digital Pop’, the giddy adolescence of ‘Awesome Feelings’ (”What are these awesome feelings? / Awesome feelings / They’re appealing”), and the old chestnut that is ‘Hotline’ serve as the perfect smash hit singles. You know, the ones when the montages are all happening, and the generation is sewn up by cooperation and watching a game of football.

People often shy away from listening to electronic albums from start to finish, but Visions is an adventure well worth taking. It is the sound of a veteran knob-twiddler and circuit bender making a damn good party album for little kids trapped in grown-ups’ bodies. Damn fine. - The Critic (Dunedin, NZ)


"Retro Future Music"

As children of the ‘80s it’s perfectly understandable to be disappointed with our current lack of everyday hover cars and robotic servants; we grew up under the impression that by the year 2000 they would be a given. Instead we get a repetition; the neon baggy t-shirt wearing synth-pop infused 80s revival.

But, for Luke Rowell - aka Disasteradio - it’s not a revival because he never let go of it. The ideals, technology and most importantly the music of the 1980s are as central to him now as they were then. On his latest album Visions Rowell has played out his childhood memories. Futuristic movies, TV shows and computer games, The Cure, dreams of the future of technology, Devo and the idioms (like such terms as ‘rad’ and ‘awesome’) all serve as inspirations.

Rowell, along with his computer, has been a staple in the indie scene in New Zealand with his tongue in cheek “get your party on” synth-pop for the past four years and comes about regardless of the fairly recent revival of new wave and synth pop. He does not set out to especially make songs about the ‘80s. He just unpretentiously states “I really like synthesizer pop music and I’m kind of good at it.”

Visions was originally going to be an album based on the ‘80s concept of virtual reality, a concept Rowell was obsessed with for a while, but he found he had actually “ended up writing TV themes,” so television became a loose concept throughout the writing of Visions .Some of these TV themes he has in mind are “some sort of Quantum Leap style thing where the guys a track runner but he also got to solve crimes, but he’s got like a robotic leg” for the track ‘Marathon.” But generally he says, “I make free associations, like I want to make it have a point, but in the end it just ends up being sort of ambiguous coz I like that sort of thing.”

The name of the album comes from his conviction that if he sees or hears a phrase 2-3 times in one day, then it has to mean something. “I thought it was a good name for an album, then I realized I had a book named Visions, and another book named Visions, and then we were driving past this hairdresser in Naenae that was also called Visions.” Another naming-testament to Rowell’s coincidences is the now defunct new years party in the South Island- Visionz- which was home to a great deal of dance and rave music. Through he was not aware of this party, he doesn’t seem so surprised at the coincidence. Rave ethics and music are staple influences on Rowell, who though he may write about raves such as the track ‘Take Back the Rave’ has in fact never attended one. “I listen to a lot of dance music. I just missed rave, I was to young to get into the whole rave thing,” he says with a hint of disappointment. Rowell says the track ‘Take Back the Rave’ was inspired by “the guys that sort of did everything in their bedrooms in the late 80s and I love that,” and he finds great influence in the early pioneers of the rave style, citing the DIY ethics most admirable.

DIY ethics is something that he has stuck with quite strictly- It’s just Luke and his computer that are behind Disasteradio, though it hasn’t always been this way. While he has enough analogue equipment to warrant renting a small warehouse, he now does everything by PC. “I kind of just got tired of always plugging things in and stuff. I wanted to concentrate on the software stuff and get a lot more done so it will be a lot more quicker, and I know that’s kind of frowned upon - not doing the whole analogue thing - but it’s just pragmatic. If I don’t have to get up to plug this keyboard in and I can do it all in one place then I don’t see the point (in analogue).”
However, he does still use some of his analogue equipment to do solos, as “if you program a solo it will sound exactly like a programmed solo which can be good but if you want it like a hip shaking, face making solo you just got to do it.”

Aside from some wicked keyboard solos, Visions-which is dominantly synth focused does feature Rowell’s voice, such as ‘Digital Pop’ and ‘Awesome Feeling,’ for which Rowell likes to use- what he attributes to Wellington band Cortina’s technique of mumbling over a song, then playing it back to pick out words, where “you might get one word and it will be good. Its way easier than sitting down and going -I’m going to write a song about this -its more flow of conscience, it feels totally natural.”

Rowell frequently refers to his contemporaries in the NZ music scene, and muses his “Plato and Aristotle” relationship with Christchurch based Frase and Bri who he often does shows with. “We are doing opposite things but with the same shape. He (Frase) always talks about his songs in terms of the lyrics as all these situational dramas and I didn’t’ even notice- like he has all theses characters, whereas mine is more abstract and more tangible.”

Rowell, now a staple in the indie scene says that until he played his first show he had not been to anything of the sort, coming from the Hutt Valley he had only ever been to punk and hardcore, and it was at his second ever show that he met Ian Jorgeson- aka Blink - who has been crucial to Rowell’s success to date. “I wouldn’t be doing this if it wasn’t for him. He does all the unbearable stuff that I cant be bothered with, like booking shows and shit. I’m really, really lucky” he laughs as he reveals that he refers to Blink as his manger when talking to co-workers- citing “it sounds a bit more normal- instead of my mates putting out my record to my manger is putting out my record on his own label. And to my parents it sounds like I’m actually doing something.”

Thanks to the Low Hum touring in particular, his live shows have a strong following- he is a cemented force in synth pop goodness New Zealand over. However, to avoid getting bored with his performances, he has decided to make a habit of throwing himself out of his comfort zone. “My new thing is going to be injecting more of the unknown into my sets. Because when you are sitting there by yourself it can get really boring, like on the way to the gig I’ll be like ‘ok, I’m going to do this point in the song just to see what it sounds like’, just to mess with myself a little bit.”

While his neon-clad fans love his crazy, good time, party-hard, synth pop live, where according to Rowell his live shows are about “having fun and taking the piss,” he admits he has an inner conflict about the differences between live Disasteradio and recorded Disasteradio.

He muses that “my live shows are a group activity and the album is something you listen to by yourself.” Rowell suggests that this is best done in a public setting because for him the magic of music is privately listening to something “totally weird” hence giving the listener the ultimate power to “take the piss on the whole world.” Kind of like what the fashion powers that be are doing with those garish ‘80s comeback big print tees.

Rowell plans on taking the party to Australia in November to play a few shows in Melbourne, and hopes to eventually follow the footsteps of So So Modern and tour Europe, once he figures out how to get there. However, the on top of his wish list is signing to Mute Records- home of Depeche Mode. “They were always the label I looked up to, they put out all this weird experimental stuff. I keep sending them demos but haven’t heard anything.” Their lose for now, but perhaps in the future Rowell’s mash up of odes to 80s pop culture and future looking pop will be playing the soundtrack to an ironic 2012 rendition of a 1980s Sega game- but transposed to the latest PS10. You never know what the future holds. Either way to ensure you’re immediate future is a happy one, pick up Diasteradio’s Visions from any halfway decent music store.
- The Set


""Visions""

9/10

I’m pretty sure this is the only good piece of music to come out of Wellington, ever. Admittedly I’m not thinking that hard… oh wait, Head Like A Hole was pretty awesome in their time so maybe it’s just the current inbred Wellington dub scene that’s ruining it for them. Regardless of where Disasteradio is from (Wellington sucks) this album is cool. Pretty simple.
- Vice Magazine


"Disasteradio"

You ever play Q-Bert? How about Paper-Boy? Ever seen the hilarious end sequence from the Monkey Island games? I tell you what; Disasteradio! (affectionately known as D-Rad by his friends and Luke Rowell by his mum) has. In fact he’s just the kind of guy to shed a thousand expletives while describing the shear power of the Fairlight keyboard system, while flying through another round of your favorite 1980s videogame. His songs are a mix of upbeat, bleepy keyboard pieces in the style of old-school video-games, and some damn funky beats - making quite a favorite on the dance-floor.

In fact D-Rad has been a bit of a super-star in the A Low Hum-centered New Zealand music underground for the past few years, and he’s been continually promising the release of his first ‘Real’ album (after 3 self-produced CD-R releases - all now available for free via The Internet Archive) for a while now, so its great to see Blink get this to us after previously dealings with Wellington label Capital Recordings never eventuated. Visions’ feels like the cumulative history of his songs; pretty much how they appear these days in his genius live shows.

His songs have grown in stature, production and even managed to become more poppy and addictive. Opener Awesome Feelings (one of the many highlights from Real Groove Magazine’s recent ‘New Sound’ compilation) is a case in point. That familiar-to-live-show-veterans opening synth line is now followed by typical D-Rad vocoded lyricisms: ‘1-2-3 gone have some fun, we’re feeling awesome coz the day is done / Living in a city that’s full of squares / but we are awesome and we don’t care’ - he’s an enthusiastic, positive guy.

Another obvious highlight - Hotline has been a choice little number for a couple years now. Like the best hits from Man-Machine era Kraftwerk he portrays himself as a robot just out to have some fun, and what makes more sense than an ode to the automated Telephone Exchange System? In fact Kraftwerk is a pretty firm influence on D-Rad’s sound; with shuffling metallic rhythm (the long-running influential German group are quite obsessed with Trains) and genuinely retro keyboard bleeps.

However, Disasteradio! is no one-trick pony. Take Back the Rave brings things forward another decade or so to the early 90s euro-rave sound, with a funky rhythm and a choice mid-song breakdown. Digital Pop marks the first appearance of Luke’s vocals sans computer-vocoding (i keep thinking of Trans-Am circa Red Line), Stairdancer sounds like a mash-up of new-wave bands (with a pounding beat and swift synth line) whilst Believe in Yourself has a moody intro and ominous melody, like the soundtrack to some overcome-the-odds-type movie (and another killer breakdown that’s also dead-funny).

Disasteradio! makes music for pop-music fans who like to have a little fun. It’s all very positive, upbeat stuff, harkening back to younger days and whatnot, plus it makes for fine dance-floor-banger material. Great to see this finally get a full release - I know I’ve been looking forward to it immensely and I reckon the time spent fine-tuning and developing this mini pop-orchestra’s has been well worth it. A fine album.
- The Big City


"Disasteradio (live review from March 3, 2009)"

Luke Rowell aka ‘Disasteradio’ electrified the San Francisco Bathhouse on Wednesday night with lashings of super-sonic sound waves and laser beams.

Disasteradio wasted no time in working his audience into a hypnotized state, by seizing the human eye with projections of disco style video of pulsating retro rainbow stars. A hard-hitting electro beat cut into the night air as Disasteradio let his synthetic sound work sorcery upon the listener’s psychosis. With short and amicable audience interaction, the audience was spirited away into a neon-psychedelic realm of mathematical proportions.

Displaying his imagination, Disasteradio displayed how enriching the visual form can be on music. As the set progressed, projected imagery was timed perfectly and professionally with sound transitions and impeccable phases. The viewer observed an amusing montage of vintage 8 bit animations, 50’s industrial advertisements, photography collage, typography, geometric shapes, patterns, moving perspectives of color which has become trademark of Disasteradio. Scenes from Stanley Kubrick’s ‘2001 Space Odyssey has seemed to of influenced some of his video footage, depicting moving perspectives of color and line, conscientiously transmitting the listner into a new and un-explored realm.

Luke Rowell is a fascinating performer to watch as is seems he feels each crescendo and diminuendo through to his bones, moving both boldly and discreetly to the sound just like a conductor is seen when directing a philharmonic orchestra.

Disasteradio’s postmodern blend of melody, pop, electronica, and general light heartedness is a fun ride for all synthetic enthusiasts around. Keep an eye out for new album ‘Visions’, released on label ‘A Low Hum’.

- wellingtonlivemusic.com


Discography

ALBUMS
"Charisma", 2010, A LOW HUM
"Visions", 2007, A LOW HUM
"Synthtease", 2006, A LOW HUM
"Disasteradio", 2005, Stink Magnetic
"Western Digital", 2004, Self Released
"DSIR", 2004, Self Released
"System that Never Fails", 2003, Self Released
"Disasteradio", 2002, Self Released

Photos

Bio

Avails:
EU/UK - April 26th-Mid August 2011
US: August/September 2011
JAPAN - September 2011
AUSTRALIA - October 2011

Contact: alowhum@gmail.com

Luke Rowell, aka Disasteradio, is an underground music legend in New Zealand. He began writing 80s-inspired synth pop a decade ago and has just released his eighth album "Charisma"

Disasteradio has toured his unique show the length of New Zealand numerous times and in 2008 finally got noticed overseas when legendary German producer Hans Nieswandt invited him to perform at Worldtronics in Berlin.

Promoters and fans demanded more after an introductory tour of France, Germany and the UK in '08, he followed with an epic tour of 20 countries in 2009 including the USA and most of Europe including playing at some of the leading festivals on the continent like Synch Festival (Greece), Off Festival (Poland), La Terra Trema (France), Wilsonic (Slovakia) and many more.

Disasteradio’s sound is 'electro-rock' or 'digital pop' and has been described as a cross between Dan Deacon and Kraftwerk. Although a live performance is certainly the best way to enjoy Disasteradio, his 2007 album 'Visions' received only praise from critics. Vice Magazine gave it 9/10 and claimed 'Visions' was “the only good piece of music to come out of Wellington, ever. This album is cool".

His latest album 'Charisma', released late 2010 has been garnering nothing but praise and is set get huge in 2011.

VIDEO LINKS

NEW! MUSIC VIDEO Disasteradio - No Pulse
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eGhsoS0hDxk

MUSIC VIDEO Disasteradio – Awesome Feelings
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KFoTFXxcrrw

LIVE Disasteradio - 'Hotline' Live at Wilsonic Festival in Slovakia
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OP4zqvEKoH0

LIVE Disasteradio - 'Corsage' Live at Truck Festival in the UK
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FN7pgbKu_3Q

LIVE Disasteradio – 12:51 (strokes cover)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nlxuoVNNah8

LIVE: Disasteradio live at a recent music festival in New Zealand
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=21riLOyn5Po&fmt=18

LIVE: Disasteradio performs 'Hotline' at a music festival
http://vimeo.com/3548359

LIVE Disasteradio brings the party to a live broadcast childrens television show
http://vimeo.com/2127417

DOCUMENTARY NZ Aired Documentary about Disasteradio, features live and interview footage
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ChQjOEC5as

FOR UPCOMING SHOWS
Check www.myspace.com/disasteradio

For a list of all previous live performances, goto: www.alowhum.com/disasteradio/disasteradio_showlist.html