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Soft Centre is a new art, sound, and light festival launching at the remarkable Casula Powerhouse on September 23. Rare cross-disciplinary collaborations and site-specific works will be brought together to create an unforgettable day of sound, altering light works and immersive performance pieces.

Roj: How did Soft Centre start and how did the team get together?  

Thorsten Hertog: Me and Jem were kind of running intimate techno parties in warehouses around the inner West and I guess we bonded over this similar taste in music to start of with and then our ambition ballooned outwards. We wanted to bring it to a larger platform and not just limit it to just music but bring in our other passions: art, light installations, and performance. We got the incredible Sam Whiteside on board, and he became our co-director. He’s a bit of a wizard with lighting and especially light works.

How did you secure Casula Powerhouse as your venue?

Jemma Cole: We were really fortunate that they have this incredible director, Craig Donarski. He runs one of the longest running fetish nights in Sydney called HellFire. When we met up with him I was rattling off all our expertise and he said, “Stop it. It’s already happening.”

Tell me what parts of other boutique festivals such UnSOUND, Berlin Atonal, and Norbergfestival you’ve been inspired by?

J: How they’re utilising unconventional spaces for these events. That’s why I think Casula Powerhouse is the perfect venue for Soft Centre. We are also inspired by the curation process because there is just so much to discover in their lineups every year.

T: We wanted to reclaim the role of the curator, which is someone who should dig deeply and is intimate with new and emerging artist and trending music all across the globe. It’s supposed to be an education and I feel like you should only know half the artists on a good line up, and the other half should be the favourite artists you haven’t already discovered.

The common thread between all our festival inspirations is that they embrace the dark, the visceral, the experimental. It’s not easily digestible and that’s the kind music we are really passionate about.

What other elements influence your curating process?

T: As curators we’re not just representing one thing. We’re passionate about so many tiny little subcultures, like noise, techno, future club scene. A lot of these subcultures exist in isolation from each other even though there is so much commonality in their output and ethos and we wanted to create a day that brought them all together. That’s what Soft Centre is, it’s just a beautiful amalgamation of all these different kinds of DIY experimental scenes. The challenge that came from that was finding a flow that makes sense to how people will experiences it.

J: We want our audience to be exposed to another scene or another art form that they may not have realised that they were interested in.

T: I think the one off collaboration is key to what we are trying to achieve. By pairing different disciplines that otherwise wouldn’t fit with each other we are hoping audiences are inspired to consider collaborating beyond their own art forms and finding new meaning and ways of understanding. It’s a bit like chemistry when you combine two different particles or elements together, and then they combust and create something totally new.

How did you initiate these collaborations?

J: We got fabulous Alice Joel, who is our commissions collaborations curator, and we just gave her all the artists that we had booked and thought about potential performance and installation artists as well as musicians that that might work.

T: I think it was a very interesting challenge for Alice because these collaborations have to be incredibly organic. For instance, Alice had never met either Waterhouse or House of Unholy. So she started by just listening to Waterhouse and understanding their themes and sonic palette. A lot of their sound draws from mythology, mysticism and occultism. So she turned to House of Unholy – a theatre production house in Melbourne, which is completely informed by 19th century gothic literature. And she paired them based on those commonalities.

One of the four artist and music collaborations are Adonis and Beau Kirq, who will be armed with boxing gloves, marching to the beat of SIMONA ’s tantalizing techno-pop .

Simona: I feel like l belong there. My love of post-industrial architecture plays into the rave and industrial sounds of my music; cold, brutal, dark club sound and ideas of renewal from abandonment.

How did collaborating with Adonis and Beau Kirq come about? Can you tell me about the creative process?

S: I know Adonis and Beau Kirq from their amazing performances and in queer clubs – it’s a real honour to work with them. The brief came immediately; dancing with fists and heads – as informed by a nightclub scene from Basic Instinct with Roxy, a queer dance floor experience at Berghain in Berlin and highlights from the 2016 Industrial Dance Battle Mexico. I gave Adonis and Beau Kirq my set list and they did the rest. I trust their judgment—that’s how collaborations work for me—trust and spontaneity.

Roj: Have you collaborated with any dancers or performance artists in your sets before?

S: Never—it’s a first for me—but something I’ve always wanted to do.

You recently released Triumph, tell us more about your collaboration with Cultra and what story you are telling in the track?

S: Cultra and I know each other from singing the solo in Madonna’s  Like A Prayer in the Camp Nong choir in 2015. At kick-ons this NYD they were like; “Simona, lets do a technopop track!”. It’s very rare to follow through with a New Year’s Day plan—but we did. The story I’m telling in Triumph is about the little things we do that make us stronger. It’s not an end goal that is the reward for me, it’s the little achievements—like getting out of bed, or having an idea that are significant—when we put these things together we become much stronger. I wanted to celebrate being here and living our lives as best we can. It’s what makes us strong, even when we feel vulnerable.

Soft Centre is an art, sound & light festival held at Casula Powerhouse on Saturday 23 September 2017. Tickets here.

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