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Paul Mac

When the rave scene made it to Australia in the 1990s, Paul Mac (born Paul McDermott) helped to define the country's particular variant of techno. Mixing electronic and organic elements, over the years Mac championed the idea that you could get away with any kind of experimentation if you made sure there was a catchy enough beat underneath it. He also toured with full bands and multiple singers instead of DJ'ing with a handful of dancers at his side. This approach led to a fuller embrace of rock & roll's possibilities, as well as several collaborations with the band Silverchair. In the '80s, after he studied music at the Sydney Conservatorium, Mac was a member of Smash Mac Mac Mac and introduced Talking Heads copyists to drum machines and other electronic elements, which he also focused on with his next band, the Lab. He did the same when asked to remix several songs by the Pelican Daughters, which impressed member Andy Rantzen but not the rest of the ambient industrial band. In response, Rantzen ditched the band so that he and Mac could form the techno duo Itch-E & Scratch-E. At first the duo's tracks were jokey bedroom recordings, but as Sydney's rave scene exploded, the producers were swept up and found themselves media darlings. Additionally, "Sweetness and Light," from the 1994 album Itch-E Kitch-E Koo, was a hit. Reacting against the intrusive media spotlight, Mac controversially thanked the drug dealers of Sydney when he was handed an ARIA Award in the new category of best dance single. The two changed their name to Boo Boo & Mace for their next release to escape some of the attention. Mac's home studio in Sydney caught fire when a monitor exploded. This prompted him to move to the country and set up in a house in the Blue Mountains. There, he got away from the city's clubbing lifestyle and embraced the use of standard rock instruments. He played keyboard on several tracks for Silverchair's 1999 album Neon Ballroom, which led to multiple collaborations with the band's lead singer Daniel Johns, including the 2000 EP I Can't Believe It's Not Rock. Additionally, Mac was Silverchair's keyboardist for several tours. In the Blue Mountains studio, Mac recorded his first solo album, 3000 Feet High. Its songs included contributions from a variety of vocalists, including Tex Perkins, Liz Martin, Peta Morris, and Abby Dobson. All of the lyrics were written by Mac, and despite being sung by others, they took on a confessional, autobiographical tone. The second single, "Just the Thing," was a hit. The album was certified gold and won an ARIA in the category of Best Dance Release. As time allowed, Mac alternated his releases with remix work for groups including INXS, Placebo, the Mark of Cain, and Powderfinger. He eventually alternated his releases with work done in partnership with Johns. In 2004, they released a full album under the name the Dissociatives, with Julian Hamilton and Kim Moyes of the Presets rounding out the group. They also recorded the theme tune for quiz show Spicks and Specks, a version of the Bee Gees' song of the same name. When it came time to record a follow-up to his successful solo album, Mac began work in London in an attempt to create the kind of slick pop music that would live up to people's expectations. He eventually scrapped all of that work and returned to Australia to record Panic Room in his home studio. Released in 2005, several of its singles made it onto the national dance chart. During the remainder of the 2000s and into the following decade, Mac composed and produced music for plays (Blak, Possessed) and films (Hey, Hey, It's Esther Blueburger; Kath & Kimderella). As Stereogamous, he and John Taranto became high-profile remixers for the likes of LCD Soundsystem, Kylie Minogue, Sia, George Michael, and Sam Sparro. In 2015, Mac released his third proper album, Holiday from Me, which featured contributions from several guest vocalists. ~ Jody Macgregor
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