Back to Basics: 20 Years of The Presets - Woroni Artist Series

Some of our 2000s-born students at ANU may be unfamiliar with the iconic Australian duo, The Presets, but I am fairly confident they would recognise their dance tune “My People”, a certified banger but also a frustrated, desperate call to arms from Julian and Kim about how Australia treats asylum seekers. 

To celebrate their 20th anniversary, The Presets have embarked on a 20 Years in 20 Nights Tour. Intentionally playing smaller venues in low-key places, the tour is intended to be a departure from festival style gigs. Instead of a traditional performance, the gigs will be DJ sets that aim to go “back to basics” and feel more like a house party, where artist and fan can dance and enjoy the music together. 

Ahead of their show at Kambri ANU on August 26th, I sat down with Julian to talk about the tour, electronic music today, and what album clubs can do for your friendships. 

Thank you for joining me. The tour has started and you guys are three shows in I believe, and it looks like a lot of them are selling out which is really exciting. How are you feeling?

Yeah it all sold out on the weekend and yeah, now a lot of them are selling out. It’s fabulous. We’re really enjoying the tour.

How does it feel to be touring? You guys haven’t toured since 2018, how does it feel to be out there again?

Yeah, that’s right, actually, now that I think about it. I mean, we’ve played a lot of festivals and one off things but yeah, first actual Presets tour in, goodness, in five years. It’s great. It’s wonderful to be back out there and it’s great to play rooms where everyone’s sort of, you know, come along just to see us. It’s nice to meet all of the fans again, for sure. 

Yeah, absolutely. Does this feel a bit different to other tours you’ve done in the past? Or is it feeling kind of just more of the same? Do you feel like you guys have changed how you’re touring at all?

Well, this time around, it’s a DJ tour. So we’re not performing live, we’re bringing our records along and it’s more of a 20 year celebration party, a birthday party, really. So that’s quite different. That’s something we haven’t really done before and it’s fun because…obviously we play a lot of our own music but we can also play a lot of, I guess, obscure remixes that people might have forgotten about and different versions of things that we don’t normally play live. 

Plus, of course, you know, we can play a bunch of music by other artists that really inspired us that we love from back in the day or new tracks that are out today that we really love. So it’s more like a house party that we’re throwing, with all the stuff that we like, to celebrate 20 years.

Yeah I saw that you guys said you wanted to do this tour to be more like a house party. How do you envision the vibe being more like a house party? What are you guys kind of hoping for people to feel when they’re there?

Honestly, we wanted it to feel like what it felt like when we used to go to clubs. When we were younger and we were starting out, you know, I can say there's a bit of a trip down memory lane for us.

And we’re getting quite nostalgic and over the years when we perform at festivals, they’re always great fun, but sometimes you’re 10 feet above the audience, 20 metres away from the front row and there’s like 20 security jobs between us and the crowd. You know, it’s hard to connect with an audience at a festival sometimes. That’s why we wanted to perform, you know, in a much more intimate setting and have these parties so it just feels like you know, much more of a visceral kind of celebration, rather than like an outdoor festival experience. 

What inspired you guys to come back on the road and tour again after such a while Was there something that made you think you might want to go on tour again?

Well, two things. Post Covid-19 has been weird, to be honest. Like post-Covid-19, the industry hasn’t really come back in the way that it used to be. It’s really strange out there.

And so we’ve been getting a lot more offers to DJ at festivals or DJ events rather than play live, because I think for some events, it’s quite expensive to get the production and everything that’s needed to book bands. So that’s a bit of boring behind the scenes thing about how the industry is going, it’s kind of changing. Plus we got an opportunity recently to do a little DJ gig in Sydney, at a tiny little club where we first started playing 20 years ago, and the tickets sold really quickly for that and we thought, well, this is so much fun, and people obviously really want to come and have this different experience. 

So there was that, and then you know, the 20 year anniversary of the band was coming up this year and we thought, what would be a fun way to celebrate 20 years? You know, we could do a handful of shows in the big cities like we always do, or we could do something a bit more intimate and special, and do a whole heap more shows but in a much smaller environment and we can really get close to and really party with our fans.

So yeah, it’s super fun. To be honest, it’s been a bit more enjoyable for me than performing live. Just being able to sort-of play some records and dance, you know, with our fans, has been great fun.

That sounds like an absolute blast. Your fans have been with you for such a journey, as you said you’ve hit the 20th anniversary. Are you expecting it to be a lot of those old hardcore Presets fans, or are you seeing some new fans rolling in?  

It’s been a real mix, you know, for sure there’s been some oldies there that used to come to the very early shows, you know, 20 years ago. And then some of them are bringing their kids along this time. You know, it’s crazy. 

There’s a lot of young people there as well. So it is a real mix, it’s a real lovely vibe. The cool thing is no matter what age people are that are coming, everyone’s there for a good time and everyone’s dancing and jumping around and yeah it’s been a real blast.

That’s fantastic. You guys have been making music for so long, do you feel like your sound has kind of evolved? Is there any new stuff that you’re throwing into this setlist? Or are you busting out some of the fan favourites? 

It’s a real mixed bag. I mean, certainly we’re throwing down some old favourites, we can’t do a Presets show without doing that. But we’re able to sort-of reimagine and rework some of the older tunes into more kind-of club adjacent or club versions, which is really fun too, to just sort of strip them back and just reimagine the songs a bit. And then plus, yeah, we get to choose a bunch of music from other artists that we really love, like old classics from back in the day that inspired us, and you know, new music from today that’s really exciting us as well. So, I mean, it’s such a huge world, you know, the club music scene, like there’s so much music out there to choose from. It’s a lot different from when we’re doing our own shows, where we’re performing and we’ve only got 40 songs to choose from now, now we’ve got 40 million songs to choose from. 

You’ve talked about some remixes, I know a lot of your tracks sometimes get remixed by a bunch of really cool and different artists. I was wondering if you guys had any artists or people in mind that you would love to see remix one of your tracks? Or just a dream collaboration you would like to see happen?

Wow. Obviously you know, we have favourite artists that really inspired us when we first started, I mean, obviously the big examples of bands like The Chemical Brothers, or Daft Punk or Basement Jaxx you know, a lot of these bands that were around when we started and that are still around today. 

Gosh, it’d be lovely to get one of them to remix us one of these days, but I can’t see it happening. As far as collaborations go, I mean, we do work with a lot of other people just solo, Kim and I, we work with other artists and produce other bands and co-write songs with other bands. So we keep pretty busy doing that outside of the Presets. 

But it’s funny, I don’t know, I’m thinking about my favourite acts, I’m kind of happy to not collaborate with them. I like them just the way they are. I’m not sure what I would bring to it, to be honest. But who knows, gosh, if The Chemical Brothers knocked down our door, I’d certainly be saying yes to that. 

You were talking about how you’re really excited to hit some of the smaller places and more intimate shows. Are there venues or cities from past tours that you’re excited to come back to? Or any memorable past experiences or places that you’re really just excited to perform again?

Honestly, just excited for everything. 


The one thing I've learned over the years is sometimes the really hot shows, the ones that really blow up, they're the ones you don't expect. You might be doing a huge festival somewhere and it'll go okay, you know, but then you'll play a tiny basement in Cleveland, Ohio, or in Berlin or whatever, and that'll be a crazy party and really, really fun.

And it’s the same in Australia, you know, you’ll expect sometimes a show in one of the capital cities is gonna be really great, but it might be a little flat, and then you’ll have a really cooking show, you know, at a smaller venue later on. So it’s very hard to predict. But I will say that so far, the three shows we’ve done already have been so much fun, and just what we had hoped, you know, just people jumping around having a good time and done. Yeah, it really has felt like just partying with friends.

Yeah, that sounds fantastic. The visual aspects of your shows are always really captivating. I remember seeing you guys a very long time ago, it would’ve been 2009 or something along those lines, but I remember even back then, the visual elements were so fun and captivating. I was wondering whether your fans are going to see stuff like that visually in this performance or because it’s a DJ set, is it going to be kind of more traditional, like house party vibes?

Well, it’s a bit of both. I mean, one thing we did want to do with this tour is get back to basics. So much electronic music is based these days on massive production and huge, huge screens and huge you know, pyrotechnics and everything. The whole EDM thing, it’s kind of become crazy, the whole stage show that people put on. And yeah, and we’ve been doing that over the years, obviously with our own shows. 

So this one we had tried to get a bit more back to basics and make it more about the music. And just more about just partying and dancing, you know, because I guess.. I’m sounding like an old fart here, but I remember in the old days when you used to go to a club, it wasn’t even so much about the DJ, you know, you just sort-of danced. And then after a while, people started facing the DJ, and then it became this kind of DJ worship thing. That always weirded me out a little, because I always loved electronic music for the anonymity of it, you know? But I’m kind of getting off track a little bit here. But yeah, I mean, we do have some obviously a lot of visual things that we’ve curated over the years and design that we’ll be bringing to this show. But we’re trying to make it a bit more just low-key and cool, and not so much like, ~show business~ you know what I mean?

That’s great. I’d love to know and I think our readers would really love to know as well, what you’ve been listening to lately? I know with lockdown, we’ve all maybe sunk back into our music caves a bit. I’d love to know what you guys are listening to?

Oh, my goodness, it’s such a hard question. Yeah, well, there’s two main things I listened to. One of them is just listening to new techno music and electronic music, and every day you dive into this world, and there’s like 100 acts that you’ve never heard of, you know, it’s like, ‘oh my god who are these people making this music?’ You know, from Europe and the States and Australia, you know, there’s so much going on. And then the next day you’ll dive in, and there’ll be 100 more artists you’ve never heard of. It’s a crazy, huge world of artists making beats and then usually none of them I even remember their names. 

Yeah, I mean, there’s a bunch of Australian DJs doing such great stuff. There’s that girl Haai, she’s smashing it, she’s such a great DJ, I love her. Dj Boring is another Aussie DJ doing huge things. So they’re two Aussie DJs I really adore. And then there’s like 100 more that are just kind-of a bit more underground and they’re really smashing it over there. It’s crazy to keep track of. And then the other music I listen to, it’s kind of weird. I have an album club with some of my friends, we started during COVID-19 and every week someone picks an album and we listen to it, and then on Monday night, we get together on Zoom and we just talk about it together.

Kind of like a book club?

Yeah it’s kind of like a book club kind-of thing, for us old men. But yeah, we really love that, and every week it’s something very different, like it’s some obscure 60s jazz record, or it’s some new sort-of Middle Eastern thing, or it’s like a techno album or whatever, you know, it’s always something really, really different, so I really enjoy that too. But, gosh sorry, I’m sure you were hoping for me to tell you to check out some new artist. 

No, that’s a fantastic answer. Honestly, that’s brilliant.

I highly recommend album clubs for people. It’s been such a fun way to keep in touch with friends.

Everyone gets so fragmented and everyone's on social media and just communicating with each other with, you know, emojis and gifs. And just hanging out with your mates on a Monday night talking about an album you all listened to over the week, it's such a nice thing to do. So hopefully, maybe some people might read this and be inspired to do that.

I hope so, that’s a fantastic suggestion, I love that. Well, thank you so much for sitting down. Good luck on the rest of the tour. It looks amazing. You guys are performing at the Uni in late August, so I’ll see you guys then. Thank you so much for having a chat with Woroni.

Get tickets to see The Presets on Saturday 26th of August 2023 at Kambri ANU

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