A few days ago I had a chat to young electronic artist Gab Strum, better known under his alias Japanese Wallpaper. After listening to his music for the first time and becoming enthralled in a calming wave of delicately balanced yet methodical melodies, often accompanied by soft but emotional vocals, I found it astoundingly impressive that he was only 17. There were just so many questions I had after I heard it, like what have I been doing with my life? And is there a following for people in the ‘I’m okay at karaoke’ market?
... Probably not.
But I did learn a lot about what is in store in the future for the growing artist. In 2014, Japanese Wallpaper was Triple J’s Unearthed High Winner and now, in 2015, JW has released his self-titled debut EP. So far, according to Gab, the reception to the EP has been ‘really good’ and he has found the support of the community to be very positive.
As someone who would be personally mindful of differentiating themselves from other electronic producers, Gab mentioned that it's 'not really much of a concern to me... everyone kind of seems to bring their own identity and flavour to it... I think everyone just brings something different to make this cool community of people.’
Now, by this point my mind had wandered off to what the encouraging community actually consists of. I’d like to think that this secret society of electronic producers all meet in a poorly-lit basement, where the only ambient light is illuminated from laptops and the sclera of their eyes bouncing from a single UV light and they can only communicate to each other via synth and beat pads.
According to Gab, this community involves ‘so many amazing contributors, guys like Basenji and Jonti, really incredible and talented guys... really everywhere there’s cool electronic stuff that’s popping up.’ So, although Gab wouldn’t confirm nor deny my theory, it appears that the community is nurturing for such a young talent.
If you’ve listened to JW's new EP – and if you haven’t, go do that now - you would have noticed that it features many different feature vocalists. ‘I was really into their music and I wanted to work with and learn from them. It was really good to be able to link up with such awesome singers,’ explained Gab.
Additionally he 'had been pretty nervous about singing on a record and hopefully that will be the next step as far as the next release goes', perhaps hinting at a new direction for Japanese Wallpaper.
It’s clear so far that JW collaborations sound fantastic, so what would a dream collaboration with JW sound like? ‘Every time I give a completely different answer,’ laughed the young producer. ‘Tom from Big Scary and #1 Dads. His writing is incredible and his singing is really beautiful and that could be something really cool.’
Luckily for Gab, Tom and #1 Dads will also be playing at the upcoming Splendour in the Grass music festival, so maybe look out for a spontaneous (or not so spontaneous) collaboration between the two. But as for any immediate collaborations we should be looking out for, Gab reiterated that there is ‘nothing really on the horizon as I want to experiment singing on my own stuff.’
While currently touring on the east coast of Australia and about to head into Splendour, surprisingly the young producer has managed to find a balance between his music and schooling life. ‘Sometimes it can get a bit full on, but I think it's just a matter of being able to prioritise that week,’ Gab explained.
‘This week I’m on tour so obviously things like schoolwork have to take a back seat for a little while, but once I get back from all of that I can get back into school and focus on that for couple of months.’
If it were many other people, myself included, the thought of dropping out and pursuing my musical dreams would be very tempting. But for JW? ‘Not really,' he laughed. ‘I guess I just feel like it's an important thing to finish.’ He did, however, say that after high school he is looking forward to taking some time off to ‘focus on music for a bit and see where I can go.’
The future really does look bright for Japanese Wallpaper and the electronic music scene, which he suggests is constantly changing in public perception. ‘For more artists it's not dance music,’ Gab said, explaining that it is becoming more common for artists to be mindful to incorporate multiple aspects of music production, focusing on ‘writing songs and actually making music instead of just making dance stuff.’
When I asked my friends about Japanese Wallpaper and what they thought of the young producer, the responses ranged from, ‘Yeah, I think he’s got some cool stuff,’ to hailing him as the next prodigal son of electronica. Either way, all the feedback has been positive and after my brief but memorable chat with the young man, I have no doubt he’ll be putting his unique print on the Australian music scene for the foreseeable future.
Real life Bond villain Eddie Goldsmith has a passion for photography, movies, basketball and speaking in third person. Like most other sleep deprived 20-somethings Eddie's managed to find a balance between calm and collected to being one coffee cup away from never sleeping again. Writer, Editor, Generous Lover, Photographer and part time funny man I'm always looking to try my hand at something new.