Getting the right mix
Karton - Paul Beohm and Paul Richter. Photo: Daniel Spellman
OFF THE RECORD: The DJ's and producers spicing up Canberra's creative scene
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The Karton guys cringe at the suggestion of musical chemistry, but there’s no denying the partnership makes for a potent formula.
“We bring a different set of skills,” Paul Beohm explains.
“Richter’s much more musical, he’s got all that training and the concept of putting together a melody is very natural to him. What I’ve always had the ear for is more the engineering side –”
“And the structuring, too,” Paul Richter adds.
“How to make it appealing to radio or the dance floor.”
Karton have spent the past decade carving an international name for themselves in all things broken and bass-heavy – though not before some important developmental lessons.
“I did 12 or 13 years of classical piano training – and hated it to start with,” Richter says.
“But I’m really grateful to have been tortured for that many years, because… to make music that people can engage with on an emotional level, you’ve got to understand how harmonies work.”
Meanwhile, Beohm was trying his hand at a range of instruments, though it was playing around with tape-recorded film samples that really resonated with him.
“Me and my friends, back in the old days we had a sequencer that you basically just put audio loops into it,” Beohm recalls.
“We’d put [samples] over a Wu Tang track, chopping up and moving stuff around… We’d spend a lot of time exploring, ‘What happens if you put these two things together?’”
Though heavily into hip-hop as a teenager, Beohm received an introduction to electronic music after hearing US breakbeat duo The Crystal Method.
“I was like, ‘Oh, this is kind of like hip-hop, but it’s a bit faster’. The drum programming is very similar in a lot of that stuff,” he says.
By 2002, both Beohm and Richter had independently struck out into the world of electronic music production, bubbling along on Canberra’s tightknit and supportive scene.
“A friend of ours was like, ‘Hey, you guys have the same ideas and you’re kind of doing the same stuff – have a studio session and see what happens’,” Beohm says.
During the resulting session, Richter recalls, “we threw a few ideas around, and realised that we were moving in the same direction, and it was quite easy to get things going”.
Their second single was remixed by the head of a Swedish breaks label, Sound of Habib, which subsequently became the “go-to place” for Karton’s material.
“He was really wanting to build profiles and give artists, including us, a lot of creative freedom,” Richter says.
“That brought a lot of remixes in as well,” Beohm adds.
“Having someone based over there [with] all the contacts into Europe and the UK – he’d get our records into the right people’s hands.”
The “right people” have included Skream and Benga, The Freestylers and the Plump DJs – who were particularly enamoured with Karton’s 2010 debut album, For All Seasons, describing it as “massive”.
“There was a fair bit of [album] press and coverage over in Europe,” Richter says.
“So as a result of that, I went over to play a few shows… in Spain and the UK during their summer.
“It was kind of weird – because we had this European label doing [promotions] over there, people at festivals would come up to me and go, ‘Can I take a picture with you?’”
The duo wasn’t receiving nearly the same level of recognition in Australia, however, so as they began compiling material for a second album, Karton sent a sampler to Sydney DJ/producer Jesse Desenberg – better known as Kid Kenobi.
“We sent it to him as a courtesy – ‘Hey, this is what we’re doing, if you want some copies early, let me know and I’ll hook you up’,” Beohm recalls.
“He’d started his label [Klub Kids] at that point, so he was like, ‘I’m actually running a label – can we do something with it?’”
As a result, Karton’s second album, Find The Constant, was released via a split licensing deal in mid-2011, with Klub Kids handling distribution in Australia and New Zealand.
More dancefloor-focused than their debut, Find The Constant is a sternum-shaking showcase of Karton’s flare for dubstep and its bass music cousins.
“But,” Richter says, “now that we’ve done two albums, it feels like there’s a lot more to be gained from releasing music in small packages…because you can get it out a lot quicker.”
Accordingly, Karton are wrapping up a four-track EP that they expect will be ready for release for early 2013, which will be followed by another national tour. Another lesson they’ve learned is to better manage their studio time, Beohm says – which is partly a necessity, as Richter has recently become a father.
“We’re a lot better at getting where we need to be really quickly, whereas back in the day there was a lot of messing around, hoping to stumble into what we wanted,” Beohm says.
“That’s true,” Richter agrees.
“Nowadays we go, ‘Let’s do this’ and we know exactly what to do. It’s those 10,000 hours people keep talking about – and I’m sure we’ve spent that!”