Close this search box.

Stay up to date

Subscribe to our weekly
e-newsletter for news and updates

Advertise with us


DJ Action AntSounds Like Winter … sounds like Ant is doing what he does best.

Ant Banister has a long electronic music pedigree, with many successful acts to his name as well as a strong association with the Clan Analogue collective. In recent times he undertook a huge job re creating the music of Def FX for a ‘re union’ tour where he did vocals, programming and keyboards, but he has also launched a new act called Sounds Like Winter, which harkens back to the classic post punk synth sounds of the 1980’s. His love of electronic based music has no bounds, and you get the sense that he is really just getting started with this whole music caper. Baz Bardoe has followed his career for many years and thought a few questions were in order.

Tell me about what motivated you to get involved in electronic based music? When did your interest start and what prompted it?
As a teenager in Darwin in the 80’s I used to listen to late night radio as that was when alternative music was played. Contrary to what we see in movies, you would never have heard anything but 70’s based rock and pop on the radio during the day. You may get some music from the UK on TV shows like Rock Arena or sometimes Countdown, but Australia was way behind. I heard stuff like Japan, Heaven 17 and Gary Numan and loved the synth sounds and drums they used, I wanted to make that music, but that gear was basically for the rich. My first synth was a Roland SH-101 my Dad went halves with me to buy that and a Korg Drum machine. That cost a grand. You could buy two good cars for that in 83.

What were your first band experiences like?
I had a band at high school as I belonged to a music homeroom and we did brass band, choir, piano and notation theory. We used to practice at lunch time and at the end of year 12 we held a concert at assembly and did Sex Pistols, Cure and Sunnyboys covers. After that I dabbled with covers and original punk bands then in 84 my friends and I formed The Spring Rolls a comedy industrial punk outfit. Our shows and public stunts got us in the newspaper regularly.

Clan Analogue has become an institution – tell me about its origins.
My Clan origin story goes like this. I formed an industrial electronic band with a friend we called Eidolon. We advertised in the street press to meet other synth musicians and got together with a group of musicians including Warren Bones (Novakill), the late John Murphy (everything) and formed a collective called The Kollektiv and released a cassette compilation. Shortly after I saw an add for Clan Analogue and went to their second ever meeting. We decided, rather than double up on resources, we would merge under the Clan Analogue name. Clan was then a small group of young guys from Sydney’s North Shore led by Brendan Palmer, who were obsessed with synths of all kinds, the older the better. The Clan collective grew very quickly and released a series of compilations on vinyl and then progressed to CD when taken on board by the Creative Vibes label. Clan life centred around a warehouse in Chippendale called The Evil Brotherhood of Mutants or EBOM. Lots of gigs, meetings and workshops were held there. I eventually became President/public officer and have been for years, as well as mastering most of the releases. I recently stepped aside and we moved incorporation to Victoria.

You took on a role with a reformed Def FX. My understanding is that you had to re create all the backing tracks from scratch. So…what happened to the original recordings which I believed were on CD? And how on earth did you tackle such a vast job…not only getting the notes right, but also replicating sounds etc? Run us through the process.
When Fiona Horne decided to reform the band for a 15 year anniversary tour, the other driver of the band Sean Lowry was not interested, obviously being busy and fulfilled as a Uni lecturer. Sean stated that as almost the other half of Def FX he felt that without his presence it was not an official reunion and as such would not provide access to the original backing tracks. The backing tracks as it turns out were probably not viable in any case as they were on ADAT tapes (the old CD’s would jump during live shows) and were way beyond their use by date, if we could find a player in working order at all.
I got hold of CD copies of the albums and singles and chose the obvious hits and Fiona chose some tracks she liked. I then loaded them into my DAW (Cubase) and proceeded to try and find out what pop songs had been sampled. Most were obvious and then for the rest I started emailing hard-core fans and producers like Nick Mainstridge, who were a gold mine of info and back-stories. Interestingly, I found out most of the Def FX songs were collaborations with many musicians.
For authenticity I kept the BPM’s exactly original, so close you could play the original song over the top and it would stay in sync. The BPM’s were really weird though 139.35 etc as the old tape stock the CD’s were mastered off, was obviously inaccurate.
Once I had the samples, I had to source a Nord Lead 2 as the pre-sets were all over their songs, I found one like new in the US and got the full expansion card. Then there was the drums, creating live sounding rock drums was a new thing for me as I was strictly 808/909 etc. I kept the music as close as possible to the original sound as we were offering a nostalgia act and if things were not right, the crowd would feel ripped off. It was bad enough having to replace Sean on live vocals and keys. I redid the backings for fourteen tracks all up and it took me twelve months at least.

With SLW you are firmly embracing vocals … there was a time when vocals didn’t really ‘go’ with electronic music for many people, but they are well and truly back now … share your thoughts on this if you will?
I was told in 1988 by a DJ “friend” my vocals sounded way too 80s and that I should not sing. So I spent the 90s making electronica of many flavours in five different acts. In 2001 with the advent of Electroclash, 80s vocals were very desirable indeed, so I changed my new act Lunar Module slightly and started writing Synth-pop songs. My first song “Turn The Key” was on the Doppler Shift comp through Clan and got A rotation on FBI radio for six months, a good start.
Singing with SLW has been so liberating, I am enjoying it immensely, over time my voice has been getting stronger and I fee like I have found my natural voice and that means I can sing for over an hour and not lose my voice.
Vocals over electronic music like you say is well and truly commonplace and the current crop of artists seem to have embraced many styles from the synthpop model to the disco diva vocal. I think it works well. David Byrne said that without vocals all you have is a piece of music. He is right I think and vocal samples and rapping are present in most electronic music from the 90’s. The exception being the really talented musicians that used layers of rhythm and colour to replace vocals, like LFO and Orbital for example.

soundslikewinterWhat gave you the enthusiasm to start a new project? What is it about SLW that really speaks to you?
The synthpop I was writing in Lunar Module had a narrow and specialised audience. We were quite well known worldwide, but unless we moved to Europe, we were doomed. The local gigs dried up by the end of the naughties. I was at a loose end, and when Ash Rothschild asked if I was interested in a Post-Punk writing collaboration, I jumped at it. Post-Punk was always my favourite style of music and the kind of music I was writing in the 80’s. I have always written in that style and any band I have been in I have had to mould the songs to fit. With Sounds Like Winter, I did not have to do that. Ash and I wrote a lot of songs really quickly in my small studio. The rock drum skills I had learned re-doing Def FX came in very very handy for Sounds Like Winter, not having to find a drummer for the writing and recording process, was a time and money saver. After Ash got too busy and moved on,Andi Lennon agreed to join me and with the other new members, Tommy, Jaimie and Leticia, we are writing just as fast and effectively, the chemistry between us is amazing.
Our recent album Initiate has about two thirds of the songs were written with Ash and the rest and by Andi, Tommy and me. Our next album is well on its way with songs written by the current line-up. Our live shows are the best bit, we have all grown as performers and seem to be really impressing the people that come to see us. We have been playing solidly for over a year and have done many shows in Sydney, two in Canberra and then Melbourne, Auckland and Wellington. We are already locked in for another NZ trip, Adelaide and Melbourne. We are getting noise from North and South America to come and play shows, but the up-front costs are huge, so that will have to wait.

The industry has gone through some huge changes and everyone is saying that sales have plummeted. People seem happy to pay $4.50 for a coffee but not even $1 for a song they claim they like. There seems to be a culture of expecting music to be free – as an artist who has devoted a lot of time to music what are your thoughts on all of this?
You only make money if you work in the industry, do covers or are in the charts for a long time. The rest of us struggle and do it for love, I don’t know of any musician that feels they have a choice about writing, it’s a compulsion, if someone likes it, bonus.
The industry are actually selling record amounts of music, they are greedy fuckers that want the old super profits of the 80s and 90s when they would charge $30 for a CD that cost them three dollars to make including production. With the advent of the internet, I can sell CDs and our vinyl EP direct, I have an aggregator that puts us on all the streaming and download services for $50 a year and podcasts and radio shows worldwide that are playing us. I have no need for a label, and neither do most other musicians. I think it’s great. You put in more effort, you do better, you sit and wait for fame and you will be very disappointed indeed. There is lots of great music now, so much of all styles, I feel like we are in the midst of a very real musical renaissance.

What are your favourite bits of kit for studio and live work?
I recently bought two Dave Smith analogue synths, the Mopho SE 49 and the Tetr4, they combine to make a five voice synth, really nice and fat. The Nord Lead makes good crunchy pad sounds that sit really well with guitars. I use Steinberg Cubase with a MOTU interface and am on version 8.5 and it is amazing, the drums, synths and effects are so good I hardly use third party plugins or hardware any more. Our whole album was recorded mixed and mastered by myself at home and it sounds really good.
On stage I use a Focusrite audio interface and run some drums, pads and organs off Cubase on a laptop. I have moved completely away from having keys on stage, so that I can concentrate on being a frontman. Our drummer Leticia gets sent a click for the tracks that have electronic elements in them. If we have a member sick or unable to travel, I can un-mute a backing track at any time so we can still do the show. Only three of us could do NZ for various reasons, but the shows were still really good.

Anything else you want to add?
With SLW I have rediscovered video. I used to make video in the 90’s and even started working on small TV Ads. But with computers so slow and primitive the process was super time consuming. I had to choose either music or video. With Lunar Module I had VJ Morph as a full time member and he played bass and controlled live video content during our shows. The music video clips I would do with Lachlan Peterson a close friend. I got Lachlan to help out and make the first SLW clip for The Dark our first single, the second clip he helped a bit less and then I was on my own. I have become quite proficient at video editing and help out students at the Uni I work for. I have been really enjoying shooting and editing our clips and edited an hour of footage to play behind us live. Our channel is here

Share this