Widely regarded as one of the finest underground nights in Australia, Darkbeat celebrates its 10th anniversary this year.
Perennial prog tastemaker Anthony Pappa, who himself has spun at numerous Darkbeat parties over the years, will return to Australia to help them celebrate. “It means a lot to me, having worked with them over the years,” Pappa says, “I’m honoured to help them celebrate. Darkbeat put on quality events and they have supported me as a DJ, helped me pioneer my sound.”
In honour of their anniversary, Darkbeat have released a three-disc compilation. Rollin Connection and Phil K took the second and third discs respectively, while Pappa got the perhaps-daunting task of going first. “It was an honour for me to be asked and to be involved in the project,” he says. “It always takes a lot of time and planning when putting a CD together and the track selection process is something that you do very carefully.”
Interestingly, though this is an anniversary compilation, Pappa’s disc doesn’t look back, with all new selections taking in the freshest sounds in house and dark disco. I put it to him that his focus these days seems to be on moving forward rather than nostalgia, and he agrees. “As a DJ who has been in the business for 26 years now, I’ve always focused my music and sound on moving forward.
“We talked about the idea of musically covering the 10 years with music from that time frame,” he continues, “but then the CD would have become more of a classics album, which was not exactly what we wanted to do. The CD is a celebration and a milestone achievement for Darkbeat reaching 10 years in a tough industry, mixed by three DJs that have been a part of this journey showcasing the sounds each DJ plays today.”
A Melbourne native, Pappa relocated to London nearly two decades ago and remains there to this day. I ask how the city is treating him, and indeed, if it’s still a vital and exciting place to be a DJ. “It’s been an amazing place to me and for me over the years,” he says. “I’ve been living over there for 18 years now, and there are always cool underground parties and nights going on, but for me most of my work is spread out over the world – l always take a flight to go to work.”
Those with long memories may recall the time in 2000 when the influential DJ Magazine crowned Pappa as one of their ‘Nu Breed’ of producers. It was a big deal, and I ask him how he reflects on it 12 years on, and indeed, how he remains vital and engaged as a DJ seeking out new tracks and sounds. “I think the reason I am still going strong is my ability as a DJ and my dedication to always perform and deliver to the crowd and make it work,” he says.
Though he was once a vinyl purist – and indeed, maintains a collection of tens of thousands of records – Pappas plays from CDs these days. Many DJs of his ilk swear off MP3s, considering them too far from the roots of DJing, but Pappas doesn’t like to be an old fuddy duddy about such things. “I don’t think MP3 is a step too far,” he says, “and I am definitely all for using modern technology, although for me, CD is the format that I choose, and I am pretty happy performing this way.”
Pappa makes it back to Australia whenever he can – most recently, to DJ at the Darkbeat anniversary parties. As always, the trip home feels like something of a victory lap for him. “The shows and crowds are always great for me in Australia,” he says, “and it’s always a pleasure for me to be back in the country performing.” The tour includes an upcoming show at Sydney’s Goldfish, and I ask what we can expect. “I’m really looking forward to playing in Sydney,” he says. “You can expect to hear tech house, progressive house and techno in my set, like Sam Paganini’s ‘Polyester’, the Pig & Dan remix of Whyt Noyz’s ‘SynthesiZe’ and Carlo Lio’s ‘A Dusty Heart’ – underground, proper ‘having it’ tunes.” Needless to say, if you’ve followed the Darkbeat parties over the years, you’re in for quite a night.
BY ALASDAIR DUNCAN