Music: The Presets’ Julian Hamilton: The New Gay Interview
Ahh, The Presets. The Australian dance/rock duo is really adept at drawing cries of “Oh, I love those guys” from their devoted gay fanbase, but that’s not completely due to their music.
Though their synthy sex jams are nothing to scoff at, lyrics like “I’m here with all of my people” combine with eyebrow-raising publicity stills (above) and salacious videos to create more homoerotic tension than an Abercrombie catalogue dry humping an American Apparel employee outside the Results locker room.
Those lucky enough to have scored tickets to their Friday show might be interested to see what really makes The Presets tick. Full interview below the fold.
The New Gay Zack: I’ll just be blunt with this first question, even though you probably hear it all the time: Are you guys gay or what?
Julian Hamilton: [laughing,] Oddly enough we don’t hear that as often as you might think…
TNG: So you’re not?
TNG: Do you go out of your way to look like a gay band?
JH: I don’t know what a gay band is. Is it a band that likes to have sex with the same sex? I guess we’re not that. I don’t know that we do go out of our way. I didn’t know that dressing up and putting our arms around each other was the domain of gay people.
TNG: But you have a song called Steamworks, which is a chain of gay bathhouses in the US, and an extremely homoerotic video for This Boy’s in Love. It does appear that you’re flirting in a way with your gay audience.
JH: I guess that video is two guys wrestling in milk, but when we pitched it we just thought it was a really beautiful thing. The homoerotic imagery came up when the video was finished. I dunno, maybe it is really gay, but we thought it would classical like an old painting… I guess it does look homoerotic, but I don’t think guys with their shirts off is necessarily a gay thing.
Steamworks is of course a gay club, a lot of the shows we first did were in gay clubs in Sydney. A friend of ours was a DJ at Steamworks. We though ‘that was a cool thing, we’ll name a song after it.’ We have felt embraced by that scene.
TNG: Are you trying to return anything to your gay fans with your music?
JH: For sure. Some of the first clubs we ever played were gay nights, we did feel embraced by that world. [Our music] is a chance to embrace all people. We also have songs on our records about girls. That’s more and more the way our audience is, our generation. It’s not really a straight thing or a gay thing. Its just a thing. It’s hard to explain.
TNG: I think I see what you’re getting at…
JH: There are bands that aim at the gay market, and there’s always gay acts that hide their sexuality as well. We’re one of those bands with guys in it. We have gay friends and dress up in nice clothes. We play in gay clubs. It’s the world we live in, it’s a world now that embraces all different types of living.
TNG: But have you ever slept with a guy?
JH: No, I haven’t.
TNG: When people talk about your music, they often compare you to the Pet Shop Boys. What influence have they had on The Presets?
JH: They were such a big band when we were growing up. The way they write pop songs, they’re are a pop act, but they mined the club world. I guess we try and do the same kind of thing. We really love pop music, we love great songs, but we want to keep them current and use the techno sound. The thing that is unique to them is that it’s always pop but it’s very current sounding.
TNG: I’ve read interviews where you say that your music is just for fucking and dancing. Is it still that way, or have your songs gotten any deeper?
JH: Our first record was definitely for fucking and dancing, it was written at a time when we felt like those were the only things left we could really do. Our new records have more depth to them, and we’ve explored issues beyond getting wasted and finding a screw.
TNG: A lot of people are excited to see you play with Cut Copy. How did you come to tour with them?
JH: They’re good mates of ours, we’ve been playing shows with them for years. Three years ago we were playing shows together for 100 people in Brisbane, now we are touring together and we’re looking forward to it.
TNG: Do things ever get competitive between you?
JH: Not at all. They’re mates of ours, that’s the way we see it. When they’re doing well we’re doing well. I’d much rather a band like Cut Copy be doing well than a band that we hate.
TNG: Like who?
JH: I’m going to tell you that. There’s lots of bands that that we don’t like, but I’ve made a general rule not to bitch about bands I don’t like. It’s not good. But trust me, there are lots of band I don’t like. I’d rather talk about Pet Shop Boys and Cut Copy than bands we don’t like.
TNG: Do you think you’ll ever be as big here in The States as you are in Australia?
JH: I can’t see it happening in the very near future, American music is such a different thing. Maybe some time in the future but not soon.
TNG: Then what’s next for The Presets?
JH: We just want to keep making more records. We don’t really want to do as much touring, but I’d imagine there will be a lot more shows in the future. We’ll be back to the states in early next year.
[At this point, I thanked Julian for the interview and was prepared to hang up... but he kept going. And seems to be a pretty considerate guy. Here’s what he said:]
JH: But what do you think? It’s funny with the gay thing, when we started Australia was a rock ‘n roll county, a man’s world. It wasn’t a place where men could really have feelings for each other. Kim and I would do photo shoots with our shirts off and our arms around each other. Then everyone started talking about the gay thing. I worry that there will be a backlash, like we’re trying to cash in on a certain look…
TNG: As long keep saying you’re straight and being honest
with your fans, I think you’re fine.
JH: It’s funny, we’ve always been so lucky. We play to mainstream audiences and gay festivals and clubs. We’ve been embraced by both worlds. We might dress up in nice clothes in our photo shoots, and we might have beautiful boys in our videos, but it’s because we like that stuff. We like that look.
We never once pretended to be gay or told anyone that we were gay, it’s just a case of that world, that imagery. The lifestyle. The clubs were always so much cooler to us growing up than the mainstream clubs. I’m interested in seeing how this played out. I do a lot of interviews with the gay press. I’d hate to think that the gay world thinks we’re taking advantage of them, because we’re really not. TNG
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