Interview :: Thief
December 23rd 2013
As PJ Wolf, this Sydney-based producer and songwriter nabbed himself a bucketload of industry recognition, but he’s not afraid to throw it all away and start afresh. The guitars have been flicked in favour of synths, which the now-reborn Thief uses to make shiny pop music. Hear it for yourself by streaming Thief’s debut EP below, and read on for an interview with the man himself.
Sandro Dallarmi (Flog) :: The EP is very slick, so it’s obvious that you’ve been doing this for a while. Clue me in on your other project, PJ Wolf (and PLEASE tell me why you didn’t stick with the name Thief Urban).
Thief :: Changing from Thief Urban to Thief was one of those difficult life choices… My deep and abiding love for the classic English pun had to be weighed against the surprisingly large contingent of people who: a) Don’t know what a pun is, b) Don’t know who Keith is or c) Think anything with urban in the title is clearly ‘The Rap Music’. In the end, Thief just felt like a better all-round choice.
[My music before Thief] wasn’t really one particular project though; it’s basically just my songwriting. I released a couple of EP’s and have another one that’s on hold indefinitely. But people can check it out here if they’d like to hear more. There’s lots there I’m really proud of.
What inspired you to make the switch from guitars to synths?
About the time I began the Thief project (which was then Thief Urban) I was working on a PJ Wolf EP with Matt Redlich up in Brisbane. My songwriting and recording process were getting further and further away from computers and anything electronic (well post-1970’s electronic). I was writing and recording these really rough demo’s just through my laptop microphone and then I’d head up to Brisbane and we’d record everything live to tape. No computers, no samples. It was so refreshing and inspiring.
But at the same time I was kinda wanting to try something a little bit different with my songwriting, like something in the completely opposite direction. I’ve always had a fascination with that real extreme, glossy, plastic end of pop music. I kinda wanted to play around with some of those ideas but hopefully with a little more soul and vulnerability.
Doing it under a different name was just me giving myself permission to be as silly or crazy as I wanted to be without second guessing myself, or worrying what people might think. I also came up with a hilarious pseudonym that I just had to use.
Your music as Thief is predominantly electronic, but the arrangement of those different sounds somehow makes me imagine a band performing it live. Have you thought about how this music would translate into a live setting?
The live aspect is really important to me because my background (unlike probably a lot of electronic artists) is in live music. I played drums in bands for years and also fronted my own bands. So when it came to working out how to do Thief live there was no question I wanted a band actually up there delivering the energy of those tracks live.
So when we play live I kinda run things from a sampler and do the vocals/lead synth stuff while my band (Jon Sewell and Tom Wright) bring a lot of the sweet sweet feels with live drums and bass. It’s something that’s taken us a while to develop but it really feels like something kinda unique now and we’re excited to take it out on the road in February!
Thief will be supporting The Aston Shuffle on their 10-date Australian tour through February and March. Details for the Sydney show are below. Check the full dates here.
WHAT :: The Aston Shuffle w/ Thief
The Standard Goodgod Small Club
WHEN :: Saturday 1st March
HOW MUCH :: $15 + BF through Moshtix