On her new EP, Tkay Maidza professes to love growing up. That’s lucky, because the 21-year-old singer and rapper has had to do a lot of it lately.
“Weird” can mean a lot of things. For Tkay Maidza, it isn’t just unusual or odd, but a dry, distinctly Australian definition that can brush off all kinds of bewildering trauma and misadventure with one satisfying syllable. President Trump? Weird. Terrorism? Weird. Playing international festivals, fronting Nike campaigns and collaborating with Run the Jewels rapper Killer Mike and influential French producer Martin Solveig at a time when most of your peers are still hanging at the local food court? Definitely weird.
Having famously laid out the nation’s capital, American architect Walter Burley Griffin spent his final years bringing a bold aesthetic vision to a most unedifying subject: burning waste. Now, the former Thebarton Reverberatory Incinerator is cooking up fire tracks in its new life as a recording studio.
Driving down West Thebarton Road a keen eye might notice the angular red smoke stack poking up from the industrial lots and car parks, its sharp lines and polychromatic brickwork resembling something out of Minecraft. It’s one of several architecturally significant ‘reverberatory incinerators’ around Australia that Griffin and colleague Eric Milton Nicholls designed during the Great Depression. When it opened in March 1936, less than a year before Griffin’s death, newspaper reports welcomed the influence of “modern architecture” on Thebarton’s “imposing” new addition.
Today it’s home to Lewis Wundenberg, an Adelaide engineer and producer who has spent years training his ears to avoid ‘rubbish’. But when the city studio he worked at went under, leaving him at a loose end with more recording gear than he could fit at home, this “really weird” online listing caught his eye.
The quiet monotony of suburbia can be a fertile medium for creativity, and there’s no shortage of the stuff among the vast tracts of urban sprawl to the north of Adelaide. 22 years old and hungry, Gabriel Akon found himself here largely by accident. The rapper, poet and aspiring mogul behind artist collective slash label Playback 808 has spent the past few years assembling his own community of artists intent on building their own hip hop scene from scratch.
The area has form for nurturing fierce musical talent out of young migrants transplanted from the other side of the world. Jimmy Barnes grew up in Elizabeth after his family left Glasgow in 1962. Bernard ‘Doc’ Neeson, the late Belfast-born frontman of The Angels, made a similar move as a child, as did Little River Band co-founder Glenn Shorrock and guitarist of The Sports Martin Armiger. Akon lives a bit further out west in Golden Grove, a town that didn’t actually exist back then. Since sprouting out of rolling farmland in the mid-1980s, it’s perhaps best-known for being home to Guy Sebastian during his pre-Idol super-church days.
In 1969, eccentric wine heir Derek Jolly had a vision to make Adelaide a global music capital by importing a revolutionary new instrument. 50 years later, the legacy of Australia’s first synthesiser is still making waves.
“Derek’s mother came from the Penfolds family – that’s where he inherited his money,” explains Stephen Whittington, composer and head of Sonic Arts at the University of Adelaide. “He used to drive racing cars, maybe he was a bit of playboy. He was a colourful character.”
“One of his ideas was that he could turn Adelaide into a world centre of advanced recording technology,” Whittington says. By the late 60s Jolly’s music industry exploits had seen him establish Gamba, his North Adelaide studio, and somehow end up with a credit on Johnny Farnham’s 1967 single Sadie (The Cleaning Lady) – for the vacuum cleaner solo. “He thought if he equipped his studio with absolutely the latest technology, it would not only stimulate people here, but musicians would come from all over the world.”