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The One?

23 April 2013 | 9:36 am | Dom Craper

"It’s kind of about my own relationship with my own creative process; the inner struggles that you go through being a creative artist. Like, for me, my mind is my own worst enemy; that whole concept of suffering for your own art.”

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"I'm good, though still freezing my balls off in London man,” begins Karl Thomas aka ShockOne when asked how he's coping with last year's move to the spiritual home of drum'n'bass. “We've just had the longest ever winter ever, it's ridiculous! It's been six months since the first snow now, it's just crazy.”

Despite Underworld's Karl Hyde only a week ago bragging to the world how good it had been, it comes as little surprise to hear a sunny Perth expat slaying London's weather. “Bullshit! We had one or two days of sun. Oh, I can't believe I just told Karl Hyde he's lying and full of shit. Wow!” Thomas laughs in response. “It's funny because I know the exact day he's talking about – there was like one half a day where it was sunny, and then it was straight back to being cold and miserable.”

Despite the atmospheric conditions being as they may, Thomas has a lot to keep him warm at night. For one, he's now unleashing his debut album onto the world, with a massive line outside London's Cable club for his launch last week indicative of his rising popularity in his adopted home. “I love living here – it's a working city so it makes you work. That's why I'm here; I like being amongst the hustle, it makes me hustle harder. It's easy to become apathetic in Perth, just because it's so great and easy there. Whereas here, it's kind of that whole thing where the city will eat you alive if you don't raise the bar and do the very best you can and work your arse off every day.”

Certainly ShockOne has solidified his place at the top of the d'n'b and dubstep chain in Australia, tracks off Universus such as Chaos Theory, Relapse, Crucify Me and latest bomb Lazerbeam not only dominating dance music charts worldwide, but receiving heavy triple j airplay, a rare feat for an Australian artist of his genre specialties not named Pendulum (Pop Quiz: Did Karl Thomas play in a band with P's Gareth McGrillen and Rob Swire a few decades ago? A: Absolutely). The debut album has been a long time in the making though, and Thomas admits it's a great relief to finally release it, even if by the time Universus was sent off for mastering he found listening to it akin to having a glowstick rammed up his nostril. “There was about a month where I just didn't listen to it at all because I couldn't anymore. Some songs I hated… I just couldn't listen to it because I'd hear things and go, 'Fuck it, I could have done that better, I could have done this better',” Thomas sighs. “That's why it took so long because I didn't want to put an album out that I wasn't 100 percent proud of and that wasn't going to blow people away.”

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With YouTube plays in the millions and his chart successes exemplified by Crucify Me becoming the world's first ever track to have both its D'n'B and Dubstep mixes simultaneously holding down #1 spots on Trackitdown's  DnB and Dubstep charts, while also hitting #1 on Beatport D&B and Drum & Bass Arena charts, it's safe to say ShockOne is indeed blasting people away. The album was no easy Big Bang moment though, the tracks having been created over a rather long period, and by someone not always easily pleased with their own output. This process did however lead to the materialisation of a 'life, the universe and everything'-like theme. “After about a year and a half I realised that I had some kind of theme there that I hadn't really planned, and I thought, 'Okay, this is interesting'. So I got a whiteboard out and started linking things together, and then the album took on another whole kind of scope and I realised I had a concept, which I then put a lot more work into crystalising that.”

With a little help from talented WA friends Sam Nafie, Phetsta and sister Reija Lee, as well as motherland artillery Kyza and Metrik plus the original vocal talents of Corey Burton (yes, that voice from film Machete), a diversely influenced dance universe was constructed. Of course relationships are part of the fabric of life, and there's at least one song that he might have revealed too much; Crucify Me. Thomas laughs, “My current girlfriend hated it! Or at least once I told her it was about an ex-girlfriend she was like, 'I used to fucking love that song but now I can't listen to it, for fuck's sake'!”

While he describes Crucify Me as a very “visceral” tune, Relapse was revealing in other ways. “It's interesting how you can look back and lyrics can relate to certain things. It's kind of about my own relationship with my own creative process; the inner struggles that you go through being a creative artist. Like, for me, my mind is my own worst enemy; that whole concept of suffering for your own art.” It's obvious ShockOne has a far more thoughtful, cerebral approach to his art compared to many of his contemporaries, though he's wary of such wank-teetering applause. “Each to their own. I do actually sometimes wish that I could be less emotionally, conceptually and intellectually attached because it would make things easier for me. I make things way harder for myself in trying to put so much into something, when at the end of the day one of the things that can be beautiful about it is just music for people to dance to.”

No stranger to making people do exactly that on the Australian festival circuit, having toured nationally as part of the Creamfields, Big Day Out and Stereosonic line-ups, ShockOne is heading back home to tour the country as part of Groovin' The Moo, plus headline shows. These days, there are increasing pressures for DJs to take their shows to another 'festival level'. You know, live format, smoke machines, dancers, crazy lights, lasers… Hold on, could we see his current hit Lazerbeam inspiring his GTM stage shows? “You've stolen my thunder there! I'm not going to say anything but, uh, yeah, there'll be something,” Thomas delivers with as many hesitations as cheekily telling grins. “It's still too early to confirm yet, but we're working on a show involving lights that will be tied in with the music.”

At the very least, you can be assured he'll be bringing with him full intentions of delivering nothing short of stellar DJ performances. “What it's always been about for me is that connection between me and the audience; that's what's still paramount. Everything else is all smoke and mirrors added on top. If I'm not playing the right songs and connecting with the audience then it's all for nothing.” In return, pretty sure we can promise him less intimidating experiences than his recent tour dealt. “I had a crazy show in Russia recently, about two hours out of Moscow where all the security guards had AK47s and they were very intimidating, and I don't know what drugs people were on but it was fucking out there!”

ShockOne will be playing the following dates:

Wednesday 24 April - The Bakery & Metro City, Perth WA
Thursday 25 April - Liberty Social, Melbourne VIC
Saturday 27 April - Groovin' The Moo, Maitland NSW
Sunday 28 April - Groovin' The Moo, Canberra ACT
Friday 3 May - Oxford Art Factory, Sydney NSW
Saturday 4 May - Groovin' The Moo, Bendigo VIC
Sunday 5 May - Groovin' The Moo, Townsville QLD
Friday 10 May - Oh Hello! Brisbane QLD
Saturday 11 May - Groovin' The Moo, Bunbury WA