Metals. Like their name, on its sleek, gleaming surface the music of this Australian duo has an air of the cold and clinical about it thanks to the android beats of producer Digital Primate (aka Melbourne-based Christopher Coe). Injected with some soul from singer Candice Butler however, and you have the perfect symbiosis of man and machine; chrome sounds covered in lipstick kisses. A band to fall in love with.
Metals began when DJ/producer Christopher spotted Candice MCing at an all-female hip-hop event in Melbourne. It took all of 5 seconds for him to decide hers was the voice he was looking for. Like Dr Frankenstein chanelling electricity down from the storm and into his laboratory, this was the input needed to give life to a musical automaton he was creating. She liked his booty bass beats. He liked her flow. And so a partnership was born.
As Digital Primate, Christopher Coe was already something a living legend and all-round ace face on the Australian techno scene – his club night Centriphugal was influential in popularising the ghetto tech sound while his series of 12 inches and live shows have taken him around the world and on to festival stages. His most recent DP album, 2009’s Keep Calm And Carry On, was a collaboration with legendary reggae producer Mad Professor and his love of everything from UK ragga, grime, electro, bashment and booty house comes through in Metals’ music, a sound that refuses to be categorised. Add in a political astuteness and you have music that goes beyond the merely visceral.
Candice had her own equally rich and colourful history too. Her formative years were spent on stage and screen as a dancer and actor; as a child she appeared on Australian kid’s TV show Couch Potato, and was also publishing poetry by her teens. Musically her heart belonged to hip-hop and neo soul and inspired by artists such as Me’shell Ndegeocello and India Arie she started singing and rapping. It was while at a Cypress Hill show that she got talking to Professor Griff, long-time ‘Minister Of Information’ for rap godfathers Public Enemy. 24 hours later she was performing onstage in the very same venue with P.E. It was a creative friendship that lead to recording work in Atlanta with Griff.
Armed with her new recordings Candice headed back to Australia with a new determination – which is when Chris stepped in and snapped her up as vocalist for Digital Primate, which lead to a number of consecutive Big Day Out tours. Recording sessions produced a voluminous body of new material; material that warranted a proper band. And so began Metals, first as a duo and then more recently expanding to a live full-on, balls-out four-piece.
Musically, Metals’ politically astute debut recalls the electro beats and worldwide suss of artists such as Peaches and MIA, with echoes of Missy Elliot, Santigold, Imani Coppola, Bunny Rabbit and maybe even Lady Gaga in there too. It’s future pop music that oozes sex and attitude – filthy but never apologetic; trashy but never disposable. Political but always partying.
Lead single ‘Drop Your Guard’ builds upon the foundation of a guitar riff to create a crisp electro-rock banger that could go toe-to-toe with any artist out there. Elsewhere there’s plenty of ass-grinding beats and machine gun poetry – check the vocal delivery and skank of ‘Shake It’ or the metal guitars of ‘Get Yourself A Gun’, a song with lyrics straight from the Zack de La Rocha school of righteous indignation.
For Candice Metals is the perfect outlet to come out snarling; a chance to explore her ‘Jeykll & Hyde’ personality that in the flesh is sweetness personified but icily ferocious with a mic in her hand. For Chris it offers a chance to create something beyond “the restrictive false-happiness of dance music – but mainly to play live bass like Peter Hook. Low slung all the way.”
“We’re very serious about what we do – and politics plays a part in this band – but we don’t want to be too self-conscious,” says Christopher. “There’s a lot of cheekiness involved in the live show. The perfection lies in the imperfection.”
Metals utilise modern technology then, but know that it is ultimately meaningless without those distinctly human qualities to drive it along: anger, passion, rage, desire. Peel back the chrome plating of Metal’s exterior and you’ll find a big beating heart. They are an utterly 21st century band in all respects.
“Genre-wise, we’ve been called techno-rock-rap-soul, which really is just naming four disparate genres, and kind of lazy,” sighs Candice. “So we came up with a far better description of our own: ‘A robot android in search of the perfect beat + hip-hop diva biatch venting on the mic = Metals. That is all.’
That is, indeed, all.