Melbourne's Tim Shiel has performed as Faux Pas for five years now, quietly releasing original music and remixes to a small audience of fans. But the past 18 months have been a whirlwind for the man who also performs with Gotye as sampler and keysman. This month he releases a compilation of his best remixes as Faux Pas and he spoke to Time Out about his music – both on the big and small scale.
On Remixes and earlier EPs you've remixed tracks from some impressive names – including Gotye. What do you feel more at home creating, remixes or original songs?
I tend to approach remixes the same way I approach my original songs so I feel equally at home doing either. The creative process is the same for both, starting from some kind of initial creative spark, whether it be a melody or a texture or a rhythm, and then building on that and sculpting it until it's finished and it's something that I like. I guess the cool thing about remixes is that the initial spark is coming from outside myself, so it's always a little unfamiliar. I tend to think of remixing as a form of collaboration, and I think of the remixed artists as being collaborators (even though they don't really get a say in the results!).
Your previous album, Noiseworks, had a lighter synth-pop feel: was this a deliberate shift in tone?
The light feel of Noiseworks was a conscious decision -– when it came to choosing songs to go on that record, I had a lot of material to choose from, and it was the synth-pop-type tracks that seemed to hold together the best for me as a record. That album has a bright, plastic, shiny feel, which I really love – a large part of that has to do with the assistance of producer Francois Tetaz, who helped out with that record. But I also make more sprawling, darker music, and a lot of the remixes go in that direction. I try to always have a sense of depth in my music, and a sense of discovery. I'm obsessed with "the new", which means that I skip across and around styles a lot. But I think there's a playfulness and a certain 'character' that unites all of the music that I've done under the name Faux Pas, despite it being stylistically varied.
Just 18 months ago you played your first gig in a small St Kilda theatre, now you've toured the world with Gotye playing Saturday Night Live! and Coachella. How surreal was the transition?
Very surreal. Even getting up on stage for the first time with Gotye was surreal for me, I hadn't performed in a band before and was more of a bedroom producer type guy. I remember that first gig in St Kilda – I really had no idea how I was going to react once I was out on stage, whether I'd be a nervous wreck or not. I remember checking out of the whole preparation process so that I could just go sit and have a coffee, read a book, try and calm down. But as the show got closer I got more and more at ease with the idea of it and then ultimately I was surprised by just how comfortable I was on stage and how much I enjoyed it. It is often surreal but it's also made pretty easy by the fact that the core group (band and crew) have become so close, we're like a tight family unit. There's something very reassuring about having close friends there to ground you when you are in such surreal environments and situations.
Before all the 'Somebody that I Used to Know' remixes, you created the official remix. How do you feel it stands up?
I'm proud of my Gotye remix. I like that it pulls the song apart and turns it into something else. My take on remixes has always been that there isn't much point to it unless you're going to get your hands dirty and really try and transform and rebuild. There are plenty of more accessible remixes of the song out there, official and unofficial, but I just did what came naturally and hopefully the somewhat weird results appeal to people who think a bit more outside the box.
You recently toured Australia with your Time Shield project, a combined audio-visual performance of your own music and video projections. What was the inspiration for this?
I had always said that I wouldn't perform my music live, and a large reason for this was simply that I didn't think I had the skills to pull it off. My music tends to be heavily produced and layered, so the idea of trying to translate that into an engaging performance always seemed too intimidating. But after performing with Gotye for a few months I realised that maybe I did have some of those skills after all. Once I became interested in the possibilities of remixing live video alongside the music, it felt like I'd found a way to add another layer on top of Faux Pas to make it something really special and engaging as a performance. My Time Shield shows were performed from behind a large semi-transparent sheet onto which I projected improvised visuals, stuttering live remixes of scenes from Gilmore Girls, auto-tuned re-harmonised "singing" from Christian Slater and Wynona Rider... weaving those elements in and around my own guitar playing and electronics was enormously fun and I got a lot of great responses from those who saw the shows. It made me really happy to know that I could bring a bit of a "WTF/wow" factor.
Any time for some live Faux Pas gigs between touring with Gotye?
I'm not sure what's next for Faux Pas. This remix compilation in many ways feels like closing the chapter on what I've been doing musically as Faux Pas for the past six years. I have a lot of music in the pipeline that I've been developing gradually over the past three years, But I can't really get my head around it until the whole Gotye ride comes to an end, whenever that is.