Wax’o Paradiso is what happens when a techno DJ, a house producer and a jazz musician decide to throw a party. Together, Simon TK (Simon Tarrant Kuang), Edd Fisher and Andy Hart mine the obscure depths of disco and dance culture, mixing their findings with Australiana iconography and a heavy dose of absurdity. The DJ collective recently celebrated its five-year anniversary with the Met Galah charity ball, which raised $10,000 for the Dr Tracy Westerman Aboriginal Psychology Scholarship Program. The scholarship assists the next generation of Aboriginal psychologists with their training in Indigenous-specific mental-health treatments and suicide prevention.
Hart is a DJ and house producer working in Berlin, Tarrant Kuang co-runs online radio station Skylab Radio and club nights like ¿Club D'érange?, and Fisher hosts the long-running Tomorrowland PBS radio show and organises events such as Freedom Time festival and Soulfor Wine with Tarrant Kuang.
Broadsheet’s music editor Nick Buckley speaks to Tarrant Kuang and Fisher about their journey.
NB: How did Wax’o begin?
STK: Wax’o started off as a record fair we were asked to produce almost six years ago in a warehouse in Fitzroy… Then we started running small parties at Section 8 [in the city] and the brief was always that it was super fun, disco, outdoors.
EF: [At the first Section 8 party] there was a line around the block, the place was full and jumping and we were just looking at each other in disbelief.
NB: How would you describe the Wax’o sound?
EF: [Disco before it was a genre] was just dance music and often out of the commercial sphere. The DJs we look up to play timeless music. David Mancuso, and his [’70s] party The Loft in New York, is one of our biggest influences. Mancuso played across the spectrum. He played jazz-funk, Latin music and salsa, left-field electronic music. He really embraced some early house sounds from the get go too. We now also have an alter ego, called Wax’o Dystopio, that displays the darker side of disco – electro breaks, EDM, new beat, techno.
STK: One thing we will never skimp on is sound quality, we always use extremely high-fidelity rigs on a handmade Australian mixer.
NB: Your promo material often includes colourful images in the style of Ken Done. Tell me about your use of Australiana.
STK: In the beginning we were inspired by that visual psychedelia, but I think now the underlying factor is a huge amount of irony. It's self-reflexive, taking the piss out of ourselves; it’s kind of a grubby look at the Australian condition.
NB: Your parties have had some absurd themes. What are some favourites?
STK: Roobocop. It's pretty simple maths. It's half kangaroo, half robot, all cop.
EF: My personal favourite is Pavlova, Queen of the Dessert, that was iconic, a career high.
NB: There’s been a huge disco revival over the past few years in DJ culture, which is now filtering through to commercial radio. What can you say about that shift?
STK: For a lot of people our parents’ age, disco is daggy. For the younger audience, when you're playing them an Italo record from the ’80s, it's a totally new sound. I am a little bit nostalgic about some of the old parties and when the music was really new, but recontextualising it and playing it the way that we do, with modern music intertwined, it feels new again.
NB: Pick a Wax'o theme song that would sum up the past five years.
EF: Hang Together by Odyssey – one of the last songs we played at Golden Plains music festival [in 2017], there are also very fond memories of it from the early days of Wax’o.
STK: It’s unanimous. Hang Together has this super-defiant, unifying message. These days we save it for really special occasions.
NB: What’s next for Wax’o? EF: We do a lot more travelling now, but we’re still just a bunch of mates that like partying, DJing and having a good time. Later in the year we’ll be starting a new label. It’s going to focus on contemporary Australian producers and musicians, leaning towards Balearic, psychedelic and the evolution of disco and house music.
This story originally appeared in Melbourne print issue 26.