Ben Marshall has one of the best jobs in Sydney.

As head of contemporary music, Marshall is responsible for some of the most exciting musical artists to have performed at the Sydney Opera House in the last decade, including Solange Knowles and Underworld. He’s also the curator of Vivid Live, the festival’s centrepiece contemporary music event, featuring exclusive international performances, orchestral collaborations and club nights.

This week on our podcast, Broadsheet: Around Town, Marshall told us how he scored such a unique job (and how he almost passed it up), and his most memorable career moments so far. Plus, he shares some of the highlights from this year’s Vivid Live program – including French electronic duo Air performing their classic 1998 debut, Moon Safari.

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On how he landed his role at Sydney Opera House

The Opera House was watching what Fergus Linehan – who’s now CEO of Carriageworks and was the Sydney Festival director at the time – was doing with contemporary music. And they were watching me selling him things [while I was running Inertia’s touring division, now known as Handsome Tours].

They pulled us both in and said, “Let’s start curating contemporary music with as much integrity and ambition as we curate everything else that we do.” I thought, “No. I’m the Nationals’ promoter, I’m the xx’s promoter – I have the best job in the world.” I walked up the steps to the Opera House and I went, “Oh my god, I want this job so badly. I am a complete idiot. I have not prepared.” But I got the job and I was Fergus’s producer. When he left, I became head of music in 2013.

On Vivid Live’s studio parties and nightclub subculture

The studio is sort of my secret heart of the festival. I love the giant names and big rooms, but I started as a club promoter doing underground music. I feel very strongly that the club is a cultural space, as well as a space for socialising, hedonism and everything else. They are important places for cutting loose … there is something hardwired in us to be in the dark, waiting for the lights to come on as a group.

[It was important to me that the studio parties were not] an arts centre version of a nightclub. It had to be a nightclub that adhered to the rules of the subculture. I truly believe you don’t have a healthy culture without a subculture. Subculture is where ideas bubble up and become mainstream, [and] if you don’t take care of the underground you’re going to have a really bland overground.

It’s very important to me that the local work, which is of an international standard, should be mingling with the best of the international. It’s seamless, and the club space and the studio is close to my heart.

On his most recent memorable meal

My favourite place to sneak off and eat in Sydney is the Sussex Street Food Court, and the Happy Chef there has the number 56 laksa. There used to be a big sign of chef Luke Mangan saying this laksa is next-level amazing. I took his advice looking behind the counter in 2003, and I have been going all that time.

There are many great places to eat in Sydney. Kiln, at the top of the Ace Hotel, is doing something really special. I find it very hard to go past Bennelong for high end dining at the Opera House, it's just extraordinary. But I’m almost just as happy with the number 56 laksa – it’s truly amazing food.