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 Karoshi

Written by Jesse Hayward on July 28, 2009

Beres Jackson is Karoshi. Karoshi makes beautiful music together with himself. Karoshi also means death by overwork. Karoshi tells us we are to make of that connection what we will. Considering that Karoshi’s work is to create ambient soundscapes with a desolate sublimity, the karoshi of Karoshi might not be such a tragedy. For us, that is: Beres might have a problem with laying down his life for our sakes.

We meet with Beres on an iceberg floating in the North Atlantic Ocean. He is doing something complicated with a microphone strapped to a walrus. Attaching a final apparatus he pats the walrus on the back, which barks acknowledgement and dives down into the cold waters. We sip hot rum toddys and sit on deckchairs to discuss Karoshi’s music.

“When I began writing electronic music I was listening to a lot of Icelandic artists, and I felt that no-one in Sydney was really attempting anything like that. I really wanted to challenge people and their pre-conceptions of what electronic music is. The challenge with electronic music, and instrumental music, is to not let that space you talked about become overwhelming or boring. Sometimes you get it right, sometimes you don’t – but it can be beautiful when you do. I mean, I have nothing against straight dance or trashy electro-rock and the mass of music being pumped out with that feel, but it’s nice to at least feel like I am doing something a bit different. “

Sydney’s electro scene bears no resemblance whatsoever to the blank wall of ice at which I am currently gazing. From pop electro powerhouse The Presets, to glitchy acts like Bleepin J Squawkins, we have a plethora of electricky sounds to sate our appetites. Sometimes, amongst this cornucopia of noise, it is hard to hear the ambient sounds.

“I make this music because I have always had very strong reactions to ‘alternative’ music. It’s the music I want to listen to essentially, and also my way of commenting on the current music scene. It’s a deeply personal thing for me too. I have plans of doing other projects soon, but this one is very precious to me and I think I’ll always be very protective of it. I really can’t see the point in pandering to the masses all the time. I try not to be a wanker about it, but I am quite happy staying out of the mainstream music industry at the moment. The more I wander on the fringes of it, the more I am turned off by it.” Karoshi stares pensively into the blue waters.

“I think people are pushing the boundaries more and more with what they are willing to listen to, and that is slowly seeping into mainstream tastes. I think it’s also been a more conscious decision on the part of the ‘’underground’’ artists to engage with the mainstream industry more and more, and this has probably opened up more doors for electronic artists too. Australia still has a long way to go though in recognising electronic music as a valid art form.”

We can monitor the walrus’ movements with a tracking device embedded in its third roll of neck blubber. It is currently chasing a school of cod in the hopes of catching a few morsels of the shimmery sound of their flight through the water. Karoshi couldn’t get these sounds without the walrus, just as he would find it hard to perform live without his musical cohorts David Jackson and Laura Chalk.

“I’ve always played on stage with at least one other person. I think I would feel like a bit of a twat standing up there by myself, laptop in hand, so I have made a concerted effort to bring in other people to do stuff. I think it’s a hangover from playing in bands for years. I really like the chemistry of a bunch of people on stage – anything can happen. I can see my music getting to the point where I need fifteen people on stage. Or a string section or something. The sky’s the limit really.”

On the 26th of July Karoshi perform live at Old Wares, New Wares, at the CAD Factory, 5 Handley Street, Marrickville. It’s an early one, going from 5pm to 9pm, and Karoshi will play alongside Scattered Order and Cult of the Hidden Nerve.

“The night looks like a pretty varied line-up. I am really keen on seeing Mark Brown & Khaled Sabsabi do their audio-visual thing. That will be fantastic. We have three of us on stage at the moment. A drummer, a keyboardist/melodica-ist, and me on laptop and guitar. We are just settling in to playing together, and playing some new songs too, so it’s a really good time to come see us play. The live show is a lot noisier than the recordings at the moment too, which has been really fun. We try and improvise and play off each other, so anything can happen.”

The walrus has come home with a belly full of samples and we start our long kayak trek back to Sydney, hoping to make it home in time to have a quick shower before heading to the gig on the 26th.

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