Byron grad mixes his way to the top of ARIA charts

DJ, producer, record label curator and SAE graduate Damian Cox, has crafted a true sonic haven for himself, climbing to the top of the ARIA charts from a compilation album created for his major project at SAE.
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Damian completed his Bachelor of Audio at SAE Byron Bay in style, with his major project exceeding expectations. Damian mixed and mastered a compilation album titled ‘Club Cactus’ which hit #2 on the ARIA and Australia iTunes Dance Albums charts. The album was released by his record label, Sorta Kinda Music and featured his track Acid Kiss, which peaked at #17 on the ARIA club charts.

Outside of SAE, Damian Cox resides on the sunny shores of the Gold coast, Queensland. He has had residencies at the infamous Elsewhere Nightclub and Rattlesnake, along billing at Splendour in the Grass in 2019.

When Damian isn’t serving up a stellar throw-down of records at some of the country’s most prized clubs, events and festivals, he’s conquering airwaves on the Gold Coast’s Radio Metro every Sunday afternoon, showcasing the best from his dance floors, to the Sorta Kinda Music catalogue.

We sat down with the man of many talents, to talk about production, creativity and his time at SAE Byron Bay.

Hi Damian, did you have any previous experience producing music before SAE?

Before studying I had really limited experience of music production. I started at SAE in 2019 and started producing in 2018, but I was a DJ a few years before that. It was just the roll on from DJing as I wanted to throw myself completely into music and not just dabbling in Djing.

What do you think makes a good track and what is the one thing every tune must have for it to be a killer song?

For me a good track needs good percussion. It keeps the track moving and those little ear wormy hooks definitely get people in there listening, but the key is movement.

"Without movement you lose people super quick and it's the same as when you are Djing. If you don't have the track doing little small change ups in there, it just doesn't keep people interested. It just can't be too monotonous."
What’s your creative process?

I start with the drum lines and just keep building. If a track becomes a bit stale, then I will move on to another project to keep it fresh. Pretty much every track I start with is arranged around the drums, to give me a rough idea of where I’m going. I then start adding basslines, noise and other sounds to keep it rolling. As a kid I played the drums, so it’s the one thing that’s stuck in my head.

What is your strategy for finishing tracks?

It’s a tough one, I guess a lot of the first tracks that I wrote, I spent heaps of time trying to finish it off. Now my approach is to just have fun with it and let it be. Of course I will get heaps of feedback from the crew that I know, but once it starts to get more opinionated rather than constructive changes, then that’s when I start moving into the next phase and start doing the proper mix down and get it mastered.

What artists have you been listening to and who inspires your music?

Chris Lake is a big one for me. His whole approach to music is great and he has not stuck with the same sound over the years, he has kept himself fresh. Wongo is definitely one that I always look at, and also Holmes John are artists that I have been grooving to, I love the tech house vibes.

Why did you choose to study at SAE?

For what I was looking for, SAE had the most valuable information that I was going to take away – it had that focus on mixing and mastering and it was those two things that I really wanted to get my head around. From day dot I said to Kevin Hay (SAE Byron Audio Lecturer) that was the way I wanted to go and to be able to fall back on those mixing and mastering skills if I ever needed to, was a big point in why I studied at SAE.

I chose Byron specifically because the lecturers there are so good, they all work with you in the best way that you learn and that was super valuable for me.

"A big shout out to my lecturer, Kevin Hay, he was able to relate things back from a DJ’s perspective - he really gets on your level."
What was beneficial about studying music production at SAE?

The level of progression between releasing a track just before I started, compared to the album release when I finished was huge. The difference in quality and production blew my mind, and my whole workflow changed. Now I take a new approach to thinking about it. I’ll go from one Digital Audio Workstation to another, switching between creative and objective, and taking a more professional approach. It has been an unreal experience.

What can we expect from you for the rest of 2021 and next year?

I’ve got a fair few tracks sitting there ready to go, a few that I will put out myself, and a few that I will try and get signed. As for gigs it’s a little bit harder at the moment with COVID-19, but hopefully I’lll be playing more over the summer.

Where can people find out more?

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