Knife Party on Their New Music & Place In Dubstep Culture: ‘We Always Felt Like Outsiders’ (Exclusive)


After a five-year hiatus, Australian bass duo Knife Party returned to the fray with Thursday's release of their new EP, Lost Souls. While the four tracks mark a shift in direction from the classic brostep sound of hits like "Centipede" and "Bonfire," the new music hits as hard it ever did while thrashing in the festival tent pit back in the day. 

Billboard Dance got in touch with Knife Party's Rob Swire to talk about the duo's hiatus, new music and their place in the electronic landscape.

While you haven’t been on “break” necessarily, it’s been a few years since you released solo original work. Was there any reason for this perceived pause, either due to your focus on Pendulum in recent years or anything else?

There was a few reasons, the main one being that we hadn’t really taken more than a week off since Pendulum’s inception in 2002. When Pendulum wrapped up in 2011, we jumped straight into Knife Party and I guess we just felt a bit burnt out and creatively lost.

We wanted to explore different sounds for both Knife Party and Pendulum, and I guess it just took a little while to figure out what we wanted to do.

What inspired you to make a Knife Party EP? When did you begin work on this collection of songs, and what intentions, if any, did you have when you began?

We had an EP of songs pretty much [ready] to go in 2017 that never ended up coming out. By the time we were nearly ready to release it, we felt that genres had moved on, and it didn’t really sound relevant anymore -- so we scrapped it, took a break, and wrote another one from scratch.

Our intention was just to make a bunch of tracks we were happy with and to poke a bit of fun at dubstep. We were basically just searching for a new sound, and we took a lot of inspiration from the techno scene in recent years -- which I guess is most apparent in “Ghost Train.”

What changed for Knife Party in the years between Trigger Warning and Lost Souls?

I guess we kinda got sick of our own style, which is always a difficult place for an artist. I’ve tried writing tracks in the style of “Power Glove” and “Bonfire” etc since then, and I always ended up hating them. That’s usually a good sign that it’s time to find a new sound.

Speaking of Lost Souls, the title track in particular takes the piss out on those ass-eaters at Lost Lands a couple years back. Knife Party tweeted about those videos in 2017, and these lyrics directly reference Lost Lands and eating ass at the rave. You’re obviously making fun of some parts of this culture, but you also made a raw-ass bass tune, so where do you stand on the spectrum? Is brostep a joke, or is it a joke you’re in on with the culture?

It’s strange, I think we were definitely considered part of American dubstep/bass culture at some point, but we always felt like outsiders and I don't think we really ever understood it. The idea of Knife Party at first was just, “We like house beats at 128 bpm, and we appreciate dubstep sounds, let’s just mash the two together." Then "Bonfire" and "Centipede" happened, and before you knew it we were considered a dubstep act.

I have a lot of respect for the production / sound design in the scene, especially from people like Space Laces, Virtual Riot etc, but the culture itself is alien to us.

Right after that you go into “Death and Desire,” the hard-hitting vocal house track of the EP. It feels like a new direction for Knife Party, which has remained pretty much a hard synth, heavy beat, minimal sing-along project. How did it feel to work on something like this?

It was great. We’d been wanting to do something along these lines since “Begin Again”, but it took us a while to get the vibe right.

And I’d just love to hear the story of "Ghost Train," because it’s bizarre and amazing.

“Ghost Train” is what happens when you’re bored of your own style, I suppose. We kinda realized threw off the shackles and said “Look, all we’re really listening to is crazy techno shit. What does it sound like when KP tries to make it?”

It’s weird, I think Knife Party’s best material is when we get the balance between “fucking annoying” and “that’s pretty cool” just right.

"Internet Friends," "Rage Valley," "Boss Mode" etc...if they were even slightly different, or had different synths or drums, they’d have been the worst songs ever. But they stop just short of the “fucking annoying” line and find a cool little valley, and I think “Ghost Train” is just our modern take on the same thing.

With the EPs release, what’s the plan for Knife Party? Are you going to book more gigs? You’ve got a new show coming with Pendulum Trinity, too, would love to hear about that and how you plan the balance of these projects moving forward?

Definitely got more shows throughout the rest of the year, and we’re not gonna stop playing KP shows any time soon. Pendulum Trinity is going to be different take on Pendulum’s DJ sets with myself, Gareth and Paul, and help us slowly introduce, tweak, experiment with parts of the new album before its release. In-between shows, we’ll be recording back at the studio and messing with ideas with Perry and Kevin before bringing the live show back out.

As for balance.....I have no idea. We’re not very organized, so hopefully management have a plan in mind.