10/09/2009 - 00:00

PROFILE: Tos Mahoney-Musicat the edges

10/09/2009 - 00:00


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Promoting new music has become a life-long passion for Tos Mahoney.

Tos Mahoney

IN 22 years of promoting experimental music in Western Australia, Tos Mahoney says he has been exploring all facets of the avant-garde to present new experiences.

His journey continues this week, with the launch of the 9th biennial Totally Huge New Music Festival.

A musician himself, Mr Mahoney says he started to notice a dearth of opportunities for new and experimental music in WA in his early 20s.

"I started as a musician, I studied music, I went on to do freelance work and then got involved in contemporary jazz performances, and as I studied more I became very interested in the avant-garde, not only in music but across the arts," Mr Mahoney says.

"There was very little happening in Perth at that time, especially in performing arts and music, so I started filling the gap by organising events.

"I don't know I actually saw that it was going to be my career.

"The vision was to create an infrastructure to support new music practice, and within that is orchestral chamber-type music, right through to experimental electronic music and sound art.

"What's tricky is you have a number of different artistic practices.

"A lot of them happen within university environments and they are quite research driven. It's not just a bunch of weirdos creating some crazy stuff, there's an element of that, but there is serious research here."

Mr Mahoney's promotions company, Tura New Music, is responsible for the Totally Huge New Music Festival and the critically acclaimed Sounds Outback festival, an innovative program aimed at bringing new music to the regions.

Tura's partnership with French petroleum group Total won an Australian Business Arts Foundation award last week.

Tura also runs Club Zho, a fortnightly experimental music night held at the Ellington Jazz Club, and Scale Variable, an annual series of experimental chamber music events.

While he has an artistic vision, Mr Mahoney has no misconceptions about the challenges surrounding making a living in the alternative new music scene.

"Nobody gets rich on this, even the most famous people; there are no mega-wealthy people doing this," he says.

"But these people have a passion for it, so it's meeting those people, it's connecting with them that keeps me fed, not literally, but it keeps the soul fed."

Mr Mahoney says the eclectic nature of the festivals and events he promotes has allowed Tura New Music to occupy a niche market in a congested music promotions scene.

"Tura's competitive edge globally is that it is all encompassing in what is generally regarded as new music," Mr Mahoney says.

"Generally organisations, festivals, and those sorts of things tend to focus on one specific area. Over the years I've found that it's actually the juxtapositions within one event or a program across the year that gives it its energy.

"So, especially in a town the size of Perth, by rallying all the troops from all of the various areas, we've managed to get a broad level of support over the years, and that's also appealing to governments and the corporate sector.

"One dollar of investment goes across a broad range of activity."

According to Mr Mahoney, the greatest challenge in promoting experimental and alternative music is achieving the right balance between what you want to present, and the resources available.

"It's fully reliant on government and corporate support, yet it's not a mainstream activity," he says.

"Advertising is not something we sell; but we do try to attract sponsorship.

"Getting the funding to put on these events takes up the majority of the time, unfortunately."


Have you ever had aspirations of joining the mainstream?

Oh no, I'd become a lawyer before I did that. Seriously, what attracts me to this is because it's not just a concert or the event, it is because there's a whole lot of amazing people and thinking that goes behind this.

Unique challenges of your job?

Probably what would set it apart is the type of people you have to deal with. No one artist is the same and sometimes it does create quite a pull on one's personal skills.

What's special about the new music scene in Perth?

All the different elements can collaborate and come together, there isn't this friction or factions like there is in other parts of Australia, and it's churned out some really unique people.

What's your ideal weekend or day off?

Spending the day with my wife, fishing.

What's your typical weekend like?

Work invades the weekend often, so not a whole lot of fishing.

Can you sum up Perth's music scene in one sentence or a couple of words?

At the risk of sounding clichéd ... on the edge.


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