Velatine Jurgis MaleckasJurgis Maleckas photo.

“The concept was taking the business model of The Eurythmics,” laughs Loki Lockwood, studio engineer, producer, Spooky Records label owner and, more recently, auteur behind the electro-noir-goth studio project Velatine.

“Because I’d been in so many bands that had fallen apart, the less people involved, the better! I didn’t want to be the singer or the focus. So with The Eurythmics, they were sort of the ideal: they’d come from being in a band, they’d fallen apart and then as a duo they developed this thing.”

Lockwood says he’d been “fucking around with electronic music since about 1986”. Australian electronic music pioneer OllieOlsen, music director on 1986 cult classic movie "Dogs in Space" in which Lockwood featured as guitarist in Marie Hoy’s band, suggested some artists for him to listen to further his knowledge of the genre.

Lockwood bought a Mirage sample and began composing his own “electronic stuff” over the next decade and a half, only for the fledgling artistic project to come to a half after a house break-in in whuch he lost his electronic music infrastructure.

Fast-forward to 2018 and, after unsuccessful trying out various electronic music software packages, Lockwood was introduced to the Ableton application.

“I just connected with it instantly and started writing, writing, writing. And I still do.” By the end of 2019, Lockwood decided to chuck in his audio engineering teaching gig at RMIT and become a professional musician.

By early 2020 Lockwood had built up a sizeable catalogue of songs, and those he felt would be suitable for a singer. But the appearance of COVID stymied his attempts at finding a singer for his studio project. Lockwood decided to put out an album of songs in digital form, under the artistic moniker Velatine.

“I just made that name up!” Lockwood laughs. “I was just toying with the sound of words. It was sort of derived from velvet and codeine.”

Faced with another Melbourne lockdown, Lockwood channelled his energy back into writing and releasing a debut Velatine album, "The Trap", in May 2020, followed by a second album, "Storm Atmospherics" in October, all the while continuing his exploration for a singer to give voice to his compositions.

Even after Melbourne's lockdown restrictions were lifted, finding an appropriate vocalist was no easy quest.

“I did a single using female singer samples to give potential vocalists a bit more of an example of what I might be looking for,” Lockwood says. “And that was the tricky thing. You’d give someone a piece of music, but they couldn’t see themselves in that.”

After scouring the Internet, live gigs and even open mic nights (“There were lots of rejections! Them rejecting me because they couldn’t see themselves in the music”), Lockwood recorded a few demos with one singer, only for his would-be project collaborator to pull out. “But that was good because I got some tapes down. Then I had a long chat to a friend of mine, who is a singer teacher. And she said ‘Loki, you’re asking too much, just ask them if they’re interested in doing a one-off’.”

Eventually Lockwood settled on local songwriter and musician Maggie Alley.

“We did a recording session and it was fucking awesome, much better than I expected.” In addition to providing the female voice to Lockwood’s songs, Alley co-wrote the track "No God’ with Lockwood.

“Maggie really liked that piece of music when I sent it to her, that was one of the first pieces I sent. It already had the title, because when I start a piece of music I save it as ‘song number blah blah blah’ and I give it a title, so I can start to picture what it sounds like. These are things that might be inspired by its sound or just a random thought.

"Often those titles because the base of the lyrical ideas. A lot of the songs are actually about female empowerment, or poor misogynistic behaviour imposed on women. We see that thing all the time. The title track is basically ‘Fuck you, I’m going to do what I want’.”

On 1 July, Lockwood will bring Velatine to the stage for the first time, with a set on the second night of the Dark Fomo mini-festival at Cactus Room in Thornbury.

“We’re a fucking laptop band, and I don’t have any qualms in being that,” Lockwood says. “For the show that we’re doing, I’m doing half of the set on guitar and half on keyboards. And I’m adding stuff – I’ve actually re-mixed the tracks to feel more live, more pounding kick drum, bass, overblowing some of the melody, so it’s a little bit more jagged than the studio recording to bring a bit more excitement to it.”

The upcoming Cactus show will also be Alley’s swansong with Velatine, with the singer recently telling Lockwood she wanted to focus on her own music.

“I admire her for not dragging along with Velatine semi-committed. She wants to commit to her stuff. If she got swept up more in the whole Velatine thing and had to spend a lot more time and negated her songwriting talent and initial goals, she’d be very sorry. I think she’s made a very strong, positive decision in doing it.

"I just see it as, well, I’m going to go through a re-birth, Velatine will be different and I’m really excited about it as well. And we’re parting ways in style, doing this show.”

Lockwood is already scouting for a new singer and speculates that the next Velatine record will adopt a different sonic aesthetic, partly as a result of Lockwood’s other musical project, playing guitar in Sam Agostino’s rejuvenated and expanded punk rock project, Brat Farrar.

“On the current album, all the music is me, the guitars are all processed through computers not amplifiers,” Lockwood says.

“So this time round I’m looking at using amplifiers. Playing with Brat Farrar has been a huge influence because playing with an amp again has been so exciting compared to playing with guitar in a studio with computer processes. It’s a completely different beast! There’s more randomness, that true air factor you don’t get processing a guitar through a computer.”

While Lockwood says matter-of-factly that “there’s no market for this music in Australia”, overseas music websites have been more responsive.

“The young bloggers who are blogging about the electronic scene, dark wave, which we partly our, we’re partially goth, electronic pop element at times,” Lockwood says.

“All these younger bloggers are very wary of us, but the more established, big electronica things like 'Sideline' magazine out of Belgium, 'Electrospank' in Greece, 'Electro Zombie' in Germany, even 'Orcus' in Germany who’ve got 100,000 followers, they’re backing us.

"The more established media outlets to do with this style have engaged well with it. I think it’s possibly because they’re possibly looking for things that are new and not derivative of what’s been before in the electronic scene.”

Lockwood has lost none of his enthusiasm for the Velatine project, with a catalogue of songs to fill a few more albums ready to go.

“There’s absolutely there’s pent up energy to be creative. I’ll go out to see some people play and sometimes they’ll be the last band on and they’ll be half-way through and I’ll sneak off and go home and start writing ‘cause I’ll think ‘they’re doing it, why aren’t I doing it’, and I’ll be up to 4 in the morning, writing some piece of music or writing words,” he says.

But don’t expect to see Velatine every weekend. “We’re a hard commodity to understand because at the moment we’re this studio/video thing and not a live thing. I want to do it live but I don’t want to do this ‘play every second weekend’. It’s not that sort of band. I see it much more as an event, a show, once every three months and make it spectacular.”

Tickets for the Dark Fomo show

Velatine on Bandcamp

Spooky Records