the AU interview: Doug May of Ghetto Crystals (Perth) talks his new collaboration with San Cisco drummer Scarlett Stevens and playing the Hidden Treasures Winter Music Series

Featuring Doug May (Abbe May) and Scarlett Stevens (San Cisco), Ghetto Crystals is the duo's newly founded hip-hop project. Amelia Barnes asked Doug May how the band came together and their plans for an album.

How long have you known Scarlett Stevens for?

I met Scarlett a long time ago, I think she was ten or eleven. My band The Fuzz opened Rock-It Festival and The Flairz [Steven’s band] played after us. I was so impressed - these guys were so young, so talented and the crowd loved them. That day we made a giant pyramid out of beanbags in the Arena Joondalup. We've been friends since.

Have you ever played music with her before forming Ghetto Crystals?

This is our first collaboration. Although I do remember getting up and playing lead over their version of The Runaways’ “Cherry Bomb” at The Flairz album launch. It was a great night; Abbe May and Tame Impala were on the bill.

You have both been successful in other musical projects you’ve worked on. Why did you decide to form Ghetto Crystals?

I quit both my last bands to start creating my own sound. It wasn’t easy leaving Abbe’s band [Abbe May is Doug’s sister] because I really loved the music.

I was inspired to write my own stuff. I believed that I could make something new and fresh, something cool and worth listening to, something that would make you shake your ass. That's what we are doing.

How long have you been working together now for?

We have been working together for about six months. The project came together around New Year’s - I showed Scarlett a demo of a song I’d been working on called “Shake A Badonkadonk” that I had recorded on my iPad and she signed up.

How would you describe your band’s sound in five words?

If Ween played hip-hop.

Did your parents encourage you to play instruments from a young age?

Sure, they bought me a drum kit when I was 12 and a guitar and they let me play them as loud as I wanted. I was into music and I loved bands like Sonic Youth and The Breeders, and I had a band and we played really noisy experimental punk in the back shed every chance we got. We slowly got better and when Abbe was 17 we got her to be the lead singer. My parents aren’t musicians, just supportive of anything we are doing.

Is it difficult to find time to work with Scarlett around her other commitments?

It hasn’t been so far, although Scarlett will be recording the new San Cisco album soon and probably touring too when the album comes out. We use the time wisely; writing songs, playing shows and recording, so if one of us is busy we can still work on something.

Are you planning to add additional members to the band?

The sky is the limit - we could end up with a string section like Gnarls Barkley had when they played here in Perth with The Pixies. We could stay a two-piece; we are definitely up for whatever the songs need.

Are there plans for an EP or album?

We are demoing songs for an album at the moment, and are very keen on getting a single out now.

Are lyrics an important element of your music?

Yes, very important; I love writing lyrics. I usually write the hook early and then spend some time writing the verses.

Are your lyrics usually based on what’s happening in your personal life?

Not really, or at least I don’t think so. I wrote a song called “Boom Titties” after seeing people get naked at a dance party, so I guess that was based on a personal experience. I’ve got a song that is from the voice of a serial killer and another is just endlessly playing with oxymorons. Mostly it’s stream of consciousness writing.

In what environments are usually inspired to song write?

I think I get inspired in some pretty unusual places. A lot of the time I will be listening to a song or hear someone say something really cool and lock it away and use it when I’m writing. Nowadays I write when I’m feeling relaxed and good, but before I used to write when I was pissed off; it’s been a real reversal in the writing process. I don’t usually start writing with the guitar, I start with a drumbeat in mind. I’m really enjoying making this record.

I believe you’re also known as KT Rumble. Where does that name come from?

When I was a kid in my first band we gave ourselves stage names and I stole mine from a kid in town that I had never met. It was a kind of a punk thing to do and the name stuck. I wonder what happened to the real KT Rumble; I hope he's not reading this.

What are some of the benefits and limits of working as a duo?

The benefits are definitely dynamic as a duo; you feel it and can really sync in together. We have a big sound for a two-piece. I use a lot of effects with my guitar and we are starting to incorporate samples into the live show, so sonically it’s quite a full sound.

Why the abbreviated spelling in the song title “Die 4 U?”

It’s an aesthetics thing; kinda looks like the number plates we see in the ghetto.

What’s your main focus right now- writing, recording, promotion or playing gigs?

We are still in the early stages, so writing lots of songs, developing the sound- we want to push the limits of what we have been doing. Being invited to play Hidden Treasures has been a great motivator; the live show is coming along and we can’t wait to get out there and play. I love Hidden Treasures; Fremantle and Perth are full of exciting bands that are hidden treasures just like us!


Ghetto Crystals will take to the stage at The Navy Club on Thursday, July 24, for the City of Fremantle's Hidden Treasures winter music series. One $10 door charge gets you in to all four Hidden Treasures venues every Thursday evening in July.