Interview by Tracey Moyle.
On Monday, I spoke to Nathan Eggins a.k.a. Conspiracy of One about the launch of his new single Don’t Forget To Like! coming up this Thursday night at The Zoo in Brisbane. The story behind the music is an insight into Nathan’s passion for music and science, a thirst for knowledge and a love of musical satire.
So tell me about your new single Don’t Forget to Like! How did it come about?
“I was reading about the Facebook – Cambridge Analytica Scandal. The idea that so many people’s metadata, (all their personal information that Facebook had) was used by a third party to try and influence what people saw in their news feed in order to change their opinions and voting choices in the US presidential election in 2016 (and other major political events). The idea that you can cause people to vote one way or another simply using their social media metadata was a little scary, it got me thinking on how far that could go, and so this song is a little of “this is how it is now” and some of “this is how it could go if we let it go too far”. The chorus is “Every day I see you like this, you like that…I’m learning more about you every day as you like this, you like that”. It’s a cheeky reminder about how every single day you are giving away more about yourself every time you hit the like button, comment, share etc.”
It’s almost stalker-ish.
“It is actually, a few people have asked “is this song about a stalker?” to which my answer is “sort of”. Usually I like to be a little coy on the exact meaning of my songs because I don’t want to simply tell people what each song is about right from the get go, that’s boring (except for the purposes of this interview of course). I have a very deliberate story or message that I want to convey with each song and I have enough clues in the lyrics for people to figure out what they’re about.”
Do you have certain topics you like to write about or do you just have ideas that pop into your head and you think ‘that’s a great idea for a song?’
“A bit of both, depends on the song. With Don’t Forget to Like! I was reading about the scandal and sometime ideas just go off in your mind and you think “that’s interesting, that hooks me in, how can I get other people interested in that concept?”. Rather than saying “this is a song about Facebook” I’ll say “this is a love song from social media to you” and try to make it fun, quirky and upbeat and not as in your face. I prefer subtlety over directness.”
When did you first start writing songs?
“I first started in high school and wrote some fairly generic angsty teen music back then. The only song I still play from that era is an instrumental. (laughs) I had a few years off until I officially started writing again, that was about 2012. Over time since then I’m naturally changing and trying different things and seeing what works. I first started the funky satirical style about 5 or 6 years ago with a song on my first EP ‘Too Good To Be True?’ called Just a Theory. At that stage this song was just an anomaly, it almost didn’t go on the EP because it was so different from everything I had up until then, but it ended up being the title track! It’s a playful dig at Intelligent Design in a very roundabout way.”
Can you explain intelligent design?
“Long story short, it’s creationists trying to get their version of how life existed (i.e. “God did it”) into science classes AS science in an underhanded way, by using scientific words but a fundamentally un-scientific premise.
One of their tactics was to attack the mainstream view which is evolution by saying “evolution is only a theory’ playing on the disconnect between the common usage of the word ‘theory” which means a vague guess and the scientific usage of theory, which means something that has actually been studied and has all the evidence and all the data to back it up. A ‘scientific theory’ is the closest we can get to saying something is true.
In the early 2000s some other people had the great idea of parodying that by saying “we think gravity is just a theory and we have our own idea of it which is called Intelligent Falling. So when you’re standing on the ground it’s not gravity that’s pulling you toward the ground it’s the hand of god that’s pushing you down” (laughs). So my song Just a Theory is based on ‘Intelligent Falling’ with my own twist. That song was my first foray into the satirical sceptic science path that I’m on today.”
You’ve always obviously been interested in science, was it something that you thought you’d progress into after high school if not music?
“Not science directly. I’ve always been a big sci-fi nerd and I used to work a day job in I.T. before I chose to pursue music full-time. I was always into science fiction and Astronomy and that melded into all things science. Some members of my family are the complete opposite, shall we say very “alternative”, and in a way I rebelled against that and it took me full on into the arms of science and actually needing evidence before believing in things. Even then I didn’t think I’d intentionally put it into my music – that came out naturally.”
From my point of view you remind me of Tim Minchin. The way you write your songs makes people think about what’s happening in the world.
“He’s pretty much my biggest idol, so it’s good to know that comes out. Tim has proved that people are interested in music that makes them think by making it fun and that’s the biggest lesson I’ve learned from him. Some people have described me as “like Tim Minchin on a guitar” which is flattering. While I absolutely love everything he does, I don’t want to follow it note for note, I don’t have the piano skills.”
So science has influenced you with your music but how about other artists.
“How long have you got? (laughs) In my teenage years it was all grunge and alternative rock, I wouldn’t touch anything else e.g. Grinspoon, The Living End, Powderfinger, Green Day which I still love today but thankfully I’ve since opened up my eyes, and my ears, to a lot of other things. I didn’t realise it at the time but when I was growing up I was exposed to a lot of my parent’s music, The Eagles, The Doobie brothers, The Seekers, The Beach Boys which is definitely where my love of vocal harmonies came from.”
You do everything yourself – ‘Conspiracy of One’ – but when you tour, you have a drummer and other band members?
“Conspiracy of one is the name of my solo project so I’m the only permanent member and I have a live band with a roster of awesome players that I can tailor to each show. For smaller and more intimate events I’ll play solo, and the larger the show the larger the band.”
It gives you complete artistic control over the music as well.
“Yes, that is a side effect of that. Mainly it just makes sense to me to keep it simple and to be versatile as well. The tour I just did in Melbourne was me by myself, it was much easier to fly down, play a couple of shows down there and fly back. The more interest I get in other places the more justification I’ll have to take the band with me, because unfortunately everything costs money.”
How many albums have you previous released?
“I have three self released EPs. The first two were solo acoustic. Until a couple of years ago that’s what Conspiracy of One originally was. I said it would only be acoustic and voice and that’s it, which in hindsight was silly. A couple of years ago I did a major shake-up in my definition of what Conspiracy of One was and made it more open so I could have a band and other things and that to me it can still be Conspiracy of One. It was really just about having it make sense in my own head.”
Playing around Brisbane for a few years now, I guess you’ve built quite a following?
“There are a number of people who really enjoy my music, it’s always so humbling and it means a lot to me when someone says they like what I’m doing. Especially when they say “when can I come and see you?“, which is what I want to do more than anything, write songs and perform them live. That’s always been my number one thing and if I can be doing that around the world for the rest of my life and make a living from it, then I will have ‘made it’.”
If you’ve got music in your blood it’s something you have to do no matter what.
“It is kind of like that, when I have an idea for a song it grabs me, like the idea for the new single, I feel this is good I have to get it out or at least down on a recording so that I can get it out of my head.”
With the single launch on Thursday will we hear any other new songs that night?
“I have another brand new song. I played it at Black Bear Lodge a month ago and it got great feedback. I’ve tested it at a few open mics around Brisbane and Melbourne but this will be the first time I’ve played it in public with the band. I’ll give you a hint, the name of the song is The Sound A Duck Makes and the rest you’ll have to wait until Thursday. It’s a fun song, with audience participation. You’ll find out about it then. It has nothing to do with ducks. The new single though, is definitely in the social commentary column rather than the science column. Every song I write usually has its own idea and story behind it. Sometimes I’ll just write a ‘normal song’ (in finger quotes) about my life. I’m 90% sure what is going to be my next single is definitely in that quirky science angle, it’s called We’re All Aliens Baby. It’s based on something called The Fermi Paradox.
The short version is that in the Milky Way there are at least a billion stars similar to ours and there should be at least a billion planets similar to Earth so statistically we should have seen evidence for life elsewhere but we haven’t, so where are all the aliens? That’s the Fermi Paradox basically. So without giving too much away, my next single is about that. Pondering where are all the aliens and are we alone? It’s a quirky melodic style, it’s actually a little bit reggae. I’ve never written anything in that style before. For me it was just trying something and thinking “that sounds cool” and running with it.
With every song I write I try to make something about it unique. I don’t want to be one of those artists where you listen to a whole album and all the songs sound the same. Even though some of my songs are a similar style, that funky riff-based sound, they all have something unique to that song.
My goal as a musician is not just to write songs but to get people interested in this world of science, scepticism and critical thinking by making it fun and accessible. I want to help people not fall into the traps that a lot of people do like when charlatans are trying to take them for a ride.
In my writing, I take on a lot of these aspects as my own, that’s where the satire angle comes in. For example, the song Just a Theory is from the point of view of someone who “really believes and if you believe hard enough you can do it too”. It’s a way of safely introducing people to these concepts so that when someone tries to con them for real they might think, “oh, that song said that same line”. Another example: my song It MUST be true! which has the line “Would I Lie To You?“, that song has a lot of me in it. I’m taking on the role of someone trying to sell you that thing, but because it’s in a song you’re not losing money or getting conned in real life so when someone comes along in real life and says, “I’ve got this little box with a blinking light that will cure your cancer”, you might think, “there was a song about that” and it might help to open your eyes to the fact that people are trying to sell you shit with no basis in science at all.
My goal over all is to be for others what Tim Minchin was for me. He was one of my gateways into science and scepticism. That’s what I want to achieve at the end of the day, to help people. And I’d love to open for Tim one day. That would be great. ”
So tell me, what is the best way fans can support local music?
“For me personally what means the most is that you’re listening. That’s the most important thing. Monetarily? Coming to the live shows. The more people I have coming the more justification I have to keep doing them and evidence I can do bigger shows next time. Buying the merch (shirts, CDs, etc). That also gives you something back, you’re giving money to the artist but you’re also getting something in return and something that says “yes I believe in this artist”. Streaming does make money but only with high volume. A hundred people listening to you on streaming is nothing. You need tens of thousands or more. So definitely add me on Spotify or whatever platform you listen on and poke your friends until they do the same.”
Where can people get a hold of your music if they want to support Conspiracy of One and buy the physical EPs.
“I have a web site www.conspiracyofonesolo.com you can order through there and I will personally post them out with a thank you note. ”
Conspiracy Of One launch the new single Don’t Forget To Like at 7pm on Thursday 25th of July at The Zoo in Fortitude Valley. It’s a huge night for launches as also on the bill that night are Star Pupil with their EP launch, and The Urban Sea EP launch.
Just $15 entry at the door, or buy early and save HERE.
You can listen to Don’t Forget to Like! on Spotify and Bandcamp and follow the link below to hear more from Conspiracy of One.