When the rave scene made it from England to Australia in the 1990s, Paul Mac helped to define the country's particular variant of techno. Mixing electronic and organic elements, over the years Mac championed the idea that you could get away with any kind of experimentation if you made sure there was a catchy enough beat underneath it. He also toured with full bands and multiple singers rather than just DJ'ing with a handful of dancers, borrowing rock's energy for his live shows, which eventually led to a fuller embracing of rock & roll's possibilities and several collaborations with the band silverchair.
Born Paul McDermott, he changed his name to avoid confusion with Paul McDermott from the Doug Anthony All-Stars (whom he eventually worked with), but ended up creating confusion with British DJ Paul Mac, also known as Paul Souter. After studying music at the Sydney Conservatorium, Mac became a member of Smash Mac Mac Mac in the '80s, introducing the Talking Heads copyists to drum machines and other electronic elements, which he also focused on with his next band, the Lab. He did the same when asked to remix several songs by ambient industrial band the Pelican Daughters, which impressed member Andy Rantzen, but not the rest of the group. In response, Rantzen ditched the band so that he and Mac could form the techno duo that would become Itch-E & Scratch-E.
At first their productions were jokey bedroom recordings, but as Sydney's rave scene exploded they became swept up in it, suddenly finding themselves media darling,s and their track "Sweetness and Light," from the 1994 album Itch-E Kitch-E Koo, becoming a hit. Reacting against the sudden intrusion of the media spotlight, Mac controversially thanked the drug dealers of Sydney in his acceptance speech when they were given an ARIA Award in the new category of best dance single, and the two changed their name to Boo Boo & Mace for their next release to escape some of the attention.
Mac's home studio in Sydney caught fire one night when a monitor exploded and he moved to the country, setting up in a house in the Blue Mountains. There he got away from the city's clubbing lifestyle and started embracing non-electronic instruments more fully. He played keyboard on several tracks for silverchair's 1999 album Neon Ballroom, which led to multiple collaborations with their lead singer Daniel Johns, including the EP I Can't Believe It's Not Rock, released in 2000, as well as becoming the band's live keyboardist for several tours. In the Blue Mountains studio Mac recorded his first solo album, 3000 Feet High. The songs on 3000 Feet High included contributions from a variety of vocalists, including Tex Perkins, Liz Martin, Peta Morris, and Abby Dobson from Leonardo's Bride. All of the lyrics were written by Mac, and despite being sung by others, they took on an almost confessional, autobiographical tone. The second single, "Just the Thing," was a hit, and the album was certified gold.
Mac had always alternated his releases with remixing work for groups including INXS, Placebo, the Mark of Cain, and Powderfinger. Now, he alternated his releases with work done in partnership with Daniel Johns. In 2004, they released a full album together, this time under the name the Dissociatives, with Julian Hamilton and Kim Moyes of the Presets rounding out the group. They also recorded the theme tune for quiz show Spicks and Specks, a version of the Bee Gees' song of the same name. When it came time to record a follow-up to his successful solo album, Mac began recording in London in an attempt to create the kind of slick pop music that would live up to people's expectations, but eventually scrapped all of that work and returned to Australia to record Panic Room in his home studio. Released in 2005, several of its singles made it into the national dance charts. ~ Jody Macgregor, Rovi