Welcome Tommie to the DMC world. Well first up, living in Brooklyn, how was Huricanne Irene this weekend? “It was a panic button that should have never been pushed. I’m in Milan, Italy now playing the Magnolia Parade alongside Digitalism, Crystal Fighters, Buraka Som Sistema & Carte Blanche.”
So back to Naperville in Illinois. A colourful household to grow up in. Tell us about your fabulous siblings who must have had an influence in who you are today? What are your favourite memories…?
“My oldest sister blasting music out while putting on make-up getting ready to go to the disco as she did six night’s a week, my other sister bringing Soft Cell and Talking Heads albums home from university and my brother playing in a New Wave band in high school introducing me to Gary Numan and Devo.”
An interesting tale behind your love of music concerning how your parents would drive two cars to the record store where you worked so you could sleep in one overnight…what was all that about?!?
“I used to always sleep out for concert tickets. Many a time I got within the first ten rows. I began this ritual at around 14. Alice Cooper with an unknown opening band from LA, Guns & Roses was the best one from those days.”
One of the reasons DMC love you is that growing up, you opened your mind to ANY music. You went to any live gigs be it Metal or Rock and met the bands, a familiar facealways hanging around. Who did you kick around with, who gave you great advice, whose conversations will you treasure for ever.
“Nirvana, Faith No More, Black Crowes, Public Enemy, Ride, Lenny Kravitz and Primal Scream all were backstage nights to remember. I also had a great dinner with Richard Butler of Psychedelic Furs after which we went to see Violent Femmes play live and more like my present life I took EMF out clubbing the night ‘Unbelievable’ went to No. 1 on the Pop chart in America.”
At that time, did you have aspirations to become a producer – if you didn’t, what DID you want to be?
“I wanted to work at a major label after working in record stores for years as a teenager. I think I made the right choice! YIKES!!!”
When therefore, did that magic moment happen when the dance music gates open and you stepped through? Was it one particular record you heard, one club, one DJ…?
“The records were Vouyou ‘Houseman’, Nitzer Ebb ‘Join In The Chant’, Bigod 20 ‘What Acid?’ and Front 212 ‘Welcome To Paradise’. The club was Medusas which was all ages from 7-10 and then we would sneak into the 18+ part from 11-4 well before we were 18. Best selling author Neil Strauss was a resident DJ there in its heyday.”
Where was your first DJing break? What was your mixing like first time up?
“I used to play in the second room at raves in the Midwest. For the first few years I DJ’d I never mixed. It was a very eclectic mix of Disco, New Wave, Acid House, Industrial and Old Skool Hip Hop; all done well, sorted on all kinds of chemical enhancement.”
What DJs were you giving props to as a new kid on the block? Who did you respect?
“Woody McBride gave me my first DJ gig. My heroes at the dawn of things were him, Terry Mullan, Miles Maeda, Lenny Dee, Diz, Mark Farina and the king of kings, Derrick Carter.”
I interviewed Robin S last week, she moved to Atlanta from Brooklyn a few years ago, she moved there for a slower pace of life..what was your reason to move from the Midwest?
“Honestly, it was to get away from drugs. The rave scene had gotten heavy duty and if I had stayed in the Midwest I would have died. Plus I knew I could bring Chicago House Music to the South which I successfully did while running the record store.”
A great story of how you got the job at Satellite Records and within three weeks was asked to open for The Chemical Brothers…
“Yeah, I had NO IDEA how to mix but I was playing Fast Eddie, Adonis & Phuture records and for most of my set The Chems were going crazy which everyone seemed to notice. I was also given a 2 year Friday night residency because of that gig so things came quickly at the start. I had my programming down well before I had my technical skill.”
What are the finest 10 Hip Hop Records ever…?
In no particular order here are 12 that made the biggest impact on me, I can’t knock two out, I just can’t…
Kurtis Blow “The Breaks”
Public Enemy “Night of the Living Baseheads”
Jeru the Damaja “Come Clean”
Organized Konfusion “Releasing Hypnotical Gases”
Dr. Octagon “Earth People”
LL Cool J “I Can’t Live Without My Radio”
Main Source feat. NaS & Fatal “Live At The BBQ”
NWA “Straight Outta Compton”
Beastie Boys “Slow And Low”
Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five feat. Melle Mel & Duke Bootee “The Message”
Boogie Down Productions “9MM Goes Bang”
De La Soul “Me, Myself & I”
What do you think of the current state of the world of money involved in Hip Hop today and the artists involved; Jay-Z, Snoop, Eminem and Kanye West, Puff for instance…where will it end?
“Well most Hip Hop is Dance Music now so I would be so bold as to say that Hip Hop has lost grip of its reigns a bit. I think the whole world wants raw honesty about the street and as soon as that comes back into the music things will be back to normal in Hip Hop. As always it’s going to take someone young and pissed not old and rich like the guys mentioned above. OFWGKTA are young but they don’t seem pissed enough to me. We need another Public Enemy to shake the shit out. I’m patiently waiting.”
What are the big ten tunes you are spinning right now?
“As always I am entrenched in so many new sounds so rather than do a Top Ten I will give you who I’m actually listening to and it’s a varied list of The Dove, Loops Of Fury, JSK, David Heartbreak, Modek, Ado, Fuser, Tai, Dillon Francis, DJ Antention, Huoratron, Dan Aux, Mumbai Science, Midnight Magic, Dances With White Girls, Tiger And Woods, RipTidE, Toadally Krossed Out, Soul Clap, Gesaffelstein, Fat & Ugly, Gregori Klosman, Zedd, Neoteric, Wax Motif, Audionite, Botnek, Black Asteroid, TWR72, The Magician, Mahesa Utara, Jessica 6, Elektropusher, Sidney Samson, Nom de Strip, The Disco Fries, Codes, Gianni Marino & Jon Giovanni. I also love the consistency of Afrojack, Bart B More, Evil Nine, Dimitri from Paris & believe it or not, I’m enjoying Tiesto’s transformation into playing quite amazing and cutting edge music.”
I was the first promoter who took one of the nicest men in dance music to Ibiza to DJ at my night at Pacha – Felix Da Housecat. And by law I am not allowed to tell you what happened to him that week. How did you two first meet – I know he has been a big influence?
“He walked into Satellite Records and literally looked at me and said, “I’m working on an album called Thee Maddkatt Courtship, I would love to collaborate with you.” It was truly that simple”
Favourite Miss Kitten story, a good friend…
“Caroline is nothing but sweet and is such a super huge fan of music. It’s always good to see her and wish we crossed paths more often.”
What did you bring to the ‘Thee Maddkatt Courtship’ first release…were you nervous sifling through your early disco records wondering what to take to the studio – the FIRST ever studio you’d seen?
“On that record I am responsible for “Zone Tonight” and Felix and I recorded “Cosmic Pop” live; working the faders while muting and unmuting the mixing board over each others shoulders. I also brought “Cry Baby” into Felix’s world which was released at Aphrohead & on the “Kittenz & Thee Glitz” album I wrote lyrics to “Silver Screen (Shower Scene)”& “Happy Hour”, recorded “Glitz Rock” with Felix much like “Cosmic Pop”, “The Enter View” is Felix & I talking to each other and brought the musical elements of “Harlot” & “Magic Fly” to the table. For the “Devin Dazzle” album I wrote both lyrics and music and also co-produced “Rocket Ride” & “Everyone Is Someone In LA”. I was always nervous but it was all such a magical time. I think I still get a little nervous every time I step in the studio.”
Village Voice magazine crowned you “Best DJ with ridiculous fashion sense” in their Best Of 2004 issue…comments please?
“Being acknowledged as unique in New York City is a compliment no matter how you slice it.”
Which six people dead or alive do you invite to your Christmas dinner party?
“Warhol, Lennon, Kerouac, Eno, Hemmingway and Gauguin.”
We love Arthur Baker at DMC – a good friend of yours. Tell us the funniest/most memorable tale with Mr B…
“He stopped by a mix session at a big studio in NYC and I thought he wasn’t listening. Abruptly he stood up and said, “it’s great, stop fucking with it.” This was when I knew what a genius he was because the best trait any producer could ever possess is know when to stop the insanity and call the track finished.”
You are well known for starting your sets back in the rave days with psychedelic / rock tunes before the big acid house classics kicked in. What was the reaction from the crowd, what/who eventually made you see the light of day and drop the weird stuff !?
“Did I drop the weird stuff? I feel like the Electronic Music I play now is more psychedelic than any of the Rock tunes ever were.”
Talk us through a day in the life of Tommie Sunshine…
“I have music playing in my brain from the time I open my eyes to the time I sleep at night and sometimes dream of listening or making music. I am a simple man who is very much in love and I lead a simple life filled with love.”
What is your greatest weakness?
“I’m a recovering alcoholic and drug addict over 6 years sober. I took the escape I used to get from drink and drugs and now get even higher playing and making music. But that weakness will always remain even though I know I will never go back to that dark place.”
What is the finest piece of music you have ever produced?
“So far it’s been “Bodywork” but I believe it hasn’t been made yet and I can’t wait to make it. Also there are a few things I’ve done this year that no one has heard yet that I’m really proud of; Tommie Sunshine & Disco Fries “Don’t Look Back”, Tommie Sunshine & Midnight Magic “I Found Love” & the full length I’ve made with Bart B More & RipTidE as Horsepower.
Ever been starstruck?
“Many times but the two times that stand out were meeting Kevin Shields when he was touring with Primal Scream and recently Brett Easton Ellis who my muse, Daniela and I just stood in front of and kept saying “Thank You!” over and over like fools.”
Have you ever turned down a really famous artist who has asked for your help reworking their latest track?
“Yes, I never messed with a song I couldn’t find something I liked about it.”
You have travelled the world fifty times over supporting the likes of Fischerspooner, New Order and 2 Many DJs. What have been your favourite travel tales DJing…any rock n’ roll in there?
“Lots of Rock n’ Roll in there but honestly I think Dance Music culture and how hard people party makes Rock musicians look like children, honestly. When I did the Fischerspooner tour I felt like their child at the end. I always seem to cry at the end of a long tour.”
What do you think is the greatest record ever made?
“This is a lot to ask from a man like me. Here’s what I can come up with in a pinch: Serge Gainsbourg “Histoire de Melody Nelson”, My Bloody Valentine “Loveless”, Primal Scream“Scremadelica”, The KLF “Chill Out” & The Orb “Adventures Beyond The Ultraworld” for albums. Phuture “Acid Trax”, Sabres of Paradise “Smokebelch II” [David Holmes Mix], Marshall Jefferson “Move Your Body (House Music Anthem)”, Justice “Waters Of Nazareth” [Justice Remix], Underworld “Mmm Skyscraper I Love You”, Robert Owens “I’ll Be Your Friend”, The Chemical Brothers “Chemical Beats” and Frankie Knuckles presents Jaimie Principle “Your Love” for singles.
So we come back to yours after a club. DMC ask you to play a Back To Mine set. What 10 tunes do you drop at YOUR house party…
“The above tracks would be one hell of a set but again, this isn’t even a fair question but I’ve give it my best shot: Flash In The Pan “Walking In The Rain”, Madonna “Holiday”, Fad Gadget – “Coitus Interruptus”, Donna Summer “Love To Love You Baby” [LP Version], Serge Gainsbourg “Bonnie & Clyde”, Benny Goodman feat. Helen Forrest “Perfidia”, Frank Sinatra “I Get A Kick Out Of You”, Fleetwood Mac “Tusk”, Jimi Hendrix “Are You Experienced?” & Gina X Performance “NO G.D.M.”
And finally, how would you like to be remembered in the music world?
“I would like to be remembered simply as a musical clairvoyant & truth teller.”
Thank you dude. A real pleasure thinking and asking questions to someone who has music in their heart.
“Dan, I don’t understand people who do not have music in their hearts. They have no idea what they are missing out on in life.”
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