Prior to a recent club show in Rochester, NY I sat down with Tyson Illingworth, better known as tyDi, one of Australia’s most well-known producers and DJs. During our interview in the lobby of his hotel we talked about him, his thoughts on music, his new album and three things that always generate a lot of discussion – genres, ghost producing and pop music. He also had some candid thoughts on the latest trend from Australia, Melbourne Bounce.
tyDi is often criticized for “not being trance” anymore which he acknowledges but he’s still passionate about making music with emotion. The passion in his voice as he talked about music was contagious and I left the interview excited for the future as people like him are often trying new things, not just producing the same repetitive tracks over and over.
TSiD: How did you get started?
tyDi: I was originally a drummer in a rock band and I always thought that’s what I was going to do, be in a rock band like Blink 182 back then you know. I was listening to bands like The Used, Taking Back Sunday, Dashboard Confessional and that’s where I drew my influence from musically back then before I even heard dance music so I was into those real progressive rock songs that had those lyrics that really told a story and they were often dark lyrics and music that would move you and had creative motion. And then I heard electronic music and it swept me off my feet because the repetition and the way people reacted to it in a club. So I started diving into that and I heard a lot of music by BT and he was a huge influence. The cool thing today is that I write music with BT and some of the bands I mentioned like Dashboard Confessional are on my new album.
TSiD: Was there an influence when you started, like an Armin or a Tiesto?
tyDi: I think for everybody back then that Armin and Tiesto were definitely a huge influence, definite pioneers in trance music back then. Even today I’m not so much trance today as I used to be but I still haven’t lost that melodic kind of feel. All my songs are definitely progressive and have emotion to them. It’s funny that your company is The Scene is Dead, a lot of people get upset when I say this but I think that the old trance is dead. The way it used to be 10 years ago I think a lot of people need to just get over that that’s gone and that a lot of trance haters are often haven’t forgotten me because I’ve moved on to other sounds and things because it’s been done, that sound is old now and I’d like to think that my new music takes all the best elements that I used to love from trance and now it’s evolved.
TSiD: Agreed. I’ve been around for a long time and saw Armin and Tiesto in some of their first gigs in North America and the sound has evolved but the idea is still the same with emotion in music and the idea of a journey.
tyDi: Exactly, the new songs I’m writing can create that same emotion and those feelings, just not as fast as it used to be. Dance music used to be 138 bpm, now it’s 127 bpm I’m playing at around that tempo. It’s more about the groove and the melodic progression is still in there, the big break downs and all that stuff.
TSiD: I read a story about you sneaking out when you were 16 to fly to other cities and play gigs. At what point were you able to tell your parents about that?
tyDi: My dad found out by seeing it in a magazine or news paper article that said something like Sunshine Coast DJ taking Sydney’s club scene by storm or something like that. It was a local published magazine that was talking about a DJ, me, that was playing in another city at clubs. Dad saw that and I think he just laughed at it. I was going to school to on Friday and then I’d fly out that night, play shows in different cities, get back in time to go to school on Monday and never get caught.
TSiD: What does your family think of your career?
tyDi: They are definitely really proud. My family is pretty much cool with what I want to do. There was always like healthy skepticism from my dad thinking you know you should be a doctor or scientist kind of thing but I think that’s just every dad. It’s like having a son or daughter growing up to be a famous pop star and it’s like cool, that’s great dream but maybe also think realistic. So I had to pretend to be realistic but really I was dreaming the whole time.
TSiD: As you travel around the world, one weekend in China, the next in Washington D.C. do you get to take a moment to enjoy it all?
tyDi: Yea, I’m always enjoying it. For enjoying life I couldn’t have picked a better job for it. I was recently standing on the Great Wall of China, before that Taiwan, then Canada, here (Rochester, NY), Washington then Minneapolis then Los Angeles then Australia. It’s crazy. That’s the hardest thing about my career is the travel. So much time spent on planes but it’s worth it for the highs that I get when I’m on stage.
TSiD: Any challenges or nerves playing in a new city for the first time?
tyDi: There’s always the good nerves because I don’t know what to expect. I was tipped off in the car when the promoters picked me up they said that I beat the record for most tickets they’ve sold for an artist they’ve booked in this city. That’s great, it’s always complimenting because sometimes I get to a city and for the first time I always ask do you think it’s going to be a good show, do I even have fans here. They’ve said it’s going to be a big night so I have to hope I’ll give the crowd what they’re expecting.
TSiD: How do you pack when traveling around the world?
tyDi: I pack so light. It’s all carry on. I don’t ever check luggage in. it’s just one carry on bag and it’s always overweight but I have these tricks to get away with that. I usually distract them when they’re about to weigh it or ask them questions so they don’t weigh my bag. I just pack a weeks worth of clothes and if it’s a three-week tour I just have to wash in a hotel.
TSiD: I hear you’re a geek, is that in terms of electronics?
tyDi: I’m more of a geek in the sense that I have a degree in music. I’ve been a producer my whole life, a writer. It kind of all bundles in with what I do. Sound engineer, producer, writer, composer. Like my album, Hotel Rooms was all half orchestral, hybrid acoustic and chill out. Those weren’t even dance tracks. There was a lot of compositional work in those songs. These days I’m also a song writer, I don’t mean throwing a beat together. I get in the studio with bands and we sit down from scratch, I play a song on the piano and we talk about what the song is about. We go over the concept, write lyrics together and write a song. I’m a geek in that sense and in science I’m a big fan of physics.
TSiD: Given your background in music, when Above & Beyond announced their acoustic album and shows that must have grabbed your attention.
That was incredible. When I saw that they were doing it I just knew straight away that they’d nail it because I’ve met the guys a lot and they are just extremely talented writers. I wasn’t sure what to expect but they blew me away. To see how it was done and just put together, it was just so beautifully executed. I’m a huge fan.
TSiD: Does that open your eyes to maybe you can do something like that someday?
tyDi: Yea, in the future. Right now the focus is on the new album coming out and like I’m more in the electronic world. I did the Hotel Rooms project for a bit of fun but it’s not the main thing people know me for. Definitely down the road. I did do shows where I had a string quartet with me and live vocalist and guitars so I might do that at bigger shows.
TSiD: Are there any artists you specifically watch for in new tracks or that grab your attention?
tyDi: The crazy thing is that I haven’t shopped for music in years now because since I’ve had my radio show Global Soundsystem, it’s over 240 episodes. Every week I get sent music from young producers from all around the world and I get like 300 to 800 songs a week. Admittedly I have a guy that filters through it and just deletes the shit. It’s not like he’s there to just pick the songs but when you get sent 800 songs it’d be impossible for me and my schedule to listen to them all. He goes through and just deletes all the ones he knows I’m not going to like, just something terribly produced. He’ll cut it down to like a list of 100 that he thinks I’m going to like and I’ll go through 100 songs and pick out that ones that make the radio show that week and from that there might be two tracks in a show that I’ll choose to put in my club shows, it’s really a filtered process.
TSiD: Besides The Scene is Dead, I also help run the Schulz Army as well, a community of Markus Schulz fans around the world. We all know you from “Meet me in Kyoto”.
tyDi: He’s kind of the guy that gave me my break. “Meet Me in Kyoto” was one of the first songs that I ever wrote and I remember I was hitting up Armada for a while and trying to get them to listen to my music and sign me, it wasn’t going so well for a while and then Markus Schulz got a hold of it. He played it on his show, wanted it on his CD Amsterdam ’08 and then Armada went ok cool let’s sign this track and then I had this long history, many years with them. It was a great thing, guys like Armin and Markus like your music you can’t complain.
TSiD: Favorite trance track of all time?
tyDi: “White Room” by Andy Moor and Adam White
TSiD: Any rituals before gigs?
tyDi: Interviews are common, just a glass of wine or two in my hotel room and watching episodes of the Mentalist at the moment. I usually buy seasons of iTunes and watch it on my laptop. Just before the gig I like to play some of the tracks I’m going to play to get in that vibe.
TSiD: Favorite food?
tyDi: Seafood’s always a winner.
TSiD: What kind of phone do you have?
tyDi: The new MacBook with the retina.
TSiD: Assuming you keep backups in a cloud?
tyDi: I have the USB sticks that are backed up to the laptop in rekordbox and the laptop is backed up automatically so if I lose one on tour I can just get it back up straight away. The USB sticks, I always have three and always cycle them through shows.
TSiD: Where do you keep all of your kandi that fans give you at gigs?
tyDi: I have these things that hang jewelry on, like a tree and I just stack it all on that! I think my coolest collection is hotel room key cards. It’s something like thousands now, if you stack it from the floor it’s taller than me now. I’ve kept every hotel room key card for the last six years. All different counties, all different hotels and keys. It’s cool to look back at them and a good reminder of the crazy shit I did.
- Part 2: tyDi Talks About His New Album, Redefined
- Part 3: Discussing Genres, Ghost Producing, Top 40 and the USA with tyDi