It’s been nearly impossible not to have heard of Tornado Wallace over the last couple of years. Following an explosive debut with the Tornado Never Dies EP on Sleazy Beats Recordings, The Australian Tornadian (a.k.a. Lewie Day) has rapidly become a breakout act of the flourishing Melbourne scene he hails from. His productions combine earlier house influences with mid-tempo, sample-heavy disco leanings, resulting in something utterly entertaining and intriguing. Further releases have called home to revered labels such as Delusions of Grandeur and Instruments of Rapture, and he also keeps busy remixing up-and-comers (Nile Delta, Loin Brothers) and indie juggernauts (Cut Copy) alike. Last month saw the release of his third EP on Delusions, and as you’ll find out below, next year promises to be even bigger.
I was recently offered the chance to ask the man himself a few questions ahead of the new record, Underground Sugar Caves, along with a full-length excerpt, Insect Overlords, for your listening pleasure (you may have noticed that he likes The Simpsons).
ND: You just finished a summerlong tour around the UK and Europe. How did it go? Did you notice any new developments since your last visit?
TW: It was great. A pretty relaxed affair really, given that I moved into an apartment in London with my girlfriend for the 6-month duration. So I guess in that way it wasn’t so much a tour, but rather a temporary relocation – which made the whole experience more comfortable and worthwhile.
On a whole, I could see that the ‘UK sound’ had become much more prominent in nightclubs throughout UK and Europe. The stalwarts of that scene seemed to be much busier, and those DJs who would usually not be associated with that sound tended to play several ‘bass’ (for lack of a better term) tracks in an otherwise house/techno set. I believe the more variation a DJ set has, the more enriching the experience is for the audience, as long as it’s done with thought and precision. So it was great to hear said variation, and great to see the crowds responding well to it.
ND: Your most recent release was on Graeme Clarke (The Revenge)’s Instruments of Rapture label. How did you end up working with him?
TW: Graeme really helped me get my Tornado Wallace material out in the big bad world. What started as me sending him a yousendit link on MySpace in 2009 inadvertently ended up with my first EP on Sleazy Beats, which really kick started all the other opportunities I’ve had since. So I’ve been in touch with him for a while.
But there’s actually another story behind how the Instruments Of Rapture EP came about. Graeme was in Melbourne and my manager thought it would be a nice idea to take him out on his boat (I was out of town at the time, so please allow a 20% margin of paraphrasing-related error). G’s not too good on boats usually but after some convincing and being the good sport he is, they set off only to stop a few hundred meters into Melbourne’s bay when the engine started smoking. As James (manager) pretended that everything was ok and that he knew how to fix the problem, G calmed the growing anxiety levels and after a tense hour the engine sputtered to life – minutes before the passengers resorted to *cannibalism.
Perhaps it was gratitude at the realization that they weren’t going to spend the next couple of days slowly drifting towards Tasmania, but James had my newly completed ‘Rainbow Road’ playing over the sound system and G liked what he heard so he contacted me about a IOR release, and I of course said yes.
*Some journalistic assumptions were made.
ND: What is it about Melbourne that has made it such a thriving hotspot in today’s underground house scene?
TW: I think your guess is as good as mine. As far as I see it, it’s the same bunch of dudes doing the same thing they’ve done for years. The globalization of the music scene via the Internet has made it much easier to get the music to the right ears. It used to be hard to be taken seriously if you live so far away from the musical hotspots such as UK and Europe, but I think the Internet has taken the emphasis off the importance of where you come from, and has placed more value on the music itself.
I remember only a few years ago Mic Newman and I had a hard time getting our music released. The music didn’t suit any local labels, and none of the international labels who we sent our music to would even listen to our music. We had neither the connections, nor the know-how to start up our own label, but we eventually found a couple of European-based Beatport-only type labels who were willing to put the music out. The sales reports we got back were hilarious. These tracks that we spent so much time working on would sell between 20-100 digital units and that was it. But the music somehow sieved through to a few tastemakers and we started catching some breaks with releases on labels like murmur and Dirt Crew and Delusions Of Grandeur.
ND: Your material draws heavily from the 70s and 80s. In what ways do you put your own spin on the music you are sampling or editing?
TW: I’ve been writing electronic music for about 10 years and only in the last 4 years have I really taken sampling seriously. So it is a relatively new thing for me. I used to see it as cheating, which helped my production skills as I learned how to use synthesizers and play instruments myself – but after admitting to myself that most of my favourite dance tracks of the past 20 years unashamedly used sampling in some capacity, I gave it a chance and found that there was a richness and soul that I wasn’t getting otherwise. So I got a bit sample-happy there for a while, but I’ve since found that a marriage between both approaches is a medium that reaps the best results for me.
ND: When it comes to vinyl-only releases in the MP3 Age, do you feel there is a difficult compromise between the special, tangible quality of a rare record and the limited exposure resulting from its exclusivity?
TW: It depends who you are and your reasons for doing it. I think vinyl-only labels can be placed into one of three categories. There are those labels who have always put out vinyl-only releases and have done it because they love records, only ever play records and aren’t interested in the extra income a digital release might potentially bring. Then there are the labels that are worried about sample clearance and who don’t want to take a risk of releasing something digitally, which might get them into some legal hot water down the track. And then there are a few labels out there who I think are a bit guilty of doing a vinyl-only thing because deliberately creating something rare in this market in turn makes it a bit more special. I have at least a crateful of records I have bought under this pretense. Records I have rarely (and sometimes never) played as the idea of the record being scarce overwhelmed the actual music.
Please excuse my appalling generalisations.
ND: Do you ever make a conscious decision to release on vinyl before being published by a label?
TW: I like to play records as well as CDs, so I like my music to come out in both formats. For the time being, I would not release any of my original productions in a digital only format. The lay of the land will of course change over time, and I am happy to adapt to the market but when a release is done through the right label and distributor there is still a way of justifying the costs necessary to press records.
ND: House music aside, what artists and producers have caught your ear lately?
TW: I love everything ESP Institute, International Feel and Golf Channel put out. There are ‘house’ flavours to some of the releases, but in general that sometimes balaeric/sometimes jazzy/sometimes rocky sound that all three labels maintain really floats my boat time and time again.
I don’t listen to too much new non-dance music. Between digging through old records for samples and trying to keep up with the endless barrage of new dance releases I have a hard time fitting in any other music. It’s a bit pathetic and one thing I wish to change in the future.
ND: Are there other styles or genres you’d like to try your hand in, possibly under a different pseudonym?
TW: At the moment I’m working on a project with a friend from Melbourne, which will feature another mate who is becoming an increasingly popular singer here in M-Town. We have self-named our intended style as ‘krautback’. We are hoping to have some releases ready for early 2012.
ND: Beyond the upcoming EP on DOG, what else is in Tornado Wallace/Lewie Day’s near future?
TW: Aside from the aforementioned side project, I am working on an album for Delusions which I hope to have ready for a release around the middle of 2012.
ND: Finally, describe the first image that pops into your head when thinking of Miami.
TW: I guess a silhouetted palm tree against a pink sky. Pretty cliché huh?!
As promised, we have an exclusive stream of the track Insect Overlords in its entirety