Prediction: Tommy Trash will be electronic dance music fans’ next obsession. The Australian DJ/producer’s latest offerings are working their way into other spinners’ sets, but we’ll get to check ’em out firsthand during Tommy’s Electric Daisy Carnival gig on June 9 in the Neon Garden at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, then at Marquee Nightclub on June 15. We caught up with Tommy (a.k.a. Thomas Olsen) to talk stuffed animals, shampoo and surprising sounds.
When talking to other producers, many are big supporters of your music. Would you say you’re a “DJ’s DJ”?
No, I don’t think I am. I see the “DJ’s DJ” thing is more like the tech-house guys, not so much the bigger-end guys. More like the guys from the Dirtybird label; to me, they’re the DJ’s DJ.
Since you have a classical music training background, is it frustrating to see other guys blow-up that have never touched an instrument?
No, I think that’s the beauty of music these days. For a lot of these people, the music program like Ableton or Logic or whatever program they use—that’s they’re instrument. There’s definitely no frustration or anything like that. For me, I got into the dance music game quite late. For me, I was studying to be a trumpet player at university. Dance music wasn’t even on my radar. A lot of these people that are young that have blown up, they’ve blown up before I even starting to make dance music.
On your tracks “The End” and “Future Folk” you’ve somehow made the sound of bagpipes cool. Will that continue as a signature Tommy Trash sound?
I’ve been debating whether or not to whip out another bagpipe tune. “The End” was completely experimental. Then I made “Future Folk,” because at that stage, no one was really playing “The End,” and I was a bit frustrated. I made “Future Folk” with exactly the same sound, and that got signed by Tiësto—and then “The End” started blowing up. I just thought “I’ll try again with ‘Future Folk’” and that “The End” was a failure. But that’s the only reason why there were two songs in a row that had that same sound. I’m not sure if I’ll do a third, but maybe. Never say never.
Maybe a trilogy!
The trilogy of bagpipes! [Laughs]
What other instruments might you incorporate that are atypical to EDM?
Not sure. The thing is with the bagpipes sound, it wasn’t bagpipes, it was just a synthesizer that I processed. It’s not like I’m gonna go out and buy a sample CD with some more ethnic instruments to see what mix and ethnic instrument I’m going to use in the day. I think everday I’m going to keep experimenting with new sounds and they’re probably not going to be ethnic-sounding instruments. It’s probably just going to be crazy synth and that’s it. And it will sound like it will end up sounding like. I don’t want to be too calculated with that because I think you’re playing a dangerous game when you start trying to calculate things a little bit too much. It could become a little bit insincere, very predictable and just boring (laughing). I’m going to try to keep things kinda fresh.
What’s the most unusual sample you’ve incorporated?
I sampled myself peeing in the toilet. I used it as a high hat. That is 100 percent the truth. It’s the crispiest pee you’ve ever heard.
You test-drive your tracks live on the road. Anything royally flop?
I haven’t had a bad experience in the States, but in Australia, when I first played “The End,” it cleared the dance floor! Yeah, it fucking cleared it—really quickly, too. As soon as that bagpipe came in, bang! They’re off.
Now they’d probably eat it up.
Yeah, thanks to Swedish House Mafia. They made it sort of into a pop record. [Laughs]
Love your “How to Make Babies” mix tape. What’s the story behind that?
It was a mini-mix I did for BBC graduate-school radio show. And I thought, “I guess I put it up on SoundCloud now,” one night when I was drunk. It was kind of a joke because it was only eight minutes long, and, you know, that’s all the time you need! Just stupid boys-being-boys kind of thing.
What’s your drink of choice?
Depends on what day of the week. Definitely Grey Goose.
Goose and Red Bull, Goose mixed with cranberry…?
Straight from the bottle. It’s the only way.
Do you have a particular hangover cure?
I don’t normally get hangovers from Grey Goose. When you start mixing it with sweet things is when you start to get in trouble. I’m a seasoned professional at this. I’ve known many a hangover in my lifetime. But Grey Goose, I rarely drink that much to get hangovers. I’m getting old. When you get to my age [which is kept a secret] you have to slow down a bit.
Fans often bring gifts to their favorite DJs. What could they bring you at EDC?
One gig in Chicago, they gave me Tommy the Trashy Turtle. You squeeze its shell and it screams at me: “You motherfucker! You fucking suck!” I love anything starting with the name Tommy that is a stuffed animal. And I love Grey Goose, so all drinks are always welcome at any time.
You’ve got pretty luscious hair. What kind of products do you use?
Right now, whatever is the hotel shampoo and conditioner. People do bring me hair products to my gigs.
So for EDC, I should bring you a stuffed animal named Tommy holding a mini bottle of Grey Goose in one hand, shampoo in the other?
I would probably explode if someone brought me that!
People ask what tracks of a producer’s should they check out, but any tracks of yours new listeners should avoid?
Probably the first four years of my catalog. The whole four years.
So if people are looking you up, just ignore the first four years?
They’d probably think it’s a different guy. They’d probably think that I get someone else to do my productions now. But it was all me!
Speaking of others making tracks for bigger names, what’s your view on ghost producers?
I see the really big DJs as being CEOs of a massive company. In any big company there’s a CEO that doesn’t do every single thing himself. He has staff who can get the job done. I don’t see why music necessarily has to be any different to that. But the thing is guys like Guetta and Tiësto they know exactly what they want so they can do what they want. I actually haven’t been to the studio with them so I can’t comment on how they work in the studio. But these are guys that have been on the top of their game for longer than most younger guys have even been making music. I think it’s whatever; do whatever you feel is right for you. People today are very quick to criticize people. It’s one of those things, I don’t think it matters how they get what they get. But when someone’s that big for a long time, they’re obviously doing something right! (laughing)