Hailing from Down Under and now based in Berlin, producer and DJ Tornado Wallace has worked solo and in collaborative projects for labels such as Beats In Space, Second Circle and ESP Institute, all the while spreading the word about Melbourne house and disco parties C Grade and Animals Dancing. Having just signed to Gerd Janson’s Running Back label for his debut album as Tornado Wallace – entitled Lonely Planet and four years in the making – Shawn Reynaldo catches up with the cosmic Aussie about his influences and journey so far on RBMA Radio’s First Floor.
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When you’re in Berlin, or even when you’re traveling to DJ, do you feel like people have a certain impression of Australia and its music scene? How right or wrong do you feel like that impression is?
When I started playing shows overseas in 2010 or 2011, I found that some people had a condescending attitude towards Australia. They might say, “Oh, you know, here in Berlin, this is what we listen to. You should be playing this and doing this.” It was never really anyone that was necessarily very involved in the music scene – just punters, I suppose.
But a lot has changed since then. A lot of producers and promoters in Melbourne have gotten more recognition internationally and I think there’s a lot of respect about what’s happening in Australia, specifically in Melbourne. People want to talk about what’s happening here and I’m always really happy and eager to talk about in turn.
Do you feel like there’s anything particularly Australian about your own music?
I’m not too sure about that. I do music with a friend as Coober Pedy University Band and we definitely try to have an Australiana element – whether it’s a subtle reversed guitar effect, or just a straight-up didgeridoo sample. We certainly try to bring home the Australian element, but with my own production as Tornado Wallace I don’t have too much conceptually going on in my head while I’m making music. I’m just trying to do what I feel sounds nice at the time.
Lonely Planet is your first album. What made you want to tackle the full-length format?
It’s been in the works for about four years now. I’ve put out a lot of music during that period, but there’s been some music I made that didn’t feel right to put out as an EP. After enough time, I realized I had a few strong tracks and that it would be worth looking towards assembling it as an album. I would say that I tackled and put that at the front of my brain, and made an album more of my focus.
This is your first release on Running Back. How did you make the connection with the label?
I knew [Running Back label boss] Gerd Janson through playing shows with him and bumping into him in various parts in the world. I’ve shared music with him, too, and he’s shared music with me. I sent him an EP a while back, and wrote back to me quite interested in it, but I never got his email and I ended up releasing that EP on another label. We probably thought of each other as jerks or something, because of the lack of response, but then we saw each again and had a laugh about it. When the album came along I sent it his way, and we were both on board straight away. I’m happy to move ahead with it on Running Back.
There’s a very cohesive sound to the album. Was there any kind of unifying concept that you had in mind when you were putting it together?
Not necessarily. I wanted the tracks to blend well because they have been made over such a long time and I’ve spent a lot of time on the tracks individually – that’s the only unifying thing. Most of my EPs were made quite quickly and I think that worked in their favor. But I spent quite a bit of time on these album tracks, so it took quite a while to narrow it down to the final seven. As soon as I had the seven tracks in question, it was just a matter of mixing them all and making them sound like a whole.
Some of the sounds that you referenced on the album – new age, Balearic music and ’80s synth – are sounds that were very much unfashionable even just a few years ago. What do you think it is about these genres that is resonating with people now? You’re certainly not the only producer dabbling in those sounds.
Yeah. I’m not sure if it’s because of nostalgia, or people giving up and realizing that everything’s already being done – if people are thinking, “OK, if everything is being done, then what do I like?” There’s certainly an element of that of me. I’ve been searching through different sounds and eras that I like to listen to, mushing them together and using some modern technology tricks in the mix to give them a fresh approach.