Tyson O’Brien’s had a mammoth six years of DJing. A OneLove darling, he’s cut his teeth working with Skrillex, Calvin Harris and Nicky Van She. He finally released his debut single in August, which was recently named Stereosonic’s official 2014 anthem. He chats to ZOE KILBOURN ahead of Stereosonic this Saturday-Sunday, November 29-30, at Claremont Showgrounds.
He may have had a classically ladsy career, but if you were going to give Tyson O’Brien any basic descriptor, you’d probably say he’s a good bloke. He comes across as one of those traditionally happy-go-lucky larrikins, wedged into high-flying club culture. That attitude might’ve gotten him his big break, he says.
“It’s kind of one of those things where I was in the right place at the right time,” O’Brien says. “Like, I was DJing all these hipster records, all the Ed Banger stuff and the early electro house in like 2006, and then that became the popular thing, and it just so happened I was at the forefront of that, and OneLove picked me up. When they were doing tours, I’d be in the back room DJing away, and the acts would come through the back room to get to the stage and see me playing all these completely different records, and after their set they’d usually come and go back-to-back with me.
“I met all these amazing DJs through my clubbing experience, which was just super lucky. I guess I’ve got a nice smile and can tell a good joke, so they keep coming back and keep wanting to hang out. I guess if you’re nice and friendly, who knows what could happen?”
The Weekend, his production debut, has finally cemented his reputation as one of the hardest working DJs in Australia (if not in the studio sense).
It’s been absolutely mental. If life wasn’t crazy enough already, the way the single’s been going, it’s been amazing and it’s just taken things to a new level. Fortunately or unfortunately, I’m getting less sleep than ever, and I’m actually kind of enjoying it.”
O’Brien’s known for hard partying – there’s a widely circulated story about a two week Ibiza trip involving a mere 27 hours of sleep – but he links his passion for late club nights to an innate night owlishness.
“Well, I guess it all’s down to just my own love for staying up and doing my own thing,” he says. “Like, even through high school, once I’d finished my homework I’d then want to do my own thing, and the only time you could do that was late at night, so I’d sneak off and play some PlayStation or go out in the backyard and play some basketball and annoy my neighbours like that. It’s all sort of developed as I grew up. It became a sort of, ‘Well, I do my best work after 3a.m., and that’s not a normal thing. Most people go home at 3a.m. and I’m just getting started.’ I don’t know what that is. I definitely prefer the night to the day. It might be my white skin telling me to stay out of the sun and keep hanging in the dark.”
This particular sleepless streak is down to the release of his debut single, The Weekend (with old mate Nicky Van She). Like Nicky’s recent house anthem Everybody Together, The Weekend is rooted in that old Chicago sound: shamelessly soulful vocals, a piano hook, relentless 4/4 hand claps, even a shout out to jacking.
O’Brien’s got pretty generous DJ tastes, but The Weekend could almost serve as a personal aesthetic manifesto.
“I like a lot of genres of music, and it’s very hard to define my sound,” he says. “And that’s why I think when I finished making that record, that was finally the time I felt‘ This is me, I can put this out now.’ I’d incorporated a friendship with Nicky, which is good, which I think I’m all about, and also the ‘90s house vibe. It’s a tiny bit EDMish, but also the guitar – I’ve played guitar for years, and that guitar solo throughout it is me. When I did The Weekend, I think it was one of those records that’s just like, ‘Yeah, OK, this is me.’ There’ve been others before which are never gonna see the light of day, but this was the right one.
“I’m a big fan of 4/4. Straight up, 126 BPM, four-to-the-floor stuff, that’s my style. But I can totally see the amazement and love for a lot of the other stuff that’s coming out of Australia right now. Some of the sounds coming out at the moment – they might not be my style, but they’re fucking amazing. Some of the kids that are making some of the most incredible music at the moment – like, Hayden James can make a 100 BPM track sound so fast and so sexy, and it’s a really slowed-down tempo that just makes you wanna groove. Anything that makes you move is not a bad thing. If people are dancing, I’m happy. It doesn’t matter what you’re listening to – everyone’s got their own sort of idea about what they like, but if you’re dancing, it’s a good thing for all of us.”
2014 marks O’Brien’s third Stereosonic but his third on the mainstage (“I’ve done the circuit, I’ve done it a fair bit, but this year’s kind of like the step up”).
“I think I’ve got to play a bit bigger,” he says. “I’m usually playing club shows with under a thousand people, and you can kind of vibe of a crowd more. At a music festival where there’s 30,000 people in front of you, it’s kind of hard to see what people are individually vibing on, but I’m just gonna go out there and do my thing and try and enjoy it, and try and – not educate – but open up the minds of people, that’s there’s more to it than yelling, ‘Put your hands in the air like you really don’t care’, and that there’s dancing. If I can bring some dancing to the main stage early on, I’ll be happy.”