Between touring Australia and heading out on the road in the USA (first stop, SXSW!) we caught up with DJ and producer Ryan Hemsworth in his home town of Toronto, where he gave us the lowdown on his transition from music blogger to music maker.
Interview by Ally Mullen | Photographs by Aaron Wynia
Hi Ryan! Introduce yourself in one sentence…
I'm a really good baker of cookies who happens to produce music on the side.
You've gone from being a music writer and blogger to a world-touring DJ. How did your journey begin?
I've been making music since middle school, but when university time came I had to figure that out; I chose a profession that allowed me to continue enjoying music and writing about it. I didn't want to actually study music because I didn't think I was smart enough and I thought it would take away the feeling you get from accidentally making noises that sound good and not knowing why.
What is it about a song makes you want to mix it?
I just have to really like it, pretty much. I mean there's stuff I love that I'd never mess with, but it's usually just loving a song and feeling like there's enough space in it to add my own sound or twist it around to make people hear how good it sounds to my ears.
How would you describe the way you make music?
All over the place…indecisive. I can rarely get the sounds in my head translated into my recordings perfectly, but that usually allows for nice surprises when I try.
Everyone has their own opinion on your sound. How would you describe it?
Sleepy, sexy, sad, happy and cute is the aim.
What's the longest you've gone without listening to music?
Usually when tours end my ears hurt and I'm hungover for, like, two days, so I open my iTunes and it'll be like "Alanis Morissette" in the search bar or something weird and I have no recollection of why I'd have been searching for it.
Have you ever gotten feedback from an artist whose track you sampled?
Grimes seemed happy about the remix I did of her track "Genesis." The best reaction is when an artist is happy enough with a remix that they want to work on new music together [see Tinashe and Mikky Ekko].
You've been known to use video game noises in your songs. What are some of your favorite games to play?
Silent Hill, Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, EarthBound, Street Fighter II Turbo, Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped.
You just toured Australia before heading to Austin. What was it like?
Australia is wacky and awesome and I love those Aussies. They're nuts and love a good party and I'm usually pretty lame and sleepy so it's good to be around that attitude sometimes.
Who are five new musicians to look out for at this year's SXSW?
Sophie, Wave Racer, Suicideyear, Deebs and Connan Mockasin.
What are your festival essentials?
Gatorade, Gameboy 3DS, iPhone charger, remembering that it's okay to leave without saying goodbye and you probably should [leave] before something bad happens.
Seeing that you're not a Bob Dylan fan, the only way you'd remix a one of his songs is if…
I'd be allowed to attend an Elliott Smith show in heaven.
Where's your favorite place or time to create music?
At home in the dark at like 3 a.m.
What's the craziest thing a fan has ever done during one of your sets?
Some girl ran up on stage at my last show in New York and handed me this crumbled up pile of notes and whispered something that sounded like voodoo in my ear. I checked the notes after the show and they just read stuff like, "3 is flesh, 5 is them, 7 is God." I have no idea what she was trying to tell me but I think I might be part of her Greater Plan.
The most Canadian thing about you is…
Saying sorry for everything I ever do.
In your opinion, who's the most underrated artist of our time?
Your favorite thing about going to SXSW?
Throwing up and wanting to die.
What's the best tip you have for someone who wants to start DJing?
[Use] Torrent Traktor or something. Or just start a band, 'cause that'll always be cooler.
What's your favorite song of all time?
"When The Last Time" by Clipse or "Across the Sea" by Weezer.
Any current obsessions?
Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, Ricky Eat Acid, and documentaries about old shitty bands and stuff.
What's your favorite place you've ever played?
This small basement club named Birthdays in London, or this random after party in a hotel basement in New York—I forget the name. But essentially basement shows and after parties are the best ever. I try to do that in other cities as much as possible.
What are you working on at the moment?
I'm working on my new line of denim fedoras—can't wait to drop those in Summer '16. Besides that, just working on some EPs and stuff. I dunno; I'll just put them out soon.
We can't wait to see those hats. In the meantime, where can we find you on the web?