Tim Sweeney interview by Kate Carr

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New York’s Tim Sweeney recently brought his trademark blend of disco, Chicago house, Detroit techno and electro to Australia, headlining three shows in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. Best known for his Beats in Space radio show which beams out of New York University every week, Sweeney has built up a solid following since breaking into DJing at the oh so tender age of 16.

“I was DJing parties, before I could drive myself there,” he explained. That was a long time ago now though, with Sweeney heading up Beats in Space for the last 9 years.

The success of the show remains a surprise to Sweeney. “It’s nice that the show keeps growing. I’m not sure what the critical success factor was. Hopefully it’s the good music each week.”

Although he believes radio has waned in influence, Sweeney said he loves the freedom of broadcasting. “I remember hearing tapes of radio shows that my brother would bring back from the UK and it just seemed so special to me. I always wanted to be a part of that. It’s just nice to be in this basement studio, with no worries about any dance floor or really about anyone listening.”

Crediting his early success to being able to make a good cup of tea, Sweeney has been around long enough to witness quite a change in the DJing industry, both technically and musically.

“It went from being an all-vinyl thing, to CDs, to now computers with Serato/Final Scratch,” he said. “I still stick with vinyl and CDs, but the idea of just being able to carry around a laptop instead of a heavy bag of records sounds pretty nice.”

It isn’t just on a technical basis that Sweeney retains a commitment to old school styles; his sets extensively mine older genres with Primal Scream, New Order and even Nina Simone getting a regular spin. “I mean, that kind of thing changes from month to month with the music I’m hearing and getting into,” he said. “One day I might be in a more industrial mood, another day it might be more a Chicago house mood, but I play all these different genres because I love the music.”

An early apprenticeship with Steinski, where he was paid to listen to all the records the legendary DJ and hip-hop producer played and record their bpm, has certainly given him more than a solid grounding in all sorts of classic cuts.

“One day I might be in a more industrial mood, another day it might be more a Chicago house mood, but I play all these different genres because I love the music,” he said.

Hooking up with DFA in 2001 certainly has not harmed Sweeney’s career and he concedes that the label has had a big influence on Beats in Space, and his DJing work. With such luminaries as LCD Soundsystem, Hercules and Love Affair, and Syclops on the label’s books it isn’t hard to see why. Indeed, DFA the label has become something of a global powerhouse, and has been credited with helping instigate the dance-punk genre. Sweeney was lucky enough to meet co-founders Tim Goldsworthy, James Murphy (of LCD Soundsystem fame) and Jonathan Galkin right at the labels inception.

“I used to be an assistant in the studio with them at the very beginning of the label. Now I’m just part of the family and DJ at any DFA events,” Sweeney said of the label. He also DJs with Tim Goldsworthy as T&T.

The DFA mob certainly appear to be a close knit crew. Asked what the hottest tracks of the year were, Sweeney put his hand up for Hercules and Love Affair, who were produced by Goldsworthy. However, while his Beats in Space playlists feature more than the odd guest appearance by his DFA contemporaries, Sweeney isn’t afraid to cast the net a bit wider.

In recent weeks Eurythmics, Primal Scream and Soft Cell have all got a look in, along with more obscure offerings from Nyam Nyam and Yura Yura Teikoku. “They’re not new, but Yura Yura Teikoku from Japan are awesome,” Sweeney enthused.

As for the future, Sweeney’s tip is that Psychedelic Industrial Punk is the next big thing. Declaring he will be burnt out in five years time, Sweeney aims in the next twelve months to create a new website for the show, work on his own music and get Richard Villalobos to put in a guest appearance on the show.

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