Tourist Is Coming To Your Town
Get to know the London producer who's turning heads with his live sets and "forward-facing" sound.
Tourist is up there with black tea, James Bond, and the Essential Mix series in my short list of most cherished British exports. On tour he pushes the boundaries of what it means to be both a DJ and a live musician, and in the world of electronic music that's a distinction that's on everyone's minds. His live sets include an impressive array of stacked MIDI controllers and synths, blinking and bleeping in all their glory in his recent Boiler Room offering.
On record, the place where his tracks begin is often quite far from where they end; they're filled with all sorts of detours, variations and trap doors. He describes his sound as forward-facing, honest and melodic; there's no trickery, no big drops in his productions, just expertly crafted and emotional sound design abetted by a keen ear for composition.
With a couple quality EPs under his belt and a forthcoming release on Disclosure's Method Records, Tourist has no plans to stay put. Take a look at what he had to say about his career, growing up in London and why he would prefer to come back to life as an owl.
THUMP: What was the one moment where you knew that you could make a living out of being a DJ and a producer?
Tourist: When my paychecks from my music were greater than my packchecks from my part-time job, which wasn't much of an achievement.
Do you consider yourself a DJ or more of a live artist? Would you get offended if someone called you a DJ?
It's somewhat difficult to define. I'd classify a DJ as someone who creates a mood by playing records, in terms of what I do—I perform my music in as best a way I can. I play the piano, so I was rather keen to incorporate that into my shows. My set is certainly not pre-defined, so there's a huge amount of room for improvisation and experimentation, which excites me greatly as a producer.
I like the description "live artist," but I think it might fail to resonate with some people, but if I billed myself as a DJ then people would almost certainly be disappointed should they watch one of my shows. My aim is to create an atmosphere for people to experience my music and hear things that they might not on the records. It's not about reproducing my music perfectly live—it's about breathing some life into it and contextualising it for people.
Why the name Tourist? You must love to travel. What's your favorite place you've ever been?
I like its connotations. I have so many influences musically and it's a good way of expressing that subtly. It also allows me the space to write whatever I choose, which is liberating. In terms of travel—absolutely. I'm incredibly fortunate to have visited some beautiful parts of the world this year. I loved visiting the states, in particular Asheville, North Carolina; such a forward-thinking, creative and scenic place.
Tell me about your first real, concrete production and how it came together? Was it any good?
I imagine I wrote it in my early teens. It was probably terrible but I remember the very lucid feeling of being able to create my own world through music and how liberating that felt.
Can you tell me briefly about your background as a musician? Were you classically trained?
Music is really the one thing I'm not shit at. It's not that I'm remarkably talented but more that I've pursued it for so long that I seem to be able to express myself well through my music. I've played the piano since I was five years old but was never interested in going down the classical training path. When I hit my teens it was just at the apex of when computers were capable of recording audio and MIDI, so I spent most of those years experimenting with my love of sounds and technology. I also have three sisters, so I needed some alone time; writing music was my escape from everything else around me!
Where did you grow up and how did that influence you musically?
I grew up in a mix of places. I was born in London but when my parents got divorced so we moved to the Southwest. I then moved back to London for Univerisity and spent a few years in Brighton after that. Now that I'm back in London I really feel the influence of this city—it's my favorite place on earth and it certainly has had a profound effect on me and the music I write.
What does your live setup consist of?
My Mac and numerous MIDI controllers.
What's been your favorite production thus far?
I hope I haven't written it yet.
Describe your sound in five, and only five words.
Forward-facing; honest; melodic; electronic.
If you could be one character from a famous movie franchise who would you be?
It's not a franchise, but who wouldn't want to be Ferris Bueller?
What about a (non-electronic) musician? Living or deceased.
If you could come back to life as an animal, what would you be?
An owl. They're cool.
How did you link up with the Disclosure guys? Describe what they're like in one sentence.
I'm really good friends with their management who have been so key in helping me out as a naive musician. We inevitably met when I supported them on their UK tour. My new EP is on their label, Method, as well. Guy and Howard are awesome man, I'd describe them like this: remarkably talented, enthusiastic and humble dudes.
What are you most excited about in the months to come?
I can't tell you yet...
Check out Tourist on his US tour:
12/5 - Brooklyn, NY @ Rough Trade *(venue changed)*
12/6 - Miami, FL @ Grand Central
12/7 - Los Angeles, CA @ The Lyric Theatre