Interview: DJ Tom Loud re-installs his Hot Dub Time Machine at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2014
'I want to hear The Beatles and Beyonce and maybe a bit of Skrillex all in the same night'
This article is from 2014.
The secret is very much out. Now on its third Fringe appearance, if you’ve not already been, you might have had someone telling you that you ‘really, really should’ – and that someone could be from any variety of walks of life, too. But that’s the thing about Hot Dub Time Machine – it neatly sidesteps any trends or scenes by being about exactly that, and the result is what Sydney-based DJ Tom Loud and various critics now describe as quite simply the ‘Best. Party. Ever’.
On paper, Hot Dub is a strictly chronological audio-visual journey through the past six decades of pop, starting with 60s rock and 70s disco and ending with whatever the current year holds – with giant screens reminding you of the dance moves. Experientially, it’s somehow so much more – nostalgia, reminiscing, and a reminder of the massive, historical and international nature of pop music, all whilst dancing your behind off with a surprising fierceness.
Rosie Davies catches up with the enthusiastic ex-TV sound designer on life curating the best party ever.
Where did the idea come from to start Hot Dub Time Machine?
I've always had a short attention span as a DJ, meaning I don't like playing one genre of music all night, which didn't help me get many gigs! I genuinely love all kinds of music and I want to hear The Beatles and Beyonce and maybe a bit of Skrillex all in the same night. So because there weren’t really many gigs out there for me, I decided to make my own party and really make it a show. I’d been using audio-visual DJ technology that allowed me to mix and mash up visuals live from the turntables for a while, and I knew there was potential in that to create a real story with a DJ set. So I booked a show at the 2011 Sydney Fringe, called it Hot Dub Time Machine, and spent the next three months looked in a dark room making it happen – and it's been going very well ever since!
You’ve now played to some enormous crowds across the world. What does that feel like, and do you have a preference over playing larger or smaller venues?
I'm finding that performing is a bit like a drug, and once you get a taste of the bigger venues and the huge crowds, you just want more and more. It's really an amazing feeling to be in front of so many people and see them having a great time, and the bigger, the crazier, the better! BIGGER!
How does the show change from year to year?
Hot Dub is constantly evolving and changing, but there is a core group of songs that I will never drop. I don't think it's like a comedy show where people expect new material; nor is it like seeing the Rolling Stones where you don't want to hear the new stuff! It falls somewhere in between. People want to hear the songs they love, but they do also want some surprises. Hot Dub is about the absolute best songs in pop music history, so whilst it would be disservice not to include certain iconic songs every time, I’d say that 50% has stayed the same since it began, 30% changes from festival to festival, and 20% is up to how I'm feeling on the night. I really feel like the show has come a long way in the twelve months since the last Fringe, I've done about 150 shows around the world, and it's now super tight and really fun.
Having toured the show for a few years now, how do you keep the experience fresh and interesting for you and your wife?
It is a much more flexible show and playlist now, and I've made changes in the technology of the show that allow me to be a lot more spontaneous and that's really fun. My golden rule is that I only play songs that I really love. So if a song is starting to annoy me, or someone requests something I'm not into, I just won't play it, and the result of that is three hours of music that I passionately enjoy. So it's totally rad to stand up there and boogie while looking out at the bedlam. It's pretty great. I have no complaints. And as for outside of the show, our little 18-month-old daughter Lizzy certainly keeps things fresh and interesting for us.
Having started out as a DJ on Sydney’s comedy circuit, do you still play 'normal' DJ sets or do you work on this exclusively?
Nope! I've come to realise that Hot Dub may be the one good idea that I have in this lifetime, so I'm devoted to it and put every ounce of physical and mental effort I have into it. So no, I won't DJ at your wedding! I managed to finally stop working my proper job in November last year, so this is my life now.
Had you been to the Edinburgh Fringe before you started playing, and how many times have you performed the show there now?
This will be my fifth straight year of attending the Fringe. The first time I was a backpacker, then the following year my wife was in a show, then Hot Dub began at Gilded, then last year we were at McEwan, and now in 2014 it’s McEwan again but bigger, badder, and futurer! All in, that's probably about 30 official gigs – and about double that if you count DJing from a wheelie-bin during my first year when no one was coming…
Underbelly Bristo Square, 08445 458252, 7 – 10, 13 – 17 and 20 – 24 Aug, 12.30am, £12.50 (£11.50).