There aren’t many DJs or producers that you can sit down and pull enough info together to write a book about. Enter Brooklyn resident Tommie Sunshine. Although that’s not on today’s agenda, know that the list of accomplishments that the “sun-glassed-man-of-house-music” has achieved since his first outing as a DJ back in 1993 is impressively long. Worthy of tastemaker status, Sunshine is fueled by an exhaustive understanding of underground and pop music. He is one of the most influential voices in the EDM world, a true cultural receiver and transmitter. Be it delivering speaker-shaking business as a remixer for artists like Good Charlotte, The Killers, The Faint, Yeah Yeah Yeahs (to name a few); working in the studio with luminaries like Felix Da Housecat, James Murphy, Arthur Baker, Mylo, DJ Hell, Midnight Magic, Peaches and Shinichi Osawa; running his record label Brooklyn Fire; providing salvation to clubs the world over as a DJ; putting thoughts to words as journalist for publications like SPIN, or as a songwriter, the musical icon has proven not only creatively aware and ahead of the curve, his iconoclastic productions are worthy of imitation. Check LMFAO “Sorry For Party Rockin’,” Scissor Sisters’ “Shady Love,” and Childish Gambino’s “Heartbeat.” Most recently, Sunshine has been working with rising stars Disco Fries. Look for a big video and remix package of their first single “Don't Look Back” to drop soon. Simply put, Tommie Sunshine is a musicologist and has given many people, many reasons to dance together. He’s about to speak, you should listen.
If anything, fashion, art and literature brought me to a lot of great music. I can thank Warhol, Hunter S. Thompson and many others for that.
Home Town: Sweet Home Chicago.
Currently Living: Brooklyn, NY.
Origin Of Name: I was always on the dancefloor when the sun came up so people started calling me “Sunshine.”
Weapon of Choice: Knowledge.
Est. Miles Traveled per year: Platinum on all major airlines.
Gigs Played / Nights Out per year: Not sure really.
Source of Power: Daniela. Sobriety. Intelligence. A deep love for all art and music.
Blurb Yourself: Sound surfer. Lover. Music maker. Sunglassed man of house music. Soundscapes are my life and my entire existence is surrounded by sound. My deeper thoughts on all matters can be viewed, popcorn in hand, via twitter.com/tommiesunshine.
Can you walk us through your various musical phases? From early interest to actual creative output, how did they tie into your waking life?
First off, music is my life. If anything, fashion, art and literature brought me to a lot of great music. I can thank Warhol, Hunter S. Thompson and many others for that. My musical growth can be traced as follows: disco, ’70s soft rock, new wave, heavy metal, house music, shoegazer, madchester, beat generation jazz, psychedelic ’60s, rave, acid jazz, French touch, electro, electro house, whatever-the-hell you call what I play now and back around again...
If you visualize music as your listen, what (generally) do you imagine?
Flying dragons, dancing elephants, cage fighting unicorns and lots and lots of stumbling puppies.
If you could send advice via a fortune cookie to up-and-comers, it would read:
Never listen to anyone telling you what to do with your art. Ever.
What is a song that inspired you to create?
Elton John’s “Bennie & The Jets” has the crowd noise, which as a child made me think that song was so fantastic. Now, as an adult, I’m fascinated by the fact that most people on this planet know the song from the single note, the false-start intro.
Tell me about your most memorable night out.
No contest: Alex Patterson of The Orb as opening DJ for Primal Scream’s “Screamadelica” tour. It was a life-changing blend of DJ culture with rock n’ roll—it showed me the possibility of them co-existing.
Azealia Banks feat. Lazy Jay "212" [Tommie Sunshine & Disco Fries Edit]
Tell us about a specific event or period in your life that is linked in your mind to a song/album.
My early rave days were sound-tracked by KLF’s ambient masterpiece, “Chill Out.”
Are there any dots to connect with where/how you grew up to your musical output?
My oldest sister went to discos every night but also saw Led Zeppelin live. The other sister has played guitar since she was nine and has been a part-time performing songwriter since. Brother was in a punk band from ’80-’82. I discovered house music at the same time I was going to Fugazi and Guns & Roses shows. It’s always been a mixed bag.
What value do you place on environment as a creative springboard?
As long as you are working with great people and the atmosphere is creative and flowing, then you have everything you need to make great music.
Do you remember the first time you had a live audience’s complete attention?
It felt amazing! Sharing music is the best artistic feeling to me. The first time I DJd it was definitely a mix of disco and new wave records at a rave in Minnesota on NYE 1993.
What has changed in the realm of headphones since your first pair? How has the private listening experience evolved?
My first headphones were massive! They looked like clouds on either side of my head. It used to be only bedroom listening was possible, but now you can have a private listening experience anywhere in the world, in any weather.
Soundtrack of Life:
These are the tracks that I would give you if I were to DJ your brain next time you hit the sandy shore.
Growing up I always spent summers on the Jersey Shore. It was and will always be my place of peace, quiet, imagination and solace. That being said I always listened to music while lying on the beach in front of the almighty Atlantic. It also was the place where I was lucky enough to witness the birth of MTV. I couldn't go outside while this TV station from heaven was playing all this undiscovered music. So I have both indoor and outdoor memories of the beach. These are the tracks that I would give you if I were to DJ your brain next time you hit the sandy shore.
First and foremost this is an artistic monument built to celebrate love. The imperfections of her voice is exactly what makes this perfect. The soundscape created here is just as amazing now as it was in ’68 when he and Jane Birkin sang it. It’s the most beautiful love song of all time.
I am a huge fan of all things Fleetwood Mac. All of their music is steeped in love—lost, stolen, unrequited or otherwise. This is pre-Stevie and Lindsey so that tension hadn’t entered the building yet. I can’t think of a song that is more appropriate while the wind blows through your hair and you have absolutely nowhere to be.
The amount of hope and release in My Bloody Valentine’s music can’t be tallied. This song actually sounds, in my mind, the way I imagine a deserted desert island to sound. Everything is so delicate here that it sounds as it may very well fall apart at any moment. This is what makes their sound so special.
This track is summer in an audio nutshell. There are no words to describe the importance of the Orb to my musical landscape. What Alex Patterson does with sound has influenced not only my real life but my dream life too.
I’m not usually one for covers but this is the ultimate exception. What you have here are two amazing greats singing another great man’s greatest song. The textures of their voices show Marley’s lyrics in a whole new light.
When I stand on a beach and look into the ocean I can’t help myself but hear the 3/4 in this track. I agree with Perry Farell in that I wish I was ocean sized, as well. The sonic landscape that these four guys created was so large that it overshadowed all their contemporaries. I’m not entirely sure anyone has made this much noise since… maybe DFA 1979?
Besides the fact that this track was written and produced in NJ just minutes away from the beach I grew up going to, I believe this to be my ultimate summer jam, as well as, my love letter to my forever love, Daniela. It was also the first thing I ever produced with the most important musical collaborators of my life, the Disco Fries.
I agree with the whole of Ibiza in that all 59-minutes and 20-seconds of this opus is the perfect texture for sitting on a beach and wishing you were absolutely nowhere else. This might possibly be the most ethereal album ever made and should be listened to in its entirety.