Wave Racer is More Than Just “Future Bass”

Image via Wave Racer
Image via Wave Racer

Australian electronic dance music is surely trendy right now. Whether it’s the power synthpop of Empire of The Sun, Knife Party‘s face-ripping electro, Flume‘s future flavor, Australian dance music has surely made an impression on the global music movement. One name that has really been making *waves* has been the Future Classic-signed producer/DJ Wave Racer. Ever since exploding on the interwebs last summer with his debut double single, “Rock U Tonite” and “Stoopid,” Wave Racer has only picked up steam. Collaborations and remixes with Ryan Hemsworth, a tour of the U.S. tour (including a string of SXSW dates), and more have all made Wave Racer a hot artist. Ready to bring his waves to the U.S., we caught up with the up-and-coming producer ahead of his trip to the States.

It seems like this tour was only a matter of time since you had your first release last May. The wave just keeps getting bigger.
Yeah, that’s right. It really hasn’t’ been very long since I started putting out music and to be quite honest I’m quite amazed that I’m even going to the States at all because it’s happened all so quickly. But I’m super excited about it. I’m really looking forward to all the different places i’m going to get to see and new places I’ve haven’t been before. So yeah, it’s all really exciting!

Have you been over here before?
Yeah a couple times. Once when I was about 12-years-old with my family and I went with a friend early last year – never this kind of adventure.

Any particular cities you’re pining for?
I’m really excited about Chicago actually, and I’m really excited about New York. I’ve always wanted to go to New York. Lots of places I’ve never seen before. I’ve been to LA before – it’s always good to go back to LA. Aaand I love going back to Austin.

Now a little bit a go, you uploaded your Triple J mix from last November. In that mix you’ve got tracks from yourself but also guys like EPROM and DJ Rashad. Now these are two guys who are extremely talented, and extremely well-respected in their own circles, but not something you’d totally expect in a mix from an Australian producer/DJ. How did you come onto that and how did it find it’s way into your mix?
Well, I spend a lot of time on the Internet looking for music, and that’s kind of a lot of how I spend my day. I’ve also got a lot of friends into the same music I’m into and we’ve even got a little Facebook group that we swap music through, so just my circle of friends and we help each other discover music. Like DJ Rashad, footwork, and the whole TEKLIFE movement, that’s all stuff I’ve been following for a while; DJ Rashad is really up there as one of the artists I’ve been into at the moment. And then the artists like EPROM I’ve known about for a while, so when I got the chance make a mix I wanted to make something eclectic as possible and have all kinds of things they weren’t expecting, and stuff I love to hear, so it’s a little left field, so I decided to just put some of that stuff I’d known about but not played before. It’s good to help others discover that kind of stuff as well.

Yeah man, that’s great to see. I personally love those artists as well, and it gets frustrating knowing that lot of these top DJs just simply don’t look for new music or take risks with the music they play, so it’s great to see a guy like yourself, so far from where we are in the US and on the come up playing a lot of these artists and not pandering like others have and continue to.
Yeah definitely man.

And this is different from how you’d approach a Wave Racer DJ set? A mixtape versus a DJ set.
Yeah I keep my live shows and my mixtapes quite different because I feel they are like different projects essentially. So my live show is obviously designed for a club or stage environment and I keep it very energetic and very danceable and upbeat. Y’know, stuff people want to hear loud and dance to; stuff to dance to and stuff like that, but with my mixtapes I can go a little bit more experimental and a bit less energetic and it’s because mixtapes tend to be listened to in headphones or at home so it’s kind of a different vibe when you’re making a mixtape or listening to a mixtape on the radio. So I can put a lot more ‘different’ stuff and stuff I wouldn’t normally play at my shows, I can put in my mixtapes.

That’s very true; so the whole DJ and mixtape concept isn’t new to you. I know tons of up-and-coming producers tend to just regurgitate a planned live set for mixtapes and the concepts seems to be lost.
Yeah yeah, a lot of people do do that. For me though, it’s not the right thing to do. And yeah I’ve been familiar with the mixtape concepts for a while, and the way DJs make mixtapes versus live sets. I’ve been listening to electronic music since I was a teenager, so it’s not something new to me. I’ve always listened to mixtapes and been inspired by mixtapes. One artist that comes to mind is Breakbot, who I used to and still am absolutely obsessed with – he’s an amazing artist. His mixtapes were always really inspiring to me because he’d play stuff and mix stuff so eloquently in his mixtapes and then I’ve seen him live a couple different times and it was a totally different thing. So it was kind of interesting to see how he did it and that’s how I got the idea to keep mixtapes as their own art form, different from a live set.

Yeah that’s awesome, I think it makes everything more interesting that way. You mentioned you’ve listened to electronic music for a while, and I understand you were making music under a different name before Wave Racer?
Yeah that’s right! I used to be in a duo with a good friend of mine called Pablo J & The Lobsterettes and we used to make disco house music; which was essentially just us sampling disco music from the 70s and 80s and throwing a big french electro beat under it and calling it a tune. It’s very different to what I do now but it’s how I got started in electronic music production.

Is disco a sound we’ll see you experiment with Wave Racer?
I think the stuff I do now already has disco influence in it. The thing about disco music I really love are the chords, the melodies, the soulfulness of it all. So I actually incorporate a lot disco-y stuff – I think, even if it’s not obvious to the listener. There’s a lot of disco in there, so maybe not disco tempo or disco beat, but definitely other elements are in there.

Yeah there’s a lot of people who are drawn to your music for the same reasons – the melodies, the chords, etc. It’s got this infectiously ‘neon’ sound to it. What is that draws you to making this sort of sound?
Yeah I think it guess just had to do with like you say, I want my music to be “infectious.” I want people to latch on to some sort of hook and be enticed by it. A lot of music I hear in the dance world is unmelodic and sort of just focused on beat and rhythm. Those things are important but I like to incorporate all of those things and more melodic structure and chord progressions that have some sort of depth. Something that attracts people’s ears. It just takes it to the next level for me.

I think you’re on to something for sure, I mean I know your music has been compared to the likes of Cashmere Cat, Rustie, Hudson Mohawke.
Yeah people often describe my music as “future bass” or something like that or try to place a genre on it. And those names you mentioned are massive influences, but theres a lot of other stuff in there and it’s my own thing.

Yeah for sure, I think that uniqueness has been pretty obvious. I know your last summer/spring, you had “Rock U Tonite” and “Stoopid” and those were very unique. Eventually they got signed by Future Classic and now they’re you’re label right? “Streamers” just came out through them as well.
Yeah, that was early on in the game and they had taken off and then Future Classic signed me and the tracks mid to late last year. Now we’re still going with them and it’s going really well. Like you said they released my last single and I’ve done a number of remixes through Future Classic as well. Future Classic in Australia is one of the major kind of labels making an impact internationally so i was stoked to be part of the team and can’t imagine anything better.

Yeah man, that sounds great. And Future Classic certainly has been making an impact. Now they’re not just a label though, I know they do a lot of other services like booking and management.
For me they’re just my label, although they do work with my management and agent closely, they are just my label.

Ah okay, that’s interesting.
Yeah the label really is only one part – events, management, bookings, everything. The label is just one part.

Right so over here in the U.S. looking in over at Australia, there’s seems to be a huge movement going on right now. In addition to Future Classic, there’s been, a whole lot of artists blowing up. What’s been the most noticeable change for you there?
Like you mentioned there’s been so much going on and it’s been kind of insane. A lot of people are saying that overseas people are really paying attention to what’s going on and it’s insane, but when you’re part of it it’s hard to see how people see it. It’s different when you’re living in it, it’s a different perspective. There’s so many artists doing so many unique things and I know some people think there’s an Australian sound going on. I wouldn’t agree with that 100%, but I think Australia has a style and we’ve been doing our thing in the music world, but people are doing very unique things.

You’ve also mentioned you’ve done a couple remixes and I was curious, what makes you remix a track? Obviously there can be calculated reasons for taking or declining a remix, but I was curious what musically draws you to a remix?
Well I won’t like to do little remixes and edits, so let’s say I like to create new versions. I come from a background of sampling and I basically just revise the thing entirely and just use bits and pieces of the original. I approach music in a very sample-based way. So for me, I know I need to have an element in the song I can treat as a sample and something that’s going to help me start writing. I’ve had remix opportunities I’ve had to turn down because I’ve had too hard of a time with this bit and there isn’t something that works for me with it.

That doesn’t sound uncommon. I know especially on the sample bit, that sort of pronounced sampling style is very ‘in’ – There are a lot of producers like yourself using samples like a weapon of choice, just really using that as a central piece.
Yeah I think samples are a staple and are almost completely necessary today. If you took samples away from an electronic music producer, you’re taking paint away from a painter – at least for me. I think they’re a necessary element today.

Yeah, I tend to agree, but for me that comes from my hip-hop background, my love of sampling that is. What about you?
Well I first started listening to electronic music when I was 16 or 17 and it was the Ed Banger crew from Paris so like 2007 and 2008. So Justice was blowing up and the whole crew was blowing up, and their music was just so sample based and the disco sampling, the guitar riffs and what they were doing, like that’s how I got started. I listen and listened to hip-hop but always was into the sampling more because of Justice.

Yeah, Justice comes up a lot.
My friend from high school, who I ended up making music with, he showed me them and that whole thing. He got me into it and from there I did all the research myself and taught myself. So the French scene, the electro scene.

Where’d you go after electro?
More house music, just house in general. More hip-hop as well, through friends, but I continued making stuff and then got into sound design stuff and that’s how Wave Racer got started.