Interview: tyDi


Leading Australian DJ, producer and songwriter, tyDi, is back in Australia this July / August as part of his Homecoming Tour. After relocating to the USA, the classically trained musical mastermind and SOL REPUBLIC Savior of Sound is set to embark on an explosive run of shows across the east coast.

We had the lucky opportunity to have a chat with Tyson Illingworth aka tyDi about the tour, his upcoming album ReDefined and the electronic dance music industry.

Hi Tyson, how are you today?

Hey mate, good thanks, how are you?

I’m well thanks mate, how do you like being back in Australia?

Oh I’m not back there yet, I’m in LA right now [laughs]

Oh really? I was informed you were in the country.

Not yet, I was touring Asia two weeks ago and then I just had four shows in four nights over America and played Minneapolis last night and I have two more shows to go this weekend being San Diego and Hollywood.

Awesome! Well that clears that up. Now I know you are a busy man, so we will jump straight into it.

Too easy!

So we are going to be talking about your new album and the upcoming tour, but first I just want to take it back to the early days of tyDi and get an understanding of how it all started. You have a background in classical music, what instruments do you play and how old were you when you first started?

I played drums and piano, first instrument was drums. When I was in highschool I did drums for five years, I was in a rock band. Piano, I was self taught. I learnt music theory through school and then I did it as a degree in University, so I learnt how to write and compose a lot of instruments.

How old were you when you first discovered electronic music and who were some of the artists that initially caught your attention?

When I first discovered electronic music, I was probably fifteen I think and I was just in love with it. I was wanting to be in a band and do music of some sort and then between fifteen / sixteen is when I kind of got obsessed with dance music and I was emailing every promoter I could think of around the country from school. I was that nerdy kid in school that people used to throw things at and everyone else was like.. you know, the jocks and the surfers and stuff and I was this music kid. But you know I ended up getting lucky and I got some gigs in my local city and then someone brought me to sydney to play a show there.

Continuing on from that, we are seeing a lot of producers being discovered at an early age, Madeon, Porter Robinson and Arty to name a few. You were first discovered when you were 17, how did that change your world?

Yes, well discovered is quite relative. When I was sixteen I was playing clubs in my local city and flying to Sydney, when I was seventeen I was playing around Australia and when I was eighteen I was touring full time. So I mean discovered is I guess a term for when things blew up. I would say 2011 is the year things went crazy, with the release of my second album Shooting Stars making number one in Australia, Finland and the UK, number four in Canada and number one the US; so when I got that kind of radio play from the album, that’s when I knew that this is what I want to do for ever.

Yeah I can see how 2011 would have a been a big year for you, things were starting to get pretty real.

Yeah! It was like there’s no turning back from here.

Regarding your production process with the new album ReDefined, some artists hibernate into the studio for days or even weeks, some work off their laptop while on the road, what works best for you?

Umm, I like to get in the studio with people. So with ReDefined, every song I have either collaborated with a band or a vocalist or a songwriter and some of these people are incredible songwriters, they’ve written stuff for huge pop stars and I usually get in the studio and I will play piano and come up with a concept. We sing, we just jam out. We write the songs first before we even touch a computer, so we will have a note pad, a pen, and I will write the cords and we will start coming up with lyrics and literally just write out the story and lyrics first.

And then once we have the song, then I take it away and produce it. So from there, I can decide whether it’s going to be a dance track or a chilled song and that kind of thing. So the writing process is quite old school for me in the sense that it’s just an instrumental first and then it goes from there.

That sounds great, a refreshing way of producing music especially in today’s electronic times; to take it back to the old school formula is very interesting.

Yeah, well every song on ReDefined features an artist or band who’s works the same way which is great. They just sit down and write out a track. There’s not one song on the album that you can’t break down and just play on guitar and sing. They’re all actual songs, they’re not just a beat with a bassline.

And that’s what we love about your music. Now, we’ve seen you work with a variety of talented vocalists. You’ve worked with Dia Frampton on Stay, Christina Novelli and Sarah Howells to name a few. When you are about to work with vocals, what is your process in finding the vocalists? Do you have a set idea on the type of vocals you want?

Good question! Sometimes I will write a track and then try out a bunch of different vocalists. Sometimes I will work with a songwriter and we will a vocal demo cut. So he or she will get in the booth and we will record the vocals and then if I’m not feeling their voice then I’ll scrap it. Take for example, the other day I was with one of the guys from the Potbelleez and we were writing a track for Ricky Martin, so we pretty much get in the studio and we already have an idea of who we are writing the song for. So we write the story, the lyrics and the style of the singing for that person.

But yeah, with my album, some of the tracks have ended up with the demo vocalist, some of them I have written for specific vocalist in mind and then we pitched it to ten or twenty different vocalists to get the final one that we use.

Is it true that you have written over thirty tracks for this album?

I wrote three hundred songs in three years to get to the twenty songs that made the album. It’s Pretty full on, but I didn’t produce all of those songs, I have only written them, so like I said before; when I start a track on piano and the add the lyrics, I listen to them the next day and scrap them because I didn’t think they were good enough.

So you could say that you certainly have a high standard!

Yeah you could say that. [laugh] But yeah, definitely around three hundred projects.

The new album, ReDefined is out September, can we expect a style similar to the tracks on Shooting Stars or Hotel Rooms? or something entirely different altogether?

Some are similar to Shooting Stars. Hotel Rooms was a side project of mine with a chill out vibe and kind of ambient, movie score type stuff, so there wont be too much of that stuff, but with the new album, not one track on the album will sound like another. They are all completely different. It’s very eclectic. It goes from house to tracks that are like 110bpm trip-hop stuff to genres that I can’t even define.

There are some songs that break into a full orchestral section, some songs have a duet. The first song that I’m going to be announcing is Box of Lego, it’s kind of dubstep meets indie emo punk, but then it ends up kind of accoustic at the end; so it’s all over the place.

It sounds like the album keeps things fresh.

tyDi: Yeah, it’s completely different and I think it will surprise a lot of people.

This July and August you’re hitting Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Gold Coast, Mandurah and the Sunshine Coast, what can fans expect on your homecoming tour?

Well I haven’t been in Australia for nearly half a year, so there is a lot of new material from me, a lot of new songs that especially with this album on the cusp, there will be a lot of tracks that I’m going to be testing out in the clubs, from the album and I have been playing them all over the world and they have been blowing up, so I can’t wait to play them back home. It’s going to be a whole new me at these shows, but definitely don’t expect any Melbourne bounce from me.

Alright, well we can finish up with five quick questions.

Fire away!

When it comes to your music, who are you biggest inspirations?

Umm, it sounds weird, but a lot of my biggest inspiration comes from a bands rather than DJs and producers. Bands like Dashboard Confessional, who I listened to at fifteen making out with girls in cars with music and now he’s on my new album ReDefined. I’m also inspired by Jordan from The Ready Set, who features on ReDefined. I mean there is a lot of people on my new album that I grew up listening to which is crazy. But yeah, I find inspiration from bands like The Used, Taking Back Sunday, Blink 182 the list goes on.

Favourite song on your iPod at the moment?

Another good one! Wow, umm I’ll just have a look now.. Ok, it’s by Gesaffelstein and it’s called Destinations. I love his work, it’s very unique and dark and he has this whole genre to himself. I’m just trying to think of the album name.


That’s it! Yeah I am in love with that album and Destinations is the track that I’m playing at my shows lately that pretty much surprises my fans.

What is the craziest thing that has happened whilst playing a show?

Well I have had my fair share of underwear thrown at me, but crazies thing would be this show I had in Thailand. Basically I was playing this show on a big barge and there was 40,000 people on the beach. There was fireworks going off and I’m playing out on this barge and the only way you can get to the stage is via a speed boat. So the police shut me down about 20 minutes into my set, I’m not sure as to why, but I maybe had too many drinks and I was on the microphone yelling Fuck the Police! And so the promoters freaked out because as you can imagine over there, the cops aren’t going to deal with you the same way as they would in Australia or America and they had to get me to safety via a speed boat.

So they quickly drag me off the barge into the speed boat to this safe place which was like a 30 minute trip without getting arrested.

Ok, so Electronic Dance Music is starting to seriously take off, where do you see the EDM industry in five years?

Damn you’re firing some good questions today. Umm, to be honest, hopefully a little more intellectual as I think right now it’s getting dummer and dummer. Like I can see it continuing as simple as it is right now, but that’s boring to me you know. I like music with actual songwriting. Lyrics and beautiful melodies and just great stories, great concepts, great songwriting and songs that you can breakdown and play on a guitar and sing. The sad thing is dance music is not going that way at the moment, it’s getting to a point where it’s a kick drum, a bassline and a weird sound and it’s just over compressed and it’s kind of just mind numbing. Some of it works, but I hope that in five years, dance music gets a little bit more inspired by what rock bands are doing and that’s kind of what inspired me to make ReDefined, to inject real music back into the current dance music scene.

Now last but not least, what is the best advice you can give to upcoming DJ Producers out there that want to follow a career in music?

Learn to play an instrument. Learn to play the piano or learn the art of song writing, because that’s what will make you stand out from all the other artists. Because if you know music theory and know it well, you wont just be one of these kids that gets hold of production software and finds samples to put over a beat. That’s what will be good in five years time, a whole bunch of upcoming young producers that can bring real songwriting back into dance music. So yeah, as nerdy as it sounds, get involved with music theory; it will be the best weapon you have.

Great answer and I totally agree that the rise-and-fall generic type of electro that you hear at the mainstage these days, wont stand up to the fresh stuff that will be coming through because they don’t have that old-school classical song-writing formula.

Yeah exactly, I mean it’s just starting to sound a bit too much the same. Listen to any of the Ultra Music Festival or EDC mainstage sets and you can almost bet that everyone is playing songs from other people sets and it’s that same big room sound or bounce sound that can after a while, leave you bored. But then again, deadmau5 does an amazing job, but that’s why he is so well known; because he goes against the grain.

But yeah to some it all up, I think it would be great to see people get more musical and put more theory into their songs. I’m not saying it doesn’t exist, look at Rufus and Flume for example, I love their music and they’re definitely breaking new grounds with what they’re doing, I would just like to see more music theory in dance music.

Alright, well that’s wrap! You always keep us dancing Tyson, it’s been a pleasure chatting today, keep up the great work and thank you for your time.

No worries at all, thanks Rob.

Connect with tyDi