Including the time he was threatened after playing a Backstreet Boys remix
gigwise intern
22:16 15th June 2015

"I definitely have an affinity to very stupid t-shirts" says the man wearing the Limp Bizkit merchandise.

Ryan Hemsworth is sitting in his room in the Ace Hotel in Shoreditch discussing what he's recently picked up on tour. "I found in a random punk store in Amsterdam last week. It was an amazing store where they had just things like System Of A Down baseball caps. The owner was this tiny little indian man who didn't seem to know this amazing inventory that he had stocked." It's a typical tale from Hemsworth: self-aware, Tumblr ready and never taking himself too seriously. What's interesting is everyone else is: his blissed out bass heavy R&B hybrid has now seen him play to a packed tent at Coachella and has remixed everyone from Frank Ocean to Lana Del Rey. He is also so far is the only person to play Blink 182 and soundbites from Nintendo's Star Fox on Diplo's Radio One show. Ahead of a massive summer of shows and releasing tracks on his Secret Sounds imprint, he talks to Gigwise about his admiration for Drake, the return of the slow dance and the secret of a great festival set.

Gigwise: When you were growing up you were apparently into Foo Fighters, Hives and a bit of Weezer. Did you see any of them live?
Ryan Hemsworth: In Halifax we didn't get a crazy amount of popular bands there. We have a couple annual festivals but I would just see local legends that no-one outside of Nova Scotia knows about. For me the musical experience and getting into stuff was being on the internet and finding random shit around the world and downloading it. Not so much - I didn't really see live shows until late high school and university. I remember this guy called Matt Mays who was really Canadian sounding rock. There's a lot of folk and rock bands in Halifax, that's why I had to get out of there to excel as an artist.

You were also into Radiohead. What's your track of choice?
'Motion Picture Soundtrack'. Just the way Thom's harmonies sound and that is kinda insane. His voice is just one of my favourite ever: the way he can combine all these weird low and high harmonies. Radiohead are another group that I don't go back to every day now but growing up they were probably the most important to me. Them, Blur and John Frusciante  and stuff are those artists that started as rock bands and I grew up with them and the way they evolved influenced why my taste involved. Radiohead were actually the first band I left my city to go see at Osheagea at Montreal when I was 16. That was amazing: when they had web cams on different parts of their faces when they were performing. They're definitely a super important band to me.

You described your video for 'One For Me' as your "attempt to be Sofia Coppola."
Like Somewhere. She's one of my favourite directors. I think Marie Antoniette is my favourite of hers. I think it's just the use of sun washed colours and it just feels like a hazey dream to me. I think that mood is something that I tend to attach to my music and try and get across sometimes. I don't know how old she is but I think she is very in tune with my generation in pairing the soundtracks perfectly with this nostalgic dreamy mood that I think a lot of kids from my generation are a part of where we just sort of more like dreaming about things and a better way of living instead of actually, like, living it or whatever. I think that really draws me in for some reason. I've always been a fan of bands like Air and The Strokes which just seem very important to her and her atmosphere.


 
What other films inspire you?
Horror movies are super important to me. One of my favourites is Session 9: I like one's set in santariums for some reason. That's really my favourite. I really like being creeped out like that. Session 9 is about this company that goes into clear out aspestos and they're hired to clean out an abandoned santiarium. It's haunted and it starts to infect them and they turn on each other and all go crazy and kill each other. It's super independent, low quality, shot on a handicam - I really like that style. 

Has there been another soundtrack you've really rated?
I always gravitate towards Japanese soundtracks because it feels like the directors that I like tend to appreciate ambience and make use of an intelligent use of silence. One of my favourite soundtracks is for this movie All About Lily Chou Chou - it's basically a fake band they formed to make a soundtrack for the whole thing. It's super Bjorky sounding ethereal music. I open my BBC mix I just did with a track from that one.



You've spoken before about how you had to learn to be a festival DJ. Who do you think gets it right?
The people I've toured with have definitely opened my eyes like Cashmere Cat and RL Grime. Especially RL Grime: they know what to do and he knows what people who are going to see him want - but not in a catering to them way. He just knows how to entertain in that setting. For me it's always been I've been a little more selfish I want to play exactly what I want to play and so it's finding that balance in playing my own songs that people want to hear that maybe I'm not as excited about after four years of playing them. You have to remember it's not solely about your experience.

What small festival do you really rate?
One I really liked is Sasquatch festival in the Gorge, it's on this huge hill and you overlook a river. For some reason that was a really nice experience. I think when people are going into it and it's a beautiful environment it's well curated, it just works out.

Have you ever cheated death?
I'm sure I have. First tour I did we were in a Sprinter van and we were driving up and down mountains in Colorado in the dead of winter. Our tour manager couldn't really drive and there were definitely a lot of "holding onto something and closing your eyes" and saying "being paid $50 for the next show is not worth dying for". There's definitely a lot of travelling moments where you're like 'I might die. But it's been pretty good so far."



What musical trend needs to die out?
Whatever future bass may be. I think I just hate the name of it more than anything. There's a lot of shit that maybe should calm down but at the same time I'm really happy that even if I don't listen to a lot of producers doing the super kwaiy whatever stuff I think it's useful to have all these weird different things going on because it's pushing everyone to do things that are different and alternate to that.

Is that why you have a high tolerance of PC Music?
Just as a reaction. It's just the way punk music or anything happens. There's this one thing and for PC it's pop music and just doing this really fucked up alienated version of it. Yet it sounds almost exactly like it and the pop world is getting confused and starting to embrace it. I think that's really interesting: kinda messing up musical history in a wonderful way. Everyone has a pretty strong opinion about it and I think that's good.

You follow Allvays on Twitter. What do you like about them?
They're amazing. I was really into that movement for a while: Best Coast, Wavves and all that. I feel like they're speaking to that sound a little bit but I don't know. In the past year's I've only been listened to rap and pop and dance music and then I randomly came across them. I think they're in Toronto as well and someone put me on to them. It was just like 'I forgot music like this is being made still. And it's really good. The album's amazing. I'm excited to see what they do next.'

What merchandise do you want to do in the future?
Weird socks. That'll be something eventually. One thing I've been wanting to do: you know when you used to go to birthday parties when you were young and your parents would give you a fun bag when you leave? I thought it would be cool to sell a mystery bag, filled with bouncy balls with my face on it and trading cards.

Describe your biggest DJ fail.
Let me choose a time: one time I played in Dallas and I made a Backstreet Boys Jersey Club remix. It didn't clear the floor, it worked but the DJ before me who was like an older guy said to me afterwards "Don't ever play that again." I was like "What do you mean? It's my song and I can do". He said "The set was cool and stuff but that was a real low point." Oh ok sorry. I think sometimes if you're a serious DJ you don't like fun cheesy little things like that sometimes. For me I just like to fuck around and push people I guess. I do play obviously most of my own songs and stuff I've released but I like to throw in those unexpected tracks whether it's just something from the Nineties (an old R&B track) and switch it up in my own way. I think it's good to keep people on their toes like that. Even if it's something they're not going to really react to properly, it's still good to surprise people.

Which Nineties R&B do you wish would come back?
I was going to say Jodeci but I think that's happening. I was more into the K-Ci and JoJo section; that was third grade slow dance songs for me. I was thinking recently it would be amazing if someone started booking shows as slow dance shows. It probably wouldn't work at all.

I once came up with the idea of 'No Singles' (album cuts and couples only). It would be a disaster of a club night.
There need to be more of those potential disaster nights. There's a lot of 'everyone trying to be as cool as possible now." I want to try and do a slow dance thing: you just have to pair up with someone. Just 40 BPM the entire night.

What's the strangest gift you've got from a fan?
I get a lot of weird things. Actually weirdly enough at that Dallas show I mentioned someone brought this toy plush alien and it had a zipper in the back. I didn't notice until days afterwards: I opened it up and there was a huge gold chain and a bag of weed. There was a note: "Thank you so much! Love you!" I think there was maybe a piece of candy as well. I get drugs, candy and video game: it's really wholesome and club mentality combined.

What games are you playing at the moment?
Not much. I brought my 3DS with me but I want to get the new majora's mask Zelda. They're remaking a lot of those games I guess because our generation is still very stuck on those ones. It is weird now as they're remaking ones that I played in Junior high which seems not long ago but in reality is 10/15 years ago. It is really strange once you're part of that throwback retro generation. That and Smash Bros and stuff. There's been no time on the road.

What game you've spent the most man hours on?
Donkey Kong Country or Ocarina of Time on the N64. Definitely they are the ones that impacted me the most from the music to just spending hundreds of hours on them. Once I was spending a lot more time on my computer making music and stuff I couldn't really sit and play video games as much.



What are your hopes for the new Frank Ocean material?
That's a good question. I know he's going to come back with something amazing and also I think people have kind of let it go and know it's going to comeback. It's such a nice career to have like that I think: to be able to drop a mixtape, everyone falls in love with it and then you become the biggest artist and then you can chill for two years. That's amazing for the year we're in now. No-one can do that. He was on the cover of every magazine and then just chilling right now, making new stuff. I think a lot of artists are probably thinking they wish they could do that but there's just so much pressure now for everyone to constantly be releasing stuff and staying relevant and buzzworthy.

Is there a Frank Ocean song you keep going back to?
I haven't gone back to his stuff in a while but definitely I did always like The Eagles one that he did 'American Wedding'. It's really weird because I hate the original track but the way he flipped those songs I thought was really creative.

What was the last guest verse on a hiphop record that really delighted you?
I don't like Travis Scott but on his Days Of Rodeo mixtape, the Migos one 'Sloppy Toppy'. That, for some reason, they did an amazing job on that one. I don't like anything Travis Scott does vocally on a track but his production is just some of the weirdest stuff for rappers right now. I always look out for tracks produced by him because he just takes these super mainstream people and puts them into a really leftfield place that no-one else could force them into in a studio.

Is there a band you would still love to see live that you never have?
Cursive - they've touring again. Their album The Ugly Organ is one of my top three albums and they just reunited to tour that album... and I'm missing the tour to do this tour. But it's OK because I'm doing my thing and am not sad at all about it.

What's your favourite of the new Drake?
'Know Yourself' probably. Just the way he screams 'Running through the 6 with my woes'. He's really mastered those one line really addictive things to shout. He's really positioned himself so amazingly. You can't shit on him it anyway because somehow he'll turn it around on you: that's the thing he's been so transparent. "Yeah I've been on Degrassi, I get sad...." I really respect that.



What's the biggest misconception about you?
That I'm a sad boy. I'm not a sad boy - I'm just sometimes emotional. Maybe I'm done reading about all the Pokemon stuff but that's my own fault because I bring it up a lot. Maybe people are getting tired of that so I'm trying not to mention it and get a little more mature.

Is there a term for your music you can't believe?
'Love trap'. It makes me cringe but at the same time I don't really care anymore. People just make up words now for every sub genre so if that's what people need to do to catergorize you it's fine.

'Love trap' should be 'Honey trap' anyway. 
That's a little sweeter.

For more information on Ryan Hemsworth and his label Secret Songs visit ryanhemsworth.com