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Australian DJ Tom Loud first created Hot Dub Time Machine seven years ago, a chronological dance party that takes revelers all the way back to 1954 before hurtling them towards the present day one song at a time.
His latest tour will see him play four shows across the UK from early next month, including a huge gig at London’s iconic O2 Academy Brixton on 6 October 2018.
We caught up with him ahead of the new shows to find out how the plans are shaping up, and how he’s evolving Hot Dub for the future.
Take a look at Hot Dub Time Machine in action in Australia below:
What can fans expect from your upcoming shows in the UK?
So, the gimmick is that we travel in time back to the 1950s and then we travel back to 2018. We play a song a year, but some years I skip and some I don’t, so that around that concept we end up with hopefully just the best party ever.
The trick is how we evolve the show, because a lot of people have already seen it live, and it’s important to change it up while keeping that recipe the same. So at the moment I’m really into incorporating musicians and bringing a live element to it, because I love having musicians onstage and think it brings a super fresh energy, so we’ll definitely be trying to do that.
And, as always, I’ll always try and hit the crowd with a few curveball songs that people aren’t expecting… but I won’t give those away.
And so I suppose the obvious question is, where did the idea for Hot Dub Time Machine come from?
You know I really wish I had a better story for it, but the truth is, I’d been DJing since 2000 and had never really had any success and never really found my niche. I was a weird DJ that never liked one genre – I liked to mix genres, to find different things to play, and so I never really DJ’d in clubs; instead I started DJing at comedy festivals and when I discovered the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, I realised that what I really wanted to do was make my own show, something with more of a narrative and more than just a set. And then the time-travelling concept came out of that, I suppose.
The name came from a friend of mine on Facebook actually. I was entering a festival in Melbourne and I had this thing called Tom’s Video Danceorama, which was a bit of a precursor to Hot Dub and not nearly as good as a name… and I decided I hated that and wanted to make it time-traveling themed. I had like an hour to submit the forms for the festival and so I put a post on my Facebook asking for a new name and one of my mates from Scotland came came through – I hadn’t even seen the movie (Hot Tub Time Machine) at that point, but it works.
Speaking of the time travelling theme, if you had to pick a favourite decade to play music from which would you choose?
Well I guess that’s kind of the point of Hot Dub, right? That I don’t have to pick. I think that’s what other DJs do and I prefer to believe that good music is being made all the time, and always has been made, and so I like the challenge of playing ‘60s records – because there is a real challenge of making those songs fit together and having a smooth set from a DJing point of view – and fitting that around the ‘70s stuff like disco and glam rock and everything else in between.
I actually think the rarest gem of all is a great pop song, you know, like a truly timeless piece of pop music is really hard to make and incredibly rare and I really like discovering those songs that have lasted the test of time, and kind of entered that status. I mean, I remember when The Killers’ Mr Brightside first came out and it was OK, it was fun and stuff, but now we’re like 14 years later and it’s still just amazing.
So you mention specific songs there, what are your three essential floor fillers that you always have to play?
I think Superstition by Stevie Wonder is like the ultimate – I mean, there is no party or no social occasion that that song can’t make better. And I think every DJ should play it. It doesn’t matter how old you are, it’s just so funky. So definitely that.
At the moment, the most requested song I have is Africa by Toto. Which, speaking of songs you didn’t see becoming timeless, that song, for some reason, has become a like a meme and people just love it.
And as for floor fillers go at the moment, I sometimes really like to bring the mood down – and I’ve got this acoustic version of Titanium by Sia that’s like a live recording I play. And that is just like my favourite bit of the show right now. It’s just a really good song!
You already mentioned the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and I was reading that your gigs there were the two largest ever shows to take place there. Is that right?
Yeah! When I started there in 2012, I just had a really big sound system where I’d just stand on the street corner and try and get people to come to my show, it wasn’t immediately that big. But then, yeah, six years later, we did 12,500 people. It’s amazing really.
And so if you weren’t playing to 12,500 people in Edinburgh, what do you think you’d be doing?
I think I’d probably still be in my old job. I had a mid-30s transition to being a DJ, I was 34 when I first made a living from it, so I had a whole previous career as a sound designer for TV shows so I’d probably still be doing that – and probably feeling completely miserable about it.
And does that just feel like a total lifetime away now?
It does a little bit, definitely. I was working Monday – Friday, you know, 9 – 5, and we were flat broke too to be honest. It was very much a struggling creative’s life. And so I think finding your niche and working for yourself is what I’ve learned from that, and at some point you have to go out and find your thing and that’s what Hot Dub was for me.
So what’s next for Hot Dub?
Well we’re definitely trying to bring our festival concepts over to the UK and I’m also trying to do more European shows, which is really exciting, and just more and more man! I love it, I’m not ready to stop yet. I’m just addicted to this life now and doing the shows, so hopefully I’ll get to keep doing it for a few more years.
And do you feel there’s pressure to constantly evolve the show and make it fresh and new? I mean, if you’re still doing Hot Dub in another seven years, what will it look like then?
Sure, I definitely do feel that pressure. And when I first started, it was really easy to make the show better, you know? But this is the seventh year, and it’s getting harder and harder to make that newness happen, so maybe in a few years’ time it’ll be a different variation on what it is now. I’d like to make something that’s similar but is more focused on dance music and more of a live experience. But the great thing about Hot Dub is it’s just a load of fun and it seems to make people really happy. What’s also great is that people seem to keep discovering it; so at a show I might ask “Who has seen me before?” and “Who’s new to Hot Dub?” and it’s usually about 50/50, which is great. So as long as people keep coming, I’ll keep doing it!
Hot Dub Time Machine plays Glasgow, Southampton, Manchester and London from 7 September 2018. Tickets are on sale now. Get yours at Ticketmaster.co.uk