A Late Nite Tuff Guy

A great piece on a DJ/producer I’ve been watching a lot this year. Tad Tietze talks with Cam Bianchetti better know in DJ circles as Australia’s Late Nite Tuff Guy. There’s also a mix to download at the end of the article. (article courtesy of www.residentadvisor.net)

How does that one quote go, about there being no second acts in Australian dance music? Whoever it was didn’t know much about Cam Bianchetti, a DJ/producer from Adelaide, Australia’s reputedly sleepy “city of churches.” In the early ’90s, he was making and playing driving, drug-fuelled underground dance music as DJ HMC, inspired as much by Chicago and Detroit as by European styles connected with his Italian heritage. Tracks like “Phreakin” and “LSD” remain classics, fusing sample-heavy house with analog techno.

Fast forward to the present, and Bianchetti’s renown no longer lies in being the Godfather of Australian Techno, touring the world and winning the admiration of key players in the scene like Claude Young and Laurent Garnier. Instead he has returned from an extended hiatus, fully reconfigured as an emerging master of the re-edit in a rebooted, reloaded guise, as Late Nite Tuff Guy.

“Cam has the knack of picking the right track to edit, which is an ability you’ve either got or you haven’t—an instinctive thing, not a learnt one,” explains Greg Wilson, who performed a meta-edit of sorts on Bianchetti’s Sister Sledge re-work, “One Nite In A Disco”, on Dessert Island Discs. “He knows how to take something from the past and put a contemporary spin on it, making it more DJ-friendly in a modern context, without losing the essence of the original version, which was what made it a great track in the first place.”

It’s this convergence of deeply understood music history and a penchant for finessing a very modern groove that underlies Bianchetti’s current success. He has increasingly incorporated the looped style he was famous for as HMC into his LNTG productions. “I’ve been finding lately I’ll put in one verse and that is all, but it does break it down and there’s an uplifting feel to that. I love the original [of ‘One Nite in a Disco’]—putting that verse in that edit lifts you up and then you fall back into that hypnotic groove.”

The emergence of LNTG also signals the resolution of a series of impasses that dogged Bianchetti through most of the ’00s. While he was only absent from DJing for around 18 months in that time—he’s held down a weekly residency at Adelaide’s Sugar nightclub since 2004—a combination of personal issues, fear of flying and frustrations with production left him largely isolated to his hometown, spoken about elsewhere in hushed tones as a lost legend of the scene.

I recall seeing him play blistering, impossibly tight techno in Sydney in 2002, his self-effacing performance behind the decks and funky, discofied take on the genre (unusual for the time) leaving me entranced. Yet HMC was soon discussed largely in the past tense, or as someone who had been lauded elsewhere but whom we’d never appreciated enough here in Australia. This state of affairs was probably added to by Bianchetti’s own barely concealed disenchantment. In 2004, he told inthemix that he felt “unmotivated” by Adelaide, and was thinking about moving to Berlin.

He didn’t. And something of a shift happened in 2007: “I was working in a record store as well as doing my regular DJing, and ‘I Get Deeper’ came out then as well as my early edits, like the Kate Bush edit [of ‘Running Up That Hill’].” But Bianchetti—still wasn’t confident in his abilities as a DJ and producer, and it wasn’t until the end of last decade that he was re-inspired. Drawing a line over longstanding personal problems and moving in with his sister were the final pieces of the puzzle. The production took off from there.

“I think these personal issues have only really been resolved these last couple of years,” he says. “I feel great about producing now, I love doing the edits and I love producing my original stuff, which is still ongoing.” An album of house and techno, City Rhythm, is complete and will come out later this year from Juice Records, which released some of the earliest HMC productions two decades ago.

“A lot of people seem to be so
impressed by mediocre here
in Australia. It’s just really weird.”

The shift from techno to disco hasn’t come from leftfield either. “I started to buy records when I was 13, in 1977. I grew up listening to disco music. The last few years of disco, they are some of my favourite records. Disco music, and black music in general, is really a big part of who I am.” This carried into his early career as a DJ. “When I started playing at Metro in 1988… it was a night where we played R&B, disco, house, techno. I’ve always been that kind of DJ.”

There is an obsessional quality to Bianchetti’s renewed love affair with music, and he concedes that his impressive release schedule of the last two years is just the tip of the iceberg. “I have thousands more tracks. I only work [a few] hours a week and I’m at the computer and do music all the time. I don’t sleep that much because I’m always doing music—my life is completely consumed by making music.”

The creative process is itself thoroughly immersive. “I will go over the track a million times in the headphones. I get hypnotised myself by it. At a certain point something happens when the track does hypnotise me.” When you hear LNTG revisions of Change’s “Hold Tight” or Prince’s “Controversy,” his ability to distil each track’s most mesmeric tropes before delivering ecstatic release seems to come effortlessly. Similarly, he gets to the dreamily erotic core of Wish Feat. Fonda Rae’s “Touch Me (All Night Long)” in a way that makes his version as uniquely essential as the original.

It wasn’t always so easy. “My techno stuff was all recorded using analog equipment. Now everything comes out of a computer. I get everything in time and looped in Ableton and I import all of that in Logic and work in there. The transition was difficult—I couldn’t really get my head around it until recently; it probably explains why I didn’t like my music.”

The transition has paid off. His stripped-bare reconstruction of the Roland Clark vocalled “I Get Deeper” caught the attention of DJs as diverse as Ellen Allien and Steve Lawler. More recent disco-centric edits have been huge for the likes of Todd Terje and Dimitri From Paris. His productions have been signed to specialist labels like Disco Deviance as well as industry powerhouse Get Physical, and he’s about to launch his own label, Tuff Cut.

In a near repeat of his ’90s experience, however, acclaim once again seems greater outside Australia than at home. When I ask him about this he remains mystified by his disconnection from the mainstream of the Australian industry. “A lot of the internationals that come over—a lot of people seem to be so impressed by mediocre here in Australia. It’s just really weird.”

But his re-infatuation with music has given him new self-assurance: “I am really confident in my abilities as a DJ. I have 30 years experience. For me the drive to go out and play is a lot stronger and I’m not going to let anything get in the way,” he says. He has conquered his fear of flying and will tour Europe starting next May, having already attracted scores of offers to play as LNTG.

Like the proverbial phoenix, Bianchetti is not content with spreading his wings for a while only to return to the ashes. “I will be going overseas but I don’t know if I’m coming back,” he told me, setting his sights on Berlin (again) as he wound up his Sugar residency last month. There is no bitterness in his voice. He may once have been dismayed by the local scene’s inability to appreciate his contribution but he was also always uncomfortable with being in the spotlight anyway. For him it was always about hypnotising dancers, helping them get lost in a groove. Now there is quiet determination that this breakthrough—his second one—will deliver exactly that.

Tad Tietze (article courtesy of www.residentadvisor.net)

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