Tommie Sunshine: Born in the U.S.A.The Bruce Springsteen of Electronic Music Isn't Afraid to Give Hipsters the Finger.
By Scott Wood
For those who don’t know, Tommie Sunshine aka Thomas Morello is a New York-based international-level DJ, producer, It's pretty sad when I leave the country and the first question everyone says to me is, 'Oh you're American, what do you think of your president?' Everybody wants to talk politics with me. And of course I fucking hate our president. He's a fucking asshole. He's turning the world into a mess. How do you say that in music? I dunno for about 45 minutes of my set tonight I played a giant ball of distortion. remixer and songwriter of electronic music. Aside from DJing, Sunshine is best known for his remixes of pop bands like Good Charlotte, Fall Out Boy and Panic! At The Disco.
A car of wild admirers holler at Sunshine as they whiz off to the next party destination. He waves graciously. Up and coming DJ/producer Felix Cartal and his crew anxiously wait for a chance to chat with the elder statesman of electronic music.
His Remix album is a double CD collecting his remixes as well as original material. The album has received mixed reaction from scenesters. Some critics have called Sunshine daring to put “uncool” pop band remixes on the release—giving the middle finger to hipsters everywhere. Although, Sunshine has also remixed indie darlings like The Gossip, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Peaches.
Sunshine is never afraid to flip anyone the bird. “If I have a chance to take a pop band and remix them, as long as the song doesn’t totally suck, I’ll do it. There were plenty of things that were put on front of me I’ve said no to. If there’s something in that track that I like, I’ll do it, because when I know when I’m done, it’s gonna sound like me. It’s not gonna sound like Good Charlotte. It’s not gonna sound like Fallout Boy. Incidentally, it will because of their vocals. But half the time, the baseline getting reprogrammed, the guitar’s getting canned—all the music part of it is all getting replayed. I take the band and yank them from their world
Even his peers have been critical of some of Sunshine’s choices. When Sunshine was in Erol Alkan’s London club, Alkan himself called Sunshine out.
“I love how everybody keeps talking about him.” Sunshine is frustrated, but remains candid. “He couldn’t believe that I would remix bands like that. Not everyone in the world has the luxury of remixing the hottest newest hippest band. He is in London and he has some sort of fear of remixing somebody outside of his credibility bubble and I don’t have those sort of hang-ups. I don’t really care about stuff like that. I have an artistic vision, and anything that I can pull in that will make me get closer to that is alright by me. It doesn’t really matter if it’s the coolest hippest thing. Hipsters and cool kids don’t really fucking buy records or spend money on music anyway, so what does it matter?”
Electronic music is often ruled by pretense, so it is easy to see how Sunshine’s pragmatism can rock the establishment. He has called himself the Bruce Springsteen of electronic music. And the two certainly share a certain common man sensibility.
Sunshine’s roots make him critical of the hipster scene. “I grew up in the Midwest. I have a very proletarian, blue collar, working attitude. I am not an overnight sensation. I’ve been doing this for 16 years and worked very I grew up in the Midwest. I have a very proletarian, blue collar, working attitude. I am not an overnight sensation. I've been doing this for 16 years and worked very hard to get where I am - as most people who work do. I think this kind of hipster-trust-fund, going-out-on-Daddy's-credit-card bullshit has to stop. hard to get where I am—as most people who work do. I think this kind of hipster-trust-fund, going-out-on-Daddy’s-credit-card bullshit has to stop.”
“I’m much more interested in appealing to kids who have jobs and work hard and have X amount of dollars to spend. Because when they spend the money on my CD that feels good—because they earned that money. It’s a warm feeling when I know that I’m getting it from the working world. I’ve had enough of spoiled fucking brats.”
Like Springsteen, Sunshine is very class-conscious in his words. However as Sunshine is quick to admit, dance music really exists to lubricate hedonism. So I ask him how easy is it to add a political charge to music people listen to while chasing ass?
“My new single is called Dance Among the Ruins. I think that’s a kind of political observation of what’s going on in the world. It’s pretty sad when I leave the country and the first question everyone says to me is, ‘Oh you’re American, what do you think of your president?’ Everybody wants to talk politics with me. And of
For a man standing in an alley at 4 in the morning, Sunshine is quite lucid. Nonetheless, Cartal and his crew want to pick his brains and Sunshine is happy to mentor new talent. We end the conversation with some quick word association about his contemporaries.
Paul Epworth aka Phones?
SebastiAn or Mr. Oizo?
And what would those guys say about you?
“Oh, I’m sure they’d say I was a cock.”Tune in to the interview show with host Scott Wood, every Monday @4:30pm on CJSF 90.1FM for more interviews with your favorite indie artists. You can also listen online at www.cjsf.ca.