It’s funny to think that Ryan Hemsworth was in Melbourne last year, playing to a small, but hyped, crowd at the Brunswick East. Cut to 2013 and he’s transformed from a dorky Aubrey Graham into a satin-shirted Drake on the cover of GQ. The Hemsworth story sees him developing from a “journalist of some sort”, releasing his own mixtapes, to being initiated into the Wedidit collective via friendships formed online. He’s evolved from your regular internet nerd to playing boiler room sets with A$AP DJs and touring with the likes of Cashmere Cat, RL Grime and Baauer. Burn your Pokédex and bin your Pokéball. Mission complete: Ryan Hemsworth is the chosen one.
Producer, DJ, internet persona, Wedidit member, Canadian prince. Between the hype machine and the industry buzzwords, what would you actually label your profession?
Yeah, there’s a lot of names thrown around I guess. I’m kind of happy about that though. It’s not pigeonholing me into one place – so I can jump around and do a pop song, then a rap song and then a Jersey Club song. I’m happy with just ‘Canadian producer’. Even DJ is still funny to me sometimes because that is all still new to me. I guess I’m self-conscious, so I don’t feel cool enough to be like ‘Sup? I’m a DJ’. It sounds too cool for me.
In terms of achievement, how far away are you from where you want to be career wise?
I’ve definitely already surpassed my own expectations with music as a career. I’ve been making music since I was like 14 or 15. I know I probably always will, so being able to travel and work with people and stuff is just this amazing luxury that I’m trying not to take for granted. I’d like to just keep this going, I’m really happy right now and I like that it’s been a fairly slow growth – although this year a lot of stuff has accelerated rapidly.
Some digging online led me to find your old blog A Half-Warmed Fish. So you were a “journalist of some sort”? Tell me more about that!
I took journalism in college. I like writing and I assumed that’s what I was going to end up doing. I’m glad the music stuff has been working out because I’m really not the most prolific writer, nor am I incredibly informed to be honest! I just love listening.
Do you want to write for ACCLAIM magazine?
Perfect. Okay, name five things you instantly think of when you hear the word Australia.
Kangol hats – I don’t think they’re even Australian? Vegemite, Summer Heights High, the way Gucci Mane pronounces Australia in an interview I heard once (“Auskralia”), and spiders!
What is something you have your heart set on seeing or doing when you arrive here?
I don’t even know, honestly. Hopefully someone will take me around a bit when I have downtime. I’m excited to see and meet people that I’ve only talked to online and stuff – lots of New Zealand homies, Nina Las Vegas from Triple J, and tons of supporters who I just want to hang with.
What’s the best part about touring? What’s the worst?
Meeting amazing people and then having to say goodbye to them within hours.
You recently went on tour with Baauer, RL Grime and Jim E-Stack. How was that received? Did you feel like you were in a boy band?
It was amazing. The shows were really amped up, obviously because Baauer and RL just bring a crazy energy. So, a lot of raver kids. But just to be on the road with my best buds for a few weeks is amazing. I’m usually alone for tours and stuff, so now that I’m getting the chance to share this stuff with friends and musicians I look up to – it’s awesome. There was so much Xbox and horror movie watching on that tour. I want to do a part two, where we don’t even play shows. We just play video games and watch movies.
Did shit ever get claustrophobic on the tour bus or was it good to have some company?
Nah, it was lucky because we’re all so similar. Like, we had a tour bus, which was surreal. We’d finish and just go back on the bus and chill in the tiny back room together, watching Tim & Eric or some crappy movie. Very un-rockstar. Like, literally kicking girls off the bus who were trying to get on.
Ha! Okay, let’s pretend you’re actually in a boy band. Which role would you take and who else would be in the band with you?
The lead singer: Samo Sound Boy. (I cry from laughter when he sings.)
The bad boy rapper: RL Grime. (Raw MC.)
The awkward guy: Me.
The babe: Tommy Kruise.
The nerd: Groundislava.
There are people out there who are more concerned with your public persona and image than your music. What are your thoughts? Do you think it adds to your profile as a musician, or cheapens it?
Wow, I’m so pumped this is a question! Yeah, I guess the thirst is real. There’s no way to discuss this without sounding ungrateful or like a loser, but, yeah. It’s actually not the tightest thing to me, because I’m realising there are people who fuck with my face or my Twitter more than my music. I mean, that’s awesome. But sometimes it’s like ‘Oh shit, does anyone care?’ But at the same time, I’m probably genuinely better at Twitter than music. It’s fine though. I’ll be fat and ugly in no time and then we’ll see if anyone actually fucks with me.
What about your hometown clique? Are they more or less responsive to your shows now that you have international reach? Like, are you still just the same old Ryan to them or do they make a big deal when you play locally now?
It’s more of a big deal now, I guess. That’s kind of the way it works for my city though – you have to go away and take off on your own. Then people want you to come back and want to be proud of you – even though no one really cared before. There’s just not a big market for electronic acts and stuff in my hometown. It’s just a small city mentality, so everyone is pumped when someone is doing something. It does make me feel awkward though, because I don’t feel any different personally.
Obviously you’re both Canadian, but outside of sharing mutual citizenship and making music – are you and Kaytranada tight? How are you feeling about sharing everything with him on this tour?
We’ve hung out a few times at shows and stuff. He’s a Montreal dude, which is one of my favourite cities honestly, so he’s got those positive vibes in him. It’ll be fun I think. I get the feeling we’re both pretty low-key as well. When you’re on the road with someone, you have to be good at finding and respecting that turn down time as well. I don’t think that’ll be too hard.
Your fan base out here has probably tripled since your last visit to Australia. How do you think the atmosphere will differ from last time? What changes can we expect from your live performance?
I couldn’t believe the response at my shows last time! Like, it was before I had even played America and people were still like, excited, and knew my name and stuff. So I’m pumped! I just feel a lot more experienced now and think I have a better idea of how to help people feel based and remove the hate from their hearts for one night, so they can dance to my stupid music.
Okay finally, what are your thoughts on the following things? First, drop bears.
Wait, what the fuck? I just Googled this. I’m not coming anymore.
It is fun.
I’m better at this than romance.
They’re cool. Let’s do this again some time.
Ryan Hemsworth is touring Australia and New Zealand with Kaytranada thanks to Brown Bear Entertainment.
Thursday 22nd August – Rakinos, Auckland (Ryan Hemsworth only)
Friday 23rd August – Oh Hello 2nd Birthday, Brisbane
Saturday 24th August – Espionage, Brown Alley, Melbourne
Sunday 25th August – Knots, Freemasons Grand Lodge, Adelaide
Friday 30th August – Next Hype, The Bakery, Perth
Saturday 31st August – Chinese Laundry, Sydney
More Ryan Hemsworth
Photography by Sasha Loncarevic.
Illustration by Eric W Redmond.