At just 17-years-old, trance legend Armin van Buuren signed the artist, producer, and DJ to his Armada record label. In both 2008 and 2009, tyDi would go on to claim the honor of “Australia’s #1 DJ,” becoming the “youngest recipient of the award in history.” As he built a sizable fan base worldwide, he notched a major North American hit with “ReDefined,” which Sirius XM Electro placed as the “No. 1 Song of 2015.” Along the way, he’s been tapped as an official remixer for everybody from Kelly Clarkson to Cher.
tyDi is knee deep in making his 2016 EP, and we spoke to him about what’s up ahead, his process, the benefits of using The Eyeball, and so much more in this exclusive interview.
AN EXCLUSIVE KAOTICA CHAT WITH tyDi
Do you remember your first session as a producer?
It was by myself on a laptop looking at the ocean when I was 15-years-old. I was back in Australia—a small city called the Sunshine Coast, to be exact. I had some speakers setup there. There was no vocalist or anything like that. I was just producing, and I was teaching myself how to use software and make dance music. I remember the moment when I first made a beat. I thought, “This is something I can pursue.”
What drew you to electronic music?
At that same age, I was learning how to play piano and also drums. I was really into bands like blink-182 and Dashboard Confessional. It’s funny, because I actually have a song with Dashboard on my latest album. Back then, these were people I idolized. I was into this punk rock thing. At the same time, I was the high school nerd obsessed with music. I was never good at sports. I’d be in the music room listening to internet radio from London like BBC’s Radio 1. Electronic music was strange to me, but it hit me one day, “I can do this myself.” With drums and piano, I needed a whole band. This slapped me in the face like, “I can sit on a laptop and make all of this music alone with no other people around.” I went straight to it.
I remember that first session I was looking out over the ocean and producing. The more I got into it, the more I became passionate for electronic music. It literally became my life. It was everything to me. I would finish school, and I would produce. I would wake up and produce before school. Lunchtime, I would work on producing music, while listening to electronic music. It just took over. I was unstoppable. Other kids wanted to play sports and skate. All I did was try to become the best producer I could be.
That’s a different environment than your typical studio…
When I started, I wasn’t in a studio. I was a kid with speakers and a laptop. I bypassed the whole studio thing. A lot of people have a talent, and they get thrown straight into a massive recording studio. They learn that way. It’s funny you get guys like Diplo and Skrillex who produce a lot of their music on a plane with a laptop and headphones. They end up realizing they can make music on a laptop and record vocals at home on a microphone. I’ve been in plenty of big studios when I’m working with big vocalists and during writing sessions. However, I’ve always found my best work comes from me producing at home.
Did you know you always wanted to be a producer?
As soon as I became addicted to electronic music, I had nothing else on my mind. I thought, “My life is to become an electronic music producer.” As you travel the world, see success touring, and land songs on radio, that changes you, because you want to stretch and become diverse. At the time, I was like, “If I don’t make it as a music producer, I’ve failed at life” [Laughs].
What’s your approach to composition and songwriting like?
I love to go for the big stuff, because I was very inspired by orchestral music and movie scores. I was so into music that I’d even closely listen to the score of a film. I wondered, “How do they make this sound so big?” A lot of it has to do with the right reverbs. Less is more. Sometimes, it’s contrast. In the music world, “Big” is a subjective term. Depth and size are something you can create through contrast.
If you think of The Revenant, the score is almost desolate. There’s nothing going on there. In these slight moments, a big thick pad of a string section will come in. It’s not even a full string section though. They’ve filtered it down to warm strings. Then, they go away. It’ll be nothing for ten minutes before you’ve heard the next bit. There’s a contrast between hearing nothing but ambience and then the string section. Because of the contrast, you get the vibe that the string section is huge. Put that string section into a modern day pop song, and it’s weak because there’s so much going on. It’s all that contrast. In my songs, I’ll use contrast to make a chorus or drop sound big.
If you notice, many of my verse tracks are stripped back to minimalism, so when I do bring in the big instruments, you just subconsciously hear them as massive. If you can hear the differences, you can make massive sounds out of small things. I remember I snapped a ruler once to get this crack sound. I used the right reverb, and it sounded like a huge crash!
How has that approach evolved?
I just did a session with myself and a vocalist. She’s sitting there writing vocals to the track, while I produce. I’ll turnaround every now and then and say, “Try this lyric” or “Try this melody.” It’s very personal.
How has the Eyeball changed recording?
The Eyeball is fantastic. In my L.A. studio, I first turned a bedroom into a recording studio. I had it all setup, so the acoustics were just right for this mic. I didn’t need the right acoustics for the speakers though. One would argue you always need the best-sounding room, but I don’t care so much because I use different rooms all the time for mixing. I find the mix-downs translate well across all of the rooms from my workflow. Recording’s different. You do need to record in the right room. Reverb is another thing we’ve been talking about. Every room has different surfaces, and those surfaces will affect the sound quality of the vocal as well as the way the vocals bounce off the walls and back to the mic. That’s why we have a vocal booth to avoid that. However, the days of needing the vocal booth are gone with the Eyeball.
The other day, I was working with Greyson Chance. We have a record together. It was his suggestion for me to move my studio to the living room. It wasn’t for any musical reason; it was just because the room is massive, and writers like to walk around the room and pace. The Eyeball allowed me to do that. I didn’t need a closed acoustically treated environment to record vocals because you can literally have the mic in the middle of a large living room with the Eyeball on it. It removes all of the noise and bouncebacks from the surfaces across the room.
These aren’t demos I’m recording either. These are songs that will be on the radio. The vocals for one of my biggest tracks, “ReDefined,” were recorded in my living room. The Eyeball changes so much, and it’s proving itself every day I work.
What songs have you recorded with The Eyeball?
Most of them! Ever since I was given The Eyeball, I haven’t stopped using it. My next EP coming out this year is recorded completely with The Eyeball—even guitars and strings. It depletes that room noise. You get a cleaner take no matter if it’s a cello, a viola, vocal, or guitar. It completely removed the need for a vocal booth for me. It’s not even just a fix; it’s an integral part of how my vocals sound. The Eyeball is always there to make the take sound cleaner.
Was it easy to pick up?
There was no learning curve at all. When I moved the studio to the living room, I threw The Eyeball on the microphone. You notice the difference when you take The Eyeball off; you hear the room noise. It’s a natural reverb we don’t want on things. You chuck on The Eyeball, and it’s dry again. Suddenly, you’re in the position to use your own reverbs and not worry about the room noise. It’s the cleanest possible take, so I have the most control.
How do you typically break the ice with an artist?
It’s all human interaction. When I’m working with someone I’ve never met before, they’re here to make an incredible song, and I’m there to do the same. We both have the same goal in mind. It gels perfectly, whether the person is aggressive or calm. As a producer, you have to work with different personalities, but you always have the end game of making the best record possible.