Ten Questions With Terry Gotham: Tommie Sunshine

Tommie Sunshine

1. How is 2014 ending out for you? Any crazy summer stories or projects started early on that are coming along nicely? I don’t even know where I could possibly begin. There’s so much going on right now, I have so much music about to come out. I have a television show in development with Red Bull, a lot of things.

2. Do you have a favorite sized crowd that you like to play to? Hotel room sized? Ampitheater? Somewhere in between? I mean, to me, it doesn’t matter how big the crowd is. It never has. I’m just as comfortable playing to 10,000 people as I am to 10. The way I see it, if somebody is going to go the distance, of driving from somewhere far away, like proper ravers do. Then, they deserve the complete show. It doesn’t matter if it’s in a club and it’s not particularly packed, or if it’s a particularly crazy night. I think I deliver the same intensity in every situation.

3. Was there ever a time where you were less public about your political beliefs? Have you always been as outspoken as now, or was there a “Fuck it” moment? I think that, as I’ve gotten older, that it’s important to stand up for yourself. I think that when I was younger I didn’t really grasp that. We’re living in a time where it is really pushed upon us that our opinion doesn’t matter, that our vote doesn’t count, that our voice isn’t heard. And none of that is true. That’s all lies. And if everyone believes that, then the status quo stays the same. If people learn how to stand up for themselves and be heard and use their voice, then change will happen. And I believe that’s coming.

4. Are there any activist organizations or causes that you feel particularly strongly about, tangentially to music of course? I think it’s all very personal. I think you have to gravitate to what makes the most sense to you. Because, let’s face it, we’re all very different people. I’m a vegetarian, so to me, anything involving animals is a really touchy subject. But to the next person, they don’t care. And I’m ok with that, I understand that. I think you need to find what it is that really matters to you in your life, and then you can just seek out the organizations that support that agenda & do your best to support them.

5. Can you speak a little bit about what the aftermath of the RAVE Act was like in the scene for some of our younger readers who may not know what dance music culture in the USA was like then? It nuked the entire subculture. In one fell swoop, it completely destroyed the RAVE scene. It literally was like, one weekend there was a fully functional scene and the next weekend, there was nothing. Because nobody was willing to face those tens of thousands of dollars in fines & risk going to jail for what was a party. It was really interesting, because they really targeted Disco Donny. Who has his own thing now & works with SFX, but at the time, it was really bizarre. They were really trying to throw him in jail and it got really hairy. Luckily, the culture came together and it was EM-DEF, the Electronic Music Defense Fund, and they raised all of this money, so that Donnie could fight this case. I mean, he was facing 20 years in jail. That was pretty insane. Myself and a bunch of other people, a lot of other people, contributed money and helped him fight all of that. But it was a very crazy time, and just a 30 second backstory.
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I don’t think a lot of people understand that our present vice president was the one that instigated this bill alongside Hilary Clinton. And the reason was, Joe Biden’s niece, was at one of Donny’s parties & landed herself in the ER in New Orleans. And he made it his own personal witchhunt, to shut down what caused this, this “demon scene,” that landed her niece in the ER. Really, she was just a stupid kid, who had a crazy night. And because of it, it nuked our scene.
6. Related to that, do you support the growing movement to Amend the Rave Act to allow harm reduction measures (and groups such as DanceSafe) back into parties? You sounded exceptionally displeased at the way EZoo handled harm reduction. Two years in a row no less! I was actually on the Katie Couric show, with Missi. Of course, I don’t think anyone disagrees that DanceSafe isn’t a proper way to guide us through this chaos. First of all, as if kids at this point have any parental input, I don’t feel like parents are teaching their kids anything. And I don’t feel like there’s not a lot of stuff in the culture that’s teaching kids anything. Blogs are too busy writing stupid stories and creating chaos for clicks. Blogs aren’t teaching kids anything, if anything they’re just gearing kids up to read US Weekly & the Inquirer. Something needs to come into the circumstance and actually educate. So that harm and serious consequences stop.
7. What can we expect from Brooklyn Fire in 2015? Ever think about throwing your own events in Bushwick? Yeah actually! We’ve done a couple of low-key things in the basement of Tutu’s, this really cool restaurant in Bushwick.  I couldn’t possibly explain what’s coming in 2015 for the label. We’re raising our sights, looking for bigger circumstances. It’s amazing because the amount of support we’re getting from DJs at this point is kind of unprecedented. Especially since the majority of the artsts on the label, aren’t really well-known. We’re putting out these records by virtually unknown artists and they’re getting top-tier support. Lefty is this artist from Australia, and I just promoed his record a couple of days ago to Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike, Skrillex, and all these guy who are just digging this record. And they don’t know who the hell this kid is. It’s amazing to see people approach music from such a genuine perspective. As we know, the Beatport Top 10, and what is the hot moments of this music right now are all the same old same old. So, to be able to push this envelope, we feel really blessed.
8. Your wife Daniela is both awesome on Twitter and an activist in her own right, what kind of stuff does she work on, besides keeping you steady? Well put. She is an incredible visual artist. Just to give you an idea. She made a costume for Ultra, when I played on the mainstage last year. She made a costume where she was in this bodysuit, with all this candy print. She had this crazy pink afro and put all kinds of candy into the afro & stuff. And a picture of her ended up in the Miami New Times. And when it came time for Ultra to pitch the fact that the tickets were on the sale, they didn’t even use a picture of their own dancers that they hired last year, they used a picture of her. Just the costumes she makes for gigs are performance art in their own right. She’s just on this whole other, next level. And is really just trying to push the idea of expression. Here we are in a circumstance where we can be anything we want to be, look any way we want to look, why not take it to the extreme. And really push it.
9. Any tips for the young remixers out there trying to be seen in the increasingly belligerent noise? I think that #1, you shouldn’t listen to anybody including me. And, I think that if you’re aspiring towards something specifically artistic, you have to figure out what that means to you. And you really have to figure out what it is that you want from your art. If what’s important to you is doing what you want, and making what you wanna make, then don’t be surprised when it confuses people. If you want to be commercial & you want to play festivals, then there’s very specific parameters that you have to go along, to make music that makes sense in those confines. But really, at the end of the day, you should just do what it is that you love, keep your head down & understand that it’s going to take years. Before anyone gives a shit about what you’re doing. There is no fast track, there is no side entry that you can skip the system. One or two times a year, there’s a Garrix or a Zedd or a Madeon, who blows the doors down. And then everyone says, “But, but they did it!” Yea, you can’t use them as the example, because you know what? You’re not them! You’re you. You’re probably going to have to climb that mountain, one step at a time.
10. Besides Motley Crew & Alice Cooper, what’s the best show/event/party you’ve been to in the last year? What did they get right, and what should others be emulating? Electric Daisy Carnival in Vegas. That’s the only rave that’s left in this country. I say that with absolute resolve. I don’t feel like any of the rest of the stuff that goes on is truly a rave. I feel that Pasquale came from being a rave promoter, and to this day, really still is one. The best performance I saw was DJ Snake on the Main Stage in Vegas. I haven’t heard anything so goddamn crazy in years. The way he went in and out of music…and what was even crazier is that you realize, as he’s playing all these records, is that he made most of them. It was like “oh shit, this guy is out of control.” Hearing that mishmash of music, all presented in a main stage format at a major festival, with a 120,000+ people in attendance…That gives me hope? That we’re not destined for some sort of vanilla, one trick pony. I feel like there’s so much room for other people to step in and do things, in so many different ways. But it also challenges the rest of the people that throw parties in this country, to do things in a different way. And I hope that some of these other promoters stop worrying bout money and start worrying about culture. And about actually giving something back to the people that are spending millions & millions of dollars to go to these things. And written into that, is the responsibility for the people who attend.
Just as a side note, I feel like that’s also something that Insomniac does better than anybody else. They’ve got people walking around, making sure, kids sitting down on the ground…hey, you alright? Why ya sitting there. And I saw, a lot of that this year. People with the laminates on, just making sure everyone was chilling. Having that & not having that are two very different things. it’s incredibly important. They’re protecting themselves first & foremost, but as they should! How can you have 120,000 people anywhere, and not have some broad-stroke supervision, to make surethat people, just at the basic level, are ok. I think it’s very important. And I think that moving forward with this culture, now that it is no longer an underground culture. We are now mainstream. We have taken control of the mainstream. And when Calvin Harris makes more than Kanye West & Lady Gaga combined this year, it’s probably about time that we start realizing that we’re not throwing underground jams in the hip parts of town. This is so much bigger than that. We’re in stadiums now. And with bigger crowds, comes much larger responsibilities, socially & otherwise.

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