After more than two decades away from his homeland, Australian DJ/Producer and label owner Barbuto is back and gearing up for the release of his highly anticipated new EP ‘Techno Colour Dreams (ft. MC Flipside)’ alongside three remixes of the song with some of the hottest names in the Australian circuit.
I had the honor of being able to sit down with Barbuto to talk all about his career, new releases, advice for new DJs and so much more…
Let’s start from the beginning as a young boy growing up in Australia. What made you want to pursue the music industry?
My upbringing was split between Australia and the United States. I was born here in Australia and when I was six roughly, I moved to America with my mother, and I lived there until I was 12. Between the ages of around 16 and 20 I was really into road racing and I got really good at it. I found myself riding bikes in Europe which then led me to be on a semi-professional Dutch team when I was around 16. At the time all of my teammates were listening to Dutch techno, which I wasn’t a fan of to begin with. Then as the season went on, we went out to nightclubs etc. and I began to really like that style of music! That is where I first started to DJ.
After I moved back to America, I gave up racing and for the next ten years began DJ’ing part time around California. Along the way I kinda realized that in order to not just be a local DJ I had to learn how to produce. I quickly realized that California wasn’t the best place for me creatively, so I upped and moved to Austin Texas. After a pretty long journey of working at producing and DJ’ing constantly, I finally got signed!
So, with all that moving around and traveling you did, were there any particular musical influences that stuck out during your travels?
It was definitely just music overall. I simply enjoy all music and I really liked the technicality of the DJ aspect of it. I went to so many legendary parties all over and got to play with so many great DJs like Carl Cox and Christian Smith. I was also really into collecting Vinyl’s and as a result of being exposed to all these great elements, I was able to evolve my music taste and get to what became my own sound.
Is it safe to say that it took a while to find your signature sound, is there anything you would change to get there earlier?
I wish I started learning how to produce much earlier. I have always found it a very arduous task to produce quality music, it takes me a lot longer and I have to really be in the right creative mindset and really refine the details to make a track sound great! Nowadays you can go find tutorials on YouTube that will teach you everything, but when I started out we didn’t have that so to get good you had to spend a lot of time figuring all the different parts out. So yeah, I definitely wish that I had started that process a lot earlier.
So would you say that you need to be a good producer in order to be a good DJ?
You know, they’re definitely related. You don’t necessarily have to be good at both but it certainly helps make you a better entertainer. Most artists tend to gravitate more towards one or the other. You can have exceptional DJs that aren’t great producers but still make it work. I consider myself much more of a DJ, that is just where I naturally gravitate towards.
Would you say that there is a big difference in the way that the public and the music industry views Producers/DJs compared to the way that they view singers?
I definitely think that when I was first starting out the overall feeling was that a producer was just someone who sits on a computer and they weren’t really taken that seriously, especially compared to a live singer. Singers were just seen as more serious musicians but I think in recent years we have had a massive explosion of ‘Celebrity DJs’ and dance music has become so popular, that now we have DJs who are just as big as singers now. I think this has really helped change the outlook of DJs.
You’re in the process of getting ready to release your new EP Techno Colour Dreams. How would you describe your creative process, how do you kind of make sure you stay on track?
It is a very long process for me. It has changed over the years, I used to just force myself to start and finish a song right away. I would make the song and then move onto the next one and just recycle that process. But one day I had a chat with a friend and he told me that sometimes you have to leave a song for a month or so before you go back to it, so you are not forcing the creative process. I now take my time with it, which allows me to perfect little things that I would have just ignored previously. Adding a little riff or layering vocals in a certain way etc. So now when you hear my music you can tell it is mine, because I have what you might call a ‘signature sound’. But it is a long process, sometimes I can go back and forth on a track 100 times over a few months before I get it right!
As a label owner do you adopt the same creative process for your artists or do you have to tailor the process?
That’s a really good question. It’s difficult to expect that my artists do what I do exactly. I try to at least apply some strictness of quality. A track can be good, but then I would say to the artist what happens when we break it down and we dissect it and that’s how I try to get the track to the next level.
What criteria do you look for when you have to make a decision whether to sign an artist or not?
I would say right now we almost have too many releases planned, and that is because I would kinda say yes, a little too much to begin with. So now when I am presented with a demo from an aspiring artist, I say to myself, try to visualize this artist being able to create 25…30 tracks that could be played in front of a large crowd. Sometimes a track can be good but not enough to convince me that they could entertain a crowd for large periods.
Is that a process which you do alone or are there more people involved in the deliberating process?
Well, I have a few other guys who I can call upon when I need that little extra push. Sometimes I can like a track but when I send it to someone else, they don’t feel the same which makes me have to remember that what is good for one person isn’t good for the majority. When I feel good about a track though, I usually only need a little push, so if I send it to two other guys, all I am looking for is one person to say ‘Yes’ and that is usually enough for me to go ahead with it.
Back to your upcoming release ‘Techno Colour Dreams’ now…Tell us a bit about the process that you went through to go from the idea to ready to release?
It was a song that I recorded quite some time ago. It was really special to me because it was the first track that I created since returning to Australia. The process actually started in Austin around six months ago, we were just attacking it each day. If you actually take away the vocals then it is a pretty simple track. I don’t like to overproduce my tracks. I only use a few elements. When I look at some other artists, they will have over 70 elements. I wanted to make a really simple well-done track, once we added the vocals to the melody, we saw that we didn’t need all the added extras and to over produce the song.
I just love creating music that makes the listener want to dance. I think when a track can make the listener do more than a little shuffle, then you are on to something special!
Which of the remixes on the EP are you most excited for people to hear?
Well, looking at the feedback they’re all pretty much neck and neck and they are really great. It is just phenomenal to have such great feedback for an entire EP, they all bring their own special elements so I am very excited to let the public see all of them!
Something we haven’t really mentioned are fans. Do you have any standout moments with one of your fans?
Well, I put a lot of effort into my DJ sets. When I first started, I would probably say I practiced more than anyone else. I was almost obsessive, where I would practice for 12 hours at a time. Waking up on the floor after practicing for hours to go straight to a gig to perform.
So, for me the best part is when a fan has actually gone out of their way to compliment my set. Those are the moments that mean the most to me!
Looking ahead, do you have any plans to tour?
Yeah, without a doubt, I love touring in Australia. I have some great gigs lined up in Gulf Coast and Queensland, which I am excited about. I’m very pro DJing in Australia. For me it is different to the guys who have lived here their whole lives and want to get out of the country. I spent a lot of time away from Australia so it is all still very fresh to me! There is a brand-new club being built in Austin right now, which will be one of the most technologically advanced night clubs in the world, so I will definitely be going there to perform when I can.
Lastly, what are the three biggest pieces of advice you can give to new or up and coming DJs?
I would say that, this is going to be really cliché [laughs], but have patience because it’s hard to break through. So just focus on your craft, don’t get distracted by everything else and make sure you are enjoying it!
I would also say to stay physically healthy. When you start to get bigger you will be getting flights to different places and might not eat as well or sleep, so if you don’t look after yourself then you will burn out and find it hard to perform and create your best work!
Finally, build your social media accounts organically. Don’t worry about others who have more followers, likes etc. Focus on your craft and if it is good enough you will grow your following! Just let it happen naturally, be true to who you are and the rest will follow!
Barbuto – ‘Techno Colour Dreams’ (ft. MC Flipside) and remixes from Mike Turing, Lisa May and Ludovic is out today January 25 via Mavic Music
Words: Dylan Hannigan
Images: ASBO exclusive