Rohan, the man behind Roland Tings sat down for a chat with us Friday night before his big set in the Basement Room of the beautiful Belasco Theatre in Downtown Los Angeles. Despite Roland Tings focussing his work around dance music, it was not until he moved from Sydney to Melbourne that he was able to realize that this was his passion. In Rohan’s music, you can see that he takes a very DIY approach, which he attributes to his early punk music influences . This comes across in his multifaceted live shows as well, which are full of drum machines and synth modules. His hands on live show was impressive for anyone in the Basement as he effortlessly transitioned from track to track while keeping everyone in the crowd moving. Despite some mid set sound issues, Roland Tings was able to keep the basement pumping with big kicks, heavy percussion and acidic synths. His set seemed to be over before it started which is a testament to how well his show blended together. Keep reading below to dive into the mind behind Roland Tings.
DB: What has it been like going from a bedroom producer who didn’t necessarily intend his music to be played in clubs, to doing tours with the likes of Chet Faker and now this international Future Classic tour?
Rohan: I’ve kinda always wanted to do the live show thing, I just had to make music to perform live. I never really DJ’ed dance music before I started producing. I’ve always liked using drum machines and stuff. When I first started going to shows it was all like punk rock stuff so i wanted to bring that DIY vibe to dance music. At the time in Melbourne it wasn’t “cool” to be into house music so I wanted to show people from other music scenes that it is something cool to be in to. I wanted to bring a bit of gnarly weird stuff into dance music because it was happening all around the world like people in LA and everywhere doing weird f*cked up dance music. I thought people with a background in noise and hardcore could bring those influences into dance music.
DB: How did you end up getting involved with Future Classic?
Rohan: I’ve just done a lot of remixes for them, like Chet Faker and CK. I’ve known Chet for a pretty long time. I actually gave him a lift to a music festival in Australia one time when I had no idea who he was. He told me “Ya I run a record label,” and I was like “Oh cool ya that sounds fun,” but that’s as far as the conversation went. Then it turned out that his record label is Future Classic, which wasn’t huge at the time but they were releasing all kinds of house music back then.
DB: So that’s when they first heard your music?
Rohan: No actually at that point nobody had heard my music. Not even me! It’s crazy to me to be working with these guys after such a long journey. I was just starting out around that time.
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DB: How did you end up meeting Chet Faker?
Rohan: I never met Nick in Melbourne, I’ve seen him at the parties but that’s about it. It wasn’t until I was playing a festival in Croatia and I got there a day early and hadn’t slept. I couldn’t help but think about how I was on this island and didn’t have any place to stay because I did not have accommodations for the night. I just went and sat down on these rocks in front of the ocean with all of my gear and thought “I’m so f*cked”. Then I see this guy get out of the water and I’m like “Hey you’re Nick right? You’re from Melbourne right?” and I just broke down and told him what was happening. He offered me to stay with him for the night at his room that he got at some cheap Croatian hotel. So I ended up staying with him and partying the whole weekend. And then he stole my iPhone charger and left to Paris! But he put me on his tour later so that made up for it.
DB: There are so many talented Australian producers coming out with fresh tracks, do you have an opinion as to why the Aussies have been dominating the electronic scene?
Rohan: I absolutely have no idea man, it’s not something that I ever really think about. Once you start sinking into that stuff it gets all bad, that’s for the critics and stuff to dissect and digest. I’m sure there’s some kind of reason behind it, like if you dig into it the reason might be really market driven and really f*cking depressing. But on the other side of the coin you have a lot of people in Australia making really sick stuff so that’s awesome.
DB: Could you explain your live performance setup for those who are curious about how some electronic artists perform their music?
Rohan: My setup has changed a lot over the years but it changes all the time honestly. At the core it’s just my laptop running stripped down versions of my tracks and then a drum machine and a synth module for weird effects and crazy swooshes and what not. I think the main part of the live setup that I’ve discovered recently is using a DJ mixer while performing instead of using a normal band mixer. They always have them in clubs and you don’t have to bring anything. The effects aren’t amazing but they sound the same everywhere you go and I don’t have to start worrying about bringing as much gear. It’s pretty hard to go wrong when you do it like that.
DB: So how do you go about writing your music? Is there any particular thing you like to start the process with?
Rohan: It’s always different man. It depends on what I’ve been doing and what I’ve been into at that time in my life. It also depends on things like if I’ve been DJ’ing a lot then I’ll think about making tracks like that but if I’ve been playing live a lot then I’ll be thinking of ideas that I wanted to play live but couldn’t because I haven’t made it yet. Or if I haven’t been playing at all then I’ll be thinking about making music that I’ll want to hear while cooking dinner or driving through the mountains. There’s no set formula for how I make my music it’s just whatever comes to me. I make the stuff that I need like if I need a tune that just has one not that drones for an hour while I drive around a windy road in a forest then that’s what I make. It’s kind of a bummer though because if I haven’t played for a long time then I just start making really ambient music and then I get to the end of 8 months and all I have is a bunch of tracks with drones and no drums and I feel like I’ve wasted 8 months of my life making this crap that basically nobody else will hear. Maybe one day when I die in an avalanche or something crazy the it’ll all be released on some kind of “lost tapes” project.
DB: Tell us about your latest release Hedonist.
Rohan: I’ve actually been playing it out live for a few months already I’ve been working on it for a long time and it’s just been evolving over the past 18 months up until it’s recent release. It’ll take me a while to gauge how the crowd reacts to it since I’ve only played live once since it’s release and that was last night in San Francisco so it still needs some more time. It’s pretty intense and I’ve played it across festivals in Australia and it seemed to get a good reaction but it’s always easier to tell when you’re in the crowd but much more difficult from the stage.
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DB: Is there anything specific that you do before your performances to make sure you’re ready? Anything that always has to happen in order to make sure the performance is great?
Rohan: Sometimes if I’m nervous I’ll meditate like do breathing exercises or mindfulness meditation but that’s only if I’m really nervous. That only really happens when I’m doing a headline show. Like I did a lot of headline shows in Australia recently and I’ve never been more nervous in my life! At festivals and other shows people just come out with their friends to have a good time and they’re more open to hearing whatever happens but when people come just to see you and they’re like “Oh this better be good!” then I freak out. I do exercises like that because they stop your brain from running off will all of the possibilities and what if’s and let you just be focussed on existing in the moment and not getting too ahead of yourself. Then you can realize what a huge privilege it is to be getting paid to set up in front of people and do this thing and that it’s really awesome. The last time I played a headline show in Sydney I was really nervous on the side of the stage and my manager came up to me and said, “Look man. In one year this could all be over and you could just be at home twiddling your thumbs so just f*cking enjoy it,” and I just thought wow that’s kind of rude and you don’t really have any faith in me but that’s kind of cool.
DB: He’s no longer your manager is he?
Rohan: No no he’s gone now!
DB: Can you name some of your influences? What inspired you to start making music and how did you come to the point where you wanted to perform it live?
Rohan: There are so many different catalysts that sparked it for me. It was mostly moving to Melbourne in 2006 which is when I first discovered dance music and I started DJing. At the time I was only playing party jams I wasn’t playing house or techno more just hip hop and stuff like that. An then there were certain guys like Ben Plant who I was friends with out in Melbourne and he started to point me in the right direction and his manager Jerry pointed me in the right direction as well. I remember watching Midnight Juggernauts one time and I was sitting on the side of the stage and that’s when it really caught my attention. I’ve been going to punk and hardcore shows forever but I never watched them and thought that looks like fun and I want to do it but when I got into electronic music I would watch it and be so curious as to how you can do that and thought that I really wanted to get involved in it. Then after that I just couldn’t stop and am where I am now.
DB: How does your production set up at home differ from what you use to perform live? Do you write music the same way that you perform it or do you write in a more controlled environment?
Rohan: They’re kind of the same. It’s the same pieces of gear in the studio there’s just more sh*t in the studio to play around with. My live shows are pretty rigidly structured because in the end you have to play some songs but in the studio you don’t have that obligation.
DB: So do you like to write music on the road or do you prefer to do it in the studio?
Rohan: I only like to make music at home in the studio because it’s just too hard on the road. I mean I still come up with ideas and just record them into my phone but I wait until I get back to start actually working on them. When I’m touring I like to have that time away from the studio so that I can focus on experiencing other things and not do what I do obsessively all the time. When I’m in the studio then I’m in the studio all the time so it’s nice to get away from that for a little bit. Then to come back to the studio after being on the road for a while is amazing because all of a sudden you have all of these ideas and you can just get in there and get it all out. In reality your experiences outside of the studio are all super valuable to the music that you make. It’s hard when you work by yourself to not view what you’re doing outside of the studio as not being productive because productivity is such a weird concept and it makes you feel really bad sometimes. If you’re a creator and you work by yourself, whether it’s art or music or anything, it’s good to think of everything you do as work. Even if you’re just going to the beach and swimming, your mom might think that you’re slacking off but that’s still apart of your work. You can’t always just write about that time you went into the studio to write a banger, you need those outside experiences to bring into your work.
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Interview written by: Jacob Piotrowski and Edward Stuart
Photographer: Anastasia Velicescu
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