The Canadian DJ/producer talks about his new label and making an eclectic record.
Plenty of DJs have nicknames, but only Ryan Hemsworth is known as both the “Remix Ryan Gosling” and the “Internet Zack Morris.” As for what these appellations mean is anyone’s guess; both were given to the Toronto-based DJ/producer from his broad network of friends and fans on Twitter. With his full-length debut, “Guilt Trips,” out October 22 on Last Gang Records, Hemsworth solidifies his role as part of a new wave of producers whose thoughtful approach to dance music challenges categorization.
“When I was in school, I was friends with everybody,” says Hemsworth “I didn’t just have one little group I stuck to.”
While he’s talking about his social media audience, it could just as easily be a reference to the diverse group of collaborators on his new album, or a metaphor for his musical preferences. Through a series of remixes in the last few years both official (Mikky Ekko, Lianne La Havas) and bootleg (Frank Ocean, Backstreet Boys), Hemsworth has been able to showcase his broad taste as well as his inventive ear. While some have labeled him a hip-hop artist or a sample-based producer, Hemsworth himself isn’t as comfortable with such classification.
“It’s always difficult to pinpoint my sound exactly because I like to jump around a lot,” Hemsworth explains. “I’m always kind of stuck with the terms ‘dreamy’ or ‘cloudy.’ There are always those elements that keep it feeling chill and dreamy in a way. I’m not really sure why.”
Still in his early 20s, Hemsworth came of age at a time when hip-hop was standard listening, though it wasn’t exactly the dominant genre of his hometown of Halifax, Nova Scotia. Thus, his relationship to the genre might be somewhat more alternative.
“I’m pretty chill myself,” he says. “I grew up on a lot of post-rock. I was obsessed with Sigur Rós and stuff like that. Even when I’m making hip-hop, I always bring in samples that are drawn out and stretched out. It’s always a world that I fit in.”
As they are for other genre-busting producers like Kastle, RL Grime, and Cyril Hahn (with whom Hemsworth is touring this fall), hip-hop and R&B influences are part of an eclectic musical toolbox for Hemsworth. All of these artists are resolutely comfortable helming the decks on a dancefloor, yet they make albums for your headphones, a distinction most EDM DJs can’t claim. “Guilt Trip’s” guest drops include Disclosure vocalist Sinead Hartnett, rapper Kitty (formerly Kitty Pryde), and Lofty305 of Miami art/hip-hop crew Metro Zu, all of whom reinforce a non-genre approach to the creation of an album.
Home of a broad range of Canadian acts like Metric, Chromeo, Lights and Purity Ring, Last Gang seems a likely label home for Hemsworth.
“I didn’t realize the history of Last Gang until I went in and saw all the plaques on the walls,” Hemsworth confesses. “Americans don’t really know the name, but it’s kind of like a secret weapon. They’ve been responsible for a lot of great stuff for a long time.”
One of the imprint’s “weapons” is that they’re savvy when it comes to securing FACTOR grants, the publicly funded arts initiative designed to promote Canadian recording artists.
“Going with a Canadian label that understands all that is a huge benefit,” Hemsworth explains. “It gives us so much more flexibility and opportunities with a lot of stuff.”
Anyone who thinks Hemsworth is letting his new label do all the work from now on should think again.
“It’s super important to be in the world of music in every sense,” he says. “From the creative side to the people who are responsible for making other people hear you – I’m still in touch with everyone [from] the beginning. It helps you survive, I think.”
Ryan Hemsworth's “Guilt Trips” Tracklisting
- "Small + Lost" (featuring Sinead Harnett)
- "Against A Wall" (featuring Lofty 305)
- "Weird Life"
- "Still Cold" (featuring Baths)
- "Avec Vous"
- "Happiness & Dreams Forever"
- "Yaeko Mitamura Is Lonely"
- "Ryan Must Be Destroyed"
- "One For Me" (featuring Tinashe)
- "Day/Night/Sleep System" (featuring Haleek Maul and ♡kitty♡)