When one considers the instruments most closely associated with electronic music, the trumpet doesn’t typically enter the frame. And yet Timmy Trumpet has made a (literal) name for himself with productions that marry big room productions with the brass instrument.
It’s a skill the Australian artist born Timothy Jude Smith has been honing for a lifetime, first picking up the trumpet as a child and winning the Australian Young Musician of the Year award when was 13. He graduated from band camp to bottle service, with his profile skyrocketing upon the 2015 release of his global hit “Freaks” and the string of bangers and high-profile collabs that have followed. On Friday (Dec. 4), he releases his debut album Mad World, the title track of which is his cover of the 2001 Gary Jules version of the Tears For Fears classic.
Populated by the party-centric main stage dance tracks that have made Trumpet a favorite at festivals like Creamfields, Electric Daisy Carnival, TomorrowWorld, Ultra and more, the rest of Mad World includes collabs with Vini Vinci, Vengaboys (!) and R3hab. The LP’s cover art is a composite photo built from thousands of fan-submitted images sharing what 2020 has meant to them.
For Trumpet, this exceedingly strange year — which began with him going on tour with Steve Aoki and is ending with him still at home in Australia as the pandemic persists — has included spending time with his family, making music and reflecting on the good fortune he’s experienced in his lifetime. Here he talks about his childhood, his favorite dance music and the best all-time solo featuring his namesake instrument.
1. Where are you in the world right now, and what’s the setting like?
Sydney, Australia. It’s where I’m from and this year I’ve spent more time here than I have in the past 20 years. We have managed to do very well considering all things 2020 has thrown at us. Right now we are in a good place.
2. What is the first album or piece of music you bought for yourself, and what was the medium?
I bought my first CD after hearing the Chemical Brothers’ “Block Rockin’ Beats” on the radio. I’ll never forget hearing it in my mum’s car while she was driving me home from school. It was unlike anything I had heard before and I was hooked.
3. What did your parents do for a living when you were a kid, and what do they think of what you do for a living now?
My mum was a nurse and has been for 46 years; my dad was a payroll manager. They love what I do and have been supportive of everything I have ever wanted to do for as long as I can remember. They drove me an hour each way to trumpet lessons several times a week when I was a kid and made sure I had every opportunity in music. They were there in the front row watching my high school jazz band recitals and have been backstage at Las Vegas pool party residencies. Legends.
4. What was the first song you ever made?
I wrote a song on piano when I was 6 or 7. It had four chords and can remember writing lyrics. God only knows what they were, and I never played or sang it to anyone. I kinda like that.
5. If you had to recommend one album for someone looking to get into electronic music, what would you give them?
Homework by Daft Punk. Enough said.
6. What’s the first thing you bought for yourself when you started making money as an artist?
When I was a kid, I bought candy with money I got for playing at my uncle’s birthday party. I thought I was the richest person in the world! When I made a couple hundred dollars for playing my first nightclub show years later, I bought some bongos and taught myself how to play them.
But the first time I made more than a couple hundred I was able to help my sister with her mortgage payments when she was going through a hard time. This was the moment I realized that if I worked really hard, my music could help the people closest to me. If it wasn’t for this experience maybe things would have been different. Who knows? I might have blown my money on things I didn’t need or maybe I just wouldn’t have worked as hard in the first place.
7. What’s the last song you listened to?
A rough version of an idea I’m working on. Yesterday I Ioved it. Today I hate it. This is the process.
8. What’s one song you wish you had produced?
The Gigamesh remix of Radiohead’s “Everything In Its Right Place.”
9. What’s the first electronic music show that really blew your mind?
Field Day Festival in Sydney around 2003, listening to Dimitri from Paris.
10. What’s distinctive about the place you grew up, and how did it shape you?
I had a middle class, suburban upbringing in Western Sydney. My parents were strict, but very supportive. We never went without, but I was never spoiled. My parents worked hard and made sure I did too. I always felt safe and had bushlands behind my house to adventure in and quiet streets to play on with the neighbors. It’s an amazing thing, having a typical Aussie childhood with not a worry in the world. It’s made me appreciative, grounded and thankful for everything I have.
11. Are you an introvert or an extrovert?
I’m not sure. Probably a little of both. But enough of a clown to make the stage work, so I guess I would lean more towards the extrovert department.
12. What’s your go to karaoke song?
“I Did It My Way” – Frank Sinatra. Any time, any place. I’m ready.
13. What is the all-time greatest trumpet solo in the history of music?
“So What” by Miles Davis, because it changed everything. If you haven’t heard this, stop what you’re doing. I can’t not mention Lee Morgan’s solo in “Moanin” and local legend James Morrison’s “You Are My Sunshine” solo also. James was a huge influence, growing up not too far from me. He’s not just Australia’s best trumpet player but an amazing entertainer.
14. The title track of your album is a cover of the 2001 Gary Jules version. What is it about the version that struck you so deeply that you named your LP after it?
The Michael Andrews and Gary Jules version of “Mad World” is timeless and timely. Its magic deserves to be shared with another generation, and that’s why I wanted to include the piano section in all its glory. It’s just too perfect to touch.
As far as naming the album Mad World — I think 2020 speaks for itself. I was in the middle of a 30-date U.S. tour with Steve Aoki when global pandemic alarm bells rang out. One night we were playing to 10,000, the next day I’m on a flight home to Australia. Since then, I’ve focused on making music that speaks to our experiences of now and this album is all about the world that we live in and how I and the people around me see it. It’s the perfect title but I can’t take credit for it
15. What does success for new music look like in a moment when you can’t play it out at shows?
It’s a much more personal experience. I have had to look deeper into what I’m trying to say, even when sometimes it might not be much at all. When you’re making music that will work on the dancefloor, the priorities are very different. It’s about the moment you share together in that instant and who they are sharing it with by their side.
But when I’m not on stage experiencing a piece of time in the flesh, I’m writing music that will stretch and bend its way to wherever it will land and mean whatever it will mean to whoever wants to listen. It’s intimate, and at the same time distant. But when my music connects, and I read about what it means to others it makes me appreciate the whole process so much more. Music really is bigger than any of us, and once you understand this, that it doesn’t belong to “us” — but instead to everybody — then there’s always success in every release.
16. What’s been the hardest part of being off the road during this time? What’s the best part?
The hardest thing is not being able to be there with and for people when life passes us by. I’m used to seeing all the people that have become my family in every corner of the world and I feel very far away from them right now. But on the other hand, being home and spending time with my family and friends has been the best part of 2020. I usually spend no more than a couple of weeks a year in Australia due to touring, and one day soon I know things will be like that again, so I’m making the most of it while I can.
17. What songs and albums have helped you get through quarantine?
Anything with emotion. My current taste in music definitely changed the minute we went into lockdown. Perhaps subconsciously, everyone’s did? I guess we are always shaped by the events around us, and that influences what we are into and why, even if we don’t know it
18. In the wide world of electronic music, what role do you play?
I’m just living my life like everyone else. I don’t think I have a “role” as an artist. I try to be the best person I can and do the right thing by others, but that has nothing to do with music. I’m just blessed to be a part of this all and can’t believe the people I get to work with these days. Making music has a lot to do with luck, and I’ve been fortunate enough to have had a lot so far.
19. What’s one thing you’d like your fans to know about you?
That I was a geek, I actually went to band camp and I worked f–king hard to get be able to do what I want for a living — and you can too. Work hard at whatever you want in life, and you’ll throw yourself in the odds of favor. I’m an ordinary guy that had an extraordinary dream and stuck to my plan to give it all I can. And I f–king love my fans!
20. One piece of advice you’d give to your younger self?
Enjoy the ride. Don’t take it all too seriously.