“You got something wrong with your legs?”
Even if he had 4,999 beat junkies writhing and woo-ing in the Shrine’s strobe-filled Expo Hall, the sight of one industry insider standing still pulled Paul Fisher‘s attention from the decks.
“No,” the man blinked, looking up from his smart phone.
“Fucking get up and fucking dance then you idiot!”
The affable Australian DJ leads by example. Fisher bobs, jumps, ducks, jives and wails behind the turntables, his tongue flashing out of a mouth stuck in a semi-permanent combination laugh-and-scream. He looks just as excited to hear each bassy hook as a woman who holds her face in her hands, starry-eyed and sweaty, squeezed against the front rail. Three sold-out nights in a row Fisher rode that wave next to his best music buddy Chris Lake.
“The adrenaline I was feeling, I would have done fuckin’ 10 days of it,” he says later over nacho chips. “You prolly would have had to wheelchair me up.”
There’s no such thing as true overnight success, but if there was a poster boy for a charmed life, it’d be Fisher’s rapturous mug. With a shaved head and a boyish glow, he’s an easily excitable man with a knack for pulling things off. He grew up a mischievous kid in a long line of beach bums. By 16, he was a sponsored pro surfer traveling the world. In his mid 20s, his DJing hobby turned into a career, and in 2017, he went solo from duo Cut Snake and soon rocketed to the top of the house scene.
He’s released five tracks in total since his solo debut, and his biggest hit “Losin’ It,” with it’s booming siren drop and rumbling bass groove, was nominated for a Best Dance Recording Grammy. He played a float at Carnival in Brazil before 250,000 people, he hosted his own South Beach pool party at the Delano Hotel during Miami Music Week, and he’s about to put in two back-to-back weekends of Coachella.
“I started this project just to see how it would go by myself,” Fisher says. “It was seriously a conversation between me and my girl. I was like, ‘I’m not getting any younger,’ and she was like, ‘Mate, if you don’t do it now, you’ll never do it. From where I was aiming to where I am now, we didn’t even have that in sight. I just kinda laugh at it.”
Fisher, 33, was born in the mid-’80s on a strip of beaches in east Australia called the Gold Coast. To this day, if he goes even five or six days without seeing the ocean, he gets “itchy.” The area is known for its great surf, and Fisher grew up watching his brother tame the wild waves of the Atlantic. His mom loved the ocean, too, and though his dad didn’t surf, he was always swimming; “one of those older guys who go sit on the beach and drink beers every afternoon,” as Fisher tells it.
“Whole families used to hang on the beach,” he says. “Parents would ring parents to find out where their kids were, because we would never ring ’em. There wasn’t iPhones and shit back then. We’d just be runnin’ a muck.”
When he was eight, his older brother started him off, literally pushing him into the waves. He started on a body board and worked his way toward the real thing. He ended up being quite good, and he enrolled in a special sporting school that allowed children to take surfing as a class. If the waves were serious, he and his friends wouldn’t bother coming back in.
“It was fucking rad,” he remembers. “I think I went to school in my last year maybe 20 or 25 days — and they still let me graduate.”
He began competing at the age of 12, and at 16, companies started paying him to make the international rounds — but even then, a love of dance music started to offer its own distractions. His mother had given him his musical foundation. His whole life, she worked in casinos running tables, making sure people weren’t cheating on their bets. She always had one foot in nightlife, and she’d regularly listen to Carl Cox records while Fisher and his friends played around the house.
“I’d be getting up in the morning to go surfing at like 5 a.m., and there would be people at my house listening to tunes,” he says, laughing at the memory. “I’d be like, ‘What are you guys doing here this early? What are you guys so happy for?’ They’re like ‘Oh, we’re just cruising.’ They’d give me heaps of money for school to go buy food and that. Now I’m like ‘I know what you fuckers were doing.’”
Despite his exposure to classic house and disco, he and his surfer friends were more into snotty punk rock. He had his first brush with the rave scene when he was about 15. He and his friend, nicknamed Little Fritter, jumped the fence of a festival called Two Tribes. They evaded security and headed into a nearby tent pumping house beats, and to Fisher’s great surprise, he found his mom grooving on the middle of the dance floor.
“I’m like ‘fuck, she sees us,’ and we didn’t know what to do, so we turned back,” he says. “But this is the funny thing: we never mentioned it. I have now, and she goes, ‘Yeah, I just didn’t know how to bring it up with you,’ because she was meant to be at work and I was meant to be at home. We were both doing the wrong thing.”
About a year later, he and Little Fritter hopped another festival fence, this time for Australia’s version of Coachella known as Big Day Out. He ended up catching sets by Erick Morillo, Carl Cox and 2manydjs. He was never the same.
“I was going to see other bands, and I was like ‘just get me back to the house stage,’” he says. “It was just pumping, the vibe, the energy. I went home just losing my shit.”
As he entered his 20s, his love of surfing remained intact, but his interest in winning fell to the wayside. He yearned for the after parties when he’d set up his decks and play for the rowdy surf crowds, wherever he happened to be that night.
“When you’re first starting out as a DJ and trying to make a name for yourself, that’s where you learn how to read a crowd real quick,” he says. “You’re not the star of the show. They’re like, ‘Who the fuck is this bloke pushing the fucking buttons up here jumping around like a monkey?’”
He met his current manager at one of these parties, and after enough late-night conversations about what could maybe be, he hung up his professional surf board and dove into the dance music industry. It worked, and seeing Fisher live, you can see why. The enthusiasm for the music and the crowd is endless.
“I fucking love doing it, and I can’t get enough,” he says. “When I see that much fun going on, it just brings energy to me, and I just wanna give them more. I think that’s the most special bit about it. I feed off them, and they feed off my energy. Nowadays, I always pick someone in the crowd; the first smile I get, the first connection, and I’m just always back and forth with them. The last few have been girls and they’ve just been wild.”
Fans feel a deeper connection with the boisterous bro through his constant stream of social media videos. He’s been an avid vlogger since his surfing days, and he lives his life out in the open on Instagram. The chronicle of his ill-fated journey to the Grammys is particularly hysterical.
The night before, Fisher and his longtime-girlfriend turned fiancée had been at a neighborhood buddy’s wedding. They were near the Outback, in the middle of nowhere, and as he reached the chartered plane at the tiny airstrip, he realized he’d left his passport. He rushed back via a dirt road and ended up getting pulled over.
“That was the nicest police woman I’ve ever had in my life,” he says. “I was just trying to be the most polite I could ever be because I was like ‘if I don’t make this, this is the heaviest moment ever. I’m in jail and I don’t even get to experience [the Grammys], I just told her my situation, and she didn’t believe me, so she looked my name up and she was like, ‘Just get the fuck on.’”
He grabbed the passport, drove the speed limit back and had to clear the airstrip of kangaroos with his truck before jumping on the plane. He made it to Los Angeles just in time for the ceremony. He figured, with all that fateful franticness, he must be a winner, right?
Wrong. Diplo and Mark Ronson ended up taking home the Grammy for their Silk City song “Electricity” with Dua Lipa. Fisher and Diplo did share an after-party though. Fisher says Diplo played “Losin’ It” that night seven times.
Fisher still counts himself a winner, though. He took all his best mates to the Grammys with him, the same friends that didn’t even know what a Grammy was when he found out he’d been nominated. He loves showing his new life off to his friends. He brings his mom to his shows, and Little Fritter, the same kid who jumped festival fences with him decades ago, actually opened for the sold-out Shine show he did with Chris Lake. It was Fritter’s first time ever in the States, and that ability to share his world with his friends is the realest success possible.
“I wanna take them and show them the experience of it, and just seeing their faces is pretty fucking rad and they’re just pumped for ya,” he says. “Plus they’ll rip shreds of you. If you think you’re one bit better than them, they’ll be like, ‘You’re a fucking idiot, shut up and fucking wait til you’ve been spoken to about what you been doing.’ I love that though, y’know? I’d rather listen to them talk dog shit to me about nothing. It’s perfect.”