Tommy Trash checks into Wynn
Fresh from a nap and a double espresso, Thomas Matthew Olsen, known to the world as Tommy Trash, rides his black Converse high-tops across the marble floor of the reception area of Wynn Hotel’s exclusive Encore Towers in Las Vegas. His trademark mane of natural curls is tied into a haphazard man-bun, his elfin green-blue eyes blaze with energy and mischief, and his all-black outfit bears the remnants of an earlier snack.
For the past decade, the 35-year-old, Grammy-nominated DJ/producer/remixer has toured the world and drawn tens of thousands at outdoor festivals; two years ago he had a club hit with “Reload,” a collab with Sebastian Ingrosso (co-founder of Swedish House Mafia). Typically he’ll play three to four shows a week.
The night before, in Miami, he had played the first date of an eight-week, 28-city tour in support of his new EP, a somewhat experimental effort called Luv U Give. Tonight, from 1 a.m. until 3, he will be in residence at the Wynn’s high-end XS Nightclub, a 40,000-square-foot temple of hedonism (with an outdoor patio and pool deck) that has become a top showcase for DJs in a leading town for club-based EDM, with such artists as Skrillex, Kaskade and Diplo booking residencies.
XS is the top-grossing nightclub in the United States for five years running, and Trash has appeared there an average of once every three weeks in the past year. With all the travel, his life has been a little unsettled lately. He has a girlfriend who lives in Montreal and owns a house in Silver Lake, in East Los Angeles. “Someday I’ll even stay there,” he says with mock longing.
Though he has circled the globe numerous times and released dozens of singles and remixes, the classically trained trumpeter and former piano teacher from a farming district in northeastern Australia maintains a refreshing sort of aw-shucks wonderment. “I just love this place, don’t you?” asks Trash, indicating the plush and leafy surroundings of the Encore Towers’ private lobby. “Every time I come back I ask myself, ‘Am I really here?’ “
Appointment with a hairdresser to the stars
Accompanied by a hotel PR woman, the manager of XS, a photographer, a road manager and Trash’s personal manager from Los Angeles, Anders Borge — a 29-year-old employee of Control Music Group, whose grandfather was the wildly popular pianist-entertainer Victor Borge, known in his day as The Clown Prince of Denmark — Trash is being led through the back of the house. He’s on his way to the Claude Baruk Salon at the Wynn, where he has an appointment for a trim with Baruk himself, an acclaimed French colorist-hairdresser to the stars.
As he trudges along the serpentine and garishly lit linoleum corridors, he passes carts full of ice and liquor, servers in low-cut mini-dresses, plainclothes security guys with earbuds snaking out of their shirt collars. “I feel like I’m backstage at the Brisbane Convention Center getting ready to play for a company party,” says Trash. “It’s like everyone is getting off their rocks — and I’m here to play with my band.”
The son of fruit shop and grocery store owners from the town of Bundaberg, four hours up the sunny Gold Coast of Australia from Brisbane, Trash played in cover bands and worked a day job at the Bureau of Statistics before getting into the DJ scene. When he produced his first solo stuff, he needed a DJ moniker. “I was like, ‘I don’t have a name. How about Tommy Trash?’ My mom hates it. She’s always like, ‘Why don’t you use your real name? Trash is not your real name. People are going to think you’re trash.’ “
Though it’s not exactly clear why the hair appointment has been set up in the first place — something about publicity photos — Trash admits he hasn’t had a trim in some time. “It’s weird,” he says in his broad Aussie accent. “My hairdresser called me the other day and reminded me I needed a haircut. And I was like, ‘I’m way too busy.’ And now I’m here getting my haircut.”
“You feel like you’re cheating?” chides Borge.
“Yeah! I’m cheating on my hairdresser … in Vegas!” Trash laughs with delight. The sound echoes off the skin-colored corridor walls.
Dinner and a quickie Justin Bieber remix
His hair still wet and smelling of Moroccan oil, Trash and company are escorted to a basement recording studio in the Wynn. Given the speed of the Internet and the fickleness of the fan base, Trash is always working to stay ahead.
His first big breaks came around 2012: Trash was nominated for a Grammy for his remix of Deadmau5’s “The Veldt”; the music video for his 2012 collaboration track “Tuna Melt” with A-Trak was nominated for an MTV Video Music Award; and he released “Reload” with Ingrosso. The track was rereleased in May 2013 with a vocal by John Martin; it charted in 15 countries, reaching No. 4 on the Dance Club Songs chart.
For the next two-and-a-half hours, Trash works intensely on a remix of “Where Are U Now,” the Skrillex and Diplo track featuring Bieber that hit No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100 and positioned Bieber as the new EDM-pop crossover king. Skrillex sent Trash the song. Using Bieber’s a cappella vocals, the prolific DJ creates a whole new track for tonight’s set.
Now, over a dinner of baked chicken and mashed potatoes, Trash talks about his new Luv U Give EP. “The whole EDM thing is wrapping up a bit and people are looking for different kinds of sounds in dance music,” he says. “They’re really ready for other forms of dance music rather than just being pounded away. I’ve been wanting to move away from the big-room stuff for a long time. This next EP is the first step.”
The record will arrive in early November, on Fool’s Gold Records in collaboration with Ministry of Sound Australia. According to Borge, Trash “spent a ton of time in the studio exploring, experimenting with new sounds and referencing some of his musical heroes, like Giorgio Moroder.” Luv U Give channels electronic and disco influences – the kind of stuff he first showed in his collaboration with Fool’s Gold label owner A-Trak — and pairs them with his signature electro style.
Taking a sip of another double espresso — he doesn’t drink alcohol when he’s working, although he’ll sometimes unwind at a bar or a strip club after a set — Trash regards the table sheepishly. “So this is my little baby,” he says in a vulnerable tone, one mate to another in the neighborhood pub. “Normally I don’t care much about what people think of my music. If you love it, awesome; if you don’t, go and listen to something else.’ But this time is different. This project is a lot more dear to me. I’m nervous about how it’s going to be received.”
Trash mans the DJ booth at XS
Fueled by Red Bull and water, the producer headbangs and pumps the crowd during his set. For two straight hours, there isn’t a moment when he stands still.
Red Bulls and fist pumps
After a nap and another double espresso, Trash enters the DJ booth at XS at precisely 12:59 a.m. As soon as the first beat drops, the house goes crazy — all laser lights and smoke cannons and confetti. It’s as if everyone in Vegas is starring in their own blue movie. All in attendance appear to be giving it a little something extra, feeling fabulous just for being here. For two straight hours — fueled by two Red Bulls and two large glasses of water — Trash headbangs and pumps the crowd, his knees pistoning up and down in a sort of strange Aussie dance march; there is not a moment when he is still. His new Bieber mix brings a crescendo and more smoke.
As the set nears its conclusion, a hard rain begins to fall on the open-air section of the club, the drops making concentric circles in the pool, nature adding its own special effects to the mix. Trash and his party leave the club and head back toward the Encore Tower. Trash has to be in a cab on the way to the airport by 4:15 a.m. His tour resumes tonight in Orlando. But before that, he must have food — and another espresso.
Hurrying down the hallway toward the restaurant, someone asks Trash how he thought his set went. Without pause, he checks the Fitbit on his right wrist. “I did eight-and-a-half-thousand steps. Pretty good, I’d say.”
Trash eats after-hours pizza
After his two-hour early-morning XS set, the DJ grabbed a meal at Allegro, an Italian-American restaurant at the Wynn Hotel, before heading to the airport at 4:15 a.m. to catch a plane from Las Vegas to Orlando, where Trash’s tour resumes later that night.