Last year, progressive house DJ Thomas Gold came to New York's Governor's Island to perform an opening set for Swedish House Mafia member Steve Angello. On Sunday, he came back to headline the party, and brought some friends.
Fellow DJ's Norman Doray, Tim Mason and Carl Kennedy were on the line-up, but the unofficial star of the show was a drumline Gold had styled as a big surprise. Gold, the German producer man behind original dance hits like "Alive," "The Beginning" and "Sing to Me" and remixes for everybody from Adele ("Someone Like You," "Set Fire to the Rain") to Lady Gaga ("Judas"), decided that his show needed an element that would push it past the still-fun but now unoriginal DJ set. He recruited a drum group for his big set at Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas, and fine-tuned the collaboration for a barnburner of a performance on Governor's Island.
HuffPost Entertainment caught up with the DJ while he was in the studio in New York. We chatted about the state of EDM ("button pushers," anyone?) and what it's like to perform on the East Coast. Also included: A bit of production talk. Check out the transcript below.
You've performed in New York before, and last year on Governor's Island with Steve Angello. Do you get a different vibe from the crowd there, or is it just like Europe or the West Coast?
No, I think that the New York crowd is very special. I have so much feedback here, and support. I've never got so much feedback -- weeks in advance -- like I did as for the show yesterday. People are tweeting and on Facebook I got the comments, telling me how exciting they are. It's just super nice to see how excited and positive the people are here. Yesterday was amazing, the vibe when we arrived at the venue -- it was packed from 7 pm on, so everyone was there very early. The energy was unbelievable, and I think that's a very special thing from New York -- the crowd is just so into it. I just saw it on Twitter today, they're still going crazy.
When did you decided to add drummers to the show?
I had the idea in the beginning of the year, when I was thinking about my tracks. I have a couple of which feature a lot of big drum sounds, like the toms and the snares, because I'm a really a fan of that and I integrate that in my productions a lot. So I thought, "why not bring live drummers on stage?" And in the United States, these marching bands are so popular -- I watched some videos. I googled their performances, and I thought I could adapt that for my show and bring them on stage.
The first one was at EDC Las Vegas, I had a drum band over there, but that was a group from Vegas and then it turned out well. So I wanted to do it again but more integrated, as a proper part of my own show, and that was for the Governor's Island show.
How does that work, is that portion of the set pre-mixed?
We did three tracks together. In the beginning I sent those songs over to the guy who is responsible for writing the music, because the stuff they play has to be written in their specific notes. There was a guy who had to write on top of my music. Then he spread out the notes to his drummers, and they had to rehearse by themselves. Then last week we came together and we met in Brooklyn at a rehearsal space together with the band. And we rehearsed for two whole days, just going through the tracks or tweaking the stuff. We also had to see how we could do the movement, the actual performance on stage. We figured out the size of the stage and just made sure that everything would look nice and sound good. At the end we went on stage in the morning before the event and did the sound check and the stage performance. Then we just did it on stage in the end.
How do you feel about all this talk of button pushers? Deadmau5 obviously made some comments and A-Trak wrote a piece about it for HuffPost.
For me, in my personal point of view, I just want to be myself on stage and give people the best time they can have. I'm doing a lot of special edits and mashups of my tracks and other tracks. Also, for last night, I did a lot of new stuff which I wanted to incorporate with my show. I'm a CDJ DJ, but I want to treat my CDJ's [like turntables]. I don't use a computer on stage. And it's really important for me just to read the crowd to see what is going on, like am I playing a festival, is it a club show? I always try to adapt myself to the people and read their feedback. That's my point of view.
I didn't watch too many other DJ's in the last month or so because I've been traveling too much, so I can't say too much about that. But I just think the most important thing is to give people a great time and to show that you're into it as a DJ. I want to have fun myself on stage, together with the people.
I know they're so connected and you spend so much time touring and it might seem like one big project, but do you see yourself more as a DJ or producer?
It's just one big project. It really depends on the time of the year. In the summer months, like June, July, August and September, it's full of touring so I don't have that much time for production, but I try to keep up with it still. I have my laptop with me, and that's my studio, so I'm able to produce wherever I go. I can put down ideas and get back to them later and get back to them in a proper studio. What I'm doing today, for example, is that I rented a studio here in New York. Apart from the summer thing, in the winter when I'm not touring, I try to save as much time as possible for studio time. I try to keep the balance, because I love to be in the studio and to produce music, but I love to be on stage playing that music.
And what are you working on today?
At the moment I'm working on a new track. I'm in the stage of, let's say, finally mixing it down. That should be my next single.
When will you get that out?
It really depends on how far I get on that, because I only have today and then I start traveling again. I will test-drive it a little bit, and it can be a couple of weeks but it could be after summer. I hope it's soon.
By "test-driving," do you mean playing it at shows?
Yes, of course.
Do you start simply, with acoustic instruments or a piano? Or do you go straight to the digital?
Actually when I rent a studio, for me, it's important to have a big keyboard to play on, because I'm a big keyboard guy. I really enjoy that. I plug in my laptop into the monitor speakers and I use the keyboard. I start playing the keyboard, trying out sounds and trying to find melodies and be creative. But when it comes down to mixing, I plug in my laptop and just use the proper speakers. It really depends on what kind of mood or phase I'm in. Sometimes I want to put down some ideas so I play around with the sounds on the keyboard. On the other side, it can just be quick stuff with leveling and mixing.
Check out one of Gold's mixes and photos of Sunday's event below.