Thomas Gold is one of those DJs who leaves fans with the impression he actually cares about their experience. If that seems like small praise, it's not. Around the world, a host of top-level progressive and pop house DJs are performing decent sets that are more or less the same -- pedal-to-the-metal music paired with light shows of slightly varying quality. EDM festival attendees might leave with a few blurry photos of fireworks, but from bottle-service engagements to concert venue gigs, there just isn't much daylight between the performances of the highest-paid DJs.
So for fans that appreciate the music but want a bit more theatrics for their hard-earned money, Gold represents a breath of fresh air. His set at Saturday's New York show was heralded by a line of trumpeters. Then came Gold, followed by dancers in sexed up drumline costumes, followed by an actual, honest-to-God drumline. The live percussion works well with Gold's set, as the German DJ and producer is known for powerful, clean drum work.
The 2,000 or so fans who crammed into Roseland Ballroom seemed quite pleased. Italian openers Nari & Milani set a dreary tone with a dismal, sloppy set that was in sharp contrast to their extensive house music resumes (despite their ceaseless hand-waiving, only a small percent of the crowd was prodded into dancing), but Gold picked things up ably.
Just before he headed on stage, HuffPost Entertainment chatted with Gold about his brisk rise to headlining gigs, his love affair with New York, why he incorporated live music into his performance and who he'd love to remix next. A transcript of our conversation is available below.
Welcome back to New York. From stopping by the Empire State Building to your performances on Governors Island, it seems like you and the city get along quite well. What's it like being back?
I can't really explain it, but there is something special about New York. I don't know if it's the energy of the city, because everything is intense and possible and mixing up. But it's also the people. Every one is very open. Whenever I'm here, it's just amazing to see how much positive feedback you get and how open people are. A lot of stuff is getting done here. It's one of the centers of the world, but still people know how to party. And that's an amazing combination. When I'm in a studio here, I can really feel it.
When you perform here rather than, say, Europe, do you tailor your set differently?
Actually, no. Because I play a lot of my own stuff, and I wouldn't change it according to where I play. It's part of me and part of my set. I have a lot of signature tracks which reflect what I like. Sometimes I adapt the set to the club or crowd, but not the country. If it's more of a bottle service crowd, festival crowd or after-hours crowd, that's what I focus on.
Last time we spoke you told me that you like to start with the keyboard when you're producing, but from "Marsch Marsch" to the live marching band you've used, you seem to big fan of percussion. You're also known for extremely clean drum work in your original productions. Where did that come from? Do you have any background in drumline?
No, but I always loved rhythm. Drums, drum loops -- I love having a rhythmic structure in a track because I think there's a lot of power in that. You can do a lot, even without having a melody. I learned it in clubs -- when I would go out and see other DJs playing, it's all about the groove and the energy of the track. I just love drums, from toms to percussions. Especially the fat ones that people really feel.
Is that what led you to work with the drumline?
Yeah, that was one of the main reasons. I have so many tracks with drums, that from "Marsch Marsch" to my remix of Miike Snow's "The Wave" to even "Set Fire to the Rain" with Adele, there's a lot of drums going on. So I thought, "Why not bring this element on stage live?" These marching bands and drumlines are everywhere in the States. So people are used to that kind of sound and it's young people, so I started googling and I talked to my management about that and we found a drumline and they were up for it.
I heard that it was the guys' first time traveling outside of New York, when you took them to EDC in Las Vegas. How was that?
It feels so cool, because these guys are so grateful and modest. They don't need much -- they just need the drums and the music and the energy. And they enjoy themselves so much on stage. We had rehearsals this week, and we just had fun.
It must be a nice twist, for a DJ, to be able to see something happening in front of him other than the crowd.
Yeah and the best part is that it's really a part of the set. It's a good thing.
What's the biggest difference in moving from support or even mainstage gigs at smaller events to being able to sell out a venue like Roseland? Has there been a change in your philosophy that's come with that career maturity?
No, I just try to be myself. I play what I really like and I think that's what people know me for. That's what they appreciate. Of course, when I'm supporting a big DJ, like when I play with Axwell, I'm always respectful of what he's going to play and I try to be a part of the whole night. When I'm headlining, I have more freedom to do what I want to do. But style wise, it's not that different. It didn't happen from one night to another, it's a process.
There's still a constant discussion of the dance music "scene" in America. What's something you wish was different about the EDM community?
I think sometimes there's a little too much hate and too much discussion about who is doing what. I think music is there for everybody and everybody has the freedom to decide what he or she wants to listen to, what event he or she wants to attend. There's no need to get into fights or overreact to things, because music is mainly there for us to enjoy ourselves. It's about good vibes, not hating or talking shit about other people. You don't have to listen to someone you don't like, that's it.
On the flip side, what is perhaps the main driving motivation for you, as an EDM artist?
It's the music itself. I love to be in the studio, I love to just play with my melodies and drums and spend my time and get lost into the whole thing. A big motivation is also of course to see the crowds going crazy, screaming and shouting.
How do you see the balance between remixes and original productions?
Of course, I try to have the balance, and I did remixes in the past, but now I try to focus on original productions. Remixes are cool because sometimes you get a remix request from someone like Adele or Lady Gaga, and of course I can't do that on my own. So it's an honor to build your own style around this kind of stuff. It's a good way to go a different way than you might have gone on your own. But on the other hand, a production allows you total freedom. You can start with whatever you want and you can change things. You're not forced to have a certain melody or vocal on the track. But production-wise, I treat both quite similarly.
Who would you now like to remix? When I asked people this a year ago, everyone said Adele, but you've already done that.
[Laughs] I don't have a wish list -- normally I get approached through my management and it just happens. So let's see what happens. But I like Lana Del Rey or Coldplay. I just did this remix of One Republic that I'm really into. When they played it for me I was like, "Wow." I love the vocals, the vibe and the melodies. It just has to happen, and then I'll decide.
Flashback: Thomas Gold on Governors Island