BOOK INTERVIEW #1 - TIM SWEENEY (BEATS IN SPACE)
BOOK INTERVIEW #1 - TIM SWEENEY (BEATS IN SPACE)Can you describe what you were you doing before your career in music?
I started DJing when was about 13 years old, so I was focused on it
from a very early age. I studied music at New York University and my
last year there I got a job at Rockstar Games, the video game company
that makes Grand Theft Auto. I worked for them full time for 3 years
putting together the soundtracks for their video games. The big one
was finding all the music for the radio stations in Grand Theft Auto:
San Andreas. It was an intense 3 years working for them, but a great
experience, and I was able to learn about a lot of music through
research for their games. When my DJing career started to do better
and I thought I was able to make a living from it, I took off from
Rockstar Games and tried not to look back. Sometimes I wonder if I
made a mistake when you see them selling $1 billion dollars worth of
video games in three days and then we can barely sell 500 twelve inch
records, but I love what I'm doing so fuck it.
What music / musicians / clubs / experiences inspired you to get involved?
My older brother was the one who first got me into everything. He
started bringing home tapes of early Warp Records stuff around 1994
and that's what really got me hooked. Then he started buying records
from a store in Baltimore, where we lived, called Modern Music. I
remember him bringing home records and I would just sit there and try
to beat match with them for days. He would never bring me with him to
the record store at first though! I don't think he wanted to be seen
with his 14 year old younger brother when he was just a senior in high
school. When he finally brought me to the store and I saw all those
records and cd's, my eyes just lit up. I felt like I stayed there for
hours as often as I could listening to music.
After that, the next big experience for me was going to a rave. I
convinced my brothers friend to take me with her to a rave that same
year I started DJing. It was in a huge tent out in some field on the
outskirts of Baltimore. I remember dancing all night. Close to 7 hours
on the dancefloor. Just soaking up everything and loving it. No drugs,
just dancing and listening to the music and looking at all the crazy
people. I don't remember who was DJing but I think around that time
trance was pretty big, so it was some version of that being played. I
know I wasn't in love with the music they were playing, but I loved
the experience and I felt like if I just had my music in the same
situation, it would be amazing.
I kept going to these raves and they would just get bigger and bigger.
Maybe five hundred people at that first rave, then the next one was
closer to two thousand, then it was these raves at the Armory in
Washington DC that probably had ten thousand people or more going to
them. It was kind of mind blowing because nobody back at my high
school was listening to this music or going to these things. They had
no idea it existed. But I loved that I had found something like that!
How and when did you start making records / playing records?
After going to those raves, I just started staying home after school
and working on mix tapes. Every day I would come home and spend hours
working on doing a mix. Once I had one I was happy with, I would send
it out to everyone and anyone. I was on some early rave message boards
and email lists, so I would try and find any promoters on there who
might be interested. I think the first thing I did was in a cafe in
downtown Baltimore. I had to bring my whole set up and sound system.
It was just during the day, and there was no one there, but I was so
nervous. My hands were shaking whenever I would try and cue up
records. On the second or third time I did that cafe gig, I remember
we set it up to broadcast online with real audio. That was probably
around 1996. I think only two friends listened, but I was psyched on
it. It was like "there might not be anyone at this cafe, but maybe
people will listen from home!"
Can you describe your transition from amateur music fan to full time DJ?
I was studying music at New York University and part of the deal with
that was interning for people for class credit. The first person I
interned for was the New York hip hop legend Steinski (of Double Dee &
Steinski "Lessons 1, 2, 3" fame). Steinski was and is one of the best
people I've met in New York. He just took me under his wing and taught
me about all kinds of different music. His record collection was
insane. One of the projects I had was to listen through all of his hip
hop records, tap out the BPM and then write it down on the record so
he could use it for mixing. What a lesson that was! The best part was
that if I had any question about a record or a sample, he always had a
story to go with it. For me, when I moved to New York and met
Steinski, all I could think was this guy was the "New York City" I had
imagined in my head. He'd seen it all and there was no cookie cutter,
boring business going on which I was finding more and more of in New
York. Steinski also had a radio show on WFMU for a while called
Ralphi's Bop City, which I would listen to the DAT tapes he had of it
and was a big inspiration for my show.
After that I started DJing at this little bar on 3rd street between
Avenue B and C called Plant Bar. I was just doing the warm up set on
Thursdays. I would play from 7pm to 10pm before the real parties
started. The guy bartending there was Luke Jenner, the singer from The
Rapture and the bar back was Gorman from !!!/Chk Chk Chk. One day Luke
said to me "you've got to meet the guy producing our record. We call
him 'trip-hop Tim'." I was playing a lot of Mo' Wax records then, so
when I found out it was Tim Goldsworthy from UNKLE I was psyched.
Finally, one Thursday, I played my usual warm up set and then Marcus
Lambkin (Shit Robot) came over to start and told me how Tim and James
were coming by that night. When I met Tim Goldsworthy that night, I
asked if they might need any help in the studio and he just said
"sure, come by the studio on Monday."
When I went by their studio on 13th Street between 7th and 8th avenue
that following week, I was blown away by their studio. It was the
fanciest thing I had ever stepped into. They hadn't started the record
label just yet, so they were just focused on producing bands at this
point. It was so much fun being in that studio every day and just
watching and listening. I remember learning about so many record
because they would play things to hear a certain sound from a record,
like the drums or guitar on a Gang Of Four record, and try and
recreate that sound for what they were producing. Both Tim and James
brought me into the DFA family then and I think my first big break was
going on the first DFA DJ tour in Europe. We went to London, Paris and
Berlin. Jen Goldsworthy, Tim's wife, would open up the night, then Tim
and I would take over and DJ together, then James would play and then
Marcus. I still remember that Berlin party. It was at Cookie's (an
older location than where it is now). It had these huge chandeliers
and the space just felt like some fancy eastern european bunker. When
Tim and I started playing the party was just starting to fill up. Half
way through our set, they were all going insane. I'd never felt
anything as intense as that. It was just one of those special moments
when you're looking around and thinking "I can't believe I'm standing
here in fucking Berlin playing records for people, getting paid,
having fun and hanging with my friends."
After that, I was always wanting to travel and DJ. I couldn't get
enough of the experience. I wasn't getting enough work to pay for
living in New York though, so that's when I started working at
Rockstar Games and doing their soundtracks. I kept DJing as much as I
could while I was at Rockstar Games, and after three years there, I
finally felt like I might be able to make a living off of DJing, so I
took the plunge, walked away from the job at Rockstar Games and
started DJing full time.
When was the moment when you looked up and thought… “I’m doing OK with
Who have you met who has helped you along your way? Have you ever had
a mentor, friend or fellow producer who has advised or inspired you?
Along with Steinski, Tim Goldsworthy's always been a great mentor and
inspiration to me. He really took me under his wing at the DFA studio
and was willing to explain anything he was doing. I'd always be asking
about records, either things that influenced him or records he worked
on and I would just soak up everything he said. What it was like
partying in London at Mo Wax's heyday, what records used to be big at
Gilles Petersons night, how was it working with Kudo from Major Force.
I just never ran out of stuff to ask him about and he was always
willing to give the time to talk about it. It was refreshing too
because the guy didn't care about the spotlight at all. There wasn't
any ego. He was just Tim Goldsworthy from some little village in
We started our little Tim and Tim DJ team with him as selector and me
as the DJ. That was so much fun. We would just bounce ideas off each
other on what to play next and he knew about so many amazing records I
had never heard. We started to makes edits together to have some
special things to play for our DJ sets too. We did a couple different
mix CD's for DFA.
Tim even helped me with the ideas behind putting together my own Beats
In Space record label. One of the kindest and best people I've met in
this music world.
What has been your career high point?
I think finally starting the Beats In Space record label and seeing
the finished 12" has been a big high for me. It just felt like I got
passed the torch and I was finally on my own trying to take things my
own way. It's still the beginning with the record label though. We're
only on the 10th release, so there's a lot more ground to cover, but
it's exciting to see what will happen. It just feels like the missing
pieces to a puzzle are finally starting to come together. I've got
this radio show that I've built up for 14 years on my own, I'm DJing
all over the place, and now I've got the record label to add another
dimension. There are a couple pieces still missing for me though. I
still want to do a regular party in New York and I still want to make
more of my own music.
What are the best things about doing what you do?
Getting paid to play music for people? I mean, you get flown all over
the world, see all these different places, meet all these different
people and then get paid to play music for people at parties. It's
pretty fucking crazy. Maybe the traveling can suck and it's hard for
relationships, but I love it.
What has been your career low point?
There was some point when I was sitting at my desk at Rockstar Games
and I just sat there looking at the paperwork I had and the wall in
front of me and was thinking "is this it? Am I here forever now?" It
just made me depressed. I didn't want that to be all there was. I
still had that taste of playing out in Berlin with DFA and I just
couldn't let that go away. And I know my job at Rockstar Games was a
great thing and I was lucky to have it, but for whatever reason, I
just couldn't let go of that experience.
How are you different now to when you started out?
I've seen a lot of relationships come and go. I've seen how money and
ego can change people. But I'm still doing the radio show the same way
I was fourteen years ago. I still get excited trying to figure out
what to play that week or listening to whatever guest I have on. I
still do the radio show because I love it.
If you had a Delorean and could go back in time, what advice would you
give to the old you, to help you on your way?
"Go to David Mancuso's Loft Party and you'll understand!" Everything
started to fit in place for me the first time I went to the Loft. Back to Journal