"The internet really is my home," Ryan Hemsworth says over the phone. Considering his online reputation and his hometown's obliviousness to it, he's quite correct.
Less than a week into the new year, the Halifax-born producer released a music video, was featured on Pitchfork and was awarded best mix of 2012 by FACT magazine. Not bad for a 22-year-old with a laptop.
"I started playing guitar and singing and stuff and now to be seen as producer-DJ, the fact I get some respect for that, it's pretty cool," Hemsworth says.
Although he moved to Ottawa in April, Hemsworth is returning to Halifax on Friday, opening for RiFF RAFF at The Palace. While our city has a thriving music scene, it "doesn't have a huge breeding ground for electronic artists," Hemsworth says, "but I guess that's why I turned to the internet and promoted myself and pushed myself as much as possible that way."
While studying journalism at University of King's College, Hemsworth began to release music he recorded and produced in his spare time. Realizing computer based productions easily lend themselves to hip-hop, he sent instrumentals to rappers he found online. He sent some beats to San Francisco-based rapper Shady Blaze who "automatically rapped over 10 beats," he says. Hemsworth worked with other Bay area rappers as well, mixing an entire album for the "cloud rap" duo Main Attrakionz.
He got his first break when SPIN magazine put his No Plans album on its list of top 25 R&B albums for 2011. Hemsworth spent the following year releasing music at a prolific rate, including two EPs, hip-hop beats for rappers and remixes.
"While I'm working on a song I tend to realize where it belongs," he says. "You can never fully know. I always get surprised by what people want to rap on."
While his bootlegs and remixes generated some blog buzz for him, they also showed off a charming and humourous personality. References to popular culture are abundant: from sampling video game soundtracks, to using audio clips from cartoons in his live sets, he combines media in surprising ways.
"I love Donkey Kong music and Super Nintendo music and I also love rap, so I just put them together. It's funny because sometimes people will put games in their mind together like it's adventure game and they're rapping about doing all this stuff," he says about his Danky Kang bootleg. The song takes the gritty, aggressive vocals of Detroit rapper Danny Brown and drops them deep into Donkey Kong's jungle.
When it comes to his live sets, putting together his array of influences and presenting them to a live audience provides a challenge every time. Taking a mix of hip-hop, indie rock, electronica and dance music, his DJ sets encompass a lot of vibes.
Of his opening set for Zeds Dead, Hemsworth says: "It was a dubstep show and I don't really make dubstep, I was expecting people to hate it, but it worked really well. I think so long as you play stuff that suits the mood and people can dance to it, they aren't going to be that mad."
As for Friday's opening set for YouTube rapper RiFF RAFF: "He's so weird," Hemsworth says. "I just want to set the mood, with weirdness."
After our interview ended, Hemsworth changed his Facebook banner photo to a blurred, obviously Photoshopped picture of him, Justin Bieber and Drake. He added the caption "WAT AM I DOING (OH YEA THAS RIGHT I'M DOING ME)". Keep doing it, Ryan.
w/Ryan Hemsworth, Cam Smith, DJ T-Woo, Weirdo Click
The Palace Nightclub, 1721 Brunswick
Friday, January 11, $20/$25
Tickets available at Fresh Goods Sneakers and Apparel, Soled Out Sneakers,
ProSkates, MaryJanes Smoke Shop, Ticketpro
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