Subharmonic AKA Ben Tolmie is one of the first people I met when I started going to ‘bush doofs’. It was 2010 and I was nervously going to my first ever Rainbow Serpent Festival. At Rainbow, Ben was one of the main organisers of our crew who’s infectious positive energy and love of a good time was one of the many reasons my first ‘bush doof’ was so special.
Originally from New Zealand, Subharmonic has been spinning smooth funk, melodic and deep techno since 2005 and is a regular on the Koh Phangan, Thailand club circuit frequently spotted at the infamous Guy’s Bar in the jungle and Eden Garden on Had Yuan.
Someone who has always been a huge supporter of the Melbourne underground scene, Subharmonic also was known for throwing epic outdoor parties in the Victorian rainforest just an hour outside of Melbourne for several years. Now a family man, the festival appearances have somewhat slowed, but the passion for quality music is as strong as ever.
We caught up with the DJ dad of two to chat about how the festivals in Australia have evolved, and what’s going on in the scene over in Thailand. That and he also made a seriously awesome mix for us.
Catch Subharmonic at upcoming bush doof 'The Comfort Zone' April 13-15 in the Victorian Bush 2 hours northeast of the Melbourne CBD
You’ve been DJ for more years than I can remember, and I think we met for the first time at Rainbow Serpent back in 2010. How do you think the Australia electronic festival circuit has changed over the last ten years?
Festival culture has really gained a great deal of momentum in Australia over the last decade. Rainbow Serpent is still going strong which is awesome and it is bigger and more popular than ever. Although this year the police really stepped up their anti-rave culture agenda, unfortunately wasting huge amounts of public resources with extreme policing measures for very little return. A little sad to see, especially when you compare it with some of Victoria's state condoned alcohol-fueled debaucheries like Grand Final and the Melbourne Cup. One thing I think is that there has been a huge influence from Burning Man on the festival scene here, with core ideas like responsible partying (self-survival), leave no trace, theme camps and audience participation becoming much more prevalent. Burning Seed (the Aussie Burning Man) has been gaining momentum rapidly and is already a dearly loved event. There are a host of new festivals as well as some of the older ones with interesting festivals like The Town (a festival where everyone takes on a theatrical character) really gaining in popularity. It is great to see there are still a number of underground doofs still going on too!
You are a regular visitor to Thailand on Koh Phangan where you regularly play at Eden Garden and Guy's bar in the jungle. What’s the music scene like over there?
The music scene at Eden Garden and Guy’s Bar is very impressive. They have some of the best tech house and deep house from around the globe with a solid lineup of world-class DJs who relocated from their respective countries to live in Thailand. I think of both those bars as an underground scene, as they are still relatively small (several hundred people maximum) and fortunately, the majority of the tourists don't find them. The Full Moon parties get all the attention but honestly don't have good music or a nice vibe. It's more of a beach with multiple bars/parties with bad competing music sources and 10,000+ super drunk tourists; it can get a bit aggressive and crazy. The Half Moon and Black Moon parties are much better in terms of music and vibe, as they are one source of music in a beautiful location - Eden and Guy's Bar definitely take the crown though.
Who are some DJs/producers that really inspire you?
I am really inspired by producers such as Dee Montero, Jonas Saalbach, Oliver Schories, Amtrac and Betoko. My favourite Australian DJs are Moskalin (who runs Doesn't Matter) and Clare Blake who you already featured in your A03 Labcast. It’s also been good to see Uone producing some tracks. He's really got a great sound going and is without a doubt one of Melbourne’s most successful DJs.
What tracks are you really into at the moment?
I particularly like two new tracks from Roumex. Orpheum (at the end of the mix) and Tantalis. Roumex is a duo to look out for, they only started producing in 2016 but are already on the Kittball Records label and have a pretty spectacular sound.
What’s the scene like over in New Zealand? Do you get to play there ever?
I don't get to play over there. From what I hear it has a small but vibrant scene going on. They just had Kiwiburn (New Zealand's Burning Man) and Splore, a pretty spectacular festival that's been running since 1998. Also Golden Bay at the top of the South Island has a great electronic music scene.
If you could play at any festival or club in the world, what would it be?
I would love to play Rainbow Serpent at some point!
Most memorable gig to date?
It would have to be Burning Man 2010 in Nevada. Some friends and I managed to get a gig in advance, and as there are literally thousands of stages at Burning Man I didn’t expect much and knew almost nothing about it. After setting up camp, one of our new campmates came to us and said, “Wow, you are playing Nexus! How on earth did you arrange that? That's one of the big ones!” I rocked up to play that first night, not having seen NEXUS and it was like (jaw drops) “holy moly that is one of the big ones!” It was comparable to the Market Stage at Rainbow complete with a very large and enthusiastic crowd. It was memorable because of the surprise and excitement of discovering I was playing not just a gig, but a huge gig!
Tell us about this mix you’ve put together (vibe, inspiration, artists/labels/tracks featured etc)
I took this as a chance to play some of my favourite tracks from recent years - some new and some old. It’s a combination of uplifting, beautiful and moody melodies and funky, deep and cruising basslines. I went for something that I would be happy playing to a sunrise crowd - music with some good soul and energy.
Afternude - Lost in your Eyes
Emi Galvan - Nothing Less (Quivver Remix)
Dee Montero - Halcyon
Ole Biege and Martin Waslewski - Reilstreet
Dosem - Runnerpark (Jeremy Orlander Remix)
Umami - Anschein Boulevard (Julian Wassermann Remix)
Oliver Schories - The Touch
Budakid, Tim Engelhardt - Everyone is Looking (Jonas Saalbach Remix)
Klangkarussell - Netzwerk (Super Flu ReDings)
Amtrac - No Order
Moguai, Watermat - Portland
Jonas Rathsman - Wolfsbane (Extended Mix)
Betoko - Solarium
Sezer Uysal - La Derniere Fleur
Roumex - ORPHEUM