From Melbourne to the Big Stage: Our Interview with Dom Dolla

Dom Dolla is one of House music’s most exciting rising stars. Only a few short years since establishing himself as a mainstay in Melbourne’s underground, Dom’s sound has gained traction internationally, earning support from the likes of Pete Tong, Chris Lake, Duke Dumont, and Danny Howard.

Dom has been having a massive year with the success of his hypnotic dance floor anthem 
“Take It” (over 22 million combined streams), with a music video and official remixes by Sonny Fodera and Jesse Perez dropping this month. Fresh off his sets at Coachella’s Do LaB and EDC, Dom is currently on a run of US shows with upcoming performances at festivals like HARD Summer and Electric Zoo. He’s also gearing up for his UK & European debut later this summer.

We had the opportunity to sit down with Dom Dolla before he took the stage at the Palm Springs Air Museum for his after hours set during this month’s Splash House. Here’s what he had to say… (MMIBTY): Let’s start with your remix of “Body Funk” by Purple Disco Machine, one of my favorite tracks. I watched an interview you did where you talk about your process for remixing tracks, how you pull out a small piece of the original and make it your own. So for your “Body Funk” remix, which is vastly different than the original, can you talk about your writing process?
Dom Dolla: Before I received the remix request I had some drums that I had structured out, I used some preproduction on them to make them sound really pretty and dirty and I wanted to use them for an original or a remix coming up. I got those parts and essentially I laid out all the acapella stems over the top of those drums to see which would work the best with the groove and it just so happened the main hook worked best, it’s a really really straight drum groove. So I sacked the rest of the acapella and said fuck it I’m just going to use that bit and that bit only. I like the chords from the original, used those chords, I knew I wanted a bassline that was really consistent throughout the whole track and it was just filtered in and out. It needed something else so that horn sound I added, kind of sounds like a Lord of the Rings type sound…

MMIBTY: Yeah you know where I first heard it? You know the radio show Dance Department? It’s a weekly radio show that plays some of the world’s hottest tracks…
Dom Dolla: Oh you mean where you first heard the remix. I thought you meant Lord of the Rings [laughter]. Go on…

MMIBTY: Haha yeah, the remix, it slaps! Okay, so when you’re in the zone figuring out what kind of a track you want to produce is it just a matter of sounds you’ve been tinkering with or is there any rhyme or reason to your writing process?
Dom Dolla: No it’s really a bit of a shit show to be honest. When I sit in the studio it really depends on what idea hits me first, I’m constantly working on ideas. One day I’ll sit at my computer and have a really good chord progression in mind and then I’ll save it for later. I love saving folders of stuff that don’t necessarily have a particular project they’re going to be used for at that given point in time, but if I have a project I’m sitting down to work on – okay I have this remix or okay I’m working that original – and I’ll go “oh those chords from the other day!” and I’ll bring them in. Or “oh those drums from the other day!” and I’ll bring them in and it may or may not work together. I just sort of see how it goes.

My main process, the thing that really changed my creative output was when I started putting limits on myself. Saying okay I need to have something finished every week or every two weeks and I need to do some sort of production every single day. And I started to have bets with my housemate, like if I wasn’t able to finish something by a certain point in time I’d have to cook him dinner for a week and stuff like that. Stimulated negatively but it worked haha.

MMIBTY: When did you know this was going to be your profession, your calling?
Dom Dolla: Probably when James became my manager. I used to be a graphic designer working at a firm that did a bunch of merchandise for artists who were touring overseas. We did a bunch of work for artists like the Temper Trap, Chet Faker, Ice Cube, Ludacris, all that sort of stuff. And when they came to Australia we’d sit down and do work on their merchandise. I was doing that and also juggling DJing on the side and learning how to produce music and teaching myself how to produce music. And James essentially sat me down and said “you’re good at it but you could be great at it [music production] do one or the other, make a decision”. And I said fuck it, went with music, and that was maybe five or six years ago. And I started touring not long after that, outside of my hometown.

MMIBTY: So five or six years was the decision, “I’m going for it”. Long way in a short amount of time.
Dom Dolla: Yeah… yeah.

MMIBTY: And how do you feel like the scene in Australia vs. America vs. the rest of the world played a role in you trying to create a global sound?
Dom Dolla: I feel like America has a scene that is shifting quite constantly because a lot of dance music is grouped in together. You’ll have bass music and trance music and house music and techno all grouped in at the same sort of events. Whereas in Australia events are really quite boutique and specific to one genre so you’ll never go to a techno event and hear main room EDM or vice versa you’ll never go to an EDM event and hear techno. Festivals are very niche and specific. So I find crowds in Australia know what they want to hear whereas American audiences in general you can win them, you can win them over.

MMIBTY: Do you feel it’s more open-mindedness in the States then?
Dom Dolla: I feel like it’s because it’s a younger scene. Dance music in general in terms of when it became popular – obviously Chicago House and some of the east coast house and techno scene has been around forever – but in terms of popular culture and dance music it is quite new.

MMIBTY: Who were you listening to growing up?
Dom Dolla: Aw, everyone. I grew up listening to R&B and folk music and stuff. My dad is a super keen jazz fanatic so I grew up listening to a lot of stuff from the 40s and 50s, pretty eclectic taste. But in terms of discovering dance music, my obsession came between 2007 and 2009 when I was finishing high school in that sort of blog house era. Downloading things all day long from blogs – everything from Classixx, DJ Mehdi, Brodinski, Justice and all. Back when it was punk electric, I loved going to those shows.

MMIBTY: The time I spent in Australia really solidified dance music for me, having grown up listening to classic rock, playing drums in a rock band, Rage Against the Machine being one of my favorites. But you talk about R&B being a big influence growing up – talk to me about a song like “Love Like This” which has R&B influences [sampled from Faith Evans’ “Love Like This”], where did you come up with the idea for that song?
Dom Dolla: I didn’t really have much music out at the time. And I knew I wanted a hook, I really liked that hook element of the song, it’s been sampled by Fatman Scoop and a bunch of other party tunes before. I felt like I could have done it in an emotive way and put some nice chords behind it. A rule I used to have for my productions was breakdowns for the girls and drops for the boys. So I was writing the song and I was like oh the breakdown’s quite emotive and soothing, why not contrast it with something upbeat.

MMIBTY: Yeah, something for everyone.
Dom Dolla: Yeah yeah exactly. That would be the rule I would give myself when producing any track, but now I sort of bend the rules. When I want to go hard on something I’ll go hard on it.

MMIBTY: A couple for the boys, a couple for the girls…
Dom Dolla: Yeah yeah, you never know.

MMIBTY: And your collabs with Go Freek [on “Define”] and those guys…
Dom Dolla: Yeah that was definitely adhering to the rule, breakdowns for the girls, drops for the boys. That is a very emotive breakdown, for sure.

MMIBTY: Do you like collaborating or do you prefer to go solo?
Dom Dolla: I do, I love collaborating. I love writing music with my friends who have similar tastes to me. But I feel like, it’s all about balance.

MMIBTY: Do you have people knocking on your door all the time to collaborate?
Dom Dolla: I do, and more often than not I have to say no because I need to write my music solo. But even when I do collaborations I become sort of a control freak.

MMIBTY: Do you have that one person you want to collaborate with?
Dom Dolla: Probably Brandy the singer, the vocalist, she’s incredible.

MMIBTY: Wow I haven’t heard that name forever.
Dom Dolla: Yeah I’ve sampled her a few times. That would be going full circle.

MMIBTY: For the girls and the guys.
Dom Dolla: For the girls and the guys! Yeah that’s it.

MMIBTY: How about venues you want to play around the world, any at the top of your list?
Dom Dolla: This Summer actually a lot of bucket list festivals that I was looking forward to like Coachella and Hard Fest and Tomorrowland over in Belgium are events I’m pretty excited about. I’ve never had a list but definitely when the email comes through I’m like hell yeah.

MMIBTY: How was Coachella?
Dom Dolla: I loved it. It was a lot of fun. It’s such a great place for a lot of artists that I never get to see come together and hang out. I feel like it’s the California dance music scene loves the Do Lab and loves to congregate and hang out and talk shit, so it’s a lot of fun.

MMIBTY: What’s your relationship with Torren Foot like?
Dom Dolla: Yeah we’re best mates from back home in Melbourne. We were kind of the go-to guys in Australia when it came to local House guys playing at your club and we’ve toured a lot together and got very similar tastes in music . We decided to sit down and write a record together and that one gelled [“Be Randy”, which was nominated for the 2017 ARIA Award for Best Dance Release].

MMIBTY: What’s your favorite DJ weapon right now?
Dom Dolla: An upcoming song by Eli Brown and Solardo called “Ecstasy”. And a new Sonny Fodera and Biscits song that’s upcoming as well.

MMIBTY: Eli Brown, he’s killin it right now. Who in your opinion is killin it right now (beside yourself)?
Dom Dolla: Eli Brown [laughter]. Also Noizu, Solardo, The CamelPhat guys are just going to another level, Sonny Fodera, a lot of Brits – all the English house guys are killin it.

MMIBTY: Okay you’re getting the eyes, almost time to go on stage. What’s in the future, what’s your big goal right now?
Dom Dolla: We just finished a video clip for “Take It” finally which I’m super excited to get out there into the world. It’s just whacky as all hell, it’s so wild. We filmed it at this studio in London.

MMIBTY: We got booties shaking everywhere?
Dom Dolla: Not quite, it’s a bit classier than that. It’s whacked out, it’s psychedelic to say the least. We’ve been working on it for ages and it’s finally been perfected and excited to put it out there. After that we have a single called “San Fran Disco” which should be out in a month or two. And I’ve just finished a remix for Hayden James actually last night so I’m going to give it a test run tonight.

GIANT THANK YOU to Dom Dolla and his press and management team. Couldn’t have been a nicer guy and completely down to earth – nothing but big things in store for him.

For now, you can grab Dom’s latest release which is an excellent Sonny Fodera remix of the banger “Take It”. Listen below!