We talk Australian dance music’s past & future with Sandro Dallarmi

The whole body of Australian dance music can’t be defined in just a sentence or just one track, and no one knows that better than Sydney’s own SANDRO DALLARMI.

As the host of FBi Radio‘s show SwitchDallarmi is no stranger to keeping an ear to the ground on home grown talent. For four years now he’s collected the biggest and brightest tunes and blended all of that diversity in sound, production influence and artistic identity into one catch all mix for the best releases of that year.

His latest mix is the ultimate exploration of 2018’s local dance music landscape. Blending the bright pop stars of tomorrow with warehouse sweethearts and forward facing club with festival thumpers, he’s gathered the best from all over the country into a three hour odyssey.

Now that his 2018 wrap up is out, we thought we’d ask him about his predictions for the year to come, while reminiscing on the year that was in Australian dance music.

This mix is packed full of them, but who do you think are the big players to watch in this new year and why?
THERE ARE SO MANY! Clypso, Kota Banks and Princi: each have a unique style that distinguishes them from every other pop artist in the country, and their songs are custom made for the club as much as the radio. They’re a breath of fresh air for DJs and a super exciting way for pop fans to discover dance music. Swick, Ninajirachi and the whole NLV Records gang are gaining momentum which makes me v happy. As a DJ crew and label, they’ve got the same colourful personality and genre-blending quirkiness that made labels like Ed Banger and Fools Gold such crossover cultural phenomenons, and I don’t think we’ve had anything close to that locally since Ajax launched Sweat It Out. We’re also seeing stars emerge from the underground like Jensen Interceptor and Slim Set, who’re both making raw, sweaty warehouse music that’s gonna thrill a lot of people, and in the case of Slim Set, make them giggle a bit too.

This latest mix is your fourth in your Year in Australian Dance Music series. What is it about Australian dance music that keeps exciting you?
Australia doesn’t have a super defined dance music culture. We didn’t create house and techno like the US, hardstyle like the Netherlands, or garage, jungle and grime like the UK. I think that’s freeing. Our dancers are less segregated by genre tribes and our artists are less pressured by cultural expectation, which means we’ve got an opportunity to create something brand new. And every year I put this mix together, there is SO MUCH newness.

I think as we start to grow our own unique scenes and sounds, the most radical thing we can do culturally is to be as inclusive as possible. If we create an environment where collaboration, mutual respect and the sharing of ideas is encouraged, we can not only make some amazing music, but hopefully foster comfortable environments for conversation between people of different race, class, gender and ability that can be hard to come across in day-to-day life. Dancefloors can be incredible social spaces and Australia needs more of them IMO.

How do you think ADM has changed since you began this mix series?
There’s never been a broader range of Australian dance music being made by a broader range of Australians! Or at least, white people in the music industry, myself included, are less ignorant and dismissive of local music being made by people of colour. Ultimately it’s good news: the scene is far less dominated by generic DJ bros and everyone is better for it. Although Fisher is now officially the biggest DJ in the country which is… depressing.

Any predictions for Australia’s music landscape over 2019? Beyond that?
I think the future is sososo bright for dance music! We’re in a tough transitional stage rn with everything from these internal cultural problems to heavy-handed laws that impact nightlife and festivals around the country, but that stuff will fade over time. Meanwhile, everyone’s been innovating in isolation: there’s so much incredible music and talent that’s going untapped right now, so when the moment’s right we’re all gonna be ready and suuuper excited to make this new wave happen!

The Australian scene has always felt very tight knit but in 2018 it felt even closer through the strength of it’s online communities and the shared enemy of the lockout laws. What do you think a post-lockout Sydney will look like? How do you think this change would affect not only Sydney, but the Australian music scene at large?
More than ever, the Sydney dance scene knows that you have to be bold and really put yourself on to make shit happen. So many dance-dedicated institutions have crumbled in the wake of the lockouts, from publications (RIP inthemix) to radio stations (RIP my child FBi Click), to clubs (RIP…I can’t even begin to name them all). With all that industry support gone, it’s increasingly unlikely that someone is gonna pluck you out and give you a platform just because you’re good at what you do. Instead, everyone’s building their own platforms and putting their friends on. It’s inspiring. That being said, eternal shout outs to Purple Sneakers and everyone who’s survived and adapted through this turbulent time, you are the fucking best!

Your mix is incredibly diverse and definitely reflects the great pool of electronic music here in Australia right now. Looking at the context of the music that is popular right now – take the lack of electronic music featured in the most recent triple j Hottest 100 for instance – do you feel like electronic music is underrepresented? Where do you think we can go from here?
It’s funny because Fisher was HUGE coming in at number two, but beyond that there was almost zero dance music in the countdown. Australia is packed with beautiful and talented artists making every flavour of dance music imaginable, and I really wanted to lift them higher with this mix. Plus there’s a rumour goin’ round that Fisher is a fucking gronk. Can we give others some of that shine please??

I do think the prominence of genres like dance comes in waves when it’s not embedded in our culture as much as it is elsewhere, but we’re seeing the first steps of that changing right now. Everything is building in a really exciting way in the club community and these next couple of years are going to be really fkn cool. I don’t think it’s ready to pop off yet on a national level but we’re not far away!

Mixes are great for highlighting artists doing cool stuff, but not so great to promo DJ’s, parties, labels and collectives doing cool stuff too. What other people/places/sounds are you excited about at the moment?
Oh wow the list is endless. I’m gonna go with a couple personal faves so this isn’t impossible. Low Ton is a club night in Melbourne that’s booked rappers like Miss Blanks and Sophiegrophy alongside wild backspin experts like DJ Sezzo, FlexMami and the night’s own founders, SAL & Cache One. They’re part of a community of Melb club nights who’re blending underrepresented club genres with live local talent in a really sick way. I’m also super excited about a brand new Sydney party called Athletica which I was lucky enough to headline on its launch night. There are a bunch of smaller local dance music communities which don’t really have a regular home in the club, and the night’s founder Isa is keen to provide that, with an open mind towards genre as long as it makes you mf sweat (and I am an extremely sweaty boy).

Words by HOLLY O’NEILL

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Professional club rat, Libra, and music opinion haver.