DJ Boring breaks down his Boiler Room, chin strokers, and living as a touring DJ
If there’s one thing I learnt about having a chat with DJ Boring it’s that he is one of the most versatile, humble and smiley people to come out of Australian dance music. It all began in 2016, where a new underground house music movement was spawned out of a Melbourne bedroom. It was here that Tristan Hallis, wrote his breakout hit ‘Winona’ and uploaded it to Soundcloud, only for it to become an overnight hit. With over 5 million Youtube plays and counting, that track came to represent the definition of lo-fi house, and thus DJ Boring was born.
Since then however, DJ Boring has broken that mould entirely. When asked about his opinion on getting pigeonholed to the Lo-Fi genre, he said, “The thing about Winona was that when I made it, I was just trying out something. I didn’t want it to be like this is the kind of music I want to make and this is the kind of person I am. It was just a mood I was in at a specific time. Everyone expected this type of thing. Once I had a promoter come up to me mid set and asked me when I was going to play lo-fi music. I said, ‘Probably not.’”
Hallis has conquered the world of underground house music. He’s moved to London, and evolved his sound to sonics unimaginable from his debut. Take his Boiler Room from the 2019 AVA Festival in Ireland. Riddled with 909 drums, FM synthesisers and vinyl static, DJ Boring has evolved to a dance floor controlling master, not afraid to blend obscure breaks with late 90s classics.
In the set, he drops a Tiesto classic and an E.Craig remix made to rattle dance floors.
“I’ve played that Tiesto track to people in so many rooms and they say, ‘Dude, this is so sick.’ Then their reaction after they find out its Tiesto is hilarious. Two seconds ago you were losing it, and now you’re hesitant. My favourite thing about music is that music is blind. You don’t need to know who made a song, if a song is good it’s good. For example, Axwell. There are some tracks in the 90s that were these Latino house grooves and they were so sick. It’s just a name, it has no bearing who made it.”
The conversation quickly turned to everyone’s favourite topic in dance music, that of the chin stroker. DJ Boring is a man not afraid to break down the traditional confines of a set, or what’s expected of him as a DJ. While smiling, and with his infectious wit he was quick to proclaim, “Don’t even start me with chin strokers, I have a massive ongoing battle with them. I bloody love music but I would never go to someone’s DJ set and say, ‘Oh I wouldn’t have done that if I was DJing.’”
We quickly rushed to tracks that are unplayed yet irresistible to the trained ear. A shared favourite of ours is a Kylie Minogue classic.
“There are a heap of Kylie Minogue tracks I’d consider playing. ‘Cant Get You Out of My Head’ is a fucking jam, it’s got 909 kicks and high hats.”
“I’ve literally asked my partner if I should play ‘Miami to Ibiza’ by Swedish House Mafia. The pads… wow”
It’s a relentlessness bravery that is often hard to come by in an often pretentious dance and club world. With that, I was eager to dig into the brain and inspiration behind the infectious energy of a DJ Boring set.
“I listen to so much jazz, and it has no direct influence on what I DJ or make. More related though, the 80s with new wave and pop culture hugely inspires me in DJing. That’s where I get a lot of my music selection early on from the home. The narrative I want to give is that kind of fun, dancey vibe”
When asking about who he considered his peers, or people he enjoys watching he was quick to say, anyone that’s brave in their selections.
“One of my favourite people to watch play is Nathan Micay. He will play literally anything and I fucking love that. I love his bravery in doing that. I’ve been doing that way before DJ Boring, playing at nightclubs in Melbourne and my last track would always be Boy George or George Michael.”
It’s often easy to forget that behind these big, bubbly and wonderful personas in music and especially in DJ culture are humans. No stranger to intense tour schedules (pre COVID-cancellations, Boring was due to play 10 dates in under a month in Australia), when asked what he does to stay sane, Hallis credited his perspective.
“I do a lot of music making. That’s my hobby/work. It’s a good thing and I still see it as sort of a hobby, when really it’s work. I go digging a lot, the same thing. It is work but I’m not always trying to find house music, but finding jazz, classical you name it.”
“It’s the only job where you’re expected to drink or get fucked up on the job. Drug use is a huge thing in our industry. A lot of people take drugs. People coming up to you and offering stuff, take one of these, have that, it’s so much pressure.”
With this, I credit his social discipline.
“I keep to myself a lot. I hang out with myself because I’m around so many people on the weekend and sometimes I really just want to be alone. It isolates me which means I don’t get to see a lot of my friends, because they’re all ready for the weekend and I’m working for the weekend.”
He’s comfortably got on and accepted the role of touring DJ, and emphatically claims, “A travelling DJ is a person that hangs out with themselves more than anyone else.”
Despite this level head, Hallis talks fondly of his trips back to Australia, as more than a return home, but deeply emotional and humbling experiences.
“Australia is always home for me. Since last year, when I did my last run, it was nothing that I had experienced before. Everything felt more than what it was supposed to be. Coming back this time it feels even bigger. Every time I come home now it gets nicer. It acts like a nice time stamp.”
My rampant FOMO began to kick in as he began to proceed to talk about Pitch, describing the festival as a ‘spiritual experience’.
“Pitch was awesome. The high expectations were met. I was blown away by the stages, the Resident Advisor stage was so sick. The live mapping and projections onto the stage would’ve sent so many people.”
As the conversation and banter reached its peak, he unfortunately had to head over to headline 121 Festival across the ditch in New Zealand.
With that he left his parting words, “Listen to ‘World Hold On’ by Bob Sinclar. Imagine that in a set!”
Two days later a video appeared of DJ Boring playing that track to thousands. It’s this energy that is needed in the dance world. In a community often riddled with chin strokers and pretentious gate keepers, it’s important to see a DJ of headliner status breaking down the barriers to a culture that can be seen as difficult to engage with. Boring does that with a smile, undeniable wit and charisma, and in doing so, makes his project one of the most infectious on the circuit to date.
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Catch DJ Boring on triple J this month as the Mix Up Resident.
Words by Parry Tritsiniotis