Hot Dub Time Machine on musical time travel and Riverstage 30

Hot Dub Time Machine is almost ready to help us celebrate Riverstage's 30th birthday so we sat down to chat with him about musical time travel and just what we can expect from the party.

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Hot Dub Time Machine, the musical moniker of DJ Tom Loud, has built a solid reputation for himself on stages around the world as a Time Travelling Party Starter. That’s why there is no one more perfect to headline Brisbane venue Riverstage’s 30th birthday celebrations during this year’s Brisbane Festival.

No stranger to a good time, Hot Dub Time Machine will be taking us back to where it all began in 1989 for a three-decade-long musical history lesson. We sat down with the man himself to get the inside scoop.

Tell us about the Hot Dub Time Machine phenomenon. When did you get the idea to become a time-travelling DJ?

I started Hot Dub back in 2011 but got my first decks way back in 2002. Before Hot Dub began I was like 90% of DJs: playing at mate’s parties, the pub, and in my bedroom. But I gradually found a niche DJing in comedy festivals playing random records that made people laugh and dance at the same time.

I decided I wanted to make my own show that I could take to Fringe, Comedy, and Arts Festivals, and I’d been experimenting with video software that lets you scratch audio and visuals together (very much influenced by Brisbane’s own Sampology). I needed a theme, decided on Time Travel, put a post on facebook asking for a name, a mate said ‘Hot Dub Time Machine’ and I somehow stumbled across the formula for the ultimate party. It’s been my full-time job since December 2013.

How has the show grown and changed since?

It’s always evolving. When I started out it was much more like a music documentary, I really tried to showcase every important genre or song. It’s now much more about creating as many amazing musical moments that make people go nuts. It’s about giving songs context and presenting them properly. No remixes. Just the original, great songs. There’s nothing more beautiful and rare than a great pop song – especially one that is still wonderful and relevant years after it was made.

You’re leading the huge Riverstage 30th birthday. What are your own personal memories of Riverstage?

I’m afraid I’ve never been to the Riverstage. But I’ve certainly always been aware of it and seen amazing footage of my friends performing there and it has definitely been a massive ambition to make it there. I’m super stoked to be a part of the Riverstage 30th birthday.

Without giving away any spoilers, what can you share with us about your special Riverstage Top 30 countdown?

 I’ve been given a list of all the amazing artists who have performed on the Riverstage (and it’s a big list) and I’m going to try to squeeze in as many as I can.

 Let’s go back to 1989 – what’s your favourite song from that year?

1989 is an AMAZING year in music. My fave is definitely ‘Like A Prayer’ by Madonna. It’s such an incredible song that I think has only gotten better with time. It has it all: controversy, huge build-ups, a gospel choir – it’s the best. Honourable mentions to ‘Fool’s Gold’ by the Stone Roses and the Baywatch Theme.

How has music changed in the last 30 years?

Working on Hot Dub has really taught me that music actually doesn’t change much. It’s always tempting to write off “new” music as not as good as “back in the day” – especially once you pass a certain age – but it’s all awesome once you can get over that. A big change, I think, is the prominence and excellence of Australian acts; I think there has never been a better time in Aussie music than right now.

You take audiences through a whole history of music but which is your favourite era to explore?

It constantly changes, but I’m really enjoying the ’70s at the moment. I travel with a three-piece horn section and there’s something about having them recreate those classic riffs and boogie on stage that makes me super happy.

You’ve played at some of the biggest festivals and stages around the world – is there a particular era or genre that always gets the best reaction?

I intentionally curate the set to make it hit harder in the second half, I want the energy to build and build. DJ sets should be a journey with peaks and troughs, not just a wall of noise. So the ’50s and ’60s are very much laying the groundwork, getting everyone warmed up, the ’70s are a release of dancing energy, the ’80s are joyful silliness, but the ’90s is always where the party lifts off and people start losing their minds. The rest is a super fun sprint to the finish.

The volume of musical terrain you explore is huge. How on earth do you go about selecting the perfect songs for a single playlist?

I really like the challenge of finding songs that work with the chronology, work with the vibe I’m trying to create, mix together in a technical way that is pleasing to me as a DJ (and the other five nerds who notice) and make people super happy.

I take this all super-seriously. I have spreadsheets, libraries, and setlists from every show I’ve done. I really believe there is an art to crafting an intricate, planned DJ set. And then I delight in reading the crowd and switching it up during the show based on how songs are hitting. My wife is a painter and she has a studio next to mine in our little house in Sydney, and when I’m working on a mix and she’s heard it a thousand times but is still dancing, that generally means it’s good.

Which era or genre should we remove from musical history?

None. There is no bad music, only music you don’t appreciate at the time. I used to be a music snob: I thought that I was proving my credibility by hating pop music and championing underground techno. But all the music I thought I hated I now love.

What song/s will never be on a Hot Dub Time Machine playlist?

I’ve learned to never say never. So many songs I swore I wouldn’t play I’ve ended up playing. But there is a very subtle line in the sand that I have to be very wary of. There is a difference between cheese and kitsch, between a classic throwback and an overplayed relic. And at the moment that line stops just in front of ‘Barbie Girl’ by Aqua.

Besides a killer playlist – which you’ve already sorted – what three elements are necessary for a top-notch birthday celebration?

1– Venue: Being in an important, special place makes a party magical. And Riverstage for the 30th birthday is definitely that place.

2– Friends: The key ingredient. And hopefully, at a Hot Dub show, you’ll have some great moments with the people around you and make some new ones.

Hot Dub Time Machine will be joined by Cub Sport, Confidence Man, Last Dinosaurs, and Clea to celebrate Riverstage’s 30th birthday on Saturday 7 September. Tickets are on sale now via