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Ryan Hemsworth: The Anti-DJ DJ God

Ryan Hemsworth wears a suit, shirt and tie by Marc Jacobs. 

To get Ryan Hemsworth, you have to get his Twitter. Filled with hilarious, stream-of-consciousness non sequiturs and a pastiche of hip-hop lingo, half-serious emo talk and the kind of Internet-y slang 13-year-old girls use on Tumblr (where everything is all about "bbs" and "baes"), his 140-character posts range from "what was the best hug you had with a musician u love and tell me how it felt to u (I'm stuck in a van for 2 hours)" to "BOOTY HAD ME FEELIN vacant and lugubrious" and  "every mom apparently had a small afro at some point in their lives." Remarkably, this hodgepodge finds a way to come together to form a cohesive -- if off-beat -- feed. And it's in a similar vein that Hemsworth's music finds a way to deftly blend disparate voices and sounds into one fluid track. 

The 23-year-old Toronto-by-way-of-Halifax producer first started producing beats five years ago while still a college student studying journalism. Since then, he's seen more and more fans and music critics alike gravitate towards his dark, ambient remixes of rap and R&B tracks and blissed-out original productions that often blend hip-hop beats with space-y, synth-heavy compositions and vocal loops. And already the first glimmers of mainstream success have appeared: his 2013 debut LP, Guilt Trips, won a Juno Award (Canada's version of the Grammys) for Electronic Album of the Year. 

When considering his success, Hemsorth credits, in part, his association with the We Did It crew, a group of mostly LA-based DJs that also includes RL Grime and Shlohmo. "I think [being part of a crew] is a lot more important than I ever thought it was," Hemsworth says. "In terms of discovering music and making music, you can't get very far without friends helping you." In fact, it was while skipping his college graduation to open for Shlohmo at a show in Toronto that it first dawned on Hemsworth to pursue music more seriously. "Still to this day, I'm a fan of Shlohmo and RL Grime and even when we played SXSW together, I still felt like the little brother [of the group] even though we're all the same age," he says. 

But just as important as his connections IRL are his connections online, the producer says. "I'm always on the computer, always talking to people that I know all around the world," Hemsworth says. "Facebook, Gmail, Twitter, and Tumblr are constantly open and I get inspiration from talking to people all the time. I always have people on Facebook that I talk to who send me stuff and say, 'Check this [song] out, it's great' and I can throw it into my DJ set." 

Internet-enabled access to other producers and musicians all over the globe also makes it easier to pick up on the first grumblings of new movements or trends within dance music. At the moment, Hemsworth says one burgeoning trend he's particularly interested in is "this Japanese-influenced, maximalist, happy pop that a lot of producers in London are making right now." He predicts that "it's going to be a huge trend people are gonna jump on -- that and DJs actually playing instruments and doing more live shows." He adds, "I think everyone's kind of tired of the classic DJ set. And if they're not yet, they're gonna be in a year. Because everyone's doing the same thing." 

You get the sense when talking to the young producer that he's ambivalent about whether or not he fits into the broader EDM community. He plays festivals and shares bills with some of EDM's big names like Skrillex and Diplo but his music, subtler and more ambient than the bass-throbbing stuff you'd find at Hakkasan or Pacha, stands apart. It's a result, Hemsworth says, of "not growing up on club shit" but rather on "white boy rock like Green Day and Bright Eyes and rap."  

There are other ways that Hemsworth remains different from your typical 'EDM DJ,' the most prominent of which might be his persona. He consciously chooses not to adopt the Messianic posturing so common to many DJs behind the decks and, whether on Twitter or at a show, he often comes across as your goofy -- but insanely talented -- best friend from college instead.

"I'll never be fully comfortable with the fact that when you play these [EDM] festivals, they put you on a pedestal like you're a god," he says. "Because you're really not. You're a dude on a laptop -- you're not that special. That whole thing is funny to me. I want to be on the same level as people in the audience, interacting with them, making eye contact, laughing with them." 

In a scene known for grandiose displays and seven-figure paydays, it's not often that you find someone as chill and down-to-earth as Hemsworth. When asked how he's managed not to let the DJ lifestyle get to his head, he says it comes down to something very simple: "[DJing] stays cool to me." He adds, "I don't know if it'll ever not be cool to play a show for 600-1000 people who are paying to see me play music and are excited. I don't think I'll ever get over that. If that ever stopped being cool and I was like, 'Oh, yeah, I deserve all this,' that would be...weird."

Styled by Timothy Reukauf

Grooming by Xavier Soto

Shot at Go Studios in New York


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