The ‘Godfather of Australian Techno’ has recently overcome a fear of flying, but despite being an internationally renowned deejay – due to play WOMADelaide next month – he still hesitates about performing in his hometown.
Conquering fears with Late Nite Tuff Guy
“There are a lot of great people in this city who understand good music, who really know what they like and what they want to listen to,” Late Nite Tuff Guy, real name Cam Bianchetti, tells CityMag.
“But it is one of the hardest places to play. Everywhere else is pretty easy compared to Adelaide.”
For those unchristened in the world of underground electronic music, Cam comes from an ilk of ‘90s South Australian techno producers, deejays and record labels that put Adelaide on the map.
Emerging as a deejay in 1983 at only 19-years-old (which was “quite old” in his world, Cam thinks), the Calabrian-born Adelaide-native played some of the roughest techno around.
He first came to be known by three letters, which many underground fans will still recognise today: DJ HMC.
Not satisfied with strictly mixing, Cam later released self-produced music on local imprint Juice Records, which helped garner attention from the international scene’s largest names. (Jeff Mills reportedly handed him a promotional copy of his seminal single, The Bells, to play one night.)
Adelaide slowly became recognised as the “Detroit of Australia” with Cam at the helm. He was anointed Australia’s “Godfather of Techno”.
This storied success is part of the problem.
“Adelaide is a funny place,” Cam says smilingly.
“The Adelaide scene, the underground house and techno scene, was the best in Australia.
“I love it here, and I know for a fact I wouldn’t be the person I am without Adelaide, but it’s obviously difficult for me to deejay here now because of the two personas.
“Their memory of me as a techno deejay is always going to be with them, and I don’t think they want to see it any other way.”
Although Cam proudly identified as DJ HMC for three decades, and played at Berlin’s Berghain to Melbourne’s Lounge, he’s now Late Nite Tuff Guy (LNTG): a selector who plays fun-loving house, disco and soul.
Instead of blistering electronica on vinyl, Cam’s sets as LNTG are light, colourful and full of love, and his edits are equally as uplifting.
“I think mentally my head wasn’t really right,” Cam says of why he fell out of love techno.
“Dealing with a lot of people on that scene – a lot of pretty fucked up heads – was really difficult.
“I didn’t want to be a part of that music. I wanted a break from it.”
Cam’s first international gig as DJ HMC saw him perform to a humble 25,000 people in Dusseldorf.
The problem with letting go of DJ HMC was that Cam built a life for himself with this persona. When he wasn’t deejaying six nights a week he would often be in the club, dancing to electronic music for sometimes five hours a night. He was a “stick” because of all the cardio, he jokes.
But music was also integral to his identity. As a teenager Cam would often play records at his parent’s parties, which he now realises was about wanting to “control what people was listening to,” and eventually started his own band with his brother and a friend.
Alternative electronic bands like Depeche Mode and Drexciya served as some of the inspiration behind Cam buying his first synthesiser – “a tiny little thing by Yamaha called CSO1” – when he was 20 years old.
There was a sense of loss during this 18-month break from DJ HMC, but it was eventually filled by some “soul-searching” and private “hypnotic” Saturday night deejay sets full of different sounds to an audience of one: himself.
“I did it because I just loved doing it,” Cam explains of the nights filled with soul, funk and disco.
“I kind of missed being out in the clubs, but thought I could just do it at home by myself, and I could play, not that I ever haven’t, exactly how I was feeling.”
Cam also did a lot of record shopping at this point. He reacquainted himself soul, funk and disco tracks, which he mixed into his sets. This lead to the genesis of his new musical persona as Late Nite Tuff Guy.
Instead of treating music like a “serious thing,” he was mixing music that made him “happy.”
“You would have never caught me dancing behind the deejay box playing techno,” Cam explains.
“I have more time to sort of, I guess just dance around and enjoy it.”
This new persona also includes overcoming a fear of flying through deep breathing techniques, performing tribute shows to one of his favourite musicians, Prince, and turning seminal burners like ‘Burning Down The House’ by Talking Heads or ‘He’s the Greatest Dancer’ by Sister Sledge into even bigger dance-floor fillers.
Unsurprisingly, edits comes easy to Cam; he enjoys messing around with loops on Abelton, uploading them to Soundcloud and seeing what happens.
But whether these edits, and the strictly LNTG flavour, will be the only part of his up-and-coming WOMADelaide set next month, remains a mystery.
“I like the thought of being at the forefront of the house and techno movement in Australia. That means a lot to me,” he says.
“We never set out to follow trends in any way because that’s not what we’re about, and we didn’t care about money.
“But what I love now is being able to create a piece of music, a dancefloor track that people are gonna love; that they’re gonna scream for.
“I’m really nervous actually. It goes back to the whole HMC, LNTG thing, so what am I going to do? But of course, in that environment, you want it to be a little bit crazy.”