From The Magazine

Dom Dolla Rules The Dance Floor

With two spots on the Coachella lineup, the Australian DJ just wants to keep you moving.

Man with a mustache wearing a cap sits relaxed in a leather chair, holding a black shiny garment.
Pat Martin/NYLON

Dom Dolla isn’t used to the fact that clubs close at 2 a.m. in his newly adopted home of Los Angeles. “There’s a club called Revolver in Melbourne, Australia, that doesn’t close,” he says. “There’ll be a bunch of people that rock up at 9 p.m., and then a new influx at 2 a.m., and then more at 6 a.m. and midday, and then people that come after that.” The intense schedule has prepared him for Coachella, where this year he’ll play two sets: one solo and one with John Summit. “When I posted the lineup, all the comments were like, ‘This never happens. This is crazy.’”

Dolla got his start in high school by playing local house parties for his friends on the weekends. “They would watch me in class using the school internet to download music, and they were like, ‘Hey, can you give me a playlist?’” he says. “Then it became, ‘Dom is the music guy, let’s get him to DJ.’”

Nearly two decades later, he still finds the gig thrilling, especially as genre lines blur more and more. “When I started, the scene was a lot more divided,” he says. “If you wrote disco, you wrote disco — if you wrote techno, you wrote techno. If you wrote house, you wrote house. Now, everyone bleeds into each other’s scenes.” He credits his audience with breaking down barriers. “Gen Z is so open-minded, and they hate rules and they hate being told that they have to fit in a box,” he says.

“I think the recipe for a good party is good people who are there for the right reasons.”

Social media has also helped him find his tribe. “It just allows people to be more open-minded and communicate to the masses more easily, and it’s allowed for traditions to fall aside,” he says. “People want to hear stuff they’ve never heard before.” The Australian producer has already collaborated with artists like Nelly Furtado and Dua Lipa, and he hopes to plant the seeds for his next musical partnership in the desert. “I would love to work with No Doubt,” he says. “I know that Gwen and the gang are going to be at Coachella, so that could be a really cool connect.” Also on his dream list are Missy Elliott, SG Lewis, City Girls, and Robyn.

With one appearance at Coachella already under his belt, this time Dolla plans to really focus on applying some crucial lessons from the first time around. Specifically: Don’t forget your SPF. “I was waiting for my car rental, and it was overcast that day,” he says of his visit in 2022. “Anyone who’s as pale as me knows that the sun is just as bad if you stand outside long enough. I’m the whitest DJ alive, so I looked like a carrot and then had to get up onstage.”

Here, the musician goes deep on his process.

How would you describe making your own music versus a remix of an existing song?

Remixing is actually a little bit easier because there are limitations placed on the creative you're using that stems from someone else's creation. I try to find and create hooks and interesting elements out of the stems, and chop them up and try to make them my own. And obviously I'm writing stuff for the dance floor, so a lot more often than not, I'm picking up the energy and lifting it up a little bit more than the original. Original music is often a lot more daunting. It's a completely blank slate.

I'm in an interesting position now compared to when I started. Back then, the scene was a lot more sort of divided. If you wrote disco, you wrote disco, if you wrote techno, you wrote techno, and no one really bled into each other's genres. You can be a lot more sort of liberal with the creative freedoms that we have now that everyone's so much more adventurous.

What was the reason behind this shift?

I honestly think it was Gen Z being so open-minded. They hate rules and they hate being told that they have to fit in a box. People also want to hear stuff they've never heard before. That, and the birth of an explosion of social media. So many people hate it, but I feel like it just allows people to be more open-minded and communicate to the masses more easily. And it's just allowed for traditions to fall aside.

What was the first song you ever remixed?

I don’t remember the song, but it was Ajax, who was seen as sort of the prince of dance music back home, and he was really sort of prolific in his endeavor to progress dance music. He focused on indie dance house music, and he was really adventurous and really out there and a real creative, and he was my idol. One day I got a random phone call and he said he'd heard some of my beats that I'd sent to a mutual friend of his and he said, “Look, I'd love to give you a crack at remixing a couple of different records and sweat it out.” I gave it a go and was absolutely shitting myself because he was my idol at the time. I don't think I could even go back and listen to those really.

Do they still exist?

They exist somewhere. I'm sure the internet can find them.

When playing a party, what’s the most important thing for a DJ to do?

Curation of music is obviously insanely important, but also the vibe in the room and the people that are in the room. I think the recipe for a good party is good people who are there for the right reasons, the right and like-minded people, but also not everyone being the same, just having everyone with the same intention. And that intention is being there to have a good time.

[As a DJ], you adapt your set depending on the context of the environment you're playing. The set that I play closing a festival in Australia is quite different from playing 8:00 a.m. at Space Miami. Horses for courses in that respect.

Do you think social media has affected people having fun?

I think in the moment, yes, because they're just consciously aware of the way they're being perceived, or especially if we're talking about a venue like Space Miami at eight o'clock in the morning where it's debauchery and everyone's just having the time of their lives, but people are filming everything. The birth of venues covering people's phones with stickers and just trying to encourage people to be more present is a good thing. It's a great thing. But I also think that the birth of social media has really democratized the music industry. It's given everyone a go. If you've got a vision and a sound and a brand that resonates with an audience and you market yourself online the right way, you'll find the right people. And that was never the case before.

Have you had any collaborations come through social media?

I have actually. I'm working on some music with Banks at the moment, which came about because in an interview that was posted online, they asked if there was any artist I'd love to work with, and I’ve loved Banks the better part of my young adult life. And she reached out and said, “I saw this and love your music. Let's work on something.”

How do you plan a set when you’re headlining a festival like Coachella versus a club night?

When you're in a club, you can rock up with the USBs and it's game on. It's like a house party. It's up to you just to play a great set and read the audience and let that energy dictate how it's received. The lighting is very important though. It's got to be gritty, it's got to be dark and dingy. But on the flip side, day parties in that environment, out in the sunshine, just pray that there's no rain.

Photographs by Pat Martin

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