As electronic musicâ€™s chart renaissance threatens to drown out the sounds of some of its more quality-sounding sub-genres, Australiaâ€™s Sonny Fodera is intent on flying the flag for the underground.
The Melbourne-based DJ/ producer is one of a slew of emerging Australians making major inroads in the US and Europe, and for all the right reasons.
On the back of a steady output of jackinâ€™ body movers and deep, soulful and hypnotic peak-time grooves, Fodera is building a well-deserved reputation as a supporter of proper house music during a time when many haters are bemoaning the genreâ€™s penetration into the mainstream. At just 26 years of age, one might be forgiven, too, for thinking Fodera himself is a product of this resurgence, but releases on both his own burgeoning Beatdown label, and on quality imprints like DJ Mesâ€™ Guesthouse, Nervous Records, Inland Knightâ€™s Drop Music and Green Velvetâ€™s (aka Cajmere) Cajual imprint, suggest otherwise. The truth is, Fodera is anything but a johnny-come-lately to the music scene.
â€œIâ€™ve been doing music for a long time,â€ he explains. â€œThe production side of it [was when] I was about 16, but I really started putting out tracks when I was about 21. Iâ€™ve been making hip hop since I was about 16; I used to make a lot of hip hop instrumental stuff [but] Iâ€™m a guitarist, so Iâ€™ve played in a lot of bands throughout my teenage years. When I was 13 I was in a punk rock band.â€
Unsurprisingly, then, Fodera admits to growing up with â€˜really randomâ€™ musical influences, from Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughn to Jurassic 5, A Tribe Called Quest; even Blink 182. It was while working at Adelaideâ€™s Electric Circus club, however, and listening to sets by visiting internationals like Derrick Carter, Joey Youngman and Jason Hodges, that he was bitten by the house bug.
â€œI like everything; Iâ€™ve got my ears open to a lot of different music [but] I just saw them playing and I thought thatâ€™s what I want to be doing,â€ he recalls. â€œI found a love for it and had to jump on it. Itâ€™s crazy now though, being on some of the same labels and playing parties with those guys now after four or five years; itâ€™s unreal.â€
Foderaâ€™s rise has indeed been fast. Underlining just how high his stock has risen over the past five years, mid next month will see him return to Miami for the industryâ€™s annual Winter Music Conference. Heâ€™ll play several showcase parties for Guesthouse, Large and APT Entertainment, lining up alongside the likes of Jask, DJ Sneak, Mark Farina, Pezzner, DJ Dan, Collette, and fellow Australians house exports Random Soul and Nathan G.
From the sunny, trashy shores of Miami, he will then head to Canada to play several dates there, and then back to the States to continue building hype off the back of his Beats & Business EP, to drop shortly on Beatdown. As well as being a vehicle for his own productions, the imprint, which he proudly professes still presses vinyl, has also released adventurous cuts from the likes of Serbiaâ€™s Gramophonedzie, DJ Mes and Cause & Effect, reinforcing Foderaâ€™s A&R credentials.
Want proof? Fodera has made an exclusive mix, free with this issue of Scene. As he explains, his DJ style is influenced by disco, hip hop, funk and soul, and these flavours shine through on this mix, a collection of Beatdown releases over the past six months as well as a few forthcoming tracks. â€œMy sound isnâ€™t really like a big superclub sound,â€ he explains. â€œItâ€™s more of a 400 people max, tight club, intimate vibe; I like that. Itâ€™s a really cool thing; you get to read the crowd more [and] itâ€™s more fun.â€
As EDM events routinely move out of these â€˜400 people maxâ€™ venues and into arenas, however, the effect this shift in scale is having on the underground scene is a topic of much discussion.
Fodera does acknowledge that the rise of EDM, and house in particular, has led to his own productions becoming more accessible. He admits though, like many of his contemporaries, that the accessibility has been matched with a level of expectation, right or wrong, about the style of music he plays, or should play, out. As he explains, this expectation is often at odds with his own personal tastes.
â€œI think back five years ago [and] it was a lot different; people would just dance and respect the music the DJ was playing,â€ he says. â€œA lot of people [now] will be requesting â€¦ that mainstream dance stuff. They want them to play what theyâ€™re hearing on the radio.
â€œ[But] there is still that sound, that underground, smaller club sound â€“ thereâ€™s a lot of that still around [and] I think that [commercial penetration] has made a lot more people more open to it.â€
Regardless, Fodera is thankful for how his career has progressed thus far, and is looking forward to the future. â€œIâ€™m so fortunate to have this happening to me at the moment,â€ he says. â€œI just really want to make good music and get to that level where I am constantly travelling around ... I really want to get around the world and show everyone my sound. Itâ€™s good to have ambition; youâ€™ve got to set a really high bar for yourself.â€
His current release on Large typifies this â€˜high barâ€™ approach, and demonstrates the quality output that ensues. The â€˜Rough Cutsâ€™ EP is his second release on the powerhouse Chicago label and showcases his versatility as a musician. â€˜Find Myselfâ€™ sees Fodera play live bass, while â€˜What I Thinkâ€™ has a laidback disco edge, reflecting his diverse musical tastes and willingness to put them to work in the studio. â€˜Missed Callâ€™, however, is the pick, a deep, percussive number with intricate stylings that make it perfect late night fare for the â€˜heads.
Thereâ€™s plenty more to come later in the year, too. Fodera will embark on a European tour during their summer, and reveals he has forthcoming EPs ready to drop on Guesthouse and Miguel Migsâ€™ Salted Music. Perhaps most interesting, however, is his revelation that a downtempo album is in the pipeline, one that will be more hip hop influenced. â€œIâ€™ve got high standards and hope I can succeed,â€ he says. If experience to date is any indication, Fodera is on track for plenty more success.
Sonny Fodera plays Zuri Lounge Saturday March 3.