When Lonely Planet named Adelaide as one of the world’s top cities to visit this year it was met with cynicism and doubt. Affectionately known as the ‘city of churches’ the place is known to come to life for one, and only one, month in the year – during the flurry of festivals in March. But hidden underneath the tame, green hills and quiet streets of the city, lie electronic music fans that allow for a furtive underground club and warehouse party scene to flourish. So much so that Adelaide was said to be the third techno capital of the world and overtook Melbourne and Sydney in the production of dance music in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. At the centre of this was Carmelo Bianchetti, who played as DJ HMC and was hailed as the Australian “Godfather of techno”. He was among the first Australian DJs to champion Chicago house and Detroit techno and was identified as a coalface in the Adelaide dance scene. Bianchetti now makes music under the Late Nite Tuff Guy moniker and moves in the direction of disco, soul and house. We spoke while he was in between making music in his studio.
“I’m always in here, I have a lot of spare time and when I’m not DJing I spend all my time in here.” For someone with such a huge reputation, Bianchetti was humble and friendly. Following some personal issues in 2000, Bianchetti decided to stop DJing because he hit a wall where he wasn’t enjoying what he was doing. He found it difficult to listen to music and started working at his parents’ bakery as a change of course. But it was the soul records he listened to on a Saturday night at home that got him out of this emotionally down period. “I found that music, especially Earth, Wind & Fire really lifted my spirits…. A little bit later I was like ‘I think I’m ready to play music again but I want to play more soul and disco along with all the house stuff.”
With a new stage name and a more positive take on his career, the once acclaimed ‘Godfather of techno’ still looked to the past to find inspiration. Bianchetti told me that in 1990 he was sharing a house with good friends that shared his love for music. They were creative people and he would stay up late making music until five or six in the morning nearly every night. “One morning, a girl who was living with us at the time, out of the blue, called me ‘late night tough guy’… we thought it was pretty funny and it just stuck from then”.
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The music made before and after the hiatus really represents Bianchetti’s emotional periods at the time, and are in stark contrast to each other. The techno from the early days is industrial and mesmerising, while the more recent disco has a smoother vibe. But Bianchetti said that the production process hadn’t changed drastically: “what I love about techno and some house is that it’s really hypnotic and kind of repetitive… I try to do that with the disco edits as well.” With age, however, comes better equipment and a more developed studio and he said that this has aided the production process.
In the early 2000s, it was clear that Bianchetti was disillusioned with the dance music scene that he was a part of. If nothing else, belonging to a city that produces music that an artist admires allows for collaboration and desegregation. In 2004, Bianchetti told inthemix that he didn’t feel a part of the Australian dance music scene and hinted at moving to Berlin indefinitely to pursue a career. That never happened. But when I asked about his opinions on changes to Australian dance music in his time, he was still disenchanted, this time for an entirely different reason. “I’ve been DJing since I was 19, but going out [clubbing] and hearing new music was a very special thing and you didn’t really get a chance to hear it anywhere else… [Now] everybody has access to all the latest music… clubbing doesn’t seem exciting anymore in that respect.”
The internet is often condemned for hurting music sales and the forced, fast-paced nature of the production of it. Bianchetti’s opinion was that, first and foremost, the internet had led to the over-commercialisation of clubbing. He noted that there were still good underground venues and DJs playing great tracks, “but I don’t think they’re as well supported as they were back in the early ‘90s.” He laughed while telling me that his solution was to get rid of the internet in order to avoid the masses being influenced by everything they read and see.
By taking the positive aspects of his past and intertwining them with his current musical direction, Cam Bianchetti brings a sense of class to Australian dance music that is sometimes difficult to find. Although he takes influences from international soul and techno he has been DJing in the unassuming city of Adelaide for over 30 years and that’s an impact that is hard to deny. “People here are into good music…I think that’s what makes Adelaide great. I know that every time I play here I’m always more nervous than anywhere else in the world.” It seems that we may have been wrong about the city of churches.
Late Nite Tuff Guy is playing the Falls Festival dates in Marion Bay, Lorne and Byron Bay over the new years period.