Having a little bit of European blood in him can’t have hurt; in fact, being born in Belgium might have a bit to do with the fact that Dave Pham is well attuned to a style of electronic music that deserves to be celebrated. Regardless of genre, he is particularly adept at reading a crowd and suitably delivering an experience without peer. He is considered one of Melbourne’s favourite sons for a reason – he is a wicked selector. And rocking a crowd is something that comes naturally to him.
“Music has always been about freedom,” explains Dave. “It gives you the freedom to build something and to explore different sounds, do different things. It might involve music that people like to play or listen to – or it might not. But when you do it right, it can have impact.”
Indeed, Dave has been invited to play a local show that turns the traditional party format on its head. “It’s about creating a space where locals can get a decent set time to play through a few different genres and have fun doing it. Some of the best parties I’ve been to have been where locals have played and upstaged internationals. This gig came about as a result of Dan’s desire – and it really is his baby. He really wanted to do a party where the emphasis was on local DJs. In the last four or five years there have been so many events with international acts – which is great for exposure, great for the scene and great for the music of course – but we sometimes forget about some of the great local talent that we have in Melbourne. So this concept was all about putting some of the attention back onto the locals. It can be hard to be creative for one hour sometimes so giving people a little longer allows them to kind of take the dance floor onto a bit of a journey.”
No less, the ninja skill in your building reckons he’s fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to express a lot of different ideas musically, over the years. “Sometimes it hasn’t been all rosy and stuff though,” he admits. “There were times when people thought they were going to hear something from me and then heard something else, so there was a bit of negative feedback sometimes. But that’s always going to happen – it’s all a part of the game. Other times, there were people in the crowd whose ears pricked up and they said, ‘Where can we hear that sound again?’ So in that regard it’s really positive; there’s two sides to every story I guess.
“And that’s how I see it. There are two ways to look at it – one is you get lucky and one is to say you make your own luck. I think I’ve been in both situations – I’ve definitely been lucky but in some ways I’ve created my own luck too. I’ve been asked to get involved in parties and have had the chance to support some great names; I hope that’s because I’ve been seen to be bringing something fresh to the table. I’m not necessarily trying to be original, but when I get involved in something, I get involved in it to a full extent.”
Certainly then, his commitment hasn’t swayed. He is still as equally committed to pushing the boundaries as he’s ever been. “For me it’s about embracing this originality. I guess it’s about being a part of something and keeping a finger on the pulse. Over the years, I’ve progressed my music style but I’ve always had one motivation and that has been to keep my music accessible. I think people can relate to that, honestly. In the last few years, I’ve stepped away from the more experimental or techno sound into a deeper and more melodic house sound because you can play it in a lot of different places. It can be a bar, a club, a restaurant or whatever. It can still be dark and deep, but I’ve always had a love of stripped back music so that part of me is still there.”
A lot of this evolution, too, happened at a time when house, techno and electro were getting mashed up as a hybrid of different sounds. Yet the chin-strokers and purists complained that there was a disturbance in the force. They were wrong. Having seen Pham play sets in the most diverse, obscure and sometimes rather challenging environments, I can attest to this: there are few better at being the DJ for the right time and place. Whatever that may be.
An innate ability to read the crowd, coupled with an exceptional taste in music – regardless of genre – and one of the most warm and humble demeanours in the business make Pham one of the greats. To be sure, he has all the hallmarks of a superstar, without the attitude. Bring it, I say.
Dave Pham [AUS] plays at New Guernica on Friday May 25.