One morning, you're a barista slinging java. By the afternoon, your song has spread like wildfire, and you're not sure how. That's the story of Tristan Hallis, better known as DJ Boring. On this exact day two years ago, the Australian producer/DJ/label co-owner shook the underground house-music community with his famed YouTube phenomenon "Winona," a track in which he sampled an excerpt from an emotional interview that Winona Ryder gave to ABC in 1999.
The producer woke up and posted the song on SoundCloud around 8 or 8:30 a.m., he recalls. Then he headed off to work at a London coffee shop. By the time he returned home at 3 p.m., the track had exploded. When he saw the number of hits, he thought there was a glitch. Then he saw a comment on his SoundCloud account that the track had been uploaded to the influential Slav YouTube channel, which caused it to go viral. Today "Winona" has garnered more than 3.9 million plays on YouTube. DJ Boring recalls, "When I used to upload a song onto SoundCloud, I would have about, at most, 15 to 20 likes and about maybe 100 plays a month of it being uploaded. And then, like, no one would ever really listen to it."
Thanks to the internet, his music career took off. But he doesn't necessarily think a musician's geographic location affects a music career or trajectory. DJ Boring reminisces, "For what happened to me, it was the timing that I posted the song... If I had done this in Australian time, it wouldn't have been picked up by someone at that time." Shortly after that release, he was able to quit his job at the coffee shop to pursue music full-time. Asked if he's heard any rumors about Ryder hearing his track, he laughs: "I wish... I hope maybe she has because I want to make sure she doesn't care."
On tour, he'll be stateside for the first time since he was 8 years old. He's gearing up for his show at Floyd this Saturday, September 29, as part of the Extra Credit party series. "I don't remember the States at all, so I'm superexcited," he says.
DJ Boring's path to creating music was paved in Australia, where his parents' great taste in music was an inspiration. Growing up, he was always in a violin and drum ensembles. "I was never groundbreakingly good at these kinds of instruments," he jokes. But when a 14-year-old Hallis discovered GarageBand, he found his true calling. "One day, I found out you could make sounds on a computer, and that's where it kind of all changed."
DJ Boring has traveled extensively since then. After spending his formative years and honing his craft in Melbourne, he moved to London. After his girlfriend's visa in the U.K. expired earlier this year, the two headed to Berlin, where they now reside. He reflects on a song titled "Sunday Avenue," in which he retraces his musical development and travels. "I actually first started writing that track probably a year before I moved to England. I've always been intrigued by the sounds of house music that was coming out of London... And then since moving to London and finishing it off, I was kind of thinking of sounds that I was hearing in Melbourne," he says. "It was kind of like a reverse effect."
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His latest release, For Tahn, is a four-track EP that drips through the speakers and perfectly soundtracks scenic routes. "Tahn was a really close friend of mine who was a really beautifully minded person who passed away," he explains. "[It's] a memorial of the friendship I had with him."
DJ Boring says he wants people to "feel something" — whether it's good or bad — when they listen to his music. This line from Winona Ryder in the song apparently hit a nerve: "It is difficult to be judged, to be reviewed as a teenager... I was in the middle of doing a reading for [someone], and she stopped me and she said, 'Listen, you are not pretty enough to be an actress. You have to find something else that you want to do.'"
"With 'Winona,' when I was listening to that line that she says, it kind of just hit home," he recalls. "It felt like, Yeah, I totally get that."