Running Touch: ‘If You Look At My Earliest Work, It's A F*cking Mess’

5 May 2022 | 10:57 am | David James Young

“I wasn't really worried about being true to any sense of artistry – I was making stuff I liked, and just putting it out there. In a way, I'm still doing just that. It speaks to the process more than anything – there's no method to the madness. It sounds all over the place because it is all over the place.”

(Pic by Joshua Hourigan)

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Running Touch doesn't want to talk about jetlag. Yes, he's fresh off the plane from Los Angeles and back in his Melbourne abode – but you know when you see someone else yawning and it sets you off? That's where he's at. “I try not to think about it too much,” he says with a laugh, his face sagging slightly into his left palm. “If I do, I get caught up in my own head.” Curiously, it's this very mentality that factored into the producer's long-awaited debut studio album, Carmine. After beleaguering various ideas and, indeed, getting caught up in his aforementioned head, the multi-instrumentalist needed to tear up the blueprint.

“When I first started it, I wanted to have what I guess you'd call a grand concept,” he says of the album. “I was really looking to prove myself with something that had a bit more depth for a debut album. The more I got into it, though, I just didn't have a revelation of what that concept would be and I just kind of abandoned it.” So, what did Running Touch end up doing instead? “The exact opposite,” he answers.

“I did the simplest thing I could possibly do, and just picked a colour to base the whole record off. The reason I did that was because the first two songs I wrote were based off quite bloody movies. Carmine is the colour of blood, and I really liked that word. I then wrote a song with that title, which now closes the album. I guess I got very disingenuous vibes from the whole 'grand concept' thing pretty quickly. The more I thought about it, the more I didn't like it. It's probably a by-product of getting older, where you just start to care less. I took heaps of the pressure off myself, and I just let it roll from there.”

Several years in the making, fans got their first taste of Carmine all the way back in 2018 with the resplendent, piano-driven cut Your Hands – which wound up with Running Touch's first-ever Gold certification. A slew of singles followed, most of which have found their way onto the album and all of which are reflective of the multiplicity at play behind the Running Touch moniker. While there are certainly key points of stylistic differences between the rumbling rhythm section of Signs and the swelling synth-orchestration of Why Do I, for instance, you can still easily identify both as Running Touch songs. Not that any of this duality between versatility and consistency is part of any master plan, mind you.

“If you go back and look at my earliest work as Running Touch, it's a fucking mess,” the producer laughs. “I wasn't really worried about being true to any sense of artistry – I was making stuff I liked, and just putting it out there. In a way, I'm still doing just that. It speaks to the process more than anything – there's no method to the madness. It sounds all over the place because it is all over the place.”

One element that serves as a tie that binds Carmine is its musicianship. You'd think, by now, the myth of electronic music producers simply “pushing a button” to create their songs would have been long dispelled – and yet, this stigma has still rattled around for decades on end. Rest assured, when you're listening to Running Touch's music – specifically Carmine – you're getting a genuine article. Almost everything you hear on the album was written, performed, programmed and produced by the man himself – keeping up what he describes as “the human element” as a key factor of the album.

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“At a certain point in the creative process, I revisited a lot of practice and musical study I did when I was younger,” he says. “That really informed a lot of the later part of the writing for the album. It pushed me to put more live instrumentation in – I was very conscious about that. Heaps of piano, as many solos as I could put in there... just going back to what I grew up on.

“I obviously didn't want to alienate people, but I really wanted to put it in there. There's a drum solo, there's guitar solos on most of the songs, there's live piano on most of the songs. My guitar teacher, Mitchell Clews, and one of my favourite acts Plini have guitar solos in there, too. I guess if there was something I tried to push myself towards, it was to put some of those lessons from my musical studies to good use – and maybe better myself through that.”

Carmine arrives just weeks after the release of Up In The Air Forever, the third studio album from neon-tinged nu-metal trio Ocean Grove. You might be wondering what that has to do with anything, but as it turns out Running Touch was actually the band's guitarist when they started back in high school. He left the fold in 2014 to focus on his solo work full-time, but has served as a silent partner in the years since – contributing songwriting and production, as well as keyboards and electronics where needed. So consumed was he in the making of Carmine, however, the creation of Up In The Air Forever completely passed Running Touch by.

“This is actually the first record where I haven't touched anything – which is unfortunate, but we knew that was going to happen eventually,” he says of the band's latest LP. “That's just purely because of our schedules. COVID really made that difficult for us; same as everyone else. This album is all their genius, very much so. That being said, it's been kind of a blessing, because now we're all already writing the next album together. We're going back to a more grassroots way of writing. I think the album that comes out of it is going to be really nostalgic, and really interesting.”

Pics by Joshua Hourigan

In the meantime, Running Touch's focus beyond the release of Carmine is an extensive tour in support of it. The run of dates, set for May and June, will be the biggest headlining dates Running Touch has ever performed – and with it will come an all-new live show, which will hit a similarly-grand scale. The producer isn't overthinking it, of course – can't have that. Rather, he's hired people to overthink it for him.

“It's a lot less complicated than probably anyone imagines, because it happens over such a long period of time,” he says of putting the Running Touch live show together. “I'm doing all the programming and all that kind of stuff, but you go through this whole trial and error – you execute certain things that do and don't work, add on things that do and don't work, and you just build it from there. You find yourself jumping tiers constantly.

“We have a much bigger team now, and we can realise a lot of the things we've been wanting to do for a while. The concepts of how to do them have already been there, we've just been waiting to have the proper utensils. There's a few concepts that tie in directly with the album that we want to explore live, plus all of the lighting as well. We've got people that have been working really hard to make this new show what we've been envisioning, which is great.”

Running Touch's return to the stage will be the latest in an ongoing series of goals for Australian dance acts – a community that's not only getting its flowers right now, but seemingly being granted entire gardens. With RÜFÜS DU SOL playing American stadiums, Flight Facilities drawing tens of thousands and a slew of other producers and performers raking in millions of streams and constant airplay, it's hard not to be swept up in this renaissance. By that same token, it would also be easy to find the whole prospect intimidating – after all, the bar is being set much higher. Not to Running Touch, however – as far as he's concerned, a rising tide lifts all boats.

“It's definitely inspiring,” he says. “It makes me feel very proud of Australian music, because it lifts everyone. It's like an aggregate. It helps the scene, and it helps inspire artists to come in terms of where EDM will go. More people are excited about it, and more people want to participate in it. I went over to America with Dom Dolla's crew and Hayden James recently, because I played a song with Hayden at Coachella. They're doing incredible things, and to be there with them when that's happening... it's what I imagine having kids is like, seeing them grow up and graduate.”