Behind the mask with Running Touch: Chatting anonymity, creative autonomy and side projects with the mysterious producer

Anonymity is a fascinating ideal. There is a certain appeal and mystique to anyone who hides their identity, for whatever reason they choose. It has always had a place in the music industry, from seminal producers the likes of Daft Punk and Burial, to more recent acts like Australia’s Golden Features.

Hiding from the beast that is fame is an attractive notion to some, and Running Touch counts himself part of this crowd. Like his audience’s theories about his identity, the producer’s sound changes with every release, jumping from the piano-driven Courtesy Of to his recent dance track Levitate. Eager to squeeze any information we could out of this mysterious artist, we caught up with him over the weekend.

Amazing illustrations by Marney Anderson

Running Touch has thousands of fans, but none of them know who he is. In a rare interview, the enigmatic Melbourne producer sat down with Happy before his Sydney show.

HAPPY: I wanted to ask about the Levitate video first. A friend of mine described it as quite sleek and sexy. How was the filming process?

RT: It was kind of short lived and very serendipitous in that I wasn’t meant to make it at first, but then it got put forward. The opportunity was like: “do you want to make it?” – because I didn’t think I’d have the budget to get the vision that I wanted to achieve at first. It was completely out of the blue, it was all very in-house, we worked with people I know and stuff like that.

Yeah, it was a great process man, it made me learn a lot about creatives in a different vein rather than music and let me appreciate a different form of art. I’ve always loved video so delving into that in a more professional manner was really helpful to me as an artist because whenever I see videos or visuals for an artist now I can kind of appreciate that.

It motivates me to maybe do those kind of things in the future for myself, and it makes the whole Running Touch thing a bit more holistic – I can inject my vision visually as well as sonically. So that was my favourite thing about it, it made me appreciate video a bit more – and media.

HAPPY: That’s nice, a bit more creative autonomy. In the video and everywhere really, I’ve noticed that you use a lot of monochromatic design – why is that?

RT: Well at first it paired well with the identity thing, and the initial idea was to have everything black and white as we started as a more anonymous project and then when we broke with the anonymity we’d go colour. I was quite against that because its quite cliché. Black and white …I dunno, I wear black a lot.

It was more of an aesthetic thing, and I feel like the music direction I was heading at the time was very black and white. Everything was quite melancholy, so I wanted everything to be quite grungy. The main reason is probably because I was in a metal band and black and white was a big deal for them so I wanted to carry that over to this.

HAPPY: How long were you in a metal band for?

RT: Still in it!

HAPPY: Oh, still in it?

RT: Yeah.

HAPPY: How long has that been now?

RT: We started that band in 2008. We’re just finishing up our first album now actually, which is great. So yeah, really enjoying that.

HAPPY: Gun to your head, how would you pin down your sound? Just from listening, it can be quite varied – I don’t want to say eclectic because that makes it sound disorganised.

RT: It’s definitely disorganised, like I don’t know, the vision I had for it at the start… in terms of sound it was more that I never ever wanted to be bound by any constraints, any other people, any other kind of format that’s present, any kind of musical social agenda or fad. That’s kind of why I started this thing aside from a band so I could say exactly what I wanted to do, cause especially I find with future bass artists everything’s quite… you know what you’re getting with a lot of those artists and I never wanted to do that.

Levitate is dance heavy, Courtesy Of is quite band heavy music, and I wanted to make sure that you really didn’t know what you’re actually getting with these cause when you talk to artists they’re like “oh yeah I listen to hip hop, I listen to this” and when you listen to their songs they’re exactly the same as the other fifty songs that are not influenced by hip hop at all. I want to be the person that, when I say that, you’re like “oh yeah you’ve actually been a bit ambitious and you’ve gone and done that!”.

More than that, it’s to translate progressively live, I’d love to start very band heavy and instrumental and then end almost techno. So that’s the point, when you see a live show its like you’re seeing a whole array of artists.

HAPPY: You’ve spoken to Happy before about why you’ve chosen to remain anonymous, what kind of impact do you think it’s had?

RT: A lot for sure. I think its really cool because in interview speak, or political speak, you can say “oh you know it lets the music speak for itself” and that’s all very well and good, but its really cool because you can go places or you can say things or you can do things in your personal life and its completely separate to your professional life. It really creates a nice line in the sand about who the artist is and who you are and that’s what I like most about it.

It’s had a huge impact for publicity, I didn’t understand how big a thing that was. I thought “oh I think I’ll do this for a while” and I didn’t realise it was a very useful tool to have. I was doing another project at the time, so I was quite oblivious to the real impact it would have.

To be honest with you but it has had a huge impact because it’s like a nice talking point, and it’s had an impact on me as an artist as well because it keeps me in check and kind of makes me more approachable in a way I can’t really explain, but that’s the vibes I get, so yeah.

HAPPY: Where do you think you got this focus on creative autonomy?

RT: I treat it like…I don’t want to say I treat it like a business, but I do. I think you have to apply some form of magical realism in that you have to be beyond everything to catch any and all attention. My approach to it is that genres are quite hard to get big in themselves because they’re so saturated, so what can I do as an artist to pursue several genres? When I went from a metal band to this, that was my goal.

It’s more to put myself forward as an artist rather than as Running Touch. In three years, because it’ll probably take that long, people will see you as an artist with all these projects you’ve got going on…that’s kind of the vision for it so…it’s kind of looking at what the middle bands and top tier artists are doing and being like “okay, a lot of them are doing fantastic, they’re a lot better than me, what can I do to separate myself” – and that’s the thing.

I mean I can do things like shoot video myself and design artwork myself – even if it’s not that great. It’s a learning curve and it helps me as an artist to pursue different genres…so it stems more from “okay, what can I do to make myself Running Touch and not Safia? Or Rufus?”

Cause they’re the people you get compared to, and they’re very easy to get compared to, and it’s easy for people to say they’re better than you. Most of the time they are, so you want to be different. That’s where that comes from.

HAPPY: Any other favourite Aussies at the moment in electronica?

RT: So hard to say. Does New Zealand count? There’s this group called SACHI , they’re like a little future bass act, these two little New Zealanders. They’re absolute freaks…ahhhh who else? A lot of bands, more so bands. You’ve gotta support all the artists taking our music international like Rufus, Flume, Chet Faker – now Nick Murphy, Safia.

But I’m more of a house guy, so I love my Set Mo, all those kind of things. But Sachi, I’m really on them at the moment. I’m really into Gretta Ray, the Unearthed winner. You know her song Dry? That song is the deez, I love that one. And of course Dune Rats and Violent Soho, all that kind of jam. That’s sick. I support and like all of them.

HAPPY: Bonus question – any particular genre you’re loving right now?

RT: Too hard to say – I recycle man. I go through every four months.

HAPPY: What is it at the moment?

RT: Hip hop.

HAPPY: Who’s your favourite hip hop artist?

RT: I love KRS-One, Anderson Paak, another bandwagon hard for that. I love Ty Dolla $ign. His new song Zaddy is my… there’s this chick talking at the start, I don’t know why but it’s my favourite song so far this year. Hip hop’s my thing.

Running Touch will be playing at Beyond the Valley this year alongside some huge talent. The festival crosses New Years, going from the 29th through to the 1st – so you know it’s going to be a good time. Grab your tickets here and start organising the road trip to Gippsland Parklands in Lardner.