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Timmy Trumpet: brass tacks

An accomplished jazz musician, Timmy Trumpet made the switch to electronic music some years ago and has quickly become one of the world’s biggest DJs, famed for his ecstatic energy, collaborative mindset and improvised trumpeting on stage. DJ Mag speaks to Timmy — and his wife Anett — about his journey so far

“My friends and I used to make fun of dance music when I first got into it,” laughs Timothy Jade Smith, rather sheepishly. At that stage he was already an accomplished trumpet player, but despite the formal music education that gave him a comprehensive understanding of sharps, flats, semitones and quavers and the ability to ID any note in an instant, it was the rule-breaking structures and often shonky chords of dance music that stole his heart.

“Remember those old Ben Watt tracks? That great early stuff from Crazy P? It had a Latin influence, it was really musical,” he says. “When I heard that stuff it just made sense to me and that’s what I evolved into listening to from the jazz scene. It just sort of happened by accident.”

At first, Timmy would play along to that sort of stuff on the radio, or a CD. Because of his jazz upbringing, he loved improvising, so it came naturally to him. He could instantly start riffing next to any tune and bring something new to it. “I was addicted to it,” he says. One night, the self-confessed “club rat” was out and ready to party, as he often was back in his youth at home in Sydney. “But the DJ didn’t turn up, so I ran up to the booth, told them I had a load of Hed Kandi CDs and my trumpet in my car, and that I would step in.”

Timmy had no idea how to DJ at that stage but he dutifully loaded up the CDJs and began jamming on the spot. He was such a hit that he instantly started getting requests to do similar shows all over Sydney, then across Australia. At one point, he says, he was in Australia’s top 100 flyers. These days, he’s never out of DJ Mag’s Top 100 DJs and frequently flies by private jet. 

When we speak to Timmy — now known to the world as Timmy Trumpet — he is positively beaming. Sat next to him throughout the interview is his wife, Anett Tomcsanyi. He proposed to her in epic fashion during a livestream in 2020. After faking a transition in a track where she usually joins him on stage, he dropped to one knee and popped the question. They got married in Budapest a few days before we speak, in what sounds like an idyllic ceremony in the most famous church in the city. The winner of X-Factor Hungary was there to sing. Australian DJ duo Stafford Brothers were on the decks. Timmy himself did some karaoke, not that he can remember it, but someone caught it on video.

There is a childish excitement between the two. Timmy often turns to Anett to back up his answers and frequently says how much it means to him to have her alongside him when on the road. Since the wedding a few days ago, they haven’t been on a honeymoon but have instead been on a whistle-stop tour playing gigs all around Europe with Timmy’s parents in tow.

“We took them on a jet,” says Anett. “They had their first helicopter ride, and they finally realised what a big deal their son is. They really had no idea what a superstar he is.”

Timmy Trumpet smashing a bottle off his head

“[Hardstyle] is actually a lot more complex than people think. It’s got a lot of beautiful chords in it. It’s got a lot of beautiful build-ups and I love it”

Timmy’s dad was a trumpet player and the reason Timmy himself took up brass. He showed promise as young as four years old and that carried on through his teenage years, as Timmy was named ‘Young Musician of the Year’ aged 13, and was granted a full scholarship to the Conservatorium of Music. High-class tutoring from the Sydney Symphony Orchestra’s Anthony Heinrichs followed and within a couple of years he was the leading solo trumpet player in the Australian All-Star Stage Band.

He went on to spend many successful years playing at some of the world’s most-acclaimed jazz festivals, before heading into dance music — much to the initial disappointment of his father. “I was so obsessed with jazz,” says Timmy, who now mostly listens to “music I have heard before”, though he says one band that has always remained a favourite is Radiohead. “I was snobby about it back then. I thought jazz was the only proper music. I found dance music a little repetitive, because jazz is always changing chords and really expressive, but dance music is all in one key. But I realised that I could improvise over it and go with the flow and I suddenly understood it more.”

His parents went on a similar journey over the recent weekend tour. “The first show was in Romania and they didn’t get it,” says Timmy. “But by the last one on Sunday I think they were actually hardstyle fans. They were asking for more of it!”

Timmy himself is having something of a hardstyle moment too. “That music actually is a lot more complex than people think. It’s got a lot of beautiful chords in it. It’s got a lot of beautiful build- ups and I love it.” He was recently in the studio with a hardstyle producer who showed him about different bass frequencies and the effects they have on the body. After momentarily getting lost in a technical description of side-chaining and chakras, Timmy gets on to why he so often collaborates.

“I think that’s what life is all about,” he says. “I think we’re all equal. When you combine two people, there is nothing better than being in the studio with someone that’s the complete opposite to you, and putting your ideas together and creating something new. I think that’s where the best creations come from.”

Timmy Trumpet sitting with his trumpet on his lap

During his jazz years, Timmy was at school six days a week. He would have to do “ear training” at the Conservatorium of Music, where students would listen to someone hit notes on a piano and ID them with their backs turned. “I don’t consciously use those skills when I write now,” he says, shuffling about his chair with the same boundless energy that he has when on stage. “I think everything comes from my subconscious. I don’t ever go into the studio with an idea of what I’m going to write. I just start with some chords on the piano and see what comes out.”

Over the years, there has been a real variety. He’s done electro-house, big room house, Melbourne bounce, psy-trance, hardstyle and hardcore. It has come on the world’s biggest labels, from Spinnin’ and Dim Mak, to Ultra Music and Armada. He has worked with fellow EDM titans like Carnage, KSHMR, Steve Aoki and hard rock vocalist Andrew W.K.. His ‘Freaks’ tune was an intentional breakout success, which sold more than 1 million copies worldwide and has been streamed online over 500 million times. Meanwhile, harking back to his early days in more traditional music, his epic ‘Toca’ was a big room rework of Johann Sebastian Bach’s ‘Toccata and Fugue in D minor’ and has long been a trademark of Timmy’s live performances.

When we speak, there is a painting of their wedding day in the background. Anett goes to fetch it and explains it was done live on the day. “She purposefully put that there for this interview,” Timmy laughs. He is wearing his trademark blacked-out aviator shades and black fedora. He and his wife have deep tans and look the picture of good health given how much time they spend on the road. “We call it the wed-shred,” says Timmy as he leans into Anett once more. She cuts in, “We really got in shape for the wedding and now we are trying to keep it!”

Two days after we speak, Timmy turns 40, but he has the energy, enthusiasm and positivity of a man half his age. “He just appreciates everything,” says Anett. “He’s one of those people who don’t complain and I just feel his amazing energy every single day.”

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Kristan J Caryl is a freelance writer. Follow him on twitter @kristanjcaryl