Fisher is the Aussie tech-house DJ/producer riding the wave of a meteoric rise
Fisher has leapt from being a virtual unknown to a star on the international stage. The Aussie DJ/producer’s rapid rise has come largely due to his massive crossover track ‘Losing It’, but his infectious enthusiasm and positive vibes behind the decks — and in videos — have also played a considerable part. Ahead of Miami Music Week, DJ Mag talks to Fisher about surfing, the DJ lifestyle, fishing (natch), and why he’s fucking loving it right now...
Paul Nicholas Fisher is a straight up Strayan. True blue, down to earth, no messing about. He loves his music, he loves to surf, he loves a laugh with his mates. What you see is what you get; a happy-go-lucky man who seems to emanate joie de vivre and has a tendency to cackle mischievously when he laughs. Beer, banter, beats and not so much as a whiff of bull. He’s as honest as they come...
“I’ve got to be honest mate, I fucking hate fishing,” admits the man best known as Fisher. “I don’t think I’ve ever caught a fish by myself. I might have had a mate catch a fish but then let me take a picture of me reeling it in, so I look like a fucking mad dog, but I’ve never caught one on my own. I only go because my mates love it. But I hate it. I hate the smell, I hate the blood that comes out of them. Being in a little boat with 10 of your mates and you’re all covered in blood and guts? Eurrrgh. I hate it.”
For added effect, Fisher — who’s been known as Fish to his mates for as long as he was knee-high to a shrimp — isn’t even that much of a fan of fish. “They all look the same those fucking things, mate!” he laughs. But don’t go calling trading standards quite yet. This Fisher might not care for fishing. He might not give two tinnies for his finned namesakes (although he admits he does have a deep respect for the badassery of sharks). But everything else you see, hear and read about this man seems highly legit.
But what do we actually know about Fisher? Sure, we’ve heard him. Even the snailfish at the bottom of the Mariana Trench have lost their shit to his tech-house crossover smash ‘Losing It’. The most played tune at Tomorrowland last year, nominated for Best Dance Recording at the Grammys and voted as one of the biggest tunes of last year by seemingly half of the DJ Mag Top 100 DJs list, ‘Losing It’ has achieved certified anthem status. Not just in the arena-smashing widescreen house genre it came from, but across the genre spectrum, with unauthorized bootlegs doing the rounds in every style you can imagine — from juggernaut trance to freight train drum & bass.
It’s spread well beyond the confines of the club into the mainstream, too. Daytime radio support was so strong that Radio 1 breakfast presenter Greg James managed to corral thousands of the members of the UK public to ‘flash beep’ their vehicles to the track’s distinctive horn sample. Yeah, we’ve most definitely heard Fisher. If you’ve so much as walked past a club or festival in the last 18 months you’ll have almost certainly heard one of his previous tracks as well.
You’ll have no doubt seen him, too. He’s got a strong online presence and is one of the few DJs who doesn’t do Instagram videos because he feels he ought to, or his manager is holding him at gunpoint and telling him it’s essential in today’s modern game. He does them because, to use his own catchphrase, he “fucking loves it”. In fact, he’s been in front of the camera a lot of his adult life. But in terms of his backstory, and how he went from a relative unknown to one of the hottest tickets in town in less than two years, there’s a chance you might have missed it. His status has been so meteoric that he’s not really been covered in that much detail.
“It’s been crazy. I do often sit there and think, ‘Holy shit, it’s going mad right now’. Some of the experiences, people, outrageous parties. I’m pinching myself, mate.” We’re chatting on the phone, but you can hear him crack open a big grin when he says that.
He’s a little philosophical and thoughtful as he speaks during our conversation. Not quite the mile-a-minute jokebox he seems on video, a little mellower than the larger-than-life DJ you see, often in a peng playboy shirt, bouncing and beaming behind the decks in a manner that’s not dissimilar to a much younger Fatboy Slim. Considering how blink-and-miss-it his life is right now, he seems remarkably chilled, but this is largely thanks to his first weekend off at home on Aussie soil in months. Following an epic new year, touring in Europe and a trip to the Grammys, he took a full four-day break at his family home in North Sydney. Based in the crook of a fresh water lake and the Pacific Ocean, it’s where he grew up and it sounds just as idyllic as the rest of his life.
Moments before the call he was out chilling on the lake on his paddle-board, getting tapped up by randoms chucking him tins of traditional Aussie beer VB. “It’s been a nice break,” he reflects. “I’ve caught up with mates and had a few surfs, had a few drinks. I won’t lie though; I’ve got some gigs next weekend and I can’t fucking wait to play them.”
He’s got a lot of gigs coming up this year. He had a lot last year, too. Since his debut single ‘Ya Kidding’ landed on Dirtybird in June 2017, his flippers have barely touched the floor. He achieved the holy grail of aspiring DJs and producers since the dawn of dance music; off the back of just one big club track he became a hot name in house music. In a sea of disposable bangers, where tidal waves of releases are dropped by the thousand every single week, Fisher caught instant waves of success with a certified anthem that in turn caught the imagination of dancefloors and DJs worldwide.
“I’d sent ‘Ya Kidding’ to a few people,” he explains. “Obviously Claude [VonStroke] was playing it and I was stoked about that because I love his stuff. Then I got sent a video of Eats Everything playing it at this super-sick Elrow party and it was like, ‘Oh okay, he’s fucking with it too!’ Then Skream was messing around with it. Then the Solardo boys. Then Erick Morillo. It was like this smorgasbord of fucking legends playing it. It was amazing. Then, when the release came out, I was shocked it was straight in at number three on Beatport and that was my first tune! It was like, ‘Wow, okay’. Then [Australian radio station] Triple J started playing it during the daytime, which for a club track is pretty much unheard of. It was like, ‘Okay, here we go…’ Then the even bigger DJs like your Diplos and that started playing it. That’s when things went fucking mental.”
It was how he followed up ‘Ya Kidding’, however, that galvanised the mentality of the situation. At that stage, even with that level of massive support, he was just a mere grommet in the game. Sure, he’d given the world a universally celebrated electro-charged house anthem, but with just one track to his Fisher discography, he was still dangerously close to being wiped out by the wave of one-hit wonderism. Then he followed up ‘Ya Kidding’ with two more massive chunky bubblers just months later; the equally ubiquitous ‘Stop It’ and ‘Ya Didn’t’.
Building on the foundations he’d set with his debut, they were robust, slightly left-of-centre and unapologetically funky. Obese in proportions and characterised by walking basslines, pitched-down vocals and more hooks than your local tackle shop. The same can be said for ‘Crowd Control’, which followed in spring 2018. His final Dirtybird hoorah before setting up his own imprint Catch & Release, the track’s tech-edged twist added more momentum to his unstoppable status and won him even more support from a wider web of DJs. “’Stop It’ is still my favourite track, though,” he considers. “For me it never feels old. It still feels relevant. But I’ve got to say this has all been down to my team. It’s not just me, it’s a whole bunch of mates working with me, getting the music to the right people who are playing it. That’s cool because you can make tracks all day long, but you never know who’s going to support the music or not.”
“I posted [‘Losing It’] just to see what the reaction would be with my followers and it just fucking exploded. This was in April and I didn’t give the track to anyone for at least a month or so. It was doing damage on its own from that post. It was heavy and wild to see what it did, it was out of my control and had a life of its own. I still can’t believe it now”
LOST & FOUND
Then came ‘Losing It’. If things were mental prior to his fifth single, this track was about to take things to brave new levels of ballistic. And this one had nothing to do with the savvy promo distribution he’s quick to thank his friends for. Fisher was the only DJ to have the track for several months after he debuted it at Coachella Festival. Yet it still became a viral smash. After a summer of heavy play from every DJ who could get their hands on it, ‘Losing It’ was eventually released in November. “I wanted to test it out, so I started my set with it and told my manager to film me playing the track and get the crowd reaction. Mate… It. Went. Off!” grins Fisher. A sweary modernday raconteur we need but don’t deserve, he pauses after each word for effect.
A regular trait, he clearly relishes the craft of a good yarn. One particularly incredible true story of his is a death-defying tale that involves his boat capsizing, swimming in nasty rip currents in an ocean shipping channel for five hours (twice) just weeks before blue box jellyfish season, a deadly brown snake and sleeping five-deep in a dunny on an island of mating crocodiles. No, really. But right now, he’s telling the slightly less death-defying but even more crucial (and relevant) story of how his life changed with that one video. “I posted the track just to see what the reaction would be with my followers and it just fucking exploded. This was in April and I didn’t give the track to anyone for at least a month or so. It was doing damage on its own from that post. It was heavy and wild to see what it did, it was out of my control and had a life of its own. I still can’t believe it now.”
He’s not wrong; achieving this type of attention and success within five singles and less than two years? It is almost unbelievable in today’s noisy game. Especially with a sound that’s not conventionally mainstream or mass market. But there are much deeper currents beneath the big waves he’s making right now. Yes, Fisher is a new name to the game. But behind the scenes he’s been honing his chops as a DJ and producer since he moved to LA from Sydney in the late 2000s as a professional free-surfer with his friend and fellow surfer Leigh ‘Sedz’ Sedley. “We came to America over 11 years ago, got a house on the beach, got ourselves some decks and just mucked around,” he recalls. “We DJ’d at a lot of the surf parties, after-parties for surf contests and house parties. Things were picking up and one of our mates started managing us and started getting us bookings in clubs — and it went from there. A lot of people don’t know I was making tunes for all those years before I came through as Fisher. But, yeah, I learnt what I wanted to do as a producer during the whole Cut Snake project.”
Originally known as the Bareback DJs (inspired by a safe sex poster on Sedz’s wall), Fisher and Sedz became Cut Snake in the early 2010s and carved a similarly bass-bitten rolling house sound. Setting the foundations for Fisher’s current rise, Cut Snake also made a name for themselves relatively quickly with releases signed to major label Warner Bros and EDC behemoth Insomniac. Sedz now commandeers the Cut Snake controls solo — with roots going back to their teens when they met on a local surfing TV show, they remain close friends.
“This TV show featured us both because we were up and comers in the sport,” says Fish. “Sedz was this freckly kid who was too shy, he didn’t even know how to say hello. I was this long-haired blonde rat who wouldn’t shut the fuck up. We walked away hating each other, seriously couldn’t sand each other. But we met at tournaments and got to know each other and became good mates. Learning everything with him as Cut Snake was a shit-tonne of fun. But I wanted to go out on my own. He wanted to go down a different path musically and I wanted to experiment with the sound I have now. It’s the sound of house records I love but trying to make them heavier or bigger, I guess…”
Citing the likes of Erick Morillo (the first DJ he ever went to see play), Green Velvet and much more recent groove-trooper Latmun as some of his many inspirations, the bigger, darker, heavier sound Fisher wanted to pursue was the sound that bubbled away in the background of his influences throughout his career as a surfer — first as a junior WSL competitor and then as a display-style freesurfer. “I just lost that competitive edge when I reached a certain age, free-surfing seemed a lot more fun,” explains Fish, whose last cover feature was almost exactly 10 years ago on Surfer Mag. “Surfing in exotic places, going in surf magazines, taking swirls, featuring on videos. I did alright when I was competing. I wasn’t one of the greatest or any of that shit, but I was okay. I wanted to go down the free-surfing lane; just enjoy life, do my thing and have fun and make videos. Just like the music.”
Fisher hasn’t just been building up to this new headline DJ chapter of his life since he and Sedz first became Cut Snake, or even back when they bought a pair of decks. His development goes deeper than the music; during his time as a free-surfer he developed a name for himself with his Follow The Fish videos, where he’d interview surfers, take the piss and have fun with his mates. In one particular episode, he even performed some rather gnarly manoeuvres on a board shaped like a penis. It’s during this tenure that he refined the long-haired blonde rat who first appeared on a Sydney surf show into a personality that’s authentic, engaging, knows his shit but knows how to have a laugh. Naturally, he still makes those videos today, except music is now the focus rather than surfing.
“Has life changed?” he ponders. “Not too much. The only thing that’s changed is my job, my career. I’ve still got the same mates, I’m still having a laugh, I just get to play tunes now.” It’s here where we strike why Fisher seems to have done such a smooth tail-slide into his newfound Grammy-nominated superstar status with egoless ease. He was already enjoying, nay fucking loving, life in this way anyway. The decks are now priority over the board, but he remains grounded by the circle he keeps. He frequently mentions his mates and his team throughout the interview and gushes about his fiancée Chloe Chapman. A swimwear designer and writer, she’s been with him seven years and travels with him to every gig, keeping him sane as the DJ merry-go-round picks up pace with every release he drops. “Keep me insane more like! I have to drag her home!” he chuckles. “But nah, I’m very lucky to take my girl with me to every show. She’s my best mate. We run amok. We have a laugh. I’m stoked to have her on the road.”
“I love anyone who comes out to see me, seeing their reactions and entertaining them. I want to play my best set and make them happy. That’s what I’m all about: vibes. I love spreading that vibe and I love receiving that vibe. There’s nothing better than connecting with people who’ve got positive energy. I vibe off it. That’s why I fucking love it”
Chloe isn’t the only companion to touch road with the Fish. Brett, his long-time friend and manager from the Cut Snake days, is still by his side and his management team are all old friends. He’s also regularly flanked by his original Sydney surfing mates. He explains how at the start of the year he shares his gig calendar with his friends and invites people to pick dates they want to join him. “I do kinda stick to my posse, a bit,” explains Fisher, who admits things have been so whirlwind that he hasn’t had enough time to connect with the vast majority of his DJ peers, but does love hanging out with kindred spirits such as Solardo, Camelphat and Michael Bibi whenever they share line-ups. “Pretty much everywhere I’ve gone in the world I’ve had a friend come with me so I can share the trip with them. I mean, this shit is insane! The parties, the fun. I’m living the dream, how can I not share it? I fucking love it.”
He pauses, catching himself saying his catchphrase without even realising. This isn’t a handy branding tag; it’s clear he genuinely does love it. He flings the L bomb more than he flings C and F bombs put together and explains how he’ll never moan about gruelling schedules or workloads or any of the downsides and challenges of the DJ lifestyle. He knows how lucky he is and shows a genuine appreciation for everything that’s happened. It’s refreshing; in a scene that can take itself a little too seriously sometimes, few DJs are as unabashedly enthusiastic or as vibey or openly approachable as Fisher. And he’s just amped up his approachability factor even more with an open invitation to demos for his new label Catch & Release.
“I want to start the label and throw my own parties. I want to build a team and give people the opportunity and platform to go mad like I’ve been able to,” he explains. “I’m fishing for new tracks right now and who knows what I’ll get? I’m hoping I get sent some fucking amazing stuff mate! That’s the whole buzz of a label. The amazing shit people must send you! Like Claude from Dirtybird, he’s packing some fucking stunning tracks. And I’d love to steal Jamie Jones’s laptop. Imagine the shit on that? So yeah, it’s all about parties, new tunes, new artists… Just fun, basically. Good vibe, good people, good music.”
The parties kick off this month with the launch event on South Beach during Miami Music Week. Poolside at the Delano hotel, it’s the same place he witnessed another strong influence, Luciano, shut down the place years ago when he attended as an aspiring artist still fin-deep in his free-surfing career. He’s hoping for a similar shut-down situation. Not by him… By his fans.
“Mate, my fans and people who come and see me are the fucking best. I’d say they’re some of the wildest and funniest people I’ve met,” he says, telephone grin locked in once again. He dives into a series of yarns about spirited fans he’s met along the road so far; how one man managed to sneak a dead fish past security and hurl it at him (Fisher ducked and it hit someone behind him), and how one encounter led him to retire from the traditional Aussie drinking technique known as the ‘shoey’ after he was passed a full prosthetic leg of beer.
Since the crossover success of ‘Losing It’, he’s also noticed a healthy incline of women in his audience. Observing a much healthier and vibrant mix on the dancefloor, which has led to him bringing an even fizzier atmosphere to his shows, he says he stoked how it’s “not just a big old sausage sizzle”.
“Without those people in front of me, I ain’t shit!” he says, moments later. “I love anyone who comes out to see me, seeing their reactions and entertaining them. That’s what I love. That’s my favourite part. I want to play my best set and make them happy. That’s what I’m all about: vibes. I love spreading that vibe and I love receiving that vibe. There’s nothing better than connecting with people who’ve got positive energy. I vibe off it and I love it. That’s why I fucking love it. I do actually love it. And hopefully it’ll continue that way for a long time.”
It’s certainly continuing throughout 2019 as he puts Catch & Release to the top of the agenda. Two new Fisher tracks are set to drop in spring and summer. What follows is in the hands of the demo submission gods right now. For a label that launched with such a massive hit, Fisher seems unphased if the follow-up doesn’t cause as much damage. “I don’t live in the past, brah! Just push on, crack on, right?” he laughs. “Nah, ‘Losing It’ was amazing. It was a number one hit around the world and the accolades it got were the best. That’s a fucking great way to start the label. I’ve got a couple of good tunes in the pipeline, hopefully people dig them.”
And with that our call is over. Fisher’s last weekend off for several months is, too. Hours later, he’ll fly back to LA where he, and his team of friends, continue his plans for world dancefloor domination. Albeit, of course, in their laid-back, true blue, down to earth, no messing about Strayan kinda way. He might hate fishing, he might not even like fish. But Fisher is as legit as the day is long, mate... And he fucking loves it.