DJ Topic may just sound like a cool stage name, but it’s the real surname for Tobias Topic, the German DJ behind viral hits like ‘Your Love (9PM)’, ‘Breaking Me’ and ‘My Heart Goes (La Di Da)’. These three tracks alone have racked up more than 1.5 billion streams on Spotify, and if the first few seconds of them aren’t instantly recognisable to you, you may be living under a rock.
Towards the tail end of his tour of Australia, I caught up with Topic after his final show in Melbourne to chat about the inspiration behind his trademark sound, how his music-making process has changed over the years and whether the seven-year wait for his sophomore album is drawing to a close.
Topic’s music-making career actually began as a hobby; he loved making beats as a teenager growing up in Solingen, a small town in western Germany just outside of Düsseldorf. When he was 21, a popular local YouTuber asked him to make the music for his upcoming album, which would wind up in the top five albums on iTunes at the time. This was the catalyst for Topic launching what would become a decade-long career that has earned accolades like gold, platinum, double platinum, triple platinum and quadruple platinum accreditation.
Many things have changed since Topic was a teenager making beats in his bedroom, but funnily enough, his music-making process isn’t one of them. “Back then, we were just making music for fun and always thought that when you got big you’d have to change everything,” says Topic. “But now, it’s really kind of the same process – me just sitting in front of the laptop making the things I like. [The only difference is] now the music travels around the world and everybody knows it, and that’s crazy.”
In a broad sense, Topic’s music falls into the EDM genre – but he describes his tracks as melancholic dance music. “I’ve always liked sad songs, even though I’m not a sad person,” says Topic. “But I still wanted to be a DJ and make dance music, so I tried mixing dance beats with melancholic vocals and at some point, someone from my team said it sounded like melancholic dance music.”
With streaming numbers for most of his songs in the hundreds of millions, Topic’s music can easily be classified as viral — but how easy is it to tell if a track will be a hit? Topic says that up until a few years ago, it was a lot easier to tell if a song was going to work. Nowadays, with the advent of TikTok, things have gotten a bit trickier.
“Sometimes you look at the top 15 and there are songs from 2005, 2006 and 2007 and you wonder why it’s popping right now, then you go onto TikTok and see that there’s a trend for it,” says Topic. “It can be exciting, but it gets tricky when TikTok gets so much power that it’s the only thing that can break a song.”
It’s been seven years since Topic’s debut album Miles came out, and while he’s yet to release his sophomore album, Topic reassures me that it’s coming. His lips are sealed on most of the details, but he does add that “so much has changed in the last seven years, and [the new album] is going to be a totally different sound.”
Looking for more music interviews? We also chatted to Beach House about the making of their album Once Twice Melody and to Tash Sultana about touring again post-lockdown.