Local artist profile: Darren Tolley

January 14, 2024 BY

Totally committed to bass: Darren Tolly has been playing around the traps professionally since the far distant hazy 80s. Photo: SUPPLIED

THIS week we chat with veteran local disco, house and techno DJ, the one and only Darren Tolley, who fell into the vocation through his love of collecting and enjoying music.


What initially motivated you to become a DJ?

Initially I was just happy collecting and enjoying music. To share something you enjoy is quite a natural desire for most people. I had a large music collection so it just happened to work out that people asked me to play for them. So I guess DJing found me. DJing was my only job for 13 years with the consistency of three nights per week spanning Victoria, New South Wales and Tasmania.


How would you describe your style?

I adore everything from rare 70s funk/disco to deep house and dark dub techno, however when I started working as a professional DJ in the 80s you had to play genres of music that I didn’t necessarily like.

This forces you as the curator to explore different ways to mix and program all of those tracks.

There was no such thing as a DJ set back then. You just had to smash that dance floor for as long as you could in an effort to make the venue owner the most money over the bar.

Now, if I do mainstream gigs then my style is short and clean cuts. Alternatively, if it’s an electronic music style gig, which I frequently do, then the focus is on long smooth blends and letting the artists’ tracks speak for themselves.


Which other DJs or producers inspire you and why?

Adrian Harris, Ron Heal (Melbourne), Jason Tavener, Steve Stratton, Luke Moylan – they made that journey in the epic 90s just superb. Nineties influences include Jeff Mills, Underworld, Deep Dish, Faithless, Digweed, John Creamer, Carl Cox, Satoshi Tomiie. 2023 influences include disco edits by Late Nite Tuff Guy, Dave Lee aka Joey Negro and Dimitri from Paris because they just make the sexiest classic disco even better.


What are some highlights or fond memories you have from your career so far?

Running a Saturday afternoon radio show on 3CCC FM and managing to broadcast into the outskirts of Melbourne in the early 90s.

I remember mid 90s doing a try out at a massive club in my first time outside Bendigo and I was up against seven other DJs from Melbourne and Sydney. I hadn’t ever used a sound system with a huge delay. Consequently I rolled every mix but smashed the dance floor with track selection. Got the residency, adapted my mixing style to account for the delay and it was absolutely the craziest venue I’ve ever worked in. Capacity of about 2000.

Early 90s running Fresh Fridays at the iconic Hot Gossip with Jase Tav. It was Bendigo’s first gay night ever in a major venue. If I ever think about 90s club sounds it was certainly those nights DJing with Tav.


Do you have any mixes or music posted online?

Yes, my youtube channel. youtube.com/@darrentolley1068.


What would you say to young regional aspiring DJs who are thinking of making a go of the creative life?

Focus on your passion, dare to be artistically different. Try to produce and get your name out there. Don’t let your primary focus be on social media metrics – whilst great it’s not the ingredient that will give you success. It always has been and always will be that entertaining a large audience will gain you recognition.