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Beats In Space: Q & A with Tim Sweeney

No introduction should be needed for the founder of seminal NYC radio show Beats In Space. First airing in the autumn of 1999, Tim’s weekly show has given us more than 20 years of excellent music both from Tim himself and a myriad of guests from our scene.

Back in 2011, the Beats In Space label was launched and over the years has featured original tracks from Lauer, Andras, Palmbomen and more,  alongside compilations highlighting important milestones in the Beats In Space history. Following the excellent Powder compilation (incidentally, the vinyl has just been repressed here, the label returns this month showcasing one of our favourite London DJs : Josey Rebelle.


 ‘Josey in Space’ is the second outing in the new Beats in Space series celebrating dance music’s form and informality, and the selectors guiding its evolution. We are particularly pleased Tim chose Josey and her UK style, both in track selection and her DJing technique. Check out the vinyl sampler here: four essential tracks are lifted from the mix for DJready use: Fotomachine’s spectral techno transporter “BBoy”; the warm, broken-beat sashay of Shy One’s “Route II Romeos”; Access 58’s 1999 instigator “Jazz Drama”; and the uplifting jungle tune “Dance Of The Sarooes (Nookie Remix)” from Rogue Unit.


Hey Tim, thanks for joining us!

Thanks for having me in these strange Covid-19 times.

For anyone out there that isn’t already aware of your Beats In Space Radio show, how would you describe it?

It’s a weekly radio show here in NYC on WNYU 89.1FM with music by myself and weekly guest DJ’s. I try and keep the music pretty broad and get guests to dig a little deeper or debut things no one has heard. Musically it can range from house to techno to disco to new wave to late night talk radio.

How did the show first come about?

I started the radio show in 1999 when I began studying music at New York University. I had played on a few radio shows when I was in high school and listened to plenty of pirate radio show mixtapes, so I knew radio was something I wanted to do if I had the opportunity.

Now more than 20 years later, still going strong, what’s the secret to keeping things interesting?

I still have that hunger on finding new and old music. Wanting to find those songs no one else knows about. Whenever I’ve gotten frustrated or slightly bored, I know I have to deep dive into some other genre and see what gems you can find. I feel the same way with guest DJ’s… I don’t want too much of the same thing over and over again or I’ll get bored. I want to try and find other DJ’s that will inspire me. That’s the only way I can keep it interesting for myself each week.

You’ve had an incredible amount of guest DJs and producers drop by to join you for the show over the years – is there anyone you’ve not yet had but have always hoped to have on?

Yeah, there’s plenty! Top five right now: John Waters (hometown hero from Baltimore, always love his soundtracks, books and he’s the king of filth!), Electrifying Mojo (radio legend that I want to hear chat about anything), Jeff Mills (really curious to hear more about his early radio days as The Wizard), Moodymann (I’m a Detroit fan), and DJ Sprinkles (been trying to convince Terre for years with no luck).

At what point did you decide to branch out and launch the BIS record label?

That came around the 10th anniversary of the radio show. I remember being over at the DFA studio and talking to Tim Goldsworthy about what I should do for the anniversary… we were bouncing ideas back and forth and then it was “you should start your own label” and I thought “fuck it, let’s give it a try.” I had worked with Matt Werth from RVNG on a couple of mix CD’s and an edit 12”, so we had been in touch for a while and I ran the idea of the Beats In Space label by him. He was into to it so we teamed up and started Beats In Space Records.

Can you tell us about the excellent  mix compilation Josey Rebelle has put together for you?

It was great working with Josey on the second outing in the “…In Space” mix CD series. London has always been a big inspiration for me from record stores (hello Phonica!) to clubs (I will never forget some nights at Plastic People). Even more of an influence has been London pirate radio and I think Josey brings that vibe to the mix. There’s house, techno, breaks and bass with a majority of the tracks being available digitally for the first time. She put together something special with her own UK style. As she said to us, she lets “the tunes speak – or shout, or whisper – for themselves [giving] them space to breathe.”


As a touring DJ yourself, where do you feel happiest – in a club situation or in the radio studio?

Each have their own place for me. Nothing beats being at a sweaty club and feeling the connection with the crowd with each track you play. I always want to go out and try and make that club night something special that people won’t forget. But I love playing on the radio too. It’s definitely where I feel at home.

How do you feel New York’s nightlife scene differs to other parts of the US, such as Chicago, Detroit or LA?

I think the best part of the different scenes is hearing the crowds different reference points. Those songs you can play in one city and people will freak out but in another city no one will have a clue what it is. I know the New York crowd the best, so it’s always easiest for me to drop something special here and know there will be some heads who will get it. But I love seeing resident DJ’s in other cities play something different and the crowd freaks out because maybe they grew up to it on the radio in their area or a club there was known for playing that song all the time. That always brings a smile to my face.


Photo credit: James Hartley


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