Some important things I learned about Gold Coast DJ Wongo over the course of thoroughly investigating this story: 1) Before his musical turn as one of Australia's most sought after techno producers, he was an internationally renowned, award-winning breakdancer. 2) He has a best friend named Fongo. 3) Being the diehard Wu-Tang fans that they were, as teens, young Wongo and Fongo used a Ouija board to contact the spirit of rap's resident weirdo, the late, great Ol' Dirty Bastard, who, naturally, initiated them into the group.
"(We) used to sit there at midnight on the Ouija board thinking we were talking to members of the Wu-Tang. It was really weird. But that's how badly we wanted it, ya know?" says Wu-Tang's newest and whitest member (although I can't personally speak to Fongo's melanin levels).
I share this anecdote with you not only because I profoundly enjoy hearing the words "Wongo" and "Fongo" in quick succession, but to give you a better sense of the 30-year-old producer's playful personality. Born Matt Ladgrove, he is, at all times, unapologetically himself: An irreverent, fun-loving homebody who is quick to punctuate a conversation with his rapid-fire staccato laugh.
In the hypercompetitive world of EDM, where every half-assed producer with a SoundCloud page tends to take himself a little too seriously, Wongo is a much-needed breath of fresh air.
"I just think being yourself is the most important thing," he says. "Creating relationships with people that are everlasting is important, rather than writing a few records and not being able to create that connection — they're only going to be fans for so long."
One way Ladmore creates that connection at his dance-floor-packing shows is getting out into the thick of things, showing off his aforementioned dance moves for the fans.
It's not the only carryover from his days as an elite breakdancer, either.
"In the breakdancing world, everyone's really supportive and helps each other. It's all about the actual love for what you do, and I feel like I definitely brought that over into my music career," Ladgrove says.
In fact, it was the crate-digging mentality of breakdancing — with b-boys and girls always on the lookout for the perfect, obscure breakbeat — that led him to his future career behind the wheels of steel.
"Even when I was breakdancing full time, I was always completely obsessed with the music behind it. The funk and the rare groove and all that '70s stuff," says Ladmore. "I was just pretty much making DJ mixes and mixtapes of all that stuff until I bought a proper production program and started trying to make my own breakbeats."
Now primarily a techno artist, the fingerprints of Ladmore's breakdancing past are still obvious in his funkafied production style.
"If there's any sort of funk in a record, whether it's trap, house or techno, I pretty much try to add it into my set. Funk is the overall vibe," he says. It's a vibe that even caught the attention of one of the biggest music labels in the business. After releasing a bootleg remix of Beyoncé's 2013 hit, "Partition," an email from Sony Music showed up in his inbox.
Shockingly, the American music behemoth didn't slap Ladnore with a cease-and-desist order; it wanted to commission him to do more remixes for Queen Bey. That led to Wongo-fied versions of Beyonce's "Pretty Hurts" and "7/11," and remixes of another of hip-hop's leading ladies, Azealia Banks.
"It was really random. It was a bit surreal," says Ladmore. "But even though I wasn't getting noticed by major labels, I was still really active on trying to get into the hands of the right people. So that felt like a good day's work."
Wongo will be putting in work at Moe Joe's next week for the Aussie's first visit to Whistralia, and he admits he's looking forward to getting "really, really drunk" with his fellow countrymen — although he can't say the same thing about what should be his first glimpse of powder.
"I've never seen the snow before. I'm actually a little bit scared," he says. Sure, communing with dead rappers is no big deal, but the fluffy white stuff gets him shook? Wongo, a man of mystery.
He hits the stage next Thursday, Jan. 4. Doors at 9 p.m. Advance tickets are $5, available at Moe Joe's, El Furniture Warehouse and Evolution, or online at clubzone.com.