“The biggest challenge going in was, How do I get people to tell stories that they’ve never told before?” says American dance music legend Tommie Sunshine of the new Red Bull TV show, After the Raves. “Interviews can be pretty dull. Knowing a lot of these people beforehand helped a lot, and the fact that it’s peer to peer ultimately led the stories where they went.”
“In Ibiza, Hardwell talked about how he had a breakdown when he was on the road in 2009,” Sunshine shares. “I got the Krewella girls to talk about what it was like to grow up Muslim in the Midwest, and they went super-HAM. Yasmine [Yousaf] was talking about how it didn’t make any fucking sense to her that the Koran said that when women were on their periods they weren’t allowed to be around other people, and how she checked out after that.”
Watching the first season of After the Raves, viewers are whisked well behind the scenes of dance music culture—from watching Mysteryland being constructed from the ground up in Belgium, to tiny vegan restaurant Kitchen Mouse in Los Angeles, where experimental hip-hop artist Gaslamp Killer has an eponymous menu item.
The show’s origins began after Sunshine connected with filmmaker Danny Lee on an anti-drug rave PSA and again on the Jay Z doc Road to Brooklyn, when the pair decided to work on something focused on the world of EDM.
“He wanted me to just riff on camera. I’d just finished reading Malcolm Gladwell’s book, so I wanted to call it The Tipping Point. He set up the camera, and I just talked about music and people I’d want to interview. At the time, Afrojack was dating Paris Hilton, so I mentioned wanting to talk to him about something other than his girlfriend.”
Lee took the Sunshine interview and interspersed it with footage from Tomorrowland, Ultra and EDC, and added facts about the EDM industry. Turning the results into a sizzle reel, the pair started shopping the concept around to see if anyone was interested.
“We had about 12 interested platforms. I was on conference calls with all sorts of major media outlets, and they all wanted the show,” Sunshine explains. “But within the first couple minutes of every conference call, some guy would get on the line and be like, ‘Yeah, we can’t wait to get our hands dirty with EDM,’ and I’d hang up. We’d both agreed in the beginning that if we were going to do this, it had to be done right and with a partner that would let us tell the story in the way it needed to be told.”
After one too many such calls, Sunshine and Lee decided to just shelve the concept for the time being and move on to other projects—but not for long.
“A couple of days after that conversation, Danny called me and said to book a flight to L.A. for a meeting with Red Bull, who were starting a TV network at the time,” he recalls. “I jumped on the plane, we sat down with them, and almost instantaneously I was sold. That was it. We were off and running with the first show on Red Bull TV. This is some man-on-the-moon shit going on over here.”
“To be perfectly honest, I thought working with somebody on that much of a global, big-business scale was going to be much more of a nightmare, and none of that’s happened. We’ve been left to our own devices, and really have been able to make a show that not only is true to the scene that it’s about, it actually fits in a place where I think you don’t have to necessarily love EDM to enjoy. There’s enough human pathos going on to engage even the most casual fan.”
To his point, the first three episodes of After the Raves weave poignant and emotional narratives that reach well beyond the confines of dance music.
In the episode centered around Los Angeles, Gaslamp Killer delves into the aftermath of his near-death scooter crash, while the San Francisco episode reveals how iconic Bay Area group Hardkiss is dealing with the untimely passing of its spiritual leader, Scott Hardkiss.
For the Paris episode, Sunshine gets much more than he bargained for, with some of the best footage ending up on the cutting room floor.
“We connected with basically everyone in Daft Punk’s world other than Thomas and Guy,” Sunshine explains. “We had to ask Daft Punk to sign off on some clearances; they say no to these kind of things all of the time. We sent them the edit, and their guy, Paul Hahn, tells us that they loved the show so much that they signed off on everything. They went so far as to give us license to use ‘Around the World,’ including director Michel Gondry’s sign-off to use the video. We were blown away. That was the moment I knew the show was bigger than both of us.”
Digging deeper into the dance music history of Paris, DJ Falcon took Sunshine and crew to the apartment where Thomas Bangalter lived with his parents back in the ‘90s. Next thing he knew, the current residents invited them up.
“I’m standing in the fucking room where they made Homework,” he marvels. “Falcon called Thomas to tell him we were in his old bedroom, and he was blown away. He asked for pictures. I just stood there with my hand planted on the wall, hoping some of that energy would rub off on me. We got way closer to Daft Punk than the BBC did in the Unchained documentary, and we weren’t even making a thing about Daft.”
With the first season in the bag, Sunshine is chomping at the bit to launch into number two.
“We wanted the first season to be very good, but we intentionally left out the deepest dives for the second season. Chicago, Detroit, New York, London, Berlin—for season two, we’re going in, and we’re going in hard.”
Giving all credit to the entire team that puts After the Raves together, Sunshine ultimately gives up the true motive behind creating the series.
“From the beginning, the number-one motivation for doing this show is that Danny and I both knew that if we didn’t do it, somebody else would, and they would fuck it up royally,” he admits. “That was it.”