Beats In Space with Tim Sweeney

There’s a funny, fake-it-till-you-make-it backstory behind Tim Sweeney’s Apple Music 1 program, Beats in Space. Long before the show was hosting exclusive mixes from electronic music royalty such as Carl Craig, Andrew Weatherall, DJ Harvey, and Four Tet, Sweeney was a college freshman with a 1:00-4:00 am slot on WNYU—on its now-defunct AM signal. “It really only broadcast to the dormitories,” Sweeney tells Apple Music. “I didn't tell people I was on AM, basically. I just told guests to come on the radio—and people did!”
But you don’t make it to 1000 episodes, recorded and broadcast literally every single week for more than 20 years, by faking anything for long. Over the course of its time on WNYU, Beats in Space took adventurous listeners on an exploration of techno, house, ambient, and experimental’s outer reaches; for the DJs and producers who defined those genres, performing on the show became a rite of passage.
The early vision for Beats in Space was heavily informed by the UK's pirate radio scene of the ’90s. “My brother brought back these tapes from London, and I would just listen to those all the time,” says Sweeney. “And I thought, ‘Why is this not on the radio here in the US? Why can't I find something like this?’ It was this feeling of playing something that you couldn't find anywhere else. And you were letting people in on something that you loved and you knew should be bigger.”
Two decades later, now on Apple Music 1, Beats in Space continues to blur all sorts of musical lines, particularly with its guests, who’ll provide an exclusive one-hour mix for the show, following an hour set from Sweeney. “I want to try to find music that moves people,” he says. “How do I take this stuff that I love and find more people who say, 'Look, this is awesome. I want you to hear it.' I love connecting those dots.”
Hear Beats in Space every Monday at 7 pm LA, 10 pm NY, and Tuesday 3 am London on Apple Music 1.
First DJ gig: “My first memory was lugging my turntables and some big speakers in the minivan and driving them to downtown Baltimore to some cafe. I did a weekly thing there when I was 15 years old. We did streaming via RealAudio. It would have been a weird mix of stuff: those early Warp Artificial Intelligence compilations, some Plaid, Björk, Aphex Twin, LTJ Bukem, Goldie. I was definitely loving Metalheadz too.”
Favorite BiS guests: “DJ Harvey is always a great interview. I still remember when he was playing vinyl. I asked him if he was going to switch to USBs and he said he only uses USB sticks to stir his coffee. Now he actually only uses USB sticks, but he was good for really funny one-liners. Prosumer was always a favorite too. Every time he would come through New York, he would surprise me with something different. And it could have been a show where it was just all records he had bought at the record store that week, but it was still really fun and different.”
First music job: “Soundtrack supervisor for Rockstar Games. I was picking out music for all the games. But the main one that I did all the stations for was Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. That experience was really fun because it was also trying to find different styles of music, like programming a country music station. So I thought, 'I might not know much about country music, but I know there's going to be stuff there that can be cool.' I guess that's what I find about every genre: There is stuff there that you can connect with, you just have to do the searching.”
10 Classic Albums You Need to Hear: Eurythmics, In the Garden Kraftwerk, Computer World Grace Jones, Warm Leatherette Mr. Fingers, Amnesia ESG, ESG Sylvester, Stars New Order, Power, Corruption and Lies Prince, Dirty Mind Depeche Mode, Violator Black Dog Productions, Bytes