Hi Tom, thanks for taking time out to chat to Core today. Could you please give us a brief introduction to TXC142, where you're from and what you do?
I’m originally from Wiltshire and a Drum and Bass producer. I got into Fantazia and rave music around 93/94, then progressed onto Drum and Bass around 97/98 and have been mixing it and producing it ever since.
Oldskool roots then? Tell us Tom, why the progression to Drum and Bass?
It just grabbed me at the very first rave I went to, Dreamscape 29. I remember not being able to dance to it. I’d never heard it before, I’d only heard hardcore and was under the influence. I just couldn’t fathom what was going on, looking for a 4/4 beat that wasn’t there but it sounded amazing. After that I bought the tape pack and listened to mixes from Zinc and Nicky Blackmarket, which were on it. I still have those tapes somewhere in my collection. It’s weird because now I can’t really dance to 4/4 music, I need a drum and bass beat to dance.
Is Drum and Bass is still heavily vinyl focused. Do fans view mixing vinyl as really crucial evidence of the DJs ability and if so, is this changing?
That’s a hell of a question! Vinyl has been with Drum and bass since the beginning and is still there. I think some people do shun DJ’s that use a laptop only. I use both, so from here I don’t really know where to go. I can’t afford to keep buying vinyl, which is why I do most of my mixing through Traktor now. I don’t really see the problem with it you know, it’s moving on with technology. I appreciate that some people say that auto-beat syncing your tunes is cheating, but that isn’t the only thing you have to do when mixing. The same thing happened when CDJ’s came out. People were in uproar about that and now that’s all died out. I think the same thing will happen with digital mixing. But vinyl is still part of the Drum and Bass culture.
Do a few record labels have too much power and sway over the scene and how does this affect you as a producer?
The thing about top record labels is that all of the guys who are producing for them are at such a high standard, you know that when you buy one of those tracks you’re going to get a good tune, and it’s hard to keep up with that standard. I feel that my own productions are about four or five years behind the level of current producers. I don’t think top labels are out there deliberately trying to stifle new producers, it’s more a case of if your music is good enough, they’ll sign it, simple as that. Ram records have a sister label, called Frequency, and they’ve just started up a new label called Program, but Frequency looks after the music that doesn’t quite make the cut for Ram Records, but still has really high quality tracks released on it. Sub Focus was released on Frequency before he was released on Ram, Sound Guy being one the tracks that he released on that label.
Drum and Bass is obviously a powerful genre - what do you think it represents, if anything at all?
I don’t know, and to an extent I don’t care. It’s music that I love and I don’t believe that whatever I stand for or believe in should prevent someone else from liking or listening to it. Someone else from a different background you know? I don’t think you should have to wear a certain type of clothing to like Drum and Bass. I think if you like it, play it and listen to it. Having said that, I do find that when I meet people, they can generally tell what music I like just from the clothes I wear. When I tell them I like this genre, they’re not surprised. I think it doesn’t necessarily have to reflect anything. There are all sorts of sub-genres of Drum and Bass as well, and you can break it down into micro-cultures, counter-cultures, different people that like different styles of Drum and Bass, but I personally like all of it.
Artists are often inspired by music old and new, across an array of styles and genres. Would you say this is true of yourself, and have you tried to represent that within the music that you make?
Yeah, definitely, though I never set out to make my music sound like one particular thing. You’ll hear a lot of trance elements in some of my music, I do like trance but I’m not setting out to sound like another artist. I do listen to other music, but I don’t let anything else influence my music, other than Drum and Bass, Gabber, Techno, Trance and Psy-trance.
Is there anything really obscure that readers might be surprised to find out that you listen to? No Dolly Parton’s hiding in the cupboard?
Ha! No, not really!
Congratulations on your first class honours degree in Digital Music Production from Solent! How important was this in terms of what you learnt and the impact it has upon the way you make music today?
It made a massive impact on the knowledge I have now compared to what I knew before. I’ve been producing since 1999, and have gone through Reason, FL, Cubase, and Logic Pro and now onto Studio One. I was in my old bedroom before, using a home stereo system, in a completely untreated room. I had no idea what stereo image was, no idea about acoustics and everything was self-taught. I had no access to the Internet back then, so I couldn’t learn anything from anywhere else. Going to Southampton Solent and having the tuition from industry professionals and lecturers has made all the difference, specifically the lectures with Alex McDougall from FireFarm.
How important is sound design to you, and is there a level upon which it can be measured?
I’m not sure if there is a way you can measure it, because it really is subjective but it is definitely very important to me, having all of my sounds clean, sitting well in the mix.
How would you define sound design?
Creating interesting and complex waveforms with variations of synthesis and effects processing.
You recently created a Thirty-minute piece of music titled ‘The Cryosphere’. Please tell us what this is about.
The idea behind it was to make an EP that had a different delivery. It wasn’t just five tracks mixed together. The idea is that there is a story line to it, a vocal narrative and then after each narrative the music would follow and portray what had just happened within the storyline, kind of a ‘War of The Worlds’ type of thing. The idea for the story line came to me, almost in a split second. After that initial idea I had to develop that further into something that could work as a script. Before I started writing the music I wrote the first two vocal passages then I would write the music to those passages and by the time I was coming to the end of the second track I would be starting to write the third piece of narrative.
So the creation of the musical passages and vocal narratives followed each other quite closely? I guess that really helped cement the flow of the story and get a feel for where the next scene would go?
Yeah definitely, and although the main story was kind of already worked out, that flow continued. I worried whether people would understand it and get it, but everyone I played it to, seemed to understand it. Because I’m so close to it, I just can’t tell anymore. The narration was probably the biggest gamble, as I didn’t have anyone at the time to narrate it. I didn’t want to do it myself, as I don’t like the sound of my own voice and I wanted to get somebody that didn’t know me, so that I could be objective about the whole thing. If I wanted something recording again I could just be honest and say, no, can we do that again. I used a vocalist called Lariyah May, who travelled all the way from Norwich and we recorded it all at FireFarm Studios. We actually ran out of time, as we didn’t anticipate how long it would take. We took a lot of takes over the same few bits. There was just less than five minutes of narration, but we still managed to take up to five or six hours recording it. We managed to get her back for her train just in time. It was great working with her she did a really good job. I then had to chop out the bits I needed and process the vocal to make it sound like an alien computer kind of voice, and that was that.
Do any other areas of the industry excite you?
I would love to make music for films, but most of these Hollywood blockbuster films are still using the same orchestral type soundtracks. Hopefully that will soon change.
Well, it’s already started to change. The Social network was one of the first films in a while to break away from the typical orchestral score, with Trent Reznor, of Nine Inch Nails, and Atticus Ross creating some really interesting sound design and soundscapes for the soundtrack to that film.
Yeah, true, and then you have Resident Evil as well, with Marilyn Manson assisting with the soundtrack which is more Rocky and grungy. But I still haven’t seen a blockbuster film with a lot of Drum and bass featuring in the soundtrack, and I think it would be good to see that.
Could you tell us what DAW, VST and Plug In you just can’t live without?
DAW - PreSonus Studio One
VST/SYNTH - NI Razor
PLUG IN - East West spaces reverb unit
How easy is it to define yourself as an artist? It’s important for emerging AND existing artists to have a USP, so what, if any, is your USP?
I don’t know, I really don’t know. People have told me that I’ve got my own sound, but personally I’m still working towards something that is good enough and unique enough to stand out. But I don’t believe I’m there yet.
I may have gotten my sources wrong, but rumour has it you once answered the door to your house holding a pineapple in one hand. Do you often answer the door bearing fruit, or do you like to mix it up and use a variety of inanimate objects?
I’m not sure that ever happened to me but it does sound like something I would do. If I did, I would use a range of inanimate objects!
Rave or Club? - Rave
Produce or DJ? - Produce
Windows or Mac? - Mac
Vinyl or CDs/Digital? - Digital
TOWIE or Geordie Shores (to say neither is PERFECTLY reasonable)?
- I have no idea what any of that means.
Lamp or no Lamp? - No lamp
Sonic or Mario? - Sonic
Where can people find you/listen to your music and what can they expect from the future of TXC142?
I’ve been doing a weekly radio show on headrushlive.com every Saturday form 9pm till 10pm, for about three years. I did stop during my third year to concentrate more on my studies, but I’ve just started back up with that.
For the future, expect more Drum and Bass music and collaborations with various artists.
Links to my music and all things TXC142 related:
Review - The Crysosphere (The EP with a difference)
“In the year 40,000, a billion centuries before it’s time, the Earth’s sun began to die. Soon it would burn up its nuclear fuel and devour the planets of the solar system. To survive, mankind built a biomechanical planet.
They called it the Cryosphere.”
This five track EP not only delivers gritty, dramatic and evocative Drum and Bass, but also guides you through a post-apocalyptic story, using a vocal-led narrative. It’s set so far into in to the future, yet it raises contemporary political and sociological issues, so close to home. Our home. Planet Earth.
Greed, power, poverty, equality and corruption surface throughout this provocative body of music and each vocal script is followed by a musical passage, portraying the scene and rousing the story.
Moaning drones, wailing synths and high-pitched, eerie, wind-like strings blow a gust, setting a dark, cold scene.
Militant drums, perhaps representing the heartbeat of the inhabitants of the Cryosphere, pound at the foundations of this story and introduce the hard-synced, gliding riff which stirs the senses alive. Personal musical influences such as trance, gabber and techno, can be heard and are portrayed in such a way, uncompromising to both the track itself and the narrative.
Dramatic, staccato string stabs, in minor, lead in followed by punchy kicks and rapid fills. Spatial movements on the percussive elements give a sense of life, as do the effects on some of the main synths. This track contains interesting sound design aspects, particularly the LFO-modulated, rising and falling synth, as well as the juxtaposition of naturalistic sounding strings against the mechanical, industrial sounding synths. A strong emphasis on the use of legato strings reinforces a sense of emotive content, perhaps mostly compassion or empathy for the inhabitants of the Cryosphere, now the underdogs of the story.
The Rebels –
A high-pitched bleep pulsates over eerie, ominous howls of stray dogs creating a sense of urgency before a gritty, crunchy, textured lead bites in, almost alien-toad like. The gated synth in the mid section creates pace reinforcing the feeling of urgency, whilst the melodic and rhythmic variation towards the end of the track could portray a shift or change in the rebels mission to obtain an access key.
The Core –
A staccato style, gritty riff, not too distant from that of ‘The Rebels’, sets a rapid pace in this, slightly more break-beat, angled track. With a growling bass-line to boot, ‘The Core’ conjures images of high speed, futuristic-transportation-device, chases, through a complex web of electronically automated industrial spaces and alleys. Think Blade Runner, meets Tron vs. the scene where the Millennium Falcon delves into the center of the Death Star in Return of the Jedi, but fast forward to the year 40,000.
Quadrant 7 -
Strings, a pulsing synth, gated choir, hands in the air. Trance? No! Still Drum and Bass, but with an intro as epic as that it’s hard not to want to reach for the lasers like a crasher kid donning a glow-stick in 1999. Alarm like synthesis reinforces the dramatic feel that this track portrays, set against the tranquility of the string sections, whilst a warm, roaring riff flows reliantly in the background.
Gritty piercing and all consuming, The Cryosphere is a thirty-minute intergalactic journey, through complex sound design and forward thinking Drum and Bass. Whether it’s each track as a separate entity, or the entire score, living and breathing, as one solid piece of music, TXC142 certainly delivers a futuristic interpretation of EDM and a possible insight into what could be expected of future cinematic soundtracks.
Take a listen here: