An interview with Tom Demac

In the midst of your normal summertime endeavours (sunbathing, watching Kane and the lads bring it home and generally frolicking about your day), it can be rare to find time in anyone’s summer schedule. This is especially true for DJs; summer is always their most frenetic time. Thus, it becomes clear that I was pretty fortunate to have found a rare space in Tom Demac’s calendar to have a chat with him.

The ever genial DJ, on the back of the May release of his XI, ‘Tiki Taka’ – the penultimate track from his acclaimed XII series – is becoming a household name on the scene you all probably call home. So, without further ado…

With Tika Taka being the penultimate release in your XII series, does the excitement over how it is received by the public reduce at all as the releases keep on coming? Do you find that part of your job exciting, or simply nerve wracking?

I think it’s certainly more exciting than nerve racking, unless I’m going to release something completely off the wall which happens a little less these days. You develop a good sense of what will be received well when being holed up in the studio as many days of the week that I have over my adult life…

What inspired you to recreate the sounds of the Indonesian Kecak in your track? Is this the start of a Hindu-Techno crossover genre? I’ve called shotgun on the name Tecakno…

Ha, well let’s hope that genre doesn’t catch on! The odd isolated track is fine though. Inspiration wise, I recently re-watched the film ‘The Fall’ by Tarsem Singh, it’s a simply stunning film in terms of cinematography and the overall visual experience. There’s a scene with the Kecak or the Monkey chanting, and that’s where the idea came about. So in a rare burst of inspiration I grabbed a microphone and shouted a racket through a few delay pedals and the rest is history…

Do you often find inspirations for sounds and feels to your tracks from sources that aren’t necessarily electronic music, or even music at all?

Inspiration mainly comes from music for me, not exclusively electronic music though. I do sometimes wish I was able to take to painting or writing for another creative outlet when the inspiration isn’t coming in the studio, but sadly I’m not a multi-faceted artist in that sense. The best example I can think of is when Bowie escaped to Berlin to take time away from music, exploring his love of painting and ended up writing probably his most incredible album shortly after. Sadly I’m fucking woeful with a pencil or a brush in hand! I’ve just realised I’ve completely contradicted myself here after mentioning I was inspired by a film in one of the earlier questions!

‘Hanging Flowers of Albion’ is an incredible track that I am itching to hear played out in a club. Saying that, I could also see it as a perfect soundtrack for a film’s denouement. Have you ever thought about producing for the screen?

I do indeed regularly think of making music for the screen, I think anyone with a hint of emotion in their music would want to have a stab at it too. I’ve certainly dabbled with bespoke compositions for adverts, but actually composing for picture, whether it be film or TV, would be a dream for sure. Clark has made the transition perfectly of late, he’s done some incredible work on various TV series, Last Panthers really struck a chord with me soundtrack wise, superb.

I’m always surprised to find the breadth of people’s musical tastes and how it affects their musicality. I remember reading that you were first into heavy metal (and went by the nom-de-plume of McD) and perhaps even screamo (sorry to bring that up – but weren’t we all?) – do you think that initial musical education gave you any faculties for depth and heaviness, oomph, if you will, in your music?

Yes I did dabble with some face paint and growling down a microphone in terrible pre-pubescent Thrash Metal bands! Thankfully it didn’t last too long and the gradual progression down to 120bpm came via Happy Hardcore, Gabber, Jungle and nose bleed Techno. I’d say this may have subliminally affected my never-ending search for ‘oomph’ in my productions, the jury’s out though…  Over the years there’s always been the odd call to make a techno version of a metal track, or mix the two, of which would be a truly awful combination!

What inspired the remix of the Pet Shop Boys’ classic, ‘Say It to Me’?

My Mum belting them out in the kitchen B2B2B with Michael Bolton and M People certainly had something to do with it…

Why the decision to release a twelve-part series? Is there any thematic relation between them? Because if you compare ‘Colouration’, a dark techno thumper with say the first one ‘Aurora Dawn’, it could be hard to relate them by sound or theme. Could we see them coming together on an album soon?

Well I wrote a lot of music a couple of years ago without releasing anything for a while, a lot of it wasn’t necessarily suitable for an album, certainly not an album I’d like to release anyway. So releasing a track a month seemed like a good concept. In the end though it did get a little overwhelming bombarding people with so much music. So we carried the last 2 tracks over to this year, starting with ‘Tiki Taka’.

I suppose the reason there’s not always a perfect correlation between each track is my battle with giving each piece of music it’s own identity, a theme maybe. I suppose I’m a victim of spending far too much time in a studio over the years and being able to turn my hand to many different styles!

Does recording tracks hold a different magic or attraction for you than performing live sets?

It’s a similar attraction for sure, sometimes the jams I have when preparing for a live set end up spawning new tracks… the live set bit is definitely more fun though.

Do you differentiate DJing from making music in your life – as in, do you often find yourself traipsing around record stores and discogs looking for that next wild find to play at one of your sets? Do you still find time to do this, or are you holed up in the studio? And do they both influence each other?

It’s a balance between the two really. Discogs finds and bargain bin hunting used to provide a lot more inspiration for production a few years ago when I had the fear of sampling anything from Youtube. I used to be dead set on only sampling straight from vinyl, now it’s more of a free for all. So there’s definitely less time spent in record shops than I’d like. The unhealthy addiction to Modular Synthesis and all the modules this brings, doesn’t help the record shopping budget either!

I’ve seen you performing with various bits of gear, a trusty tr707 included! What’s your favourite bit of equipment at the moment?

Like I mentioned above, my modular synth, a current go-to for everything!

Any bits of tech you’re really dying to have and are perpetually on the lookout for?

A Yamaha CS80 Synthesiser. The absolute beast!

How are you feeling ahead of the summer season? Is it a packed calendar for you, or more studio time?

It’s certainly more studio time this year, there’s some pretty exciting things coming up in the Autumn of which I can’t announce at the moment, but it has something to do with finally releasing on one of my favourite label’s of all time!

On the topic of summer, be it in London, or perhaps in one of your previous Welsh or Mancunian haunts, where’s your current favourite place to get a pint on one of these lovely summer days?

Well my favourite boozer ‘The Albion’, Goldsmith’s Row just closed due to gentrification. It seems the new residents of Hackney now prefer fish restaurant’s over a good old fashioned football themed boozer with the local’s going by names like ‘Stab-proof Tony’ and ‘Dave the Shirt’. I’m yet to find a new suitable watering hole that’s on a par with the ‘Albs’.

Thank you Tom, all the best!

Thank you!

Tom will be giving a masterclass session at Resident Advisor’s London conference, ‘Take Note Academy’ in September. You can find out more about the conference intent on inspiring the next generation of industry revellers here.