Interview: Tom Demac

Tom Demac is a name familiar to most by now. Originally hailing from North Wales, Tom’s interest in music was sparked by attending free parties in his teens. He’s moved around since then: first to Manchester, but has now settled himself in London. Having first released music via his own Electronique Audio imprint in 2004, Tom’s brand of taut, tough techno gained wider recognition towards the back end of the 2000s. Since then, a steady flow of releases have seen him work with a string of big hitters including Aus, Drumcode and Hypercolour. As his increasingly hectic touring schedule will tell you, it’s certainly an approach which has served him well. However, never being one to stand still, Tom has recently shifted his focus away from his barnstorming live shows towards the decks once more, while work on his long-discussed debut album also appears to be taking shape of late. Given these recent developments, it seemed like a better time than ever to catch up with the Welshman ahead of his appearance at this year’s Gottwood Festival.

Hi Tom, thanks for agreeing to the interview. How’s 2015 been for you so far? Have there been any highlights? “2015 has been great up to now. I’d say the highlight of the year for me so far has been an ‘Arnie All Nighter’ at a cinema in London. Back-to-back classic Arnie films with mates, along with a packed cinema shouting Arnie quotes and cheering his every move – it doesn’t get any better than that does it?” I don’t think it does! So what have you got in the pipeline for the rest of the year? “There’s an E.P. coming out on Hypercolour at some point over the summer, some cool remixes about to surface and a feature on a Cocoon compilation. No doubt, there’ll be another E.P. in the autumn too. All that alongside touring, and I’ve finally broken the back of this album I’ve been talking about for eons – that should be finished over the next few months. The album writing is definitely taking up most of my time at the moment.”

This album is something you’ve been talking about for a while. What can you tell us about it? “I’m definitely in deep album writing mode right now. It’s been a long and drawn out affair for me. Each year I’ve been attempting it and never quite getting it finished. It’s almost become a noose around my neck so to speak – I’ve constantly been pressurising myself into trying to make something ground breaking which isn’t really a particularly healthy mindset. So, this year I’ve had a good rethink and have tried to shelve all that pressure and all the inhibitions I’ve had. I’ve found the last few months have definitely been more of a natural writing process as a result. It should be completed very soon!”

Your love for hardware gear is well known and I assume they’re being used for the album. Can you talk us through your current set-up? Is there anything you’re itching to get your hands on? I have a pretty unhealthy addiction to buying equipment, yes! (laughs) In my studio there’s a collection of old analogue keyboards and drum machines alongside newer bits like the Elektron Analogue Four and DSI Tempest. I swear by boutique guitar pedals too. Practically all my synths will end up getting run through a chain of about fifteen pedals – from delays, reverbs, pitch effects, distortion etc. sometimes ending up on 1/4” tape before being edited in Ableton.

Stuff I’m itching to get my hands on? I’ll stick to the cliché – a modular. I’ve had my shopping list ready for a couple of years, but I think it’s that worry of taking the plunge and disappearing down the wormhole of geek that’s holding me back a little bit. I already spend a worrying amount of time looking at people badly noodling on synths on YouTube as it is. If I added all the module demos to my playlists too, I doubt whether I’d actually ever end up getting any music finished.”

Looking at your touring schedule it’s clear that you take a wide range of gigs, whether DJing or playing live. How does your approach differ when playing out in different contexts? “Well, I try to stick to my guns in most contexts really. I rarely play warm up sets which is a bit of a shame as I really enjoy playing slower and chugging some music out at 116bpm. A couple of months back I played all night long at XOYO for Skream’s residency there. That was an opportunity to go really deep however the guy playing the first hour before me scuppered those plans somewhat. With regards to the bigger rooms, I’ll stick to my style. I find the theory of only playing ‘big room techno’ in a ‘big room’ complete bollocks really! So as they say, you’re telling me that because there are more people in this room the less likely they are going to be to respond to something with just the faintest of melodies or something vaguely interesting? Anyway, that argument is aimed at someone else and best saved for another day.

I think I’m performing live at Gottwood, which is something I’ve been consciously doing a lot less in 2015. The last few years I’ve been playing live at near enough every show and sometimes it just doesn’t quite translate. Not only that but I find that DJing more regularly keeps you more in touch and more inspired. When you’re touring as a live act it can all get a little insular, everything’s about you, the performance and preparation – the music is yours, this is you and there’s nothing else in between. I’m not sure that makes sense? Anyway, what I’m trying to get at is that I’m selecting certain shows to perform live at, Gottwood being one of those shows.”

With you now making a conscious effort to DJ more, what music have you been feeling of late? “Mia Dora’s Un.sub on Optimo Trax stands out. I also finally managed to get my hands on a repress of Traumprinz’s Paradise With A Lobotomy. To be honest, it’s pretty safe to say anything by Traumprinz/DJ Metatron hasn’t been leaving my bag of late.”

What have been your favourite festival experiences down the years? “I’m lucky enough to be part of Freerotation Festival. It has been and always will be the highlight for me of each year. It’s just such an amazing small and low key festival experience that really is unlike anything else out there.”

Finally, what’s going to be your go-to drink this summer? “I’m going to shun the latest trends of Whiskey Sours and all that by sticking to the cheese with a Piña Colada. Yes, I know it’s a really shit choice, but this is a drink which is tried and tested, especially after being up all night. I will only drink it if it’s served in a pineapple though.”

Tom Demac will be performing at this year’s Gottwood Festival, which takes place in Anglesey, Wales, between the 11th and 14th June.

Matt Gibney

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