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Tom Middleton

The big man tells it how it is during a recent New Zealand Visit!

23 Mar 2007

You either know the name Tom Middleton or you don't, it's that simple.
For those of you who haven't heard of the man, the heist goes down like this. Tom Middleton deserves a knighthood for his services to the nightclub world. Known as one of the finest eclectic dj's in the world, Tom is also a classically trained piano player, cello player and producer/remixer.
He has worked with dozens of labels and artists, performed at festivals across the globe and been a regular at super music festival 'The Big Chill" since 1994. Is the track record starting to speak for itself?

Sometimes a flurry of words paints more of a picture then a cohesive sentence, so in aid of making things clear I will quote the mans myspace biography.

Grandfather was a Jazz guitarist, Uncle a Folk Singer/Guitarist. Usual 70's kid/80's Teen diet of Breakdancing at School Discos, Graf, Surfing, Skating, BMXing. Massive Police and Prince fan, discovered Brian Eno via U2, morphed into a part Goth-New Romantic, Rare Groove-Jazz Dance-Soul Boy, Dub Rap-Synth Pop-Shoe Gazer. Messing about with Analogue Synths at local gear shop.
Learned the ways of the force from Richard D James circa 1989. How to sample, record, program, edit, arrange and mix. Observed Aphex perform a custom modification of a Roland SH101! DJ'd with Richard at The Bowgie and various Phase II beach party all nighters.

Of course there is a fair bit more then that, but if you want to check it out, just look the man up on myspace or wikipedia. Now, getting back on track, Tom was recently out in New Zealand to perform two shows, one in Auckland and one in Wellington at the now infamous Sandwiches Summerset festival. I had the opportunity to meet and speak with Tom during the event, and the following is what resulted.Who woulda guessed the guy was such a big sneaker fan?

"I really like sneakers you know, actually I collect sneakers. But you know what I'm not the normal sneaker fan. It's true I wear Nike, but I don't wear those Air force One style sneakers. I'm more into the lace less wet suit style sneakers. Nike Preston, Nike Woven, Nike Chargo and Nike Zyezdochka.
I'll tell you about the best sneakers I ever had, back when I was a bboy. They were these Troop Trainers, hi tops with fat tounges and they had these big badges on the front of them, kinda like Police badges, oh gosh they were something."

At this point we came dangerously close to not discussing music at all, especially after Tom offered up some Pringles as a snack. However things got back on track with a discussion about what one looks for in music.

"I like all kinds of music, mostly dance music though. I look for a good rhythm, some grooving bass and proper dynamics. After that it's all about a little bit of subtlety, melody, harmony and most importantly feeling and emotion. I would rather play the simplest piece of music played with complete feeling and emotion then a cold but technically amazing piece of work."

"At the moment I'm really checking for work by a couple of special artists. First off, Tom Szirtes aka Shur-i-kam. He is a really talented jazz keyboard player who makes really soulful music with a true purity of emotion and feeling. Secondly I have to mention A-Lucid-Nation. He's a bit more of an older mature chap, strictly studio production. The guy is one of those people who is making exactly the sort of music he wants to make, for music's sake. He's got his job, his wife, his house, all the pressure is gone and he just creates for creations sake, bloody amazing."

When asked what he thinks about the emergence of new styles of music like dubstep, Baltimore Club, Baile Funk and Salasaton.

"You know I don't really know what a lot of these genres you're talking about are, but at the same time I know instantly by the names. It's good, genres are lending grooves and riddims to each other, styles are crossing over, now is a time of fusion.
Dubstep though, that stuff interests me. I'm playing it, it's quite contextual though. It can be a moody dark sound and that really works in certain places like London. The vocal side is developing well also."

On the subject of touring New Zealand & Australia.

"I have this analogy I like to make out here in the pacific. There are big similarities for me between Wellington and Melbourne, by the same stroke of the brush there are big similarities between Sydney and Auckland. The shows in Melbourne and Wellington have definitely been highlights this tour and I've had the opportunity to play alongside some great people like Black Grass, Mr Scruff, Sage, Bluey and Incognito."

Upcoming projects.

"First half of this year I'm working on CD's for labels like Big Chill Recordings & Reniassence.
I get to do this thing called 3D, which is a three cd album. One club mix, one personal music mix and one home-listening mix. It's a great format. I'm also doing the 07 edition of my crazy covers CD. The 06 edition was one of the most talked about releases in Europe in 2006. I know for a fact it was a huge topic of conversation at the GQ offices out here. The cd is basically a collection of covers of song that I like. Love it or hate it, it always sparks off conversation on what is a good or bad cover, great publicity for me. Of course there are a few other things in the works, but thats enough to discuss for now."

There you have it people. A short trip into the mind of Tom Middleton. If you saw him perform at the Summerset Festival in Wellington, you may have loved his set or hated it, but there is one thing you must admit. The sight of seeing five thousand people getting down to "Out of Space" by The Prodigy was truly something to witness and a memory we won't be forgetting anytime soon.

Interview by Martyn Pepperell