DJ/Producer and label-owner, Tom Flynn has built an eventful career and a solid foot in the electronic music scene, developed at an early age as a child of musically engaged parents, and sustained by the love affair he got himself involved in from thereon in. The English space nerd, apart from being talented at all fronts of being an electronic music artist, breathes charisma and beams an easy-going sense of humor. Torture the Artist catches up with Tom on a typical day as a multi-tasker, days before his new track, ‘Pluck’ is released on Steve Bug‘s label Dessous. He imparts some promising news about future projects as well as some introspective tidbits on balancing life as an artist without compromising personal style and sense of self.
I never make music to please other people.
Torture the Artist: Hello Tom, we know you’re somewhere, doing great things, but tell us, where are you exactly? What are you doing at the very moment, and how close are you to where you wish you were, and what you would rather be doing?
Tom Flynn: Thanks for having me, I appreciate it! I’ve just gotten home from a seriously long studio session where I’ve been putting the finishing touches to 3 tracks coming on Carl Craig’s label, Planet E. Right now, I just finished dinner and finally found 5 minutes to sit down and catch up on email. I’m doing exactly what I love so I can’t complain!
Torture the Artist: Music production in this day and age, tends to be a pendulum of personal style and trend, and producers may lean further on one side rather than the other. Which release did you feel the most unrestrained in producing, and feel the least driven by external factors?
Tom Flynn: Good question! I feel like most of my releases are unrestrained, especially now. I never make music to please other people. Seth Troxler once told me ‘Fuck everyone else, be a freak.’ His words were right because I think at that time, I was lost musically for a short period. I gave him some tracks and he liked them, but could see I wasn’t letting loose. Now more than ever, I really just do whatever I want. I think the records show that. Especially the stuff I’ve got coming up, I can’t wait for people to hear those.
I believe if you have back up plans and plan B’s then you’re planning to fail on some level.
Torture the Artist: Did you always believe that you would make it in and remain a constant in the electronic music playfield? Which were your safest and most far fetched back up plans?
Tom Flynn: I don’t have backup plans. I believe if you have back up plans and plan B’s then you’re planning to fail on some level. I fell in love with dance music and its culture as a teenager, and I’ve lived it ever since. I always knew I would do something in music, but I didn’t know what exactly. I thought I would be a DJ from a young age, I used to record pop songs off radio when I was really young and edit them using wavelab, extending the parts I liked the most. I had no idea about production though, I was more interested in finding good records.
Torture the Artist: Describe your reaction when Pete Tong awarded you as Breakthrough Producer. Actions, words, feelings – spill it in 15 words or less.
Tom Flynn: Achievement, a sense of what I’m doing is working. Very humbled.
Torture the Artist: 11 words and on point, impressive! Throughout your career, what has been the biggest letdown or disappointment and what did you do to brush it off?
Tom Flynn: When I first started making music, I would listen to my tracks on the way to work. So I’d been up all night working on a track, then give it the ‘car test’ (listening to it in the car is always the perfect acid test) – only to find the next morning, it sounds awful. That is one of the most demoralising things to take, time and again, morning after morning, constantly. You’re like ‘Fuck, no this isn’t good either.’ You have to just keep on, though. That’s where most people drop off, because they don’t have the passion. If you have the passion, even at that point, you’ll keep going.
The place was rocking and I was in the home of House music, thousands of miles from home, that was when I thought ‘Wow, this is pretty fucking awesome!’
Torture the Artist: At which point in your career did you pat yourself in the back, and grinned, this is it, I, Tom Flynn, am here, looks like I might just make it.
Tom Flynn: I think when I was on my first U.S. tour, I remember playing at the Smart Bar in Chicago and halfway through my set, this big burly looking dude who looked like he grew up around the original Chicago house scene, who had been at the side of the booth all night, just nodding and occasionally looking over, leaned over and shouted ‘Chicago loves you Tom’. He was like the gatekeeper, probably thinking ‘let’s see if this guy knows what he’s doing.’ The place was rocking and I was in the home of House music, thousands of miles from home, that was when I thought ‘Wow, this is pretty fucking awesome!’
Torture the Artist: Name 4 of the most influential artists that have bearing on your musical approach and/or style and briefly tell us why.
Tom Flynn: Carl Craig – No words needed obviously. He’s just the real fucking deal. He’s different, does what he wants. I like how he arranges records. He’s the kind of artist that you can sit down on a sunday afternoon, put your feet up and put some of his records on and just appreciate them.
Dr Dre – Absolute beast. The biggest lesson I’ve taken from studying him and his work is to strive for the best. From what I’ve heard, he is never satisfied.
Claude VonStroke – One of the best, not only in the studio but in life too. Such a lovely guy. Musically though, he’s weird. He just does weird stuff, different. I love it when he does the more minimal stuff. Very creative guy.
Danny Tenaglia – He’s been my number one DJ ever since I got turned on to him. The way he is relentless in his pursuit of new music, educating crowds, playing fast, slow, latin, techno, electro, daytime, nighttime, he’s just one of the best DJ’s to do it. And such a down to earth, nice guy. I’ve played with him a few times, and each time I just learn something else from him.
Torture the Artist: Make a 10-track compilation titled ‘Tom Flynn debunked’ and tell us which year, past or present, would you wish to release it.
Tom Flynn: 2030 – By then, I think I might have 10 tracks I’m happy with.
The label is purely a place where I can release my own weird stuff.
Torture the Artist: Your forward-thinking label is named ‘Into Orbit,’ would you more or less say you as an artist, emerge from outside of the orbit, and with your label, seek to journey into it? What are your goals for the label this year.
Tom Flynn: The label is purely a place where I can release my own weird stuff. Sometimes experiments, sometimes slow electronica, sometimes pure club weapons, I don’t care, I’ll release what I want when I want. The goals this year are to grow it more, make more people aware. I’m also in talks with a couple of artists about coming on board to do an EP, people who nobody will know but they’ve been sending me stuff and they are amazing stuff, in my eyes, so I’d like to get them involved and help them grow. I really want the label to be forward thinking, but most importantly, different.
Torture the Artist: Are you a space nerd?
Tom Flynn: I am. But don’t ask me lots about it, I’m not so good at remembering!
Torture the Artist: On top of DJing you also host a weekly show, Night at the Black, how do you juggle label management, music production and DJing all at once? Which is the wife, and do you sometimes feel you are cheating on the others?
Tom Flynn: Not really, they all just melt into one in a weird way. I hear tracks when I’m out and think ‘I like that,’ so I’ll find out what it is, keep it in mind for the show. Production is constant, I’m always up to something in the studio. It’s pretty simple to be honest.
Torture the Artist: You seem to have a great sense of humor. How would you imagine your career would reroute if you did not have this asset?
Tom Flynn: I have no idea at all, seriously. I’d probably work outdoors, I think people who work outdoors are onto something, around living organisms, fresh air, scenery etc.
What did the cheese say when he looked in the mirror – Halloumi!
Torture the Artist: Living organisms, interesting. Now tell us a good joke.
Tom Flynn: What did the cheese say when he looked in the mirror – Halloumi!
Torture the Artist: Haha and hallou-you, Tom. Rumor has it, Tom Flynn not only has coffee brewed but also some stew simmering in the backburner for 2018. Can you let us in on some future plans, along the vein of searching for a new booking agent, a possible change in artistic direction?
Tom Flynn: I really want a new agent and manager. That’s number one. I think my artistic direction changed a couple of years ago, back to more underground. My taste has matured as I have. I listen to some of the music on labels I used to love and I was just like, really? It made me sit up and really question where some things were going. I prefer quality music. I’m not a hater, so to each their own. I’ve got an EP coming out on Carl Craig’s label, Planet E, and some stuff coming with Maceo Plex’s, Ellum or Lone Romantic.