When you’re young, everyone tells you who you are and what to do.
When you’re in music, everyone tells you what you are and what you should do.
Being young AND a musician?
Fuck that.

All the same, that’s what we all have in Tommy 2000; the wizkid from Durham, one of dance music’s great unknowns in 2022. Having just finished his A levels, released his first record on wax (On G TOWN RECORDS) and relocated to London, one would think the world is his oyster.
Oysters are hard to crack and the world is an awful lot different now than it was since he first hit it off with his good mate Ableton.

Coming off the back of the aforementioned G TOWN release, another EP on DJ Haus’ Dance Trax and a spot on the VSN WORLD compilation, Tommy has actually been on everyone’s radar for quite some time. From getting recognition from VTSS in her Mixmag cover mix, to being the darling of myself and Evan’s label, it feels quite like Tommy is set up for a home run right to the top. He takes the call from his new HQ in England’s capital. A cup of tea foreshadows the street in front of my house; the cars whizzing by feeling like they’re eavesdropping on my supremely talented guest’s every word.

The worst way to start an interview is to ask ‘So why did you get into music’. Naturally I had to start right there, I mean that’s the standard now no? In this instance however, it’s worth noting that when I was Tommy’s age I had barely even been in a nightclub (I’m only 25 for the record) so I am REALLY curious as to how he is where is.

“I got a guitar when I was 5. I didn’t really pick it up until I was like 9/10. My parents got me an acoustic guitar, I wanted to get an electric guitar; I wanted to be a rockstar. I gave up on that [because I wanted an electric], I used to pose with it in front of the mirror instead of actually playing it. I eventually learned Smoke on the Water. I taught myself, and then I got really into it. Then I got an electric guitar, that was maybe when I was like 12/13. Then I started making actual electronic music. I was on holiday with my mate Olaf. He showed me Garageband and I locked myself in the room for the whole day. It all started from that.”

Video calls are always that bit strange; when he speaks he holds the phone closer to his face, which seems equally focused and tuned out, as if he’s just floating by while the words come out. Simultaneously it’s clear he’s thinking precisely about what he’s about to say.

“When I was around 14/15 I made an EP I was happy with. I found a plug in that I still use to this day, it was the first time I’d found a piece of software and made something from it, which is the route I go down today. That was when I first noticed an artistic development when it came to my sound.

“The next sort of developmental stage was in lockdown 1 when I had nothing else to do. I was locking myself in my room for like 12 hours a day. There was like a hyper development going on. In that same summer when we got out of lockdown we went on holidays to Wales and that’s when I made Whales.”

Having marketed the whole EP off the basis that this was some sort of Drexciya meets Aphex underwater electronic exploration, to hear the lead single was named after our Celtic neighbours wasn’t so much disappointing, but more so a welcome surprise. At the same time, there had to be some Aphex Twin-fandom in there?

“Instead of classical music my Dad played Aphex Twin through headphones when I was in the womb. We’re into similar music. Back in the day, he was a raver and huge into the hardcore scene. He’s a massive Aphex fan and went to some of his gigs when there wasn’t a huge amount of people there. My Dad showed me Four Tet, Floating Points and he’d been playing stuff like that and Solid Steel Radio shows around the house while I was growing up. It didn’t rub off initially but now, I think it has.”

Carrying on with his hero origin story, it’s worth noting that Tommy is from Durham in England, and he’s 18. For those who don’t know, Durham is just south of Newcastle, has an urban population of just under 50,000 and their football outfit, Durham City A.F.C. have been non-league since 1928. Releasing on record labels, getting recognition from some of the most in-demand DJs in the world when you’re still in school and sitting your A levels isn’t for everyone, but this guy isn’t your average joe, we’re talking Peter Parker levels of duality here. All that in the midst of a pandemic too..

“It’s kind of weird. We’re going to be one of the only generations that have randomly experienced not having to do any work or having anything to work towards [because of COVID]. We got out of doing exams and we’ve had 3 months to do nothing and relax, which is the only time we’ll experience that until we retire.
I finished my exams and I leapt at the first opportunity to get out of here. It’s a great place to grow up because you’ve got this opportunity to be free and everyone knows everyone but there’s only a handful of other people that are doing anything particularly creative.”

Despite retaining his place as somewhat of a novelty amongst the dance music community, Tommy’s placing within the bigger picture shouldn’t ever be dictated by his age, but more so his experience. Coming straight out of school, barely having set foot inside of a club, his perspective is entirely untarnished. Subcultures such as electronic music are welcoming in their nature but are inevitably as regimented and ruled by cliques as much as any other counter culture. Being somewhat established amidst all of this without having too many of these built-in preconceptions is probably the most impressive thing about Tommy 2000. It must be pretty annoying then, when people sum you up simply as just a small town prodigy.

“It doesn’t bother me too much. Most of the time when people say I’m young, I just say, not really, I just started early. I started years ago, I just look at it in terms of experience. I’m in a sweet spot, if you can get in when you’re young, the industry loves a young success story.” Pausing briefly to contemplate, he continues; “After that I reckon it gets a bit harder, but I think if you put the work in it’ll work out regardless of your age.”

“Maybe luck favours you when you’re young.”

Everybody can tell you how to do it. In saying that, nobody has ever walked in anybody else’s shoes and in creative terms this is especially true. In the dawn of Tik Tok hits and streaming services’ seemingly never-ending growth, life as a musician seems to be more and more ruled by limits and formulas. Tommy’s music has always stood out for it’s exceptional attention to detail and that feeling that it knows no bounds. How does this stand up when music is less of a hobby now and more so a path he’d be silly to turn back on now.

“When I was making that EP [On G TOWN RECORDS], the whole time I wasn’t thinking, I was just experimenting. The best thing about it is how much I learned from it as a whole project. It taught me about how to make music more efficiently and knowing when something is good or bad. Especially from bouncing stuff off of you and Evan. You never said anything was ever shit but I could tell when it didn’t land. I’ve internalized that critique and has taught me how to look at tracks like that myself.

“In terms of that EP compared to now, there was a level of naivety. I knew nothing when it came to Spotify playlists, what labels like or making tracks under 3 minutes in length. I knew nothing about how tracks perform on streaming services. It’s kind of different now, it’s so easy to lose motivation now compared to before. Right now it feels like there’s always something to be working towards. It feels like OK, I’ve gotta make this one and it better be a hit on the Spotify playlists, that it should be under three minutes or a bit more commercial. You lose sense of why you make music, which is to make it for yourself and that other people tag along and like it.”

Making music and overthinking its purpose and place in the bigger picture is easy to do, but he’s also aware of the random nature of what a ‘hit’ track really is;

“You’re always one song away from going into a different stratosphere. Most people I’ve spoken to say it’s always the one they suspected the least. I mean T-2000 is the one that’s kind of hit the playlists in any capacity, and it’s the one I was least suspecting would do well.”

As much as his music could follow the viral path of Baddest Of Them All, LF System and more, Tommy’s stuff could also immediately go down the live music rabbit hole. This guy’s never had conventions to stick to in the first place, so what’s stopping him from transitioning to a live show from the off, rather than joining us DJs in the sewers of the music industry?

“I find my music’s not traditionally clubby and quite often it doesn’t fit into a club-like set, it’s more of a listening thing. Whenever I get to play it out doesn’t quite land like that. All music genres are so accessible now, everyone can get a different tiny piece of each genre. Before there were these tiny subcultures that you had to be in the know to get into, whereas now you can just follow someone on Instagram and say ‘Oh that’s quite cool’. From that you can see their crew and who they’re with and get involved. I think it’s cool because it has blurred the lines. You can go to a festival and see a jazz band and then see a techno act in a forest.”

So Tommy 2000 and the string quartet is next?

“Maybe I can do a live show when I can afford all the equipment. If I had all the money and knowledge as to how to do it, I’d love to do a live set. Watching the Four Tet live show in Alexandra Palace or Floating Points live at Printworks; something like that would be insane to do, but I reckon that would obviously come later in my career. I wouldn’t want it to be half arsed!”

OK, fair, but what actually is coming next?

“At the moment I’m making quite 4×4 around 130 range stuff that’s almost commercial but has still got some edge to it. Lots of female vocals right now. Stuff that sounds somewhat organic but a little bit more tech sounding.” – Outdoors-y? – “Maybe!” He laughs, given my previous nautical fasciation with 2K Musik; “With Baff, I got the sound of a river and I vocoded it to the hi hats, so the hats are kind of a river, maybe that’s why it sounds outdoorsy. 

“The G TOWN EP is quite funny because my sound has come along quite a lot since then. That was very raw, I didn’t have a lot of knowledge of the techniques, it was kind of like the first project that was completely unique sounding and was my artistic sound coming through unbridled without thinking about anything, just me making music. The new stuff is more like Baff but more minimal and refined. More experienced.”

It’d be so corny to end this like any music journalist on a weekly salary in 2022 would, but I did start it in the exact same vein; ‘The future looks very bright for Tommy 2000 and we can’t wait to see what happens next!’
Glad we got that out of the way. But there is a real element of truth to it too.

An 18 year old IDM producer finishes school and moves to London. At the same time, the charts are topped by pretty reputable dance music tracks and everyone and anyone is trying their hand making something that people will soundtrack 15 second clips so Spotify pops it in a playlist. The pessimist says this is the death of music. The optimist says it’s a chance for anyone to make a name for themselves. The realist says that true talent will outlast both of these statements. It’s time for Tommy to show us what he’s really made of in relation to all of this.

Tommy 2000 – 2K Musik is for sale via G TOWN RECORDS. Pick up the record here and an exclusive limited edition t-shirt here.

Did someone not just say music journalism was dead?

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