tom norton ✕ interview

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How friend can push you to keep on developing? When it’s time to stop improving your track?
Ladies and Gentleman, please welcome, Tom Norton! We recommend to play his awesome music during reading for better perception! 

Hello Tom! How would you introduce yourself?
﹥Hi, I’m Tom, I make music with bleeps and bloops, that hopefully makes you feel things.

When did you start making music?
﹥I started recording music back when I was about 11 in 2005 on a gift from my dad: Zoom MRS-1608 home recording device/mixer. Mostly guitars, vocals and drums. It was really rough around the edges but I absolutely loved recording even if I didn’t really know what I was doing at the time.

What is your favourite instrument or a plugin to use while creating music?
﹥For a long time it was guitars/vocals, but these days it has to be a tie between synthesizers and vocals. I studied Electronic Engineering as part of my university degree, so I learned a lot about signal processing & synthesis. I really like synthesizers because technically you could create the sound of any instrument or person just with the right maths, which is mind-blowing to me. That being said, there’s a freedom one has with one’s voice that is in many ways superior to synthesizers – you can dress up a synth line with pitch bends, or creative automation, but there’s always a slightly mechanical feel to setting that up, whereas with the voice you introduce that detail and feeling as you’re recording, which is very cool.

When you get started with creating new piece, what do you do at first?
﹥It depends really. My other project, Dub Scout, is almost entirely instrumental, or samples other people’s voices. So for those kind of tracks I like to construct songs around a solid harmonic base, or a catchy melodic idea. Usually everything else follows together as soon as the idea forms. For the stuff under my own name, songs are much more constructed around setting a mood, constructed so they can play off the vocal line. I tend to start with some chords, maybe record some guitar, write a few melodic ideas to get a feel for what the song’s about before thinking of the vocal line.

Who had (or has) the greatest influence on your music?
﹥There’s a number of people. A scottish producer called Parkinson White, who’s a close friend of mine, is a massive influence. We made similar music for a while but he has this mastery of creating an atmosphere with his music. That’s so different and interesting, and really pushed me to experiment more with new sounds and ideas. Otherwise, I get a lot of inspiration from the Nu Electro movement in the UK around 2007-2009. People like Hot Chip, La Roux, Robyn, who brought back this early 80s electro-pop sound to the mainstream, were favourites when I was growing up. I really respect them for bringing something new to what had been a very familiar sound at the time. It shows in July, the album I put out in 2017, which really draws off that style.

If you could create something with any artist, who would it be?
﹥I’d love to work with Louis Futon or Ganz. I reckon we could make some great stuff together.

What is your greatest inspiration?
﹥I’d have to say video game music. Video game music has always been about creating the perfect backdrop thematically to whatever the game is about, and I love this. Much of old video game music is a very restricted medium, with only a few audio channels available at the time, and most of the time zero audio sampling, just synthesis. The sheer creativity expressed in video game music given these restrictions is incredible to me, it’s just really elegant in its simplicity.

What gives you the greatest boost to keep on creating music?
﹥I make music because I love doing it really. There’s always more I can learn, new ways to experiment, new things to try, new songs to write!

What thing about making music do you wish someone told you earlier?
﹥To be honest, it’s mostly about attitude. Every time you write / produce a song, it may feel like the best thing you’ve ever done, and that’s great – it’s important to feel a sense of progress. But just because it’s the best thing you’ve ever done, it doesn’t invalidate everything before it, nor will you never make anything as good again. Build off each song you write, and you’ll continue to improve. I believe that songwriting is a skill that can be trained, so practice never hurts, even if you don’t ever show anyone some of the songs you write!

What part of making music do you cherish the most?
﹥I really enjoy sound design. When I’m writing a song I tend to keep the vocal quite minimal, as I want the feel of the song to be conveyed equally by the lyrics as by the backing. So there’s so much opportunity for creativity in building an atmosphere, and I often spend a long time designing sounds to give detail to a track, just because that subtlety adds so much.

What do you prefer: sampling, simply playing music or maybe both sound fine?
﹥Both are fine to me really!

What thing in music production do you consider overrated?
﹥808s. I really like 808s, and frequently use them (albeit in a very distorted or adjusted manner) in tracks, but I get the feeling that people are crazy for what I feel to be a ubiquitous sound, that is starting to be a bit “stock sample” sounding. I’d much rather use 808s for detail, and design bespoke drums for a track, rather than relying on 808s for every song that I write.

Are you waiting for inspiration to come before making music or you keep on going, no matter what circumstances are?
﹥If there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that you can’t force creativity – it won’t work and will probably leave you feeling pretty miserable. I write new ideas frequently, but only pursue them if I really feel inspired, otherwise I can end up getting stuck and frustrated.

Do you have some piece of advice for brand new producers?
﹥Finish as many tracks as you can. Finishing a piece of work lets you take everything you’ve learned from that work to the next thing you create. If you don’t, you can’t close the door on an idea, and bring all your know-how to a “clean slate”. I know many producers who’ve just started out, who spend months on one of their first tracks. This is a bad idea – you won’t learn nearly as much while doing this, and you’ll still end up with something that doesn’t sound great, because you don’t have the experience to get it right. I’ve easily written and finished over 200 songs in the 7 years I’ve been making electronic music, and I wouldn’t do it any other way.

Thanks for having me to interview, and thanks to everyone for all the support!

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