Q+A with Tom Blip + Heating Up with Proudfoot x Loum x Catamaran
We’re really excited to welcome Mr Tom Blip to New York this week ahead of Pique-nique’s party on Friday night at Black Flamingo. We had a chat to Tom about his trajectory as a producer and founder of Blip Discs, his origins in music, and his plans for the future
For those who aren’t familiar with Blip Discs, let’s take it back to the beginning. How did the label start up, and how did the first release with O’Flynn come about?
Hello! Blip Discs is a dancefloor-centric record label from London that primarily releases music from unheard and upcoming artists/groups. I started the label with a two tracker from my good friend O’Flynn who I met at uni in Leeds. He had been sitting on ‘Tyrion’ (our inaugural big hit) since second year, and when I secured a grant from my uni to start a label we went for it just as we were finishing our course.
And when did you start producing music yourself?
I’ve been a guitarist since i was ten (I teach it full time as my day job) and I started making my own music when I was around 15 and my stepdad bought me my first recording interface. He actually bought it for me when I was 13 but I only had cubase, which was a god awful program to use! It literally took me two years and many failed attempts to figure out how to work it!
Your first few releases made a big splash, with early adopters like Four Tet and Gilles Peterson adding them to their sets on heavy rotation. The tracks seemed to connect immediately and powerfully with what was happening in club culture at the time. Why do you think that was?
It’s funny to think about this stuff in retrospect because they could have just as easily bombed I guess! I think they were just big, unashamed dance floor tracks. Around that time the ‘drop’ in dance music tracks was kinda falling out of fashion in favour of more ‘rolling’, lower tempo tunes. But we just wanted to make tracks that’d make you shout when it all came in I guess, we had no hang ups, we wanted to have fun. It was all or nothing. Perhaps people liked the way they stuck out in that way? Musically, they were very percussive, and a lot of DJ’s were throwing African flavours into their productions around that time, which our records definitely fitted into quite well. We had great support from some excellent DJ’s, too! We definitely can’t take much credit for that!
What marked the shift in direction after those releases?
Too many labels pigeon hole themselves and then disappear because they can’t constantly stay ahead of their own identity. I didn’t want that to happen. You have to move on to keep going, although it’s scary because you do worry about alienating your fans.
Your latest release with The Mubashira Mataali Group took you to Uganda. What made you want to collaborate with these musicians? What made you want to collaborate with these musicians, and what was the creative process like in the studio?
I guess I got the idea because we were fairly aware of the tenuous African influence that dominated our first few records. We wanted to bridge the gap between electronic music and the cultures across the world that were obviously becoming such a huge thing in our scene.
The process in the studio was amazingly smooth considering the group had never recorded before! The whole thing was done in one take, with just one overdub for vocals. We put the drummers in one room with just four mics, and then the two vocalists in the control room. We hit record, and the whole thing was done in like 20-30 mins with no stops. Playing it back to the guys after was quite special, we kind of all looked at each other trying to hold back out smiles y’kno...
You've mentioned Cosmic Slop as a big influence on you growing up in Leeds. What is it about that party that resonates with you?
Well, there are endless reasons! The sound system, the people, the amazing music, the charitable purpose! It’s like stepping back into the 70s loft parties (or.... I imagine so anyway!) There is a lot written online about their party now, so if you’re reading this I think you should defo just look it up and find out about it for yourself (and if you can, donate to the charity!)
Welcome to the U.S., by the way. This is your first time here—what's on your mind?
Thanks! It’s been amazing here, it’s the motherland of so much of my musical interests. I walked to Williamsburg bridge yesterday cos that’s where Sonny Rollins used to practise. Listening to old hard bop jazz records seems to soundtrack walking around NYC so well actually. As I write this I’m at Fette Sau eating loads of BBQ, I’m just trying to have a really American time hahha.
What are your plans for the future—both for the label and as an artist?
I enjoyed the Uganda project so much, I want to do more stuff like that for the label, and just continue to bring new and unheard music to people. As an artist, I just want to be a better and better producer and make the best music I can (I still have a lot to learn!) I don’t think much ahead more than that, I don’t think about ultimate goals like doing this full time or anything. I’m a simple person at heart really.
Interview by Jared Proudfoot and Jackson Milas—Pique-nique Recordings.