Podcast: Emotional Techno from Sleaze Record’s Belgian Veteran Tom Hades
Tom Hades has been around in the techno circuit for more than 15 years. He effortlessly juggles between a full-time job and a DJ career, which can safely be called high-profile. Having released on revered labels such as Drumcode, Hades is known for his emphasis on strong basslines and catchy melodies. His evocative brand of techno borders on melancholia, which has the ability to take listeners on a (almost) revelatory journey. Fresh off a 3-track release on Sleaze Records, he brings the signature Hades’ sound for Monument’s latest podcast, and plenty of industry-wisdom for amateurs and professionals, alike.
1. You have been making techno for a long time now. How did it all start? What was it that propelled you into the world of electronic music?
It began when I started working at a professional level with Marco Bailey. I got in the studio with him and we produced our first releases at a short notice. But even before that, I was already interested in everything that was based on technology.
2. Do you have formal training in music? What’s your process like in the studio? Do you record everything live or is it a draw-in-the-DAW based approach?
I don’t have any musical training; but after all these years, I have developed on my own, which has the benefit that I’m not limited by rules, since I don’t know them. My process is a mix between out and in-the-box: I start jamming on my hardware machines to do some sound design, human drum programming, and finding a good blend in them. After this process, I record everything into Ableton, using multitrack recording. Then I start to cut up and do some internal processing to end up at a finalized arrangement. Eventually, I do my mixing and mastering in Studio One.
3. In one of your recent interviews, you suggested that given the technological advancements of today, young producers should be experimenting more. If you were starting out today, how would you go about it? What kind of technologies would you be leveraging to stand out?
There are many possibilities today in terms of bringing life to a track by using modulating sources to give every little detail random values. This way, your track will stand out since it won’t feel too artificial, and instead, feel more human. It’s just much more organic. Of course, this is just one of the many examples and possibilities. The sky is the limit, especially in techno, since there are no limits or rules!
4. You have also mentioned that you are a tech-nerd. If you were to build your dream software (or hardware) for live performances, what would it look like? What kind of functionalities would it have?
The dream thing is one big desk where all parameters from every used plugin or hardware module can be accessed without the need of getting into submenus. The signal path would then go through a huge rack of pedals, which can be rerouted using flip-switches to end up in the big & older compressors, saturators and harmonic EQ’s.
5. Given the current popularity of techno worldwide, which has sort of led to a saturation of the scene, do you think there is room for pure DJs who are just starting out to get good bookings?
There is always room. But you have to bring your own personal approach to the music. This way you will stand out. Sometimes it takes “some” (a lot) time but persistence is the key to success!
6. Countries like Belgium and cities like Berlin have always been at the forefront of the techno movement. If you were to pick two countries (or cities) where the next growth of techno will come from, which ones would they be, and why?
I think that countries like Georgia are developing their techno scene in the right way. But I really favour the South American ones and especially Argentina and Colombia, which have a good scene and have had that for quite some time; not many producers have emerged out of the scene there, but that is slowly changing.
7. Every artist evolves in terms of their sound and thought-process as time goes on. Over the years, how do you think you have changed as an artist, compared to when you first started out?
I love music in every possible way. Sometimes, it brings me to different styles (I don’t even like this word or definition because it is all music for me). I do like to constantly challenge myself and find new ways of approaching productions or sound design. Nothing is more rewarding than finding and learning new things in your own studio.
8. How hard is it to juggle between your full-time day job and music? Does it ever get frustrating? How do you manage? Also, what made you bite the 9-5 bullet?
I never found it a difficult thing to do. I just found a good way to balance both worlds. I started to manage it in a very easy way by flipping the week switch to the weekend switch. They balance each other out, so no stress from the week is entering the weekend and vice versa. And this is the reason why I still keep both alive.
9. What are some of the career highlights that you are really proud of?
There are many things that I’m very proud of but if I have to name some of the big events like Awakenings, Nature One, Monegros, …maybe, even more proud to play in my own home country in front of friends & family who have always been there to support me.
10. What is your thought process like when you are behind the decks? How do you go about track selection?
I never prepare a set. I just make a big selection of tracks I would like to play but I do prefer to be in the club at least one hour before my set so I can feel what might work. And using this approach, I somehow build my track selection in my head.
11. It is said that we learn the most from our mistakes. Over the course of 20-odd years in the music industry, what are the three most important mistakes that you have made? What did you learn from them?
Mistakes make us human, nothing wrong with that. One of the mistakes I made is trying to follow what might be good for my career. The only good thing to follow there is your own way. So never get the impression that you need to follow something or someone, and make sure you tell your own story. Next to that is getting over excited about newly produced tracks; don’t send them too quick as a demo, make sure you try them out multiple times on multiple systems, in different sets and on different moments for a while, after the production. You will then hear where you still need to work on.
12. Have you ever had a bad night behind the decks? An unresponsive crowd maybe? How did you handle it?
Yes, I did and the person who says they never had it is lying. Like I said before, as long as you tell your story and just do what you need to do, the crowd (even small or not that responsive) will still appreciate you for this. In the end, they still showed up to see you so don’t be disappointed, but happy.
13. What can we expect from Tom Hades in the near future?
I will be doing what I like the most: bringing out some of those productions on the floor. I will keep on travelling the world and meeting so many great people! I’m super grateful for that! Thanks to everyone for enabling me to do this!