Tom John Hall…

…on keeping busy, synthesizers and normal life being fine.

The more I learn about him the more I build this image in my head of a guy living in a London flat stacked to the rafters with synthesizers old and new along with a myriad of other musical devices of all shapes and sizes. There’s one room, however, that is completely empty except for Tom. He’s sat in the middle of the floor surrounded by his favourite equipment, hunched over a laptop. He only adds to this sentiment of mine by writing ‘Basically I just need a handful of things that I can lay out and plug in, that are tactile and have some personality, that break up the hours of staring at Logic.’ But this isn’t the case by any means. He understands the importance of breaking himself off from his work, keeping up appearances with friends and family as well as staying busy. 

He tells me he wakes up at eight in the morning when his partner goes to work and spends an hour of the morning mixing his music. He makes the point that, whilst working relatively normal hours, he has to maintain some flexibility. ‘You need the right head space to figure things out sometimes. Things can turn up at six PM or never happen if you frazzle your brain out in the day.’ Over a few years Tom has taught himself to code and works from home as a software developer but he is also preparing to release an album as well as building a website for his ‘Year of Glad’ project.

‘I was sending my album to a load of labels for a while last year, but a double record by a relatively unknown entity is hard to sell and a big risk.’ Despite this setback an opportunity presented itself to Tom. ‘I had been toying with the idea of collecting together all the good things the people around me were doing.’ With some assistance from his friend Cal the two of them set up Year of Glad. Primarily a label to release his album through, he wants it to serve as a multimedia collective for other musicians, writers, illustrators, graphic designers, etc. A creative hub for artists to share their creations and collaborate. Tom not only wants to keep himself busy, he wants to keep other artists busy too.

‘I manage to fit things in. I’m probably a bit intense with myself about being productive.’ Tom confesses. ‘I put a lot of time into music and creative projects because I feel nervous if I’m letting time pass without having made anything.’ He doesn’t exaggerate either. Along with an upcoming album and Year of Glad he’s flirting with the idea of releasing an acoustic EP.  A second album with his band Papayér has been in the pipeline for a while now and even building a tabletop role playing game along with an app to go with it are in his future plans. Tom recognises that being productive has its place alongside other priorities. ‘I also feel nervous about neglecting the people in my life in favour of sitting alone in the corner making noises on a computer.’ He has things well balanced but admits ‘I know I need to do the creative stuff to feel like myself and be of any use to those people too, so it’s a tricky one.’

It’s the people in Tom’s life he draws his influence from the most. He describes his experience with band Papayér as ‘the most fun, wholesome and loving experience.’ Tom currently resides in London a two and a half hour drive from his hometown of Derby where the other two members Niall and Connor live. ‘I am crazy lucky to have found two people who completely get and understand, without discussion, everything I believe about music, art and life in general.’ His father taught guitar lessons between gardening jobs. ‘His enthusiasm and support when I started making music of my own has shaped my life.’ Tom recalls his father sitting him down in front of a four track cassette recorder to record his songs. ‘He got me my first copies of Fruityloops and Cubase from his computer-savvy band-mate which, looking back now, I don’t think were legitimately licensed.’

Tom describes himself as always being ‘a techy type’ and it’s clear to see that his experience with four track recorders and illegitimately acquired recording software has played its part in his development as a musician. ‘I love little synths especially. I struggled for a long time with the live solo stuff because it came off the back of years of playing with Papayér, and playing on my own can be stressful and scary by comparison.’ He uses the Teenage Engineering OPZ to help with his live performances which he describes as ‘a magic TV remote’ along with a Korg Volca and his Telecaster. His love of synthesizers also stems from his uni days. ‘I had access to some really beautiful modular synthesizers which I would spend hours messing with. A while ago I saved up for a LifeForms SV1 blackbox modular thing. I just got a Arturia Microfreak too, which is amazing!’ Tom’s affinity for synthesizers is a rich part of his music and integral to its make-up. The result is songs that are well-textured, that create a complimentary backdrop for intriguing lyrics leaving plenty for the listener to unpack. An attribute consistent throughout his back catalogue.

His creative process is a wholly organic one. ‘I mostly think of song ideas in my head. Weirdly it’s usually late at night or early in the morning, like in the shower or while I’m going to sleep. I gradually build up songs over time.’ The end products are a lens that let us see the world the way Tom see’s it in the form of indie-pop ballads. The subjects of his songs are the snapshots of an anxiety attack or a profound moment of realisation with a tinge of his own humour added to take the edge off. They are relatable and conversation worthy, an intrinsic value of his personality, and well worth a listen.

You can hear Tom’s music over at Apple Music, Spotify and Bandcamp. He is currently doing regular live streams on Twitch and Instagram. To listen exclusively to the recording of one of his live streams click here.

You can pre-save Tom’s next single ‘Who’s Watching You’ out May 13th here. The first part of his double album ‘My Big Album’ will be out on July 31st.

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