ITW : THOMAS HAYES [C12, GEMS UNDER THE HORIZON]

Regular artist at C12, Thomas Hayes blessed with the rare ability to use the entire sonic spectrum in his musical explorations, fusing hypnotic sonic textures with ambient and percussive elements.

How did you first discover electronic music? Where did it all begin for you?
I believe it all started through my experience with video games. Since I was a child, I felt quite connected with the sounds when playing certain games. For example, I grew up with the famous ‘Spyro the Dragon’ game and I remember even at a young age there was always fascinating ambient soundscapes in the background. Actually a year ago, I did some research and I found out that the soundtrack of the video game was composed by Stewart Copeland – the drummer of The Police. Since then, I began researching music from the video gaming world as an actual genre. I believe there is more interesting material to discover for more inspiration for music, or even to use in a mix. Moreover, as a kid of the ‘90s, electronic music was everywhere. Radio, television and even in school playgrounds during that time, we shared our electronic music with our mobile phones. Electronic music wasn’t something ‘odd’ anymore. The genre has become more and more popular ever since.

What was it that you liked about the electronic scene when you discovered it?
Hmm, the fact that I could dance non-stop with a bunch of strangers I guess. Life made sense all of a sudden.

What kinds of music were you listening to while you were growing up? In other words, what styles and/or artists have helped sculpt your creative image?
That’s a tough question.. As mentioned, from an early age I was immediately obsessed with music. Both electronic and instrumental. With every passing year, I found myself in different phases of liking a particular style or genre. Especially in electronic music. I was amazed to discover all the different subcultures, rhythms and tempos (even the bad taste ones). But I was hooked. And like almost everyone, it was through the music of the usual suspects like Daft Punk, Kraftwerk, Pink Floyd… I think their sound has become a fundamental a part of my identity for sure. As a teenager, I wasn’t selective at all when it came to listening to certain artists. But I remember most of the time I listened to Lektroluv or Ed Banger. It was a pre-techno boom period around 2010. Later on I began my first steps in Belgian Techno and French House. Since then I’ve never stopped developing.

How have you been approaching music during the lockdown? And what about now?
Between March and June I took the advantage of the lockdown by making music as much as possible. As I’m still a student, it’s hard to make time for it.

A few months ago, you recorded a podcast for InDepth, which is fantastic! What was your setup and how did you prepare the mix?
I recorded it at a friend’s place – which I’m very grateful for. The setup was 4x CDJ-2000NXS and an E&S DJR-400 rotary mixer. The EQ’s on the mixer sounds very subtle (no sweepish sound) and wanted to use that for the transistions between the tracks. The whole idea behind the podcast is actually a sort of homage to the new school wet sounds that is still very popular at the moment. Maybe some of you already noticed it but it’s actually a nod to pioneers ‘Voices from The Lake’. I wanted to create that same looping, floating feeling. Besides that the podcast has a symbolic meaning for me. A while back, I decided to change  course a bit with the music I make and started focusing on other sounds. I used one track from each label (Semantica, Fullpanda, Northern Electronics,..) or artist (Acronym, Voices From The Lake,..) that meant a great deal to me for the last 5-6 years. When it comes to dance music I often pass through tough identity crises but I’m feeling that I’m slowly moving more and more back to a comfortable spot. Maybe it’s a coincidence but If you listen to Acronym’s EP on Furhur Electronix or his podcast on XlR8R you can noticed that he also changed his sound.

Do you play with more than two decks and/or do use external effects?
During the podcast I played with three decks at certain moments but not all the time. No effects were used at any time.

And how do you prepare for a dj set in general? Are you preparing a tracklist or do you mix spontaneously?
It changes from gig to gig actually. When it comes to smaller, intimate crowds, I normally improvise with tracks but with a fixed beginning and maybe end. With big room events I prefer to have a fixed tracklist before I begin to play. It’s maybe less fun but I feel much more comfortable obviously. Through mistakes I’ve made in the past I’ve learned that is always better to be prepared. I don’t play enough to play spontaneously and a really good set at the same time.

In your own DJ-sets, you don’t let genre boundaries confine you. Which artist or track has lived up to this recently in your opinion?
To answer that question, when it’s comes to ‘no boundaries’ mixes I would definitely say that Italian artist Donato Dozzy showed me the way. I remember years ago I was going through my experimental non-dance music collection and was asking myself when I would ever play this kind of stuff in front of a crowd. Because back then it was all about club music or at least that’s what I only saw around me. I never thought that there was a possibility to do something with it and it made me feel sad actually. Now I’m discovering more and more mixes from great artists or very interesting events like Terraforma festival, Experiment Intrinsinc, Gems Under The Horizon. My first experimental set was during Siwei’s first release party in 2018 in Antwerp. It worked very well and people said to me that there should me more events of these kinds of music. For me, clearly, there is a lot of demand at events for this type of music.

My first experimental set was during Siwei’s first release party in 2018 in Antwerp. It worked very well and people said to me that there should me more events of these kinds of music. For me, clearly, there is a lot of demand at events for this type of music.

Are there collectives, labels or artists that you are following closely at the moment?
At the end of 2019 I rediscovered the legendary FAX label of Pete Namlook. I already knew some releases before like Atom Heart’s Orange album but there was much more to discover. I fell in love with the label and especially with Tetsu Inoue’s music. Personally, it’s the best music I have heard so far. The crazy part of Tetsu’s music is that it sounds as fresh today as when it did when first released almost 30 years old! Sounds futuristic even! The great mystery now is that no one knows his whereabouts since Pete Namlook sadly passed away in 2012. Some say he died during the tsunami in Japan while others say he likes to keep a very low profile. I hope and believe that it’s the later opinion. Besides that I’m studying and analyzing the music of Max Loderbauer, Tobias, Atom TM, etc.

Where do you like to dig for your music and what are your favorite platforms to buy music?
Depends on what genre I’m looking for. When it comes to dance and experimental music I really like the Clone Records distribution, their selection is always spot on and therefore I really trust them when it comes to digging. Of course, our friends from Crevette Records are doing a really good job, I often go check them out for secondhand records. When I want something rather obscure or really unknown I go and try to find it at Doctor Vinyl. Geert is a great guy who I always have a long chat with about the music industry. Always very interesting.

Of course, our friends from Crevette Records are doing a really good job, I often go check them out for secondhand records. When I want something rather obscure or really unknown I go and try to find it at Doctor Vinyl.

If it’s just for example ambient music then I listen weekly to the Flemish radio station Klara. Especially on Thursday night when it’s the Late Night series. Through them I discovered really cool stuff. Maybe you don’t know this but sometimes they play tracks from artists like Vladislav Delay, Phillip Sollman (Efdemin), Donato Dozzy or something from Stroboscopic Artefacts. So there is clearly a strong connection with their selection of ambient music and the techno music.

You are producer as well. You released tracks on labels like Form and Function or C12. Is it an important part of your projects?
I think releasing music that I would be very proud of is on top of every life goals I want to achieve. Not necessarily some dance track that would be played all over the globe but something more like an album or several made for listening at home. In any case, producing music and playing music is to me two complete other things which don’t have to be necessarily be connected.

What are your favorite tools (gear or software / plugins) as producer?
I often use internal Logic Pro plugins. They really not bad at all. Some time ago, I was lucky enough to meet Mathew Jonson at Fuse backstage. We were discussing about the possibilities in Logic Pro. It was funny because he said that he wanted to step down from all the hardware gear and focus more on the digital world when I want to do the other way around. I recently bought myself Eventide plugins such as H3000 Band Delays and H3000 Factory when there was a huge discount via their website (I’ve got tipped off by A.brehme for this, so thank you Arnaud :)). I also like Maschine to quickly make some drum or percussion loops. For pads, it’s all about Omnisphere. You can’t possibly do something wrong with it. It’s really great! Before bouncing, when I’ve decided to send the track to some friends who I can trust or even play in a mix, I use the Izotope Ozone masterplugin to crank it up a bit.

Last but not least, what is next in your journey? What are you looking forward to? What are your upcoming plans?
Well, for a long period now I was quite busy with several projects. I’ve made two podcasts recently: one for Ojoo music for their Good Fruit series. There you can find some non-dance music with a middle-eastern kind of vibe. The other was made for Initiate for their Reflexions series. I made a homage for Tetsu Inoue for reasons I mentioned earlier. It saw it as a great opportunity.

Also I’ve made a pre-recorded mix for C12 with their collaboration with Kiosk Radio. Every Saturday night they stream 4 peak-time sets from local artists. It’s published on Soundcloud also. (click here to listen)

Besides making podcasts as a dj, I finally invested in acoustic panels for my studio. Before that I did not really had something reliable or something that suited as a qualified studio room. But now I can work better with the panels. They were designed, build and installed by my friend Killian (VDB Acoustics). He quickly studied the art form of acoustics and proved himself very competent in the craft. I am a happy customer.

Last but not least, Basic Moves from Brussels is starting their own sublabel named after their Sunday chill-out event ‘Gems Under The Horizon’. The first release is a two-track various artist compilation by one side Sonmi 451 and the other side by myself. You can pre-order it already via the Crevette Records web shop.

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