Behind the Beat: Thomas Gold
Fresh off the release of his latest single “On Fire,” international DJ and producer Thomas Gold has been touring the world and for the first time, Gold took the decks at Space Ibiza NY. A couple of hours before he took center stage at Space, I had a chat with him regarding his single, touring, his 200th episode of Thomas Gold presents Fanfare and the possibilities of more live aspects of his performances (like that epic EDC drum line intro from a few years back).
Only The Beat: So the news of the passing of Prince that has shocked the music world and the world at large, how has Prince influenced you, your life or your work?
Thomas Gold: I think he was maybe…he wasn’t an influence on the music I’m doing right now, but he was an influence on the personal view of music, and I grew up with him. We grew up with him, like ‘When Doves Cry,’ ‘Purple Rain,’ ‘Kiss’. When I used to be a student, they would play it at all the parties. Even when I started as a DJ, I played like a 70’s kind of night and funk night, and I had a lot of like funky stuff in there. Prince was always a big part of that. He’s part of my youth and my childhood. It was very sad to see the news yesterday, and I played in Minneapolis last night. I was there. And I saw what was going on. I went to First Avenue, the club where they shot Purple Rain, and I saw all the thousands of people there, gathering and waiting outside. I went there after my show (we finished at 2). We didn’t get in because it was completely mad. Everybody seemed to be there. I saw all the flowers and signs people made. You could really tell how important he was for Minneapolis and how much the people appreciated him. Even in the club, when I got there, they were playing original Prince songs. There were no club songs at all. The opening DJ was just playing Prince music. Of course they changed the sound into what I’m doing later on, but even then, I finished the set with Purple Rain. It was a weird feeling you know. For me, it was a very memorable thing to be in Minneapolis on that day. It was an honor for me to even see the venue he played in. I just knew of the music he did and the videos before that. This made it real.
OTB: You’ve played at clubs and festivals all over the world, but for you, what really makes the difference between a festival and club set?
TG: Big differences! Normally, at a festival you’ll play more energetic stuff because it’s an open space, a huge crowd and you really want to move the crowd. People expect a little more uplifting music at the big festival stages. Also, the time you have to play is shorter. Sometimes you play sixty minutes, sometimes forty-five, or an hour fifteen. You have to shorten your set and really keep the energy very high. But in a club, you can go from a high to a low. So there’s some growth. So when you have two hours or even three hours, you can be more versatile with your sound. You can vary the sound way more than you can at a festival. I wouldn’t go through all those styles and vibes at a festival. At a club you can really build the energy, take it down and then build it up again and go from genre to genre a little bit to create a little bit more of a flow.
OTB: Tonight you’ll be playing a set at Space Ibiza NY…what are you looking forward to tonight in NYC?
TG: First of all, I’m a big fan of New York. I love the New York crowd. I’ve been here so many times. I’ve played Pacha, Governor’s Island, and I’ve played Roseland Ballroom. I’ve had so many amazing shows. Fans are so crazy here. It’s my first time at Space. I’ve been there when I checked it out a couple months ago. I was there at six in the morning and it was super packed. Great vibe. Then another thing, I’m having guests with me, Tom Starr is back with me, and Rico & Miella, back again performing our track “On Fire,” live on stage.
OTB: You mention Rico & Miella (who had a stellar live performance during the set that night). How did you come to discover and want to work with them?
TG: I just liked what they had done in the past and I liked their tracks. I was in the process of making a new single, making a new track and I thought, “Hey, why not approach them?” So we just said we would love to do something together. They said, “Sure, let’s do it!” Then we had this really rough idea called “On Fire” and I instantly loved it. I told them, “This is great, let me add some comments, re-edit some vocals, change some of the arrangement of the vocals…I changed some of the music around in a new way and incorporated some of their sounds and it was a real collaboration.
On Fire – Thomas Gold X Rico & Miella
OTB: You’ve worked with so many great collaborators over your career, Rico & Miella just being the latest. What is the most difficult part for you for any collaboration between artists?
TG: The toughest part is maybe…sometimes things take longer than they should. Because everybody is traveling. That means you can’t go into the studio and just do something. So we have to work remotely over the Internet, which is cool and you can achieve a lot of stuff, but it takes some time. When I have a studio session or I’ve worked with people in the studio, you have instant gratification and you get instant feedback. You can work on a track together. But, when you’re working on a track at a distance, you do something, you send it to the other party, they do something, they send it back. Maybe go on Skype. It takes a while.
OTB: Like Rico & Miella’s live performance tonight, live acts seem to work their way into your sets fairly frequently, such as that awesome EDC drum line intro a couple years ago. Are there more innovative live aspects you hope to incorporate into your show?
TG: I’m thinking about it right now, because I’m doing an album at the end of the year, and I’m going to be touring with the album. I’m thinking what can I bring to the stage or what can I add maybe. Bringing a drum line is a very complicated thing. First, it’s bringing ten people, with their coach, maybe a manager. So you have to fly them or get them to the venues. Then you need a big stage, which isn’t always given. You can only play big venues. You have to practice a lot. Exercise all the tracks with them. So it’s a lot of time consuming work to do. Then the organization. The logistics are complicated and the costs are kind of high. It’s something I can do kinda one off here and there. Right now, I’m rather focusing on the music. On creating my album. I cannot go and just go practice with different drum lines and set up stuff. I’m thinking about smaller things to add, but I’m not sure yet. It’s in the process. I’m really focusing on my album music, but after that I’ll focus on the tour. I’d love to add something, maybe spice it up a little bit.
OTB: When you’re focused on the music, be it for the album or for just a new single, what is your creative process in putting a track together? Do you just hum something, think in your head “this is catchy?” and write it down?
TG: That’s one approach. If I have a melody in my head or play something I think could be nice and laid out. I save all my ideas, even if they’re super short, just a chord progression, or whatever. Sometimes I hear something on the radio or something that inspires me and think, “This vibe is cool,”record it, and BOOM turn it into something new. Sometimes I get a vocal sent to me from somebody and then that starts a track. Sometimes you just sit together in the studio and you play with ideas back and forth. That’s how I got some of my album tracks. Some of us came up with something, said “Let’s lock this in and stick with these few chords, and we’re going to put a vocal on that.” Then we take these chords and rewrite them into a verse, hook, pre-hook. There’s not just that one approach. It’s really a very open and creative process.
OTB: So you tour and play everywhere but you’re originally from Berlin. Your tracks don’t necessarily scream “Berlin vibe,” when I think of Berlin. But what about Berlin’s dance music scene HAS influenced you in some way?
TG: It’s not a real dance music scene, it’s more like a an underground club scene. Minimal. Techno. It has influenced me…I have learned a lot about the flow in a club and how a DJ set can go and how people can react to certain things in a set. It’s so different from what I’m doing. And I love to be able to go out and get that sound and listen to other stuff than what I’m doing myself. It opens up your mind and gives you more like an idea of what you can do with your stuff. I’ve been releasing on labels, like Toolroom for example, a couple years ago and that was influenced by the Berlin sound. You know this underground, techy stuff.
OTB: You’ve been a DJ and Producer for some time, but if you weren’t doing this today, what would you be doing?
TG: Good question…I can’t imagine my life without music or being a DJ. This has been my dream since I was seven years old when I started playing keyboards. And when I was 15, I started, I got into the club music thing. I studied in between and tried to work in a normal job for two years, but…I was in the marketing and distribution department of a big consumer brand. It was cool, I liked to work with those people, my boss was an awesome person, but still…I was unsatisfied. I spent all the weekends making music, when I went back home after work. Starting at 8pm every day, I got on my computer and started working on music. But I started thinking, if I really want to do it with all the energy and passion I had, I had to quit my job and do it full time. And from then, it was an absolute life decision.
OTB: Anything we should be on the lookout for in 2016?
TG: My album! My personal big thing! I’m just going with a totally new approach with my music, I’m changing my sound. I’m excited about that because I can finally realize songs or tracks that I always wanted to do but never could. Because I was always in a genre limitation. I’m not doing this for anyone, I’m just making music. From 93 BPM, to 100, 115, 128; everything is in there. I’m not thinking about “could this work in a club or not,” just does it sound good, does it sound right? So that’s a totally new approach for me at the moment and I’m enjoying it a lot. I’m working with so many new, inspiring people. Vocalists. Writers. You know, all these people, and it’s amazing.
OTB: I know 2016 already had a fairly big event for you, the 200th episode of Thomas Gold Presents Fanfare.
TG: That was amazing. I sat down and thought “Wow. Four years, 200 episodes.” That’s a lot of tracks. I was really happy to have achieved that point. We’re working on the next 100 and we’re happy to get so much feedback. We changed the layout of the show a bit, new intro, outro, voiceovers, but the basic concept is the same; giving my fans as much new music as possible. One time I went to India, there was a guy at the hotel lobby who was waiting for me who just wanted to say hello and congrats and I thought this is amazing. I’m from Germany, I go to India and some guy shows up and tells you that he loves your weekly radio show. That was amazing.
Thomas Gold Presents Fanfare! – Episode 200
OTB: Out of all the tracks you’ve played, and the hundreds of thousands of hours of music you’ve heard, what track do you think everyone should hear at least once in their life?
TG: There are so many…hmm…Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” Because…the bass line [duh doom doom doom doom doom] it’s something that…for the time when they did it, Quincy Jones, producer, f**king amazing producer, what they created at that time, it was very new. Same with Billie Jean. It set the basis for modern dance music for looping the bass line. They took it over from the seventies, just a kick and a bass line, which created the whole vibe of the track. I don’t know if it’s one everyone should listen to…\.if I said that, I’d say Adele, “Set Fire to the Rain” or “Purple Rain”…there are just so many tracks…
OTB: Any closing words for our readers here at Only the Beat?
TG: Thanks for all the support so far and for all your happiness and partying with me all the time! I am blessed and really happy that I can do what I’m doing and thankful for the fans who are coming out to my shows and the positive vibes!
His set later that night was just as amazing as he promised, with the highlight being Rico & Miella’s live performance of “On Fire.” Be sure to catch Thomas Gold on his remaining tour stops for his “On Fire” tour!
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