Name: Thomas Wedel aka Tom Wax
Occupation: DJ, producer
Current release: Trip To Venus, a new two-track EP by Tom Wax and Dr. Motte is out now via Complexed.
Recommendations: The Art Of Noise – (Who´s Afraid Of) The Art Of Noise (ZTT Records); William Orbit – Strange Cargo Series
If you enjoyed this Tom Wax interview, visit his official website for more information. You can also find him him on Facebook.
For the perspectives of one of Tom Wax's long-time collaborators, check out our Dr. Motte interview.
When did you start DJing - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I started DJing at the age of 16 in 1988. I was initially influenced by 80s synthie pop in the early 80s - until Electronic Body Music, Acid House and New Beat got me in the late 80s.
When the Techno-House sound took over in the beginning of the 90s, it took me by storm and its energy and spirit were magical.
For most artists, originality is preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you: How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice?
This process is still ongoing and I need development in my music all the time. This always is and will be the special thing about electronic music.
I started with Techno-House tracks, developed Harttrance on Harthouse & R&S Records with my Arpeggiators & Microbots projects, got through the raving years and found my real passion and sound in straight Techno with my Tom Wax solo project.
That said, I still love to have side-projects with others to create tracks or songs with different styles.
How do you feel your sense of identity influences your creativity?
Music is always influenced by your own lifestyle, friends, relatives, parents, place of birth and the place you life – your creativity is a result of your inner self.
What were your main creative challenges when starting out as a DJ and how have they changed over time?
I never wanted to be a DJ, but because of my love for music and collecting records, I was the guy to play music at any party around my hometown. It was never a challenge, more like a special gift, that I can play music in front of happy people. Just the way I played the tracks changed over the years, from vinyl to CDs and now just USB sticks, but that wasn´t a challenge!
As creative goals and technical abilities change, so does the need for different tools of expression, be it instruments, software tools or recording equipment. Can you describe this path for you, starting from your first studio/first instrument? What motivated some of the choices you made in terms of instruments/tools/equipment over the years?
I started on Cubase on an Atari ST with just analog equipment and this was completely different to my digital virtual studio setup today. I work with Ableton Live 10 and love the freedom of this virtual studio.
Some synths never get old, like a Minimoog, TB303 or Juno 106 and I used them in the original hardware as well as the VST version. Through the years I have built my perfect virtual studio with all the tools I love.
Have there been technologies or instruments which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you perform?
For sure: The Roland TB303 and the complete VST technology
DJing is a unique discipline at the border between presenting great music and creating something new with it, between composition and improvisation. How would you describe your approach to it? What do you start with, how do you develop a set, how does a form gradually manifest itself, what are good transitions between different tracks etc …
When I´m DJing I love to take the listener/dancer on a journey and I try to built up a set with more groovy tunes to harder monotonous stuff and end up with more melodic, hypnotic tunes. It´s always important that you have some special tunes that can be used for the transition from one style to another, so the flow will not be lost.
I´m an old skool DJ and I´m used to playing for over 10 or more hours at my resident clubs back in the days for example Dorian Gray at Frankfurt Airport in the 90s.
How would you describe the relationship between your choices and goals as a DJ and the expectations, desires and feedback of the audience? Is there a sense of collaboration between you and the dancers?
There are nights where you become one with the audience, because they understand your music, which is like magic. But there are nights where the people don´t get you, which is the worst thing for a DJ. Expectations are always high – from myself and for sure from the audience, but sometimes it doesn´t match.
In a song or classical composition, the building blocks are notes, but in a DJ set the building blocks are entire songs and their combinatory potential. Can you tell me a bit about how your work as a DJ has influenced your view of music, your way of listening and perhaps also, if applicable, your work as a producer?
When I listen to any track, I'm analysing the sounds, the mixdown and the arrangement of it. Sometimes I wish I could listen without any idea of production, mixing or arranging, so I'd have a more objective perspective on it.
Back in the days in the end of the 80s I didn´t know what a TR909 or TB303 were or how this music was made and so every sound was new and different. But this has changed with DJing and producing.
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please. Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
My private life is completely separated from my music life.
I start in the morning with office work, promotion things, email stuff. After lunch I try to be creative to work out new tracks. In the evening I have my private life with friends and family or my second passion and favourite sport: Tennis.
Can you talk about a breakthrough DJ set or performance in your career? Why does it feel special to you? When, why and how did you start working on it, what were some of the motivations and ideas behind it?
I had too many DJ gigs that I could mention, but my 3 own breakthrough tracks that pushed my music & DJ career are:
Microbots – Cosmic Evolution
Arpeggiators – Freedom Of Expression
AWeX – It´s Our Future
Music and sounds can heal, but they can also hurt. Do you personally have experiences with either or both of these? Where do you personally see the biggest need and potential for music as a tool for healing?
Music is for mind, body and soul! When I´m happy I need music, when I feel sad I need music and all in between as well. I always listen to the music that fits my mood – if I feel bad, I listen to sad music and if I feel good, I listen to happy positive music. This always heals my mind & soul.
There is a fine line between cultural exchange and appropriation. What are your thoughts on the limits of copying, using cultural signs and symbols and the cultural/social/gender specificity of art?
If you add something new to anything you copy or create a special fusion with it. I think it´s the only way to create something new, but always give the credit and props to the originator.
Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?
My approach to the music that I stand for was always to give people energy to express themselves on the dancefloor and feel the energy of the music to forget their everyday problems and to have a good time.
What can music express about life and death which words alone may not?
Where words fail music speaks!