Tom Middleton has done it all. With productions under a dizzying array of aliases, he’s also a formidable DJ, and has put his name to more compilations than you’ve had hot dinners. His latest triple CD comp, ‘3-D’, out now on Renaissance, sees him return to his house roots, with a CD of his own remixes, a deep house blend, and a more chilled third disc. DJmag.com dialed up the polymath to discuss musical tastes, ambient sounds and collaborations…
Your new ‘3-D’ triple CD mix album opus is out now. Is this a complete picture of what Tom Middleton is all about?
“Well no, this is kind of like an addendum, it’s continual. I do all these compilations, whether it’s a fascination with the cover version, as on ‘Crazy Covers’ volumes one and two, whether it’s a journey into a real sort of eclectic session as on ‘The Trip’ one and two, or the ‘Lifetracks’ project, which came out last September – before the ink was drying on that, I was straight into mixing down ‘3-D’, it’s been pretty much non-stop.
But ‘3-D’ is essentially an extension of ‘Sound of the Cosmos’, I was getting bugged for ages, email and feedback saying, ‘come on, do another one Tom!’ And doing the research for ‘Crazy Covers’ and ‘The Trip’ was great fun, but it’s been quite difficult getting DJ gigs with comps out like that, promoters don’t get it. For a promoter, you need to hear a club set.
“When ‘Sound of the Cosmos’ came out I was inundated with DJ bookings, and because I have to explore different territories, it’s been more or less four, five different projects. This was a great opportunity, I could get back to programming one CD on ‘3-D’ that’s the kind of club music that I would like people to hear. It doesn’t necessarily reflect what I play in a club - it’s just one facet of that. In a club I’ll drop drum & bass, mash-ups, a bit of hip-hop, keep it quite contemporary with a bit of electro. This album is me in club mode but more the kind of smooth mixing that you’ll hear on ‘Sound of the Cosmos’. It has a bit more longevity. There’s no big hits on there, it’s just lovely warm house music. I’m still fond of it, and let’s face it, after 16 years of deep house, it still works for me, and there must be a reason why it still works for me, why I still feel it.
To choose that over every other current cool genre, why have I decided that deep house is better than electro, minimal, maximal, Ed Banger-type stuff? The bottom line is that I choose the music, and I find a lot of the current club music to be quite two dimensional. It’s fun, with bundles of energy, but it gives an instant reaction. I don’t want to listen to that at home, I don’t want to listen to that in the car, I want a collection of beautiful nuggets that have been working really well over the years, that I’ve been putting aside and making playlists from. If it’s beautiful and warm and timeless, then it has the X-Factor I’ve been looking for, hence the club mix is not an obvious mix.”
What kind of response has there been to your recent solo album ‘Lifetracks’ which pursued a more ambient direction than you’ve made for a while?
“A lot of people are loving it because it reminds them of ’76:14’ - my album with Mark Pritchard as Global Communication. It’s the same philosophy, it’s pure emotions in sound. I haven’t really deviated from that when I’m creating. It’s ticking along nicely. With instrumental downtempo music, it’s hard to get much press on it these days, because it’s not a cool genre. But my prediction is that with the likes of The Orb about to release a comeback album I’ve got a sneaky feeling that we’re gonna see a return to interesting electronica. Because let’s face it, things work in cycles, and we’ve certainly witnessed many cycles in dance music which keep getting smaller and smaller! At the end of the day, there’s a lot of functional music that’s not very satisfying after the second or third listen, does it move beyond making me physically want to move around, or get pissed? Not really is my answer, but I’m sure there’ll be plenty of debates on forums about the relevance of Daft Punk’s derivatives. Let’s face it, they’re the originators, everybody else has copied them. I love Daft Punk, they steal the show every time, because what they do better than everyone else is melody and harmony and soul. Justice have tweaked it in a different direction, I like how pop they’ve taken it actually.”
On the more chilled CD of ‘3-D’ you’ve included Harmonic 33’s ‘Rain’ which is a track by Mark Pritchard, who you used to work with. Any plans to work with Mark again in the near future?
“We were chatting on iChat the other day, and I was saying that the amount of people who’ve been keeping at me saying, ‘can you just put a band together and do Jedi Knights and Global Communications together as a live show?’ And through talking with Mark about it, I wouldn’t rule it out. It would be lovely at some point to celebrate the best of Global Communications, Jedi Knights, Link, Chameleon, an hour and 20 minutes of the classics, the various different styles over the years. I think Mark just doesn’t like getting up on stage, which is fair enough. Me, fearless, love it, bring it on is what I say!”
What would we hear in a typical Tom Middleton set at the moment?
“Everything! I spend a fortune on Beatport and Tracksource these days, the promos that you get sent digitally. I’m a 100% digital DJ these days. Dubfire has got a brilliant sound, Deadmau5, that’s really melodic and tuneful, devastating production as well. Sinden has some fun stuff, I’m dropping a bit of Justice, Ed Banger stuff. I like a groove, which is why I’m excited by Bassline. Not too into the vocals, but it’s just speed garage basically. It rocks on the dancefloor. Dropping a bit of that.”
You’ve got several new projects in the works. What’s upcoming?
“I can’t stop! I’ve got a ‘Back in the Box’ comp, ‘87-‘88 to mid ’90s only. That’s brilliant, perfect for me ’cos that’s the time that I got into dance music and house. Todd Terry, Masters at Work, Carl Craig, Derrick May, it’ll be a selection of nuggets from around that time.”