Tomson & Benedict take ctrl of the sound
Tomson & Benedict are a duo based in Manchester. Having worked together on several remix projects in recent times, they started to collaborate on their own personal work and, eventually, decided to launch their own label ‘we_ctrl’ as an outlet for their music. I’ve really enjoyed what they’ve done so far, so I decided to catch up with them for chat about how they got to the point they’re at now.
How did it all start for you both, individually? What are some your earliest memories of music in general and when did you catch the electronic/dance music bug?
Tomson: Eighties soul and hip-hop… Hip-hop, because I was at high school in the Nineties and the likes of Gang Starr, Pete Rock and Nas were blowing up – to this day they are the people behind some of my favourite albums. And my dad used to play a lot of Stevie Wonder, Shalamar and Luther Vandross at home so that definitely shaped the house music that I love – which all started with Masters at Work, really.
Benedict: It was quite early on, at around 10 or 11-years-old. I had a few dance music compilations given to me as birthday or Christmas presents, amongst other music. At the time, the late Nineties it was all Ministry Of Sound trance, Ferry Corsten etc. but nevertheless I got into dance music in general at that age. I’d say I really caught the bug when I bought some decks at the age of 12 and started buying records. I used to wash cars and do odd jobs on my street and then go to my local record shop and spend it all. In terms of earlier than that, pretty humdrum as my parents were into mainstream music but my grandfather was, and still is, a big Jazz fan.
When did you go to your first club?
Tomson: The first proper music club I went to was Hard Times in Leeds with Masters at Work and CJ Mackintosh, I’d just finished school. Kenny Dope didn’t turn up but it didn’t matter, CJ Mackintosh looked similar enough and the music blew my young mind.
Benedict: Growing up near to Stoke-on-Trent, my first club was The Void and a well-known night called Golden. My first visit was at a young age and I saw Yousef and Lottie I think. From there on in I decided that I definitely wasn’t a pub crawler like most of my friends at the time but more of heads down raver. The Void closed down only 12 months after I started going which was a shame as it saw Stoke’s once vibrant dance music scene die a sudden death. However, I see that a new night has popped up where Derrick Carter played only a few weeks ago so things are looking up again for my home town.
How influential was your local scene on your musical evolution?
Tomson: As with a lot of kids, it was all about mixtapes really. Although growing up in Manchester definitely defined the way I DJ now. I spent a lot of time listening to soul music at Funkademia as a kid and used to love watching proper DJs like The Unabombers doing the warm ups at Electric Chair and Krysko doing the same at Sankeys – I think you learn more about DJing from that than any guest DJ straight off the plane from Ibiza/New York etc.
Benedict: My life from 12 to 17 revolved around Global Grooves, a record shop in Stoke, and their selection of music kinda moulded me initially although I really grew out of the scene when I started to get into deeper house music. While there were a few nights that I used to go to regularly, I had the most respect for two guys Daz Harvey and Nick Stockley who ran a night called Penthouse. Really great guys with a defined taste in music.
Outside of your locality, who else really inspired you music-wise?
Tomson: I think I’m most inspired when I see a DJ rocking it with music that isn’t quite what I’d normally play in a club. Like seeing Giles Peterson playing proper jazz at Southport Weekender, Jeff Mills rocking 140bpm techno in a warehouse or Rich Medina playing hip-hop in New York – they’ve always stuck with me.
Benedict: When I first started to venture out of Stoke my fiance and circle of friends started going to a night called Angel Deelite in Manchester. It was a weekly night back then and no matter who was on, everybody was up for it and the music meant so much more. I probably owe an awful lot to that night in terms of the music I like now. Then there was Development, which is the night Tom ran with Chris Feinmann and Andy Proctor (AKA Stretford Dogs Club) which was another big part of my intake of music for a very long time. My flavour of the month DJ-wise tends to be whoever locks me into their set with good music that I’ve not heard before but the party itself is what makes it all special and I’m yet to find another night anywhere that captures that. I think I’ll be looking for a long time to find it too.
How did you both meet?
Benedict: I’m pretty sure we met at Angel Deelite, when Tom was playing with Chris warming up for Terry Hunter and we chatted afterwards – but we actually talked properly about all things music at his night Development.
What was the catalyst behind you both deciding to make music together?
Tomson: A love of all things Kerri Chandler! Ben had just had his first single released and I was ploughing away on my first attempts – we were friendly, accommodating ears to each other
What was it like when you first got in the studio together?
Benedict: It was pretty fluent from the word go. We were offered a remix on a label called NY Soul and got to work on that straight away. The both of us had only produced for a short while so it took a little longer to find what we needed but nevertheless we clicked no problem. I’ve never left a session feeling anything but buzzed.
To me, it’s music that bucks the trend in a way – which is no bad thing, there’s so much bandwagon-jumping around at the moment – do you listen to much new music?
Tomson: I just make what comes out of me at the time. I find it hard to make music to a set agenda, so I don’t think I could ever be trendy on purpose so your comment makes sense! I listen to a lot of new non-house music but for DJing I’m probably guilty of gravitating to my favourite labels and producers too often. And I always revert back to my crates of old records for every gig.
Benedict: I’m much the same as Tom, there is generally consistently good music out there amongst all the faddy stuff. I’m not much for what I like to call ‘sterile house’ which is house without any feeling, groove or balls. However, when I’m buying music I tend to put aside plenty of time to listen to everything to find something a bit different. I really like discovering and playing new music, so a vast majority of the music I listen to is relatively new.
What do you make of the whole “electronic music” explosion, and the huge influx of new artists/music?
Benedict: If you’re referring to ‘EDM’, I really don’t have a problem with it like some. There was always awful dance music even during the whole indie influx just under 10 years ago. There’s a lot of hate for ‘EDM’ and whatever but I’d say that I’m an example of someone who once liked the commercial rubbish and refined my taste to where I am today. No one just starts buying records and decides they like Detroit techno, it’s certain people who drill down from the mainstream to the underground. That’s how it’s always been and we need ‘EDM’ or mainstream dance music for new music fans to filter down. The more people who are switched on to electronic music, the more that people will refine their taste to sub genres and hopefully buy records and go to clubs.
Tomson: What he said really! I’m not first in the queue for tickets at the next Guetta stadium tour but I certainly see the positives in mainstream exposure for any genre. Just hearing good music on Radio 1 again is a blessing in the UK but with any underground music it’s always about digging deep for the good stuff!
Is music your main focus or do you hold down day jobs too?
Tomson: Very much a passionate hobby for me, although music is and will always be a major focus
Benedict: In some ways no. I’m a family man with a couple of gorgeous kids and a daytime job fighting insurance fraud which both keep me very busy. Music is my main passion though and it’s what really helps me wind down but makes me tick at the same time.
When did you decide to start up your own label?
Tomson: Towards the end of 2011. We’ve enjoyed working with other labels but we got to the stage where we felt we were lacking some continuity recording on so many different imprints and just wanted to create a channel of our own. I’ve been co-running another label Development Music for about five years, so I’d like to think I know the basics. Ben is really creative with loads of his own ideas, so we just decided to focus our energy through something we could control a bit more, alas we_ctrl was born!
How easy/difficult has it been to get that moving?
Benedict: It’s not difficult to set up, just time consuming and costly. We wanted to do vinyl and sleeve art from the beginning which is costly but certainly worth it. We’re looking at different ways of getting music out there, like using Bandcamp. We’ve got a store on there now where you can buy our vinyl and get the digital download of the EP free instantly. People are catching on and we’ve even shifted a few units of vinyl of our second release as a pre-order which is encouraging.
What’s the idea behind the label, is it purely just an outlet for your music or do you want to do a lot more with it in future?
Benedict: Purely to put out our own music, there isn’t a plan to do anything else. We of course are featuring remix artists on our releases but they are only personal favourites that we think will really polish off the release nicely. We hope that the label will grow in stature and we solidify that sound we want to create but that’s the top and bottom of it.
For more information on the duo and their record label check out their website, HERE.Tagged in: Jeff Mills, Luther Vandross, Nas, Shalamar, Stevie Wonder, Tomson & Bendict, we_ctrl
Recent Posts on Arts
Latest from Independent journalists on Twitter