Interview: Tommy Concrete

Recently, DutchMetalManiac’s Tim van Velthuysen interviewed Tommy Concrete.

Hey, how are you?

Deep in the throes of promoting my new album Hexenzirkel, which means interviews and stuff that although I enjoy is very time consuming. It’s easy for me to get overwhelmed by this sort of thing as I can let it pile up. Every album I say to myself that I won’t let that happen, and yet here we are again in that exact situation with a backlog of interviews to work through. It’s a good thing though, I’m definitely not complaining about people wanting to talk to me about my music.

Can you tell us something about the history of Tommy Concrete?

I started playing in bands in 1990 with a progressive thrash outfit called Warp Spasm. That led on to a bunch of other bands of different genres from space rock to hardcore and everything in-between. I started my solo work when I moved to Scotland in 2000 and continued to make music as a side hussle to whatever band I was in at the time, most known of which being The Exploited. About five years ago I made the switch that my solo work was my main focus, and playing in bands was the side hussle. I am currently promoting my ninth solo album Hexenzirkel which is my second to be released on Trepanation Recordings.

For people not knowing Tommy Concrete (yet), how would you describe your music yourself?

My earlier solo albums were largely dictated by the musical direction of whatever band I was in at the time. In the sense that I was using my solo work as a way to flex musical muscles not getting utilised in the bands I was playing in. So it starts off with a couple of albums heavily influenced by stuff like The Gathering and Killing Joke. Then there’s a doom phase and a more extreme phase… It wasn’t until my sixth album Unrelaxed in 2018 wherein I attempted to consolidate all the previous genres into a cohesive ‘Tommy Concrete’ style. Since then each album has been a honing of that concept, resulting into a fusion of styles that work in unison with each other. At first I was really turned on by juxtaposing genres within an album and sometimes even within a song. My approach now has been to develop a blend of ‘everything all at once’, that I’m pretty happy with and the reviews I have had so far seem to agree.

When someone doesn’t know Tommy Concrete yet and you can choose one of your songs to present yourself, which song would that be?

What Unknown Force is the first song to be premiered from Hexenzirkel, so that is my current presentation to the world of who I am and what I do. It’s got all the elements that I have developed over the last four albums blended together in a way that I feel has been my most successful attempt yet. It’s a seventeen minute epic track with a core of heavy doom metal but with moments of extreme, gothic and even trip hop flourishes. With monstrously good guest vocals from Laura of King Witch and Ramage of Ramage INC (who also produced the album).

What makes Tommy Concrete unique?

The creative process for sure. I’m neurodivergent and one of my differences is chromethesia, which in laymans terms means I can see sound. This has been a phenomena my entire life, but I only became aware it wasn’t something everyone experienced after my diagnosis as autistic a few years back. This has always been a factor in my musicianship, in the sense that sometimes I can ‘see’ my guitar is out of tune to a much more sensitive degree than I can hear it is out of tune. Of recent years I have explored this relationship more closely in my playing, but for the most part it has been a skill I have utilised to help me finish a project. This was until I saw an interview with Devin Townsend in which he discussed his own chromethesia and how he uses it as a compositional skill. In the sense that quite often he will see his music first, and then learn how to play it. This was a mind blowing moment for me and I decided that I would try this out myself, so Hexenzirkel was designed visually before I even played a note.

Any future plans you can already tell us something about?

I’ve just finished contributing lead guitars to a project called More Death and Horror which is a deranged combination of Celtic Frost and Melt Banana. It was great fun, as all I had to do was leads. Which has been a great palette cleanser after the arduous year of recording Hexenzirkel. Aside from me there are some cool people playing on it, including one of the dudes from thrash legends Onslaught and some others I can’t mention at this point. This is cool as it’s just a studio project and I had minimal input which is a fantastic treat for someone like me who is used to doing absolutely everything on the albums I work on.

In 2010 I had my first book The Wages of Metal published, I am about 90% done on its follow up and will pretty soon be devoting most of my creative energies into getting that done and released. I’m also starting formulating ideas for what will be my tenth solo album, my mind is largely blank at this point but I am heavy pressurising myself due to ten albums being a bit of a milestone for me.

I have a band, Tommy Concrete and the Werewolves, who I put together in 2012 after my stint with The Exploited finished. It’s a totally separate entity to my solo work and we have our long awaited second album to get finished, which I would love to get done in time for our tenth anniversary next year. We were meant to be recording it last year, but a global pandemic swiftly put that plan on pause.

Any upcoming gigs for Tommy Concrete? Maybe coming to The Netherlands?

Tommy Concrete and The Werewolves has one gig booked for this year and a couple for next year. We are playing it really safe though and don’t want to get too over confident as shit is still not sorted in the music industry over here and gigs are still getting cancelled all over the place. As far as solo gigs, I will probably do some spoken word shows when my second book comes out. They were always fun to do and I haven’t done one for a few years now so it’s getting about time again.

I am coming to The Netherlands, my wife and I have friends in Nijmegen and we have tickets to see Anneke Van Giersbergen at Stevenskerk next year. On my Unrelaxed album, the artwork features pictures of the statues of Little Mary and Moenen in the inner sleeve. I would love to play The Netherlands for sure, either solo or with Tommy Concrete and the Werewolves.

How do you think your life would be without music?

Not worth living and barely even worth contemplating. Music is the point of being alive. I couldn’t live in a world without music and I couldn’t exist without the ability to create music. It doesn’t matter if it’s any good or anyone cares, a life without music would be utterly pointless for me. Everyone that is important to me I have met through music. My wife, best friends, passing acquaintances, random folk on social media etc….. I know all of them because of my music or because of their music. There is no bigger motivating force for being alive.

What advice would you give to young and starting bands?

Don’t rely on one instrument, it doesn’t matter if you are a maestro, you will significantly improve your employability with every instrument you can play. Some of the earliest advice I was ever given was ‘be proficient at three instruments and make sure one is vocals and another is keyboards’. I can’t emphasise how true this is thirty years after being told this. Just do it.

Most importantly learn an offstage role. 99% of all the money I have earned in the music business has been working a gig as a role not musical eg driver, promoter, tour manager, door person or guitar tech. And I have saved thousands of pounds being able to engineer, use music software and edit video myself.

If I could go back in time thirty years I would tell myself to learn drums and buy a van.

Thanks for your answers! Is there anything you want to say to DutchMetalManiac’s readers?

Thanks for having me, and don’t forget to check me out on all the usual social media. Cheers.

Tommy Concrete Official Website
Tommy Concrete Facebook
Tommy Concrete Instagram
Tommy Concrete Twitter
Tommy Concrete Youtube
Tommy Concrete Bandcamp
Tommy Concrete Spotify

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