Interview: Five minutes with Tom Ashbrook

Enigmatic ambient-electro producer Tom Ashbrook has just released his debut single, ‘Too Soon’ via The Other Songs. The track will be followed by the release of his upcoming Sines EP, to be shared later this year. Creating a rich melancholic melody, the producer has created a song that is awash with emotion. Steering away from morbidity – the listener is left with hope at the end of the track, as if a little ray of sunshine beaming through the water.

Training alongside his sister as a classical pianist since early childhood set the rest of Tom Ashbrook’s life in stone ahead of him. Going so far as to improvising, writing and even transcribing, producing seemed like the sensible next step. Learn a little more about this UK based musician below. 

Set the tone for us. Why the arts?

It’s all I have ever known, sat at the piano since the age of 5 

Which comes first when you’re producing – the sound or the idea?

Both really; starting certain tracks or a looped small idea that gets developed. One tune started from a bad phone call and the feeling/idea…another started from a sound of a looped vocal note I heard in a cafe

Does your material feature any collaborations?

Yes, the first vocal collaboration released is with the fantastic Ruby Duff. Other collaborations have been with violinist Ciara Ismail and cellist Ev halls from ‘Clean Cut Kid’. 

More collaborations will follow with Julia Church and Nick Webber.

What’s on your current playlist?

A lot of Bon Iver, Jon Hopkins, Choral cliff, Eric Whitaker. 

Tell us about the chemistry you have with your fans on stage.

It’s been great and hearing such positive responses from the first live showcase from the likes of David Foster has been incredible. Working on a new concept for a live show will bring the audience into the performance making the experience about all the senses and not just the solo performer 

What techniques do you experiment with to get your original sound?

I usually experiment with samples and loops and textures to develop a vibe for a track. Layered electronics with acoustic piano or vocals has been a natural progression. Treating a string section or solo violinist like a synthesiser has been a great direction more my sound

Take us through a day in the recording studio.

My temporary studio is part of my living space so usually I have to get out the house and get the routine down with either work or gym and eating! Then return ready to sit at the Fender Rhodes or Juno 60 or sing in the bathroom to get ideas going. Having awesome connections in London and available studio space on Drury lane means this work can be taken out and mixed and produced in different spaces. I usually use piano samples at mine (buying a house at the moment to fit a piano in) then I record upright in other studios. 

Was there a specific moment in your life where you thought, “this is what I want to do”?

I followed my sister into piano lessons at an early age with help from super supporting parents and a great musical education all through school to university studying production/ composition and live work so ive been lucky to have always known it’s what I’ve wanted to do 

What do you keep close by while you’re playing a set?

Usually a Whiskey old fashioned or a sheet with lyrics on 

Any emerging artists on your radar?

Ruby Duff, Mabes, Julia church 

What gets your creative juices flowing?

Usually good and bad moments in this mad life! Or seeing an amazing visual or music video. I usually mute people’s music videos and compose my own soundtracks avoiding looking at waveforms 

Take us through your collection of gear, tech or software that accompanies your creative expression.

Love the upright Yamaha U7, family piano usually record this close mic’d With Audio technica Stereo pair. Use the synths I have for everything! Juno 60, moog sub phatty, Roland tr 606, Roland sH 201, mark 1 fender Rhodes. Use a lot of universal audio plugins and interfaces, brilliant neve preamps and tape

Any side projects you’re working on?

Collaborating with Nick Webber on a cross of our music with a lot of interest in beats and harmonic content. Music for publishing and visual elements 

How have you refined your craft since you entered the industry?

Learnt to not over complicate things and not listen to people saying it’s too clever” Write what you want to write. Half of it is getting along with people, especially on a tour bus

Breakdown the news for us: what can we expect from you this year?

An album of material, a concept one-off live show and a series of visual peices through film and choreography 

Famous last words?

Can we get a curry? 

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