Q&A: 5 Minutes with Def.fo


We recently spoke to multi-instrumentalist Def.fo after the announcement of his debut single Play It Cool’, released on the 1st of September 2023Inspired by early Tame Impala sounds, it’s a superbly delectable slice of psychedelic rock. With its distorted, heavily compressed guitar and drums and washed out vocals, it’s a retro feeling track with a modern temperament. However, the true essence of ‘Play It Cool’ lies in its message— a pertinent and poignant response to a culture engrossed in Social Media and Technology. Based in Liverpool, the son of a cult record producer, Tom Powell aka Def.fo has been writing songs since the age of three. Enlisting an array of studio big guns for this artistic endeavour,  the track was mixed by Roy Merchant (Omar, M.I.A, Basement Jaxx) and mastered by Howie Weinberg (Nirvana, Kasabian, The Red Hot Chili Peppers).  The song is taken from his debut album ‘Eternity‘.



We love the psychedelic sound of ‘Play It Cool’. What led you to a life in music?


Nice one! I grew up around music – my Dad is a producer/engineer, and has had recording studios since before I was born, so music was always around me from a young age. There was always stuff he was working on being played around the house, as well as musicians calling round, so there was always that chance I’d be involved in music in some way or another.I began writing songs as a youngster, and that desire never left me – it’s just taken me a few decades to put something out there that I’ve written. That feeling of finishing a song you are proud of really is something else, and I don’t think that hunger to keep creating ever goes away if that’s what excites you.

In my early teens I got big into dance music and hip-hop. I used to make mixtapes with the really limited selection of 12” vinyl I had back then – which was a combination of about 5 trance records, plus my Mum’s collection from the 80s. On reflection, what I was doing was messy and pretty out-there – no one needs to hear a mashup of 99 Luftballoons v.s. Mauro Picotto, but I used to love spending hours getting lost in it all regardless!

Then in my mid-to-late-teens, I got more into bands – hearing ‘Someday’ by The Strokes was a defining moment, they were the epitome of coolness for me and my mates back then. I then had a coming of age playing in bands, which I continue to do all these years later!

What’s your creative process like? Where does the inspiration come from?


There’s a lyric in the title-track of my album ‘Eternity’ that goes “I’m sitting on a cloud trying to catch a song”. That’s exactly how I visualise inspiration – it’s all around us, you just need to be present and willing to harness it when it lets itself be known.

To be a bit more specific, the people you surround yourself with can be one of the greatest sources of inspiration – discussions can help to trigger a lyric or a concept or something, especially if it’s a topic that’s deep or abstract. Also, books, films, and TV series – taking something out of another universe and bringing it into your own is something I do time and time again. I think there is something great about boundless creation – I suppose it’s all an infinite butterfly effect of art inspiring art.

In terms of musical inspiration, I absorb whatever I’m listening to at any given time and tend to create my own interpretation of it. I’m a sucker for recording lots of short instrumental dittys that are reflective of whatever that might be. Many of these ideas get deservedly shelved, but the odd few turn into something I can work with.

Are there any collaborators on ‘Play It Cool’?


Alongside myself, there were three other people involved in the music for single. Firstly, my Dad Steve Powell – who is a local music legend here in Liverpool – we produced the record together. Jake Woodward – who is a fantastic drummer that can really groove, he plays with Nova Twins. Roy Merchant handled the mix – he has an impressive discography, and the illustrious Howie Weinberg mastered it – he has worked on many of my favourite albums.

What process is involved in crafting your sound?


Music for me is about experimentation – I’m forever trying to find something that initially peaks my interest and building on it from there. For example, discovering a guitar effect or sound that I really like can sometimes be enough to inspire a whole song.

My go-to favourite effects have been phase, chorus and tremolo – but I’m also always keen to try and use things I haven’t used before. I also love to put a bass through a guitar effect to see what type of wacky sounds come out!

In terms of recording, I like to be quite prepared, so I generally get songs quite far along in demo form at home, and then take them into the studio to really refine things and re-record anything that can be improved sonically.


What has been the most defining moment in your music career?


There’s been so many, it’s been a great journey! If I had to choose one, it’d have to be playing bass with Michael Head and the Red Elastic Band in Japan a few months ago. It was a dream come true, and an opportunity that I feel truly blessed to have been a part of, especially with such a great group of people.

The significance of the trip was heightened for me as playing in Japan was always a dream of mine. When I was eighteen a few lads who’d been in touring bands told me about their time playing over there, and how amazing it was. From that moment on it was my number one musical wish to play there, and that stuck with me. When I got the call about us going over to do some shows I couldn’t believe it! Plus, it lived up to and beyond expectations!

Any up-and-coming artists you are watching closely?


There’s a band called DEADLETTER who put out a brilliant single called ‘Binge’ which sounds like a contemporary Talking Heads. It’s a ballsy tune full of energy that you can’t just listen to the once – it’s bloody infectious!

On the local scene in Liverpool there’s a band called Keyside that put out a belter single recently called ‘Paris to Marseille’. They sound undeniably Scouse, but you can also hear The Smiths have played an influence on them too.


How does an artist such as yourself continue to refine themselves?


By being open to new things and experimentation – whether that’s by listening to new music, or by creating something that is completely different to what I’ve done prior, it’s all part of the journey!


What can we expect from def.fo in the foreseeable future?

I’m looking forward to releasing my debut album ‘Eternity’, which is out on 15th December 2023. From there I am going to keep recording and releasing music. I’ve already got plans for a second album, then a third after that!


Famous last words?

Don’t act a fool, just play it cool.



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