I was lucky enough to interview Tom and have him answer a few questions of mine.
row1: How long have you been making music for, you didn't buy the Akai MPC 60 * brand new did you?
TOMC3: I have been doing music for a long time. I started in elementary school, around 2nd or 3rd grade, playing drums.
I later studied Jazz Drumming, after High School, under a well known teacher by the name of Robert Kaufmann.
So, I guess I have been doing some sort of thing with music since I was 8 or 9. So I would say about 25 years I been making some kind of music.
As far as the type of production that I do now, I started doing that around 1988 or so. That's when I got into sampling records and stuff like that.
I did not buy the MPC 60 brand new. I wasn't that rich! Ha ha. Back then the MPC 60 sold for like 3 or 4 thousand U.S dollars brand new. I was fortunate enough , however, to buy be able to buy the AKAI S950. And I starved to get that! That was the first sampler that I owned and that's what I learned EVERYTHING on.
row1: Do you have anyone who you feel has influenced your style?
TOMC3: Yes! There is a lot of people who have influenced my production style.
Overall, I would have to say Paul C.
But the rest, in no particular order, would probably be like most sampling producers influences. That would be Sam Sever, Bomb Squad, Dust Brothers, Prince Paul, 45 King, Ced Gee, Mantronix. All the legends!
TOMC3: Well, going back to around 1994 or 1995? Chester aka Dopestyle interned at a radio station by the name of KZSU and the DJ happened to be Kutmasta Kurt. They clicked and began working on a demo together.
So that being said, Dopestyle already had a working relationship with Kurt dating back 10 years. I have known Dopestyle since High School and we were in the same "Rap" groups together.
We made a lot of demo's together back in high school that never got heard!! I think for a reason! HA HA!! I started doing my own thing and I gave Dopestyle my own demo to give to Kurt because I wanted to be down as well. To make a long story short, Kurt dissed my demo!!
We went our separate ways and then in around 1999 I saw him out of the blue on campus at the college I was attending. Turns out he was attending as well. Turns out he had been living on the same street as me for years and we didnt even know it! So, basically we made a 3 song demo and presented it to Kurt.
I thought he wouldn't like it because he dissed my stuff not that long ago. Well, he ended up liking it and was interested in doing an album. So that's how that came about.
row1: How did the Project Polaroid concept come about?
TOMC3: Well, I met Keith doing the Dopestyle album. We did the song "Wedgie" together. And I knew after that I wanted to make an album with him.
So, I began making tracks with Keith in mind. I wanted to create something that had a cinematic feel to it. I really enjoy listening to soundtracks and scores to movies, so I wanted to do something that was somewhat related to that.
I didn't necessarily want to make a conceptual album, I just wanted to make a record that had a consistent feel to it.
I told him that I was looking for him to do some Sci-Fi and off the wall stuff, but I didn't want him to curse as much and use his typical vocabulary.
He said, " I know what you looking for ". And he responded with what you hear on the album!
The name "Project Polaroid" wasn't coined until the last session. We had just finished recording in San Francisco and I didn't have a title for it. So I said, "Keith, what should we call it?" and he just replied "Project Polaroid". So that was the birth of that! Then we made that intro track on the album right after that.
row1: Speaking of movie soundtracks, did you ever check out Dan the Automators "Bombay The Hard Way: Guns, Cars And Sitars"?
TOMC3: I do own Bombay the hard way. I like it! Its pretty funky.
row1: The Project Polaroid sound is very distinct, it's got guitars, violins, flutes, pianos and other instruments not traditionally found in a hip-hop release. Did you and Keith decide from the start what the album was going to sound like, or did it just evolve?
TOMC3: Well, thanks. I take that as a compliment!
Well, first of all I just see music as good or bad. I don't really like to categorize stuff. Like, this is Hip Hop or this is Rock etc..
I think that tends to hold people back. By opening your ears and mind to different sounds your able to incorporate them into your own work. I think that helps me with my production in that I see no limits to what I can use or do. I don't just listen to the same type of music all day. I listen to all kinds of shit. If I listened to one style of music all day it would drive me crazy!
Well, I guess we kinda decided what it was going to sound like from the start. I kinda dictated that , I guess.
I had a mental picture of what I wanted it to sound like before we even started.
row1: How many tracks did you and Keith originally record for Project Polaroid?
TOMC3: Well, we pretty much recorded what you hear on the CD!! I was originally gonna take off "I'm Libra", but I decided to leave it on.
row1: Are there still plans to release an EP of the unreleased and remixed tracks?
TOMC3: There isn't any unreleased tracks, so that isn't going to happen! Ha ha...
As for remix stuff, I am going to remix some tracks and have others do some.
Maybe get some UK and Australia guys to do some remixes. I like the P Brothers stuff a lot. Plus guys from here like my man the Specialist. I will probably release it in small runs. Maybe 1000 or so. I might get Motion and Del to drop new verses on there as well. We'll see.
I am going to post some remixes up for free download soon though.
row1: From the sounds of it Keith and yourself get along quite well, has there been any talk of future work together?
TOMC3: Yeah , Keith is fun to hang around with. When he comes to SF we go to this Chinese restaurant called Brandy Ho's. He loves that place!
We'll probably work together again. Not this year, he has too many releases going on! Ha ha...
Maybe next year. If Project Polaroid sells well, then I would love to do a second one.
row1: Originally there were plans to get Mr. T to do the intro for the track 'Clubber Lang', did you ever listen to his rap album 'Mr. T's Commandments'?
TOMC3: No, I haven't heard it. Thanks for telling me. I gotta get it!! I have a Mr. T bobble head though. You have that?
I'm gonna get that A-team DVD release as well. I used to have his action figure, but my Mom threw it away a long time ago when she cleaned out all my toys!
row1: Are there any plans for a Project Polaroid Tour?
TOMC3: That depends on Keith. If he wants to do it, we can get the shows no problem. We'll have to wait and see.
We are doing a record release party out here in San Francisco on June 19th. Kinda late for a record release, but oh well. A lot of people don't know about the record yet anyway. It kinda got swept under by the Nogatco record. We should have called it Mr. Moood instead! Ha ha...
row1: You produced a track "No Name" for Motion Man and the Japanese group Kaijin. It seems like quite a random collaboration, how did that come about? Did you and Motion go to Japan to check out the hip-hop scene?
TOMC3: Well, that came about because I actually produced their whole album. I met them here in San Fran. They were into the Dopestyle album and asked if I would be interested in working with them. So I brought Motion Man and Jihad into the project as well.
Motion has yet to go to Japan, but I have been there numerous times. My Mom is Japanese so I have been going there since I was a kid. The Hip Hop scene in Japan is just like here in a sense that they have the "Underground" kids and the "Hip Pop" kids. They don't really listen to as much American stuff as they used to because they have their own groups now. They got better in that sense and just created their own thing.
row1: Your currently working on "Ernie Drastic" with Motion Man and Del tha Funky Homosapien. Have you got any more info about this? What sort of sound can we expect to hear from this?
TOMC3: They are actually two separate projects. Ernie Drastic is an album that Motion and myself are working on. It's totally different from his album that is about to drop and all the stuff he has previously released. I cant really disclose much because Motion will get pissed off at me. I can tell you that its more personal. That's about it. And also, it probably wont be released until way later this year, since he has "Pablitos Way" coming out soon.
The Del and Motion album. That is an album that has more upbeat type tracks. Its like got a late 70's funk sound to it. Not quite disco and not quite funk. That in between sound. I had a song that we did called "Humongous" posted on my myspace for a minute. Just to let a few people check it out. It was a ruff that wasn't really finished. A teaser!
Hopefully we will be finished with this before mid summer. I have no idea when this will be released either. But, I can tell you that it's gonna be like something you have never heard! Ha ha...
row1: What albums have you been listening to lately, apart from Project Polaroid is there any albums you would recommend checking out?
TOMC3: Well, lets see. I recently bought the Ghostface Killer "Fishscale" album. Its pretty dope. Especially that song "Big Girl". I love that !! The new Depeche Mode album is pretty good. Danger Doom, but everybody knows that already. I'm waiting for the new Portishead record. I hear they are working on a new one. That should be interesting. The Beck album and remix album Guerolito is pretty good. That new Mikey D with Paul C. Other than that, I'm mostly anticipating releases. Gnarls Barkley etc...
row1: Is there anything else you want to say?
TOMC3: I would like to say, don't be afraid to be yourself. Don't be a biter.
*TOMC3 uses the Akai MPC 60 which was released in 1988.
A big thanks to TOMC3 for taking time out for this interview.
Project Polaroid is a fantastic album and is sure to become a Kool Keith classic, so support the album, buy it and hopefully we will see a follow up.
Keep an eye on TOMC3's webpage http://www.tomc3.com/ for future news and downloads.
All the best to Tom!