Tom Middleton of Global Communication and GCOM reveals the influences that inform his music making
“My mum was a ballerina, so expressing yourself through body movement was always a thing when I was growing up. Also at that time, all the films and documentaries that landed were showing graffiti, breakdancing battles in New York, then the East and West Coast thing, and what was happening in LA and that scene. My life, if you look at the history of how I’ve got to where I am now, has been changed by dance music, dancing to music, and creating music to dance to. And now it’s understanding why we dance to music and why music inspires us.”
“Sunday night on Radio 1 was like a religious experience for me. My dad bought me and my brother one of the very first Walkmans that had a radio and a recorder, so I’d be locked in every night taping John Peel, Ranking Miss P for reggae and Robbie Vincent for funk, boogie and soul.
“Then I went outside of that and found the pirate stuff. A guy called Boo – Sebastian Brownridge – his dad had a salon in London, so he’d spend time up there and he’d record Mike Allen on Capital FM and Kiss FM with all these tracks that none of us had ever heard down in Cornwall. We did have pirate radio of course, but it was a bit different… local Cornish peeps talking about the army, shipping and the weather, saying, ‘Be careful out there today when casting your net!’.”
RICHARD D JAMES
“We used to go to nights at The Bowgie Inn at Crantock in Newquay, a small pub with a nightclub attached to it. One Saturday night there was this really coiffured guy, wearing a leather jacket and a kind of 1950s slick quiff with short cut denim jeans. Richard was wearing that outfit – hilarious! His fans will be like, ‘What…?’.
“Anyway, he was playing tapes of his own music. ‘Human Rotation’ was the first track I heard and it was the most manic SH-101 hacked acid squelch distorted mindfuck. Then halfway through, Julie Andrews from ‘The Sound Of Music’ comes in and Richard flanges it to obliteration. We lost our minds and I beelined it to the decks. Richard and I got chatting and found we had a mutual appreciation for the same music and that, weirdly, we also share the same birthday. I said, ‘I’d love to learn how you make this stuff’.
“I went to his house and in his bedroom, lo and behold, he’s got two speakers suspended from the ceiling on wire chains. Richard was 18 or 19 years old, and he’d already found out that isolating speakers by hanging them from the ceiling was going to create a better sound. Out there! Totally out there. He’d go out into his garage and make beats by literally bashing cardboard boxes and bits of metal, recording to tape and then sampling them on a Casio FZ, pitching them up and down to make a new beat. That’s when I learned the art of creative sampling. My mind was opened to the possibility that anything you can hear can be turned into music.”
“I remember seeing ‘Star Wars’ in the cinema and having my first scaled-up audiovisual experience. I was actually just talking to one of the researchers I work with about the power of awe. You know, there’s a thing called the overview effect, which is a descriptive way of capturing what it feels like when you leave Earth’s atmosphere and look back. I think Branson and Bezos were talking about it recently – looking back and seeing Earth as this fragile thing, the floating blue sphere in space. Well, sci-fi did that for me.”
“My dad was a designer. I was at art school doing design and so the general idea was to just get a job in a consultancy. But then I met Richard and we started raving. My world suddenly expanded beyond doing graffiti and typesetting, and the idea that I was going to do package design for the rest of my life, which didn’t feel right at all. I started doing flyer design, creating record labels and immersing myself in club culture. That was the buzz for me.”
TOM, YOU’RE GLOWING
“These days, my mission is to use music as a therapeutic tool to help people who are suffering. I’ve had my own kind of health challenges over the years with touring in the late 1990s and 2000s, more so when I was doing remixing and DJing, which was relentless. I just needed to press pause.
“But it got me thinking about the response we had to Global Communication – the sort of music that was cathartic and therapeutic. I know people who listened to Global Communication to give birth to, because the tempo helped them relax. So I realised that if music can make you dance and it can also make you cry, then it can make you feel better.
“I’m doing a Master’s in neuroscience and behavioural psychology, trying to understand why sounds might trigger a psycho-physiological response in the brain. It’s not until now that I’ve gone back to the literature that the penny has dropped… like, ‘Ah, that’s why that track did that!’. Everything I’ve done has been through this lens of curiosity. I’m really just a science geek.”
A CHIP OFF THE OLD BLOCK
“My grandfather was a jazz musician playing in London’s underground jazz scene in the early 1950s. He lived in Brixton with the Windrush generation, a scene rooted in jazz and reggae, and staying up all night jamming in little whisky bars. I never met him, but I heard the stories, and I think there’s really no difference between that and an underground rave in Hackney. Then it was a bunch of musicians, now it’s a DJ and some vinyl.
“I definitely inherited an appreciation for sound. Growing up, we had a record collection spanning everything from The Beatles and the Stones to ELO, Queen, reggae and dub… and Tomita! The first album that had an effect on me was ‘Snowflakes Are Dancing’ around 1976. My dad sat me down in the stereo sweet spot between the speakers and played it to me. I suppose that’s when I got my first sensation of spatialised audio!”
GCOM’s ‘E2-XO’ is out on !K7