Never say we don’t give credit where credit is due. Tom Lea might work for the rival FACT, respected online purveyor of musical broadcasts, but he knows a thing or two when it comes to assembling tunage. When not charting the constantly mutating strains of UK bass, you can find him behind the decks, or running label Local Action with Phonica Records, putting out releases from the likes of T.Williams and Svpreme Fiend.
He dropped us this podcast, covering everything from future garage to Bulgarian acid house, and took time out for a quick chat.
1. 8bitch - Isis (forthcoming Seed)
2. Zoltan - Saltine (unreleased)
3. Altered Natives - Ohh my Zipper (Eye4Eye)
4. Kingdom - Bust Broke (Night Slugs)
5. Breach - Man Up (PTN)
6. Contakt - Not Forgotten (forthcoming Local Action)
7. Braiden - The Alps (forthcoming Doldrums)
8. Kink - Rachel (Ovum)
9. Damu - Mermaid (forthcoming Local Action)
10. T. Williams - Heartbeat (Mosca Remix) (forthcoming Local Action)
11. Funkystepz - Malibu (forthcoming Funkystepz)
12. Zoltan - Solden (unreleased)
13. T. Williams - Getting Mine (unreleased)
14. DJ Deeon - Let Me Bang (Jam City Remix) (Night Slugs)
15. Oni Ahyun - OAR-003-A (OAR)
16. Kink - Existence (Ovum)
17. Deadboy - Fireworks (So-mo house edit) (forthcoming Well Rounded)
What’s your musical background? How did you first get into dance music and latterly DJing?
I think the same as a lot people from London – the first music I properly loved, and more importantly followed was hip-hop. I liked all sorts before that, my dad had a ton of punk LPs that he used to let me play with when I was about 10 or 11, and when I was feeling particularly naughty I’d make sure no-one was around and read the liner notes of the Sex Pistols’ Some Product because it had breasts and swearing, but yeah, hip-hop was the first thing I really followed. This was the late nineties, so I loved Cash Money, Dre, Ruff Ryders, No Limit, Trick Daddy, Nas, E-40. What you’d expect I guess.
Garage was big when I was like 14 or 15, I didn’t buy any of the records but I used to download Heartless sets off Kazaa and stuff. I mean everyone liked garage then, everyone listened to Kiss, my mum probably still knows half the big tunes. I moved away from dance music a lot from like 17-19, got a lot more into noise, post-rock stuff like Godspeed, Neurosis-style metal. Swans. And then grime happened, and I completely caught the bug – it was like my garage I guess, because now I was old enough to understand it better, and go to raves, and buy records from Rhythm Division and Independence.
I did a radio show at university with a mate where we played a lot of grime – I mean nobody listened to it, we’d be playing Ruff Sqwad while getting requests for Feeder, but that was my first taste of DJing. I couldn’t beat-match at that point obviously, but it’s what prompted me to get a set of decks. A couple of years later, working for FACT, we started doing our club nights so I became one of the de facto residents and started getting the odd booking here and there stemming from that.
You’re known for keeping FACT Magazine a vital source of quality musical information, how do you keep the integrity intact – what’s your criteria for inclusion on FACT?
I dunno – we have a good team, we all have good taste in very different areas. Honestly, you should see the state FACT would be in if I ran it myself – it’d just be the Essential Electrik Red and the Essential Wiley on constant rotation, and nobody needs that.
Your tastes seem to be primarily on the bass music side but what other kinds of music and artists do you like?
Electrik Red and most stuff associated with The-Dream and Tricky Stewart. Cassie is a total queen, obviously. Swans are one of my all-time favourite bands, and I’ve always followed Justin Broadrick really closely. I really like what Tri Angle are doing, oOoOO’s ‘NoSummr4U’ is one of my favourite songs of the last couple of years. Neptunes are unbeatable when they’re on top form. MF Doom, Salem, Becoming Real, DJ Elmoe. I really like Young Smoke, this kid from Chicago. Aarabmuzik. Jody Breeze, who’s released this great EP on Ghettophiles. I probably love Drake’s music way too much, ditto Actress. Cold Cave, Forest Swords, there’s some amazing tracks on Teengirl Fantasy’s album. I like SunnO))) in theory but God knows I never actually listen to them. That’ll probably do.
You recently launched Local Action Records – what’s the label’s manifesto? What upcoming releases do you have?
I love music that gets the balance right between the centre of the dancefloor and the lonely corners of it, if you know what I mean. Tracks that are longing in one way but totally hype in another – stuff like ‘Hyph Mngo’, ‘Aidy’s Girl’, Deadboy’s tunes. I’m not saying everything Local Action will release is going to be like that; in fact, I don’t think it applies that much to the first and second releases on the label, but I think the music I naturally gravitate towards will always orbit that balance in some way.
Our third release is out on October 25, it’s a vocal house track called ‘Heartbeat’ by T. Williams from Deep Teknologi, featuring Terri Walker, who recently signed to Roc-a-fella. It’s backed with a Mosca remix, and it’s already had support from Four Tet, Martyn, Brackles and more, so hopefully it goes far. Both the fourth and fifth release are debut 12”s from massively talented artists that I’m very excited about. Both are on this mix; first ‘Not Forgotten’, by New York’s Contakt which is going to be backed with a very special remix that I shouldn’t talk about yet, and then ‘Mermaid’ by Manchester’s Damu, which is going to be part of a four-track EP, again with a remix.
Do you produce yourself?
Not really. I’m completely aware that once I do start I’ll then spend the rest of my life regretting the fact that I didn’t take the plunge earlier, but until then I'm happy to live in ignorance.
What’s next for Tom Lea?
Some lunch, work, a pint after work, and then probably some Pro Evolution when I get in. The whole thing will be soundtracked by Talksport, just to reassert my manliness.
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