Our inaugural interview of The Next Evolution sees us sit down with Walsall-born DJ & Producer, Tommy Vercetti. We discussed his recent inclusion in this month’s issue of Mixmag being described as one of the ‘Hot 6 of the Month’, his forthcoming release on Darius Syrossian’s Do Not Sleep label and his upcoming appearance at this weekend’s Foliee Launch Party at LAB 11, Digbeth in Birmingham.
First things first Tommy, we love the inspiration behind your artist name ‘Tommy Vercetti’ coming from Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. What made you select this name and why? What qualities would you say both yourself and Tommy Vercetti from GTA both share and have in common?
This is literally the question everyone asks when I meet them haha! Well basically, I was using my real name for a few years which is Tom Cox. I knew I had to come up with a name and it took me a few months to think of it and then one day, I’d downloaded GTA Vice City to my laptop just because I missed the game and thought: “You know what? I fancy playing that.” As soon as I started playing it, I heard the name again and again and it just hit me, I was like: “I’m going to use that.”
Myself and Tommy don’t really share much in common, especially with his criminal behaviour. But what I will say is we both like funky shirts!
With your father also being a DJ, it’s safe to say that music runs in your family. How did you first get involved with electronic music and what kind of an influence did your father have on your career?
Well, music has always been present with me. Not many people know this but I used to sing in the National Youth Choir when I was in primary school. I was well into football at the time I would go to choir practice and then my mum would have to pick me up and take me straight to football practice. It wasn’t until I reached my first year of high school that I started to pay attention to the DJing side of things because I was just so into football and choir singing.
I eventually quit the singing as it wasn’t the ‘cool thing’ to do, especially as I was just starting the big school. I started researching more about DJing and I asked my mum and dad for a pair of turntables. They said I could have some for Christmas which, at the time, felt like a life away and I just read magazines like DJ Mag and Mixmag right up until I got my decks. I would watch Youtube tutorials on how to beat-match and I didn’t even own decks.
My dad actually quit a few years ago prior to me getting decks, but the minute I got decks he started back up funnily enough. I use to go to this pub in Walsall with my dad called the Orange Tree and there was a computer there with some mixing software and a mixing desk and this woman who worked for the pub would put on a playlist and control the music. I asked if I could have a go and the guy behind the bar offered me a job to play every week. Myself and my dad went and fetched loads of DJ equipment the following day and we played there together every week – Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. I was 13/14-years-old at the time and most people my age were out on the weekend over the park but I’d be with my dad. Fast-forward things one year later and all my friends used to come and they would use their brothers and sisters I.D’s to get in… it was all we used to look forward to at school.
My Dad introduced me to all of this great music such as Motown, Disco, Reggae and all the dance classics which eventually inspired me into getting into electronic music. Garage and Speed Garage was huge at the time and that was the sound that eventually led me on to the path of House music.
Garage was the prominent sound for you when growing up but Mixmag recently described you as “Beaming house from the Black Country”. What appealed to you the most about house music and why? What artists influenced you to follow this particular musical path and why?
Well, Garage was the prominent sound back then and it certainly influenced me at the time. Artists like The Wideboys were great and I was massively into The Trotters. I think as you get older you just keep maturing with music and I was just looking for more new music and reading Mixmag every week. I was researching all of the new music which led to myself and my dad visiting Hard To Find Records in Birmingham. It is shut down now but we’d both just look for new music for hours… we had a good bond musically and he loved it just as much as me.
The artists who really changed it for me were people like David Morales, Roger Sanchez, Daft Punk, Todd Terry… all of the old school House lot. This was because I was massively into dance classics through my dad and that sort of sound can be heard with my music today.
Focusing more on this coming weekend’s proceedings at the launch party of Foliee on Saturday 5th November, what are you most looking forward to about this particular event and why?
Foliee is a good brand run by party people for the people. I’m good friends with the guys that run it and all the resident DJs create a really strong team and I rate them highly. Not only the brand, but the venue Lab 11 is one of my favorite venues and it’s home to many big brands. There’s a big buzz around the night and I’m playing in London the night before so it will be good to end the weekend off on home soil.
Foliee is brand new to the underground music scene of the Midlands and is further proof simply emphasising how flourishing the electronic music scene is in Birmingham currently. For those unaware of what the second city has to offer in terms of nightlife and artists, can you tell us a little more about Birmingham’s electronic music scene and why it is so positive at the moment?
It might sound biased but I think Birmingham occupies the leading position on the electronic music scene in relation to U.K. nightlife at the moment. There are so many parties going on and that isn’t the scene’s only strong asset, we have such a strong group of people who are willing to attend these events week in and week out.
There are wicked events that cater for food like Digbeth Dining Club which are organised by people who run parties, so it’s not all just about music. This all adds to the nightlife experience and adds culture to Digbeth. The acts being brought to Birmingham are worldwide acts, we really do get spoiled in Birmingham. Nights such as Portal at the Rainbow Venues along with 2:31, GlAS, Trmnl, Void, Social Underground and Amusement 13 are all doing their thing at the minute and each one is busy which is brilliant – there’s so much to choose from.
Regarding artists from Birmingham, we are never short of talent. There’s so many great acts such as local legend Marc Spence. But what sets Birmingham apart for me is the quality of the resident DJs, there’s so many wicked DJs on the scene currently. I actually look forward to hearing them play more than the headliners sometimes. There’s too many to mention name-wise but they all know who they are.
Switching gears now, you will soon release a brand new EP on Darius Syrossian’s label, Do Not Sleep. Can you tell us a little more about the story behind this concept and what you are trying to achieve with it?
This is a really big thing for me. I first went to Do Not Sleep last year and I set a goal that one day I would get an EP on Do Not Sleep. Darius is someone who I’ve always looked up to and he still is one of my favourite artists. So for him to ask me to do an EP for his label really is a dream come true. The EP consists of three tracks which are fairly different to what I usually make but still keeping the vibe I usually go for which is uptempo dancefloor tracks. Darius will be remixing one of the tracks which I am yet to hear but I can’t wait to listen to it.
As mentioned earlier in this read, such a positive description from Mixmag sees you included in their ‘Hot 6 of the Month’ for November’s issue. This follows your inclusion in Eton Messy’s ‘Top 5 Artists to Watch This Year’. What does this type of recognition mean to you on a personal level? How do you see your career progressing over the next year or so?
To hear things like this is so surreal to me, I can never be grateful enough to receive all of the nice things said about me. The Mixmag thing was mind-blowing and a dream come true. I’ve been reading Mixmag since I was in my first year of high school, so to be in it is just crazy. It really just drives me to do more and try and succeed to the best possible level that I possibly can. I guess it’s too early to say but I see the next year or so progressing with myself continuing to make music, getting on more labels, playing for more amazing parties and meeting great people along the way. I think the main aim of all this is just to have a good time and enjoy it while it lasts, you never know when it’s all going to stop.
Finally, in terms of musical talent, who do you think is a rising star of ‘The Next Evolution’ and why? How do you think their career and sound has evolved and what do you think the next year has in store for them?
I’ve said this from day one, there’s some guys called ANOTR who are friends of mine from Amsterdam. Each track they do is amazing and they’re such a good bunch of guys. They have blew up so much in the space of a year and there’s no stopping those boys.
Tommy will be playing at the Foliee Launch Party at LAB 11, Digbeth in Birmingham on Saturday 5th November – #EnterTheUnderground. You can purchase your tickets here. You can listen to Tommy’s latest releases and follow him on social media on the following links below.