Tomas Roels has enjoyed 8 years operating under his TMSV moniker, and in that time, has steadily built up a respectable discography on a select handful of flagship labels. Those include the now defunct Blackbox imprint, its sister offshoot Boxclever, and Artikal Music, the latter incidentally, serving as his new home after Blackbox went under. The unfortunate events at ST Holdings and Chemical Records saw TMSV adjust his outlook on where he stood musically, announcing a break from dubstep to venture into 160 ~ 170 bpm territory. At first, it felt like “another one bites the dust” scenario, a story that’s become all too familiar in the dubstep community, yet upon hearing the material of his new sound, one can easily forgive. [In hindsight, the signals of branching out beyond the 140 template had already come in the form of a self-released EP echoing the synth driven style championed by Kromestar and his Nebula Music cohorts]. The first of many releases to embrace TMSV’s new direction was advocated once again by Artikal in the form of the Hunter EP. The release, a 4-tracker of 165 jungle dub flavours, marked a first not only for the dutch wonder but for the label too. Initial reactions came in forms of various praise, some reviews calling it his best work yet, but the most rewarding of them all was surely Om Unit’s stamp of approval by signing TMSV to his own label, Cosmic Bridge. “I had to have these tracks. Just well produced good music that works on a system and isn’t limited by genre or scene rules” says Om Unit in the press release for “Over Out”, a 4-track EP featuring music for the open minded. Having kept in touch with Tomas over the years, we decided it was time for a proper catch up to discuss how finding his feet again in one of the most exciting areas of bass music was one of the best decisions he’s ever made. Of course, it wouldn’t be a TRUSIK feature without an exclusive mix full of brand new TMSV music.
TRUSIK: Easy Tomas, good to have you back brother, how’s it going?
TMSV: Hey! It’s going well, thanks. Busy times!
TRUSIK: We last spoke in 2013 when you had just finished your Bachelor’s thesis and had your eyes on a Law masters. With the masters now done and dusted, you’re back in the studio and fully on the music again. In the time that you’ve had off, would you say your outlook on the DJ producer lifestyle is the same as it was before, that is, a career in law hasn’t crossed your mind at all?
TMSV: Actually, not focusing on music as much – often because uni can be time and energy consuming – made me realise how much I’d changed with respect to being a DJ and producer versus being someone who just really loves music. I’ve taken up a part-time job so that I won’t have to worry about being “successful” as a producer as much as I used to: Instead of focusing on getting gigs or making music that will fit within certain expectations, I’ve decided that I wanted to go back to having fun making tunes. A career in law is certainly an option, but I’d have to find a starting point first.. I’m glad that music is going well at the moment.
TRUSIK: You mentioned a while back how refreshing it’s been to take a break from dubstep since shifting your focus towards 160 ~ 170 bpm. In hindsight, when did your relationship with that tempo begin to deteriorate to the point that you thought, “that’s it, I’m done with dubstep”. On the other hand, how is the new venture working out for you so far?
TMSV: Let me just preface this by saying I never wanted to quit dubstep forever. It’s hard to talk about this without sounding overly dramatic, but here goes: when Chemical Records went away, so did the labels I’d released most of my music on. This was around the time when the “dungeon” sound had gained a lot of traction. Because Black Box / Box Clever had taken me on when I’d just started to get an audience, I had no idea how to get back on my feet as a producer. A lot of the other guys on those labels just carried on making big tunes, started their own labels or got picked up by some of the big imprints, but I guess at that point I’d really begun struggling with deciding what I wanted from music. I kept making dubstep but I didn’t progress as an artist at all. On the other hand, I had a bit of trouble starting work on other sounds or projects and at a certain point I couldn’t finish an inspired tune to save my life. That’s when my output really hit a low point. After a while I’d taken enough time to listen to some other sounds, like the stuff on Cosmic Bridge, to get inspired again. The new sound is going well. 160 / 170 is the stuff I’ve mostly been focusing on recently, and most of my releases this year will be around those tempos, but I don’t want to pigeonhole myself again, so I try to just make what I want to make, regardless of tempo or genre.
TRUSIK: The Hunter EP is the first of many releases to come as a result of this new direction, and interestingly, the first release on Artikal Music to feature entirely 165 bpm music. Tell us a little bit about the creative process behind the tunes featured on the EP, and what you wanted to achieve with your first non-dubstep record?
TMSV: All those tunes were made around the same time. I tend to produce tunes in bursts, and I’m really happy these tunes are on the same plate together. They were made at the point where I’d just decided to focus on making music at that tempo, which makes for an interesting collection of tunes in relation to my earlier stuff, for me at least. The J:Kenzo remix of Hunter really shows how Jay feels about my music, and I’m glad he picked my music as the first uptempo Artikal release.
TRUSIK: You’ve just announced a forthcoming release on Om Unit’s legendary Cosmic Bridge imprint as well. How did that link up come about, and what can we expect to hear on the EP? Given this sound is a territory you will continue to explore, will this new signing extend beyond one EP?
TMSV: I’m so excited about this EP man. I’d been sending Om Unit tunes for some time, and just as I had realised that I was finally starting to feel comfortable with the new sound I was going to go with, he asked me if I wanted to release an EP on Cosmic Bridge (which has honestly been my favourite label ever since that first Om Unit / Kromestar release). I’m really happy with the timing, because the sound of this EP is another step in the direction I was going with the Artikal release. The EP is mostly footwork-inspired halftime jungle, with a lot of chopped up classic vocal samples, and then there’s the title track, which takes a lot from the sound of dubstep, while keeping that percussive jungle vibe. That’s a sound I’m really enjoying making right now.
TRUSIK: You just dropped a grime refix on a new label called Mo:zaïek. Is this another avenue you intend to pursue? Who’s killing it with the grime productions for you at the moment?
TMSV: Yeah it’s one of those grime instrumental tunes with really big bass stabs and all that. It was fun to make, especially since I started working on it right after making two other grime tunes. As you might be able to hear from the Stigma remix, I’m really into Bandulu and that sort of sound.
TRUSIK: We really rated the 1988 EP you put out with all those Vangelis-esque dystopian space opera synths. Quite a feat to challenge yourself with a project like that but you pulled it off with class and taste. Were you happy with the response it received, and do you have any plans to release a second chapter?
TMSV: Thanks a lot. The response to the 1988 EP was great and I’ve already got some music lined up for a follow-up. I’m probably not going to record as many cassettes next time though (laughs). I’m also thinking about releasing some sought-after tunes in that style that don’t necessarily fit in the 80’s vibe (Up Here, Hardware, Pillars and so on), so I might need to find a way to get those out there in between 1988 and its sequel or something. All in due time I suppose!
TRUSIK: It’s no secret that you are indeed still dabbling in dubstep and already have a new batch cooked up. Taking our earlier conversation into account, do you feel that you’ve found a new connection with the sound, and will dubstep remain as a secondary priority when it comes to studio time?
TMSV: I’ve definitely reconnected with the dubstep sound. I was so fed up with my own relationship to the sound and to the scene, that I forgot how much I loved making that kind of music. After rediscovering my love for producing tunes and with trying new things in the studio (full disclosure: seeing the Innamind crew in action on a system did help), I decided to try my hand at 140 again. I haven’t really stopped since. I’ll let the mix speak for itself.
TRUSIK: So it’s 6 releases already confirmed this year, so far? Congratulations. You must be pretty pumped with that result. It certainly gives credibility to your versatility as a producer and your ability to knock out big tune after big tune. What other ambitions or achievements, if any, do you have on your list for 2016?
TMSV: Yeah, that’s counting remixes. Actually, it might be even more at this point… I’d love to play out a bit more, because that’s something I’ve always really enjoyed doing. Right now, I really want to focus on making as much music as possible. I’ve decided to just push ahead without thinking too much. That’s what I’ve been doing lately and it’s worked out brilliantly.
TRUSIK: The practice of self-releasing sample packs for up-and-coming producers appears to be standard procedure these days. What is it that appeals to you the most to go through the trouble of putting something like that together for the community? The sense of fulfilment knowing your hard work is aiding others must be worth it in the long run?
TMSV: Sample packs are just a nice way to offer something to other producers who are into my sound. Aside from it being another way to make some money as a producer, it’s really useful for learning some new sound design tricks and for getting some perspective about my way of working. My sound often changes slightly after finishing a sample pack, because I became inspired by the effort I put into those individual sounds.
TRUSIK: What else can we expect from you in 2016, is there any other forthcoming material, interesting projects, or up and coming music gigs you can inform the readers on? What are the chances of another dubstep record this year?
TMSV: Things I can divulge right now: A show on Radar Radio, releases @ 130, 140 and 160-170, a couple of exciting gigs, lots and lots of new music.
TRUSIK: Thank you for your time Tomas, all the best with the forthcoming projects. Are there any final comments or shout outs you wanna share to wrap things up?
TMSV: Yeah, shout out to Om Unit, J:Kenzo and the Rua crew for putting out my new stuff, big respect to Mala who’s been playing my new dubstep tunes and big up Danny Scrilla for checking mixdowns and helping me regain confidence in my own music.
TRUSIK: A track…
by your favourite new artist: Taiko – Consecutive Normal Punches
you’re currently opening your sets with: Commodo – Russian Glass
you give the rewind treatment every time: Sam Binga & Om Unit – Windmill Kick
you would like to have a go at remixing: Cluekid – Hovercraft
TMSV’s debut EP on Cosmic Bridge “Over Out” is released June 24th and available to pre-order from the Cosmic Bridge Store.