Thomas Blondet,
The TVD Interview

Being a musician and making a living at it ain’t easy, and there’s no better person to dish out advice than Thomas Blondet. Originally a DJ, then producer, Blondet is set to release FutureWorld on the Rhythm and Culture label. It’s officially out tomorrow, March 4.

He is also the co-founder of Rhythm and Culture, co-created with Farid Nouri. Nouri, too is a resident with the label and one of the founders of Eighteenth Street Lounge and Red (a dance club in DC from 1997 to 2005). The label’s mission is to inspire the community with “sultry infusions of soulful and exotic melodies.”

If he’s not DJing, he’s producing. If he’s not producing, he’s on an audio engineering project. But he was gracious to take some time out of his schedule to talk FutureWorld as well as some caveats that go with the tough business of being a musician.

Where does your affinity for global sounds come from?

I grew up all over the East Coast. I grew up in New York and Queens. And then I lived in South Florida, and we moved here to Virginia, the DC area, when I was 16, and now I live in DC, in Dupont.

So, we can conclude you have some colorful influences from moving around.

My mom is Croatian, so I hear a lot of that kind of music in the house. And I have other friends who were of different ethnicities and different nationalities growing up.  Hanging out at their house, we’d be upstairs with the parents in the living room listening to Indian music or Persian music. We’d go upstairs and listen to hip hop or house music.

This sounds like origins of your musical technique.

I was always mixing music together as a DJ, but going downstairs as kids, like in high school and middle school, we’re listening to hip hop and house upstairs, and downstairs your parents are listening to Croatian music.  It was natural to me to put things together like that just as a DJ anyway.

How did the idea of FutureWorld came to be?

It was a long time in the works….There are so many different projects on the album.  It was a bunch of different projects I was working on with different people, and different singers, and different languages, and stuff like that.

So, it was something that came just after the first couple of songs I did—I was like, maybe I should just keep this thing going with this idea and try not having just one specific type of music or any specific language or anything like that.

So, do you feel the title of the album is apropos for its content?

I kind of kept it open….The idea of the name of the album is more of where I would feel future music or future world music going.  That’s why I ended up calling the album that.  I felt like that was a “future world” [in itself]. I mean, you can take it any way you want.  I don’t know why I titled it that, but it just seemed appropriate. It’s a little bit of both—the future of the world and future world music.

ThomasBlondet-FutureWorld

Was the result anything like what you originally imagined?

There’s a lot of different languages on the album, and I have so many different songs that I’ve been working with.  Like, this one needs a vocal—I would like try different vocalists with different songs.  And some stuff worked with certain vocalists, and some stuff didn’t.  And that’s how the album ended up the way it is.

How do you get ethnic vocal samples that sound almost authentic?

I have this one song where, it’s this Indian Bollywood sample I have in there, but clearly I can’t use the sample, I would get in trouble.  So, I would find different people—”Hey, do you sing traditional Indian music? Maybe you can just re-sing something like this sample that I already have there to make it original.”

How do you juggle the roles of being a DJ and producer, respectively.

DJing and music production for me are like two different worlds. When I DJ, I play a different type of music because it’s a club and parties. And in the studio, I’m more chill and more relaxed, and I tend to play more stuff that I would listen to when I’m in my home or in my studio atmosphere.

Do you have any plans to put out vinyl more often?

You know, I would love to put out vinyl, and I’m not opposed to it, but I mean, realistically  nobody’s buying that kind of stuff.  [A group like the] Beatles can repress an album, and everyone will buy it.

So are your reservations more about the return of investment risk for smaller musicians?

It’s a lot of money to invest.  And, you know, realistically I’m not a huge artist and ask, “Do I wanna put up my money out of my pocket to put out vinyl when [I’m not sure] if it’s worth it, you know?”

I’m trying to put music out and trying to make some money so we can put out more music. I don’t wanna kill myself and bankrupt the label because we decided to put out a 12″ album that I know nobody’s gonna fucking buy. But I don’t have a definite answer.

Is the social media/open source/branding business model a major roadblock?

I don’t know. But why are these guys making money as DJs and putting out free music to download?  I mean, these guys are bragging, “I had 10,000 plays on Soundcloud.”  And it’s like, but you’re not getting anything from that other than the fact that you’ve got bragging rights. But that’s not something to brag about ’cause you’re not making anything off of that.

What sort of advice or pithy words would you pass on to local, smaller DJs?

I don’t think there’s any right way to do anything within the music industry in this day and age. There’s not.  There’s no right or wrong way. At least that’s what I noticed.

FutureWorld is an adventurous musical convergence of western and ethnic sounds. Get it this Tuesday, March 4 via Rhythm and Culture.

PHOTO: VIOLETTA MARKELOU

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