Since becoming Beatbox team world champion with Joel Turner in 2005, Brisbane’s Tom Thum has elevated the art of beatboxing to new heights via TEDx talks (with views in the millions), a string of awards and near-constant international touring.
Using only his voice and a bevy of loop stations Tom conducts DJ sets of jaw-dropping disbelief, as he re-creates and remixes classic joints and jams from all eras and genres. He’s collaborated with nearly every type & variety of musicians & artists, from orchestras to Hip Hop legends to Disney.
Tom pushes the limits of the human voice as far as inhumanly possible, and has been an ADAM user for several years now.
A recent relocation to the leafy Ugarapul country just west of Brisbane has brought the opportunity to construct a purpose-built studio nestled in the trees.
Part beatbox-lab, part multi-media production hive, the studio is a cabin-like environment filled with natural light and the tools of the beatbox trade - boom-arms holding microphones of all descriptions and monitor screens everywhere you look.
Constantly developing new sounds and producing videos, Tom is in the midst of writing & recording new material while enjoying a rare break from touring.
Federal Audio spoke to Tom about the his studio, ADAM A77X monitors and his hectic career.
You recently built a dedicated free-standing studio room at your place, are you still tweaking the sound or is it ‘there’?
It’s not quite there just yet, but ironically everyone is probably going to listen to my videos off their IPhone while on the toilet. So as much as I try and perfect my room sound I’ll never be able to prepare for the inevitable bathroom acoustic listening environment.
Whats your favourite thing about working in this space- and does it have a name?
It’s called the “Hide.” Essentially I just wanted to create a space that mimicked a traditional birdwatchers hide. Something with a nice view I could always look out on and feel refreshed. And definitely one of my favourite things is definitely all my avian visitors. It’s a really nice way to balance out my vitamin D deficiency from staring at screens all day.
How much of the construction work did you do yourself?
All the structural and engineered work was done and signed off by a builder but all the interior design and woodwork was done by my father and I. Jigsawing was a skill I never knew I had. I would definitely not trust myself with any calculations that would stop a roof caving in on me though haha.
What do you like about the ADAMs in this room?
They feel like the perfect size for the environment I’m in and they keep me honest with myself, never boosting anything to make my mixes sound unrealistically banging. I have been using these monitors for years now and I feel like I know their sound like the back of my hand. My right hand.
You spend a lot of time developing new sounds with your voice. What are some of the special requirements of monitor speakers in this process?
Just to hear exactly what’s going on. In a live scenario I want something that’s going to make me sound as good as I possibly can, but when I’m mixing and putting out music I really want no detail of the sound to be lost. I can really count on my monitors to give me everything that’s going into the mic without colouring the sound at all.
How important is sound quality in your production work?
INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT. There are so many super amazing beatboxers that don’t have access to high quality gear so that’s the only thing giving me an edge at the moment. I’d get eaten alive if they did haha.
What are you working on right now/What’s on the horizon?
I’m just about to release a solo EP from a few years back as well as working on a fresh one. I also have a studio album with an orchestral project I have been working on set for release sometime soon as well.
Whats the secret to your work ethic? Where does tour drive come from?
Unbridled hyperactivity and an incessant need to be the most annoying person in any situation I’m placed in. Also I just genuinely love the path I have chosen so passion is my petrol at the moment, I honestly couldn’t think of anything I’d rather be doing so that is a great motivator. The only thing that makes me over extend is a want for more trees and more space, give me a secluded spot in the rainforest somewhere to work from and I’ll be Buddha level enlightened.