MW: Thank You once again for agreeing to this interview.
TCH: No worries, man.
MW: Your real name is Tomasz Charuk - do You happen to have Polish roots?
TCH: Close - my grandfather was born in Minsk. I wa born and raised here in Australia. I keep my name Tomasz, instead of Thomas, as kind of a family tradition.
MW: How did it all began? Your fascination with hip-hop and beatmaking?
TCH: When I was 14, I was a skateboarder. I met a guy who used to carry cassette mixtapes with him. When I asked him what he was listening to, he would give me mixtapes. No case, no labels, just the tape... So I had a crazy collection of tapes with mostly New York hip hop, early 90’s stuff, like Gang Starr, Nas, whole Duck Down crew… All the good shit. From that – one Christmas I asked my parents to buy me a turntable. Also, I started collecting records - just straight hip-hop releases. And through that I was finding what tracks were on these mixtapes. I was around 16 then... From that, I started DJ’ing at house parties etc. My record collection grew, I kept delving deeper into the underground stuff, I wasn’t interested in commercial sound. I think, through skateboarding and having this underground affiliation I just really stuck to the DJ’ing. I thought I should start making my own music. Growing up, I played a little guitar, bass and drums. I thought – I can do this! I got my first music production programme, something similar to Fruity Loops, but not FL specifically. And so, I started sampling my Dad’s collection – he had a good collection of old psychedelic rock and little bit of jazz and blues.
MW: Who was Your biggest influence? Whom did You listen to, when You wanted to learn more about production, trying to develop Your own sound?
TCH: I have J Dilla poster on my wall – but I never really got to him until later on. I mean, I’ve listened to his music on these label-less mixtapes, so I didn’t know anything about him. There were a couple – 6 songs from these tapes I absolutely loved. I turned out one of these songs was “Runnin’” by The Pharcyde. I didn’t know that then, but I had to find out what this song is. There was a record store in Sydney, called Next Level Records, I started going there with my walkman, and giving it to the guy behind the counter to listen and recognise these songs and artists and their affiliations. That was a big help. So my influences were obviously Jay Dee, Preemo... There are just too many to mention. But definitely Pete Rock. I absolutely slayed the first “Petestrumentals” tape. Listening to that album – that was the period where my production went into fruition. I learned a lot, listening to it. I have a lot of friends who play instruments, and from listening to “Petestrumentals” I’ve realized that I can lay over the real instruments rather than just sampling. That’s where my style comes from.
MW: The more You learned, the more You produced – and then You met the guys from Thundamentals.
TCH: Yeah. I went to school with Morgs, the other producer of Thundamentals, and I was kinda doing some music with Tuka already. We were all skaters, beside Jeswon. Tuka and I actually played some shows, before Thundamentals were even formed. Then Morgs got stuck in DJ’ing a little bit. We met Jesse in Blue Mountains, where we from – he just moved from Spain, he’s half-Spanish, half-English - and we formed a crew. We weren’t called Thundamentals then, we named ourselves Connect 4. There were five of us, three producers, two MC’s – which was kinda odd. Thundamentals spawned from that – Morgs and I on production and turntables for the show, and MC’s Jeswon and Tuka.
MW: And then came the first album, “Sleeping on Your Style”.
TCH: We got an EP before that, just called “Thundamentals”.
MW: How do You remember creating this album?
TCH: Morgs and I were living together, so we would just throw beats back and forth, like a cycle: one of us would go to work, the other would keep producing, and switch. We did the EP and quite a few shows, in Sydney for example. People started to buzz on it. So we decided to do a full-length album. It took us about a year to put all these beats together. Jeswon and Tuka picked the beats – and we went from there.
MW; But You didn’t produce the second album, “Foreverlution”…
TCH: No, between the albums I had to jet. I wasn’t really feelin’ Aussie hip hop vibe, especially loving the trueschool sound. I wasn’t the fan of the accent, I’m still not a big fan of it. But I can appreciate it now.
MW: So that’s when You decided to stick to producing. Have You thought about it from the beginning? To create an instrumental album of Your own?
TCH: Definitely. Around 2005 I produced a record "The Sleuthound Fiasko" with my friend Greg Danos. I always loved producing instrumental beats, and when Tuka came along, I kinda felt “obliged” to make rap tracks, but I feel my production style leans definitely more towards instrumental tracks. I’m not sure why.
MW: How did You connect with American rappers and labels? You had the chance to cooperate with many great underground artists….
TCH: Simple. One day it just dawned on me: “I really want to work with these guys, I don’t know how to approach them, but I will approach anyway”. So via Internet – MySpace, Facebook – I just gave them a little spiel about what I was doing, where I was from and what I want to do with a project. I didn’t get enough back that much, You know? I hit up like 10 rappers, maybe 4 of them answered that they’re too busy or it’s too expensive – some of them wanted a big money from me, a guy working in the coffee shop. I just couldn’t afford it. Because I didn’t have a name, there was no room for negotiations. But there were reasonable guys that wanted to work with me, I’ve sent them a few beats – in particular, Journalist… and Prince Po – he’s always keen to work, he’s all for the cause of making beautiful hip-hop music. I really appreciate it. There was a guy doing the marketing for my first album in the US – he’s a good friend of mine from L.A (but now lives in New York)… And it turned out Prince Po lived next door to him. So when he told me he’s gonna ask Prince Po, I couldn’t believe. It was all luck. I got incredibly lucky.
MW: Before the release of the second album, “Outer Circle Movements”, You pretty much got the name for yourself. So now, do You contact American rappers, or do they contact You?
TCH: No, they don’t contact me. But I would definitely contact them again, especially the likes of Oddisee or Journalist, whom I write to occasionally, to say what’s up. But I haven’t done any international music for a couple of years now. But I’m hoping to get an album out early this year. So I’ll try to get all my contacts. It’s like this saying: “It’s not what You know, it’s who You know”. Hopefully they can point me in the direction of some other guys willing to work with me, some up-and-comers… We’ll see how it goes.
MW: You mentioned earlier, that You want to try some new sounds, new kinds of music… So You created a new band, Peaks. Can You talk a little more about it?
TCH: It’s a project of mine and my friends. I did a remix album for a friend of mine, Justin Hunter, who is a classical pianist, he has a couple of albums. I heard one of them – pretty short, about 10 tracks – he gave me all the sessions and asked, if I can put some beats on to them. So we did that, we called it “Keyism”, it's available on iTunes. Then his good friend Kearna – she’s a great singer, she’s got an amazing voice, You wouldn’t believe – heard the beats and said: “Maybe we should do something with this – together”. We did an EP called "Staggered Hearts" for starters, first five tracks, we’re fleshing things out.
MW: What are Your upcoming projects?
TCH: I got this Pegz’ album coming out – Pegz is the owner of Obese Records, he’s been very instrumental in Australian hip-hop scene. I think people will definitely be drawn to the album, he hasn’t released any project for 4-5 years. It’s very close to the finish. And of course, there will be the next The Silent Titan’s album.
MW: Can we expect some more musical experiments, like PEAKS?
TCH: Definitely. I’m keen to delve into another genres. As much as I love sample-based hip-hop, I’d love to do some more instrumental, perhaps with female vocals.
MW: Do You have a message for Your listeners in Poland?
TCH: Man, I wanna get out there! I have my roots there. I hope You guys like the music. I think it’s really accessible for hip-hop lovers worldwide.