- Fri, 2005-08-05 16:20
Based round the instrumental and production skills of Tom Findlay and Andy Cato, Groove Armada have proved one of the most consistent British dance of acts of recent years. Refreshingly eclectic, they're happy to make music for both the dance floor and the sofa. From Superstylin and If Everybody Looked The Same to I See You Baby, remixed by Fatboy Slim, and the stunningly gorgeous At The River.
Now one half of Groove Armada - Tom Findlay (pictured far right) - has another venture, the first truly independent music download service, which was launched softly in April by Tom and an internet entrepreneur to coincide with the new combined singles chart and has already gained significant support from the industry due to its visionary approach to download culture with hundreds of thousands of artists and labels signing up.
On 28th July the site was fully activated. We caught up withTom at the launch.
“I Like Music because… it makes me more attractive to women.” Tom Findlay, Groove Armada
ILM: Your new site is the first truly independent record shop online. How did the launch go this afternoon?
Tom: It’s going fine, there’s quite a lot of people here. It’s not one of those embarrassing ones, where you only get 4 people and three of them are your friends. Lots of people drinking free beer. It’s going well. We’ve been on the map for a while, but there’s lots of specialist press here today.
ILM: How important do you think it is for those within the industry to commit to supporting Independent music and breaking unsigned talent?
Tom: I think it’s absolutely essential. I think most of the people who are producing the records for pop artists today have come from that sort of background, whether it’s people working with Gwen Stefani albums, like The Neptunes, they’ve come from that background and that’s the route new talent comes through. So we’ve got to be aware and nurture the independent sector, because without it you don’t really get the pop either. These days it seems to be that so much of music that’s really doing good business is the cultural independent stuff anyway.
ILM: When did you first realize the power of the internet to this end?
Tom: As soon as I became aware what the Internet was, around 10 years ago or so, it became clear to me that there were applications for music in it, whether it was having an online record store, because I’d often go to Australia and find that people in Australia couldn’t get some of the records we could get in London. And now TuneTribes.com, which isn’t about the physical product but is the same kind of thing, but it always seemed obvious to me, and I think it’ll become increasingly important. The situation I expect in the next ten years most of us will be consuming our music online and digitally, rather than buying from the traditional record stores. Although I expect people will still do that, but they’ll probably be more specialist niche stores. People just have busy lives these days, and the internet is just an incredibly convenient way of doing your shopping, as we know.
ILM: How did you meet John Strickland and how did the idea for Tune Tribe come to fruition?
Tom: He was my brother’s best friend when I was about five, so I’ve known him for quite a long time. John has been working in this sector for some time and saw an opportunity in music to bring his technology nouse into play. So it came up in conversation with him about seven months ago, which was nice, because the last time I saw him he was probably beating me up.
ILM: The service benefits customers but also artists, who get up to 80% share of royalties (far greater return than any other download site) so it’s a win-win situation. Tell me more.
Tom: The way that it works with major record labels at the moment is that they probably end up taking 80% of record sales from the artist, or even more than that, so it’s kind of flipping that on its head. In practice we can only really apply that to the unsigned artists who are on TuneTribes. We’re doing deals with all the majors, but those deals will be done on terms the majors have already established contractually with their artists, so there’s nothing we can really do about that. The dream for unsigned artists is kind of the eBay of music publishing. We’re trying to get this free flow of music, making a bit of money on every bit sold, but really the end-to-end process doesn’t really involve anyone else. Artists should be able to go online, upload their music, drop in their own visuals and text and sell to their own fanbase. So, at the moment it’s a kind of up and coming artist thing, but as the media develops it can also be a place where a lot of very established artists, who are maybe out of contract, might decide instead of signing a new record deal they might just sell their music exclusively online, and decide that a better way to do that is via TuneTribe than via their own site because we’ve got lots of people who are looking at the site to buy music anyway and have the technology set up.
ILM: Groove Armada played Lovebox recently, apparently the last time you intend to play your back catalogue of hits, how was that?
Tom: Well, it’s the last time we’re going to play our Greatest Hits set. They weren’t all hits, about eight of them were. But, yeah it’s great, really lovely. This is the third LoveBox festival, but the first we’ve done. It's in Victoria Park in Hackney, which isn’t where I’m from, but is where I’ve lived for the past ten years (well I don’t live IN Victoria Park but, you know what I mean). It was great, brilliant. And it was a massive step up from anything we’ve done in Clapham. It really felt like a festival and had that festival in London vibe. And we’ve all grown up with the experience of going to Glastonbury and remembering how magic that was. So we’re just trying to recreate a little slice of Glastonbury in Victoria Park, which I thought we got closer to doing this time. It was a lovely festival and a lovely vibe, so I was well happy with the weekend, and the bands were terrific as well.
ILM: Groove Armada: The Best Of is out now. What’s been your best Groove Armada moment, and which is your favourite GA track?
Tom: It depends album to album, but there’s a sort of certain way… we always have samples in our music somewhere, we always do the loop or some sort of idea and then build around that or take that out. So we're basically magpies really; loving magpies.
ILM: Yeah, but, it’s about bringing out all the best things together and making something new.
Tom: Well, that’s what I think and I’m glad you think that too.
ILM: Well, I hope you keep doing that for many years to come!
Tom: That’s the plan. In fact, we’re going to start working on a new album at the end of September. Andy’s wife just had a baby so I think he wants to enjoy that for a while.
ILM: Describe your best Groove Armada moment.
Tom: Probably the first time we played Glastonbury. That was quite special, then last year and we did the main stage at Glastonbury on Friday evening, and that was really brilliant. I always like Glastonbury gigs, because then I know I’m going to have three brilliant days as well. Both those times we played are up there.
ILM: And what’s your favourite track from the Best Of album?
Tom: Chicago. It’s an instrumental track, but it’s a big live track for us. It’s the track we always start our sets with, even though we’ve tried changing it, every time we change it the set's never as good. Since the first gig we ever played live we’ve already played that song first, I don’t know why, but it always seems to get the evening set up in the right way.
ILM: It’s your lucky track then.
Tom: It is our lucky track. If someone took that away from me I’d just panic; couldn’t do a gig without it.
ILM: You’ve run your own club and event, opened for Elton John in 2000, made great music and traveled the globe. What other ambitions do you have left to fulfil?
Tom: I’m working on not a solo project, but a non-Andy project with someone else, and I’d really like to get that album away to some extent, to do that under a couple of different artists names would give me a lot of satisfaction, and it’s music I really like. I’ve got real ambitions for this project, so that’d be really cool. And I’d really like to get this Lovebox Weekender established as a festival that could run for years and years, that’d be really nice, and I could probably retire then.
ILM: You’ve collaborated with the likes of Neneh Cherry and Sunshine Anderson – do you have a dream collaboration on your list?
Tom: Prince. He’s a genius. He could either do a ballad or something lewd. But I think he’s a Jehovah’s Witness now. So unless he knocks on my door one day, I’m not sure how likely that is…
ILM: You’ve got a residency at Space in Ibiza. Can you tell me what you enjoy most about Space and most about Ibiza, and also your most memorable Ibiza experience?
Tom: It’s kind of as close to paradise as you can get. There’s something to do at all times of day, everything that you ever want is there or thereabouts: great restaurants, fantastic beaches and music. It’s just a special place, but it can also be quite dark at times. But it’s just close to paradise really. And, without sounding too much like a hippy, there’s a kind of energy on the Island when the minute you set foot off the plane it’s tangible.
ILM: What is your advice for DJs on securing residencies? Or tips for people getting into the industry?
Tom: The best thing to do is start small and work up. Get a club night going, work hard at it, lean heavy on your friends to make sure they come down the first few nights and make a record. There’s so many brilliant DJs and so many DJs out there who are absolutely rotten, but because they’ve put a couple of good records out they get the gigs. But in a way that’s what promoters want, they need to put bums on seats, so they need to know there’s a name on the flier that people will recognize. So the easiest way to start a DJ career is to make a good house record. And it’s so easy these days, it’s not very expensive, so get yourself a little set up and make a record. that’s probably the easiest way in these days.
ILM: At I Like Music we have a policy whereby, if you don’t like someone’s music, we won’t write about them, so we don’t slate artists work. Do you think more music publications should have that policy; after all music comes from the soul?
Tom: Yeah. I do. Music is an emotional thing. I’ve been a victim of really heavy sneery journalists and my advice is, if you don’t like something, don’t review it. I think there’s this whole strain which is particularly prevalent in music journalism, which isn’t really there in fashion journalism and so on, where people just write the most awful things about people. I’ve had the most awful things written about me, I’ve got over it now. But I never read my own press. I agree. If you think something’s dry and dull then just don’t put in on your pages. My wife writes about fashion and she seems to be nice about everybody.
ILM: What are you listening to right now?
Tom: There’s a lot of good stuff around. I’m very excited about Secret Sundaze. They’re promoters that played at our festival and they’re very much in the vanguard of the electro-house scene, so that’s all really exciting and it feels like dance music is getting its act together again, with stuff like that coming through. And German label Physical are great. And these producers called Switch, who have a label called Free Range records, they’re probably my favourite house producers at the moment. And then listening albums, I’m very much enjoying Employment by The Kaiser Chiefs, that’s probably my favourite album of the year. I think they’re brilliant. They’ve got a great name and I thought they were fantastic at Live 8 in Philidelphia. Really amazing to go up there and do a gig when nobody knew who they were and just give it some welly, so I’m really trying to get them to headline and curate Lovebox Rocks on Sunday. And you won’t see Groove Armada anywhere near the main stage that night. It’ll be brilliant.