Bringing Rhythm & Culture to DC: DJ Thomas Blondet
“Always smooth,” says house scene veteran Charles Gore about the set he just danced to by Thomas Blondet at the Eighteenth Street Lounge. Gore has followed Blondet since the days of Club Red because “He’s one of those guys who does it just right.”
“I always knew Tom was going to make it because he took a very serious approach to his craft and the business,” says house deejay legend and ESL resident Sam “The Man” Burns.
Blondet has played legendary parties such as Buzz, Fever and Pollen, and at clubs in Las Vegas and Montreal. He secured his place in DC dance scene history with residencies at Red, Five and ESL.
Blondet’s official production debut was “Into Me” featuring Apple Rochez on East Coast Boogiemen’s Odds & Ends label in 2004. With Red founder and ESL co-founder Farid Nouri, Blondet started Rhythm & Culture Recordings (now merged with ESL Music) which released his European Coaster EP (2005) and Echo Chamber EP (2006). In 2010 they released “The Sound of Rhythm & Culture,” featuring four original tracks by Blondet, followed by a remix album.
Says Nouri, “I met Thomas through the deejay circuit in the mid-’90s. He has an impeccable knack for keeping a crowd on the dancefloor. Thomas started engineering a couple of my tracks and the more we worked together, the more we started to bond musically. He’s been in the top tier of influential deejay/producers in DC’s electronic dance music culture for the past decade.”
Bill Lascek-Speakman of Pennsylvania dub and trip-hop band Second Sky, has collaborated with Blondet on remixes for artists including Balkan Beat Box, Fort Knox Five, Empresarios, Solo Modern, Ancient Astronauts, Craig Wedren, Brownout, and Thunderball. He said of Blondet’s production skills, “Thomas has an acute understanding of how recorded music affects people, and what will create the desired impact when building or mixing a track.”
On Tap caught up with Blondet at ESL where he’s played on Sunday nights since 2008:
ON TAP: Why is there sushi — Crunchy Tom B Roll (spicy tuna, cream cheese, scallions, spicy miso) — named after you at Current?
THOMAS BLONDET: I used to play drum ‘n’ bass there on Fridays when Current was Dragonfly. DJ Shoe who was there, too, used to order this sushi with tuna and cream cheese. He got me into it. I was so addicted to it that the chef said we’re just going to name the roll after you.
OT: How did your legendary Red residency come about?
TB: Sina Molaan, one of the Pollen promoters and a DJ Hut co-owner, said his friend Farid ‘is looking for deejays to play Thursdays, make a tape and I’ll give it to him’. I did, and they said you’re going to play every other Thursday and Saeed’s going to alternate. I was so attached to it. Red was a big thing in my life.
OT: When will the album you’re working on come out?
TB: Next year. I have twelve songs. Every song is probably going to be different from the others. It’s all electronic. There’s downtempo, reggae, Latin, Balkan, hip-hop, maybe a house track. Some might consider it world music, but it’s all kinds of different influences and stuff I like. I might do a moombahton album separate from this. We also plan an album of remixes I’ve done with Second Sky which will hopefully be out before the end of the year. The remix album for Second Sky’s “The Art of Influence” should be out in the next couple months, too.
OT: Describe your creative vision.
TB: As an artist, I like all kinds of music and I’ve been influenced by so many things. I love electronic music and the process of making it. I’ve always been interested in the technical side of things, so I think electronic music is a good way to express myself. In deejaying you have to please the dance floor. Making music is more like me. Sometimes when people hear what I make, then hear what I play, it’s so different. I could play all over town but I don’t feel comfortable playing music everybody plays. I can’t play music I don’t like. Here I have the freedom to play what I want, keep it true to what we believe in.
OT: Earlier this week you said you were working in the studio?
TB: Yeah, like I’ll chop up stuff, sample this, sample that, play stuff myself, take different loops from different sources. On that particular project I’m working with Second Sky so I might get the bass player to give me a real bass line, and I’ll add effects or whatever. The other day I was recording vocalist Sarah Vertino. See-I is also on that track.
OT: What inspires you?
TB: Sometimes I’ll hear stuff in my head, or I’ll hear a song and think, man, I want to do something like that. Sometimes I’ll just feel really creative and start experimenting, see what works, what doesn’t, just put everything together from scratch, turn it into something that I’m like where the hell did this come from? Sometimes it grows into something that I never would have imagined.
OT: You recently put out a bunch of moombahton on Soundcloud. Do you know Dave Nada (originator of moombahton)?
TB: Yeah, everybody knows each other in the scene, but first I heard one of his new songs online and I was like, oh, this is really cool, it has a reggaeton feel to it, and I heard he was playing at Velvet Lounge. I went in there like what the hell is this music, and people said, it’s moombahton, Dave Nada just started it. I approached him and said, dude, I really like this, what are you doing? I fell in love with it immediately. He came over to my studio a couple times. I’ll actually be playing at the next Moombahton Massive at UHall in October.
OT: As a scene veteran, why is dance music important?
TB: Dance music is a good way for people to come out and express themselves — letting yourself go, forgetting about your worries and the crazy shit that goes on in life — and for me to be able to express myself to people. I’m not that good at talking or writing. The best way I express myself is through music.
Catch Thomas Blondet at Moombahton Massive on October 26th at U Street Music Hall: 1115 U St. NW, DC or spinning Rhythm & Culture every Sunday night at the Eighteenth Street Lounge: 1212 18th St. NW, DC. For more information and music, please check out www.facebook.com/thomasblondet, http://www.rhythmandculture.com/, or http://soundcloud.com/thomas-blondet.