Some time ago I received an promo from an totally unknown Dutch project, called TDW. After some initial reluctance I was totally blown away by the sheer quality and diversity of that album. TDW’s main man Tom de Wit was more than willing to explain everything surrounding this remarkable musical venture and everything surronding it. The result of that you can find in this interview.
Hi Tom, thank you for doing this interview. You seem to be a busy fellow when it comes to music. You’re running your own music collective/syndicate, you’re a studio engineer and you’re a capable vocalist/musician as well. How do you manage to keep up such a work load?
Hey Ray! (and the readers out there!) A very good question to start with and to be honest, I think that it just has to do with how my mind works. As you might have heard/read I am an HSP and I think that the chaos I carry around in my head just translates itself into this crazy working ethic. And really I don’t mind it at all, I love the work I am doing and it gives me energy so in a certain sense it sustains itself.
Recently you released Scrapbook, an album which totally blew me away. Can you tell something how it came about?
Scrapbook was a reaction to my last record The Haunts which I released in 2008. The idea of working on a record with multiple writers/collaborators came out of an urge to get myself out of my musical comfort zone. The Haunts took a lot of my creative inspiration and when I finished it I had this terrible feeling of not being able to write a new album again. However as a response to this feeling I decided that working together with other people would be the best way to re-invigorate myself mentally and so it happened that Scrapbook was born in the form it is now.
The amount of musicians involved is quite impressive, it even reminds me of Ayreon. How was it like to work with them and what did they bring to the album/project?
Well, working with these musicians was very interesting and educational. I have known all these people for varying lengths of time and getting them all together on one record is a personal victory, considering they are all very dear to me as friends next to their possession of obvious musical qualities. Everyone had a different way of doing things and that sharpened my mind a lot in the sense that I now am able to look at songs from multiple angles and perhaps “borrow” some of these people’s tricks here and there, haha!
However what this group of different individuals brought to this record is inspiration and life. I could’ve never written some of the songs that you hear on the record on my own, because I would just not be able to get into that mindset. These people pushed my boundaries all in a different way and therefore this record became as diverse as it is and I know for fact that my future material will be better and more diverse because of this experience.
This is not directly the case as Scrapbook is not a concept record. However there are some songs that are connected by theme here and there, for example Voided Eyes and Needled Meditation which both deal with being a hospital patient or Cathedral Of Loss and The Fine Art Of Perseverance which are based around dealing with pain and agony in life. And obviously the opening and closing pieces are connected as they represent one piece in total with some lyrics being shared.
One of the things I love about Scrapbook is the diversity of the song material. There are traces of Porcupine Tree, Pain Of Salvation, Tool and Ayreon. Which bands/artists while making and recording the album?
All of the above artists/bands you mentioned are definite influences for me! I love all of them! But there was (and always is in my life) a fair bit of Dream Theater, Symphony X, Frank Zappa, Toto (yes the 80’s pop band, shoot me!) and much more progressive and alternative music. The music you write as a songwriter is most of the time a reflection of what you listen to and it just so happens that I listen to a lot of different stuff at the same time, so therefore my music ends up being so weird, haha!
How did the creative and recording proces go for Scrapbook and what did you learn from it?
Writing for Scrapbook started in late 2008 after the release of The Haunts and took till early 2010 to complete. This obviously had to do with the many different people involved and schedules not working along with each other, haha! Each musician joined me in my studio to record and write their ideas and then I would take their ideas and create songs out of it. Some people only provided me with a bunch of riffs (which allowed me to do everything with it that I would want.) and some almost provided me with complete songs which I only had to sing to. It was a very diverse process and I am still very happy about the fact that it sounds like “one album” because of the fragmented approach we took while recording all of it. I guess you can hear that even though I am working together with such a diverse set of people, there is always my stamp on the product in the end.
I learned as I said before, to get myself out of my comfort zone and experiment with genres and ideas that I did not even dare to do before. I would’ve never written a song like Monkey Business by myself for example, but I am so very happy with how it turned out in the end!
How do you approach the songwriting proces from a personal and musician point of view?
Songwriting is something that basically just happens to me. The moment I have fired up my software, hold my guitar or start singing, something just pops into my mind. This does not always have to be a good or awesome song in itself, but there is always something lurking beneath the surface so to speak and for me it’s just a matter of opening my mind to it and having something to immortalize it with. That is for example the reason why I love my phone with recording option, because sometimes the best melodies just come up while driving a bycicle or whatever. I need something to record ideas with near me, for the sake of not losing anything!
Layered Reality Productions was just something that sprung to mind after the release of The Haunts. Basically I released that record through a small initiative ran by some people I knew back then and I found out that what they did for me, (providing me with a “label” name, codes for cds and so on) I could just as well do myself. So while recording Scrapbook I started educating myself into running a small company and how to sell music these days and from one thing came another.
Layered Reality Productions is not really a label however, it is more of an artist collective in which multiple artists/bands work together to get their business in order and to share knowledge. The idea is basically that every band/artist that joins is a company in their own right which does its own business, but they are using the services that the collective provides. (Such as the webstore, future promotional activities and more later on)
My final goal for this collective is to make it grow and to make it a place where people can find the more progressive and experimental bands in the future. I want Layered Reality Productions to become something of a household name which people can turn to if they are looking for weird and challenging music.
The musical landscape changed dramatically the last couple of years. This is mainly due to (illegal) downloading. How do you cope with that as a young musician?
Well basically I cope with it, by doing my own business and creating my own selling points. The old fashioned music industry with big labels doing everything for bands will be gone in the future in my opinion and I think that as a modern musician these days you need to have more knowledge than just your own instrument if you really want to reach out to people. Of course this has disadvantages, especially financially, but at the end of the day I sell my own music and make my own money and there is no one in between who takes that from me now, so it takes some effort, but it pays off in the future I think.
However I also think that realism is an important one and I did not pick this genre to become a rich man and that adds to my sense of work as well. I mean, let’s face it, I am not rich right now so I am not dependent of that factor and I would rather spend some extra time on building a decent musical catalog and fanbase on my own than being dependent on a cash flow which could stop any minute if your label contract fails on you. This does not mean that I am not open to anything else, label-wise, but I think that doing stuff yourself gives you more knowledge first of all, but second of all it makes you less vulnerable in the end because you experienced it firsthand.
That being said, the internet also offers a lot of opportunities for bands to promote themselves via social media, such as Twitter, Myspace and Facebook. As an artists you can do everything on your own. What are the pros and cons of that?
Pros are the direct contact you can have these days. I think Facebook and Twitter and Myspace are great inventions and without these I would not have had any listeners at all I’d say. Cons are that people who are out to break other people can reach you directly as well. I mean we all know Trolls in this day and age and towards musicians there is no exception on this. However I do think that the internet as a medium is mostly a positive development musically, but I can only say that from my DIY perspective and I know most “big-selling-dependent” artists will probably want to strangle me now, haha!
Playing live is something I would love to be doing, but it would probably not happen soon. My reason for this is that if I want to perform this music live I would need a decent stage and equipment and the right people at the right time and all these elements are hard to fix for someone like me. I guess that there is a certain notion of existence now as people know my records and like them and that is great, but to get a good live show going in the places that I consider to be fit for this, you need much more leverage and demand and that has not come around yet. However, if someone would give me a great offer to play live somewhere and it is realistically planned than I would definitely consider it!
The future for TDW right now lies with getting Scrapbook out to the masses and after that I will be working on an internet record which can be downloaded (for a small fee) on the TDWmusic.com website. This record will be called “Restless Minds And Mini-Movies” and it will be released somewhere this year if all goes as planned. However this record is still in progress right now so I can’t give you any definite details yet. And next to TDW I am also a part of an active live band again as a vocalist, which is in the first stages of preparation right now, so there is more than enough work to be done for me!
Thank you again for doing this interview. If you got any final thoughts and/or remarks, please put them here:
I think I should thank you instead! It’s always a pleasure to talk to people who are genuinely interested in our beloved progressive genres and I hope you and all of your readers enjoyed reading my ramblings. All the best to all of you, and remember kids: don’t ever do home nucleonics without a silly hat!
Written by Raymond Westland