It can be a track, gig, a piece of art, or absolutely anything. We’re taking a look at the moments when artists realised they were going to dedicate their lives to music.
Born and bred Manchester producer TCTS is rapidly becoming a force to be reckoned with in the dance world. We sat down with TCTS to talk about his career highlights and what makes the Northern native tick.
TCTS, thanks for sitting down with The Idle Man, how are you?
My pleasure thank you for inviting me down for the day. I'm good man, I'm a very busy guy at the minute!
So let's jump straight into it. What age did you really start getting into your music production?
I grew up playing in bands with my mates. Electronic sounds intrigued me when I was about 17 and I discovered house and club music through bands like Friendly Fires, Bloc Party etc. They were using synths and other elements so I quickly got into house. Especially labels like Ed Banger, then started to seriously get into my production when I was at University in Manchester. It was just after I graduated that it all started to take off.
Initially, it took a while to figure out what type of sound I wanted to produce but I knew it would be quite musical and housey sounding. It was at the tail end of the ‘future garage’ bass movement which had swept the clubs. At the time, I was inspired by artists like Deadboy, XXXY, Scuba. These were the early days of Disclosure who I saw play in Manchester. It was a fun time! It’s probably rose tinted memories but it’s such a great scene in Manchester. Especially for someone trying to cut their teeth DJing and producing club music.
What was a fundamental track that led you to thinking “yeah, I want to produce my own music”?
I can remember Rich Reason warming up at Warehouse Project, I think it was. He played James Blake’s - Limit To Your Love in the main room. It’s not even a house record, but hearing the sub bass throbbing off the brick walls made me think “I want to have a crack at making music for these systems.”
Another track at that time was Mosca’s Bax when it first came out. My mates and I were no way near established enough to be on DJ promo mail outs. Everyone was after a copy but had to rely on either it being released or someone to make a copy and share it around. I remember getting my hands on it and being so jazzed about getting to play it. I also didn't tell my mates in case they played it first that night (laughs).
Who were some of your biggest influences when you were growing up?
I was brought up on the music my parents were listening to, so a lot of everything from Talking Heads to Disco to Bruce Springsteen. Where I grew up the scene was more of a guitar music than club scene. I spent my teen years listening to bands like Brand New and Teen Angst. As I’ve been playing piano and guitar since I was young, it made me gravitate towards more musical rather than beat driven stuff.
I find it more natural to write a house record than a stripped back techno record. My first CD I owned was a Renaissance House compilation that my Dad gave me as a kid. It introduced me to things like Robert Miles’ Children and Robin S. I think the first albums I loved were Moby ‘Play’ and Michael Jackson ‘Thriller’.
How do you think living in Manchester influenced the sound that you produce?
I grew up south of Manchester so it wasn’t until I went to University that I got to fully live the Manny dream. All that area has such a rich clubbing history though. From New Order to the illegal raves up and down the A34, music across the spectrum is such a big part of that area. People like Joy Division, New Order, The Smiths, Oasis, The Stone Roses and then to Acid house.
Even though that was well before my time, I think you still get a lot of that vibe today – that industrial Northern thing. Then add a massive student community, and somewhere in that mix I got influenced to make the type of sounds I make! I clearly remember my first ‘set’ at Sankeys though. It was such an achievement I wanted to tick off and I got asked to play last minute.It must have been one of my first sets, and I stood nervously in the booth until the promoter said they wanted to finish the night early so I didn’t get to play (laughs). Thankfully it didn’t take long to return and play properly!
What was it like playing after Fatboy Slim in Ibiza?
I won’t lie, I was very nervous on the terrace of Amnesia, Ibiza last summer! It was such a bucket list moment to play there particularly after such a legend, who commanded the room. It turned out to be one of my favourite sets of the summer though. I’m doing it again this year which is a huge privilege.
At what point did you really feel that you were starting to gain momentum in your music career?
I’m not sure, I’ve never been very good at taking a step back. I guess it was a special moment when I quit my part time job to focus on music. All I’ve wanted was for this to be my ‘job’. It’s still mad getting to share bills with people you look up to so much, and to have them as supporters of your music is a touch.
What are some of the biggest highlights of your career so far?
Playing Glastonbury was a big one, especially as its one of those rare shows you can tell your Nan about to impress (laughs)! I had a lot of mates that happened to be in the crowd too, so to share the experience with them was unforgettable. To be fair, getting Kelis and Sage The Gemini on one of my records is up there too. I learned how to programme music by finding dodgy old RnB acapellas on YouTube and messing around with them in Logic, so to now have Kelis feature is absolutely mad.
You’re opening up for MK’s Area 10 at Creamfields. How excited are you to be working with a house legend like Marc Kinchen?
I’ve done a few shows with Marc – he’s a bonafide house legend, and a super cool guy. I’m actually playing in Glasgow with him this weekend and I can’t wait for Creamfields. I’ve played there once before and it’s a party.
Working with Kelis and Sage the Gemini on your new track “Do It Like Me (Icy Feet)” must have been amazing. How is it working with other artists in the studio?
I’ll be honest it was all recorded in a very 2017 fashion i.e. via many emails and WeTransfers! They recorded in LA and New York, and I worked from London. That type of process is still fun though, going back and forth with ideas. It was very cool seeing things like Kelis put something on Instagam like ‘in the studio today’ and only you know she’s laying down vocals on Icy Feet.
I do a lot of collaborative sessions with other artists, whether it be with other producers on a joint thing or vocalists for features. Just being in the studio with other artists is inspiring and you learn a lot from other people’s processes. It’s usually quite a funny day.
Finally, where would you like to see your career go?
To a place that means I can buy this town house in Stoke Newington that I’ve been eyeing up (laughs). In all honestly, I just want to keep building my profile and keep the music coming. At some sage I’d like to start using the label I started last year (Make Something) as a platform to get other artist’s music out too - that would be dope.