An Interview with Thomas Fec AKA Tobacco

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These days, there aren’t too many truly unique artists out there. Well, there are, but perhaps what I mean is there aren’t that many artists out there where you know it’s them within a second of hearing their music. Yeah, Thomas Fec AKA Tobacco, is one of those artists. He’s the mastermind behind Black Moth Super Rainbow, and half of the fantastic Hip-Hop duo, Malibu Ken. He’s also a solo artist with some of the most ace records you’ve ever heard laid to tape. To say that Tobacco is one of the premier producers of sounds and soundscapes would be putting it mildly. His production is lush, shimmering, slushy and rolls over you in waves. It just feels right. It evokes nostalgia and yearning. Yeah…it’s pretty special. Wanna learn more about the music of Thomas Fec? Well, you can head over to the Black Moth Super Rainbow Bandcamp here, the Malibu Ken Bandcamp here, or the Tobacco’s site here. Wanna check out an interview with Thomas Fec? Read on below. Cheers.

Tobacco Releases Laid Back New Track "Centaur Skin" - mxdwn Music

Andrew:
Thomas, thank you for taking the time to speak with us here. How are you? What have you been doing to pass the time?

Thomas:
Just making new stuff and hanging out. It’s been good.  

Andrew:
Tell us a bit about your backstory? How did you get into music?

Thomas:
Somewhere in high school, I started digging deeper to find new stuff, but would feel like I wasn’t getting what I was after, so I wanted to see if I could do it myself.  

Andrew:
As an artist and producer, who are some of your greatest influences? How did you go about developing your signature style?

Mellow Gold was the light switch that made me realize you can do anything you want, but that was still a few years before I started making anything. Come to Daddy was a big one for me, and then Music has the Right to Children got me to buy a synth. Freescha’s What’s Come Inside of You pushed me even more. So, I was a combination of what I was into. These days it’s probably less about external influence, and more about seeing how far I can push myself.  

JobbieCrew Review: Black Moth Super Rainbow's TOBACCO live at The Shelter  in Detroit! - JobbieCrew.com

Andrew:
Your longest standing project is Black Moth Super Rainbow. Tell us how that came together. 

Thomas:
It’s always just been me, but I remember when I was starting out, and maybe it was just where I lived, but the one man laptop thing was kind of looked down on. I could’ve just perceived it that way.  So, I put a live band together to not seem so lame.  

Andrew:
As Tobacco, you’ve moved into production and the Hip-Hop side of things. Your sound is unmistakable. It’s slick, and has this sort of 80s sheen to it. It’s got a vibe and a feeling that is all your own. How did you evolve from the Black Moth Super Rainbow side of those toward what you’re doing as Tobacco?

Thomas:
It was just another side to what I wanted to do.  I go through phases where I kinda grow out of what I’ve done with BMSR.  Usually by the time I would put out BMSR music, I’d be so done with it. BMSR was always about capturing a really specific feeling. TOBACCO is more about pushing to find new places to go.  It’s funny because it originally was an escape from the BMSR box, but as soon as people caught on to the first album being more of a beat album, I got put into that box. So, a lot of people are bothered by me making anything else. But I look at every album as a chance to start over.  

Andrew:
I’d like to touch on Malibu Ken. That record was incredible. Easily my favorite Hip-Hop record of 2019. How did you and Aesop Rock end up getting together to collaborate?

Thomas:
We toured together in 2007 and have always kept in touch. It was just very much what I was doing at the time with Sweatbox.  

Song Premiere: Black Moth Super Rainbow, 'Gangs In The Garden' : All Songs  Considered : NPR

Andrew:
A bit more on Malibu Ken. What can you tell us about the recording of that record? What was the inspiration? The packaging (of the vinyl record at least) was incredibly unique. Did you two deign that yourselves? Can we hope for another Malibu Ken record anytime soon?

Thomas:
So my part of MK came from the Sweatbox Dynasty sessions. I had a lot of sparse demos from that album that I had him pick through and then I kinda worked around his parts. The ‘1+1=13’ instrumental was always meant for Sweatbox but ended up being more right for MK.  ‘Dog Years’ was another one. I always saw it as the perfect song to follow ‘Gods in Heat’ to open things up, but again, I liked it better with him on it. I think the inspiration was just to let loose a little more than we usually would. Like for me, I just kinda hung back a little, and didn’t worry so much about the minutiae of it like I usually do. I actually don’t know who came up with the packaging concept. And as far as another album goes, I’m not convinced there needs to be another one, at least any time soon.  Maybe the world will tell us when it’s time in the form of a giant check.  

Andrew:
This past year, you released Hot Wet & Sassy. I loved this record. It drips with those signature melting synths, grizzly beats and general fuzzy distortion. What was the recording process like for this record? How do you feel about the results? How do you feel you’ve evolved since the release of Sweatbox?

Thomas:
Thanks, I love this one. I’ve always felt that if I haven’t topped myself, then it can’t be my next proper album. I talked about Malibu Ken being a more laid back process, so this was the opposite. I was finding details I’ve never even looked for before. I’d work something out, let it sit, chisel it a bit, let it sit, chisel some more. It took a few years, and I don’t see myself working like that again, but had to try it once. I don’t know how I’ve evolved exactly, but probably just comes with the more you do.  

Andrew:
I wanted to circle back around to Black Moth Super Rainbow quickly. It’s been a few years since Panic Blooms was released. Are you working on anything as of late? 

Thomas:
No, that ended in 2019.  I’ll never say never because mindsets change, but it’s not in my plans.   

Tom Fec (Black Moth Super Rainbow, Tobacco) | Interview | Tiny Mix Tapes

Andrew:
I touched on your work as a producer in the Hip-Hop game. On that note, who are some of your greatest influences in that regard?

Thomas:
Like beat producers? None. Most of that shit is pretty boring. I think the only beat I’ve ever really been in awe of is Autechre’s “Pen Expers,” if that counts. And that is some pretentious shit I just said.  

Andrew:
Aside from music, what other passions do you have? How do those passions inform your music, if at all?

Thomas:
I’ve been way into fitness since high school, always studying the new stuff out there. I think maybe it’s where I learned to harness discipline when I’m driven. I’ll push myself to a migraine if I have to until I get something exactly how it should sound.    

Andrew:
Are you into vinyl? Tapes? CDs? Or are you all digital now? Where do you like to shop for music?

Thomas:
My vehicle has a CD player, so I’m still on board with those.  I’m a pretty big minidisc pusher too.  I think everything I’ve bought this year has been off of Bandcamp. 

Black Moth Super Rainbow's Electrix Pro Warp Factory | Equipboard®

Andrew:
This may be a hard question, but what are a few albums that mean the most to you and why?

Thomas:
Mellow Gold: made on a 4track, didn’t sound like anything else in the mainstream before or since. For a 12 year old kid, it was like finding a portal.  

Come to Daddy: blew open the world of electronic to me and made me realize it wasn’t all corny Techno. And ‘Flim’ is just a perfect song. So perfect I tried to write my own answer to it with ‘Mythemim.’

Toweachizown: got me out of my head and soothed the shit out of me like no other music has been able to.  

Andrew:
As an artist, you’ve continued to push the envelope no matter what project you’re working on. Your work is sort of a moving target. In your opinion, why is it important to continue evolving musically and trying new things?

Thomas:
“If you’re not growing, you’re dying,” is a great piece of advice. I get bored so fast. That said, I work with someone who wanted me to make a couple instrumentals that sounded like old fuf/maniac meat me. That is so antithetical to how I work. I kinda begrudgingly threw a song together that I hated just to make a point. But slowly over time, I was like, “Man, I could do this to it, and this here, and maybe update this,” and all of a sudden I had re-framed it as a challenge on how to make that version of me work for me now. So, I challenged myself to make a sequel to my first album that I could still be proud of in 2021, and it’s new again. So, that target is an erratic little motherfucker.  

Andrew:
You’ve maintained a strong DIY work ethic and ethos throughout your career, which I love. Why is that important for you? What advice would you have for anyone just starting out?

Thomas:
I know what I like. What I make is sacred to me. I have to be all in on what I put my name on, and that’s why I don’t work with many people. There’s no advice I could give that would work for someone else even doing something similar, because we’re all in our own circumstances. But I do feel that my creative path wouldn’t be much different if no one was listening. And I can’t say that has helped or hurt me, but I can say I have a body of work that I am really happy with.  

Andrew:
There are a lot of artists out there whom are fantastic, but get stuck in the underground, while others go on to great success. What is it about our culture that causes this to happen? Do think the general public is truly listening?

Thomas:
No idea. That’s never been my game. The general public hasn’t ever truly listened to anything. I guess some get lucky and find their tribe.  

Andrew:
Last question. In the world we live in today, we are more or less dominated by capitalism and the never-ending barrage of social media. How has this effected music as an artform? Is an artist’s ability to get their music out there hindered by all this, or helped?

Thomas:
I think any time there’s a shift for the better, that stuff always balances out. Now you have the voice, but you’re in a galaxy of voices.  So the only way to get an advantage in being heard is to find the new spot early until it’s flooded out by everyone else, and then move onto the next.  

Thomas Fec aka TOBACCO - Album on Imgur

Interested in learned more about the music of Tobacco? Check out the link below:

Dig this interview? Check out the full archives of Vinyl Writer Interviews, by Andrew Daly, here: www.vinylwritermusic.com/interviews

About Post Author

Andrew Daly

Andrew has always felt himself to be a "jack of all trades, master of none" type of person. With an immense passion for music, a disposition for writing, and an eagerness to teach and share both, Andrew decided to found Vinyl Writer in 2019 as a freelance column under the column Stories from the Stacks. Over time, the column grew into a website which now features contributors who further the cause of sharing both a love of music and the art of journalism with the world through articles and interviews. While Andrew enjoys running the website, his real passion lies in teaching and facilitating others to do what they do best, and giving them the opportunity to explore their passions in the process.
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