LOMM: Can you give a little biographical and historical info; who is involved in the band, and how did you guys meet up?
Tom de Wit (TDW): TDW is my solo project in which I write the music that I hear in my head to the best of my abilities, haha. I write music for all instruments and play rhythm guitars, keyboards and program all the other instruments I cannot play. I then ask bassplayers and drummers to record the parts for real and ask external musicians for the solo’s to flesh out the songs. I also sing the lead vocals and write all those parts and the lyrics as well. I also have a big love for orchestral sounds, so I write all the orchestra parts you hear on my records as well.
I started this project when I was 14 years old and I have now been writing music and releasing records for 20 years with many different musicians joining me on each album either as fulltime contributors or as guests providing guitar/synth solo’s. The main focus of TDW lies with the stories I want to tell through my music and the emotional undercurrent that that holds.
When I started my project, no one really knew me and I was literally just a nobody with a big mouth and little to show for, but I pushed on and started making the music I wanted and with every album I released, I met new musicians and got more and more known in the greater metal and prog sphere which lead me to where I am now.
LOMM: Pandemic has taken an emotional toll on everyone yet the arts have been hit especially hard. The musicians are vulnerable to financial upheaval. How have you guys have been holding up?
TDW: Well, in a way I am lucky that I made a decision early on that I did not want to live off of my music. That might sound strange to an outsider, but I am used to also working on other things to provide my income so I can keep making the music the way I want. That has been my saving grace over the years with the music industry changing and times being tough in terms of sales etc. I don’t need to sell my music to pay my rent so to speak.
My whole attitude regarding life is that I want to make as much as I can, either musically, creatively or workwise, so the fact that I work as an entrepreneur on audio, video and (web)design jobs in my own studio gives me a sense of satisfaction as well. It’s not the exact same satisfaction as making a new album, but I can feel pride and gratitude when I make a cool video for someone else or build a website for example.
However, here in The Netherlands we have been having many lockdowns and special rules put in place due to the pandemic and a lot of entrepreneurs suffered from that including yours truly. So the first 6 months of 2021 were a complete nightmare for me financially and mentally. I literally burned through my savings and felt like everything I worked for over the years was for nothing. I am writing this in November of 2021 and am happy to say that things are better now workwise and musically, but it has been a really dark year. Once again, writing this new album kept me somewhat sane, because the music that came out was the one thing that gave me energy in return during those months.
LOMM: On the other hand you seem to have had a productive time. Is that right?
TDW: Well, considering how the pandemic started in 2020 and how I have been able to release two albums in two years with my former record ‘The Days The Clock Stopped’ launching in December 2020, I guess you can say I have not been sitting back relaxing, haha.
For me working on music, creative and entrepreneurial projects is a way of life, so you won’t catch me doing nothing that often in general. I need to be busy to feel fulfilled and balanced in life and that is the main drive that makes all the music and this crazy career happening the way it does. So even with or without the pandemic I will always be busy making something or other.
LOMM: Tell us about your genre, what does it means to you, why did you choose this genre?
TDW: Progressive Metal to me is really about freedom of genres in a way. I know that over the years this genre has been deduced to ‘copying other bands that are called progmetal’ and all that, but for me it’s the idea that you can combine many sounds, ideas and genres and then play those in a metallic fashion by adding the punch of the heavy guitars and drums.
Like, my great hero Frank Zappa once said that if he would play Hawaiian folk music on a fuzztone guitar it would basically be rock again and I think there’s a point of truth to that in the progressive metal field or any other genre as well. Genres are at the end of the day nothing more then a set of musical ideas that constitute ‘that sound’ specifically and those sounds can be applied to many different situations. I like combining things that don’t seem logical on first glance like electronics, symphonic parts, 7 string guitars, blastbeat drums, my clean baritone vocals etc and then create something that sounds reminiscent of other things but not exactly like it.
I feel that being progressive in that regard is not about playing hundreds of notes, being the best at your instrument, singing ridiculously high or whatever, but it really is about trying to combine all the things you like and seeing what comes out when you actually try to piece all those things together.
LOMM: How did the initial musical and thematic elements evolve?
TDW: When I started writing when I was 14 I kind of tried to understand the world around me by writing about it, so I literally wrote about ALL THE THINGS, haha. It really went from politics to my own emotions to world history and what not. Looking back on it now, the human condition and how we behave as humans was often the red line running through it all.
I still use my music to understand the world around me but I feel that my current day writing is more focused. I am able to express myself better and I feel that lyrically I also got a bit more original and less obvious. It makes sense though. When you are 14 years old, writing in a language that is not your native one, you are prone to writing cliché’s and weird rhymes and that is perfectly fine. But that is also why I feel that my first few albums when I was really starting out don’t represent what I can really do.
I sometimes joke that my first two albums The Haunts and Scrapbook were needed so that I can actually start my career properly in 2014 with ‘Music To Stand Around And Feel Awkward To’ and looking back on my releases and history now I stand by that statement. Like the great Terry Gilliam once said during the shoot of ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail’: “We are making a film to learn how to make films!” that is literally how I approached everything in my career as well. I learned how to make albums, music videos, websites, whatever, by just DOING it.
Nowadays, after releasing multiple albums and having the experience I have now, I feel that my process is more streamlined. I know how to approach a process like this so I can focus more on the music and be less intimidated by all the external things you have to think about when making an album.
LOMM: Could you tell us about the lyrics / themes /concepts you focus on or plan to focus on? How did the ideas come about, and how do they influence the writing process? Who is writing the lyrics?
TDW: This is actually the best part of this album I think, because Fountains is not like a ‘normal’ TDW album in how it all came together. Normally, I would come up with the basic idea for an album myself and work it out from start to finish, but with Fountains seven out of the ten songs you hear, were written based on ideas given by the fans!
And the main idea for that came to be with the last album. When I worked on ‘The Days The Clock Stopped’ I wanted to set up a crowd funding campaign to help me make that album a reality. That crowdfunding campaign became a moderate success and I was able to make the album into an extensive CD/DVD release and even release it on double vinyl in April of 2021, which was my first time ever doing that!
During this preorder campaign I setup multiple tiers so that people would get specific things if they donated. For example, if they donated enough they would get a special t-shirt, handwritten lyrics etc. The highest tier I had set, would allow people to give me an idea for a song that they would want to hear. And multiple wonderful individuals pledged that (in my opinion pretty high!) amount of money to make that last album happen. So suddenly, I was able to make that album and I also had to write these 7 individuals their songs.
So once #clockstop was out of my system and released digitally in December I immediately started writing this new material based on the ideas I got. And what came out where seven very original and different sounding songs. The concepts I got were very different from one another. So originally, my idea was to make these songs into separate YouTube tracks (as I did before as well) but as I kept writing, I noticed that a certain sonic cohesion took place. The songs sounded heavier and more experimental, but also more open and less dark than #clockstop. Next to the seven songs by the fans, I also had ideas lying around for few other songs that I already had during the clockstop sessions but could not fit into that album, so when I got back to those demo’s I realized that those songs could fit this new album perfectly.
I wrote & produced this whole album in a total time of 6 months which is a personal record if their ever was one. Normally I work on albums for years on end, but this time I felt that I wanted to challenge myself and see what would happen if I approached it like this. I feel that this new approach did wonders for the albums cohesion and sounds, because these are all very different songs, but yet, it does all weirdly tie together into a cohesive package. It’s a completely bonkers cohesive package, but a cohesive package all the same, haha!
LOMM: Are you happy with your product? What aspects of it do you think you guys nailed, and what parts do you think you could improve upon?
TDW: Oh yeah, I feel that ‘Fountains’ and my last album ‘The Days The Clock Stopped’ are my most mature works in terms of songwriting, lyrics, production etc. I will ALWAYS hear things I want to improve upon so I don’t think these records are perfect, but that is because I don’t think anyone can really achieve perfection anyway. I am really proud of how these records sound, feel and how it all came out physically and digitally the way it did.
In terms of improvement though, I always feel that I can write a better song and/or mix and produce a better record, so I am expecting that the next album will once again be a step up and the one after that will be that all the same. That is the fun part of this creative journey, basically trying to outdo your last thing and making something different every time, haha!
LOMM: How has the overall reception been?
TDW: The reception in terms of reviews and fan response has been great really. We are still waiting for reviews to come in and I cannot wait for people to respond to the album in full once they heard it as the digital version has only been with the preorder people for 2 weeks now. So really I am still in the middle of waiting for responses from everyone, but so far things have been incredibly positive with just one review from a magazine badmouthing it. And honestly, that review says more about the poor quality of the reviewer then about my record I think haha.
LOMM: Have you ever been on a tour? Given live performances? Is it tough for you not to be able to do so now?
TDW: Never been on a tour and I don’t have that ambition either. I am very much a writer who likes to perform once in a while. I never got that whole tour bus romance idea to be honest. Some people want to be on stage and on the road always, but I honestly just want to sit in my studio and make more music, haha!
However, back in 2016 I did form a live band called Dreamwalkers Inc that was planned to perform the TDW music live and we did do our share of shows with that. We had some crazy fun times with that first line-up and I am proud looking back on how that all went down. It was very special to perform these studio album songs live for once and hear the audience respond to it in the way they did. We never played big crowds, but the people we did play for all loved it and everytime we would get more fans to join us, so I think that says a lot.
Dreamwalkers Inc is now actually working on a new album as well, because we have decided to separate it from the TDW brand and really make it a band of it’s own. So TDW is once again back to being a studio thing with maybe some incidental live shows, while Dreamwalkers Inc will evolve into it’s own experience with live shows, new albums etc. It’s exciting for me, because I then have TDW as my main writing outlet and Dreamwalkers Inc as my more collaborative outlet in which the live shows can happen.
LOMM: What is the next step for you? How is the future looking?
TDW: First I am of course focusing on promoting this album and bringing it out into the world as I feel that Fountains is one of the best collections of songs I have written. Just the whole atmosphere and diversity of this album is something I am very happy about. Also because I wanted this album to be a bit more fun and loose in terms of concepts and ideas, I had a lot of fun making the first music video for the song Fountains and making a lot of fun videos on the social media pages and what not.
The last album ‘The Days The Clock Stopped’ is one I love dearly as well and I feel that that really WORKED in terms of fan reception, reviews etc, but the dark heavy vibe that it had also drained me a little earlier this year. So working on this new album that was lighter and a bit more fun, helped to energize me a little.
But once this promo process is done my next step is to head into the studio with Dreamwalkers Inc in 2022 to finish the first album in a concept story that we are working on. That new album will be very different from what I do with TDW and I am very excited to hear how people will respond to that.
LOMM: What bands do you draw your inspiration from?
TDW: These days my music tastes really are all over the map. When I started out at 14 years old I would mostly religiously worship other progmetal bands and some of those I still really love, but as time goes on my tastes have diversified quite a bit.
So if I look at my current list of music that inspires me it goes from progbands like Between The Buried And Me and Pain of Salvation to stuff like Paco De Lucia, Al Di Meola, Archspire, Fleshgod Apocalypse, Rachmaninov, Steve Reich, Mahler, Billie Eilish, Tori Amos and classic progstuff like Yes, Genesis, Pink Floyd etc.
It all comes together in my brain one way or the other and leads to this weird music that I make. The more weird music I can consume to expand my palette the better, haha!
LOMM: What first got you into music?
TDW: My musical origin story really is pretty unorthodox, because until I was 14 years old, I didn’t want to become a singer, but a videogame creator. I was obsessed with videogames as a kid and still am an avid Nintendo fan. My Nintendo Switch is basically my relaxing moment after days of hard work on music, videos etc. But anyway, when I was a kid growing up in the 90s I was mostly a fan of big jRPG’s like Secret of Mana, Terranigma etc and all those games had one thing in common: EPIC SOUNDTRACKS.
So when I turned 14 and I got introduced to the world of progressive metal by hearing Symphony X for the first time (The song Evolution of their V album) I realized that there is music out there that combined everything I loved from, videogames with modern heavy metal music. That is what drove me to becoming a composer and musician myself in the process even though I had NO musical experience whatsoever and no clue how to start, haha.
To this day I still would love to write the music for a big RPG game once because that would feel like my life coming full circle. That would be like post-14 year old me, high fiving my kid self, haha
LOMM: What do you like the best about being a musician? And what is it that you do not like much?
TDW: For me being a composer and musician is a very therapeutic experience, so that is the main reason why I keep doing it. In music I can express feelings I can not just express in words by themselves. That alone is worth more than anything money could ever buy. The music keeps me sane and grounded. And if that satisfaction would not be there in the first place, I would instantly stop my career. Because being a musician is ridiculously hard work and often not for the kind of payment or rewards others might get when doing a ‘normal job’. But that is okay, because the fulfillment and sense of belonging I get when making music can not be beaten by anything else.
However, being a modern day musician also includes a lot of promoting, selling and putting yourself out there constantly to even be noticed by the people that actually like you thanks to changing social media algorithms and such, so the promotional part is one I know is integral to having a career, but it is my least favorite part. I would rather spend all that time making more music as opposed to asking people to please actually preorder my album because I need the money badly. But that is just the truth of being a genuinely independent artist in this day and age.
LOMM: If you could change one thing about the music industry, what would it be?
TDW: I would want the industry to focus on actual talent and good products as opposed to focusing on which artists got drunk with the right bookers and managers… I am a bit annoyed by the fact that most of the industry really is not about the quality of your music but more about ‘knowing the right guy to get you in there’ which leads to a lot of musicians not getting the chance their music clearly deserves.
I literally started my own label Layered Reality Productions in 2011 as a response to that whole attitude in the world. If no one gives a shit about my music then I will release it myself and find my own audience. As a result I am now working with cool bands worldwide who all have their own style and are finding their own audience outside of the normal music industry way of doing things and people are taking notice. It’s been a long road to get where I am now, but it does feel like I actually worked for it and EARNED it. As opposed to knowing some random guy who might do a good word for me.
Don’t get me wrong, being sociable and being a good person always helps and I want to work with people who have socials skills and know how to communicate as well. Life is to short to deal with edge lords and assholes I think, but for me the first thing I look at when looking for bands for the label is the quality and passion behind what they do. The marketing and business side always comes second.
LOMM: What’s more important to you? Catering to the audience or music for its own sake?
TDW: I think that if you make music that is legitimately yours with it’s own identity, sound and feeling to it, the right audience will find you. It takes a lot of time and effort to build such an audience and I know all about that struggle because I am working for that every single day, but I really believe that if you stand for your own art and make something that represents you the audience will follow.
And if you are lucky, maybe that audience is HUGE and you can make a living out of it. But if that audience is small, it’s still YOUR audience that likes you for who YOU are and that is far more valuable than anything else. I still rather play for 100 fans that GET my music, then 10.000 who are just there to hear the ‘hit song’ if you know what I mean…
LOMM: What is the most memorable gig that you have played to date?
TDW: That is easy, I think the gig we played with Dreamwalkers Inc that we launched on CD and youtube in 2019 called ‘A Night At The Theatre’ is my personal highlight. That was a show that really showcased the complete scope of the band and was great fun with an attentive audience that really appreciated what we were doing.
That show can be seen here on youtube for free: https://bit.ly/dwianattfilm
LOMM: When you look back your music career, what do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment?
TDW: The fact that I persevered and got as far as I am today I think. When I was 14 years old I literally had people laughing at me for wanting to become a musician as I could not play any instruments, was not a good singer etc. I literally worked my way up by spending night after night recording things, learning new skills, failing miserably, picking myself back up and starting all over again.
My drive to make music and to express myself kept me going and I feel that the fact that I am here now and able to say I am launching my seventh solo album (which is my second on vinyl in one year time!) feels like an achievement in itself. That 14 year old nerdy awkward introvert kid from Amersfoort is now 34 years old and I feel that there is still so many things I want to make and do.
LOMM: Who would you like to collaborate with?
TDW: Any of the guys from Between The Buried And Me would be killer to work with. Would love to do something with Daniel Gildenlow from Pain of Salvation once. No idea what, but it would be inspiring as all heck I think. Devin Townsend would also be amazing of course! Ben Weinman is also high on my list though I can imagine he would hate everything I do, haha.
LOMM: Who would you like to go on a tour with?
TDW: In a perfect world, we would take Dreamwalkers Inc or a TDW liveshow on tour with a guy like Devin Townsend or Dream Theater or something of course as that would be the perfect audience for the stuff that we do yet we would also quite different which would create a nice package I think. Threshold would also be a cool band to play with.
And of course if money wasn’t an issue, I would just take all LRP bands with me and make a travelling circus kind of tour with all those bands combined. That would be a blast!
LOMM: If you could play any festival in the world, which one would you choose? Tell us why.
TDW: I had the luck to have the debut TDW gig acoustically at Progpower Europe 2016, but I would love to play a Friday night 1,5 hour set with either TDW or Dreamwalkers Inc there as that would just make sense musically and audience wise. Would be like playing a homecoming show of sorts I think.
Besides that I would love to play 70.000 tons of metal as that is one of the coolest places to play gigs and just hang out with so many great musicians. Cruise to the Edge would also be fantastic!
LOMM: Name some of your all-time favorite albums? Include controversial ones.
TDW: I am not sure if my list is very controversial, but if I would have to mention some all time favorites I would say:
Frank Zappa – Does Humor Belong In Music?
Between The Buried And Me – The Great Misdirect
X Japan – Art of Life
Queen – A Night At The Opera
Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here
Protest The Hero – Volition
Metallica – …And Justice For All
Toto – The Seventh One
Dream Theater – Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence
Symphony X – The Divine Wings Of Tragedy
Pain of Salvation – The Perfect Element Part 1
King Crimson – The Power To Believe
Tool – Aenima
System of a Down – Toxicity
Blof – Blauwe Ruis / Tussen Nacht en Morgen
Fleshgod Apocalypse – King
And many many more I forget to mention.
LOMM: Great list! What does your collection look like? Mostly Vinyl, Cassettes, CDs, Digital? A bit of everything? A total mess?
TDW: My problem is that I like way too many things, so my collection legit spans Vinyl,CDs, DVDs, Casettes, Videogames from multiple systems, books etc. I actually would love to start collecting Laserdiscs as well, but I would not know where to start or to find a good machine to play them back on, haha.
I am just a media maniac that likes everything multimedia related both from a creative and technical perspective. So whenever I see something media related I just turn into a magpie with big eyes going “Shinyyyyy!” haha.
LOMM: You can invite 5 people to a dinner party, from the future, the past, rock stars, a movie characters, you name it. Who are you having dinner with?
TDW: That would be a dinner with Frank Zappa, Freddy Mercury, Robin Williams, George Carlin and Jim Carrey. And knowing how these guys came across besides their art, it could actually become a pretty chill night discussing deeper subjects and laughing at the stupidity of the universe we live in.
LOMM: What is your weirdest memory in your music career?
TDW: With Dreamwalkers Inc we once played a show in Germany in the smallest club ever in Cologne and I remember that whole experience just being surreal as all hell. The place was way too small, had mirrors everywhere and honestly looked like an old whorehouse or something. The sound was a complete mess and it was almost impossible to even play our show because we had an 8 piece band with live violin, 3 guitars etc. It made no sense whatsoever. At that point we were all very disgruntled by it, but looking back on it now, it just feels like a weird Freudian nightmare of sorts. The few people that gathered to see us did actually like our show and determination to make it all work, so that is something, haha!
LOMM: What is the weirdest gift you have ever received from a fan?
TDW: I once received a seashell from a fan because she knew I love collecting seashells when I am near the sea. And it’s not the biggest or the shiniest or whatever, but I loved that gift so much because she took the time to find it and give to me. That effort makes it a special shell for me. It’s still in my studio on a shelf next to some action figures and other random memorabilia I collected.
LOMM: If you had one message to your fans, what would it be?
TDW: Find the thing that makes you genuinely happy and dare to pursue it. Everyone is talking about self-love and selfcare these days like these are hollow phrases, but loving yourself does not mean you have to think you are smart, attractive or anything like that.Loving yourself is being able to know what you really want in your heart and dare to go for it. We only have one life to live and it can be over in a flash. So at least try to spend your weaking life doing things that inspire you and give you energy.
LOMM: Anything else you think your fans should know?
TDW: If you order my albums your karma will be cleansed and all your chakra’s will be re-aligned so honestly there is no reason not to get my music into your house… Yeah no, I have nothing. But I do love each and everyone of you for being here and being the awesome beautiful people you are!
LOMM: Thank you for taking the time.
TDW: As always it was a pleasure!