Interview with Pete Devine of Pete’s Rock News and Views (https://petesrocknewsandviews.com)
PD: How would you describe yourself or your band as an artist?
Tom: I am a One-Man-Progressive-Rockband. That means I write, perform, record, and mix the music by myself. I sing, play guitar and bass and create everything else using synthesizers and samples. Musically I combine elements of metal, orchestra and atmospheric soundscapes to a powerful, melancholic rock.
PD: Can you tell us briefly about your background – i.e. where you’re from, how you came to make music, etc.
Tom: I am from Düsseldorf, Germany and make music since my childhood. After some guitar lessons, I soon started writing my own songs and realized early on that I can best implement my musical ideas on my own and independently of others.
In 1999, I produced my first CD Nightshade Dreams, in small edition, under the name Obsidian Moon. The individual songs were very experimental and almost all different in style. Later the progressive metal project Ancient Earth and shortly after the German rock project Abendrot emerged. These three projects are now united under the name Tom Spell.
PD: Who and what inspires you to make music, both in terms of musical and other influences? What do you like to write about in your songs?
Tom: I draw my inspiration from lots of different aspects in life: nature, music, movies, games, books, people – whatever manages to move me and gets me thinking. And that’s what my music is about. I sing about thoughts and feelings, strength and weakness, dreams and longing, night and nature, desire and loss.
Musically, the most inspiring driving force for me is what became the central principle of my music: melancholy meets power. Yes, life is hard and sad, but I can’t dwell on the gloomy and negative forever. Metal and fantasy have taught me for decades to fight, no matter what life throws at you. Draw your sword and fight! I need this message again and again. It gives me strength and pushes me forward. I find the combination of melancholy and power mainly in progressive forms of metal but of course it also can be found in almost every other kind of music, like rock, classical, game and movie sountracks, electro and even mainstream pop.
PD: What are your aspirations as an artist?
Tom: To implement the music in my head as well as possible and to reach as many people as possible with that music.
PD: What is the proudest moment in your music career so far?
Tom: When I finished the work on my first single Mensch und Endlichkeit and realized that, despite all my doubts, I managed to create the sound that I always dreamt of.
PD: Promoting one’s music is such a challenge these days, especially with so many new artists emerging from bedrooms in the day of the home studio. How is that going?
Tom: Since I am at the beginning of my project, it‘s too early to tell. But it‘s definitely a challenge and a new skill that needs to be acquired. Having a broad approach, thick skin and a long breath seems to be essential.
One of the upsides is, that nowadays you can close the gap between you and the listener by yourself and therefore independently decide what kind of artist you want to be, how you want to present yourself and how your whole musical project is publicly shaped.
One of the downsides is, you have to cut through so much content released by so many artists everyday. And the attention span of the listeners seems to get shorter and shorter. Finding a niche, having a distinct profile and of course very good content seem to be potential solutions. But if almost noone even notices you and your releases, the hard work of weeks, months or even years is threatened to be in vain. That can be crushing, especially because you put your very heart and soul out there. So you have to push your content. Every internet platform has its own rules that you need to learn. And understanding the algorithms is a science on its own. It‘s a lot to handle and understandable that many musicians outsource marketing, branding and promotion.
PD: And how do you book and promote your live shows and tours? Any performances coming up?
Tom: At the moment I don‘t perform live.
PD: What do you think about downloading music online? What about streaming sites like Spotify?
Tom: Downloading and streaming gives me the possibility to make my music available to a vast audience across the whole world. For that sheer possibility, I can accept the downsides. I discovered so many bands and albums by streaming that I would never have listened to otherwise.
Of course I remember the past, ordering a highly desired CD at the local record store, waiting for two or three weeks until it finally arrived, hasting to the store and holding the CD high in my hands, celebrating the opening, the first entering into the CD-player, listening to the whole album several times in a row and studying the lyrics and the booklet with utmost care. One could argue that listening to music had more heart at this time whilst streaming is one of the factors that transformed music into a mass-product. But I think in the end it comes down to the individual listening habits of the consumer. I for myself still listen to albums from beginning to end and often several times in a row, even if I stream them.
At the moment there surely is a big financial downside for artists. But again, the sheer possibility to make your music worldwide available with managable financial effort is a huge advantage.
PD: What song do you wish you’d written and why?
Tom: The Scourge of the Fourth Celestial Host by Bal-Sagoth. The best song ever made.
PD: Is there anything you don’t like about the music industry, which you would change if you could?
Tom: I deal with things the way they are. Regarding the music industry, right now, I don‘t have many points of contact to record companies, labels, publishers, managers, etc. and try to stay as independent as possible. That is why I founded my own label Tom Spell Music and manage production, online distribution, marketing, promotion, etc. by myself or with the help of selected service providers.
PD: So, what are you working on at the moment?
Tom: I just finished mixing my second song Ewigkeit der Sterne and sent it over to mastering. Besides that, the recording stage of the third song called Leid der Liebe is almost completed so I can start mixing soon. At the same time I work on songwriting for my fourth song. There are also plans for shooting another music video. And since the release of my first song and video Mensch und Endlichkeit is not that long ago, I still work on promotion and building an online presence.
PD: Where can we learn more about you and buy your music/merch online?
Tom: You can do that at https://www.tomspell.com.