Thomas Jack On The Tropical House Movement, His Album & Love For Disco: Idolator Interview
The tropical house movement has been making waves in pop over the last few months, thanks to acts like Major Lazer (“Lean On”) and Justin Bieber (“What Do You Mean?”) bringing in elements of the shimmering genre into their own music. But as diehard dance fans will know, tropical house has been a rising movement that is just now beginning to rise in the mainstream arena due to producers/DJs like Kygo, Oliver Nelson and the big face behind its popularity — Australia’s Thomas Jack.
I got the chance to catch up with the producer about his forthcoming album, thoughts on the commercialization of tropical house and what the next movement of dance music will be. Read on to see what Thomas Jack had to say in our conversation below!
So when I first heard of the name “Thomas Jack,” I looked at you as sort of the Godfather of the tropical house movement. Do you consider yourself to be the big face behind this new wave of dance music?
THOMAS JACK: I just was always doing my thing — it really wasn’t anything planned. But it’s cool, I like it. The interesting thing that I want to know is what’s going to happen to it in the next year, you know? It needs to be taken to the next level.
I agree, and that’s actually my next question! This sound of music is taking over the industry right now, but I wonder what will be the next wave of dance. Do you have any predictions?
TJ: Right now tropical house has hit radio so hard, and everyone is trying to get that sound in their music. For example, Justin Bieber is doing it on everything. With that, it’s going to change the genre a lot and take from what it was by making it a very radio-oriented thing with more R&B music — which will obviously change the style of the whole genre and change people’s opinions about it. In my eyes I think it’s going to go in a very commercial way. It’s not a bad thing, but it isn’t good either. Three years ago, it was so different with the sax sounds over house-y music and you could relate it to more underground stuff. But after that it started progressing into a more pop-oriented style. I fucking love disco music though, so I hope that comes back. I recently went to this bar that was playing old-school disco and it was so much fun! I was like, “Why did this ever leave?”
Yea, I feel like we’ve been stuck in this ’90s nostalgic craze for so long that I think we need to find something else to take inspiration from.
TJ: Exactly, I think it’s time. But I also love African music, it’s my favorite type. When I play live shows, I always try to make songs for that specific set and don’t play them anywhere else. Like really jungly, afro-house stuff.
What other sounds inspired you musically when growing up?
TJ: My grandma always played a lot of Enya and classical music, so I always took a real interest to that. When I was in university, my housemates loved the jamming concept of bands. So we’d all have drums, guitars and pianos and just jam in the middle of the room. We’d get back from a massive party around like 6 a.m., but instead of blasting music everyone would just pick out an instrument.
Being born in Australia, do you think you have a different take on music than say, a producer from the UK or Sweden?
TJ: I grew up on the beach and always loved acoustics like Jack Johnson, Xavier Rudd and Angus and Julia Stone. So I think that definitely had an influence on my music. But I live in LA now after being in Miami, just so I can get more music done.
You’ve been in this scene for a while now and created a name for yourself, so do you have anyone on your radar that you’ll think will become the next big producer?
TJ: I listen to a lot of music outside my genre, and the guy I’m loving the most is Purple Disco Machine. He has the best songs ever and the production is so on point! He’s been killing it for two years but he hasn’t really taken off yet, so I’ve had my eyes on him for a while. I play his music a lot in my sets since it has that disco, groovy vibe to it.
Shifting gears here, I’ve been constantly playing your “Rivers” single since it dropped over the summer — and you recently re-released it with Nico & Vinz. What was the reasoning behind doing an alternate version of the song?
TJ: Miles, my manager, and I were previously trying to do something with them but we ran out of time. When we were doing the remix package, they heard song and said they really liked it and wanted to do a cover. They’re cool dudes! I think the track now has more of a link with the vocals.
What other producers or singers would you like to collaborate with in the future?
TJ: There’s this guy named Kishi Bashi who is Japanese I think, he’s so epic. I just found him by searching videos two days ago. I’ve been looking for someone like that but I haven’t been able to find it, so I’m targeting him right now. I’d love to work with Jack Johnson, that’s a dream. My focus is currently to make my music and when I get to that I’ll figure out who I’m writing it for. I’m working on the album and trying to piece it all together. In a few months when I have more material, I’ll start thinking of which singers I’d want.
Do you have a timeline of when the album will be out?
TJ: I’m just starting to get into it now, so I’m not sure. I have some new singles, but we’re just trying to figure out the correct release dates and everything. I’ve had such a hectic tour schedule over the summer, so it really slowed down my production. But I have a bit of time off now, so I can focus. I’m looking forward to it.
I know you have a ton of festival experience around the world. Can you remember one of your crazier experiences while on tour?
TJ: I lost my passport in Mexico, so that slowed me down! [laughs] I was pretty angry because I missed the show and couldn’t get out the country, and I had to get my American visa again. It was very chaotic. I lost my bank card at the same time, so that tripped me up even more!
You’ll be heading on your Tropical Express Tour later this month, so what can fans expect from it?
TJ: I’ve been working to make it a journey, but it’s been very hard to piece it together because I want a big band with like a drummer, violinist and everything. And everyone I want to work with are in different places. But that’s the aim, to put as much live concepts in the actual show. It’ll be a different experience from other festivals, where it’ll be very lighting-oriented.
So I’ll wrap this up with a fun question. Going along with the whole tropical house theme, I want to know what your favorite cocktail is!
TJ: A mojito, 100 percent. A really, really, really strong mojito. I drunk that when I was in Miami a lot, and my friends there were Cuban so they showed me how to make a real one!
Thomas Jack and friends like SNBRN, Felix Jaehn, Oliver Nelson and more head out on the Tropical Express Tour beginning on November 20. Click here for more ticket information.