We recently sat down with sample genius Tom (Dokkodo Sounds) and chatted about creating ethnic music samples, his love of Japanese culture and blending electronica with organic found sounds. We also had time find out a little more about his debut sample pack with us ‘World Music : Electronic‘..So much to learn:
Tell us a little about yourself! Projects, styles etc.
Hi! My name is Thomas and I guess you could say I primarily compose Electronica! My main project is ‘Dokkodo Sounds’ which leans more towards lo-fi hip-hop and beats. I love all kinds of electronic music though, so I am also working on a more house/techno project. At the moment I am very interesting in genre and how we define ourselves through it. I actually only got into electronic music a couple of years ago, up to that point I only listened to acoustic music! The first electronic album I heard was Gold Panda’s ‘Lucky Shiner’. I fell in love with that album and it definitely acted as a catalyst for me.
I think if you limit yourself to a certain genre whilst composing, you can actually be a lot more creative.
You play a number of stringed instruments on your records and in your packs to a high level, was guitar your first instrument? What were you listening to/practicing before creating electronic music?
Yeah! So I actually played classical guitar for about 10 years before I even knew what electronic music was! I loved classical music (and still do) but I found it very restrictive in the sense that you have to play the notes in front of you as intended. When I discovered electronic music I found it very freeing. Learning classical music definitely taught me a lot about the theory of music, but I actually tend to ignore most of it…rules are meant to be broken!
Oh my taste in music before electronic music was terrible! Well, not terrible but very limited. I only really liked acoustic artists such as Ben Howard. Now I think my taste is very wide, ranging from ambient artists like Taylor Deupree all the way to weird house stuff like Kornel Kovacs.
What’s your process like ‘in the box’ (DAW of choice, processes, mixing live sounds with synths etc)? What’s your workflow like when creating music?
I used to use only Logic, but I have transitioned to Ableton for pretty much everything, even mixing! I only use Logic for mastering now. I originally moved to Ableton for live performance, but it’s just so easy to compose in too. The more experienced I got within Ableton, the quicker I became!
My process is very sample based. I said earlier how I like to ignore music theory. If I start with just chords or a melody, I never feel inspired. But when you find a really intriguing sample, there are so many possibilities and you aren’t thinking about chord progressions or melodies. I love samples with a lot of character.
Pitching samples and filtering them creates nice artefacts that colour the sound.
I do also like to work quickly. I get bored pretty quickly, so if something doesn’t catch my ear within half an hour of working on it I will just scrap it. I am pretty ruthless!
I am a firm believer in you have to make a lot of rubbish stuff to get to the good stuff! My process is entirely within the box. Obviously I will record samples, either indoors or outside with a field recorder, but the actual compositional approach is entirely inside Ableton. Secretly I would probably love to have a studio full of synths, However, I think my sound is definitely formed around my approach to sampling.
Dokkodo Sounds has a strong East Asian vibe, mixed with more Western genre types (hip-hop, house). How did you arrive at this sound? Does Japanese culture play a role in your other tastes? (Art/ film etc)
Yeah I am not really sure why I love Japan so much, I have never even been! Part of it is definitely the Gold Panda influence and the kind of samples you can get from world music. Indian music has a lot of microtones in it, that as a Western culture we don’t really hear. I am very aware however of not overusing or appropriating Eastern culture.
I think the reason I gravitate towards Eastern sounds is because of their philosophies around life. I find their approach to work and living to be very inspiring. I am quite an emotional person so I am into the meditation side of things too, which is obviously a big part of Eastern culture.
The other side of it is that I am also a massive nerd. I love manga and anime, Japanese video games and film and also Japanese art too. These sources are incredible useful for finding unique samples that no one else has touched.
Could you tell us about some of your favourite plugins/ what they do?
Sure, my approach towards plug ins is to have a few that I know really well. There are just too many these days, so it’s best to really know how yours work.
All the Soundtoys stuff is amazing & I love the Decapitator. It’s basically a saturation plug in, but you can drive it loads and it just makes everything nice and warm!
Waves SSL-G series bus compressor is lovely too. I use that on my master chain with about -0.5 of compression just to glue all the sounds together.
The Valhalla Reverbs are super nice too. You can create some really nice sounds with the Shimmer plug in. Sometimes I’ll make it 100% wet, run part of the track through it, bounce it to audio and reverse it to create risers that blend in with that track.
There’s some great free stuff too, like Izotope’s Vinyl plug in, which literally makes everything sound like it’s made on vinyl.
Oh and let’s not forgot the stock plug ins! Ableton’s ping pong delay is so good. I use it all the time as well as just the stock EQ. For subtractive EQ you don’t need a Universal Audio EQ just to take out -3dB from 300Hz!
What are you listening to these days?
Well I have just moved into my own studio flat, so I frequently have College Music’s 24/7 Lo-Fi hip-hop radio on in the background to keep my company!
Looking at my recent downloads though we have DJ Seinfeld’s new Galazy EP which is awesome. Tourist released a new single called ‘Elixir’ which continues the sound of his last album which I loved. My friend Favela released a collaboration album which sounds lovely then I was recently shown a band called Turnover. Their album Peripheral Vision is like dreamy indie pop – amazing!
How does living in Leeds help shape your sound?
I think Leeds has a really diverse and connective electronic music community. You can see people like College Music doing the Lo-Fi hip hop stuff, my friend James Orvis runs a techno label called Balter Records, you have Enclave Records doing house and I help to run a community label, Bibliotek.
I am really lucky in the sense I have a lot of talented friends doing loads of different types of music which definitely keeps me inspired and pushes me to explore new areas that I probably wouldn’t do on my own. We also have some amazing venues in Leeds, such as The Brudenell Social Club, which I still think is one of the best sounding venues I have ever been to!
Do you use sample packs in your own music? What role do they play?
It’s really funny because I actually used to be very against using sample packs in my music. My naive self thought that they were ‘cheating’, but that was such a stupid way of looking at it! Now I use them all the time!
I think sample packs are amazing for adding in different flavours into your tracks, or just for getting ideas down super quickly. I’ll often want to just add a shaker so having a percussion packs means I can move on quickly and keep creating.
When it comes to composing, my approach is to use sample packs as a source of inspiration rather than to create the whole track. I’ll download packs but will find one loop and then change that loop. I’ll pitch it around, process it and chop it up so it’s completely different.
Of course since I have started to make my own sample packs, it has made me much more aware of how they are made and how they can be used. Making music today we are so lucky to have so many options available to us and sample packs are just one of the many great sources of inspiration!
Thanks so much for the interview and I hope people enjoy my packs! <3
The Touch Loops team.