Tea & Biscuits With: Tom Finster
Germany based Drum & Bass producer Tom Finster has become a slowly growing presence within the genre’s global reaches. With releases on a host of international imprints, including groundbreaking names such as DIVIDID, Neosignal and US-based VALE, alongside remixes for the likes of Camo & Krooked and Mefjus on Hospital Records, he’s garnered attention from some of the biggest pillars from the community. However, he’s no stranger to electronic music, being a vital part of bass duo DONKONG, something which showcases his versatility across a range of styles. But it’s his forthcoming selection, one he’s decided to self-release, which is the opening chapter of 2022 for Tom Finster and one which continues to define his alias musically.
‘Lights’ rolls out on pulsating sub basses sitting underneath the mix as its orchestral first breakdown takes you deep into the record with each rhythmic wave. Slipping into half-time midway through, punctuated by spoken samples, Tom Finster flexes his production from the track’s start to finish. It’s an impressive self-release from the artist, a generation of producers who highlight their technicality through the all-encompassing nature of their sounds. After the struggles of lockdown, which ended with an emotional DJ set on Let it Roll’s mainstage, ‘Lights’ begins his next year at an incredible height. With an already impressive track record, Tom Finster is looking to capitalise even more on his successes for 2022.
We recently caught up with Tom for a quick chat about ‘Lights’, self-releasing, how he got into Drum & Bass, motivation, and his future plans.
Hey Tom! Thanks for speaking to us. Can you tell us about the creation of ‘Lights’ and the inspirations around the track, as well as what led you to self-releasing the record?
Thank you for inviting me! My first shows were all cancelled due to the circumstances and coming back from that in 2021 and upgrading the stages was so exciting. Especially playing Let It Roll was an unbelievable experience for me. Most of my songs are more melodic and a bit melancholic from time to time because I don’t necessarily write them for the club. But if you find yourself in front of a big audience, you want to have some fun with them. Returning from those gigs I wanted to make something that gives that energy back and this is where ‘Lights’ came from. So, it’s a thank you to everyone that danced with me last year. Like some tracks before, I decided to put it out myself because it feels immediate and honest, and it is for the audience I already have. You don’t need a big team for every release, especially for a single.
Can you tell us about how where you grew up helped to form your love for Drum & Bass? Do you have any distinct memories of club nights or experiences that shaped this for you?
My love for Drum & Bass grew over many years. The first time I heard any I was in secondary school and I didn’t feel it at all! (Editor – gasps!) I found it too busy, too fast and no lyrics????!!! But the KRS Part on Noisia’s ‘Exodus’ stuck with me. I was heavily into rap music, so this part of the song was my absolute favourite and there I felt that heavy energy that electronic music can have. Later, when I started making electronic music myself, I got back into it because I was so curious about how those sounds were made. Germany is still techno land and where I came from – which is more countryside – there wasn’t a big scene and so the live side of it, never was a big part for me. Later on, I went to some DnB Parties in the next bigger city, and they had some MCs and I connected with that. That was way before I ever saw myself as a DJ. Still, the art of making Drum and Bass and playing it out myself is the most interesting for me.
How did you become involved in the outfit DONKONG? Did this come before producing Drum & Bass for you? And how do you feel being part of this group has helped with your Drum & Bass production?
DONKONG is Barking Continues and me. We both got to know each other over Soundcloud when there were not so many people from Germany doing bass music and since then we’re constantly collaborating so to speak. We always learn a lot from each other – He’s much more into songwriting and I’m more into sound and so there’s a good balance between the two of us. We did a lot of very different songs over the last 9 years, even DnB, but at some point, we decided to focus on 120-150 bpm stuff. That’s definitely a reason I then made more DnB for myself. But there’s not a before and after, it all happens at the same time.
You’ve released on DIVIDID, Neosignal and now VALE; can you tell us how you came under the guise of each label?
Neosignal is partly run by Phace and I met him at a festival one day, we got into a chat and I kept him updated with some DnB tracks we made as DONKONG. When I sent him ‘Phantom Power’ it was only meant as a dub for him to play, but he – and the others – were interested in releasing it on NEU. I felt very honoured and immediately said yes. I would love to release on NEU again, but I haven’t written the perfect song for it yet. I want it to be a bit more techno-influenced.
VALE got to know me via Upscale I think, because that was the first label from overseas I released on. They have supported me from the very start, and I was happy to join their label sampler.
DIVIDID started so crazy good with such a modern sound, and it hooked me right from the start. But I didn’t know anyone and just sent them a demo via mail, I think. Not a big story, but I hope there’s more to talk about soon because I also plan to return to DIVIDID soon and of course IMANU is crazy good and ABIS is an absolute legend as well.
The last two years have been very difficult for producers to stay motivated. How did you stay motivated over this period? Do you feel like you had less inspiration, or you had more time to work on music?
My motivation for music always has been a curiosity for the music itself and not so much for the whole fuzz around it. So, in that regard, nothing changed for me. But it gets harder and harder to live off music and that’s not only due to the pandemic. It pushes you in this weird headspace of: “How can I squeeze a dollar out of myself”– and that really hurts any honest emotion you actually want to express with your music and art in general. That’s the thing I struggle most with. But I have times where I can write more music and times where I don’t write any good songs for 3 months – it happens and nothing about that changed during the last two years.
What are your plans for 2022 and what are your aims for the next year?
The next thing will probably be a collab with Barking Continues, which won’t be a DONKONG song, so that’s something new. Currently, I’m also working on a couple of remixes and then there’s more solo original material that just needs the right packaging, working on that as well right now. Of course, I hope to play many more gigs this year. I would also love to go to Canada this year and play shows there, so if there’s anyone reading that…Please hit me up! 2023 is too far away right now!
Tom Finster dropped ‘Lights’ a couple of weeks ago, make sure you grab yourself a copy here and keep up to date with him on the links below: