Over the last few years, Tom Watkinson – aka Watky – has been making steady movements in the scene, honing his skills as a DJ through his own parties, as well as putting out strong releases on his own label, Illicit. With a tour lined up with the Illicit crew, we decided to chat with him about his thoughts on his career so far, and what his next steps are as an artist.
Hey Watky, great to meet you! How has your year been so far?
And you mate! The year so far has been a successful but an extremely busy one! Can’t complain to be honest as busy is always good.Lots of gigs, music is having positive reviews and my Hull based Brand ILLICIT is growing from strength to strength.
What’s the scene in Hull like? Is it one we should get to know?
Hull is a special one. A city full of like minded people, with a diverse music taste. The Hull crowd are supportive of movements and don’t just attend events for the headliners, They support their mates, up and coming artists and always party till the lights come on.
Is that where you first got into dance music?
I was a late comer to dance music to be honest. 2009 was a key year for me when Swedish House Mafia released ‘Leave The World Behind’. I was a Saturday night main room DJ at the time for the local commercial nightclub and played it in all of my sets. From there I started to delve more and more into electronic music specifically with artists like Laidback Luke & Eric Prydz, and I was fascinated with the different sub genres within the umbrella of Electronic Music! But yeah, back to SHM, I was familiar with Deborah Cox before and her voice on their dance track just signed it off for me and I thought: “This Sound is for me”. I sampled it on a track I did recently for New Violence Records called ‘People’ last year.
What impression has it left on you, brought up in Hull? Does it have a certain sound, are the crowd after a certain thing?
As I mentioned Hull is an extremely diverse city. You can see the same folk at events from Roger Sancez to Enzo Siragusa. Other main cities often have a snobbery to a specific genre. That’s where Hull differs. It can be a lot of pressure as a DJ because they’re an extremely knowledgeable bunch when it comes to track selection. Keeping them entertained and interested is always an enjoyable challenge. The Beatport Top 100 just doesn’t cut the mustard with this lot I’m afraid.
Tell us about the Illicit party and label, give us some highlights and tell us what it’s all about.
The ILLICIT party is going from strength to strength. We are about to embark on our first tour which is exciting. Visiting Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham, Lincoln & Darlington.
We are back home for another terrace party at Gate 5 in September with Fuse Residents Seb Zito, Rich NxT & MiNTs Annie Errez as our guests. The label has created an avenue for all of the ILLICIT crew to release on. We made the decision to keep it a family affair going forward with regards to releases. I have my EP out on the 28th, Ben Straw has his in August followed By Jack Batty then Lewis Hawkes heading into Autumn with Khyle hopefully remixing for Jack Batty.
Why are you now a solo producer? What happened there?
Khyle and I both decided to follow solo projects with our music. 3 years we’ve performed and produced together and the creativity almost hit a glass ceiling. We both tend to like different strains of electronic music and from a personal perspective it limited my workflow and enjoyment in the studio. With DJing I like to experiment with plenty of outboard gear and external effects such as Reverb/Delay pedals and analogue loopers, and again it just wasn’t Khyle’s thing. This is something I want to bring to my own sets going forward.
How different do you sound alone vs with someone else? Do you indulge different styles now?
Again it’s all open for interpretation. I think people buzz off the vibe you create as a b2b which me and Khyle certainly have. I continuously strive for improvement, and I just felt we had taken Black & Watky as far as it could go. Like I said, musically we both have slightly different tastes and sometimes that could be apparent in sets over the last 12 months. Now I’m heading for a more deep, driving rhythmic deep house vibe and working hard on building my record collection to reflect that. I’m enjoying digging through records that are 20+ years old.
What sort of gear do you have, are you someone who loves to collect various music making tools?
My current home setup is x2 Technic 1210s a Xone 92 mixer. One of the spare channels on the mixer I route a Redsound Soundbite Looper from the Rec Out. I use two send and returns. One being a Boss Delay Pedal routed into a Boss Reverb Pedal modulated using a Boss DD7 Volume pedal. Creates a really cool signature sound. The other Send & Return is simply a Pioneer RMX 1000.
You have had support from big names like Loco Dice – what’s that like? Does it help or add stress next time you go in the studio?
I’ve had a couple of messages from Loco Dice with regards to my music and all are extremely positive. I don’t see it as stress but more of a motivation to continue making music that people enjoy.I’ve taken a new approach to the studio and simply just jamming away and making loops on my Roland TR-8. It helps get the creative juices flowing and before you know it you have a minute of a track loaded and on the go.
What have you got lined up?
Coming up over the next month or so I have my Suspected EP Release on ILLICIT. I’m currently writing my LP album which I hope to be released on Vinyl in December, again on ILLICIT. I have Gigs around the country so have a search for WatkyDJ across social media to find out when and where with all the links to future events.I’ve also taken on something really exciting that I’ve never done before. I can’t give out any details just yet and it is going to be a challenge but should be announcing over the next few weeks.