Three Years Ago Tom Thum Headed West For A Change Of Pace; He Now Proudly Calls Ipswich Home

Australian beatboxer Tom Thum has kept busy with multiple projects during COVID. Australian beatboxer Tom Thum has kept busy with multiple projects during COVID.

When Brisbane beatboxer Tom Thum decided on a sea change three years ago, he opted to go west moving to a home in the outer suburbs of Ipswich with a home studio, a garden to de-stress in, and resident magpie friends.

The past year has presented challenges for many creative artists – particularly those relying on a touring income – but the homebody side of Thum has embraced the down time.

"Look, the artistic side of my professional advancement as a musician says 'yes, I've missed touring', but the Tom that likes being home and spending time in the backyard with the magpies says 'no'," he says.

"I mean, it's obviously been super sh.t for gigging and earning money, but I have actually enjoyed just spending some time at home and really dialling in on that.

"I've been working with a lot of really killer local musicians since I've been home, and it's just really made me appreciate what's in the backyard, quite literally and metaphorically."

Thum has emerged from his own backyard to discover local talent, but says he hasn't had to travel far. "There's actually a really dope community out here [in Ipswich], and that was one of the things that I found out when everything locked down.

"I was forced back to the backyard and managed to see how many people were doing absolutely cool sh.t in Ipswich itself."

Some of these acts will be showcased in the upcoming Waghorn To West event (10 July), which will present 16 artists across 8 sessions at 4 different venues in Ipswich's city centre as part of the SPARK Ipswich festival (8-18 July).

It's like a choose your own adventure, for music. "A tunes your own adventure," Tom laughs. "I guess it's like a pub crawl but for cool musicians.

"Ipswich has always had a sort of stigma about it, but people fail to realise that a lot of the people playing venues all around the state and all around Brissie and even interstate are actually from Ipswich.

"It's been really cool to connect with people and to have a yarn to some of the mob on the council who are really being proactive in really trying to change the perception, like Ipswich has typically been a place for like 'The Wagon Festival' and 'The Steel Mill Festival' and things like that.

"But I think it's one of the biggest towns in Queensland outside Brisbane. Like, second or third biggest. So it's going to be natural that there's going to be talented people living here, and it's great to see that people are giving opportunities to the artists that live locally.

"I'm pretty hyped about it, to be honest; there's some killer acts coming.

"I think it's the kind of thing that Ipswich needs to give it a little bit of a stoke so people kind of go, 'Oh, wait, there is actually really dope sh.t happening out here'."

Thum says he's been working with some local acts and expects with the sense of community locally, there'll be plenty more where that came from.

"One of the girls on the act, Dee – she goes under the name Wild Eyed Wonder – we had a little songwriting session out at her place out near Flinders Peak the other day," he says.

"Another friend of mine, Kaysei, who goes by the name ACEKAY, she was one of the first people who actually reached out to me when she found out that I was living out here.

"We met at one of the council creative summits; we were sitting at a table together or something like that. But yeah, it's been really nice to get invites out to all these different things and go and meet people. I'm sure there's going to be heaps more of that."

Working with locals isn't the only thing Thum has been up to, though. While he says his backyard no longer resembles the set of Mad Max thanks to recent rain, he had recently worked with multi-instrumentalist and percussionist Ben Walsh and multi-instrumentalist "mainly sort of on strings" Shenzo Gregorio on a Mad Max-related project.

"So we did a live soundtrack to 'Mad Max: Fury Road' a couple of weeks ago, at the Byron Bay Underground Film Festival, and that was absolutely insane," Tom laughs.

"The whole stage was filled with old air-conditioning ducts and the front of cars, and truck exhausts and all sorts of weird shi.t.

"So we just let the movie play with the dialogue and all of the music redacted, and we kind of played our own music to a showing of the movie. And that was mental."

Thum has also been doing a lot more commission work, thanks to COVID, including a creative campaign for Pepsi Max.

"They just hit me up, and they were like, 'Make something with this can, and we'll pay you to do it'," he laughs. "I just went, 'F... yeah, cool. That's the kind of budget I need during COVID.'

"That was really cool as well. They just totally gave me 100 per cent freedom to just run with it, which I was surprised because a lot of people are usually just so, you know, once you do commissions things are quite ove-bearing on the creative, but they were just like, 'Nah man, do what you want'."

Tom has also released the vinyl for Thum Prints, his project with composer Gordon Hamilton and the Queensland Symphony Orchestra. The limited print run has since sold out.

Thum says a full-length album is in the works, now that his colleague can make his way back into Australia. "So we were supposed to have a full-length studio album out end of last year, but my colleague got locked down in Germany, so he's only getting on a plane today to come home to finish the record.

"That's one of the high priorities; we're going to rip into that and finish the album. It's like 18 tracks of orchestral-produced mayhem. It's a very weird album. In the best possible way.

"There's like a lot of different shades to it, it's not just straight-up drums and orchestra. It was a really, really fun learning curve for me, because we had the luxury of time to do whatever we wanted with the recording.

"So a lot of it is straight-up orchestral playing and a lot of it is we've re-sampled the orchestra and warped stuff and scratched stuff and pitched down things. It's been very experimental, but I'm very proud of it."

What else is in the works for the guy who stuck a camera down his throat for a TED Talk? If you haven't seen it, look it up on YouTube. "I'm working on a show for Brisbane Comedy Fest at the moment as well, which is pretty crazy.

"Myself, this comedian Damien Power and this young MC Sachem, who's making some waves at the moment. So that's going to be an interesting one too.

“It's a thing called 'Spit Shine'. It's a late-night show; it starts quite late in the evening. It's live band, comedy and myself and then Sachem the rapper doing his thing.

"After that; I'm working on a beatbox masterclass, an online masterclass. A module-based thing. And then the orchestra album is going to be mental as well. So lots of diverse projects at the moment, which I'm excited about."

Tom Thum plays Waghorn To West as part of SPARK Ipswich at Circa 160 (Ipswich) with Clea on 10 July. SPARK Ipswich runs 8-18 July. Tom Thum, Damien Power and Sachem perform 'Spit Shine' as part of Brisbane Comedy Festival at Brisbane Powerhouse on 24 July and 7 August.



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