Tom Thum Gets Personal With His Audience

Published in Music  
Tom Thum latest creation is titled 'Love Has Left Here'. Tom Thum latest creation is titled 'Love Has Left Here'.

With an ability to warp, mangle, manipulate and reconstruct virtually every possible known sound with just his throat, there's little denying Tom Thum is one of the world's most amazing beatboxers.

To be caught in one of his performances is to be instantly mesmerised, like a bee caught in the nectar of a flower soaking in the sweetness of life.

His 2013 TEDx performance at Sydney Opera House is the highest viewed TEDx video of all time. If you haven't seen one of the 44-plus million streams of the clip, remedy that please.

“I might amplify the Centrelink call waiting music for the entire show. The 2020 playbook is definitely spicy.” - Tom Thum

With a number of upcoming performances including Brisbane Festival as well as a collaboration with Queensland Symphony Orchestra for Brisbane Powerhouse's Lights On festival, we check in with Tom or 'greenthummer' when he's in the garden.

Hey Tom… trust you’ve been well. Life treating you as well as 2020 will allow?
Yeah, just been enjoying spending time at home which has been nice 'cause I can’t do anything about it. It’s been good to just go to ground and have a breather.

Tell us about your newest creation ‘Love Has Left Here’, which you performed at 2019’s Australian Beatbox Championship as well as in Mumbai for TEDx in February?
Something super different for me. I’m usually very beat driven, but this is something quite delicate.

I originally built the chordal idea when I was mid meltdown in a sh.tty hostel in Poland, so I found it very meditative and cathartic to just build revolving chords. I thought I’d extend the idea a bit further into 2020 now the entire world has rolled over. It was also written at a time when I was getting really tired of touring and needed a break. I definitely got one.


You’re part of Brisbane Festival’s Street Serenades programme next month; a series of pop-up performances staged throughout city’s 190 suburbs; what do you have planned (and where)?
Ooh, not sure exactly where I’ll be. I guess I am at the mercy of wherever I’m literally wheeled out.

I plan to keep it very improvised depending on the vibe of the people I’m performing to. I like to have a few options up my sleeve, so I can really feed off the crowd.

As an artist, performing to such an intimate audience like Street Serenades, does that still give you an incredible rush?
Personally, I like intimate shows better because I feel like smaller crowds hold you more accountable to delivering a great show; i.e. the disappointment on their faces is a lot more obvious if you aren’t flexing as hard as you should be. It’s also nice just to connect with people on a more personal level.

You also have a couple of shows with Queensland Symphony Orchestra for the Lights On festival… playing to a room of music punters seated at tables will be a new experience, right?
I can’t wait for this.

As I mentioned before, I love smaller crowds and more captive audiences. We have never done it with people at tables though, so I’m excited to see how it turns out.

How will these shows be different from the usual Tom Thum performance?
Haha, there will be a performance. It will be great to perform again. I think all understanding of a 'usual performance' went out the window this year.

So everything I have done within the arts sector this year has been all about reinvention and adaption. I might even pull out some wildcard moves like apply for Jobseeker in under five minutes or perhaps just amplify the Centrelink call waiting music for the entire show. The 2020 playbook is definitely spicy.

COVID’s given us all extra time to explore; any new hobbies, skills (aside from vocal tricks) in your arsenal?
I have been gardening heaps, greenthummer is in full effect. Also a lot of overnight hikes and being out in the wilderness away from the news cycle.

Your original (and very excellent) TEDx Talks from 2013 in Sydney has had many, many, many millions of views; how often do people still reference it to you? Are you sick of it?
I don’t think I could let myself get sick of it tbh.

I feel eternally grateful that it happened, and luck played a big part in that, so I’m stoked that I got the opportunity and happy that my art is being seen. There’s little niggling annoyances that I have buried far below my gratitude, but I hope they never surface.


Flipping through your Facebook page; the well-spoken gent selling yachts seems likeable. It just so happens I’m in the market for an ocean voyager; what do you recommend?
I think at this point a submarine, much easier to isolate in.

The remainder of 2020… is there a plan or is it too uncertain with the COVID troll still menacing the world?
Just taking it a month at a time right now.

If we were coming over to your place, what would you cook us?
Whatever was popping off in the vege garden. At the moment lots of snow peas, salads and carrots, and whatever I can get for free given the current climate.

No matter the expense, send me a case of?
Professional stability.

What's the one chore you dislike the most?
Anything related to being an adult. Tbh, if I had the choice I’d probably live in a jumping castle in the rainforest.

Would you ever partake in a reality show? If so, what type?
'The Masked Singer.' I would commit some sort of atrocious scandal so horrible that it has to be axed forever.

Tom Thum and Queensland Symphony Orchestra perform at Brisbane Powerhouse 21-22 August; Tom is also part of Brisbane Festival's Street Serenades programme next month.

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