DJ / Producer, George “T” Thomson, is a legend in his hometown of Edinburgh, having worked at one of the city’s leading dance music shops, Underground Solu`shn, and co-founded the long-running party, Tribal Funktion. Moving to London at the turn of the millennium, George has racked up releases on labels such as Tirk, Output, and Greco-Roman, and collaborations with fine folks like Hot Chip’s Joe Goddard, and Paranoid London. His new single, Roll On, Kings Cross, is a dynamite dose of poetry and digidub, signed to Hobbes Music, that’s been on loop at Ban Ban Ton Ton ever since we were lucky enough to receive the promo.
George, I know that you’re from Edinburgh. Are you still based there?
I recently returned after 20 years in London.
How did you first get interesting in DJing and making music?
I made radio shows with two cassette players in around `78/ `79, and my first tracks on a neighbour’s 4-track in `85. I was blown away by multi tracking, reversing, pitch, wear on tape. This lovely jazzer upstairs, Dick Lee, lent it to me for well over a year. I had a Tandy mic, my cheap guitar, delay and wah-wah pedals. I still have a lot of gratitude for that year. Cheers Dick! Then, Bhange, my flatmate, made me mixtapes and taught me to feel the floor in ’91.
Do you come from a musical family?
I come from a family of great listeners.
Were there any particular clubs, or parties that you were going to?
`89-90? House parties, Devil Mountain, The Hooch – once.
Where were your own first paid gigs?
You get paid?
What sort of music were you playing?
In `91-92? Everything! All mushed up. Velvets next to Lonnie Liston Smith, before The Rebel MC gave The Specials a better view of LFO.
How did you get the job in Underground Solu`shn?
I knew the owner.
How long did you work there?
For about 5 years, between 1996 and 2000.
For those that don’t know about the shop can you please tell us a little more of history, and importance?
Although nothing to do with Tribal Funktion, it was founded by three of its DJs in 1996. DJ Simone – brainchild, Lylely – tall, music encyclopaedia, and me – caffeine and mime. Three enthusiasts making it up as we went along. We’ve moved on but the store, in finer hands, has evolved into an Edinburgh institution.
When did you start Tribal Funktion? Was this before you started at Underground Solushn?
Who else was involved?
Me and Christian, one night in late `91 began to plan, then Harry and Simon showed up. Instant bond. We just wanted to go someplace. Can’t find it? Make it yourself.
How long did Tribal Funktion run for?
Did the venues change?
Yes, we went through a few.
Did the music policy change?
It changed, but never consciously. It more evolved.
Can you tell us some of the guest DJs that you had?
Cajmere, Mark Farina, DJ Heather, Sneak, Paper, Erik Rug, Derrick Carter, Tenaglia, Morel… as well as a rotation of the finest local talent. We had Romanthony – by surprise – one night. Exceptional! Cheers Kevin!
Why did Tribal Funktion stop, and what did you do next?
It had to stop. I was having Todd Terry nightmares. Then, at the end of 2000, I moved to London.
How did you hook up with Output and Tirk?
I left a record shop in Scotland only to work for record shops in London. Smallfish was one of them. It had an amazing cafe downstairs, and everyone and their gran might eat lunch, then pop upstairs to buy tunes. I’d just play my demos really loudly when Trevor (Jackson) and Sav (Remzi) were halfway through their desserts. Worked every time.
In your own words, how would you say that the music for Tirk and Output differed from the stuff that you’d been releasing as Plastic Avengers? What were the ideas behind the new music?
That’s easy. Samples. Is it me or is it my samples? Plastic Avengers was literally all samples. I had to change. In my first London studio my PC fizzled out. I only had an SM58, Roland 606, 101, some pedals, and another 4-track. It was like a rebirth. That’s the music I interrupted Trevor’s meal with. You’ve got to time the sugar rush.
How did you make the connection with Greco-Roman?
Another one of the customers at Smallfish was JeanGa (Jean-Gabriel Becker). He made music for TV & film and in 2011 employed me. His studio was next door to Joe Goddard. We all became friends.
The new single, Roll On, Kings Cross, is quite different. What brought about the change? Are simply making all sorts of music all of the time?
The change is constant. I work on maybe three or four projects at a time – a lot of collaborating and a wee bit of design and film making. I spent three years in London working with artists, designers and animators – at Airside, and Lupus Films – and that really rubbed off on me. Juggle between creative projects, keeping it fresh, and they will all feed each other in different ways. That`s how Roll On, Kings Cross happened. I collaborated with myself.
Have we got more digidub-flavoured stuff to look forward to?
Well yes, but only because I’m reflecting what’s around me. The equipment that I’m using, what connects with me as a listener, cloudy or grey. I rarely choose something so specific before starting.
I`m a big sucker for spoken word pieces. In my review, I reference people like Joe Duggan and Michael Smith. Do you know these guys work? Are there any poets in particular who’ve influenced your prose? Do you do a lot of writing?
I don’t know these people’s work, yet. Influences? Linton Kwesi Johnson, MC900ft Jesus, Lil Louis, Smog to name a few today. And do I write? Of course I do, but very little makes it off the page.
Are you DJing at the moment? Do you have any parties, residences, or gigs lined-up?
I do as it happens. December 10th at The Street with Wendy, and on the 20th with Fred (Deakin – Lemon Jelly) in Leith… and then a regular thing from February. Try my socials for more up to the minute news.
When / if you go out dancing where do you like to go? Who do you like to listen to?
All sorts. And everywhere. I’m basically a sonic junkie. If there’s a feeling, I’m feeling it.
What are your immediate plans for what’s left of the year and early 2023?
An LP with Quinn Whalley (Paranoid London) for Optimo, an E.P. with Joseph Malik for Ramrock, and three other collaborations almost fit to drop. Oh yes, and one with Joe Goddard and Roy Inc. for the lovely Hobbes Music. Andrew and I have not spoken yet about a follow up, but I have this idea for a video…..
George T’s Roll On, Kings Cross is out now, on Hobbes Music.