One of the best reasons to study with us at Point Blank, in Los Angeles or any of our schools including London, Ibiza, Mumbai and Online, is the combined experience of our expert instructors. We don’t use the term lightly, and everyone who teaches at any of our schools not only has a long CV but remains active in the music industry at the top of their game with ongoing projects, tours and collaborations. A prime example is Tom Wilson aka Sweatson Klank, who teaches music production at Point Blank Los Angeles. Tom has worked with some amazing brands and musicians, including Nike, Puma, Reebok and Ableton as well as Just Blaze, Flying Lotus, Kode9 and Little Dragon. His most recent album ‘Fine Lines’, which is the culmination of a year-long project with the excellent Friends of Friends, was released last month on May 25th and even features a collaboration with PB Graduate Anna Calvo, who he met when she was studying. We caught up with Tom to talk about the release and the spirit of co-operation that abounds at PBLA.
Hi Tom. So first off I would like to say congratulations on the LP – I really love its moody textures and sense of scope. You released ‘Like I Need You’ some months ago now with ‘Then I Was Me’ before that. How long has this project been forthcoming / when did it start to take shape as an album like this?
Thank you! The inception of the project took shape over a year ago. I signed with the wonderful Friends of Friends label and we strategized a release schedule and strategy for the coming year. It started with the ‘ Then I Was Me’ ep, followed by 2 double singles ‘Like I Need You’ and ‘Get it Back’. The last piece in the trilogy was the album ‘ Fine Lines’ which is essentially what we were building up to with the EP and singles beforehand.
What would you say you were trying to achieve with this body of work? Are there any themes or particular inspirations that have guided the work?
When I approach an album, I really want to make a cohesive body of work. I’m a huge record collector and I just love how old records often had a theme and continuity to them. So I aim for that first and foremost. Thematically, the record is really about the last few years of my life. In my opinion, music hits hardest when it’s from the heart. Without going into detail, I went through a lot in the last few years. So when I sat down to write, that came through in the music naturally. I’ve always aimed to make music that makes you feel something. Music that transports you out of your own element and into a different place. Similar to a good book.
What about technology, how did you make the album?
I use Ableton as my main DAW. I tracked vocals in Pro Tools and brought them back into the Ableton sessions. I like to use a combination of hardware and software. On this record, I used the Fender Rhodes, Juno 106, Korg poly 800, Dave Smith Prophet 6, Yamaha DX 7, a Fender Strat guitar, Kima Jazz bass, and a wide variety of guitar effects pedals. As far as software goes, I use Kontakt, Omnisphere, Dexed, Massive, Roland Cloud plugins and a slew of other stuff. When it comes to mixing, well that’s a very long list hahaha! I tracked and ran a lot of this record through a lunch box of API, and Neve pre amps, and then rounded some things out through a Manley Stereo Vari Mu Compressor for some additional warmth. The list of mixing software used would probably fill up 3 pages so I’ll spare you that one.
You worked with a Point Blank graduate in Anna Calvo for the single “Like I Need You’. How did you guys start collaborating? Did you meet at Point Blank?
Yes, Anna was a student of mine and she had a great voice and was motivated to work. We wrote the lyrics together in the live room at PBLA and she recorded the vocals at her home studio. I mixed the results in my studio. I love collaborating with my students. They are excited to work and since many of them have never had a release it makes it exciting to work with them and help them to shape there sound and get themselves heard. I have actually collaborated with a ton of my students here at PBLA.
Would you say that collaborating with students is something you find useful/important? It must be invigorating to see some talented people pass through that you vibe with musically.
It’s quite amazing actually. Every term there are a handful of students who I vibe with musically. When students are starting out, their music is so pure. They haven’t yet done it a million times, and so their musical ideas are so raw, in a good way. They often need guidance and direction to help them realize their full potential but its a two-way street. That is what collaboration is all about. I often get really inspired by a student’s talent or their approach to creation. I learn from them and they learn from me. It feels good to help people realize their talents and help them grow. So yeah, it’s a win-win situation.
How else would you say that your teaching has filtered back into your work as a producer?
Teaching has really helped me grow as a producer. For instance, I get inspired by students who just have this ability to pick it up so easily. I watch them grow and really develop over the course of the 3-6 months that they study with me. We all know that there a million ways to approach music making. Its easy to get stuck in a pattern as a producer and begin to feel like you are repeating yourself. Working with fresh talent like my students is a constant inspiration and reminder of the many different approaches one can take to songwriting and production. I always ask a student to tell the whole class what their process was in making a certain song. I think this helps everyone, myself included, to look outside their own approach and try new things.
You must be feeling relieved and happy with the release of the LP, but you don’t strike me as someone to rest on their laurels. Will you take a break or are you already on to the next project? Either way, what can you reveal about what that project may be?
Ha, you’re right. I am already hard at work on the next projects. The first is a huge beat tape that will likely be out early fall on Friends of Friends. I speak on this a lot in my classes, but the fact is, not every track has to develop into a full-blown song. It’s fun to just make beats and tracks without the pressure of structuring them into full-blown verse/chorus/bridge type of arrangements. Beat tapes can be a fun way to showcase a different side of your production. I really look forward to dropping that. Of course, I am also hard at work on my next “REAL” album. I don’t want to give too much away as it’s still in the development phase, but all I can say about that one is that it will be different. Super excited to see how these new ideas and songs develop!
What else is in the pipeline, do you have plans to tour this record at all?
Glad you asked. I’m preparing to launch my label Tone and Manor later this year. We already have 4 great releases done and in the bag. Its taken a while to get everything prepared and ready but its going to be fantastic! In fact, our first release will be a compilation, introducing the world to all the artists we plan to work with and release in the future. Many of whom are Point Blank graduates!! We have full releases coming from Billie Fountain, Vané, and Verbless who were all students of mine and who I have worked closely with on their records. Look out for that in the fall as well!
We hope this leaves you feeling inspired and like Point Blank is somewhere you want to study. Tom himself teaches Introduction to Music Production as well as Creative Production and as part of our software offer in LA you can currently receive free copies of NI Komplete & Ableton Suite Worth $1,350 when you enrol. We also offer courses in mixing, sound design, DJing and more. For more info get in touch by calling 323 282 7660.
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