Low Key L.A. Legend
One of the most humble cats out there on this crazy scene called indie hip hop must be Tommy V. He's been part of some classic records and set ups, but he's always been in the background letting other people shine. He, if any, is the personification of why I started doing these interviews. To let the true heroes get heard. So without further ado, here's Tommy!
Thanks for the obligatory flattery (blushes).. Ok so I'm Thomas Valencia, I was born in 1975 in Los Angeles, California to a Mexican father and North American mother. The rest is pretty boring...
What made you start making music to begin with?
My mother's side of the family was pretty musical. My grandfather was a singer, with a deep and gravelly baritone voice. I recall taking rides with him as kids as he would sing along with his favorite songs. My grandmother was the foot tapper, heel slapper, finger-snapper type of gal who liked to point out instruments and melodies within the songs that she liked. At our house we had an old Hammond organ in the house that my mother would always sing along with. I remember in 5th grade music class when my friend Chris & I rapped in front of the whole elementary school while reading our lyrics off of a paper. I had some turntables in high-school and we'd freestyle and scratch over records. Then i got a 4-track and a sampler. After that I got an 8-track, then a 16 track, then Pro Tools. Some 30 years later Chris would help to press the Mockingbird 7" vinyl as part owner of Seaport Records.
What do you consider yourself mostly? Musician, emcee or producer?
I think all 3 have their moments, along with epic failures! The musician in me wants to understand the music more... I think that applying some theory with instinct makes for good results. The emcee in me is pretty withdrawn I think.. I feel like I bite everyone when I rap, so I feel more comfortable with melodies and harmonies, but my roots are pretty rappy :/ As far as producing, I enjoy fusing life instruments with samples, or vice versa.
Even though you never completely left, Mockingbird was your first solo release for quite a few years; I suppose the last one up until then was the final Toca album back in like 2007. What made you decide that 2012 was the year for you to release some new music?
Yeah I wish I was more consistent, where does the time go?? It was nice to release Mockingbird with Fake Four & Seaport Records towards the end of 2012. I mostly didn't want another year to slip by without releasing anything, so I squeezed it in before the year ended. I wasn't trying to align with the Mayans or anything.. Here I am now at the end of 2013 and I haven't even finished the rest of Mockingbird, ugh!?
I know there were plans of making the album a physical version too. Is that something that is still in the works?
Yeah, after that digital release of Mockingbird I got evicted from my spot, and since then I've been in transition. I can never really record unless I have a quiet place to set up my equipment, and I hate doing a bunch of takes where the whole neighborhood hears me or I'm annoying roommates. I've finally arrived in Connecticut and have all of my studio equipment set up, so I'm back in action. There is hope..... I think???
I had filled out this section, then I erased it... I listen to everything I can though...
One of the many things that I like about your music is that you don’t seem to be afraid to make fun of yourself without coming off as corny. Is that a conscious decision or just what happens when you put your pen to the pad?
Uh oh, now we have to psychoanalyze my motives, eek... A basic text book response would point out insecurities that I'm attempting to mask, kinda like a class clown maybe? I just don't wanna take myself so serious, keep it fun! Rappers are too annoying...
What do you want to accomplish with your music?
I want to connect with people and grow within my own understanding of music. I've made lots of good friends through music and just want to contribute what I can to the musical landscape.
What are you up to when you’re not making music and being one of the friendliest dudes out there in the digital world called the Internet?
I enjoy adventure and am always down to travel and commune with nature. You'll find me cliff-diving at Hermit Falls, hiking in Joshua Tree, chillin' in a Sequoia Tree, floating the Kern River, hangin' at Venice Beach, swimming in Flathead Lake, riding horseback in México, soaking in Hot Springs. Nothing like some adventure!
I've always collected rocks, I just got a bunch of new rocks at Kehoe's Agate Shop while I was in Montana visiting. I don't make energy grids with them and swing pendulums or anything but have always enjoyed collecting them.
Also skateboarding has always been a part of my life, I've broken a few bones and just last year took a bad spillI and woke up on the street with a car coming right at me, yikes!?
I like to study languages, and am currently working on my Spanish Degree, I'm about half-way there.. I would love to minor in music but can't pass Harmony 1, ugh!?
Any upcoming projects that you would like to let us in on?
Well I'm working on a 7" with you, David and I are writing to some of the instrumentals now. Plus I'm always working on music, and have all kinds of unfinished material that needs to resolve... Shouts to TorpedoHead! ;)
To finish it all, first off I like to thank you for taking the time to do this. Any final words?
Thanks for the interview and we'll be working on those instrumentals that you sent :)