The odds are pretty good that Tom Misch is a name you’re becoming increasingly familiar with. His ‘Dilla Love’ ode to the late, great Jay Dee caught the attention of none other than Dilla’s mother, who gave the track her seal of approval. Then there’s his ‘Let The Beat Speak’ instrumental, a one-off production he made to pay homage to James ‘Dilla’ Yancey, that Jaden Smith took and rapped over for ‘Offering’. Or maybe you know him from the two Beat Tapes. Either way, Tom Misch’s name is becoming ubiquitous, and with good reason.
The young producer is also a multi-instrumentalist, playing guitar, bass, “and other stringed instruments in that category”, violin, and “a bit of piano” too. Such an impressive list of abilities makes more and more sense as he describes his upbringing; “I come from a very creative family. My mum’s an artist, my dad’s a psychiatrist, but he’s really into the arts. They’d take me to a lot of concerts and theatres, even opera. My father played violin, so that was the first instrument I played – he’d take me to lessons, and I learnt through the Suzuki method which is a Japanese way of teaching music. It’s basically where, instead of reading music, you listen to something and then repeat it by using your ear. So from early days, I was using my ear which has been helpful.”
Since the two Beat Tapes (a third was heavily hinted at – “I’ve already started reaching out to people,” he teases), Misch released the Reverie EP, a four-track collection that saw him collaborate with his sister, as well as refine and develop his talents as a songwriter. Though 22 years old, his prolific output and maturity could lead you to believe he’s been creating music for decades. In fact, he has only been making music full-time for around four years, with much of his major successes occurring in just the last twelve months.
Despite that, there has been a period of adjustment for Misch as he comes to terms with having fans in J Dilla’s family and Jaden Smith. “It was pretty surreal!” he says of the last year. “It’s a mixture of being really grateful that people are liking my music, but it also makes me quite nervous, the idea of becoming more well-known. It depends on the artist, but for me, sometimes I like to disappear.”
Remarks like that are typical of the modest, self-effacing artist. When probed about his style and the clothes he wears, it becomes apparent that as well as he dresses, he’s less keen to have the spotlight on himself. “[On the shoot] it was cool to try out different styles I might not normally wear,” he says in typically humble style. Music, on the other hand, gives him much more to discuss. Ostensibly, his music fits into the soulful hip-hop territory. In fact, Tom Misch has woven in a myriad of electronic, pop, funk and more into his music.
“My music is hard to put in a box,” he explains. “Because I listen to so many different types of music, it’s not coming from one genre or one place. Initially, when I started making music, it was old school hip hop, and that was my style four years ago. Now I’ve delved into so many different genres that I don’t want to put a label on it.”
Lately, his music has undergone a progression not just in terms of sound, but in approach too. For the Reverie EP, he found himself adjusting from the rap beat production style that informed the two Beat Tape volumes towards something more suited to a band. “The intention was never to play the Beat Tapes live,” he says. “I was just djing up to that point, and I just got back from my first tour around Europe and the US in November. Playing shows with a band has really influenced the way I write music because I know the possibilities within a live show. I’m tailoring the songs I write to suit the show.”
As Misch develops as an artist, we’re certain we’ll be hearing more from him. Though he claims this year will be one of rest, he has also admitted to having started work on Beat Tape 3 and his debut album. He’s also keen to point out that we’ll be hearing more from his South East London compatriots and claims a loose-knit scene is developing. “Beat Tape 2 brought artists together. I like the idea of it being a movement in South East London. Artists like Loyle Carner, Jordan Rakei, Carmody, Alpha Mist – these are people who I’ve collaborated with, and we [now] continue to work together. People are starting to recognise it [as a scene], but no one’s written about it yet.” Not until now.
Notion’s Future Sounds feature is in Notion 75 out Monday 27th and available to preorder now.
Tom Misch wears top Albam, jacket New Look Men, jeans Levi Strauss, trainers Adidas @Footlocker
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Words James Keith
Photographer Charlie Cummings
Fashion Kiera Liberati and Sian Saunders
Hair & makeup Lucy Thomas using Bumble & Bumble, Illamasqua, MAC Cosmetics
Hair & makeup Assistant Emma Temple, fashion assistants Shereena A-Grey