As the festival approaches we are getting VERY excited here at DARKCHAT. As a performer do you feel the same way or are the opening days like sitting an exam?
I AM SO EXCITED! It's my fifth one, and I've have had every kind of good and bad-shaped festival experience imaginable at this point. And I'm bringing two shows that have been kicking ass all over the southern hemisphere for the first half of the year, so I'm just really excited for it. I'm coming straight off a huge tour in New Zealand (where I am at the moment) and everything feels like it's building really well so far this year.
So, 2 shows this year. does this feel like a good idea at the moment?
I love doing multiple shows! Edinburgh is so intense that being onstage is usually the least stressful part of the whole thing, so I try to max that out as much as possible. This is my third year of having two shows, but I reckon these two compliment each other the best. They both play into the similar themes of bad taste and sneaking in commentary and punk rock idiocy into the most commercial corners of pop culture. And they're both stupid amounts of fun.
Last year was worse than this year actually - I did Crap Rave every night from wed-sun each week and a 4:30pm cabaret show... I still don't know how I survived. So this one feels like a holiday!
Your shows start are at 19.00 & end at 3.00am. Have you always been a nightbird?
I'm a late night kinda guy. I did a 4:30pm cabaret gig last year and it was just yuk. You need a couple of beers in you and a little psychological preparation for a Tomás Ford show...
How do you pace your day?
Sleep. Lots of sleep. Til about 1 usually. But for me, one of the reasons I do the festival is to see as much as I can. So I'll spend the afternoon mixing co-ordinating the production side of the shows with flyering, gentle industry hussle, all that kind of good stuff, but I try to see at least two shows a day. You can't create if you aren't filling your brain with a shitton of ideas. Pretty amped about seeing shows after my 7pm show this year, it's a great time of night to have a gig. And then on fridays, I'll DJ and jump around like a hyperactive idiot for three hours :D
I guess I'm saying I just go and go and go and go, then sleep as much as I need, and then repeat every day except mondays when I will be getting the hell out of town this year! I plan to jump on some trains and see some sights.
When and why did you first come to the Edinburgh festival?
I first came in 2012 with a show called An Audience With Tomás Ford. I had a bit of surreal, fairytale debut year. I was playing at ten past midnight at the Jekyll and Hyde's awesomely grotty basement in New Town. Everyone I mentioned my slot to shuddered. But it was a perfectly sized room, built its' own momentum super-quickly and ended up with an award nomination for the TO&ST Edinburgh Cabaret award that year and five star reviews, that kind of thing. I came because I'd always wanted to - I really didn't know or care if the show would work, I just felt like if I didn't do something on this side of the world that I might never do it.
What did you expect?
I had zero expectations - I'd been touring dive bars and warehouse parties in Australia for about a decade at that point, so I was used to the slog. When I'd played Fringes in Australia up until that point, I'd always been too weird to fit in. But I turned a corner with that first season. The only previous Fringe experience I'd had was the Adelaide and Melbourne fringes in Australia, which are actually a lot harder slogs than Edinburgh in a lot of ways.
How did the reality differ from your expectations?
People connected with the show hugely, in a way I'd never expected. It was like magically finding my context. Every year I come there, I connect with audiences from all over the world. I guess the main thing that differs in my expectations is that the festival feels like my natural habitat, which I never expected to say about it.
Crap Music Rave Party" is the perfect Edinburgh show, was it an easy decision to bring it to Edinburgh?
Not at first - it started as a bit of an Edinburgh fundraiser and free late night party in Australia. It's slowly built into this behemoth show - it's such dumb fun for me, I love doing it, but it wasn't until I'd been doing it for a couple of years that I realized it was an actual show! Over the last year it has become big business in Australia and New Zealand, the parties have been getting bigger and dumber and even funner. But I love doing it in Edinburgh. Its' natural home is 2am on a messy Edinburgh dancefloor - all the other parties I throw can only dream of being as nuts as the Edinburgh nights!
Where did the idea of " Crap Music Rave Party" come from?
Before I worked in the cabaret world, I was on the underground electronic music scene in Australia. For some reason, that meant everyone thought I could DJ. I refused for years, and then gave it a shot when I was hard up for cash. Turns out I was terrible at DJ'ing music people might actually want to listen to, but amazing at playing crap. A few late night parties in Adelaide, a run of Edinbrugh Fringe fundraisers in Perth and snowballing gigs in Australia later and it had accrued video screens, costumes and a pile of stupid scticks for me to mess around with the audience. It keeps growing and growing into its' own strange little thing.
What is the most frequently requested song?
Barbie Girl by Aqua, which I hate. Properly hate. But I'm supposed to, hating the music I play is my job.
Every time it comes up, I'm like "DUDES, Doctor Jones is right there and is soooo much better." I can objectively say that at 2am, everybody loves Doctor Jones.
What are your Top 5 "Crap Music" songs?
Ooooo tricky. Varies depending on the day, mood and level of intoxication. But:
1. I've Never Been To Me - Charlene
2. Cha Cha Slide - Mr C The Slide Man
3. Drops Of Jupiter - Train
4. New Emotion - The Time Frequency
5. The Key The Secret - Urban Cookie Collective
What are your Top 5 "Best Music" songs?
This is trickier! I'm terrible at DJ'ing good music because my tastes are pretty idiosyncratic, but probably:
1. Do You Remember The First Time? - Pulp
2. Radioactivity - Kraftwerk
3. Underground - Ben Folds Five
4. Human Fly - The Cramps
5. Au Suivant - Jacques Brel (or "Next" by Scott Walker for that English language freshness)
What was the 1st record you bought/ downloaded?
I bought two cassettes at once: one was Australian scream-singer Jimmy Barnes' Soul Deep, which is responsible for almost every time I have screwed up my voice onstage. Amazing singer. Terrible record. You should check out his stuff with Cold Chisel instead, which my Aunty was trying to get me to buy. She was, retrospectively, right. The second one was Yothu Yindi's Treaty, which still kicks ass. It had the Filthy Lucre 12" Mix on it, which introduced me to the glory of commercial house music.
What is your favourite concert?
It wasn't the best concert, but my it was my favourite. Seeing Kylie Minogue on her Showgirl tour actually kinda changed my life. I was such a music snob up until that point. One of my dear mates dragged me along and I thought it'd be a laugh but I was so overwhelmed by the cheese and visual spectacular that she was all I wanted to be for about three years. Unfortunately my skillset is being a little punk electronic cabaret idiot. So I work with what I've got.
What is the strangest experience of performing " Crap Music Rave Party" ?
It's strange every time. When the show goes well, the audience take it over and do their own thing with it. I look out and things are happening on the dancefloor that I'd never expected to see. It's at its' best when I'm playing something even I might think is going to die a death on the dancefloor, like a third single from a one hit wonder or an obscure boy band hit, or even something that I don't think has a very good beat, and all of a sudden people are going nuts. I've been on tour in New Zealand over the last couple of weeks and here the big hit has been How You Remind Me by Nickelback... the first time someone requested it here I thought "naaaah" but went for it anyway and it started the biggest singalong moshpit ever.
Actually, on this tour, the strangest thing has been the uncomfortably bro-ey pit of shirtless dudes hovering around my stage in Auckland and giving me the strangest mixed signals of all time - half wanted to sleep with me and the other half met any eye contact with deep suspicion. Felt like I was in a Pet Shop Boys video.
What can we expect from "Craptacular"?
Craptacular is a ridiculous covers show, where I cover the worst songs of all time. I've been exposed to every variety of awful pop music over the last few years, so it was fun to put together a song list of things that make me feel physically sick just to listen to. Think Black Eyed Peas, t.A.T.u., Enrique Iglesias... I've done my usual pretty tripped-out rearrangements, so things get wierd and fun pretty quickly. It's a really different experience from my DJ show. My cabaret shows are known for their fun intensity; they're like a punk rock concert with pumping electronic music and a live-on-stage nervous breakdown all at once.
What are your thoughts about Australia's involvement in the Eurovision Song Contest?
Obviously our chances would improve if they'd send me along to sing at it. But I was surprised by Dami Im, she kinda kicked ass. I thought that song really sucked until she sat on a box, pretending to be an extra from Minority Report for three minutes. Somehow it worked. I feel like if we are going to participate, it'd be good to send along something a bit camper than the two pretty straight-laced entries we've had. It's like we think it's a serious competition or something.
What is the best thing about the festival?
Seeing a thousand shows! It is a month of intense inspiration for me, I learn so much every year just from watching everyone else's successes and failures. You can get a real picture of what's happening all over the world at the festival and for me, coming from one of the most isolated cities in the world down in Perth, that's a huge thing.
What is the worst thing about the festival?
The financial setup for performers is horrible. Everything is ridiculously overpriced - doing a show at the festival is like the producing equivelant of telling a function centre your booking is for a wedding. And then you wait another month after it all ends to get paid your box office. That's starting to become a big issue for me, as it eats up so much of my cashflow each year.
What have been your favourite ever Edinburgh shows?
Simon Munnery's Fylm series of shows are some of my favourite things - they're whimsical and ridiculous, high concept, lo-fi comedy. He makes little live movies out of cardboard cutouts and a webcam.
Aladstair Trembley-Birchall's Aladstair Lists Everything from 2014 is an all-timer for me, too. He spent an hour each day at a Freestival venue slowly speaking his way through free association lists of objects. It started funny, got annoying, became ridiculous and then infuritating. And then it was hilarious again. I don't know if I could watch it again, but I loved it so much.
Other than that, off the top of my head, I'd point to shows by amazing cabaret doyenne Lady Rizo, the masterfully dark comedy of John Robertson, the surreal audience work of Beth Vyse, Abigoliah Schamaun's saucy sexualised comedy, the accordion madness of Strangely Doesburg, Twonkey's tripped out cabaret, the dulcet croon of Dusty Limits, David Mills' camp comedy snark, the sexual interrogation of Cameryn Moore's Phone Whore, that massive Polish Planet Lem thing in the uni quad a few years back, Michael Griffiths' genderflipping covers shows and every magical Stuart Bowden show ever.
That's missing out so much stuff though. Agh!
What shows did you enjoy last year?
Again, so many. Sam Simmons and Stewart Lee both put on shows that I learned so much from. My favourite would have to have been Will Greenway's Vincent Went Splat. It was a really intimate storytelling show that had me in the palm of his hand for the whole hour. I also really enjoyed English clown Dan Lees' hour last year, which was actually in the same tiny room at Underbelly. Dan's show was a series of ridiculous characters who all wanted to play with the audience. There's something really sweet and genuine about what he does. Josh Ladgrove's solo show was a huge surprise to me - I wasn't expecting it to have such a dark, nihilistic heart, and it was all the stronger for it. And actually I really enjoyed Camille's Jacques Brel show - it was way edgier than I expected. Great arrangements that reminded me of PJ Harvey and her stage presence is enormous!
Who are you most looking forward to seeing in Edinburgh?
SO MUCH STUFF! All of those people, obviously, or the ones that are back in any case. But hopefully a pile of stuff that I have never heard of will blow my mind. Nobody ever really knows what is going to be the highlight of their festival before they get there and this year I'm planning to take a chance on something I haven't heard of at least once a day.
I still haven't seen electroclash megastar Christeene live, so that's top of my list at the moment.
Despite being inundated with flyers it occurred to us at DARKCHAT that as we are quite organised before we arrive we never watch a show due to a flyer. Last year we had a Flyer Day & saw the first shows we received flyers for. ( We may only have seen 3 shows that day, " Leodo-The Paradise", "Feast" & " Tom Parry - Yellow T Shirt" but they were all so wonderful we thought we would quit while we were ahead.)
Can you suggest a theme we could adapt for this year's festival?
I was staying with Manchester spoken word gent Ben Mellor a couple of years ago and he had a wall of cut-out entries of the most pretentious sounding shows. I couldn't bring myself to see any of them, but I reckon you could have a horrible time. Otherwise, you can't go wrong with a "Shows The Scotsman Hated"-themed adventure?
Finally, how do you plan to survive that month of mayhem?
Survive? Five festivals in, I know what I'm getting myself into and I want it to start already! I'm completely amped for a month-long party!
See you there!
You can see Tomas at:
The Liquid Room (Venue 276) 23.55 on August 5th, 12th, 19th & 26th
Sweet Grassmarket 19.00 on August 4th-14th, 16th-21st and 23rd-28th