The man has talent and he knows how to flaunt it
Perth’s own international party icon Tomás Ford launches his first full-length album in seven years on the intersection outside Fremantle’s National Hotel on 21 April as part of the Fremantle International Street Arts Festival. Around The Sound spoke to Ford in the build up to what will be an extraordinary event — of that we are quite certain.
“I’ve been dribbling out things on a small kind of single and EP basis for the last few years,” said Ford, “but my last proper album was in 2012, An Audience With Tomas Ford. It’s been a long time since a proper record, but there’s been a lot of stuff. I keep pretty busy and I find that the more things I take on, they all bounce off each other and inform what I do next.”
Busy is a little bit of an understatement. Constantly touring across Australia and overseas (well New Zealand), Ford must have a frequent flyer points balance the envy of any flash business proprietor. But it’s not all quantity over quality. With Ford, not even. In recent weeks he picked up the 2019 VIMA Award (Malaysian equivalent to ARIA) for ‘Best Dance Release’.
This man is no slouch. And, for an artist who defies expectations, it’s really no surprise that he’s winning awards for his music and performances, but then it’s also quite surprising. You see, the one constant about Ford is that he’s never going to do anything you expect him to.
Ford’s live shows are legendary around Australia, New Zealand and the UK for their mix of pulsing electronic beats and alternative cabaret crooning. It’s only after going to one of his ridiculous live shows or his cult Crap Music Rave Parties that you can really describe his peculiarly ecstatic kind of intensity — it leaves audiences a little shellshocked and sporting a huge grin.
“[What I do] seems to have solidified over the past couple of years into people getting this vaguely punk rock kind of sense of humour that I have. It’s like this anarchic fun kind of thing that I try to create at gigs that bonds people together. Whatever I do, it’s still breaking people’s brains. It’s what I’ve always tried to do; I’m not very good at writing political songs or those kinds of lyrics that are critical [of people]. I’m more of a story teller, so if I can disrupt people’s way of thinking in that hour and encourage them to enjoy something that, collectively, they would normally hate or not get into for whatever reason... You walk away from stuff like that and it does change your perspective.”
Ford is a deliberately left-field performer who can pull off just about anything hew bloody well wants.
“I did a couple of shows that were cover shows that were really me finding songs that I fucking hated and finding peace with them. It was interesting. Once you start poking about inside songs and you start looking at them and thinking, ‘How can I fuck about while I’m doing them?’ then all of a sudden Rick Astley seems like a more doable proposition.
“It’s this weird combination of a punch in the face and all of the song writing and preparation. I over prepare everything in terms of the actual show. I construct it like a theatre performance. That’s my background, anyway. But, then once I get there, it’s about being in the moment and usually three-quarters of that stuff goes out the window and the best stuff is what happens when you’re with a group of people. Then it makes sense all of a sudden.”
That’s probably about the best way to approach Tomás Ford, just be in the moment, go with the flow. It’s a bit like a group session of mindfulness with the volume turned up loud. But never be fooled by what can seem like a chaotic approach to his craft. Even though he’s making it up as he goes along, he’s always prepared for anything.
As Ford himself says, “It takes a lot of craft to be that much of a dickhead.”
A dickhead he may be, but he’s a loveable dickhead and he makes and plays some surprisingly good music. Actually, if you stop and think about it for a moment and it’s not surprising at all. The man has talent and he knows how to flaunt it.
Tomas Ford plays on the intersection outside The National Hotel on 21 April as part of the Fremantle International Street Arts Festival.