T-Mass is one of San Francisco Bay Area's most talented producer and DJ. He has been carving his own name and unique sound in hard-hitting bass whether it may be trap, dubstep, or electro. If you haven't seen one his viral videos or perform at Insomniac's Beyond Wonderland yet, he is making waves recently with a debut EP, remix and is even on the official lineup for Dim Mak's huge 20th Anniversary event in the notable Bill Graham Civic Auditorium on Friday, November 18. We got a chance to meet with him yesterday as he goes in detail about himself in music, his own sound and more.
How did you get started in music from the beginning?
I started in early college with FL studio, making beats for friends, and watching them rap about immature content. It was hilarious and a fun way to mess around on my computer and satisfy my drive to create things. My drive to create is something I’ve had since I was born, whether it's legos, drawings, models, paintings, modifying things, etc.
Another part of the answer is that I deliberately didn't bring a gaming console to college so I'd have more time to be productive and socialize. I think my music career might be the result of that decision. This lead to moments of free time being dedicated to this new hobby. If you don't quit something for an extended period of time, you eventually get good at it, and someday even great. Thousands and thousands of baby steps.
Who or what would you say is your biggest inspiration?
This is a common question for artists and I think if they answered honestly they'd tell you that their inspiration changes. When I first started making beats just for the hell of it, hip-hop artists were my inspiration. Shortly after that artists such as PRETTY LIGHTS and BONOBO caught my attention. They were like a gateway drug to EDM. Then DEADMAU5. Then the most important wave for me that really made me want to focus on music came – the dubstep movement. SKRILLEX, MT EDEN and all the others really proved to me how exciting computer music can be and served as a massive inspiration in my early dubstep days, which are essentially the first songs of mine people heard. I then narrowed it down to melodic dubstep for awhile where SEVEN LIONS was king. I'm glad I did this challenging sub genre because it's some of the hardest music to produce in my opinion. I learned a lot there. When I finally got into trap music, all the names you'd expect caught my attention. Currently I'm inspired by random songs that impress me, and MARSHMELLO haha, but generally just random songs that I really enjoy.
What's the story behind your name?
When I was in sixth grade I used to breakdance. I was going to battle another kid who was older than me and the teacher asked me my bboy name, which is basically the equivalent of an alias for a musician. I didn't have one, and the most experienced kid there, said “T-Mass!” out of nowhere. It stuck. I also won that battle which was pretty cool. I heard that guy ended up professionally breakdancing in movies like Step Up. I wonder if he knows this story.
Describe to us your sound.
Adaptive. Melodic and bass heavy. Will sound different in two years and won't get left behind.
Talk to us about debut EP on Dim Mak “We Made It".
The biggest upside to the EP was getting in contact with people at the label. Dim Mak has a few really helpful, honest, and respectful individuals. In an industry where people can be very selfish and egotistical, I look out for people like this. They've already been presenting me with opportunities, which is perfect for a produce-a-holic like myself.
You have a recent remix on SIDNEY SAMSON & Eva Simmon's "Escape From Love". What inspired you to rewrite this?
Because it's on Spinnin. Who wouldn't want to have a song be released on one of the top dog EDM labels. That's some pretty exciting stuff. This was a perfect opportunity for that and to hopefully get my foot in the door for the future. If you've been watching Spinnin lately they aren't the big-room-house-only label that many people thought they used to be. There's some solid stuff coming out through them. With that said, the song itself is very well written and easy to remix. It's got catchy vocals, a clean chord progression and nice sound design. It's definitely the type of thing I like to remix regardless of what label it's on and I'm really happy with the result.
Your remix on THE CHAINSMOKERS’ #1 hit “Closer (feat. Halsey),” is pretty dope! Where did your idea come up?
I heard the song the day it came out, and within the same day, finished my remix of it. Only because of schedules, approvals, YouTube channels, etc did I have to wait. I love The Chainsmokers because of their music and because of their attitude. They've managed to avoid the godlike egos of the vast majority of famous musicians. I can literally text or email them and they'll respond which to me is incredible. FAR EAST MOVEMENT is one other big group that I know is like this and I wildly respect that mentality. That's where I'd like to end up.
Being a Bay Area local, how would you describe the music scene today?
I was recently asked this question and I'm going to quote myself here:
I’m still in the Bay Area. I wish I could tell you that being here has been a blessing for my music. In a way it has been; in the sense that I enjoy my surroundings, and I’m comfortable with my life, my music sees a benefit. But the reality with SF for me is not so amazing for my career. Every connection and achievement has been pretty much made online. I could have been living in Alaska and be in the same place I am now with 30-million SoundCloud plays. I work with zero DJs from the Bay Area and play the majority of my shows out of state, which to me makes no sense. I feel the scene in SF is strange. I mean, I can walk into a club and get recognized by people in the audience here, yet I still DJ out of town most of the time. Not quite sure what’s going on, but we’ll see in time. I have two shows in SF coming up soon so maybe it’ll change.
You're on the lineup for Dim Mak's 20th Anniversary event at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium. How does it feel to be part of a huge event at an iconic venue?
I'm very hyped for that show. I've been in that audience standing still while people dance around me, wishing it was me up there, on more than one occasion. I'm not the headlining act but still very honored and happy to be playing there. Feels like a positive step and I'm stoked for this show.
Do you have any upcoming records or collaborations you can share with us about? We know you're thinking of remixing an old school dance song...
I generally like to stay modest, and I'm not a big fan of everything of mine that comes out. Songs I don't like, I tend to post the least about. With that said, I have multiple songs and collaborations finished right now that are next level. They are the cleanest and most accessible songs I've ever been involved with. I just need to find an outlet they deserve to get them as widespread as possible.
Tickets for Dim Mak's 20th Anniversary event in San Francisco are available here.