TDW - Interview
TDW's latest album was released on December 4th, 2020 on Layered Reality Productions. "The Days The Clock Stopped" is an intensely personal concept album that details a dark trip through the human mind and body that the writer Tom went through 11 years ago fighting a deadly bowel disease. This album details what it is like to be stuck inside your body and what that does to your psyche. MetalBite talks with Tom de Wit about the album and music that took almost 11 years to create. Enjoy!
Thanks for taking time to do this, how are things in TDW?
Well, life is busy as always, haha! We are now wrapping up the promotion for this album and that cycle has been going since November last year, so in that sense this feels like the end of an era almost. When I started working on this record I did not anticipate the struggles and delays that ended up becoming a part of this promotional cycle. So, to actually have the album out in all formats (with vinyl officially launched on the 2nd of April!) it finally feels like I can let this go and see it go off into the world.
Meanwhile I am already working on the follow up record for TDW, so actually my mind is already firmly busy with that. A lot of songs have already been written and my plan is to get this album out the door somewhere in the second half of this year, so times are busy as always! And next to that I am working with the band Dreamwalkers Inc. on making a new album with those guys and girl as well, so the creativity is flowing and firing on all cylinders!
TDW are your initials right?
Yup, literally my initials for my first and last name... end of story. THE END. ROLL CREDITS, haha! I mean, it actually is the truth. I started making music when I was 14 years old and I just felt that my name by itself did not really stand for much. I don't hate my name or anything, but Tom is not exactly a special name and de Wit is a really standard Dutch surname. So, I just abbreviated it as such, because it at least seemed like it could mean more than just my name. Also, over the years, I decided to start calling my fans and followers Dreamwalkers and TDW can also stand for The Dream Walker, so it became more of a thing over the years. Also, that transpired into my other bands band name 'Dreamwalkers Inc' like that.
The TDW name however now stands for everything that I want to do musically, no matter what the genre or the output is. If I am involved in it and I had a creative hand in making it, it will be a TDW thing unless it's a part of a different band/creative outing. Right now, I am happy to have both TDW and Dreamwalkers Inc. as my things. It feels nicely balanced like this.
How long did you work on "The Days The Clock Stopped"?
The Days The Clock Stopped is an album that took me about 11 years to make as it is a very personal and intense album about all the things that happened to me when I got hospitalized at the age of 21 with a bowel disease called Colitis Ulcerosa. This disease was so intense and violent on my body that I spent 2 years in- and out of hospitals, almost dying two times in that process. The album basically is my first person telling of this story and that is, as you can perhaps imagine, not something you just easily do.
So, it really took me years of making other records and writing music on different subjects before I felt 'Ready' to tackle this highly personal story like this. It's scary to share something this personal with the world, you know. But I am glad I did now that it has happened, and I see everyone's amazing responses to it. But yeah, those 11 years were needed to become mentally ready for this record.
Writing the music also was a bit unorthodox for me, because I did not just write this album in one go. This album has some song ideas that are literally 11 years old and some that were written in late 2019. It really has been a melting pot of creative ideas. Looking back on how that writing process went, I am surprised how coherent the album became, haha!
What can one expect when 'play' button is pressed?
Well, The Days The Clock Stopped is very much a story driven experience, so it's not a straightforward headbangers record at all. It's 80+ minutes and goes from heavy metal blastbeat intensity to ambient ballady moments and back again. So, in that sense for headbangers I would say that this is an album they should put on with a genuinely open mind and that they should take the time to take it all in.
However, this is an advice that I can give for all my records really. I have had multiple experiences that people said they hated or didn't get my music at first, but then they gave it a second chance and suddenly it clicked and by the third time they were hooked. I don't mind this really. I am not making music to easily bang your head to or to party too. I think my music should be judged on the merit of itself and the message it conveys. If that resonates with you? Great! If not? That's fine too!
What about the title of the album, is there a specific meaning behind it?
The album title describes what it feels like to be in a hospital bed and to be stuck in the regime that the hospital puts on you. When you are as sick as I have been back then, you basically have to wait for your body to recover while you are being nursed back to health by the hospital staff. So, the world really is just that: the hospital. The room you are in. And at a certain point, (if there is no clock present) you just feel like every day is the same. The same routine, the same things, the clock basically stopped, while the world keeps going on outside your window. It really is a surreal experience to go through that and this album reflects that in all the songs.
That was your main inspiration music and lyric wise too?
Obviously my main frame of reference was what I went through back then, so when writing the lyrics, it was pretty clear what which song would become. It helps to have story that an album is based on, because then you know what you are writing in a way. Musically however, the album really came together in a more random fashion as mentioned before. I had some demo's that I actually made in the hospital in 2008 that ended up on this record, but I also wrote some brand-new songs in 2019 that fit with their vibe and sound. It felt like writing music with my 21-year-old me in a way. Both of us sitting in the studio and encouraging each other to write something more intense and exciting with every turn. That's why a new song like 'The Pulse' fits well with an older track idea like 'Sleepless Angels' for example. There is literally 11 years of difference between those two original ideas, yet it all works out in the end.
Was there anything else that influenced you while composing, something that surprised even yourself?
As always I am inspired by a lot of progressive metal stuff that I listen to, but also a lot of music that comes from all over the musical spectrum. So, a band like Between The Buried And me or Protest The Hero are inspirational for my own music, but I am also inspired by classical music like Rachmaninov, Mahler etc. I also listen to quite a bit of fusion and mathrock and I have my bouts of jamming to Miles Davis (Bitches Brew is the shit!) and acts like that. I like listening to a lot of different music because that keeps my own ideas fresh. Don't get me wrong, I can also still love and enjoy stuff like Metallica, Slipknot, Death, Megadeth, Faith No More etc., but I would say that that is music I binged in my early days and I am taking that with me now when writing new music. I guess that is how my mind works. I have not listened to those bands for a while now, but they are still there, and I am very grateful for their influence in my writing.
What do you think about categorizing and all these tags being put on music? Is it needed?
From a logical perspective I don't mind that there are categories, because it helps finding the stuff you might like. For example, I am not much of a fan of black metal, so if something is described as TRVV KVLT BLACK METAL then I will prolly be like "Nah, I'll pass" because that kind of sound and vibe doesn't work for me. HOWEVER, that doesn't mean that all music that has black metal influences doesn't work for me! For example, I once heard Agalloch being played somewhere and was like "What is this?! I love this!" and that turned out to be black metal inspired and sounding alike as well. So, that proved to me that having a 'tag' that I might not instantly feel attracted to, doesn't have to mean I instantly dislike it.
A thing I really DO dislike about categorizing is that people project a certain expectation on music. It's like: "You make prog metal, so you probably sound like Dream Theater!" that kind of thing. I hate that because it puts an artist into a box, and I believe art by its own merit should be box less. The hypocrisy that sometimes happens within genres (and I am looking at prog specifically here) is that people like something so much, they just kinda want the same thing over and over, which then results into bands making the same album for many years in a row. This is something that I would never want to do. I would not want to make 'The Days The Clock Stopped - Part 2: Electric Boogaloo' or some shit, because what is the point in that!? This album is out now, so the next one will be different again. That's what artistry is about in my book.
What do you call it yourself?
I always called my music progressive metal because for me personally, progressive stands for daring to do things that are not standard and that go beyond the expected conventions of genre labels. For me being progressive does NOT mean playing 10.000 notes and being technical for the sake of it... I am getting a bit annoyed by that. Sure, I appreciate good playing and high-quality stuff, but for me the actual inventiveness of music and the new concepts brought to the table are far more interesting. That is why I would classify certain bands as progressive that the media doesn't seem to see that way.
Also, a pet peeve I have regarding this genre is that there are quite a few bands out there that call themselves progressive, while they are literally doing EVERYTHING that has already been done before... I see labels sometimes pushing generic melodic metal bands that play ONE WHOLE BAR of 7/8 on their album and then call it 'Progressive' and I am sitting here like: "...Really? That is already progressive to you? Wow"...
I know this might sound pedantic on my side and I am sorry about that, but this proves that for me there is a big distinction between making actual progressive music, or the PROG tag that labels put on bands because they might have a few slightly weird bits in their music somewhere.
What does 'progressive' mean to you?
For me the idea of making progressive music is incredibly important, hence why I have my own project in this genre and I also am a part of progressive metal band Dreamwalkers Inc. This genre is the way for me to express complicated thoughts and emotions to the world and find a connection with others by doing so. This music basically has therapeutic value, so it really is what I live and breathe daily.
Next to that I am also active as the label boss for Layered Reality Productions through which I release and promote my own music, but also the music of other artists worldwide and through the label I am able to give back to artists and help them reach an audience that GETS what they are doing. MY goal with the label basically is to get those bands out there that are being ignored by the bigger press outlets because they are too weird or too out there. Of course, I seek for bands that are high quality and I don't just sign any bedroom project that does weird music, but we take pride into signing the acts that are really good but also really unique!
And to give back to the scene through the label, we started a YouTube radio show in March 2021 called Progmetal Pantheon in which we play music from unsigned cool prog bands from around the world and help them expand their profile. So, then I am the radio host putting that whole thing together with help of my amazing team and that also feels like a great way to give something in return to the scene. If that radio show can help launch some new great bands then I am very happy indeed!
When you sit down to write and compose, do you create for yourself or for others?
I always primarily write music for myself. If I am not excited about a song, it does not go out into the world. :) I am actually pretty critical on that. Basically, every step I am taking with my music should make me feel like I am doing something really cool. If that feeling isn't there I throw the idea out and start over. And by now I think the fanbase that is there (and that keeps growing) is in sync with those feelings I have.
However, as the years go by and I learn more, I do know better which songs might work better as a single and which don't for example. This is convenient in a promotional sense, but that does not mean I am not going to write those other songs as well. The best feeling in the world is to just sit down and write whatever comes without any preconceived thought of what it should adhere to.
Let's switch seats for a moment. What do you expect from the listener?
Honestly, I don't think expecting anything is realistic, haha! Like, I have some things I would like people to experience and feel when they listen to my music, but I think if you are telling yourself 'PEOPLE SHOULD FEEL SAD WHEN LISTENING TO THIS' you are basically setting yourself up for disappointment these days. Especially with the internet being the open opinion sewer that it is these days. For every person that says they like your music, there will be someone saying its complete shit and that is perfectly fine!
So, if I had to say anything that I would expect people to do, I would say I would expect them to at least listen to my music once with intent. Really soak it in and hear what is going on. If you still hate it then? No problem at all! But there's a chance you might like it and then you are welcome to be a part of my musical world
Do you play to build or to destroy?
I would rather build. With my music I try to create a universe in which difficult subject matter can be discussed and in which emotions are allowed to exist. I love writing stories that sometimes maybe even have supernatural or weird themes, but that are based in reality and human emotions. At the end of the day, the human condition and the way we perceive reality is a subject that can never be explored enough I think. So, in a way, I want my music to be experiences that people can listen to and maybe find answers in. Or at least some comfort knowing that they are not the only ones that can feel sad, confused and/or alone. We all have these moments and if we share those, we can at least learn from them and grow.
Which emotions do you have plenty of and which not enough?
Honestly, my problem is that I have too much of everything haha! High sensitivity basically means every emotion always fires on overdrive. I learned to deal with it more over the years though. So, there are moments people might see me as the hard-working guy who is always happy and positive, while I am trying to reroute my negativity and sadness into something more useful like music and art. However, this is a very tiresome struggle at times, not going to lie.
So, there are days in which I would just want to feel less or maybe even nothing once in a while to just recharge my batteries a bit if you know what I mean. But that's not an option in my head, so the balancing act continues every day.
What would you do if you couldn't play?
I wanted to be a videogame designer as a kid, so I might chase that then. Also, I do audio, video and web design work from my own studio for my main income. So, if my own music would stop, I would probably still be making things in that sphere, but then for clients.
Where do you see yourself and Dreamwalkers Inc. in next 5-7 years?
For TDW I will see myself still making music in whatever situation and style I then feel like making. I always considered TDW to be an open thing that can take many artistic styles and shapes. So, I would not rule out an acoustic album or maybe an even more intense and dark heavy project. Or maybe even something drone/ambient improvised like. Basically, if I am involved, it's TDW and that's it. Performing with an orchestra would be a dream come true as well. And maybe at a certain point I might gather a band of friends to play some TDW only shows and perform The Days The Clock Stopped integrally, but that really has to do with demand as well.
With Dreamwalkers Inc. we are now working on the first album in a bigger concept which will probably span multiple records and will become a multimedia experience of sorts. So, in 5/7 years we will either just have finished the final chapter, or we are still in the middle of that. I do love that prospect though. I love working on big projects and putting those out there.
Ok, we covered past and present. What are the plans for the future?
Right now, my focus is on finishing the new TDW album with the fan-songs that I mentioned in the earlier part of this interview. This album consists of brand-new songs I wrote myself in the last few months, but also songs that I based on prompts given by fans who preordered The Days The Clock Stopped in 2020. I did a preorder campaign for that album and told people that if they contributed enough, I would write them a song. However, I got so many people ordering, that I basically had to write a new album as a result, haha! It is like a luxury problem really. So now I am working on an album that is VERY diverse and radically different from what The Days The Clock Stopped sounds like. The fact that it releases so quickly in succession also poses a cool challenge, because I have never made an album in such a short timeframe. But I like challenges and seeing what it turns into then.
And next to that, with Dreamwalkers Inc. we are calmly writing and analyzing the songs we are making for the new album and basically planned that record for 2022 so that we can then hopefully also play live to promote it and start that big concept properly. So basically, I am now working on two albums at the same time with radically different planning pacing and music. It feels like I am a kid in a candy store, being able to just write a lot of music and being creative!
CD, vinyl and cassette. Vinyl is coming back some say but for me it never went away just like cassettes. What is your opinion about the physical media, which one do you prefer?
I agree with what you are saying there. Media never left, but people are just made aware by the bigger press right now. Has to do with the commercial incentive I guess. A big chunk of the traditional music industry is standing on its last legs, so they desperately try to make myths like 'VINYL IS MAKING A COMEBACK' while the actual music fans are there like '...It never left dudes... You just were too busy making money on pressing crap products to notice...' And we all know many genres that have been on cassettes, vinyl and what not even in the 90s when people said vinyl wasn't existing anymore. So, I often just shrug when I hear media phrases like that. What's next, bringing back fucking 8-tracks because Sony and Epic decide that's a thing now?
Personally, I love physical media, but it has to be done right. And by that I mean that you should not just bring out a simple CD and think you are done. A lot of people don't buy physical products to put it in their CD collection because most people don't have those anymore. However, I do notice that if you are willing to put actual time, care and effort into your packaging and the whole experience, people will still buy it because they want to own that experience. I have had multiple people telling me that they bought my records and actually listened to them on Spotify/Apple music, because they could not play the CD's, but they actually wanted to own the package due to the look of the covers, the booklets that are included, the bonus material etc.
Thanks a lot for taking time to answer all the questions, last word is yours.
Thank you guys and girls at MetalBite for taking the time for all this! Hope you are all staying safe and healthy! Have a great day!
The Days The Clock Stopped
The Antithetic Affiliation
Music To Stand Around And Feel Awkward To!
Up Close And Personal
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