"My ears are everything, imagine a life without music" - A conversation with Tom Shorterz
Only the most prudish of production-snobs can deny that Birmingham is one of the UK's essential, underrated dance hubs, having given birth to a swathe of unabashed, distinctly British producers and DJs, distinct in their ability to dovetail garage and bassline into house and techno. Tom Shorterz has recently been revisiting his roots in the city, including re-releasing an impressively fresh 2009 track from his first label ("we made about £14 and thought fuck this and went back to throwing parties") and using his weekly Rinse FM show as a site for revisiting the "guilty Bassline House pleasures" that typified his first club residencies.
These murky sonic throwbacks strike a perfect contrast to the precision-tooled sound Shorterz derived from their palette, one that he applies to sweat-drenched crowds every week, from closing sets at his local legendary haunt Crane to peak time slots in Fabric's Room 1, alongside everyone from Paul Woolford to Mike Skinner. One thing that connects these nights is stomach rattling bass, so we thought it would be worth catching up with Shorterz to get his take on music filter ear plugs, life as a DJ, and the Birmingham music scene.
How has this last year been for you as a live DJ? Have you learned a lot as you spend more time on larger stages?
This year’s been great. I've been really enjoying DJing having toured with Hannah Wants up and down the country, warmed up for Holy Goof at Fabric and also putting my own shows on where I get to play some records out my collection that include much more obscure sounds. All in all, it's been a great year.
You've played alongside some unquestionable UK legends recently, from DJ EZ to Mike Skinner. Is there any particular DJ that represents what you want to do?
It's difficult for me as I love so many styles of music, I'm a big fan of DJs who take you on a journey up and down and all over. I rate highly Jackmaster, Francesco Del Garda, Max Vaahs. But when I'm on a UK Garage tip I like to listen back to Dominic Spreadlove mixes from back in the day.
What is your favourite place to play out these days, in terms of sound quality and vibe?
Fabric main room is the best place to mix, the monitors are amazing. They really do sound great and the room in the booth is perfect. Great Space.
When did you first become aware that your hearing was at risk?
I have been DJing in clubs for about 13 years and never bothered with ear protection as the years went by. You definitely feel a night of heavy music [on your hearing].
Do you have tinnitus?
No, I am very lucky to not have tinnitus.
What made you wear hearing protection now?
My ears are everything, imagine a life without music.
How healthy is Birmingham's scene nowadays?
Birmingham sadly lost the Rainbow venues, an iconic venue I was resident at for close to 10 years. We have amazing spaces still holding it down for Birmingham I’m currently resident at Lab 11 and a new afterparty called 'Afta-Dark' which is popping off; and of course 02.31 in its 7th year.
What would your ideal sonic experience be, for dancers at your sets?
House into Bass into Garage into Techno into vocals.
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Intro by Oli Katz