Ever wonder what happens beyond the stage? Well we do. These roadies, managers, guitar techs, lighting directors, A&R, and even positions you may not have known about make the music you love come alive! We spoke with the talented Tom McAdam to find out which tricks he pulls behind the scenes of our favourite bands!
AMBY: How did you first get into your industry?
Tom McAdam: I’m not entirely sure if I’m in an industry yet! Well, assuming that I am, I met Will Robinson of I’m Not From London in Nottingham in 2009. I had a band and he offered to get me gigs at his nights around the city. Through him I started meeting new people, hanging around on film sets and going to events. Along side this I was sculpting resin miniatures and making custom figurines to sell online. I decided to buy a camera and started taking pictures of the events. This quickly progressed into me filming bands live and in rehearsal to make music videos. I loved it and wanted to do more so Will put me in touch with the right people. Basically I owe it all to Will Robinson and the lovely people of Nottingham.
AMBY: Explain to people what you do.
Tom McAdam: I do a lot of things, too many perhaps. I’m a song writer, singer, painter, animator, sculptor, film maker, writer and designer. Oh and I’m studying part time. I like to have lots of things to keep me busy. This way if I get frustrated with one, I can take relief in an other and go back when the frustration has gone. Not everyone likes to work this way but it works for me!
AMBY: Which bands are you currently working with and which have previously worked with?
Tom McAdam: While I was in Nottingham, my home town, I worked with some amazingly talented musicians. Captain Dangerous (obviously), Baby Godzilla, Practical Lovers, Hot Japanese Girl, Rukus, Old Basford, The Smears, The Prime (now called The Steady Sound) and Satnams Tash to name but a few. Nottingham is full of talent as the young Jake Bugg has recently shown the world and I’m certain many more will surface in the public eye very soon. Since moving to Barcelona in September 2012, I’ve had the opportunity to work with some equally talented people such as Benjammin’, Lalo Untied and Terence Butler. Future plans include an animated video for American singer songwriter Kristen Herbert.
AMBY: We love your videos! Who inspires you work?
Tom McAdam: Thanks! My animation is inspired by my childhood hero Nick Park (Wallace and Gromit), Seth Green and Matthew Senreich (Robot chicken), Trey Parker and Matt Stone (South Park and Team America) and obviously the wondrous Pixar. I’ve liked cartoons from a young age and absolutely love more recent cartoons like Family Guy. I think there has to be an element of comedy with animation to make it work well. As for my non animated film work, I’m inspired by the classic movies I watch and, of course, the music I’m making the video for. I plan to make a full length zombie horror film, all 1.6 scale stop-motion in the near future. Watch this space.
AMBY: What is the craziest work related thing to happen to you?
Tom McAdam: Hmm… Well I think it would have to be standing perched in the back of a van, desperately holding onto ten 1.6 sets as they were delivered to the studio for filming. It doesn’t sound crazy to you but believe me, after two weeks building them I was pretty crazy about their safety… They all arrived in one piece but only just!
AMBY: What are some of your favourite moments while being on set?
Tom McAdam: Filming the sex scenes for the captain Dangerous video was hilarious. I invited some friends to the studio and we had a great laugh deciding on positions and scenes… Saying that, I love every moment of the projects once they have started. I hate the build up stages, the planning, buying materials etc but once i’m building the sets and sculpting the models I’m relaxed and happy. It’s a solitary experience doing stop-motion animation as there’s no need for a large team of people, mainly because only one person can fit into such a tiny space to move the models. Also the editing process is a long one and this again can only really be done by me. However, I do enjoy working alone without distraction, it helps me focus. Filming the captain Dangerous video, I was lucky enough to be able to borrow a local potters studio (thanks Guy Routlage!). Some of my most cherished life memories are working in such an inspiring and solitary place.
AMBY: What do you do for fun outside of work?
Tom McAdam: My work is fun so there isn’t a clear definition between the two. I like to write, paint, sculpt and play video games. This is my therapy in life. I can lose myself totally in such activities for hours and hours. Without this sounding too much like a job application, I also enjoy ‘socialising’ with friends and watching movies.
AMBY: The video for Captain Dangerous’ Heather and Tommy is fantastic! Where did the idea to use dolls come from?
Tom McAdam: We were originally going to shoot the whole thing in live footage, with actors and full size sets. It was proving difficult to organise everyone’s time and the budget was quite small so I suggested doing it in stop-motion. I’m glad this decision was made as I think the animation is more unique for a music video and also provides that comedy edge that we simply had to get into the video. Once we decided to go ahead and animate, it was a simple choice between different scales. I considered using smaller dolls at first, like action figure size 1:10, but found that the modelling and set building wouldn’t look anywhere near as detailed, the filming would be much more time consuming and the animation wouldn’t look as smooth. As with all projects like this, it’s a fine balance of budget, time and skill. Then I found a supplier of custom 1:6 scale dolls in china. These are like the old G.I Joe size and perfect for animation as they have a lot more articulation than the humble, but quite frankly stiff, Action Man. I ordered the dolls and customised the heads myself. I think what really makes the video look good is the detail in the sets and the costumes (thanks to Sue Freeman for the costumes)
AMBY: What is the best and worst thing about your gig?
Tom McAdam: The best thing is being able to earn a living doing what I love. Simple as that. I am at my happiest when I’m knee deep in a set, straining to move an arm 2mm for the next photo. There isn’t really any bad things to mention other than I’d like to do more of it and it hurts my back leaning over the sets for 8 hours a day. There’s not much call for such animation work since the new cgi films have taken over, I do enjoy all aspects of film making however, not just traditional animation.
AMBY: Which three albums changed your life?
Tom McAdam: Ahhh this could take me a week to decide… Not my favourite three but three that changed my life… Firstly, This Is It by The Strokes. This album was released just as I was starting to attend festivals and securing long term friendships in my late teens. It is still one of my favourites and holds many a good memory for me. It made me want to write and play music so I guess it definitely changed my life. I still get a surge of youthful butterflies in my stomach when I hear a track from that album. Secondly, it would have to be Fleet Foxes self titled debut album. This made me throw down my electric guitar and give up dreams of rock stardom with pride in favour of more folky writing, something I will never regret. It’s the harmonies that do it for me, lots of absolutely stunning pieces of music on that album. The third would have to be The Doors, all of their albums (cheating I know). I got into the Doors at a similar time to when I heard The Strokes for the first time. The poetic lyrics, penetrating sounds and sheer ballsiness of Morrison definitely shaped my early life and inspired me to probe deeper into myself when writing. Lots of music has changed me but trying to pin point which and when is bloody difficult!
AMBY: And lastly, what’s something about you that nobody knows yet?
Tom McAdam: The most difficult of all the questions! I’m quite an open person so people generally know everything about me, all the time. If I had to tell you something that nobody knows, I’d probably have to kill you for the knowledge or myself for the embarrassment…