Karl Thomas, aka ShockOne, is the latest artist from Perth to make a splash in the drum and bass world. It's a town with a strong pedigree. Thomas' achievements so far are impressive. Since 2005, he has had releases on Simon Bassline Smith's Technique, Andy C's Frequency and DJ Friction's Shogun Audio, and he is now signed exclusively to Viper Recordings. Viper has been the platform for breakthrough releases from artists including Nero, Matrix & Futurebound, Brookes Brothers and DC Breaks.
After a string of hit releases on Viper over the last couple of years and a couple of European tours Thomas has just released the first single from his debut album. Crucify Me came out at the end of June and it features two parts - a Drum and bass take and a dubstep take. On the line from Perth, Thomas relates some of the ups and downs of creating his debut album. "I'm still creating it now, so I don't have the benefit of retrospect just yet. I've been working on this album for the best part of two years I guess. I think as a solo electronic artist, the album process is very different compared to the more traditional band recording process. Where as in a band you might have the writing, recording and mixing processes all fairly independent of each other, in my case this is all kind of mashed into one ongoing procedure."
The creative fire keeps burning for Thomas. "I'm constantly writing new tunes and working on songs. Songs tend to evolve over long periods of time with me and in a lot of cases I completely re-write a song three of four times within the same project before coming to something I'm happy with. I suppose you could compare this to when you hear of a band choosing the best twelve tunes out of a bunch of thirty, the songs that get re-written over are the ones that get thrown out. Ups and downs are frequent. Some days I feel really confident in the tunes I have for the album, some days I feel like they all suck and I want to start again! But as you go on the ups slowly start to outweigh the downs."
Thomas' fellow Perth artists, and past band mates, Pendulum, have been forging a strong path around the world. "I think they opened up the world of popular music to drum and bass in the first place. I owe a lot to them for that fact alone. Without the commercial success of Pendulum the chance of my music being accepted commercially would be a lot slimmer I think." As for his inspirations? "It's pretty hard for me to explain how or why I sound the way I do, as when you are in a creative state you are just letting things flow and reacting on impulse. If I'm attracted to a certain artist or piece of music, it's because I naturally react to it and because it makes me feel a certain way. It's the same when writing, I don't know why I make the choices I do when writing, I'm making those choices on a reactive impulse because it's exciting me for one reason or another."
And does being in Perth affect his sound? "To be honest I don't think it shapes my sound that much. The only possible thing I can think of is not being around the people who are making similar music to myself all the time. This has its positives and negatives. On the one hand I don't really get to feed of the energy you get when you are surrounded by your peers, but on the other, I'm not so influenced by other people's sounds and current trends due to the isolation of where I am."
Thomas has previously commented that Crucify Me Pt 1 was about the end of a relationship. "It's not that I set out to write a song about the said situation. It just so happens that when Phetsta and I were starting the tune, I was going through that. I had a vocal melody in my head and those were the lyrics that showed up, and all within the space of about 10 minutes. As much as the song is about a certain time for me, I would like to think that people can get whatever they want out of the tune. Lyrics are abstract and subjective so what the lyrics mean to me could be completely different to what someone else gets out of them." Can dance music convey emotion well though? "I think dance music is incredibly emotive," Thomas says when he reflects on it. "I've never really subscribed to the idea of dance music having less emotion or artistic integrity than lyrical music just because it isn't spelling it out in words."
Thomas isn't the only one in his family with musical talent. His sister, Reija Lee, is a regular collaborator with the Perth artist Kito (who has experienced success in the dubstep scene). Lee will be singing on a few tunes from Thomas' new album. As to whether the album has a theme? "I'm not sure if you can say it is a focused theme as such, but the overarching concept basically deals with the paradox of absoluteness and nothingness being one and the same. A lot of the ideas behind the songs deal with fairly universal concepts such as our perception of the universe and our own reality."
The rest of the year is looking busy for Thomas with plans to move overseas. "Apart from doing the Dubstep Invasion mix CD for OneLove, I'll be putting out the next single for the album around September sometime with the full album coming later in the year. I'm also moving to London in September, however I will be back in the not too distant future for some shows."
ShockOne [AUS] plays All City Bass at Brown Alley on Saturday July 30.