Do you like the following?
- Iconic lyrics
- Gay men
Of course you do! Which is why we at Instinct are super excited to have sat down with Tom Aspaul, in the midst of the single release for ‘Going Down’.
‘Going Down’ does a formidable job of working its way into your brain quickly, with a huge chorus, handclaps galore and smooth af vocals.
Tom, a songwriter in his own right with an impressive number of credits under his belt, including the creator of homosexuality, Kylie Minogue, sat down with us to talk his new single, his iconic London club nights, and what his favourite gif is.
Hi Tom, a pleasure to speak with you today! How are you doing?
Hiya Kevin! The pleasure is all mine! I’m good thank you. A little bit rushed off my feet, but all good. How’s you?
So, let’s start with your brand new single shall we! It’s been a while since you last made a foray into your own music, has this been a long time coming?
It really has! Feels like it’s been forever to be honest. I wanted to take a small break after the last EP. That whole episode was a bit of a bad experience and a massive learning curve for me as an artist. I decided to give it some time, do some features here and there. I’m writing for other people continuously, so I just focused on that and my podcast. Then, sometimes, something comes along and you’re like ‘shit, I want this for myself’ - and that’s what ‘Going Down’ was. I decided I was gonna do everything myself, which was always going to be a long and arduous process - but it’s been quick by music industry standards!
How has the reception been for the single so far?
Amazing! So relieved and happy!
What was the writing process like for this song?
I worked with three different producers on the track. It was very long winded, lots of back and forth to get it just right! The writing itself was very quick, maybe only took half an hour. I was sitting alone in my flat and I just had this sudden urge to create. I remember it was boiling hot that day and I was sat on the floor of my bedroom in my pants, writing lyrics. The song is actually incredibly sad, although melodically it’s super happy. I wrote about how I dealt with grief after losing a close friend to depression in 2011. Sometimes, even now, out of the blue, I can be overcome by the residual sadness of it all and I guess that’s the ‘going down’ part. Like, you think you have a handle on everything, but you could also collapse into tears at any moment. God it’s so depressing when I think about it! I’m fine now though, it’s the first time I could write about it and I think it might have really helped.
You’ve written for some massive names in the industry. Kylie, MKS and Saara Alto. Is it a different beast altogether writing for someone other than yourself?
In the case of Kylie and Mutya Keisha Siobhan, all the songs we did together were originally written by me, just for me and my artist project, which is a bit weird and unusual to be honest. Since then I’ve mostly been in the studio with different artists, trying to write a “hit" and yes, that is quite different! I’m starting to feel like I prefer writing a song with other writers and producers and then pitching it to an artist. That feels like it’s been a much more successful way of getting songs released!
You’re massive on the London club scene, and you’ve thrown some iconic club nights. Recently, you put together an ‘Artpop V Prism’ themed party. Who was the winner of the night?
I wouldn’t say I’m massive on the London club scene! Although I’m going to use that as a quote from now on. Put it on my CV! Maybe you could say I’m fairly well known amongst a very niche group of people on the East London dive bar scene? A couple of friends and I do this night called ‘Synthia’, it’s been really successful this year! We LOVE a theme. We recently did a Madonna night for her 60th birthday, we’ve done Rihanna, Azealia Banks (controversially) and my personal fave ARTPOP v Prism this summer - in which ARTPOP obviously walked it!
You also produce your own podcast called Bottle Pop. Tell us a bit more about that!
I do! I mean, who doesn’t do their own podcast these days? Bottle Pop has been so much fun to put together though. It’s such a basic premise, but it’s really worked - every week I invite someone who works in or around music to my flat, we pop a bottle of prosecco, get drunk, chat shit about pop music and then they go home pissed! I’ve had some amazing guests over two seasons. MNEK was fab, Siobhan Donaghy was lovely, and Peter from Popjustice gave me enough material to do a 4 hour episode! I get so many amazing opportunities come through because of it, just last month Annie Mac asked me to join her on BBC Radio 1 to take part in the Years & Years album listening party, which was incredible and surreal. I’m actually so proud because I don’t have any help or any budget and Bottle Pop is consistently hovering around the top of the iTunes music podcast chart. I’ve got to say though, I listen to a lot of podcasts and it’s one of the better ones, I think it’s just a really fun listen and it’s really well edited! I’ll be back soon with some special one-off editions!
You must be constantly on the go with all of these projects. How do you manage?
Planning! I have a lovely manager who organises my calendar - tells me which studio I need to be at and who I’m working with. He works with my publishers to organise all of that - that’s the signwriting side of things. I just look at the gaps and try to fill them with different projects! At the start of this year I was actually so bored, so it’s not always this busy, but as soon as the release of this single got closer and closer it’s all got a bit hectic.
So, being part of the LGBT community yourself, does your sexuality shape how you write your music?
I love being gay, it’s a massive part of my life - and like most writers and artists, I write about my life and what I see around me. When writing for other artists (predominantly straight females) I like to be as universal as possible - although there’s a sort of shared understanding, we’ve all been wronged by men at some point! As for my artist project, yes I've written about bottoming (on ‘Pioneer’) and hook-ups (on 'Messy') and the rest of it, it just comes naturally I suppose - I think it’s just as important to write about the kind of shared experiences that come with the territory of being part of a wider LGBT community. Going back to my new song, I lost a friend, who was gay and struggling with depression and substance abuse. That whole situation feels like it was centred uniquely on his sexuality - and these kind of stories are quite common. The after effects are so traumatic and I finally felt able to write about it. A large part of my sexuality was always tied to going out, dancing to loud music, drinking, having fun and meeting boys that way. I guess there is no such thing as ‘gay music’, but there’s a certain taste level we all have and an appreciation for female popstars that kind of comes with it all - I guess that influences what I listen to and in turn, how I write my music.
You’re quite the icon on Twitter dot com. What is your favourite gif?
It’s quite basic but I love the gif of Amanda Seyfried/Karen in Mean Girls laughing when the (hot) head teacher is reading lines from the 'burn book’. He says something like ‘fugly slut’ and the way she giggles is so reminiscent of me at school. I was always in trouble and normally I’d just laugh at the teachers. I love using it if anything is vaguely funny. Gosh that’s quite boring isn’t it?
(v iconic gif)
Not at all! Iconic gif. Let’s do some quick-fire questions! Favourite song?
Lovefool - The Cardigans
Favourite concert you’ve ben to and why?
Can I have three please? Just because three incredible gigs come to mind and they all happened at the Hammersmith Apollo, maybe it’s that venue? This year, Alanis Morissette was literally so amazing there. She finished with Thank U and I cried. I also saw Kate Bush there, which was the closest I’ll ever get to a religious experience. Lastly I went to this Julie Andrews evening where she spoke about her career and sang Edelweiss (despite the dodgy larynx) and I was on the front row and once again, I cried.
Favourite Spice Girl?
I met Emma Bunton at a BRIT Awards after party this year. I was so drunk, I showed her my Spice Girls tattoo (which involved taking off my shirt) and she was so lovely and seemingly so happy after all these years, just to look at my awful tattoo and have a picture with me. So Emma all the way. Also ‘Maybe' is a massive fucking bop.
Jennifer Lopez or Mariah Carey?
Sophie’s choice! When the chips are down, it's Jennifer Lopez. But I’m getting a Mariah tattoo very soon and I worship her too.
I’ve been rediscovering Röyksopp recently and I’d forgotten how amazing their production and songwriting was. Also I’d love to go to Norway, so Röyksopp!
ABBA or Steps?
Finally, what’s next for Tom Aspaul?
So I’ve got a couple of exciting co-writes coming out soon - some big artists! You’ll have to listen out for them! I’m gonna do some one-off episodes of Bottle Pop, maybe one a month through to Xmas. Probably a few more ridiculously themed club-nights, I really wanna do a night called ‘Synthia: Nixon’ and just play amazing lesbian rock music. As for my artist project, hopefully this is just the beginning (or some kind of reset) I’m gonna release the video for ‘Going Down’ very soon! Some exciting remixes are coming, then it’s time for the follow up, which is, and I'm not just saying this, it is my most favourite song I've ever written! Hopefully I can squeeze in a third song before the end of the year, but if not the start of 2019! Phew!
Thank you! Have a great day!
Stream Tom's new single 'Going Down' on Spotify now!
All photos courtesy of Tom Aspaul and Alice Rainis.