Tom Kerswill
3rd June '05
Devon (UK) is renowned for its beautiful countryside, clotted cream tea & scones and cider, to name a few, but the county is a haven for some damned fine musicians also - check out May's FAOTM Tom Kerswill and you'll see what I'm talking about! SkidMark should have featured this interview last month but unfortunately let Tom down at the last minute and due to busy schedules it's taken almost a month to finally pin him down - but it was worth the wait.....

SkidMcSkidder: Hi Tom, many thanks for being last month's FAOTM and it's great to finally get to talk to you online!

Tom Kerswill: Heheh, yeah it's been a bit of a mission this month, hasn't it!

You can say that again - I never had as much trouble pinning down a FAOTM - I've been busy and you've been busier! - tell us about the trip to Slovakia you've just returned from - how'd you get that gig??

Tom Kerswill:
Well, believe it or not, the enquiry came from my website... the wedding couple just dropped me a line using the feedback form

Tom Kerswill: .... and of course at first I was a bit sceptical. But I gave them my number, and when they called back I realised it was totally genuine... they fixed up a flight to Bratislava, and a train to get me to the airport, and I was on my way...

SkidMcSkidder: Wow!!

Tom Kerswill:
Yeah, that's pretty much what I said!

Tom Kerswill: They'd asked Lamb and Seafood to play, plus David Kitt, who's an Irish singer-songwriter. But they'd been let down at the 11th hour... so they gave my stuff a listen and decided to book me!

how'd it go?

Tom Kerswill:
Ah... it was a real experience!

Tom Kerswill: I met loads of cool people, right from the moment I stepped off the plane

Tom Kerswill:
... We spent the first night in Bratislava. Beer in Slovakia is about 40-50p a pint...

SkidMcSkidder: nice!

Tom Kerswill: and the place is full of bars.... and I 've never seen so many beautiful women in my life ;-)

SkidMcSkidder: heh heh - I hope you didn't abuse your celebrity status! (Laughs Out Loud)

Tom Kerswill: Oh no, of course not... very professional ;-)

Tom Kerswill: So yeah, then we headed out to a smaller town called Trencin - and that's where I played, in a big castle.

SkidMcSkidder: a castle??

Tom Kerswill: Yeah - the happy couple had booked this massive castle on top of the hill, overlooking the town. It's the first thing you see when you arrive on the train - very imposing! There were about 80 people at the wedding I think - and a big bus took us to the church. The first thing that happened when we got on the bus was there was some guy handing out shots of slivovich, which we had to drink! And then after the ceremony we all walked up to the castle.

tomkerswill: It was a nice place to play! The only problem was that the guys providing the PA system neglected to bring a mic stand so I ended up singing into a hatstand instead!

SkidMcSkidder: Like it! (Laughs Out Loud)

SkidMcSkidder: I guess after a few of those shots you could've played lying down!

Tom Kerswill: Yeah... I had to keep refusing after that (to drink that is, rather than to play!) They took a bit of persuading to stop offering me the shots though..

SkidMcSkidder: So Slovakia's a world away from Totnes, Devon - how'd you end up there (Totnes) - are you native to that part of England?

Tom Kerswill: Well, sort of - I was brought up in Somerset. Then I was studying up at Cambridge for 3 years before finally moving down here..... because of a girl :-)

SkidMcSkidder: Cool! So what did you study at Cambridge?

Tom Kerswill: "Natural Sciences", which basically means a mixup of lots of different subjects. I ended up specialising in physics in the second year... before completely changing tack and doing History and Philosophy of Science in the final year. That's what I like about Cambridge - they don't seem to mind if you mix and match a bit!

Tom Kerswill: Funnily enough, not many of my mates are using their science degrees... although I think I'm the most unusual, persuing a career in music!

SkidMcSkidder: Blimey! That's a fair range of subjects - Physics to Philosophy! Which degree(s) did you get??

Tom Kerswill: Heheh - yeah that's right. Philosophy was cool though... more laid back. You know, I'm not entirely sure to this day what degree I got!! It's a 2:1 in something... but Cambridge certificates don't actually say much at all... they don't even tell you what class degree you got! I usually say HPS though... coz after all that's what I did my final exams in!

SkidMcSkidder: That's why I'm asking - do you use any letters after your name like BSc (hons), etc? You should have gone on to MSc & Phd - you could of ended up as DOCTOR MUSIC! (Laughs Out Loud)

SkidMcSkidder: Crap joke! Sorry!! So how did you get into full time music?

Tom Kerswill: I've always been into it... but I think at Cam I didn't really have the time to do it - which got frustrating. That made me realise that what I really wanted to do was write songs.

SkidMcSkidder: I know that feeling!

Tom Kerswill: ... So when I moved down to Totnes, I realised that it would be the perfect opportunity to have a go at it.

Tom Kerswill: Yeah --- always good to act on feelings like that I think... even if it seems like it might be a bad idea! I realised that if I just got a 9-5 job I wouldn't have the chance to do it again

SkidMcSkidder: the question is how to make a LIVING out of it...

Tom Kerswill: Right... yeah that's a tricky one that!

Tom Kerswill: I think the answer from my point of view is to start with you can't. I'm a website designer too - so that's ideal. It gives me the flexibility to do music when I want to, and do the web work to get enough cash to live

Tom Kerswill: And I specialise in doing websites for bands - so that's another way to make contacts with people. I think with the new CD out, that's my first chance really to recoup a bit of money...

SkidMcSkidder: and do you do many band sites?

Tom Kerswill: Ermm... not all that many really! I've got quite a few on the go at the moment. I also run a server so I host a few that people have designed themselves.

Tom Kerswill: I specialise in doing sites that people can update themselves, using a content management system, which people seem to like. It's good to be able to update gigs, etc.

SkidMcSkidder: Ahh.. Cool - that's probably worth a few bob. So you must be moving in the right musical circles because if I remember rightly - you played the world stage @ Glastonbury last yeat right?

Tom Kerswill: Almost... the Small World stage :-)

Tom Kerswill: Which is a lovely lovely venue - solar and wind powered

Tom Kerswill: I also played at their festivals last year, and am hoping to go back for the summer one (though sadly the spring one clashed with slovakia)

SkidMcSkidder: So you play many festivals then?

Tom Kerswill: Last year I did quite a few, including playing a pedal-powered stage at the Permaculture festival in Brazier's park

Tom Kerswill: This year it's looking good - I'm doing one tomorrow actually!

SkidMcSkidder: Yeah?

Tom Kerswill: Just a small one in Freedom Park, Plymouth

SkidMcSkidder: Very cool!

Tom Kerswill: But this year I have a five-piece band behind me --- so it's going to be good fun. Heheh... dunno what it's going to be like yet! Should be a laugh though

SkidMcSkidder: Did any of these guys work on your new CD?

Tom Kerswill: Actually yes - Peter Farrie, the keyboard player, also produced the Mind's Eye EP. We've known each other for a year - he's been a really good person to work with.

SkidMcSkidder: Is this your first CD release then?

Tom Kerswill: I suppose it's the first one that we're really pushing... I did a kind of demo EP release last year, with three songs on it... sold a few of those but not too many!

Tom Kerswill: But we're really pleased with the look of this one... it's a card "digipack" format, and we got a really good artist - Tom Stephens - to come up with the design (I swapped it for a website actually ;-) )

SkidMcSkidder: Haha - That's what I do! (swap sites for favours!!)

Tom Kerswill: Bartering, it's great!

Tom Kerswill: Doesn't get you any money though ;-)

SkidMcSkidder: True - I currently have one cash earner - - and that's only a measly £350 a year!! The others are percentages of online sales 8-(. Looking forward to introducing a range of merchandise onto SkidMark in the near future though!

Tom Kerswill: Heheh... ah well, a few of those sites and you'll be minted ;-)

SkidMcSkidder: How do you feel the internet has helped you promote your music scene?

SkidMcSkidder: (apart from travelling to Slovakia! (Laughs Out Loud))

Tom Kerswill: Ah, it's helped loads.... It means you can get a lot further without having to court the record companies. Definitely more power to the artist now. I like the fact that someone in the States can hear my music as easily as somebody next door.

Tom Kerswill: And actually as a listener I've found it's great. I can't really be bothered to download signed music so much now (though I do listen to the radio a lot). I'd rather listen to something obscure :-) And there are a lot of great local bands whose music I first discovered on the Net!

SkidMcSkidder: Sure. There're plenty of indie sites too - what do you look for in a music web site to want to make you sign up for a listing?

Tom Kerswill: Hmm... good question. Usually the sites I listen to are the ones that feature me!

Tom Kerswill: In other words, I'd already have signed up as an artist. But ones with a chart system are the best, because you know number one is liked by lots of people.

SkidMcSkidder: and why did you in the first place?

Tom Kerswill: Why did I sign up to a specific music site? Actually it started with - where you can get honest feedback from listeners. That was really useful to start with, to get an idea of how I was doing with production, etc. And it's the idea that if everyone likes your music, you could actually rise to number 1 --- in theory, anyway!

SkidMcSkidder: Garageband was one of the first sites I used actually - although I listed myself under the wrong genre!

Tom Kerswill: Heheh, doh!

Tom Kerswill: Yeah - shame there isn't an equivalent focusing more on UK bands

Tom Kerswill: The funniest comment was when somebody said "I like your music, but what's with the fake English accent"

(Laughs Out Loud)

SkidMcSkidder: So what were your first thoughts about SkidMark when you stumbled across it (how did you find the site actually?)

Tom Kerswill: Oooh... I can't remember really. I think I might have found it from the Indie Link Exchange. And at the time I thought ah, that's a UK site, and it features music... so it'll be a good place to be listed!

SkidMcSkidder: like it - nice noncommittal answer! (Laughs Out Loud)

Tom Kerswill: :-)

SkidMcSkidder: So what's the plans for the rest of the year Tom?

Tom Kerswill: Play as many festivals as possible, get radio play for the new EP (hopefully on BBC 6 music), and record some new songs.

Tom Kerswill: Plus do as many gigs as possible - and as big gigs as possible! We're doing a (very) mini tour next week, with one in the Exeter Phoenix, and then one in the Actress and Bishop in Birmingham. Playing over a wider area is definitely something I want to do more of

Pity I'm in the isle of Man for the TT races - I'd have liked to come over to Birmingham and caught the gig

Tom Kerswill: Ah that's a shame! Yeah the Birmingham one should be fun

SkidMcSkidder: What guitar do you play Tom?

Tom Kerswill: It's a Yamaha electro-acoustic... had it for a while. Really like it!

SkidMcSkidder: Yeah, Yamaha make some nice stuff - I was tempted just this morning to put a bid in on an APX model on Ebay 8-)

Tom Kerswill: Mine's an FGX apparently!

Tom Kerswill: Ebay's dangerous. Just bought a new stage tuner on their actually - was ordering it as we've been talking.

SkidMcSkidder: Ah... dangerous as in addictive! right??

Tom Kerswill: Yup!

Tom Kerswill: Good way of spending money, but you can pick up some real bargains!

SkidMcSkidder: I know I've bought LOADS of my music gear including my studio off ebay!!

Tom Kerswill: A whole studio! Wow, must have come in a big box ;-)

SkidMcSkidder: Heh heh T'was a Korg D8 8-track digital studio - not quite that big

Tom Kerswill: Eeek... I should be going soon! Might try and catch last orders at the pub.. And try and flog a few tickets for the Exeter gig!

SkidMcSkidder: No worries - I've got to fit stainless brake hoses to the bike yet

Tom Kerswill: Good luck with that.. .so are you competing or just riding up there?

I'm entering the party, party, party 24 hr endurance ! (Laughs Out Loud)

Tom Kerswill: Hehehee. Sounds fun!

Tom Kerswill: Let me know how it goes

SkidMcSkidder: I'll be bringing back a full report...

Tom Kerswill: :-)

SkidMcSkidder: Great finally talking to you bruv

Tom Kerswill: Yeah! That was fun! Hopefully talk to you soon

Many thanks for hanging with me Tom & good luck with the CD

Tom Kerswill: Enjoy the TT. Thanks!

SkidMcSkidder: Will do - enjoy your ale!!

Tom Kerswill:
Talk to ya soon

SkidMcSkidder: True - later dude

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Virtual Interview conducted using AOL instant messenger 03-06-2005
SkidMark Multimedia Productions MMV