We chat to beatbox extraordinaire Tom Thum

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We chat to beatbox extraordinaire Tom Thum

Tom Thum’s reputation long precedes him when it comes to his world class talent behind the mic. The beatboxer has become more than just a popular name in Australia but abroad too; his debut performance for TEDx has been viewed over 66 million times, making it the most viewed TEDx talk ever.
Following on from his hugely successful experience in 2013, Tom has returned for his second appearance – ‘What Happens In Your Throat When You Beatbox’, armed with a camera lodged deep inside his throat, he delivers the world’s first, live on stage laryngoscopy of a beatboxer.
We sit down with Tom briefly to discuss his career, that video and what’s to come.
Firstly I would like to congratulate you on your success, especially from the Ted Talk in 2013. How do you feel the 2013 Ted Talk changed your career?
I was still doing a lot of gigs before then, it just kinda gave me wider exposure – a lot quicker. As supposed to doing a bunch of international touring and slugging the hard yards, I’m still doing the same amount of shows. After that I think I was put into a different realm of shows. It became a lot easier to pick and choose what I wanted to do. I didn’t do any more or less work, it was just being seen by so many more people who didn’t usually have eyes on you I guess.
In regards to ‘What Happens In Your Throat When You Beatbox’, how did it feel to be making those types of sounds while having a laryngoscopy at the same time?
I mean it was certainly difficult, very invasive as you could imagine. I had anesthetic before the show but we had to time it to a point where the anesthetic had worn off enough so my throat wasn’t so numb that I couldn’t beatbox… But it had to still be there just a little bit so it wasn’t super uncomfortable and I totally screwed up the timing so when it came time to actually perform, I could feel it in the back of my throat the whole time it was like a fraction from just gagging. It was challenging.
Also with the sounds that you make, you said that you tour internationally. Did you incorporate the sounds you heard around you into your work or was there another way you found inspiration?
I get it from anywhere; different styles of music, different kind of instruments and places that I usually wouldn’t hear. Different people, sounds from different machines – I guess inspiration can come from kinda anywhere really. I get inspired by nature a lot as well, even just silence can inspire new things.
What can we expect from you in the coming years? Any plans or ideas?
I’m going to Germany to do a show with an orchestra based in Cologne which is fun. Then going to India for 10 days to go to a percussion festival to play with some Rajasthani percussionists, which will be sick, never done that before so give that a crack.
In terms of projects, I want to do a lot more collaborations. Not so much science-y stuff but I want to write a show with contortionists (which I think will be super sick, creepy, weird and fucking strange). I’m really excited about that. It’s just an idea, I haven’t set the wheels in motion but I can just see it in my head.
I’m also writing an animated series at the moment as well which is really fun. I’ve been sharpening my swords on the animation tip and have been inventing this world in my head. Whether or not it sees the light of day that’s kind of like where I have put my eggs. That’s the basket, the basket has big holes but that’s where I put my eggs. I’m having a heap of fun with that trying out different stuff and writing out weird characters. I think as long as my brain has food and it’s not repetition then it really sizes me up to try different shit, throwing myself under the bus… I think that’s how I learn with that type of pressure. Otherwise if people give me too much time or if I have to sit down and learn something in a traditional sense, it makes my brain explode.
Check out his latest ted talk if you can stomach it…

Written by Brittany Roberts