Paint the Town White
Montreal DJ Thomas White Posts Music for Free, Embarks on International Shows
He’s had his music played on BBC Radio 1, a track featured on a Polish compilation and collaborated with artists from Ukraine and Japan—and yet Montreal-based electronic musician Thomas White has never even stepped on a plane.
But that’ll change in November, when he’s scheduled to perform in Biel/Bienne, Switzerland.
“Blogs picked up on what I was doing and it worked,” said White. “Being solo means you can make music with a lot of people, and I’ve met people from all over. It brings the world together.”
White’s current inclination for more experimental music means less local recognition, however, so he says he’s looking forward to his upcoming show on Oct. 9 at Le Belmont.
“I haven’t played in Montreal in a while,” he said. “I was known only in Montreal before, but not anywhere else. Now I’m everywhere, although it’s more diffused.”
Twenty-two-year-old Éloi Le Blanc-Ringuette, whose alias as Thomas White is drawn from one of his middle names and the translation of his first surname, is definitely a product of his time.
DJ, producer and co-founder of RAW Records, an online label that distributes music from all over the globe entirely free of charge, White makes all of his music available through audio distribution website Soundcloud.
High school friend Olivier Gareau describes him as very open-minded when it comes to music—a description reflected in White’s style, as he constantly incorporates uncommon elements into his beats.
One such example is his recent track “Gaijin,” named after a pejorative colloquialism meaning “foreigner” in Japanese, which uses sounds of clashing swords and voices sampled from Japanese animation.
Hip-hop, grime, trap and house feature prominently in his music, topped with melodic influences retained from his classical training in Pierre-Laporte High School’s music program.
“I tried getting into the guitar program, but I failed, so I took up trombone instead even though I knew next to nothing about it,” said White.
A fan of Portishead and Radiohead, White got into electronic music only at the end of high school. A music production class ignited his enthusiasm for computer-assisted creation, and Aphex Twin and Venetian Snares figure among the artists that introduced him to the genre.
According to Gareau, White was “procrastination personified” back in high school; the kind of student who, instead of studying, relied on his intelligence in memory to get by—as well as sheer luck.
“I wouldn’t have thought back then that music would come to occupy such a central place in his life, because he didn’t put that much effort into it, so I thought maybe he wasn’t that interested in it either,” Gareau said.
But all play and no work eventually paid off. By 18, White was mixing as his Élo!i persona before eventually becoming one half of Élo!i & Heights alongside fellow producer Andre Heights, in a two-year stint that surfed the dubstep wave just as it crashed over Montreal.
The duo performed sold-out shows in well-known Montreal venues like Club Soda and Stereo nightclub, until their respective musical directions went out of tune. They went their separate ways in 2012, Élo!i as Thomas White and Heights as Garfilth.
“I can’t even listen to dubstep anymore to be honest,” White confessed, laughing.
Next on White’s agenda was the creation of RAW Records, run with friend and musical partner Louis-Laurent Bastien.
Bastien, who goes by DJ and producer alias Dear Lola, was introduced to the idea of joining forces while working in the studio with White on what ended up being the label’s first release, the Evil Witch EP.
“We ended up in the studio together and it just clicked, musically and communication-wise,” says Lola, who describes White as creative and meticulous.
“We complete each other musically, and working together on a project is always a very motivating experience.”
Also noteworthy is their remix of “Can’t Get Better Than This,” the debut single of Australian duo Parachute Youth. The remix was picked as the winner of a competition among some 150 entries by Warner Music UK and Parachute Youth themselves, who described it as “something really special.”
And with a couple of upcoming releases, it doesn’t look like things will be slowing down anytime soon for the duo.
“The goal at first was to have a medium to publish our music and distribute it freely, but soon it went beyond us and we ended up with a fully loaded release calendar,” explains Lola.
Released in September, RAW AAA, White and Lola’s latest compilation, features artists from France, Switzerland and the United States.
“Next is getting set up on iTunes and working on a T-shirt line to finance eventual concerts and events,” says Lola.
That’s not to say that it’s a profitable venture by any means. For now it’s a labour of love, and as White and Lola insist on keeping all RAW Records releases free despite the fact that they have to shoulder mastering and artwork costs, the two moonlight (or daylight, rather) as bakers at the cupcake store owned by Lola’s mother.
“We’re actually losing money,” laughs White. “We do it because we love it, not to make money.”
Thomas White // Oct. 9 // Le Belmont sur le Boulevard (4483 St. Laurent Blvd.) // 10 p.m. // Free admission before 11 p.m., $5 after