We caught up with TCTS ahead of his busy summer to talk about his hometown of Manchester, working with vocalists and DJing on a cruise liner.
Last updated: 6th Jun 2016. Originally published: 25th May 2016
Sam O'Neill, better known as DJ and producer TCTS, is part of the same musical strain as the likes of Bondax, SG Lewis and Karma Kid - all of which are developing deep, bass-laced electronic music, forward-thinking and refreshing in style.
After O'Neill submitted a track titled '1997' to BBC Introducing in 2012, Bondax heard it played on Huw Stephens' BBC Radio 1 show, and soon snapped it up to their own label Just Us.
It wasn't long before the Manchester native was signed to Chase & Status' MTA Record label, releasing his third EP Games, the title track of which spent time in the UK Dance Chart.
With his new single 'Live For Something' released last month and gigs piling up in his diary, TCTS is about to embark on a big summer filled with festival and Ibiza dates. We caught up with him ahead of it all...
You're from Manchester, a city with a pretty rich history when it comes to clubbing. Can you talk us through your first clubbing experiences?
I grew up in North Staffordshire just south of Manchester, so my teenage years were spent in standard regional clubs to be honest. There were a couple of exceptions but on the whole I only really got to experience the best places when I went to uni in Manchester.
I was put onto WHP by my older cousin, so my first time there was a moment. I remember clearly hearing Rich Reason playing 'Limit to Your Love' by James Blake in the main room and thinking, "I want to be that guy up there playing those records." The music scene is Manchester is so strong, and it's in no way limited to WHP - it was an exciting place to get my musical education.
Now that you're in London, do you get to sample the Manchester nightlife much?
To be honest it’s only really when I head back up there to play shows. Ideally I want to get back up there more and chill. There’s some really great bars in the Northern Quarter too that I miss, it’s not just the clubs.
Have you always produced? Did that come first or did DJing?
I began producing before DJing. I’ve been playing and making music in one form or another since I was pretty young. It was only once I got into writing club music that I started DJing to support it.
It’s a pretty valuable pairing though, to be able to understand a record and road test it at a gig and then make tweaks to it before releasing. There’s always that horrible moment when you try a new record for the first time and you pray that people don’t stop dancing.
You're playing Cream Ibiza this season. What's your relationship like with the island? Have you spent much time there?
I love Ibiza. I had a number of shows there last summer, which was my first extended period on the island. A bunch of us rented this dope villa in the hills with a pool, like halfway between Ibiza town and San Antonio.
I feel like the best thing about Ibiza is you can get whatever you want out of it. It’s stunning to look at and the beaches are amazing, but if you want a lads style holiday you can do that and obviously if you want some of the best clubbing in the world you can do that too. I can’t wait to get out there again.
Another upcoming date that stood out to us is Corona's Sail Away with Bondax, Apres, and Bodhi. It's a party on a cruise liner in essence. Surely this will be the first time you've ever played on a ship like that?
Yeah, I haven’t played one of the cruise ship festivals before - in fact I haven't ever been on board a cruise ship, so I’m pretty intrigued. Everyone on the lineup knows each other so I think it’ll be vibes. The Holy Ship series in America is a similar thing, so I think it’ll work well in Europe. It’s jokes though when you tell someone you’re playing on a cruise ship and they assume it will be to old people!
Similarly to Chase & Status, whose label you've released on in the past, you highlight some great up and coming vocalists. How do you source them?
I’ve always enjoyed working with exciting vocalists, from Shiv to Sam Sure to Kate Stewart etc. They’ve all come about pretty organically - with Kate I was playing on a tour with Bondax and she was the live vocalist. I was blown away by her voice and stage presence so asked if she fancied working together. ‘Games' came about one session later - she's just as powerful a writer as she is a vocalist.
Outside of dance music, are there any artists that you enjoy listening to that we might be surprised you like?
I was initially really into guitar music as a kid, a lot of American Indie stuff like Deathcab for Cutie, Sunny Day Real Estate, Appleseed Cast - I still dig them out now and then.
Right now I’m listening to a lot of things across the spectrum of styles and tempos, especially when writing for projects other than TCTS - you have to keep on your toes.
My favourite album recently is Tourist’s ‘U’. I was in Australia last month with Bondax and we went to see St Germain in Sydney doing a full live show, which was amazing. Other than that I listen to a lot of Jazz while I’m cooking. That's a nice and pretentious ending to that question [laughs]
Have you got anything else lined up for this year that you'd like to tell us about?
We’re about to drop a couple of really great remixes for 'Live for Something’. Then it’s festivals across the summer, hitting up places like Hideout and TheSoundYouNeed festival in Malta and so on, and then back on a club tip in Autumn. I’m really keen to keep the music coming regularly, so I’m currently finishing off my next EP which I’m excited about! More on that soon...
Tickets for Corona's Sail Away festival are available from the box below.