Tom Zanetti Interview: 'You get out what you put in'

Tom Zanetti caught up with Martin Guttridge-Hewitt to discuss being overworked, juggling family life with music plus upcoming projects.

Skiddle Staff

Last updated: 14th Jun 2018.
Originally published: 9th May 2018

They say the North of England has a reputation for calling spades spades, and you only need to look at one of the biggest faces to emerge from the Leeds dance music scene to find evidence they may well be right. Whoever they are. 

Spawned from a hugely successful house night— logically named Insomnia— the promotions company DJ, producer and party starter Tom Zanetti runs alongside good friend Kane says it all really. Sleeping Is Cheating when you’re running club events and festivals, touring the world’s booths, making new music and still finding time to hold down the ever-demanding role of full-time father. 

With pressure and responsibilities always comes risk, though, not least to health and wellbeing. After a ridiculously busy 2017 we gave the man in question a call to find out how chaotic calendars, parenthood and new projects are juggled, while learning about his son’s taste in beats and a potential new TV slot. 

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Hi Tom, hope you’re good? How’s 2018 going so far? 

Yeah, it’s been really good. I’ve been doing a lot of work in the background, making a lot of music, staying away from much live stuff until the summer. Last year I did over 180 shows, it was absolutely manic, every one was sold out, different country every night. I absolutely exhausted myself. So took time off to be more normal.

Would you say you got burnt out? 

I did get burnt out, on numerous occasions I was pretty ill. I had to give up training altogether in the gym. I was dieting, training, not sleeping for days on end, that’s why I was getting literally exhausted, that’s what the doctor was telling me. 

Any job in dance music has the risk of being overworked, and over-partied. Do you think the industry puts too much pressure on people? 

I’m a father as well, my son lives with me, so there is that as well. The majority of the time I get back at silly o’clock and then get up and take him to school and then crack on with my day. 

I’d say it’s not really the industry, it’s down to the individual person. You get out what you put in. But you need to control things. There’s a lot of pressure from people in the audience, you constantly have to keep up appearances, keeping current. There are pressures all over the place.

When you say keeping current, you mean in terms of working on new releases and things like that? 

Music, everything. I try and keep up with everything, but I’m knocking on a bit now so it’s hard to do that. 

Your promotions company, Sleeping Is Cheating, how big is it these days in terms of projects and staff? 

It’s going from strength to strength. It started about ten years ago, and we’ve got four big festivals now, overseas events, won an award for best club night in Leeds, it’s just going really well. We’ve had two top selling albums. There’s been some really amazing stuff, and we’re looking to expand it. Plan this year then next level in 2019.

In terms of staff I mean it massively varies. Day-to-day we have a strong team, but it varies from event to event. We could have 100 working a specific event, or more, or less.

The whole thing started with Insomnia in Leeds, did you think it could get to this point within a decade? 

Yeah, I set up the night in Leeds, Insomnia. The tagline was Sleeping Is Cheating. I set that up with my girlfriend, she passed away, and it was getting too big for me to take it on myself. It was really expanding fast. So I brought Kane in, who was a friend of mine. 

We set up the parent company as Sleeping Is Cheating and then started putting brands out under it. I knew it would go somewhere as it just felt good. Things were going really well, we were surpassing all the other events, selling out, getting queued out. It was just managed right.

Have you found the more you do the harder it has become to spread yourself?

I mean, every job is difficult. There’s a lot of pressure with this one as it’s all day every day and nights. Promoting is 24-7. 

You’re always on with something, promoting, speaking with people. I mean it’s exhausting, completely exhausting, but with each expansion comes new members of staff. It’s difficult but it’s manageable. 

A couple of years back you were working on a TV series for a digital station in Leeds. Are you still finding time to keep a foot in television production? 

Erm. I’m not, there was discussions with a main prime time channel, and I filmed a pilot with them. It’s still up in the air at the minute, but it looks absolutely massive. It would be prime time on a Friday night. So we’ll see, but it has been filmed.

Would a career in TV interest you? 

Yeah, I’d love to be involved in TV. But there are some shows I wouldn’t do… …just because I’ve got a son at home. I’d love to do more TV though, maybe like, I don’t know, fuck knows, ‘course I’d love to do some though.

On the subject of fatherhood, how is it running a business yourself, playing as a DJ and having a son to look after? 

Err, well my son’s grandma looks after him if I’m away, my girlfriend helps me out a lot, so, yeah, I’ve got people around me that he loves to be around. 

But the majority of the time I’m looking after him. When I’m away obviously that’s when he’ll be with close family. It is difficult though, I had him when I was 16. I’ve had him myself all my life, so it’s been hard to juggle things but you’ve got to make it work.

There’s a video of him on stage with you from V Festival last year. How’s his music career coming on? 

He loves music, I want him to be a DJ— he’s really good at finding new music. Every time he gets in the car he’s aways showing me something I’ve never heard of. He’s got a real talent for finding new music and he loves playing it. Just like I did when I was a kid. 

I’ve got some decks in the studio upstairs so I want to try and get him to start DJing. He likes playing and showing people new music. I’d like him to do it but obviously he’s going to go to university and stuff like that.

So what are the actual kids listening to at the moment? 

He really loves hip-hop. American hip-hop. If you’ve ever heard of XXXTentacion, stuff like that? A lot of the stuff he listens to is really, really good.  

I’m an old school hip-hop fan, so I didn’t take to some of it as quickly. But the beats are always ace. He likes a wide variety of stuff, he listens to everything really.

And how about yourself, what are you listening to? 

I really like disco, a lot of tech, a lot of different stuff too. Today in the car I’ve had Prince on, Louis Prima, lots of different stuff. I can’t think— you know when you get put on the spot?

Yeah. Sorry about that. It’s a pretty poor question. 

There’s just so much. I had a bit of Nina Kraviz on before.

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