Thomas Penton is a name that’ll ring bells to those who followed the genre during its dark, percussive phase in the early noughties, but if you’re not a progressive obsessive, he might be under your radar. Penton is one of the genre’s true believers, and his persistence is paying off. He first emerged into the spotlight on big labels such as Fade, Inversus and Paul Oakenfold’s Perfecto label, and six years later he’s having even more success with recent releases receiving praise and plays from DJs as varied as Armin Van Buuren, Steve Lawler and Chus & Ceballos.
Perhaps the reason for his staying power is that he keeps his fingers in a variety of pies: besides progressive, Penton also produces prog trance on Captivating Sounds, tribal house on Forensic and electrohouse on his own label Electric Candy. But his biggest release of 2006 wasn’t in any genre at all: Penton’s 'Essential Series' wasn't a 12" or compilation, it was a collection of ready-to-use samples put together for budding dance music producers. Not just a progressive obsessive, but a nice guy looking out for other producers then. RA checks in for an update on Thomas Penton.
You've been on the progressive scene for a long time now. Have you reached a point where you're able to make a living from your music and DJing? Are you satisfied with your achievements so far? Or are there still some burning ambitions?
It's very hard nowadays, but I do make a full time living out of it. I'm very satisfied with what I've accomplished so far, but feel I could do a lot more if time allowed. Possibly in the future I would like to branch out and do some scoring work or commercial projects.
Which of your productions or remixes are you most proud of?
Always the newest ones like 'Jack's Funk', a track that I did with a guy called Hernan Serrao, or my remix of Hammer Funabashi's 'Moments' on Armada, because I always feel I'm improving my production skills. Those two tracks are some of my favourites.
When I think of early American clubbing, I think of big trancey raves in the desert or small underground house/techno nights in a basement. Which of the two was your entry into dance music closer to?
The first proper dance event I went to was at Soundshock, a small club in Miami Beach, and my first festival was Devine Playground. Both started in 1991 and had some great acts. I was actually producing hip hop at the time but once I was introduced into this new scene things changed for me.
On your website it says "Thomas Penton - DJ, producer, design, nomad". Tell us more about the last two in that list.
Well design is something I wish I had more time to study. I do the artwork for my site and others as well as promotional ads etcetera. But I have a lot to learn. As for "nomad", over the last six or seven years I've travelled the world many times, whether it's for a gig or just to backpack around. I've been fortunate enough to see many amazing places.
Your latest release is not a compilation but a collection of samples. Are you a qualified sound engineer? How did the idea for the Essential Series come about?
I did study audio engineering in Fort Lauderdale, Florida but most of my knowledge has come from hands on stuff, just working in the studio night and day. As a consumer I was never able to find a sample CD that offered drums that were easlily accessible and catered to my style of music. Since I already had numerious machines and samples, I just began collecting sounds and developing a library over many years. Later I decided to edit the sounds to make them fit into a proper package that I could market.
On a scale of 1 (lowest) to 10 (highest), how much of a sound nerd are you? Are you the type of guy to say, "Hey, that's my kick drum" or "That's the snare from track X"?
Nine for sure, but as long as it sounds good, it doesn't matter where it came from.
Do you know of any songs made by other producers that have used any of the samples?
Too many to mention.
Some progressive pioneers like Sasha or John Digweed have moved away from the straight up progressive sound of the mid-late nineties. Others like Nick Warren or Sharam from Deep Dish are still betting on its more classic form. How about yourself?
I love the electrohouse movement, but it's getting full of this stuff so I try to play a mixture of electro with progressive elements. But I'll play just about anything that has a big room feel or energy.
You recently started a new label Electric Candy devoted to the more electro end of prog. What elements of the electrohouse sound appeal to you?
The groovier, more raw basslines are what makes this sound. So again, I try to have the label release quality prog tracks with electro influences but still maintaining a larger feel.
What was the biggest track of 2006 for you?
The Sander Van Doorn remix of Yello's 'Oh Yeah'. I played it everywhere! It always tears the roof off.
Finally, 2007 has just begun. Do you have any new year's resolutions?
To try new things, new directions in music. And to get in damn shape!
Thomas Penton's 'Essential Series' is available now from ResonantVibes.com. His latest single Thomas Penton & Hernan 'Jack's Funk' is out now on Electric Candy.