Tom Thum’s talent for merging musical virtuosity and beat boxing has garnered him glowing reviews and a loyal band of fans. In 13 years, he has gone from what he describes as making “weird juvenile sounds” to mimicking orchestral instruments, dub-step, the didgeridoo and more.
Thum, who will be performing at Adelaide Fringe with his long-time collaborator Jamie MacDowell, started honing his craft in his early teens and says he was influenced by the interests he and his mates had growing up in Brisbane.
“Guys that I started kicking around with when I was a kid sort of got me into skateboarding, and from there I got into graffiti, rap and hip-hop culture,” he tells InDaily.
“I got interested in beat-boxing and rap and then it kinda diversified into other types of music. Stuff like the blues, funk, jazz and that kind of thing.”
Thum is a veritable orchestra without the usual paraphernalia.
He says he finds inspiration in everyday life and through sharing ideas with friends and family, as well as his work with remote Indigenous communities in Australia.
“I spend a lot of time doing workshops and things like that with Indigenous communities. The kids are so enthusiastic and vibrant, and as energetic as hell.
“It’s really great to be able to show kids what I do, and to be invited in as a white person into their communities, something that a lot of people don’t get the opportunity to do.”
Thum’s 2014 Adelaide Fringe performances with singer MacDowell in the Garden of Unearthly Delights will be a more stripped-back affair compared with some of his previous shows, one of which included an acrobatic circus. Yet even with just a guitar, a mic and a mix table, the duo is sure to keep the audience entertained.
The singer and beat-boxer share an easy on-stage banter that comes from having toured together for some time, both in Australia and overseas. They also flatted together in a Berlin apartment while playing in Europe.
“It’s such as melting pot of creative people,” Thum says of Berlin. “So many impoverished artists tend to kind of congregate there, so it’s fantastic, weird, arty place.”
Asked if he has any wisdom to pass on to young wannabe beatboxers looking to get out of their bedroom and onto the stage, Thum says: “I think in order to make a living out of it, you can’t be focused on the money side of things. You have to focus on being passionate about what you’re doing.
“Beat-boxing is my passion, and I really love what I do. I mean, I get the odd day off and I always end up messing around with samples and beats and practising anywhere – they really should take away my stuff!
“You can get paid to do anything if you’re passionate enough.”
Jamie MacDowell and Tom Thum will be preforming from March 4-16 (excluding March 10) in the Garden of Unearthly Delights.
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Albert Einstein: Relativitively Speaking
Record line-up for 2014 Fringe
Fringe ambassador Katie Noonan