Published: 11 October, 2012
by ROISIN GADELRAB
Listening to the buzzing dance track that is Bright Light Bright Light’s latest single Feel It, it’s hard to imagine the creator grew up in a scant Welsh mining village with not much more than a couple of farms and a bungalow for inspiration.
Musician Rod Thomas’s quiet upbringing led him to thirst for cultural stimulation in his late teenage years, bringing him to Warwick University where he first played his idols Scissor Sisters’ records on the uni radio station. Now, not only has Thomas remixed the likes of Kelis and Gotye, but he is due to support the Scissor Sisters in the flesh at the Roundhouse on October 23-24 as well as headline Cargo on October 30.
Thomas said: “I love the Roundhouse, it’s one of the best gigs... it’ll be really nice to do something with the kind of sound system they’ve got.”
Thomas first became acquainted with the Scissor Sisters in 2009 on a trip to New York after hearing some of lead guitarist Del Marquis’s solo material.
Thomas said: “I’m a huge Scissor Sisters fan so I emailed him and said, ‘I really like what you’re working on, I’m in New York, are you around? Do you want to go for a drink?’. He said he was and we met, went to watch Depeche Mode together, got on really well and started chatting about music. We had some mutual friends, I wasn’t a total random.”
Marquis showed an interest in his music, prompting Thomas to produce one of his demos on the plane back, which was so liked by the veteran musician that he ended up featuring on it.
Through Marquis, Thomas met the rest of the band and was invited to join them on tour.
He said: “I’ve been on tour with lots of bands I’ve liked but never a band which is a longstanding favourite of mine. I imagine it might be quite wild, none of us is the most placid so I imagine it’ll be quite fun.”
As an only child, Thomas would listen to the radio and play instruments at school before experimenting with writing his own material.
He said: “I grew up in South Wales between two villages outside a place called Neath. It was me and a coal mine, there was a farm behind, farm in front, coal mine and bungalow and our house. There was very little there.
“It probably shaped the initial stuff I was writing. I’m really influenced by Twin Peaks as well, and it took me a while to realise that the landscape David Lynch uses and where I grew up are very similar, so I think it probably has a lot to bear on the drama.
“It was really good to grow up somewhere like that because you’ve got something to aim for. I had the space and landscape and then wanted to go somewhere a bit busier for a while. I really enjoyed my upbringing, it was amazing to have that surrounding but I’m a little bit too energetic to live in a place like that at this age.”
He believes the backdrop helped shape his dance music:
“It was so placid so I guess maybe I just wanted to do something that had a little more energy so I got the dance beat in. I’m also really interested in quite widescape music and modern classical and people that use lots of string arrangements and grand arrangements so I guess maybe that’s from the rolling landscape. I’m quite a dramatic person, quite ridiculous really, quite a weird mix – someone who likes quiet time but I really like dancing and going out.”
And when he works on the dance side of things, Thomas has a strict test for his work, much of which is recorded in his home studio, in his pyjamas, or at a friend’s studio.
He said: “For songs like Waiting For The Feeling, Feel It and Moves we turned the lights off and turned the recording studio into a club for the day. We had this thing that unless it made us want to dance we scrapped it. We were just making cups of tea, bringing in biscuits and putting the lights on strobe. It was weird doing that at 10am but was really fun and that’s kind of why there’s quite a lot of energy – that was the litmus test I suppose.”
For single Feel It, he said: “I wanted to have more fun. When you’re making music on your own, if it’s a male singer-songwriter, people assume you’re going to be quite downbeat, maudlin, introspective and I just thought, that’s not really who I am. So I came up with the name Bright Light Bright Light, which ties up the DJing, mixing, writing and production I do.
“I wanted to make music that was fun while I’m still young enough to do it and go clubbing and play venues with a dance vibe.
“Not all the songs are about me. People assume songs are like diary entries, which is not really the case. I just wanted to write about things that interested me, and Feel It is based on Twin Peaks, about Laura Palmer’s diary and that kind of giving into dark desires or things you’re hiding that no one really knows about, about embracing passion I suppose.
“A lot of the songs are about coming to terms with yourself or how you get on with someone else or losing yourself in the moment. I didn’t want to write an album of, ‘put your hands up in the air for the club’, I just wanted to do stuff which is a little more euphoric and enjoy myself.”
Thomas also runs a 90s club night “Another Night” at Vogue Fabrics in Stoke Newington.
He added: “Me and my friend were too young to go clubbing when our favourite songs came out in the 90s so we set up the club night so we could hear them on the big PA. Then we realised everyone else was like, ‘oh that’s so retro’, and we were thinking that wasn’t the point, we just wanted to hear them on the big PA system. Then you realise you’re that age bracket.”