20 Sep 2019
Dominic Hoey is an author, playwright and poet based in Tāmaki Makaurau. His debut novel, Iceland was a New Zealand bestseller and was long-listed for the 2018 Ockham Book Award.
Tom Scott (Homebrew, @Peace) hit me up a few months back about performing a poem for a new documentary he was making. We ended up filming the poem in three different locations before settling on the take we used, at a laundromat in Avondale. Usually if someone asked me to drive around Auckland saying the same poem over and over I’d politely decline. But anything Tom does, from music, to gigs, to other assorted hare-brained schemes, is always worth being involved in.
The documentary, Don’t Quit Your Day Job, follows the YGB collective, a sort of 'where are they now?' of a loose collection of musicians and artists. It also marked the launch of Tom’s new record label, Years Gone By. We caught up to talk about the doco, the label and being an artist in Aotearoa.
Don’t Quit Your Day Job came out at the end of August and at the time of writing had clocked over 10k views in a week. It was shot by student filmmakers, Tak Soropa and Luca Macioce and produced and directed by Tom. Not that this lack of experience shows. The 30 minute film artfully moves from live footage, to found footage, to artists discussing that elusive balance between work, art and madness.
In fact it was after an existential crisis of sorts, that Tom got the idea for the film.
“I started talking to my friends about how they felt, getting old, still playing this young man's sport. Turns out most of them were feeling a similar way. So I put a camera in their faces and accidentally made a documentary.”
The response has been overwhelmingly positive, from both the artists seeing themselves reflected in the interviews and the general public getting a look behind the scenes at the realities of making art in this country.
“It makes me feel less alone knowing other people are relating the way they are,” Tom says. “Then there are some people that are shocked by it [they're] surprised to know how broke New Zealand artists are. I’ve saw a comment today that said 'sad but inspiring'.”
To be an artist in this country you've gotta wear a lot of hats, and Tom’s no exception. On top of artist and promoter he’s now added filmmaker to his resume.
“I'd love to be able to do it more. It's expensive though. If someone would pay me to do it, that'd be tight. I don't wanna have to get a day job.”
I ask if he feels if his skills as a rapper helped him prepare for making the film.
“I've learned how to tell a story over my years making the music I make. I've learned how to spotlight the mundane. I'm a good casting agent when it comes to picking characters out of my everyday life for my songs. I've kinda been writing documentaries for 10 years now I guess. So that part comes naturally.”
“I've learned how to spotlight the mundane. I'm a good casting agent when it comes to picking characters out of my everyday life for my songs.”
As mentioned, the doco also announced the launch of Tom’s, and fellow musician Tom Broome’s, label Years Gone By. Their first release is Bird of Paradise, is a collaboration between producer Karnan Saba and Hone Be Good, who Tom describes as his favourite rapper. It was a decade in the music industry watching people “F**k it up all sorts of ways” that inspired Tom to start his own label.
“I've been signed to snake oil major labels who screwed me over and hipster indie labels that were just trying to look cool without actually doing anything," he says.
“I think one advantage I have is that I understand the challenges you deal with mentally being an artist. I've had execs treat me like a machine, push me to the point of exhaustion, stare me down paths I wasn't equipped to go down. I don't want to do that. I want to be the opposite of that.”
It’s always tempting with prolific artists to believe there’s some magic formula, but it always comes down to hard work. Tom’s work-rate is legendary, rarely a year goes by that he doesn’t release an album's worth of songs. He’s currently got two albums almost in the bag and a new Avantdale Bowling Club album he’s hoping to finish next year
“About 9 or 10 I walk to the little shack in my carport,” Tom explains when I ask about his creative schedule. “Turn the computer on. Stare at it. Procrastinate as much as humanly possible till midday. Drink coffee. Write furiously till 5. Give up on everything. Consider a new career path. Go back inside. Raise my kid. Start again the next day.”