At the start of his career, his then girlfriend introduced him to an equine friend who he connected with and — in his words — he “went fucking off”. Tommy marks this as the start of his own unerring independence as an artist. But as he prepares to release his first record in nearly two and a half years, Tommy is in a very collaborative mood – for the moment.
As if releasing the world’s longest shoe in collaboration with Adidas – and working with Masion Margiella to release a pack of noodles – wasn’t enough, the Estonian-born all-round eccentric is getting set to release what he dubs his ‘collaboration EP’.
The last we heard from him was an aesthetically pleasing, very explicit video Tommy and his team made for the Pornhub Awards show 2020. The man knows no boundaries – he has no label and no cosigns, something he is very proud of and never wants to give up. Even his music, a cauldron of trap, PC, gabba, house and hip-hop, continues to evolve; MoneySutra is Tommy’s mellowest work for some time, but that is no criticism. The beats are still armed with big snares, loud bass and mutated synthlines, but there’s less of the EDM drops or happy hardcore sections. And for someone that is known for collabs, Tommy has outdone himself, sharing production and vocal duties across the EP with Diplo, Riff Raff, $uicideboy$ and others.
With everything going on, there has nevertheless been much time leftover for introspection. Tommy has partly returned to his previous self who lived isolated in Estonia and created with neither recognition nor collaborations with big artists. Even as the production and release of MoneySutra has been delayed, Tommy has used the time to be grateful for the near impossible path he has travelled to stardom; to think on the line he carefully treads between commercial success and innovative, unorthodox expression.
While that’s all well and good, these thoughts come bundled with pressure to constantly defy logic and expectation and, in the context of what legacy Tommy wants to leave, a fear of mortality itself. This very concern was confounded in January when visionary British producer and one of Tommy’s life heroes, Sophie, tragically passed away.
Speaking to Best Fit from his home in Estonia, Tommy explores being inspired by the late queen of hyperpop, as well as his Tarantino aspirations, and how horses taught him to be more independent.
BEST FIT: So just to start out, how are things in Estonia at the moment?
Tommy Cash: We are leading right now with coronavirus. We have 1.3 million people here and the percentage is so high… we were leading at least in something.
For the whole year it’s been actually pretty OK and nice, you just had to wear a mask blah, blah, blah. But restaurants are still open.
Now they’ve actually closed down everything, they’ve gone harder. It’s like everywhere, you still kind of live your life… I mean, I can’t travel and perform but a little break isn’t the worst thing for me. I’ve been performing so much, I’ve toured every corner of the world so I can’t wait until everything’s open again because we’ll be back like nothing ever happened.
Do you normally play your songs live before you choose to record them to get a feel which ones you think will work?
Yeah, actually, that’s a cool idea you just threw at me there. I’ve never tried it like that. I’m very protective of my work and it all normally just gets decided in a small circle or it’s just down to how I feel. It’s usually just like that but we need to make it sure that it bangs.
And I feel like the EP, MoneySutra, is five stage killers [laughs]. I feel like I sound like a guy who hasn’t had sex in one year and I just really, really needed to get it out. But definitely when I hear it I feel like I’m already on the stage, you know?
Have the songs been in the pipeline for a while or are they quite new?
It was very weird actually. It started with Diplo and then we got $uicideboy$ and I had this track I was sitting on. It was the previous summer, not the one we had recently but the one before, and I didn’t know what to do with this one track. Then the pandemic hit and I realised it should be a collaboration EP, like that’s the idea, like MoneySutra is kind of collaborating with other artists I like.
Like making love to them musically you know? That was kind of the original concept but then it just started growing and went from there…
Since the album you’ve released a couple of singles but it’s been quite a while since you released your own body of work. is there any particular reason?
I think it just happened, it’s all a flow, you know? I’m not calculated like Drake or anything, it just happened. Somehow it all came together, Adidas, Margiella and this EP. It’s filled with collabs, it’s like collab season for me or something, it just happened. It wasn’t like I was planning now like; ‘Oh that’s a great idea, yeah let’s do it’. It was all natural, but I’ve been working also on solo tracks so I just want the things to be maybe concentrated. When I’m at my grandma’s and she makes me those pancakes I just love to eat them until I can’t eat no more. I just love to fulfill. Let’s say you go party, you want to party for real if you want to party, you know? So i’m just like okay, y’all want collabs, i’ll give you collabs.
How did the collabs on the EP come about? Were they people you had previously decided you wanted to work with?
I was in Tennessee. I was talking to Riff Raff, because he’s from Tennessee, he was sending me those very funny video concepts and we were talking. I almost went to his house but we had a change of plan, I was kinda like linking up with people while I was in the US. Also Eldzhey is also from Russia, he’s a nice homie of mine. He’s like the Russian Travis Scott.
As you’re collaborating with bigger and bigger artists, do you think that your music is becoming more commercially accepted?
I don’t think I’m yet commercially accepted. I feel maybe this EP is proof or maybe I’m trying to prove something. Maybe I want to show people something… maybe I want to show people the different sides of Tommy.
One is like this conceptual guy and then there’s this crazy, shocking guy, right? But also then there’s this musician, there’s many, many sides of it. Maybe we were trying different approaches, but definitely it is very crazy that I can do an EP like that. Everytime I think about the things we do, it’s actually a blessing.
Where I come from, my geographical location, the chance of doing the things that I do are slim to none. And I’m independent, I have no label, like really no label. Actually when I say it, it’s impossible. It’s impossible to have those people in the project and I just did it with my small team, here in Estonia. I had no co-signs with A$ap Rocky, nothing from big artists, we’re a kind of very natural growing type of plan. I dunno where people hear about me from but it just happens.
I guess the situation allows you to make music and work that is very popular but also satirises the world of big labels…?
Maybe you’re trying to ask me if I have figured it out, no? [laughs] But yes, yes, absolutely. I released fucking ramen noodles in collaboration with Margiella yesterday. RAMEN FUCKING NOODLES! It’s mind boggling, no one else does that… I have such freedom it’s crazy. I’m super free.
It’s beautiful, man. I can do it with beautiful artists and genius creatives and brands. At one point if you get big enough … well it depends on your brand. Like Tyler the Creator could possibly do a lot of weird shit but he can’t actually. He already kind of bridged over. Iif people already have a strong perception or you’re already in the shoes you’re in, you can’t recreate yourself that much. You have those boundaries.
Going back to what you were saying about how you don’t think your music is that commercially accepted, do you consider yourself a popstar?
I mean, was David Bowie a popstar? Frank Zappa and everyone else. I don’t know if Jim [Morrison] was a pop star…
Yeah, I was going to ask, I have heard you speak about Jim Morrison a lot in the past…
I think [those guys] only became those popstars as they died. Like Hendrix was doing a lot. OK, the state of mind was different. But I think they were like those cool guys doing very interesting, weird shit whilst also having their chorus down and their shit working.
There’s a lot of things like that. Like with paintings, Vincent Van Gogh, whatever, when he died he kind of sky rocketed into stardom and became the greatest of visionaries.
I don’t really chase the word pop a lot. I just want for when I go people to still be inspired by what I’ve done and just call my shit legendary [laughs].
So what about someone like Charli XCX, who you have collaborated with quite a lot?
She’s a popstar, she is a popstar. She’s been a popstar from Fancy, right? She has been making a new sound of her pop but she’s still a popstar. She is the fucking queen of pop.
With some of the earlier music you made, did you feel like you were influenced by what Charli and A.G. Cook were making?
No I wouldn’t say that. I think more I was inspired by people like Yung Lean and all the Swedish guys, but at the same time gazing at Sophie’s weird waterslide pictures and loving the sound.
The sound was so special and so far away from us. I didn’t even think about the thought of recreating it, because it was so future. I was like always a fan of A.G. Cook, so that was a dream come true to work with those guys but I was never trying to copy their sound.
WIth the news of SOPHIE’S tragic passing, I’ve heard you talk about a fear you had of dying while being young. How did you feel when she passed away?
Oh my god, I was terrified. I was so saddened because SOPHIE, I met her, I think three times.
Once was at Charli’s concert: we all played there and we were hanging out backstage. Then I think the last time was when we played in this Portuguese festival. I remember as I came out of my cab, I was, I don’t know why, standing in front of a hotel and another car pulled up and there was SOPHIE with their friend. We talked and talked.
Estonia is very conservative. We don’t have a lot of forward thinking people, in terms of gender. We don’t have a lot of people of colour. But SOPHIE should have statues all around the world. She was the coolest. Who does what she did or how she was? I feel she’s such a role model. She was my Jimi Hendrix of the trans world. So many great things to say about her.
Also that week was so tragic because the next day my horse died. It was like two crazy things for me and it just went on for some time.
Changing the subject, you are quite into horse riding then?
Yes. Well, not recently, right? But I am very interested in horse riding in general.
The horse [a different horse to the one previously mentioned] that went away from us… it was a big part of the start of my career. I was like the guy with Adidas tracksuits being wild and riding on a horse in the city. That was very much my beginning.
And he kinda taught me to be free and wild and not to be afraid to gallop when I wanted. It all came through in my music and the things that I do. I think about that horse all the time.
So your horse just decided he wanted to live in the wild as a free animal at some point?
Yeah, yeah. Because my girl was a professional rider and at first when we started hanging out, she took me to the stables and I kind of went fucking off. Like I started just extremely galloping and I connected with horses a lot. It changed something inside of me in a way… I think it helped me a lot.
It also must be true that you bought a horse before a Porsche then?
Yeah, yeah, that’s true, that’s true.
In the past you’ve said that you felt quite isolated from the rest of the music world growing up in Tallinn. Have the current circumstances with lockdowns and isolation periods helped you channel any of the thoughts about the world you were having back then?
It’s more going back for me. It’s great here. I think it helped me to get back to me definitely.
It’s weird because a couple of days ago, I went to a gas station and there was this guy. I went for some coffee, but this guy, I looked at his face and he looked familiar. I was like, ‘How do I know you?’ So I took the mask off and he was like, ‘We lived together when you were small in the same building.’ And he said, ‘I worked at this other gas station before but at one point you were away and I see now that your glow is back Tommy… like you’re back, you’re you again. Before I couldn’t recognise you or you were somewhere far away when I saw you… maybe you were too starstruck’.
I was like; ‘Woah, yeah man, thanks man’ and then we said ‘Ciao’…
What a nice moment to share with someone that you don’t even really know.
I was really happy to hear that the EP is being released because one of the last things I’d seen from you was the Pornhub Home video on Youtube. Did you make that as a teaser for the EP by any chance?
Actually, I really hoped it would be a teaser. We did it for Pornhub awards and we will keep on working [together]. I really want to make a porn movie, like a real one in the future.
But have you seen the shoes? We’ve been working hard. A couple weeks ago I released the longest shoe in the world with Adidas. So yeah, we’ve been working hard…
How much are you involved with the actual making of the videos? Do you come up with the ideas or do you write the scripts?
So, the next video we’re filming in ten days, and I was working on the video concept for a while. I think I wrote three or four scripts and we couldn’t make them work, so it’s been kind of like this test of time.
It’s for the song Racked, amd now we have the concept which is made by Anna-Lisa [Himma] that I always do videos with. Finally, we are doing it and it feels super nice. All the things I do I am very inside of. As we said earlier, I am super independent but really I put a lot into all the things that I’m doing. I think people feel it. Maybe they don’t know but I also think it’s even more magical if you do know that this artist does most of the things you see.
How does it work then with the videos, is the content inspired by the music you’re making or do you have specific ideas for what you want the videos to be?
It depends, but normally we approach it differently and just think about how the track makes me feel. Right now, we’re in this Tarantino mode, we made it hard for ourselves because if you see all my videos, you know. One is Kill Bill, the other one is like Hateful Eight. You really have to keep coming up with this genius concept.
I wish I could just make a video with two half-naked chicks and a nice car in the back, flashing my Gucci. But I can’t anymore. Every video has to be a masterpiece.
Do you feel those expectations are quite hard to manage?
It’s kinda annoying but it helps. If you want to be legendary, you have to do stuff like that. Nothing comes easy.
You mentioned Tarantino and I’ve seen you mention being influenced by Lars Von Trier and Alejandro Jodorowsky, but which music videos influenced you?
Of course, a big inspiration to me is Chris Cunningham. Chris is definitely one of those people. And sometimes there’s stuff I like that’s weird but I’m not afraid to say it.
Such as Katy Perry, I think she makes very good videos. She has a great mind, I love her mind. I also like Little Dicky, he has a great TV show that he directs. He also has a great mind, how he writes and his music. All around the world I have lots of inspirations but I don’t have one concrete person.
Once the EP is released what’s your plan?
I already bought the rights for some great samples. I’m already thinking in front. I’m already working on the album. We have a tour in 2022.
I want to release this EP, do a couple of videos and then have a good ass rest. Like two, three weeks of nothingness and then just keep working. Maybe to contrast the EP I will have no one on it: only my spot, only myself.
This EP was meant to drop a year ago, but because of all the pandemic the process slowed right? It took way more time. I’ve been wearing it on my back, like this Adidas thing, the Margiella thing. Just releasing it, my bag gets lighter and I can feel my shoulders again. I can breathe, I can get it off my mind.
Tommy’s EP, MoneySutra, is out 9 April.