Thomas Blondet is a globally known music artist based in Washington DC. Blondet has built a long career doing what he loves and producing his music through his own record label, Rhythm & Culture Music. Blondet’s career began in the 1990s as a DJ in the early days of electronic dance music. Over two decades, he has created his own following and unique style combining house, dub, and trip-hop with unique international sounds from Bossanova, reggae, Latin music, and Arab music. Blondet’s unique approach and passion for music have evolved his sound in electronic music throughout his career. He is also well remembered for having the most extended residency at DC’s own Eighteenth Street Lounge, where he was the resident DJ for over 20 years. Soon, he will be back on decks at their new location. His artistry, passion for music, and endless grit to keep doing what he loves most provided him the ability to play and travel the world, sharing his music internationally. In 2016 and 2017, Blondet was ranked as one of Traxsource’s Top 100 Soulful House Artists. He also released several remixes of music for Thievery Corporation, Tosca, Balkan Beat Box, Nickodemus, Sola Rosa, and Thunderball, to name a few. Blondet landed his music in notable films and television spots in a Nike commercial, Netflix’s “Grace and Frankie”, and the film “Carrie Pilby”. Blondet’s latest work teamed him up with rising creative producer Steven Rubin, a trip-hop EP called “Sea Sons”, which was released this past March via Rhythm & Culture Music; it is a must-listen.
How did it all begin? Thomas Blondet started his interest in music around 11 or 12 years old while living in South Florida, listening to Power 96. His exposure to music and the desire to be a DJ started at a young age, and “being a DJ was really big in the late 80s down there in South Florida, like, in the Miami area. There was this radio station, Power 96, and they played Miami bass, freestyle, and house music.” If one were familiar with the Miami music scene and the local radio station there, Power 96, they had many of the greats playing on that particular radio station. The likes of Tanner in the morning, Cox on the Radio, MDJ Laz, Kid Curry, Tony the Tiger, Felix Sama, Eddie Mix, Rafi Contigo, Jammin Johnny, and others. It was the opening cursor to his long-running career in music. Blondet recalls listening to a “DJ show that was on there every night of the week. So I used to listen to that religiously. So that’s how I got interested.”
By the time he was 13, he had got a job washing dishes at his neighbor’s Chinese restaurant to save money to buy his DJ equipment, despite his mother’s concerns that he was too young to get into such an expensive hobby. His curiosity as a kid about how DJ’s were mixing music and scratching pushed him to investigate and invest further. He would record songs off the radio on tape, and once he saw the music being mixed, that was it for him. He continued to work washing dishes at a Chinese restaurant to earn money, recollects getting “my first Technic 1200, and then a mixer. I slowly started buying all the pieces of it.” He slowly collected the equipment he needed to DJ.
Blondet shares that his inspiration in life and even part of his career comes from his mother, who he deeply respects. Similar respect he also has for his “uncle, my brother, my sisters…with stuff I trust and I value their opinion.”
Beyond the influence of his own family, Blondet’s music career has granted him access to work creatively among many great artists in his field and has been inspired by many. Still, one person he says is a major inspiration to him, “Farid is a big inspiration. He’s always been very supportive of my music as a DJ and as a music producer. He has always provided an avenue or like a venue where I could play my music and DJ. I could be creative and make the music that I want to make, and he really saw me as a music producer and as a DJ.”
Another person and fellow DJ that made a lasting impact on Blondet was the late, Sam “The Man ” Burns, who was known as influential in the DC house music scene. Blondet shares one of his most memorable moments during the Autumn of 2005 at the closing days of Club RED, and “Sam ‘The Man’ Burns was playing the last night at Red. That was probably, I would say, the only time that I ever cried when somebody was DJ’ing. The way he played the music that night, everybody was already emotional about RED closing too. And the way everybody was dancing that night, that was like a very memorable night for me as an attendee…even though I DJ’ed the night before. But there’s something on Sam, the way Sam always did something, he always created a vibe like I never really saw anybody else do. You know how to create an energy that was in the room. That was something!”
Blondet’s musical sound is influenced by his surroundings, as well as his thoughts about why the DC music scene is so unique, “It’s like a melting pot of, so many different people from different backgrounds and ethnicities, and you can feel the culture in the music, from the food, from all of that. And I think all of that combined influences the music scene because there’s music that I don’t think I would have been introduced to if I didn’t know somebody from Laos. One of my friends and I hear like, oh, my God, this is so crazy. Like, what is this? Oh, this is like Asian music, and then I start thinking creatively, like, oh, that’s a cool instrument they’re using. What is that? Maybe I can incorporate that into something that I’m working on.”
One would say his sound is eclectic, global, and constantly evolving, much like Blondet himself. You will still see him playing one of the music genres he loves the most is 90’s house, “I love house music from the 90’s.” He feels it is making a comeback are “90’s house is definitely a lot of people are doing…I’m glad that’s coming back, and it’s getting the attention that it deserves again.”
Music has developed in the two decades of Blondet’s career; he looks back at those times in his career you would head to a party. It was the only chance to hear new music, it was being released at that moment, at that party, and now “music is so much more accessible.” Beyond that, the physical labor required for DJs to carry their records and equipment. Blondet would have to carry ten crates of vinyl records to and from his gigs in the old days as a DJ. You can hear him sigh a bit of relief, sharing that he recently got rid of his vinyl records, “I sold my whole collection. I have maybe a small collection left now…I’m not going to go to a club and carrying records anymore as a working DJ. That was one of the biggest blessings.”
For many, the pandemic has changed how people listen to music and the overall scene. The influence of COVID has changed the landscape of how people experience music for all genres, from live bands, DJs, and even electronic musicians utilizing streaming music applications. Blondet sees a shift in how people interact virtually and in real life, “now there’s a scene on Twitch where DJs and live musicians are playing live streaming. Since COVID happened, a lot of people went to Twitch and especially a lot of local DJs that I’d never heard of before, and I discovered them on Twitch, and I’m like, wow, you’re a local DJ. You have, like, 200 people watching you live. So it’s weird, like, where the scene is going, I think virtually and then in real life. So to see where things are going, like, where do I think it’s headed? I think streaming is, like, a big part of things.”
The dark part of streaming music that Blondet feels frustrated with is that “it’s not fair to artists at all when it comes to getting paid out for streaming music. It’s not enough money to survive. Even if you see like a million streams on a song. It’s like they’re not quitting their day job for that, you know? So I always feel that artists are undervalued in the music industry.”
On its website, Apple Music has publicly stated that its average “payout per stream is $0.01.” They are the second most popular music streaming platform in the US, with over 72 million active users in 2020, with Spotify in the lead. Blondet breaks down the cost to even how much it cost to play music, “to make this music, it takes a lot of time. Equipment is not cheap. If you want a good microphone, you want a drum machine, you want software. I mean, all that stuff is very expensive.”
Buying the music is cheaper than what it cost in the past; the equipment required to play doesn’t equate to the cost. Blondet gave us an approximate cost breakdown on some of the items are as follows for music producers and DJs, according to Blondet: Music on average, $1.49 each that he buys to play in his sets, and more if it is a promo, even more: CDJ is $2400+, mixer $2000+, top of the line laptop $3000- $4000+. Blondet expresses his disappointment in streaming music, especially for DJs and producers alike, “now it’s like the music is cheaper,” for the artist, “but the equipment is more expensive… you’re not making back what you’re putting into it.” An average payout per stream is $0.01; according to Apple’s public claim, Blondet’s frustrations seem accurate for most artists.
His ability and skills as a music producer allow him to appreciate many different genres, including his favorite decade of music, “I love house music from the 90s,” he said. Another sub-genre of music that Blondet enjoys is called Moombahton. Musically, moombahton mixes the rhythmic origins of house music and the slow tempo of reggaeton. His eclectic choice in music sums up his style of DJ-ing and how he produces music, “personally when it comes to DJing, I play all kinds of different stuff. I’ll play house music… I’ll play drum and bass. I’ll play downtempo. I’ll play some disco. It depends where I’m playing or who I’m playing for.”
Blondet is a celebrated musician in the electronic music genres and industry. As an artist, he is always open to learning new techniques while producing music. His ability to embrace the new age of technology, be adaptive, and very collaborative brings a unique sound to his work. Like him, his inclusiveness in infusing genres and global beats in his music creates an ideal music community between him and his peers. The inclusiveness and freedom to be creative are recognized in his own record label, Rhythm & Culture Music, from the artists signed and his own produced music. The House looks forward to hearing him play his sets at the new opening of the Eighteenth Street Lounge in its new location, which is expected to open its doors early summer of 2022. Also, be sure to subscribe to his youtube series, where he will share his jam sessions, exclusive interviews, and more.
To keep up with Thomas Blondet, you can follow him on IG and Facebook @ thomasblondet, Watch his channel at https://www.youtube.com/user/thomasblondet and everything else at https://linktr.ee/thomasblondet.
Editor’s note: For the full exclusive interview and parts that didn’t make it to print, visit www.thehouse-magazine.com to listen to Natalie Steger, The House’s creative director, and music artist Thomas Blondet’s full interview. Get an exclusive listen about their decade-long friendship and love for music while strolling down memory lane.
Photography Credits: Violetta Markelou