You need a sense of humour if
you are to survive in this lark and anyone who names
themselves after a brand of petrol could reasonably
be described thus. (For those of you not fluent in Portuguese,
and shame on you if you aren't, Superchumbo roughly
means Super-unleaded petrol in Portugal, something which
has caused outbreaks of uncontained mirth among the
Iberian peninsulas DJs.) Still, it's an improvement
on Tom Stephan's previous moniker, Tracy & Sharon, which
caused such confusion over the years that folk kept
asking, "So if you're Tracy, where's Sharon?".
There never was a Tracy or a Sharon, only a Tom (and
no Dick or Harry, for that matter, either). It"s
the sort of twisted outlook on life that can only be
attributed to someone raised on a strict diet of John
Waters movies and Nitzer Ebb records.
Born and raised in a teeny town,
Olean, outside Buffalo in upstate New York, Stephan's
path from there to here has been strewn with the detritus
of a life lived on gas mark 11. Having resisted houses
winsome charms in favour of his beloved Nitzer Ebb,
Depeche Mode and other electronic bands of that ilk,
he was lured to the Sound Factory in New York by a friend.
"I wasn't very keen on it," recalls Tom, "because
I didn’t really like the idea of house music. Anyway,
he took me to there and I was totally converted overnight
into a house head.
Shortly after his revelatory
experiences with Junior Vasquez, Stephan moved over
to the UK to study. "Bizarrely, the first day in
class I was sitting next to this girl and we got talking
and she was like chums with Nitzer Ebb and they were
doing a show that weekend at Subterrania," says
Tom. "So the first week I was here I was hanging
out with the band. I thought, right, I like it here."
The studies were less successful,
though Stephan eventually graduated from the London
International Film School. His Factory experiences had
given him a thirst for house, something that was largely
slated at Trade, though he readily admits there was
still something not quite right. "I realised that
there was something I got at the Factory that I couldn’t
find here, he recalls. “It was a completely different
thing, going to hear Junior. I guess that's why I wanted
to try and bring a little bit of that flavour here.
On the gay scene at least, no-one was trying to do that.
It was shortly before graduating that he got his first
single deal with Paul Cons’ Flesh label, Filthy Hetero’
by Sharon & Tracy, which did pretty well in France,
though it fell short of a Top Of The Pops appearance
here. On graduating, he had a few options. "I thought,
I can be a drug dealer, a rent boy, or a DJ’" he
laughs. "And, as someone pointed out to me later,
they’re all pretty much the same thing’. Fortunately,
he invested in a pair of decks and quickly secured his
first gig, a bit of a dream date, in fact, at the Ministry
of Sound, opening for Danny Tenaglia ("apart from
the fact I only played for about 20 minutes").
More importantly, it was the start of a friendship with
both Tenaglia and Tribal America head Rob Di Stefano,
which continues to this day.
A compilation - Drag Addict,
a collection of New York-style bitch tracks followed,
a debut single as Superchumbo (Get This’) on Twisted,
while a five year residency at Substation in london
confirmed a growing reputation, as well as providing
a solid grounding as a DJ. Says Tom: "That gave
me a lot of experience of different situations. Like
trying to get three people in a room on to the dancefloor,
or being given the opportunity to build up a following.
Although Substation was small, I really pushed for a
weekly spot where I could play for five hours and it
was great, because it's hard to get an opportunity like
Fast forward to now and the
sound that Tom has persistently championed in the UK
has at last found favour on dancefloors here. So much
so, that he's recently been nominated for the prestigious
Best Producer’ award for the Muzik Awards 2001. "I
feel like I’m in a good position because suddenly the
three Ts (Tenaglia/Twisted/Tribal) sound is very fashionable
at the moment, there are a lot of people jumping on
it and having been playing it all along, I feel I've
got a great back catalogue to draw on. He's not wrong.
The new single on Twisted, The Revolution’, has of course
been causing a kerfuffle on dancefloors worldwide and
has led to bewildering array of remix offers, bolstered
by his genre-twisting house reading of Missy Elliott's
Get Ur Freak On’, though Stephan still sees himself
as a producer more than anything. "I can see the
appeal of it people offer you loads of money, but it's
not a direction I want to go in," says Stephan
of his remix offers. "I don’t want to become a
remixer." There is the small matter of the Superchumbo
album, presently in gestation, and his collaboration
with Danny Tenaglia, Ova’ that has taken longer than
an elephants pregnancy to come to fruition, though an
end is apparently in sight. Not bad for a bloke named
after a type of petrol.