Energetic, positive, straightforward, honest and hardworking. These are the main characteristics that stand out at first sight when speaking to Tomas Barfod, a Danish DJ and producer (and also co-founder and drummer of the band WhoMadeWho). On November, he released Paloma, his latest album, which shows an evolution to a more electronic sound than his previous work, released three years ago. During this time, he’s been touring both as a DJ and as a band member, but most of all, having fun.
Despite not being a ‘classically skilled’ musician, he knows what he’s doing. Success came at an early age and hasn’t abandoned him ever since, which he believes is thanks to being professional, persistent, unique and lucky. And he’s all that and more. His charisma and know-how have helped him convince several musicians to collaborate in his albums, which has led to magical relationships like the one with Nina K. We talk with him about the importance of music, the meaning of his latest work, how important are collaborations in this world, and his future plans.
For those who don’t know you, who is Tomas Barfod?
Basically, I’m just a dude who really loves making music. I have been doing this for many years and sometimes I get restless and I do other projects, but in general, I just like creating something and experimenting in the studio. Besides music, which is a big part of me, I love hanging with my family and friends. Few would expect that I get up at 6.30 am most mornings, often working out and start working around 8 am. So if I’m not on tour, I’m very organised and hardworking.
You’ve recently launched your latest album, Paloma. What is the concept behind it, and what does the title stand for?
In the beginning, I just liked the sound of the word but then I realised that it means ‘dove’ in Spanish, and it has many references to my life. First, I have a dove tattooed on my hand – it’s the only tattoo I have and I got it in Los Angeles with my wife, who also has the same tattoo. And second, it’s my favourite drink and one of the coolest clubs I ever played in; it was in Barcelona, but it sadly closed.
All eleven songs are very dreamy and make us feel wrapped in a calm atmosphere. What was the starting point when creating them? And what are the main influences?
My inspiration for the album was an odd mix between psychedelia and the ‘90s, but those references got weaker and weaker the further I went into the production. Influences often come from the random luck I have when I’m in the studio. I’m not a classically skilled musician, which means I can’t ‘write’ a song, but I can sit in the studio and play around with synths and my computer, and sometimes I hit a feeling. Other times I invite people to work with me, for example, my bandmate Jeppe Kjellberg from WhoMadeWho, or all the nice features I have been blessed with.
I feel that in Paloma your music evolved into something more electronic than in your previous works, am I right?
Yeah, you are right. The way things are heading now I’ll be only doing techno by the end of 2018. But then again, I have a tendency to be all over the place. I love both the electronic and the indie/pop scenes.
You’ve collaborated with Nina K in a couple of tracks (In The Dark and Tidal Wave). Nevertheless, it’s not the first time you work together. In Love Me, your previous album, she’s also present in four songs. When and how did you two meet, and how did the idea of collaborating come up? And in what ways does she contribute to your music? What makes her so special for you to want to repeat?
First of all, Nina is one of the most talented singers and writers I have ever worked with and I love working with her. I basically see her as part of my sound, which is also the feedback I get from fans and journalists.  I got introduced to her in 2011 and our first ‘hit’ was November Skies, which came out in 2012 and actually re-released by the extravagant DJ Carnage on his huge album in 2015. The fun thing about the first three or four years that we worked together was that we never met or even spoke together, we just emailed. This worked out perfectly though, because in that period we managed to do a lot of great songs together, and I feel that we have a strong connection even though we only have met a couple of times.
Is there any song that you like the most or that stands out the most for you because of any personal/emotional reason?
I’ll have to name Tidal Wave because it shows how connected Nina and I are. My wife Maria was dealing with anxiety and depression last year. She had been hinting about it on social media, but not in a super explicit way. Then one day, Nina asked me if Maria was okay and I told her the short story – in two sentences or so – and didn’t think much about it until half a year later, when Nina sent vocals for Tidal Wave. Somehow, she sensed what Maria was going through and exactly what she felt, and wrote the most beautiful lyrics about it. I think it’s really touching when you can work with somebody who’s a thousand kilometres away via email and still connect on so many levels. I don’t believe in a sixth sense, but this is damn close.
The album was launched last month, how has the public reacted so far? What’s the feedback you’ve received?
I got some very nice reviews luckily, but the most important thing for me is how music fans react to it. I love getting direct feedback from people. For example, there was a girl doing a cover with her guitar, or there are other people posting videos of them dancing to the album, or others quoting the lyrics on Twitter. Stuff like that makes me very happy.
Your previous album, Love Me, was released in 2014. What have you been up to these past three years?
I’m actually working hard: I’m touring a lot as a DJ and with my band WhoMadeWho. Besides that, I always have some fun projects cooking.
Now let’s get to know you a bit better. When did your interest in music begin? 
I’ve been a music nerd since I was twelve years old, but I was mainly listening to horrible music: fashion jazz and, later, metal – because I was a drummer and loved when people were playing fast on drums. Luckily, I moved to electronic music when I was in my late teens; started with jungle, then psy-trance, then house, and electronica.
Music means different things to different people. What does it mean to you?
It’s very important to me, I haven’t had a ‘real job’ since I skipped college to focus on music, so it’s important in a ‘professional’ way. The good thing is that it’s super fun having music as a job; the bad thing is that I sometimes have a hard time listening to music like others do because I hear the layers and the process before I get the ‘feeling’. Lately, I’ve had good luck with dancing, feeling and enjoying music without thinking too much. This is a thing I’m working on. The short answer is that it means everything, but I try to make it matter even more.
You are from Denmark. How did this country influence your taste in music? 
I don’t see myself as part of the Danish scene. I have always been seeking outside Denmark, with labels in Europe and even in the United States. And even though I know a lot of great Danish producers and bands, I try to be most inspired by the world.
You spend your time mostly between Los Angeles and Copenhagen, where do you find most inspiration from and how do they differ in terms of style?
It’s been a while since I have been steadily living in Los Angeles. I miss it a lot. I love going there to meet friends and get the vibe but it’s impossible for me to live there at the moment, since I have a little kid and there’s too much happening in Europe at the moment. In general, I need to get inspired outside Denmark; and if don’t travel outside Europe at least once a month I get depressed.
Growing up, what did you study and how supportive were the people around you when you decided to follow a music career?
I always felt a very strong support from my family and also friends, especially my dad, who bought my first drum kit when I was ten years old. I might have had a year or two where some thought “What the f*** is he thinking”, but luckily, I accomplished success very fast. The same summer I took a leave from college I got a solid record deal; it has been like this since then.
If you weren't in the music industry, what career path would you be interested in?
I love creating stuff so I guess design, architecture or a start-up of some sort.
Where would you say your inspiration comes from? Or do you find that it is more of a kind of escapism and a way of detaching yourself from what is real?
I’m not the kind of guy that looks at a painting and gets inspired, or who has long depressions that make me wanna express something. In general, I get inspired by ‘nerding’ in the studio or by going on tour and interacting with fans and see other acts.
You’ve worked as a duo, a trio, and a solo artist. Does working in a team lead to more creativity or on the contrary, do you feel more restricted?
I think both things have their strong sides. I love working with creative people that inspire me, For example, I learned the most from a trio (Jatoma) I had with two very young guys; the way they made music made me evolve a lot as a musician. The same goes for WhoMadeWho; when we started jamming, we all inspired each other a lot. But after being in a band for some time, it’s important for me to get out and be free to create music in other ways.
Actually, you founded the band WhoMadeWho along with Jeppe Kjellberg and Tomas Høfting. How did it all start, and at what point did you decide to start a music career on your own?
I actually started the band and my own career at the same time. I did a demo CD and sent it to some labels. Half of them wrote back, and within a year I had three projects signed: Tomas Barfod on doing acid house on Get Physical, WhoMadeWho, and then Tomboy (another solo project) on Gomma. It all went well, but at some point, I chose to focus on WhoMadeWho because we were doing very well. Later, I luckily resurrected my name thanks to FoF Music, who contacted me and asked for new music.
As well as a musician and a music producer you are also a DJ. How do these titles differentiate themselves from one another? Which of these roles do you prefer to play?
I define myself as producer and DJ. I have a great love for both – producing and deejaying – and for the atmospheres they can create.
How important is it to turn music into videos, and how do you approach the change from musical to audio-visual?
Very important, but I tend not to prioritise too much, which is a shame.
The music industry is a tough and competitive world, what life lessons have you learnt whiles building your career?
I know this might sound like a fortune cookie, but I have learned that if you are unique, persistent, professional, and have little luck, you will succeed.
What are your plans for the future?
I’ll focus more on dancing and make people dance.