"An immense talent"
- Dennis Greaves, Nine Below Zero
- The Iron Horse, music venue
"Just a bundle of energy, talent, charisma and massive stage presence all wrapped up in one utterly lovely human being"
- Calli Malpas
- Ashley Stacey
- Grant Judges, The Aim
Tom Monks is is a multi-instrumentalist, singer, producer and songwriter who performs regularly with various projects around the UK and Europe - with his debut album, Breaking News, slated for release in early 2021.
A regular collaborator with a plethora of acts from the grassroot to the world-famous, he currently features on keyboards with the acclaimed rhythm and blues band Nine Below Zero.
“I first picked up a keyboard as a sprog in the late 90’s when my dad got me a toy accordion at a seaside gift shop, and I found out which notes made the Simpsons theme tune. Quickly upgrading to one of those Yamaha's now omnipresent in every music classroom ("DJ!"), I intensively dived through my parents’, family friends’ and neighbours’ record collections.
After a few years of bashing away, I spent the next ten years under the tutorship of the South East’s finest piano mentor, Penni Cliburn, who helped me fully understand how notes work with each other, any Beatles song and theme tune I asked for, and all the other essentials - even eventually forgiving me for not being able to sight-read.
As I got older, around 9 or 10 I got involved in various gigging orchestras and big bands, wrapping my head around the standards of Glenn Miller, Herbie Hancock, George Gershwin and such - music I found harmonically fascinating at the time and still do today. Before I finished my GCSE's I had already been thrown in front of packed crowds at The Barbican, Lords Stadium, the Indigo2, and the Royal Albert and Festival Halls, successfully convincing thousands that I don't have anxiety.
At this age I wasn't allowed to drive in most countries, so having to take a stage piano on public transport gradually became a mission. So I picked up a guitar, and fell in love again with punk, blues, glam and rock'n'roll - starting from Hendrix, Zeppelin, Bowie, Orbison, Queen, and leading to whatever else appealed in my local HMV while it still existed.
Having an instrument I could actually take to places without designated drivers meant that I could explore into my local music scene. Open mic and jam nights were a vehicle to develop my craft and identity whilst building relationships, beginning collaborations instantly.
Once I got a driving license, I had a brief stint with covers and function bands to make a bit of extra money on Saturday nights. I figured out how to faithfully reproduce sounds I'd hear and admire in famous records, expanding my palette beyond previously conceivable. Although playing my heart out to territorial drunkards interrogating 'play sweet caroline', 'you're far too young to know the most famous music ever' and 'you should go on britain's got talent' became dreadingly tiresome, it was admittedly fun making them collapse by using a vocoder in Mr Blue Sky.
Somewhat in rebellion against these gammons, I ventured into songwriting - with my first single, Out Of Hand, released in February 2019 - playing all the instruments, par Nathan Persad on drums and a 200-strong crowd of backing vocals - and an album has brewing since.
In between all this, I found myself at a jam night at the The Pelton Arms in Greenwich, which turned out to be a one-off secret Nine Below Zero pre-tour gig. I was instantly blown away by the musicianship of the band and the expression of the instruments, and started to attend the jams on the regular purely to learn; absorbing licks, techniques and tunes from some of the most seasoned and accomplished players I'd ever seen.
One thing lead to another, Dennis signed the adoption papers and I coated Nine Below Zero’s latest album ‘Avalanche’ with some ivory, rotary, analog and plucked debauchery in the creative paradise of Squeeze’s 45RPM Studios. We are currently touring the album, playing rammed venues from the intimate to the prestigious, all over the UK and Europe. We get out and about so probably have a show near you, come down and watch!
Amongst the tour dates, I've also got my debut album on the way with 'Breaking News', my solo project featuring folks such as Nancy Gorman of NOVA Halo and the critically acclaimed Nathan Persad - plus another rock band on the side in pre-production, juggled amongst writing and recording in the studio with various outfits - and sometimes even as a producer.
So yeah! That's about it so far. And no, I don't know how to play Sweet Caroline. I've not even plugged in my keyboard yet and you've already spilt beer over it. Leave me alone."
📷 Nancy Gorman, Jan 2021
Live at the Royal Albert Hall, Oct 2018
📷 Royal Albert Hall
Fox & Firkin w/ Nathan Persad
📷 Mike Whiting
Bury St Edmonds w/ Nine Below Zero
📷 Lawrence Jones
Mick Jagger Centre w/ Sam Winston
📷 Richard Winston
Chislehurst Rocks 2019 w/ TLW
📷 Paul Campion
Live on Erith Pier, Sep 2019
📷 Billy Collins @ Taking The Pixels