The only thing I was expecting to get from Tom Hardy in 2018 was the long-awaited Venom film. We recently caught a glimpse of him (sans-symbiote), but we're now sitting here, head-nodding with mouth agape at a new Hardy-related gift we've received: one of his almost 20-year-old mixtapes.
Thanks to the heads over on Reddit, the world is now discovering Falling On Your Arse In 1999, a mixtape from Tommy No. 1 and Eddie Too Tall. The project features rhymes from Hardy (as Tommy No. 1), with beats from Eddie Too Tall, who posted the tape on Bandcamp earlier this month. The project, which is 18 tracks long, sounds like what my 1999 hip-hop playlist would sound like. Very DJ Shadow/Mo' Wax-y, especially with the instrumental-only tracks, but with the added bonus of Hardy kicking wicked rhymes every now and again.
Now this isn't the first time we've heard Tom Hardy spit; a few years back we #TBT'd that clip of him kicking KRS-One lyrics with his baby strapped to his chest, and he did say back in 2011 that he "recorded loads of stuff but it's never been released," so this is the first proof that Hardy was taking this hip-hop shit seriously.
We've reached out to Eddie Too Tall, (real name Ed Tracy), about the project via email. He hit us back, telling us that he used to DJ and was even a jungle producer, but it was Tom who told him "to make hip-hop, of which I was also a huge fan. We made the album in my bedroom with no mixer or any kit other than an Atari ST running an AKAI sampler, and two Technic 1200 decks."
When it comes to the sound of the project, which is full of found snippets of dialogue and other samples, Tracy credits that to their use of that AKAI sampler, which "allowed one minute’s worth of sample time per track, so if you wanted a new sample you'd often have to sacrifice another clip. Everything got boiled down. The samples were all off records or VHS tapes of movies. No added effects."
Tracy went on to say that "all the vocals were recorded on a handheld tape dictaphone. No overdubs or editing. Tom had a click track for timing but that was it, he had to get it in one take. Raw production techniques!" Tracy continued, saying that the two of them "used to do short video experiments back then, too, messing around with a video camera making little films. I think we inspired each other to make stuff. Back then we were offered a record deal on the basis of this album, but Tom's agent said 'no don't do music, do acting.' Terrible advice! Look where he is now?!"
The two of them stayed in touch long after Hardy's career took off. Tracy's making comedy for television, including the BAFTA-winning comedy series Fonejacker.
Ed says that Hardy was a fan of Fonejacker, and suggested they work on some comedy together. That turned into Sticky, an animated sitcom that Hardy co-starred in that was picked up by the BBC in 2017. Ed says that Hardy's always done funny voices, informing us that "the 'Rusty Sheriff's Badge' and 'Dr. Livingstoned' tracks on the album show a glimpse of that humor."
Ed says he's not abandoned the music production game, either. "I’ve been making tracks for another rapper. He used to go by the name of Gatsby but had to change his name to Gats Bigga Vel because some reality-star chump stole his name. Gatsby is the real deal." Gats is "a born and bred East London E5 rapper. We had a track called 'Come To East' which ranked top five on a UK TV channel called Channel U." They've even dropped a full album of their material, Super Alpha Number One.
For now, all we have from Ed's work with Tom Hardy is Falling On Your Arse In 1999. "Last year," Ed wrote, "Tom asked me whether I still had the album kicking about in the loft. Lo and behold, here it is in all its rawness, just as it sounded then. He'll be pleased with the reception it’s had today. We always said we’d do a Vegas tour as a joke. Maybe if this album generates enough love then we can coax Tom onstage."
Hopefully Tom Hardy makes good on taking Tommy No 1 and Eddie Too Tall all the way to Vegas. Stream Falling On Your Arse In 1999 below.