Born Thomas Fec, he's toured with Flaming Lips, sold out venues, recorded with Beck, and had his music featured on Nickelodeon (sort of; see below).
His newest release, Ultima II Massage, is more hip-hop than what he was doing before. The beats feel sleazy and funky, as if created for intergalactic porn. “I was trying to make my own contemporary soundtrack to the '90s hotline commercials,” he explains, referencing those 1-900 numbers you could call back in the day for anything from Nintendo tips to jokes.
He performs tonight, September 5, with Phantogram at Hollywood Forever.
His new work features him trying out new recording techniques on new equipment.
“I got rid of a lot of the stuff I was comfortable with, and came at it from new angles. I didn't want the fidelity to be like anything I'd ever heard, and I didn't want anything to be instantly accessible, but to have more to chew on as time goes on,” he says. “So the whole process was the right kind of awkward, and totally tasty.”
It is this warped-yet-focused vision that has solidified his place in the pantheon of musical wizards, somewhere between Boards of Canada, Daft Punk, Flaming Lips, Tycho, and Ween.
Comedian Eric Wareheim directed the album's first video:
Tobacco has a Europe tour coming up, and several of his songs were used in HBO's “Silicon Valley.” When the show was nominated for an Emmy, his track played at the ceremony.
Then there's the Nickelodeon thing. The network produced a promo video with music that was an exact replica of a Tobacco track. They'd apparently hired a dude who essentially copied one of Tobacco's songs, beat for beat. Nickelodeon then used it, presumably without realizing it was a ripoff. Tobacco knew about this, but didn't make a fuss because it seemed like a silly thing to get upset about, and not really worth the battle.
Still, that didn't stop him from having a bit of fun with the situation. He did an interview with Vice, where he repeatedly called the perpetrator a “scrote.”
After the piece his fans pounced, quickly spreading the Nickelodeon story far and wide.
But it was all a joke. “The Nickelodeon thing was totally just my way of trying to get people to start saying 'scrote,'” he explains.