I first got to know Toby when he played drums in my brother’s metal band. Fast forward some eleven years, and Toby is now a DJ, artist and producer. I caught up with him to talk about the journey he’s made.
What was your favourite record as a child?
I was always surrounded by music. My Dad used to constantly play vinyl records on his LP player – The Police, Mike Oldfield, Alan Parsons, Hot Chocolate and Boney M. The two songs which really take me back in time whenever I hear them are Mike Oldfield’s ‘Moonlight Shadow’ and Kate Bush’s ‘Running up that Hill’. I guess I took the emotion of Mike, Kate and Alan and mixed them with beats ‘n bass lines from Boney M and Hot Chocolate!
How did you get into dance music?
I played in bands from a really early age. I tried all instruments – bass, lead guitar, keyboards and vocals – but the one I stuck to longest was drums. I love the feeling of lightness after a great drumming session, you really get to bash out all your daily problems. I still do to this day, though some problems take more of a bashing than others. Although I used to play with rock bands, I was always listening to chillout and electronica – a daily dose of Enigma, Mike Oldfield, Alan Parsons and Tangerine Dream. Trust me, you had to, after playing four hours of Metallica covers! Then I started getting into a lot of ambient and Goah Trance and attending Dance and Electronic Events. After that there was no turning back!
Do you consider yourself a musician or a DJ? What’s the difference, in the creative process?
I guess I am both. There is a huge difference between a DJ and a musician. Although it takes great skill to become a good DJ, there is no comparison with being able to play an instrument well. When you are playing, you are creating something that is totally yours; when you are DJing, you are manipulating songs that have already been created by someone else. Unless they are your own work, in which case it’s a very different story. There is nothing quite like playing the instruments to create your own production and then spinning that same track in a club at night!
What’s been the highlight of your career till now?
Signing my publishing deal with EMI UK is right up there, as is watching a Remix I produced climb its way to number 9 in the UK Club charts. Quite a great feeling, but performing to over 10,000 people at festivals is just as satisfying. Nothing really beats performing my own productions with guest artists I have worked with, to 2,500 friends and fans at my ‘Toby live in Concert’ gigs!
Who do you admire?
My parents for lovingly staying together all these years, through thick and thin, and putting up with three boys and me and my mishaps. In music, it’s every artist, musician or DJ who manages to remain level-headed irrespective of success – I just cannot stand arrogance. I admire people who can give selflessly, without expecting something in return.
What’s your idea of a perfect day?
Morning: working in the studio producing for upcoming talent. Afternoon: a dive in Comino’s Santa Marija caves. Evening: Dinner by the sea in Gozo followed by clubbing anywhere to Trance and Electronica.
Do you think a small island like Malta can become a feature on the global dance calendar?
Definitely. We already have a beautiful location and top artists, bands and DJs hitting our shores. We just need to get smarter at marketing the island in in the right way, lengthening the closure time for clubs, events and outdoor festivals (or removing it altogether). Places such as Ibiza and Aia Napa have already shown how the model can work, spinning an entirely new tourism sector in the process.
Beer, wine or fruit juice?
Morning – juice, beer in the afternoon and wine in the evening. Having said that, if there was more of the afternoon and evening going on, it will probably be rounds of morning all day!
What are you working on at the moment?
I am currently creating and producing songs for some really great talents! I love helping people work their way up from the very start. I’ve got around fourteen productions in the pipe line – both local and foreign, upcoming and established artists. I’m also putting together my next ‘Toby Live in Concert’
You always seem to collaborate with vocalists. And you still have your own unique sound.
I am always looking for new sounds, to stay updated with the freshest noise out there. I’m constantly looking for new vocalists, so my style does tend to vary from time to time. It’s all about experimentation. I’d get bored if I were always to produce the same genre. Producing for other people means I get to create all types of music, from classical to R’nB, house, trance and all styles of electronica, to recording rock bands and creating scores and soundtracks for movies and documentaries.
What should we have asked you?
How do you feel about the BMA Nomination you have just received for your song with Niki Gravino ‘Cover your eyes’? It’s always a great feeling to be nominated and appreciated for the work you do. I produced the song and the video was filmed in Germany by acclaimed director Wolfgang Raach, featuring world-renowned stunt man Mike Moller. Can I put in a plug? People can vote for the song by sending an sms with the text ‘TOBY’ to 5061 5302 by the 7th December.
Picture: David P Attard