Hello Tobi, how are you?
Tired. Once again I was smart enough to volunteer to review the Fresh Favs the same weekend as releasing a new Tobisonics track. Given this is the second time I’ve done this, I can only conclude I’m an idiot.
You are a man of many talents, how did it all begin for you?
According to my parents, when the gypsies left me on the doorstep as a baby. …I had an, “if not now then when?” moment in my mid-30s and I figured I’d better just get on with it if I was ever really going to start making music again.
What did you listen to growing up?
What makes you think I’ve grown up? My father listened to all sorts from Led Zep & Pink Floyd to Diana Ross & the Supremes to jazz and classical. The first real bands I got into were Guns n Roses and Faith No More; then MTV’s 120 Minutes became the church at which I worshipped. After that, I converted to the Faith of Brit Pop (and its patron saint, Phil Daniels) and that was my sixth form years. And my sister was a big fan of musicals, so despite my best efforts to block it all out, I know all the words to musicals like Grease and Annie. I guess it all adds up to Tobisonics. Particularly Grease. A lot of Grease in “Military Industrial Complex”.
Congratulations on the release of Military Industrial Complex. How does it feel?
I’m a bit punch drunk to be honest. Again, with one or two notable exceptions, the blogs have been largely disinterested, but the radio response has been fantastic. There’s a crazy kind of magic hearing your own song on the radio.
What is the story behind it?
It’s a tale of two Republican Presidents’ speeches. On one hand, the dignified, thoughtful, and ultimately hopeful tone of President Eisenhower’s Farewell Address to the Nation, and on the other, President Trump’s macho-antagonistic and fatalistic response to the BLM protests. I can’t reconcile the two. I don’t believe it’s possible to believe in both. “Military Industrial Complex” is a challenge to traditional Repubician voters; can they reconcile the two?
You are a mix and mastering engineer as well, what attracted you to that path?
I can’t sing or dance. I came into the Music Industry already middle-aged. I was at a time in my life when I was content to be behind the scenes. But the market for mixing and mastering is being squeezed year on year. Software and auto-master is getting cleverer and artists are often content with their own home mix/masters. Even the top engineers have to offer budget rates nowadays. Independents like myself are competing in an ever decreasing market.
Do you have a particular approach when beginning a mixing session?
Listen. Listen to the demo mix. Listen to the raw tracks. Listen to reference tracks. You have to know where you’re going before you start mixing. You have to have the finished mix in your head.
You have created a series of videos on YouTube showing techniques and plugins, what’s your favourite plugin to use?
For Mastering, I use Fabfilter, DMG, Voxengo & PSP. For mixing & production, I use a lot of Cubase stock plugins. A lot of the bridges and tunnels work can be done with stock. Save the fancy plugins for the featured instruments, etc. My most used plugin is DMG Track. It’s a free plugin. Very functional. I did a video about it:
What’s in your set up?
Pretty simple. I like to keep the room as open as possible for the best listening environment. I have acoustic treatment to help with low frequencies in particular. The room calibration technology built into my Genelecs deals with what the room treatment doesn’t. …pretty much.
I sold most of my outboard gear and what I have left is for recording only. Everything else I’m all in the Box. I have a Ferrofish 16/16 ADAT. It’s basically a converter in a box with an external power supply (which I keep separate with steel rack shelving). This keeps the clocking nice and stable. And it’s fully transformer isolated input/output with Radial Engineering boxes, which is crazy expensive but very effective – lucky I only use a few of the inputs/outputs. ADAT lightpipe is ancient technology, but it’s reliable and it’ll run alongside power cables, etc no problem.
What artists are getting you excited at the moment?
Jeen has a new self-titled album out. Her 2018 release “Gift Shop” was my favourite album that year. I still haven’t had time to listen to the new album all the way through – that’s how busy I’ve been. Jeen’s music is under-produced, untidy, and undeniably wonderful.
Cartalk also has an album out – which I also have not had time to listen to – but I’m sure it’s going to be stellar. Their 2019 release “Wrestling” is just great.
You are part of the Fresh On The Net team, what three artists have you discovered that have blown your mind since you joined?
Pynch. As soon as I heard “Somebody Else”, I know it’d be my favorite of the week. It’s probably my favorite track of 2020. Even if they did master it themselves (bastards). Go listen, kiddies!
Ellie Dixon is, frankly, annoyingly talented. She can sing, write, perform, produce, mix and her home masters are pretty decent (for an amatuer). I was sold when I watched her DIY cover of Justin “what’s his face” (can’t remember his name) track “Yummy” using only samples from her fridge. Check it out!
And Faultress, of course, who inspires, surprises, challenges with every release. I’ve just reviewed “Shrew” so I’m all out of words to describe just how special this Artist is; so I’ll just repeat myself, I’ve been listening to independent/alternative music for the best part of 30 years, I love that Artist can still surprise me. Her new album is out now.
Lockdown has affected the creative industry heavily, what have you been up to to keep yourself motivated?
Total 100% fear of getting a real job. I work 7 days a week, 12 – 14 hours a day. I haven’t had a day off since… Christmas 2018, I think. When I had a real job, I worked regular hours 5 days a week, but it was so much more like hard work. A person’s sense of their life is determined by whether or not it is worth it, not by how hard it is.
My experience of Lockdown is probably different from most. Having chronic depression/anxiety means I used to handling myself when life starts to drag. I know which warning signs in my own behaviour to spot and what to do when I spot them. Plus I have a physiatrist I can book an extra appointment with, if needs be… I’m so lucky I live in a country with an exceptional standard of Mental Healthcare. I doubt I’d still be here if I’d stayed in the UK.
What are you looking forward to most next?
I’m content (or not) in the moment. I don’t tend to look forward to things. And I try not to look back too much either. I have a Tobisonics collab in the works which I might try to release the first week of December, if we can get it right. …which reminds me, I need to touch base with the artist and see how the vocals are coming on.