Toddla T - On Acid Interview w/ Defected
Growing up raving in his native Sheffield, acid house was everywhere for Toddla T; the soundtrack to his formative years and even to this day reminding him of quality music, good times and hedonism. Now, although arguably best known for his highly eclectic take on dance music, he’s about to release the ‘housiest’ thing he’s ever produced as Toddla T Sound, the 303-saturated On Acid EP.
Defected Records caught up with Toddla to discuss the making of the intense video that accompanies lead tracks ‘Acid’ and why this entire release is a bit of a fluke.
How does this year compare to last for you so far?
It’s really different. Last year I intentionally stepped away from DJing throughout the whole summer and just did my live show, partly because I found that the club landscape got a bit generic in a way. I was getting booked for the same raves with the same records and a lot of people were playing the same music so I lost the point of what I’m doing. So I thought if I step back from my DJing and just do my live show I’m putting my heart on my sleeve a bit more; I can’t bail out and play the banger. When I came back to DJing this year I was pretty refreshed and confident again in playing the music I wanted to play.
In terms of getting booked all the time and burning out a little with DJing, do you think you were a victim of your own success?
Yeah I guess so. When something goes mainstream and bigger there’s a lot more demand, and that’s what’s happened with dance music. There’s a lot more money on the table and there are more opportunities to go see the world. You don’t even think about it, you just get on with it. Then when you’re in that motion all the time you forget what the point of a career in music was in the first place; you forget you actually started playing music because you loved a certain type of record. I think success is one way of putting but otherwise it’s just overdoing it. So it was really nice to just sit back and get back into my studio atmosphere to reset and this year go back into it with a different mind-set. And now, I’m really excited about DJing again.
Your upcoming On Acid EP is arguably one of the housiest things you have ever produced… did you always intend it to go down that road?
Yeah it absolutely is, but the funny thing is as house music got really popular last year and a lot of people started jumping on the bandwagon by starting to play and produce house music, I decided I was going to to make a point of not doing that. I didn’t want to seem like I was getting on the bandwagon and trying to not seem irrelevant. So the thing is with this record it was a complete fluke.
When I was growing up raving in Sheffield [house] was everywhere, which means every time I hear that type of sound it’s a very fun sound to me. It reminds me of good times, quality music and where I come from. I have always loved 303 records; I thought they were genius partly because of their minimalism, and when I was in the studio with Roses Gabor making a record I thought ‘you know what, fuck it I want to make a tune like this’. I’ve never done it before and I know it’s a really obvious time to step out and do it, but it just rolled out and it worked. It’s just one of those freak records which kind of happened. The conscious part of it was making sure it had the 303 acid relevance in it; apart from that I had no agenda.
You say you were wary of making a house record… do you think there’s too much attention paid the genre of music and how it’s labelled? Should people just crack on with it?
At the end of the day its bullshit and I’m as guilty as anyone because good music is good music. Variety, and people accepting that variety, makes my job as a DJ a lot more fun. For example if I DJ in a club now I would feel totally comfortable about dropping a record that is a lot deeper and slower because people really get with it. So I think even though people may moan about the popularisation of house in the mainstream, I think it’s actually been very good for British club music because it’s brought a good vibe back to the club again. Even with all of the different scenes within it where you’ve got your London sound where the kids are shuffling and all that, I think that’s fun and that’s great.
And if you’re open to playing any genre – as long as it’s good music – it’s surely good for you as a DJ because it gives you a wider pallet to pull from..
Totally, and it’s still surprising me now the records that you can get away with in the club that you would expect not to, at least in the house world any way. The people are really up for it, it’s a good time.
The lead track from the EP, Acid, comes with a pretty bonkers video… tell us about it.
I was chatting to my manager about doing a visual for the Acid track because that’s the one we felt should be the lead track. I was thinking about how I could make it interesting, and I liked the idea of someone dancing to the track and slowly losing it. It’s quite cliché but I wanted to do it in a way which is dark and not remotely sexy or over styled. To me, that record’s quite intense. Then my Jamaican friend showed me a lot of amazing dancers online and I remembered this guy who looked really striking and kept popping up in a lot of the videos.
So I sent a message to my Jamaican friend saying do you have any idea who this guy is? I really want to use him for this video, thinking nobody would find him. Then about an hour later she called me back telling me she’s found him and he’s called Zombie. She had taken a screenshot of him on the video using her iPhone and broadcasted it to all her WhatsApp contacts and one of them came back saying who it was. So when I was over in Jamaica recently we went to this place in Kingston where we filmed him skanking it in front of a wall for four or five takes.
We spoke to you briefly about a Defected ran on Sheffield two months ago and in that you said that despite all the places you’ve been to over the course of your career, Sheffield is the best place in the world. You must have had a happy time growing up there…
Growing up and having those memories… they will never be erased. When you first start going raving and you hear records live and you react to them… I think that period of my life was the most inspirational and stuck with me the most up until now. But on top of that I also went back over Christmas and you just forget how nice it is, with the warmth of the people, the things going on, the atmosphere and the layout. It’s a really friendly city but there’s also a hard-edged part of it which I find really humbling. I don’t mean nasty I mean quite honest
Do you think that because Sheffield has managed to avoid the spotlight more than say London or Manchester that it has been allowed to develop a bit more of an honest scene of its own?
Yeah totally, there’s not so much of a trend as such. I mean obviously when someone gets popular like the Arctic Monkeys you’re going to get a backlash of people inspired to be them, which is what happened in the band scene. However as far as dance music it’s always been heads down and humble, particularly the dance music I’m talking about which is more underground. Whether it became crossover or not it started at the bottom. So there is that mentality as well but it’s its own worst enemy sometimes because I feel there are a lot of people in Sheffield who could be more successful due to their talents but they just don’t promote themselves, they’re too humble. There are a lot of bullshitters in the industry that blag their way through and I’m not saying there should be more bullshitters of course, but that element of that ambitious attitude could have helped the city develop its reputation.
Finally, I saw your name on a bottle of Henderson’s Relish recently… what’s that all about?
Henderson’s Relish is a Sheffield condiment used in pretty much every pub in Sheffield. Basically it’s very iconic and something that we’re all proud about. You don’t see it much outside of Sheffield so it’s not very well known. They’ve done some collaborations in the past with Sheffield United, Sheffield Wednesday and the Arctic Monkeys. So being such a big fan I just emailed them saying I love your shit and I’d love to do something with you whether it’s a one off bottle, play at your factory or whatever. Then one thing lead to another and we did a collaboration with them, so the person I use for all my artwork redesigned the bottle and I think we got a couple hundred made and it got put on sale for Christmas. It was a nod to them and for me it was something which was really self-indulgent and something I can keep forever.
It may not be the biggest profile, like collaborating with Nike or something but it was just a nod to my city and was really fun because I feel like Sheffield is pretty much my biggest fan base by quite a long shot. The locals seemed to really buzz off it as well which was nice to see and a lot of people bought it and sent me Twitter pictures. It was wicked man.