If I’m being honest I’m surprised this interview didn’t happen sooner. Both myself and music editor Louis have known Toddla for quite a few years now and although I’ve interviewed him plenty of times in the past, aside from a photo in the previous issue this is the first time he’s appeared within these pages.
I’ve always admired Toddla and I’ve always backed his music, he’s motivated, passionate, talented and never a dick. Furthermore he’s at heart a music fan, and thats how he views everything – before production even comes into it. He appreciates everything and nowhere is this attitude more prevalent than his long running Radio 1 show. Niche Jamaican reggae? Check. Rick Ross interview? Check. Scrufizzer freestyling over a looped Arctic Monkeys beat? Check. Nobody else is putting this kind of variety together and making work so seamlessly, but Toddla can. Go see him live and you’ll see the same. It’s incredible.
In recent years he’s evolved out of the scrappy kid from Sheffield that provided his own ramshackle vocals to his debut album, and he now plays with a wider crew, including legendary UK songstress Shola Ama and long term gig-buddy Serocee as ‘The Toddla T Sound’. This is after a multi album deal with Ninja Tune, his own record label ‘Girls Music’ and breaking his perceived comfort zone to release an acid house EP with Defected records. Toddla is truly a man of many talents, and with that I give you our interview with Sheffield’s finest, Mr Toddla T.
Ok to its been a while since we caught up, last time I saw you you were preparing for festivals with the Toddla T sound. Is that still a thing or are you back to performing as a DJ?
I took a year off from DJing to do the ‘Toddla T sound’, I’m so glad I did it, it was a new experience and made me hungry to DJ again, I’m not going back to DJing particularly, but I’ll be doing my own raves. I’m calling them ‘Toddla T take overs’, where I go to a city and create the line ups , so Sheffield, Bristol, Cardiff, London, Glastonbury, Manchester etc. Toddla T sound is still running, I’m writing music with them all the time and doin a few festivals with them this year!
Thats ace, so the Toddla T sound is the prequel to the take overs? Like, you’ve conquered the live thing and now you want to go and run the entire night? Is it a control thing? Having control over the whole experience?
Yeah exactly… pick some acts and create an atmosphere thats individual.
You’ve just released an EP on Defected Records, for people that don’t know you it seems like it’s a bit of a left turn, but actually considering the breadth of music you work with it’s not that odd really is it?
To be honest the defected link up was bit of a fluke, I made some 303 type tunes and showed it to Andy from Defected purely out of interest to see what he thought and catch feedback, as I wanted to make sure I wasn’t mocking such a legacy as ‘acid house’. They really liked them and suggested releasing them and we went for it. They’ve been wicked to work with but my next release is on my own imprint Girls Music and is a more RnB vibe with Shola Ama again, similar to ‘Worst Enemy’ we did last year.
So no more plans to release or create music in the style of that Defected EP?
If the music is right I would deffo work with em but im not consciously making music to fit the label, or any other label right now, In fact I was on a bit of a house rebellion for a while as every Tom Dick and Harry was makin really beige stuff, then I ended up doin a house EP.. classic!
What do you miss from Sheffield, do you think your music would be different if you’d grown up in London?
I miss the general attitude of the locals more then anything to be honest, some of the nicest people in the world. My music would definitly be different if I grew up in London, or anywhere else for that matter, the local DJs and producers moulded my taste for production and how I DJ.
Whats the major difference between Sheffield and London in terms of music?
Sheffield is alot of ‘if you dont like it fuck off’ type approach, where as London can be very ‘trend’ and ‘hype’ based, but saying that there is alot more going on in London in terms of exposing new sounds and styles, so it moves alot more. Sheffield is a bit more ‘pure’ I suppose you could say.
Do you still keep an eye on the scene in Sheffield and the DJs and producers involved?
Yeah 100%, its easy with Twitter etc… Sheffield is in the healthiest state I’ve known it in, loads of great venues like Hope Works & Night Kitchen, proper club nights like Kabal & Bunga Bunga that are really well attended and we’ve even got a record shop, Reset records!
Your Girls Music imprint is going from strength to strength, do you think it fills a gap in the market or is it more a way to be able to make sure music you’re backing gets a release and the love it deserves?
Yeah, its not anything other then releasing records I’m in love with, with artists with a good attitude, people who are on there own tip who ain’t scared to do there own thing – simple really. I’m lucky to have Ninja Tune doing alot of the back end stuff too which takes alot of time, biggup Ninja Tune, standard.
What have you got planned for future releases? I always dug the Zulu tracks and I’m stoked Mele’s Dark EP is being released.
Getting Roses Gabor’s album finished, sounded amazing, she’s such a special artist, the first release is called Rush and is produced by MNEK .. album soon drop! OOOSSHH!
How do you feel about the UK’s music scene at the moment? It’s ace that people like Gorgon City are getting number 1 records, but I worry that they’re all a bit ‘Paint by numbers house’ you know?
I think that the UK scene at the minute, as far as its cross over and record sales kinda thing is just mental, it’s brilliant, the fact that records that weren’t meant for the charts are going there. It started with that Duke Dumont track, which is a brilliant record, number 1 or not. It’s just great music, same with Breach’s Jack, these are just great records that accidentally crossed over – you can’t be mad at that it’s just brilliant. Its honet music.
On the Grime side German Whip went top 20 this week which is just great, cos again that was just a tune that was made rather than a contrived pop record. But the thing is when records go like this and make a lot of money, majors get involved and fuck it all up. Thats normal you know, they did it Garage, Grime and even dubstep to an extent. I think we’re kinda witnessing that at the minute, but it’s to be expected really and you can’t really be mad at anyone for having a crack [at the charts] as it’s quite a desirable time in dance music to try and crossover as it’s more open than it’s ever been.
At the same time you have a lot of people going for it and it’s not penetrating, which kinda deflates the scene because the root is lost of what is beautiful and magical about the scene cos everyone is trying to make bangers and hits for the radio. But like I say, thats normal and we’re just seeing that again, but this time in a house form. It is what it is.
Let’s talk about Radio 1 for a bit. You were in the original crop of ‘In New DJs We Trust’ but are still there when everyone else left the station and rotated with new DJs. Is the show still fresh and exciting to work on?
100%, as long as exiting music is been made it will always be exiting for me, before anything else I’m a music fan and a geek, so to be able to share that with people every week on the best radio station on the planet is fully peak. I also get to meet and interview heroes, I did Rick Ross last week and we talked J Dilla.
I also feel like out of all the specialist DJs on the station that you seem to have the widest remit and the most freedom with guests and the type of music you play, I imagine this is intentional but have you had any limitations?
Nah not at all, with my own show I can do what ever I want, the guests are as broad as Nas thru to Dusky, the only time you have to be sensitive to what I might play is if I’m covering some one else’s show and have represent what that show is about, it wouldn’t really make sense coming on after Greg James and twatting some Theo Parrish B-side know what I mean? Gotta join it all up sometimes but that is fun and a challange in itself.
Have you had any particularly difficult guests?
Tyler the Creator was a bit of wally but thats his thing innit? I was ready for it, everyone else has been great pretty much.
Who’s the best guest you’ve had on then? Surely Rick Ross is up there?
Yeah Rozay was a big one definitely, I really enjoyed having Nas on, I mean he’s a legend obviosuly and he’s a hero of mine from growing up. I bought all his records when I started buying records. He’s super cool I got to ask him stuff, he was amazing. Apart from I spilt Lucozade on him as soon as I got in, it was the worst start to an inteview in my life. I enjoy speaking to everyone, everyone brings something different to the table thats really interesting you know. I had a really good chat with a girl called Fatima last week and I had Footsire the other day talking about Soundsystems, a wicked reggae artist that I hooked up with. But meeting your childhood heroes is very special and a very big perk of the job.
Is it difficult to keep up with doing the show live when you’re still regularly gigging too?
Yeah kinda, just gotta be really organised and disciplined to make sure your checking as much music as possible and doing the job justice, it’s not a joke platform and I wanna do it properly, but I manage to juggle everything, just about.
In the future do you plan to move into covering day time slots? Are we going to see a Toddla T drive time show anytime soon?
[Laughs] Only if I can play the music I love, which would be hard as alot of it is considered ‘specialist’, thats where I feel most comfortable and passionate, but shit, you never know.
When we spoke recently at a party you’d just become a father and you were saying that rather than restrict your time you’d found having a son had made you more productive – how is that?
Well its like I now have limited time in the day so I treat it very disciplined. For example before, I’d get up and be like ‘I’ll just do that later’ where now its like ‘I’ve got 8 hours in the studio and I will do x y z’ and I feel alot more productive alot of the time, having some sort of discipline in my life is very good for me as I’m quite disorganised if left to my own devices.
I miss Toddla TV – any plans for that to make a return?
[Laughs] No not like I used too, I was a lot more gassed and exited to be doing the things I was at that stage, I just filmed EVERYTHING! But now its more lil snap shots via Instagram/vid etc.
So we’ve established that you’re probably not going to be making another house/acid EP anytime soon but what’s next?
Next is a track called ‘Wondering’ from the Toddla T Sound, produced by myself obviously, and it features Shola Ama on vocals and its a kinda summer RnB record. Summat for the BBQ’s and the cars. It’s a tune that I’ve had for a while and I actually planned on releasing it earlier this year but then the acid thing came along and we went with that first instead.
I love it, I totally love the record and what Shola’s done is brilliant, and it’s one of those tunes where, when it comes on my iTunes I’m so happy that I made it [Laughs]. It’s kinda one for the ladies rather than the mandem, but it’s another side to Toddla T.