After bringing the underground sounds of his beloved Sheffield to the nation's attention with his debut album 'Skanky Skanky' back in 2009, Toddla T has become one of the most in-demand producers and club deejays in the land. Now also commanding a regular slot on BBC Radio 1 as part of the 'In New DJs We Trust' series as well as mixing his own Fabric Live CD and forming his own record label, Girls Music, the rise and rise of Toddla T shows no signs of stopping. Fresh from signing to Ninja Tune, I managed to catch up with him before last night's 'Toddska' EP launch on everything from Jamaica to Roll Deep:
"The last 12 months have been really big for me. Nothing's really changed from my side at all, I've just done lots of radio, lots of deejaying in the clubs and made the music I've always tried to make. Radio's helped a lot because it's made my music available to a wider range of people and its really started to find its feet - people really like the music now and i suppose gigs and radio have just accelerated things!"
As a multi-talented and versatile producer, Toddla T's also been mad busy in the studio with a whole host of different acts, most notably alongside a number of big-name grime emcees. The last 6 months or so have seen collaborations with the likes of Maxsta, Wiley, J2K, Roll Deep, Jammer and most recently, D Double E:
"Ah I've always loved grime. I used to go to college in Leeds so I'd travel over from Sheffield every other day and I'd always lock in to Cameo on 1Xtra and people like that. My mates used to buy tape packs aswell so I really got into listening to the old school Sidewinder sets. Dizzee's first album was another defining one, unbelievably sick, and I used to watch Channel U quite a bit but no one in Sheffield was feeling it at all at the time.
When it came to producing for some of the guys, it just sort of came about through a few requests really. I did a bit for Tinchy's album back in 2009 and then did a bit for Bashy too and from there it just seemed to snowball. I came to London not long after and that was it, everything just blew! I made links with Jammer and produced loads of stuff for his album, then obviously did some stuff with J2K and ah man it was just mad! The D Double E link came through the 'Gyptian' tune - I was remixing it and really wanted a vocal so I thought I'd try and get him on it. I got in touch with his people and he came over and did the ting, easy as that! I produced a tune for his album called 'Critical' too.
Recently, I've been doing a lot with Maxsta and he's been really good to work with, I rate him a lot. Met up with Target and Danny Weed too, we've built a few tracks together and that. Funnily enough, one of the tracks we made got vocalled by Roll Deep and they put it on their album - I heard it the other day and couldn't believe it! I've been in the studio a bit with Wiley too, we've still got a bit to do on a few tunes and I'm still doing lots with J2K and i hope I can do more stuff with the likes of Jammer, Bashy, Rolle Deep and Maxsta in the future. I've got so many grime requests at the minute, its just trying to find the time to fit it all in! Having said that, I'm gonna be teaming up and doing some work with Trim in the next few weeks which I'm looking forward too! These lot were all my heroes growing up so it's kinda sick!"
JAMMER - BACK TO THE 90s (Produced by Toddla T)
From grime's top dogs to funky's top dog, the 'Toddska' EP sees Roska join forces with Toddla T on a collaborative release, out on Girls Music in February:
"TODDSKA! That came about after I just hit Roska up one day - we'd done quite a few gigs and been on the same line-ups and we chat a lot so I just said to him one day, 'Shall we makes some tunes?' He said, 'Yeah, fuck it why not' and that was it. We sent lots of stuff back and forth, he did the bass and I did the drums, got it sounding tight, mixed it down and it was done. It was quite nice really, proper relaxed and really quite easy to put together. My album's coming out later this year and its gonna be more radio friendly stuff so the 'Toddska' EP is just me still pushing my club music and you can expect to hear some more little projects like that throughout the year."
As far as personal musical influences go, its well documented that Toddla's biggest inspiration is Jamaica and he's been a frequent visitor since making his first visit to the island last summer:
"Jamaica's amazing man, I've been 4 times in the last year and a bit! I kinda felt like I had to go because its the home of the music I've been making / ripping off for years (laughs)! I first went with my mate last year and as soon as I got into the music environment, the whole thing just blew my mind, it was sick! I remember first getting to a studio there and within 10 minutes of playing a riddim to a girl, she vocalled it perfectly - it was the vocal I'd been trying to find for years and she'd just done it in 10 minutes! More than anything though, I just learnt so much over there - the people, the culture, everything. I was lucky enough to go with Diplo and Switch (Major Lazer) too and we all met up with Beanie Man and Elephant Man, it was mad! Even though I wasn't really involved with them production wise, it was good to see music over there at that higher level. I did manage to produce 'Sky Surfing' for Wayne Marshall while I was over there though and really enjoyed that - I can see myself continuing to go back and forth a lot for the music over the next few years definitely. The mad thing is, you don't hear any shit music either - it's all just pure vibes. You'll sometimes hear some US stuff but even then, it'll be stuff at the better end of the spectrum."
Toddla's also forged a massive reputation as a club deejay for his eccentric style, tight mixing skills and eclectic collection of dubs. After playing venue after venue over the last few years, I wondered a) what made a good night and b) what was his favourite city/venue/night to deejay at?
"The key to a good night is all the vibes man - you just need good tunes and a good mix of different people all getting on through the music you know?! No bullshit, just everybody getting on, dancing about and enjoying themselves, it's those sorta nights that are the best to play at! In terms of where I like playing, I can't really look further than Sheffieeeellll 'coz it's my hometown and it's sick! I went to Japan aswell last year and that was really cool. Recently UK wise, I had a good night at 'Shit the Bed' down in Bristol, that was live! In terms of nights though, it's probably still 'Bigger then Barry' that does it for me - the Leeds night at Mint is the best in the country from a DJ perspective!
(After going off at a bit of a tangent about Leeds) Ahhh here's some Leeds history for ya! When I left college, there was a record shop in Leeds called 'Pusher Records' on the bottom level of the Corn Exchange and I started to go down there on Sundays and do sets - anybody could just turn up and DJ or spray on the mic or whatever. It was all hip-hop, old school RnB and bashment type stuff really but i loved going down there while it was open. It had to close its doors eventually but I had a good year or so there!"
On the subject of record shops, I asked Toddla about his approach to incorporating vinyl in his sets:
"As a deejay, I tend to use serato these days because it's much more reliable. I don't really buy records to play out much anymore to be honest - it got to the stage in clubs where the turntables would be THAT battered and shit that there wasn't really much point in trying to play vinyl. Having said that, i've got so many records at home and I still like to buy records to listen to - on the right turntables, they still sound amazing. I was in LA recently actually and I spent ages in this record shop just trawling through loads of stuff - I love the artwork and the physical aspect to vinyl, that's one thing you don't get on itunes."
Speaking of LA, Toddla had told me he was flying straight there after his set at Corsica studios so I had just enough time to ask him about what this year had in store for man like T Willy:
"I'm proper close to finishing my new album which will be coming out on NinjaTune and Girls Music so I'll hopefully release a few singles off that - i've just done a tune with Shola Ama and J2K so I want that to be the first release! Finished Lady Chann's EP recently too. From there it's just gonna be building up to the album which I'm aiming to release in the summer - vibes! I've got loads of radio stuff to do too, gonna carry on playing the clubs and just keep doing the stuff I've always done. Watch out for a few projects with Redlight too!"
'Ang tight the boom deejay from the Steel City - Biggup Toddla T!