27 Jul 2011
Toddla talks about how he’s not the ‘toddla’ anymore.
Unless you’ve lived your life in solitude and/or social isolation you’ll know that the weekend of the 22nd of July saw Sheffield once again transformed into a hub of music and artistic splendor.
Last weekend welcomed around 140,000 people (thank you Look North) into Sheffield to visit some of the 70 odd venues taking part. Ignoring the fact that 75% of that lot were probably employees of Domino’s Pizza, clad in an ‘Any Pizza, Any Size, £7.99’ cardboard advertisement, it is safe to say that this years Tramlines (the third to date) was the biggest and best yet. Taking over the streets in such a way that has, to date, only ever been done once before. The time I’m referring to is, of course, the fall of the Berlin wall – but that’s different story.
Once again, Tramlines Festival has unified a city that thrives on it’s eclectic and bountiful array of performers, designers, musicians, and artists to create something that is simply unrivaled
elsewhere in the UK. Never before has the city of Sheffield’s residents seen such unity to provide entertainment, whether it be all day hip-hop karaoke BBQ’s, impromptu performances from folk bands on buses or naked singalongs where all dignity was clearly banished at the door… (I saw but didn’t judge).
In a city that holds it’s institutions, traditions and landmarks close to it’s heart, whether that be Henderson’s Relish (even if Lea & Perrins is better…) or the now vacant remains of the Tinsley
Towers, it is clear to see why Tramlines has become as much a part of Sheffield as these have.
So, on to the festival itself. What can we tell you about it? Chances are, if you were there, you will know that whatever we write down can only touch the surface. Think of it as an iceberg. The
tip of it is everything that you saw and enjoyed. This may include the mass confusion felt by many, which quickly turned into a mad rampage down Fitzwilliam Street leading up to David Rodigan’s performance at DQ. It may also include a feeble attempt to sneak a look up the short skirt of Pixie Lott in the hope of a 0.05 second pantie viewing on the main stage. Everything else in the Tramlines iceberg was metaphorically hidden below the water, down back alleys, in pubs 5 minutes walk out of the city centre, or in industrial warehouses that would look all but abandoned if it weren’t for the sound of techno being pumped out at 7 in the morning.
Of course, to make all of this possible, a huge amount of work is put into the festival by people all over the city. Whether this comes from promoters, venue owners, sellers of cheap alcohol or indeed the artists themselves, the amount of effort can be witnessed literally around every corner. One man that this applies to (and no, he doesn’t sell cheap alcohol) is none other than Toddla T,
someone who is as synonymous with Sheffield as Craig Charles is to smoking cra…Robot Wars. Put it this way; the only way that 2007’s ‘Fill Up Mi Portion’ could sound more ‘Sheffield’ would be if Sean Bean acted as guest MC.
We managed to (literally) catch up with him on the Sunday evening to ask him a few things about Tramlines and his involvement in the whole thing.
Here’s what he had to say…
Toddla: Tramlines started 3 years ago and a friend of mine approached me about organising some events for it. It started at DQ and it was me, DJ Zinc, Oneman and Martello. With it being the first year everyone was quite anxious about how it would actually go, but it was one of the best weekends I’ve ever seen in Sheffield, and from then onwards, right up to today it’s just become bigger and better. Every year I’ve been involved in helping to curate events, mainly on the dance side; getting DJ’s to come up and play along with myself. It’s a really amazing thing to be a part of as it’s one of the best things the city has to offer in terms of music. It’s also a good excuse for me to be back home for the weekend, man. It’s great.
HuWho: It sorta seems like this is pretty much the only one of it’s kind. Why do you think it fits so perfectly to Sheffield?
Toddla: Sheffield’s funny. I grew up here and used to work in shops all the time, and it’s a funny one because people don’t really want to spend money unless they’re really into it. We used to like have a shop up there [Division Street] and compared to other cities we didn’t sell as much stuff. I think it’s because of the Sheffield mentality. It’s not a real well off city, people work ‘ard and when they go out they wanna get what they pay for, and that’s the beauty of a free festival. If you’re not into it it’s fine, you can just go next door, you might see summat you like.
To be honest, I’ve never seen anything like this. The only similar thing I can think of is Camden Crawl where you have your wristband and you go to all the different places, but again that is probably quite expensive.
HuWho: Things like ‘In the City’ in Manchester too, I think that’s like 30 quid for a weekend ticket.
Toddla: Yeah, at least! I think its great, no one can moan, no one can say anything, because there’s literally something here for everyone. If there isn’t, then well…what are you into?! It’s good, man. It’s really good for Sheffield.
Toddla: When I was growing up the club scene in Sheffield was kind of on its back really, in the sense that there wasn’t many clubs and when a DJ came, who we liked, we’d go and there wouldn’t be very many people there. It was a bit of a weird time. The only way we could go and hear the music we really liked was at the underground parties like Kabal. It was there that I heard DJ’s playing stuff together, in a real mad Sheffield style and that made me wanna be that DJ as well. I started DJ-ing in that way, and started making music off the back of that. Without being here [Sheffield] I would not be making the music I’m making now. There’s not a chance. I’m dead certain of that. I probably wouldn’t have heard like, heavy reggae next to house, next to like, grime and mad electro stuff. I’d probably still be making music but it wouldn’t be the music I’m making today, so it’s really important to me just to be around it. I just love it, I love Sheffield music and the way that it’s put together and the DJ’s here more than anywhere else. The more I’ve travelled over the last couple of years, the more it’s made me realise how individual this place is, musically.
HuWho: So what do you think of it at the moment. I mean you’ve got new promoters like Soup Kitchen and No Uniform. Do you think it’s at a pretty good place at the minute?
Toddla: Yeah it’s wicked man, I mean, I’m not around as much as I used to be so I can’t say I’m there all the time but from the events I see on Facebook and that it looks reyt good. There’s DJ’s coming from out of town and playing, supporting people like Checan and Squarehead and that, who are making right next level music and they’re like 19. I’m 26 now so I’m like ‘rarrr*’. It’s amazing. From an outside view it looks really good at the minute, better than I’ve ever seen it definitely.
HuWho: Bit of a daft question, but on Eastenders the other day they played ‘Take It Back’ in the cafe and the club, do you ever get moments like that where you think ‘shit just got real’?
Toddla: Well, I got an email saying it was gonna be on TV before it was on because the label knew about it and I was like ‘cool, cool, cool’. When it was on I got loads of texts and I was like ‘Aw, wicked, that’s hilarious’. Afterwards my friend emailed me a little clip of it, and when I saw it I was like ‘rarrrr*’! Everyone was in the club, dancing to it. If they knew where it came from, literally just me in my little studio geeking off… to go from there to it being on that TV show is just very, very weird, but amazing. It’s just funny, people actually dancing to my tune on Eastenders.
HuWho: What other milestones have there been along the way?
Toddla: What like little moments of just… [HuWho: ‘SHIT JUST GOT REAL’]
I think mainly like when I first started in Sheffield and I started getting bookings out of town, those bits were really kinda striking. It was a massive leap from being ‘round here to playing around the world. Also, when I was producing some of Roots Manuva’s records I was still working in a shop round here, I was still buying his records, still a massive fan and then he was in my dads house spitting in my wardrobe…Left*.
Things happen all the time. Every weekend I have a moment where I think, I need to remember this cause its not gonna last forever. The earlier times were a lot more like ‘woooooah’ now it’s more like ‘oh that’s mental’. Back then it was like [adopts fangirl voice] ‘oh my gaaaawwwwd, i feel sick’.
HuWho: What’s the contrast like from when you first started out to releasing Skanky Skanky, to where you are now?
Toddla: When I was in Sheff, as I said, there just wasn’t many clubs or outlets for the music that I was really into. You could only find it at underground parties like Kabal. Really, it was just me, the DJ’s, our mates, and a couple of random punters. There were probably only 100-200 people doing that type of music and the local productions that we were playing were very niche…not niche as in the club [a very necessary distinction to make in Sheffield], so when people were asking me to go and DJ in like, London and Manchester and Europe I just thought ‘but…no one likes it in Sheff? Why the fuck would they like it in Swansea on a Thursday night?’
From there I was proper nervous. I couldn’t get my head round it but the thing is, if I was doing what everyone else was doing then I probably never would have got those gigs in the first place. So the main thing, and I know it sounds a bit cliche, is that you can only really do ‘you’. Everyone’s background is different. Everyone comes from different cities, different mums, different dads, different neighbours… It’s all soaked up and if you can put that into your production or DJ-ing or whatever then that’s completely individual to you. No one else can do that and I think it’s quite important that people should think that rather than being like ‘oh i wanna be like Skream’ or ‘I wanna be like Jack Beats’ or whatever. Obviously you’re gonna be influenced by them but by just reference everything around you, that makes you who you are…Basically.
HuWho: From that do you think that record labels have a lot of input into trying to make you sound a certain way?
Toddla: Yeah definitely. All the time I get remix requests from people who are like ‘we want it to sound like this record’ or ‘we want that’, but now, more and more so in the last few years because of the internet, you don’t need a label like you used to. You can do what you want and it’s proven with things like Soundcloud and stuff. People get more hits on Soundcloud than they’d ever sell in records through a big label.
HuWho: Especially today where on the whole people aren’t buying records like they used to.
Toddla: Yeah, definitely. It’s a different hustle, a whole different dynamic from four years ago. [A bouncer walks in looking disgruntled]
I think I’m about to get beaten up here… [HuWho: Don’t worry I know a few...sweet moves?!] Tae Kwon Dooooo!
HuWho: Anyway, anyone you’d recommend from the Tramlines lineup?
Toddla: I’ve just been to see Omar at the top of Fargate which was incredible. I was walking into town to come here [The Bowery] and my mate text me saying come and see Omar. A legendary UK soul artist, just playing outside HMV?! I was like… wow. His talent is so raw. He’s not an up and coming artist though, far from it. In terms of up and coming people though, I saw Zed Bias on Friday. The local DJ’s we’ve talked about, like Jack Opus, Checan, Squarehead and DMK, they’re all reyt good, man. I like what they’re doing. They’ve proper got that Sheffield thing in them, like the way they DJ and play stuff together. It’s very Sheffield style, and it’s cause of where they come from. It’s right good to see young-uns just doing it naturally rather than it being a thought about process. They’re putting on raves as well and it’s right good. Not to say I’m a grandad, but ‘when I were a lad’ there was only a couple of producers and they were all older than me. That’s where the ‘Toddla’ came from, I was the young one, I was a kid. When I was that age, it would have been amazing if there was a clan of us that could have properly done events and stuff. Just like Wu Tang Clan…[laughs]
HuWho: Finally, Tramlines: has it exceeded your expectations?
Toddla: Yeah, I mean, its just getting bigger and bigger every year. You’ve been every year, so you’ve seen how its gone, and I don’t think anyone expected that. I mean as I said earlier, everyone was anxious with the first one, but then the point got proven that it could work and its just got bigger. The past couple of years, my mum or dad have walked round and said ‘it’s bigger, and bigger!’ Bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better but its just a really good sign that people are right up for it.
Rarrr - Adjective - Commonly used to express excitement, or joy at receiving good news.
Left - Adjective - Similar to ‘Rarrr’ in style, it is often used as a descriptive word.
See; Awesome, Great, Fantastic.
So that was that for another year. As the delayed hangovers are still with us on this Wednesday afternoon we eagerly anticipate what next year will bring. However, I think I can speak for everyone in using 2 suggestive words; David Rodigan.
If you somehow managed to miss Toddla’s numerous appearances over the weekend then no need to fret. Toddla will be playing with Kabal once again, this time to celebrate the upcoming release of ‘Watch Me Dance’, his second studio album. Details are clickable through the picture below.
Written & edited by
Jack Needham and Fiona Gales.