Not many artists in drum & bass today have the clarity of musical vision of Toronto Is Broken. Unconcerned with club trends and focused on music with a story and message, Christian’s early work for Sub Slayers won him the attention of Viper Recordings. With his new album You Are (Not) Alone dropping today, we grabbed him for a quick chat about techno influences, the state of neurofunk and his plans for the summer. Check it…
DNB Dojo: Hi Christian, thanks for taking time out for a chat! Where are you in the world and what have you been up to today?
Toronto Is Broken: I’m currently on my break at work in Leicestershire, UK. I currently work full-time as a teacher in a secondary school, so the long school holidays are ideal for getting gigs and studio time in! I don’t teach music as you would expect, I like the clear separation of the two aspects of my life.
DD: Talk us through the concept for You Are (Not) Alone. It’s not often D&B albums have such a strong structure, split as it is into three acts. What inspired this approach?
TIB: I suppose this structure occurred naturally whilst writing the record, especially due to the narrative nature of the album, because all stories need a beginning, middle and an end. My first album Section Nine was also split into three acts with interludes in between, and You Are (Not) Alone continues the story. As opposed to interlude tracks, a lot of the tracks on the album have spoken word monologues in the outros of them and the ones at the end of Trying to Find Home and Aum felt like natural transitions into a new section or “acts” within the album.
Section Nine focused on the fall of civilisation due to our dependence on technology, telling the story on a more global level. You Are (Not) Alone picks the story up several generations later where technology has become archaic and the past is a thing of myth. This album focuses on one character who struggles to find their place in this shattered world, struggling with depression, temptation and anxieties. She is the victim of punishment from a vengeful omnipotent force, I Am, for mankind destroying their world. She later goes on to leave the world be it through death or spiritual awakening at the end of the record; I’ll leave that up to the listener!
DD: Some of the tracks (particularly Aum) feel like they hark back to the earlier days of the neurofunk sound when tracks had more emphasis on groove and were a little less robotic. Do you think modern neuro is becoming too clinical, and losing the funk? What older tracks inspired you to explore this take on the sound?
TIB: Absolutely! I’ve been talking about this a bit recently, and I feel like Neurofunk is now the standard for D&B, and is no longer really a sub-genre of it. I think this probably has come down to how easy newer software instruments, in particular Serum by Xfer, have made making neuro basslines, hence why I refuse to use it for my bass sounds! I’m also tired of tracks that are bangers for the sake of bangers and just try to go full tear-out just because they can. I always try to make sure that my music can be enjoyed first and foremost in the living room and general everyday listening on their headphones and the club second.
Aum is actually more inspired by darker techno and dark ambient music as it started life as a dark ambient drone. I’ve really been into Pleasurekraft and their self-coined Cosmic” techno genre and tracks like Rigel and Maskara were a big influence, especially for the drawn out breakdown. Old Spor tracks are always subconsciously inspiring me when it comes to making tracks like this, in particular his remix of Bad Company’s Bullet Time, one of the first D&B tracks I ever heard and that bassline has such a nice sound and groove to it!
DD: The album features a really wide variety of vocalists. How did you go about choosing which artists to work with? Was it hard to keep things consistent across the album with different voices on each track?
TIB: It was fairly simple really; just reach out to people whose work I loved! I’ve worked with Jodie Carnall and Amy Kirkpatrick several times in the past, so it was a no-brainer to get them on board. I’d done remix work for MZKA (Jane) for one of her old bands years ago and always kept in touch afterwards, and Lena Cullen has always been on my “to work with” list for years after hearing her work with Emalkay. Karina Ramage blew me away with her Krakota collaboration a couple of years ago, and Deuce & Charger and J Swif are good friends of mine so I also had to get them on board!
With keeping things consistent, I knew beforehand what I wanted each track to be about and how it would fit into the structure so I would send over a relatively detailed brief about what the tack was to focus on lyrically. I can’t write lyrics or sing to save my life so I was more than happy to give the vocalists relative freedom within the brief.
DD: So now that the album is complete and about to be unleashed, what’s next for Toronto is Broken?
TIB: I’ve taken a bit of a break from writing since I wrapped up this album earlier in the year, but I’ve got probably my busiest summer so far in terms of gigs. I’m also currently deciding where I want to go next with my music and what avenues to explore. I’m definitely really influenced by techno and progressive rock music right now and more progressive music in general. After that, I suppose it’s time to get started on the next album and the complete this trilogy of records!
You Are (Not) Alone is out today on Viper Recordings – check out the clips below and hit up your favourite store to grab it now.