An interview with Toby Marks. The creative mind that is Banco de Gaia

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Photograph by ForgottenBee – AT THE CHAPEL Bruton 2015

Earlier on in the year ForgottenBee was fortunate enough to be granted an interview with Banco de Gaia, leading up to his 20th Anniversary of the re-release of “Last train to Lhasa”. This is the transcript of the interview conducted at AT THE CHAPEL restaurant in Bruton, Somerset. Many thanks to AT THE CHAPEL owner Catherine Butler, and her wonderful staff.

Banco de Gaia has helped set the model and has been a leading force for over 20 years for ambient dub and eclectic electronica dance floor music. Having been nominated for the Mercury Music Prize with his first album “Maya” on its release in 1994, Toby Marks the creative mastermind behind Banco De Gaia, (whose name originates rather fittingly from a combination of different languages and their translation of “World Bank”) celebrates the 20th Anniversary on 21st June 2015 of his critically acclaimed second album “Last Train to Lhasa” (Both “Maya” and “Last Train to Lhasa” reached No 1 in the Uk Independent Charts).

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Photography by Forgottenbee Live at The Cheese and Grain Frome 24th May 2014

For Toby the recording of this album still remains a distinct memory as it was the first time he’d gone into a studio, and for 10 whole days to mix and record it. “It was very exciting, like living the dream actually making an album”, and a far cry from a rudimentary set up in the spare bedroom.

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Photography by ForgottenBee – Live at The Cheese and Grain Frome 24th May 2014

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Photography by ForgottenBee Live at The Cheese and Grain Frome 24th May 2014

Originally growing up in Shortlands South London, Toby yearned for escape from the dullness of suburbia. Music became the answer to this, and it was the inspiration of his trumpet teacher at the age of 9 despite failing his Grade 3 exam, that “crystallised’ his decision about the the rest of his life to become a musician. Beginning his musical career as a drummer in a heavy metal band in 1978 Toby felt the need to explore new cultures and moved to Portugal in 1986 where he busked playing cover versions of The Beatles and Simon and Garfunkel. This was the first time he had earned money from his music playing to tourists, in bars 5-6 days a week, and often forming a supergroup with swedish musicians and dutch pianists.

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Photography by ForgottenBee – AT THE CHAPEL Bruton 2015

Trying to recreate House Music that he was hearing in clubs at the time Toby began “dabbling” with ambient dub electronic music in the early 90’s, when he purchased a sampler. The use of this technology enabled him to realise musical ideas that weren’t possible with just vocals and guitar. But it took 4 years before getting it right and people starting to like it “the process of writing was a love hate relationship”. Never losing his love for playing live music as opposed to just technology Banco De Gaia put together a five piece band in 1997 that included Ted Duggan (drums), Ashley Hopkins (bass), Larry Whelan (wind synth, saxophone and ethnic flutes), and Gary Spacey-Foot (percussion and saxophones). A year later Toby set up his own record label “Disco Gecko Recordings” which gave him “total control” and “freedom” over his music and by 2003 Toby went back to being a solo artist.

Photography by ForgottenBee Live at the Bruton Dub Club  14th March 2015

Photography by ForgottenBee Live at the Bruton Dub Club 14th March 2015

Photography by ForgottenBee Live at the Bruton Dub Club March 14th 2015

Photography by ForgottenBee Live at the Bruton Dub Club March 14th 2015

Photography by ForgottenBee Live Bruton Dub Club 14th March 2015

Photography by ForgottenBee Live Bruton Dub Club 14th March 2015

The movement in technology over the years has meant for Banco De Gaia that samplers, synths and drum machines have faded out developing into a more versatile favourite piece of kit, that of the Mac computer. And where releases onto cassette were a reality for early recordings now despite the resurgence of nostalgia and retro, Banco De Gaia still advocates that all the hard work put into the studio should not be then “degraded” by recording onto something like the cassette that is unreliable and of a lesser quality.

Photography by Forgottenbee - AT THE CHAPEL  - Bruton 2015

Photography by Forgottenbee – AT THE CHAPEL – Bruton 2015

Over the last decade Banco De Gaia has completed an MMus in Creative Sound and Media Technology, inspired students teaching at a Bristol College, fulfilling dreams with early musical influences such as playing guitar along side Hawkwind live on stage and performing at Brixton Academy in 1994 after seeing The Orb play in 1992. Only to be followed with a performance with them last May at the Cheese and Grain in Frome. To staying true to beliefs such as overt political and social issues that affect “where I am, and what I make on a given day”.

A new dimension to Banco de Gaia’s already aesthetically and musically powerful live performances was unveiled on March 14th in Toby’s home town Bruton – at the Bruton Dub Club.

That of the reuniting of Ted Duggan on the drums, James Eller on Bass and Toby himself on guitar forming the new live band to accompany the ambient dub dance floor music along with the stunning visuals provided by Patrick Dunn. This return to live musicianship was an ingenious idea, resulting in an unparalleled live performance which totally wowed the crowd (of which I was part of) firmly placing Banco de Gaia in a different league of live music performances.

It is rumoured that Banco de Gaia maybe performing at a well known Somerset festival this year. Watch this space!

Photography courtesy of Notatourist

Photography courtesy of Notatourist

YouTube – https://www.youtube.com/user/bancodegaia

Photography by ForgottenBee and Notatourist

Twitter – @bancodegaia

Website – banco.co.uk (up to date gig dates)

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/bancodegaia

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5 responses to “An interview with Toby Marks. The creative mind that is Banco de Gaia

  1. I went to that rumoured festival in Glastonbury and tracked down Banco de Gaia’s performance in the Green Room in the performer’s camp site. What I saw was the dilemma of putting on ‘live’ what has can only best be heard as a recording without live musicians. So Tony Marks – and I’ll put this as gently as I can – did rather disappoint. I was hoping for some ‘insight’ by having the great man in person – with musos.

    I didn’t stay to the end, mostly because I was tired after my own set, and perhaps if I did I would have better understood how Tony did, after all, pull off simply standing with a lap top on stage. I don’t mean this as a put down – keep up the good work but this format was not quite for me.

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    • Hi Bill Thanks for your comments. I went to the gig too so I can totally understand your disappointment. To be fair he has played Glastonbury festival many times over the years as Banco De Gaia – all the gigs I have been to as a DJ set have been outstanding with visuals etc. I have also seen him with his band so LIVE musicians and DJ set which is an incredible experience with visuals which add another dimension to the atmosphere. I would suggest if you can get to a local gig it would be well worth giving a second chance you would be so far from disappointed. Just to add the band that followed Tankus the Henge were unbelievable entertainment such a shame you missed that!

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