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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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