For those that don’t know, Toddla T is a Sheffield institution. Born and bred within these 7 hills, he has been at the forefront of an underground musical scene in Sheffield, which is still going strong. Through international DJ sets and his prime time Radio 1Xtra radio show, he is now able to spread those Steel City vibes across the UK and around the world! We caught up with him ahead of his headline show at The Tuesday Club next week.
- You’re Sheffield born and raised, and I read that you began DJ’ing in local bars at the age of 14?!
Kinda, I’ve been DJ’ing since I was about 10 or 11, just putting records together in my bedroom etc. Then started doing house parties for friends at around 14. I think I was about 15/16 when I started DJ’ing out, so like not even old enough to be in the rave which was kind of mad.
- How has the music scene in Sheffield changed from when you were growing up? Are there clubs or bars still going that you went to?
Umm, I think the scene has got even more healthy since I left which is to be expected… only joking! Yeah man, when I was growing up there wasn’t a great amount of venues or places you could DJ or perform, it was pretty dead out in terms of outlets for people to share their art which is why we’ve always had an amazing and intricate underground and forward scene. There wasn’t really a club to do a party in, so we’d do it in a warehouse or a shop or whatever. I feel like now the outlet is very organised and strong. But yeah I mean, as far as clubs and bars still going, I raved at Tuesday Club a couple times, used to rave at DQ a bit. My favourite parties were always the ones like kabal, etc that were in unconventional places. For me at that time, that’s where the most interesting music was being played. But there’s people who are still very much instrumental in the sound of Sheffield from when I was there you know, Pipes, Duckenfield, Winston Hazel, J Rugged, these are all people that always provided a heartbeat of music for the city even when the venues have changed.
- How does it feel 16 years on going from small Sheffield bars to headlining one of the city’s biggest clubs?
Well, when I first started getting bookings outside the city it was a bit overwhelming to be honest. I was used to playing in dingy basements in Sheffield to you know, hundred friends, to being put on flights to flippin’ Europe and America and stuff to play bigger clubs and I couldn’t really get my head round it. It was quite overwhelming and quite intimidating but you know, been doing this for about 10 years and like anything the more you do the more you get used to it, and I do have a few moments where you know, I think WOW… REALLY?! Like look up at a crowd or whatever. I’m very much used to it now but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy it anymore, it’s just more part of my life, but yeah at first it was a bit nuts.
- Many people know you best from your Radio 1 shows, but you’re also a respected producer with original tracks like “Worst Enemy” and more recently your remix of KDA’s “Rumble”. Do you see yourself as a DJ first or a producer?
Umm, well, I’m a DJ first, because I picked up turntables and vinyl before any of this. But yeah, producing is a massive part of my thing; I’m in my studio every spare minute I can, makin’ records for myself, and others. A lot of people don’t realise that, they all think I just do radio but yeah, I thoroughly enjoy it. You know, its pure escapism, its pure therapy, its pure creativity, there’s no boundaries, it’s just, I love it so much and I’d be doing it regardless if people were listening to my music or not. It’s just something that I need to do as well as love doing. It’s the best man!
- You’ve played at The Tuesday Club many times before, but have you got anything special planned for your set as it’s their 17th birthday?
Yeah, I think I played at their 10th birthday yano, if I remember correctly, with Mary Anne Hobbs, how time flies. Well, just going to do the usual Toddla T steel city style, party style yano’. But err, I’ve got to come back straight after the gig back to London, so I can’t even stop at my Mum’s cuz I’ve got radio in the morning so, I’ll be there, party hard, and then get out. But yeah man, usual vibes.
- What are your top three go to tracks that always go off?
Well a guaranteed banger that generally seems to get a reaction is “Candle in the Wind” by Elton John. That does alright man. Umm, what else does well in this business, oh, “Agadoo”, depending on the crowd, older crowds like that one. Also, dependant on the time of the year, “Auld Lang Syne” that can get a few gunshots in the dance. Few gun fingers and that.
- Finally, some advice for your fellow Sheffield producers. What would be your one top tip for getting your work featured on Radio 1?
Well, I mean the thing nowadays with music is its independent; the ball is in the independent artist’s park you know. With the outlet of music now obviously Soundcloud, YouTube, Snapchat etc. You can showcase your music to people that you never could like 10/15 years ago where you relied on labels. Labels are becoming more marketing tools than A&R’s or developing artists so, I think that is an amazing thing and I think if people make really honest, fearless, great music then the rest will just happen. Make your music, don’t be shy about it, try and be as fearless as possible, as creative as possible, don’t think, “Oh people might not like this.” F*** that man do your ting. If it’s heartfelt and original then it’ll cut through and before you know it people will be trying to find your music and labels will want to help you market it and stuff like that. It’s all down to the art, a good song will go, it doesn’t matter who’s behind it these days. You don’t need to rely on some big Babylon label to fire in £100,000 on marketing; that comes later, if needed. Just make brilliant music and you will win.
Catch Toddla T at The Tuesday Club 17th Birthday on Tuesday 17th November!
Words by David Bissett for The Tuesday Club x Hantu Blog
Photos by Lanty Zhang Studio