We meet the northern producer who's been taking the drum & bass world by storm
What an incredible 18 months it’s been for young northern D&B producer Toronto Is Broken, AKA Christian Hoffman. Debunking the standard slow-climb template of a steady stream of singles by initially breaking through with an entire album (Section Nine) back in January 2015, he’s since unleashed release after release on some of the most dominant labels in the dancefloor drum & bass game.
From his roots on Jay Cunning’s Sub Slayers, to Futurebound’s Viper and Drumsound & Bassline Smith’s Technique, he’s been firing out tracks of all flexes and flavours, from shimmering vocal gold (Field Of Poppies) to twisted jungle-tech (Original) by way of crazed industrial techno-influenced neuro mayhem (this month’s Radiation). The gears are grinding at an impressive rate, matching his consistent sense of variety as DJs such as Friction, TC, High Contrast, Noisia and The Upbeats are all supporting his tunes. If you play drum & bass, you might well be too.
Here’s how we got here...
The tunes seem to flying out of your studio right now...
"Yeah, I changed my tactics. Instead of big conceptual EPs once a year, I’m putting out a steady flow of dancefloor tracks to keep people’s attention. There’s a momentum and the feedback from DJs has been great. I’m pleased they’re all working."
Radiation certainly works. Can I smell some strong techno influences?
"Ha! Yes. I started working on it in 2014 after a show in Poland. My cousin, DJ Hal, is the promoter. He plays all sorts of styles, including hardstyle and techno tunes sped up to 170BPM and quick-mixed track after track. It’s ridiculous, but the crowd went insane. It inspired me so this was eventually born. It’s quite out there! What would you file it as?"
I’m still stuck on filing Group Organism...
"I’d say that’s a straight-up D&B banger. You might have called it neurofunk a while back, but all dancefloor drum & bass has big neurofunk influences now. Pure neurofunk is hard to define these days."
Jungle isn’t, though… what’s to say about No Gyal Tune?
"I just love Amen tunes with ragga vocals, and when I make them, they’re always on Sub Slayers because that’s where the label’s heart lies. The fans, the guys who come to the shows, they’re all jungle heads. Friction dropped it on Radio 1 this week and The Upbeats have supported it which is amazing. Apparently they don’t get back to any old promos! It’s my most recent track and I kinda feel I’ve turned another corner with my production on it."
You released a full album very early in your career, which was a pretty bold move for an emerging producer whose aim is to constantly develop. How does Section Nine stand up 18 months later, do you think?
"I’m still very proud of it. It took me two and a half years to make and I forget how much detail I put into it. I think ‘How did I come up with this?’ and look back over the program files of tracks like LV-426 to see how I engineered it because I’m still really satisfied by it. You know I’m working on a second album, right?"
I do. What can you tell us about that today, then?
"Actually, not a lot! The first single of the album will come out at the end of the year. It’s developed from an EP project, but I couldn’t restrain my ideas! Suddenly it’s a full-on album and it’s coming on a really big label. That's as much as I can really say for now."
When you first started getting into electronic music, who were your pin-up labels - the dream ones you’d kill a man to release music on?
"Well, I came from a rock and metal background where you follow the artist, not the label. So I found it really interesting that you’d follow a label who’d help you constantly find new artists. The very first D&B label I started to religiously follow was Viper. I’ve released quite a lot of tracks with them... and I haven’t had to kill anyone to do it!"
Bonus! So that’s your dream label. Now your dream gig: line-up and location. Go!
"The obvious, really. Chase & Status, Noisia, Sub Focus on the line-up. Clubs like Fabric and the usual festivals, too. Considering how well Spirit Song 2012 went off for Arcadia I’d love to play Spirit Song 2016 on their legendary spider."
"The Arcadia landing show used Spirit Song 2012 as part of its soundtrack. I’m not sure if they’re using it any more but I’d love to play on that spider!"
Incredible! Right, we’ve had your dream label, dream gig, so now: who's your dream collaboration team?
"Oh, man. Vangelis on pads, Sub Focus on bass, Jon Hopkins on piano, Origa on vocals - she’s the vocalist I sampled on Spirit Song and a few other tracks, and she sang on a lot of anime TV shows. Unfortunately she passed away a few years ago but this is fictitious, right?"
Correct. What about drums?
"Oh, that's hard. Drums are such a nightmare to mix so I’d have to say Rob Swire and Gareth McGrillen on drums, because they’ve always been years ahead of anyone else since the earliest Pendulum days. Probably the most unlikely dream team ever."
A man can dream. Finally... you’ve got a cheeky garage and bassline mix album coming in July. Can we expect more lower-tempo action in the future?
"Yeah, the mix has been a nice blast from the past, Sub Slayers has put out some incredible 140 jungle and future garage over the years which has always been a big influence for me. I’ve been dabbling with different tempos for the new album, too. Tracks at 125 which I wouldn’t class as house. Tracks at 170 which I wouldn’t class as D&B. No 140 tracks but every song comes from an idea or a spark. Who knows what inspiration or ideas I’ll have before it’s finished?"
No Gyal Tune is out on 1 July. Stream/download it at smarturl.it/SLAYER046