10 Years Of Tech House: Toolroom Records
The Toolroom Take On Tech House
Toolroom took the tech house sound, reshaped it and popularised it. As Stuart Knight (2013) explained, the label responded to dance music fans’ demands:
“I think people wanted a bit more warmth out of a techno record; they still wanted that kind of hard edge to it, but they wanted it to be a bit more bouncy, a bit more accessible…It’s kind of two extremes and I think that’s where Toolroom found a home within that genre because we straddle the middle ground with a lot of things that we do and that’s sometimes what tech house does.”
Toolroom bridged a divide between two polarised markets and developed the sound through key artists:
“Every great record label has a sound and it’s a case, as the label boss, of pulling all those people together to make, collectively, a musical statement… People like Dave Spoon, Martijn [ten Velden]… Funkagenda, Fedde Le Grand, D.Ramirez, Richard Dinsdale – these were the backbone.” Mark Knight, 2013
As the tech house scene reached its zenith, Toolroom’s status within that scene was solidified through a series of releases that provided the soundtrack to the period roughly spanning 2007-2010. Funkagenda’s version of ‘What The Fuck’ saw huge success, but it was his collaboration with Mark Knight on their cover of Laurent Garnier’s ‘Man With The Red Face’ that cemented this golden era. In an interview with Toolroom TV, Mark Knight explained how the musical landscape cultivated such successes:
“2008 was a big year for us, you know, we had some very big records and things were shifting in terms of music. There seemed to be an integration between progressive house and tech house… The influences from trance became relevant in terms of big chords, big sounds, but there was a shift towards fusing these two elements together and that tied in perfectly with the release of those records.”
Toolroom were spearheading their own brand of tech house, which also referenced influential artists of the time. When discussing one of Toolroom’s most iconic tracks, D.Ramirez outlined some of the artists and tracks that influenced the creation of ‘Downpipe’:
“Tech house had developed a little bit more [since ‘Colombian Soul’] and Dubfire had come along and he was doing his ‘Roadkill’ sound and his driving techno sound. And then you’ve got Stefano Noferini… it’s that off beat bassline that was going on a lot. We took that kind of vibe. We wanted it to be ‘Colombian Soul’, but a bit more organic.”
Toolroom took current and past influences from their own artists and tracks, as well as those from other genres and merged them, continually reworking and redefining the sound of tech house.
And so we arrive at 2013. What can be said for Toolroom and the tech house sound now?