When most people think of Sweden they think of the usual clichés: meatballs, blondes and reasonably priced furniture. Here at Data Transmission though, we aren’t most people and the first thing we think of when someone says Sweden is electronic music. The Swedish House Mafia may have brought Sweden to the attention of mainstream music fans in a way not seen since Abba, but they are far from the only talent to be coming out of the Scandinavian nation in recent times with a new wave of DJs and producers taking the world by storm. At the forefront of this global takeover bid is fast rising DJ and producer Tobtok who has been moving dancefloors across the globe with his playful take on House and Nu Disco.
First coming to our attention via his output on French Nu disco outlet Kitsune it only took us a few listens to realise this was someone who was destined to for big things with the maturity and variety of his sound belying his tender years. So just how did that distinctive Tobtok sound come to be? “It’s been an ongoing process…” the affable Swede explains. “I started out sampling old disco tunes, making French touch. It was only when I began creating my own synths, sounds and compositions that I’d say my sound became its own. Since then it’s continued to evolve and I take influence from across the musical spectrum. That’s why my style varies quite a bit from time to time. When you hear a remix I’ve been working on you can almost hear what I’ve been listening to for the last few months. It’s like a sonic diary.”
“I don’t want to limit myself or be associated with only one type of music,” he continues. “I want to be able to make whatever comes into my mind which is why I’m happy I’ve been able to avoid being labeled and build up a reputation as being eclectic because that allows me to do experiment with different styles without people going crazy about it.”
I point out that for all their differences, there is one overarching theme when looking at his back catalogue: happiness. These are upbeat numbers designed to move the soles as much as the soul. “As a producer I’ve never been attracted to that darker, gloomier sound.” Tobtok chirps. Having been diagnosed with cancer and told there was a 50% chance he would lose his hearing during treatment he points to his recovery as a turning point in his career. “I couldn’t work on any music whilst I was having my treatment because the chemotherapy affected my hearing. I couldn’t hear any high frequencies and suffered with tinnitus. When I entered into remission I was overwhelmed with joy. I felt like I’d been given a second chance at life and naturally wanted to express that through my music. I think that since then I’ve had it in the back of my head that I want to spread happiness and make people dance and that’s what dance music is about.”
Having hopefully left his health problems behind him, talk turns to the future and his new single ‘Shelter’ which features the talents of Leeds born, London based singer/songwriter Alex Mills. “I met her (Alex Mills) in London for a writing session and we just instantly clicked. I only had a one minute clip of the track’s piano rift at the time but she immediately caught its vibe. She recorded the topline in around three hours and then I went home to Sweden and worked on the track before we met up again to record the vocal properly. It was about 6 months from start to finish. I’m really excited to get it out and see what people think about it.” Data Transmission wonders how such a ‘summer’y track could have started life in the colder months. “The secret is that the sun is never shining in Sweden!” Tobtok reveals. “I enjoy listening to this type of music in the winter as it reminds me of summer and gives warmth during cold nights. Then, when it is warm this music only amplifies euphoric feelings; so it’s good all year round.”
Clearly an impassioned man, he speaks as if he’s continually charmed by life whilst exuding the type of steely determination required to succeed in the music industry. Do the charts still matter to producers like Tobtok? “Of course they are still important,” he responds. “But there are lots of other ways to hear new music. If you take Shazam for example. The impact that that music identifying app has had is massive. The internet has made music more democratic as the people are more in control of what is popular. In the past the labels were in control of what received exposure whereas now the music speaks for itself and the people decide what will be big. The climate has changed and I think that is for the better. Popular music has never been more credible or more justified in its popularity.”
With what looks set to be the most hectic of summer schedules on the immediate horizon, touching down at numerous festivals and large scale nights at the likes of Ibiza super club Ushuaia, does he miss the intimacy of a more traditional club environment? “I like small, intimate clubs as much as I do festival stages. Festivals provide a different challenge being that the time, setting and mood are so different to that when you are playing at a club. You have to adapt to that. Each festival has its own distinct vibe with its own particular tribe. I love the challenge of winning new fans at festivals or whilst supporting other artists. It’s important in these situations to showcase who you are and what you’re about as you’re introducing yourself to new people.”
Tobtok’s new single ‘Shelter’ featuring Alex Mills arrives August 28th. Check it out below: