Name: Trommeltobi aka Tobias Fröhlich
Occupation: Drummer, producer
Current release: Trommeltobi's new album We´ll Be Okay is out via Long Lost Relative.
Recommendations: When I think of the perfect beat, production and song: “Tennyson – Lay-by”. A simply mind blowing and timeless track.
I'm also more a fan of moving pictures so I grab the chance to recommend “Sick and nearly dead” from Joe Cross. A documentary about juice fasting that changed my life. It might change yours too!
If you enjoyed this interview with Trommeltobi and would like to find out more, visit him on Instagram, Facebook, Soundcloud, twitter and bandcamp.
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I grew up in the 80s. My parents frequently took me and my sisters to concerts and I was very drawn to drummers and the drum kit as an instrument. At the age of 11 I started to play the drums, later as a teenager the guitar.
Around this time I also began to write songs, pretty simple guitar arrangements. Later on I used my first laptop and the music program “fruity loops” for my first productions. I was excited to be able to play / program the drums and practice bass lines, keys and synths in addition to the ideas on the guitar.
My passion has always been downtempo music, soothing and mostly minor melodies. I experience the expression of sadness or pain in songs as very powerful. I simply love to get goosebumps or tears in my eyes while listening to music.
For most artists, originality is preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you: How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice?
With both drumming and producing I try to achieve the same – to be as authentic as possible! I try not to compare myself with others too much and let the ideas flow and grow. But you really have to do your homework and first and foremost listen to the kind of music you want to be able to play as a musician or to produce as a beat maker.
Practice is key. Hard work and consistency. Originality and last but not least talent. The magic happens when the stuff you practiced, learned and emulated merges with your creativity and style. That's your own voice! It's a process and might take years.
How do you feel your sense of identity influences your creativity?
I would describe myself as a pretty empathetic and sensitive person. My emotions, feelings and memories probably have the biggest influence on my creativity and output. I need the time and space for my creative flow though and also in ordeer to get through pretty long non-productive periods. The challenge / key is to overcome those periods.
What were your main creative challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
To learn various music programs, plugins and to deal with hardware. The technical part so to speak. It can turn out as a “creativity-killer” for me. Until today.
Another challenge still is the ability to finalise a beat / song. Over the years it got better though. I'd say I try harder to be able to be creative at any time and not to wait for the “perfect” moment. Practice is key and a shitty beat is still better than no beat!
As creative goals and technical abilities change, so does the need for different tools of expression, be it instruments, software tools or recording equipment. Can you describe this path for you, starting from your first studio/first instrument? What motivated some of the choices you made in terms of instruments/tools/equipment over the years?
I started to produce with the program “Fruity Loops” in the early 2000s and over the years I switched to “Ableton Live”.
I'd say my way of producing hasn't changed too much over the years though. I want to be able to make beats anywhere and at anytime. Not only in the studio but also at home, on a plane, in the train. That's why I mostly work with just a computer / laptop, good headphones and a midi keyboard with drum pads. Plus some nice plugins / sounds / instruments of course.
Too much choice, too many options are overwhelming for me.
Have there been technologies or instruments which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?
There's two things I can think of – “Ableton Live”, an amazing music program with so many tools you didn't have back in the days. It makes a producer's life so much easier.
And then the development of computers and the Internet (speed) in the last twenty years. Sending files, up- and downloading, sampling. Everything got so much easier and quicker and led to the fact that I am able to work / create the way I do now.
Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?
I love to collaborate with other artists, producers and musicians! It mostly happens later in the process though and we don't even have to meet. As soon as I am happy with my parts on a beat / instrumental, I'll send it over to whomever I chose to work with on this track.
On my first album “Le Gruyère” (2014) I worked with several emcees, singers and dj's. “We'll Be Okay” - my latest album – contains instrumentals only, meaning this time I collaborated with a few musicians, dj's and producers through file sharing.
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please. Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
I don't have a fixed schedule. The only routine I can think of is my daily yoga practice. I do different things for a living - my day can be a show day (as a session drummer), a rehearsal- , travel-, office- or an off day. Or a creative one.
But I keep it pretty separate. When I'm creative I'm creative. All day and sometimes all night. I need the time and space to work on my music. Preferably by myself with headphones on and in my own world.
Can you talk about a breakthrough work, event or performance in your career? Why does it feel special to you? When, why and how did you start working on it, what were some of the motivations and ideas behind it?
I would say a “personal breakthrough” has been my decision to release my debut album “Le Gruyère” in 2014. I just wanted to put out some of my beats on Bandcamp and picked 10 tracks where I felt they kinda fit and formed a coherent whole.
It was a step out of my comfort zone 'cause until then only a few people even knew I make beats. And just a few weeks later I had emcees and singers on my beats, a record label and my music on a 12” vinyl.
There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
For me it's still a mystery. WHY I finally sit down and start to work on something. Or why I don't.
I have a few helpful things to enter this state though – time by myself, a free day, a filled fridge and a glass filled with weed.
And sometimes I need “pressure” too – so I frequently take part in a Berlin based event called “Sample Science”. Here up to 30 producers meet (a.t.m. online), everyone gets the same sample and has two hours time to make a beat. It's great practice.
Music and sounds can heal, but they can also hurt. Do you personally have experiences with either or both of these? Where do you personally see the biggest need and potential for music as a tool for healing?
Life is yin & yang. And so is music. Of course it can hurt and heal. Ideally at the same time!
I love melancholic music, sad songs, deep and meaningful lyrics. Music can be so powerful! When I'm sad I often drown into sad music. This feels like a healing process. You've got to deal with your emotions, listen to your mind and heart, let the tears roll, the anger out. This can be very helpful and healing.
There is a fine line between cultural exchange and appropriation. What are your thoughts on the limits of copying, using cultural signs and symbols and the cultural/social/gender specificity of art?
Well - that's a good question and a pretty important and sensitive topic! But also pretty hard to answer with just a few words.
Let me try it this way - I make hip hop beats. I've been part of the national and international hip hop scene and culture for more than a decade – as a drummer and as a beat maker – and I know about the history and foundation of hip hop. I learned my lessons.
So as a first step: whatever you do – try to be aware of what you're doing / using and always show respect.
Our sense of hearing shares intriguing connections to other senses. From your experience, what are some of the most inspiring overlaps between different senses - and what do they tell us about the way our senses work?
Sometimes I smell a perfume or something in nature and it immediately brings back a clear memory. Even from twenty, thirty years ago. Including pictures in my head and how I felt that day. I guess we all have similar experiences.
Or sometimes I listen to a song from my childhood on the radio and get very emotional. It's all connected and stored somewhere in our brain. Our whole Being is a summary of our memories and experiences.
Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?
For me it's all about the energy and connection.The connection to other musicians, the artist, the crowd and the crew. On stage or in the studio. Music as a tool of communication. Giving and taking. Sharing a good time and space. That's what it's about for me.
What can music express about life and death which words alone may not?