Friday, January 28

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TF Spotlight: Toronto is Broken

A producer, DJ, label owner and teacher, Christian Hoffmann embraces many roles during his day, but we’re going to talk about his producer, label owner and DJ moniker known as Toronto Is Broken. Christian got into music when was introduced to the guitar during his school days. His explorations prompted him to start producing music after buying Enter Shikari’s first album “Take to the Skies”.

After playing with several styles and influences from his rock and metal days, the Leicester-based producer made Drum & Bass his standout genre. He has now released his music on some of the prominent DnB record labels like Sub Slayers, Viper Recordings  FiXT, and 10 years since his first release, he has gone on to carve out his own niche in the Drum & Bass scene with his unique style where Metal meets Drum & Bass.

Following the release of two albums on Sub Slayers and Viper Recordings, Toronto Is Broken released his 3rd studio album called ‘Clare’ on his imprint YANA Music which was later re-released by American label FiXT.  The album brought his love for Metal and Drum & Bass to the fore, and it was by far one of the best Drum & Bass albums released this year.

Christian’s dancefloor oriented approach to productions lead to the inception of his label, YANA Music, in 2019, where he has given the platform to some of the finest up and coming producers to release their music. 2021 alone saw the label rack up over 1.5 million streams and YANA Music is all set to end the year with YANA 2021, a colossal 24-track compilation that will feature talents like MYKOOL, Perplex, Sam Foxx, Lateral and many more!

We were keen to know Toronto Is Broken’s thoughts on the year he had, his love for Metal music, plans for YANA Music in 2022 and lots more!

Reading up to this point, you probably would have wondered how the name ‘Toronto Is Broken’ came about. Naturally, it was our first question; and before we could finish asking him the question, Christian asked “Is it the name?” (..long pause) “If I had a pound for the times I’ve been asked this question, I’d probably buy a decent second-hand car,”

“I am 28 now and this goes way back to the time when I was 14, which is literally half my lifetime ago. Remember when MySpace was a thing before Facebook? If you accessed someone’s profile on the MySpace, it would play a song they liked, but in order for that song to be linked to their profile, they had to go to the band’s profile and select one track from the 5 tunes they had uploaded. If you couldn’t find the song that you are looking for, you couldn’t do anything about it and I knew someone who’d made a fake MySpace band profile to upload the songs they liked and then link it to their profile.”

I picked up on the same idea because I was looking for a profile name to join MySpace as well and the person who had created the fake profile had named their band ‘Detroit Valentino’. I was curious and I asked him how they picked their name and all they said was that they picked a random place and a random word, joined it together and voila. Keeping the same thing in mind, the first thing that came to my mind was Toronto Is Broken, because it just sounded right in that moment. It was just random and it is no political statement, in case you thought it was. 

Having explored genres like Breakbeat, Jump Up, and the hybrid style of Metal and Drum & Bass, we were keen to know Toronto Is Broken’s definitive style of production and here’s what he had to say “Modern Metalcore meets Dancefloor Drum & Bass; that’s how I would define my style and that’s what my album ‘Clare‘ was all about. The album was an interesting one because when I started making music as Toronto Is Broken, I made all kinds of stuff like Future Jungle, Dubstep, UK Garage, some Glitch Hop as well, but always at its core, there’s been the Drum & Bass, in particular, the dancefloor style of Drum & Bass.

But then I rediscovered my love for Metal and it was just so refreshing to listen to different speeds and tempos and finally I started making use of my Metal influences that featured in my album. Looking back, I can say that it took me 10 years but with ‘Clare’ I had finally worked out what the Toronto Is Broken sound is.”

YANA Music which is Toronto Is Broken’s label came to life in 2019 and it carries the ethos of the producer’s club-driven sound that he has been pushing over the years. With tunes like ‘Closing In’ by MYKOOL, ‘Every Nite’ by Lateral, Perplex’s ‘Play Me’, ‘Queen‘ by Sofi Mari, and ‘Rhyme Style’ by Corrupted Mind, YANA Music delivered some of the best Drum & Bass music we came across this year, and we are still trying to make sense out of YANA Music not being nominated for Drum&BassArena’s ‘Best Newcomer Label’ award. But, here’s how the journey looked like for Toronto Is Broken right from the inception of YANA Music to its exploits this year.

“The thought of starting a label hit me when I released my second album ‘You Are (Not) Alone’ on Viper Recordings. After releasing the album, I found my sweet spot with the hybrid style of Drum & Bass that I like to make now, which didn’t fit Viper’s ethos. That’s when I told myself that it’s time to start something of my own. 

The name YANA came from the initials of my album ‘You Are (Not) Alone’. I paid 50 quid on Beatport to register the label and that’s how it came to life. Fast forward to December 2021, YANA Music’s dancefloor aesthetics have been inspired by my love for that style of Drum & Bass but it’s not a crossover label like my music. It is a straightforward dancefloor Drum & Bass label. YANA has a special release coming up to celebrate Toronto Is Broken’s 10 years in the scene and I will just leave it at that for now (chuckles).”

Like we mentioned earlier about the number of roles that Christian takes up in a day, it can be very daunting to stay motivated while performing all 4 roles (producer, DJ, label owner, and teacher) in a single day, but he aces all of them. When asked about how he keeps himself motivated, Christian gave us an inspiring answer:

“The motivation behind all the roles that I am performing right now is money. But hey, let me explain why I am saying it. I love teaching and I think it comes to me naturally; even before I started working as a teacher, I used to give production lessons in order to make some extra cash. But the ultimate goal is to do music full time and money as motivation comes from being financially equipped to make that switch from a teacher to a full-time musician in a year’s time. That’s what drives me at the minute. 

The dream is to wake up one day, make myself a cuppa and be like, Right!! what do I have to do today? yeah right, make music! That’s where I want to be in a year’s time hopefully, and to do that, I want to be financially sound, which will come through varied sources of income.”

The widespread lockdowns across the globe owing the COVID-19 did shut down shows did and cut the throat of live music events but the long isolation periods also gave artists a chance to reignite their love for the music they love and released ridiculously good music in the process. Toronto Is Broken released ‘Clare’ in 2021 but the creative process took place in 2020 and he had a similar story to share about the album:

So, ‘Clare’ is definitely the easiest and the quickest album that I have made so far, and it was because the amount of time I had to myself to write music. Even when I would teach online during the lockdown, I had Ableton open in the background when the kids would take a break or go for their lunch, I would just switch to Ableton and get back to writing music. 

It was basically a combination of my excitement around writing an album that surrounded Metal and Drum & Bass and the spare time I had to make music. Also, the first lockdown was when people went through a lot of emotional challenges and it was the same with me. Along with the excitement and spare time it was also about working out who I am. These factors ran in parallel during the lockdown when I was writing ‘Clare’. 

‘Clare’ was Toronto Is Broken’s third album but earlier in the producer’s came his first album called ‘Section Nine’ on UK Bass Music label Sub Slayers and the album like his third, was deep, powerful and intricate. We were curious to know if we will see Toronto Is Broken make  couch music anytime in the future.

“I released Section Nine when I was exploring a number of genres along with the conventional Neurofunk sounds. There’s some Garage, Dubstep and even some Glitch Hop in the album, but somehow I grew out of love from the sound design because it became too intense and that’s why I moved to making dancefloor focused music. 

But if you notice, there are some sections in my album ‘Clare’ that have references to ‘Section Nine’. All three albums have a chord that connects them together. The way ‘Section Nine’ finishes is exactly how my second album ‘You Are (Not) Alone’ begins and the same drill follows on ‘Clare’ which begins with the notes that ‘You Are (Not) Alone’ ends with. So, in theory, you can listen to all three albums back to back and have a proper listening experience. Yes, my albums are club focused but I also want people to sit back and enjoy my music when in their own space, and that’s my goal going forward.”

Toronto Is Broken’s club-focused Drum & Bass at some point must have prompted the thought of collaborating with one artist who operates in the same space as his. Thankfully, Drum & Bass has a planet full of producers making dancefloor DnB but we wanted to know who is the artist that Toronto Is Broken would like to team up with in the future for a release.

Also, keeping in mind his love for Metal, we flipped the question and asked him to name one artist outside of Drum & Bass that he would like to collaborate with.

“Metrik would be one artist that I would definitely like to work with. If you notice, his last album ‘Ex Machina’ also had the Rock influences that I look for in my music. Outside of Drum & Bass, there are just way too many names. Courtney LaPlante from the band Spiritbox, Sleep Token would be a few names but if I had to pick one, it would be Mike Shinoda. He is an amazing lyricist and a vocalist too; in fact, he will make sick Drum & Bass MC. But yeah, for the sheer amount of spectacular things he has done over the years with Linkin Park, Fort Minor, and his solo work, it would be him. 

Finally, we ended the conversation by asking Toronto Is Broken to list 5 tunes he is digging at the moment, and here is the list in all its glory:

  • The Love You Want – Sleep Token
  • Manchester Super Reds no.1 Fan – Don Broco
  • Sun Killer – Spiritbox
  • Alone – Grafix & Ruth Royall
  • Overdrive – Metrik & Grafix

Toronto Is Broken’s YANA Music have something special coming up very soon and we can’t wait to put it out. Watch this space!

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Written By

Drum & Bass head with a tinge of hip shake for Disco. A DJ when I am not glued to my screen!

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