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Banco De GaiaBanco De Gaia

Having spent the best part of this century chasing, and then reclaiming, ownership of his own songs Toby ‘Banco De Gaia’ Marks can finally get back to doing what he does best, making music, only this time around, as he explains here to TM-O's Andy Basire, he’s also got something to say.

“What I really want to do is play in a band again, not be the centre of attention but just be the guitarist, part of a group of people making music, I really miss playing with other people…” Toby Marks and I have just wound up a most diverting chat about his last album You Are Here, an album made entirely with software and computers. He is enthusiastic about the album and the tour he’s planning to support it, but as we part he leaves me with, what to many will be, the surprise comment you see above. Lest we forget Toby Marks, the creative force behind Banco De Gaia, was one of a positive avalanche of new names to emerge from the primal acid house ooze, only unlike the majority of the era’s one trick ponies he immediately began to experiment with dub, rock, funk, prog, techno, jazz, hip hop, film soundtracks and numerous other global influences. Indeed when you dig even deeper into his past you will find a Pink Floyd loving guitarist who played everything from Banghra to rock and was actually playing guitar in a jazz band (having tired of a rock scene dominated by the histrionic likes of Joe Satriani) when he discovered the brave new world of samplers. So the desire to get back to the days of communal music making is far less surprising than you might think.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Toby has made the long train journey up from his west country home/studio to give us an insight into the world events that have driven the themes of his latest album and how he managed to reclaim his back catalogue from the clutches of Mickey Mouse. No really…
“What happened was I was signed to Planet Dog and they were licensed to Ultimate in the UK and to Mammoth in the States. Mammoth were then bought out by Universal who in turn became part of Disney.” And then Ultimate fell over? “Right, then Planet Dog finally got the rights back from Ultimate after a two year legal battle but we then had to hunt down what had happened in America a very long drawn out process which finally led to the Disney office in LA,” he shakes his head, still obviously bitter about the whole experience.
“It took a hell of a lot of dedication and money to get it back, and the biggest thing for me was not so much I didn’t own it, although obviously that was a big part of it, but that it was all unavailable, people wanted to buy my music but from around ’98 onwards almost my entire back catalogue was unavailable. The maddest thing was Pinnacle actually had stock but they couldn’t sell it because nobody knew who owned it!” Utter madness, and the ‘how mad is that’ shrug that follows would shame Marcel Marceau

Banco De Gaia“I think the whole idea of a lifetime recording or publishing deal where you don’t actually own your own work ever again is ridiculous” he shakes his head again, “that just shouldn’t happen, but it still does, and you really don’t understand the ramifications when you’re young.” Asked if the expense involved would be recouped through re-releasing the back catalogue he flashes a wan smile “Umm, well in the long term I’m sure it will definitely be worth it. But so far I have pretty much just broken even.”
It would be nice to think that, with all the information and hard luck tales available, young musicians nowadays would be aware of the pitfalls but sadly this isn’t the case, and even more importantly, as Toby points out, the shelf life of a ‘record company project’ is now probably shorter than at any other time in history. “Absolutely, everything is so transient now! The most important thing released this week no-one in the big companies will give a fuck about in six months, so as the big money moves on and that work ends up languishing in a vault somewhere, and the whole thing started out with a few people getting together and playing music they wanted other people to hear. Just think how much music is written and released each year and then how much of that is still available twelve months later?”

So, a cautionary tale for all you eager young types about to put pen to paper and seal that all important record deal. For Toby it has just been the last in a series of hurdles to overcome when all he really wants to do is make music, but lest you doubt the mans passion and drive he is now finally the proud owner of his entire music catalogue (something even Paul McCartney can't say), and with that particular frustration fianlly laid to rest he can get back to what he does best, which is make brilliant music.

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