For six and a half years, Toi.Toi.Musik has built an entire electronic music network from its east London base. Founding members Claus Voigtmann and Isis Salvaterra have quietly cultivated a collective which is as much an artistic endeavour as it is an ethos, staging a series of events and releases which have built up a loyal, connected following. Rather than going after hype and growth, Voigtmann and Salvaterra have carefully guarded what Toi Toi stands for, turning it into a flag of convenience for warehouse parties, a label for releases and an artist agency
Voigtmann and Salvaterra arrived at their current location from remarkably different backgrounds. Voigtmann was originally from Munich and trained as an architect under the boundary-shattering Zaha Hadid. Having had little exposure to electronic music in his home country (he has previously said that his preconception was that ‘I just thought it was, like, ravers in neon clothes and all that’) his immersion in dance culture was swift and immediate on his arrival in the UK, the Damascene moment occurring when he saw Richie Hawtin deliver a set at Fabric. ‘It literally started my career,’ he recalls today. ‘I wanted to be able to control crowds in clubs with my sounds.’
By contrast, Salvaterra was born in Brazil to a family of Italian descent, moving to London at 15 before studying a social science degree taking in psychology, sociology and third world politics and development before joining the civil service. ‘I never wanted to have a career in music,’ she explains. ‘I always felt that music to me is too sacred to be compromised over business/financial pressures hence why I had a career outside of that. Doing events with Claus was purely for the joy of exploring music in its purest form, challenging sound design and engineering in off-locations, artist programming and the creation of a like-minded community.’
Despite that original plan, this thoughtful, dedicated approach to electronic music – the antithesis of fly-by-night promoters and by-the-numbers DJs found elsewhere – has seen Toi.Toi’s stock rising drastically. Voigtmann has been announced as one of Fabric’s EC1 residents, their Subsequent label has been celebrated by the likes of Ricardo Villalobos, while they are handling the bookings and management for eight artists globally. ‘When you put so much passion and love into something for the right reasons, it is only a matter of time until it comes back at you,’ says Salvaterra. ‘This is the advise I give younger people – if you primarily aim at having a career, your art is at the mercy of certain limitations needed to fit that model. Whereas if art is put first, the career will be a natural consequence.’
Both talk about the role that the UK’s nightlife has had in shaping their work, Salvaterra talking about diversity and the way in which ‘it’s been a melting pot for different cultures and for music. No other country can offer that to this level.’ Voigtmann, who is currently in the studio working on remixes and his own debut album talks equally fondly of what he found when first arriving from Germany and what has kept him in this country: ‘London is such a harsh and vast city,’ he says. ‘It makes the people who are into the real dance music such a tight knit community. We support and help each other. It’s a little family.’
Claus & Isis have collaborated with Absolut and Resident Advisor as part of Alternate Cuts: a unique events series celebrating the multiple facets of nightlife at The Pickle Factory on April 13. More information here: www.residentadvisor.net/alternatecuts
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