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Why did you apply to the Toolroom Academy Masterclass programme?

I was looking for a holistic program that was a combination of technical skills and lessons about the industry itself from individuals who actually “live the life,” so to speak. I’ve been a Toolroom fan for many, many years. If I can say one thing about Toolroom as a whole, it is that that they don’t go “half in” on anything like so many people do in today’s day and age. Whether it be an EP, a sample pack, or even merchandise, it’s all pure quality. When I saw that they had started educational courses, I knew it had to be quality, and I had to be involved.

Of course, I also enjoyed being in London, the premiere Electronic music market on earth. Coming from a smaller town in the USA, you really miss out on the opportunities that can come with residing in a major market. It seems can’t throw a rock in London without hitting a DJ, producer, engineer or vocalist. For someone looking to expand theory horizons in Electronic music, this is invaluable.

How did the programme start for you – what did you learn over the first few weeks?

Toolroom Academy is highly immersive. From day one, you’re thrown into the world of House, Tech House, and Techno. I thought I knew the genre through and through, and boy was I wrong. The first few weeks were spent learning the ins and outs of what the genre is, not what I believed it to be.

In addition to learning the technical aspects of how the music is created, you’re given personalised advice from Pete Griffiths on how you can best mould your sound to be successful in the current climate that exists, more on that later.

What was it like working with D.Ramirez?

Man. Dean is a legend. There’s no denying it. I learned to beatmatch playing his records, for god’s sakes! In my opinion, he’s one of the greatest music producers on the face of the earth. From ideas to the arrangement, to mixing, and even mastering (to some degree), Dean is an absolute beast. Let me say this, Dean’s catalog extends far beyond that of D. Ramirez. There’s no better person to learn from.

On top of that, he’s probably one of the friendliest people I have ever met. When you’re in the studio with him, he gives it his all. His energy is fantastic. He genuinely cares about helping you learn, and his infectious love of music is something to marvel at. Some of my favorite memories of the summer are eating kebabs with him between studio sessions, hearing stories about him touring the world over.

How useful did you find the A&R sessions with Pete Griffiths?

Similar to Dean, I believe Pete to be one of the best in his profession, bar none. There’s a reason this man has been responsible for helping to A+R hits like “Alright,” “Man With The Red Face,” and “Your Love.” A skilled producer and masterful DJ to begin with, Pete boils down years of personal experience in the field to help you further your ideas, visions, and goals into reality. He’s a right ideas man, and I have him to thank for the success of my last record in a big way.

What did you learn from the marketing and business mentoring sessions?

Toolroom is one of the premier brands in dance music today. There’s a team behind the scenes that took Mark Knight’s label out of the tool shed (literally) to the main stage and beyond. As a part of Toolroom Academy, one is fortunate enough to get a significant amount of face time with the same people responsible for the rapid evolution of Toolroom, as well as individualized advice on how one can apply similar strategies to their career.

He’ll hate me for sharing this, but there is a guy called Miles who is the brains behind so much of what happens at the label that Toolroom Academy students work with one on one. He’s one of the best mentors anybody could ask for. Without him, I’m not sure where I’d be right now, but definitely not here.

On the business side of things, before I attended Toolroom Academy, the entire idea of licensing, publishing, and writing was all very blurry to me. I had spent most of my free time working on production and very little studying the business itself. I still refer to my notes when looking at contracts to this day.

Did you feel you were pushed hard during your time with the Academy? Talk us through your weekly timetable and amount of work you put in.

I’ve never been in the military, but I would imagine that Toolroom Academy isn’t too far off, haha.

I’m kidding. This program is what you make of it! If you go to London and spend every night getting smashed at the pub (very easy to do, might I add), I doubt you’ll come out of there with a killer collection of tracks. For those willing to work their hearts out, Toolroom welcomes you with open arms, and will gladly offer you much needed guidance along the way.

Once a week, I would meet with Dean for a nine-hour studio session. As a part of Toolroom Academy, the Toolroom studio is free to use as long as Mark himself isn’t busy with it. I made it a point to connect with the folks at HQ twice a week, whether it be for a formal marketing meeting, or just to cook up a new record in the same space that many of my favorite tunes have.

The most important thing I can tell anybody interested in this program is to remember that music does not become your job until you begin treating it like one.

How many tracks did you end up making during the three months?

During my time with Toolroom Academy, I wrote three records in total. One of which, The River, was signed to Toolroom immediately. My second track is going out on DJ SKT’s new imprint, Stashed Music, a new label that I think is going to be absolutely killing it this year.

The last record that I completed during the course was just signed to Anthony Attalla’s Incorrect Music, another longtime dream label of mine. In fact, it was my only collaboration of the three. While living in London, I met Lena Cullen, a UK based vocalist who I had been a fan of for quite some time since hearing her early work with Maya Jane Coles. Little did I know, we were living in the same warehouse community on Fountayne Road in Tottenham. Naturally, it didn’t take long for us to get in the studio together, where we created my third and final record of the course. We’ve named it “Fountayne” after the community that we lived in; we’re both very excited for that one to be released this year.

How did it feel when your record got signed to Toolroom?

Haha—let’s just say I’m lucky I didn’t faint. I didn’t believe it. George, another one of Toolroom’s top A+R’s, signed the record within 5 minutes of hearing it. It was flattering to say the least!

I bought a celebratory beer and ate a kebab on the train back to my flat. It was, by far, my favourite kebab ever.

What success have you had since ‘The River’ was released?

As soon as I got back to the United States, I played my most significant festival booking to date at Tanz Summerfest in Cleveland, Ohio. That was awesome; they contacted me about playing when they caught wind that I was currently at the Toolroom studios.

On top of that, the record has been supported by Mark Knight, Gorgon City, Man Without a Clue, and even Benny Benassi. According to Mark, it has been a favorite in his sets recently, including his New Years Eve “All Knight Long” show at Sound Nightclub in Los Angeles. To top it off, Claptone dropped the record at Printworks London in November on the DJMag Live Stream.

What are your plans as an artist now that the course has finished?

Since the course has finished, I’ve taken the skills that I’ve picked up and have been diligently working on a catalog of music for release in 2018.

I’ve decided that the United States isn’t for me right now, and I’ve since made a move to Europe permanently. Being that I’m American, I can’t stay in London forever, so I’ve been casually hopping around to a few different areas and exploring their scenes, learning their cultures, and of course, sampling their music along the way.

As a graduate of the programme, what does the Toolroom Academy mean to you?

It was one of those things that, somewhere deep in my mind, I didn’t believe it was all real. It was almost “too good” to be true. I still kind of feel like I’m in some Inception-like dream that I haven’t woken up from yet. I secretly have a theory that we’re living in a parallel universe that was created by the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland…in this parallel universe, Donald Trump is President, DJs are using Denon CDJs at an alarming rate, and I am working with Toolroom on career development.

I guess the world isn’t ENTIRELY terrible, then.

Needless to say, going from basically being a Toolroom fanboy who lived in a random city in the United States to eating kebabs in Maidstone after leaving HQ with the words from Miles, George, Mark and Pete still floating around my head was… surreal.

I knew that if Toolroom puts a stamp of approval on something…it is going to smash it. One of the things that Miles taught me is the proper definition of a brand, being: “a promise that is fulfilled each time one of their products is purchased.”

To be honest, the Toolroom brand is so strong that as soon as I heard that the Academy existed, I knew I had to get involved.

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