Derrick Boyd, known to most as the vocalist/guitarist/DJ-Producer and overall, multi-musical personality behind Tone of Arc has been a recording junkie since his early teenage days. Ideas and communication for this artistic soul have always been best accurately expressed through one solitary medium: music. His willingness to keep an open mind and heart is refreshing, particularly in an age where ego and fear can sabotage many. “I am not so naive to think I made any of this all on my own,” Derrick mater-of-factly tells us. In between CRSSD Fest and a particularly mosquito-infested tour in Mexico, we were fortunate to catch up with Derrick, who opened up to us on music, financial struggles, love, Border control and just about everything in between…
First off, thanks very much for taking the time to chat with us. You recently came off playing CRSSD Fest. How did your performance go? Did you feel there was a good connection with the audience?
Well, I was extremely honoured to play the festival. The amount of enthusiasm, diversity and great music was insane. Just a really fun festival. I didn’t want to leave the next day, I wanted to see day two of the event. My set was at 1:00pm on Saturday on the main stage, so unfortunately nobody saw it. It’s a very embarrassing and humbling experience to go through when you know this place is going to be 20,000 people deeply epic-ing in T-minus. It was just too early, but like I say all you can do is rock the show and be grateful and hope for the best. Do your job and don’t bitch.
You do an amazing live set: singing, guitar, keys, bass… how has your set evolved over the years?
My music has gotten better and better. I don’t like releasing much, so nobody knows what I have been up to unless they see my live set which is the only place you can hear any of it. Seriously, I am very excited to stop messing around and build my full electronic band. Gear plays a major factor for live acts and well, life has not been financially easy for many years for me so the gear has remained at the bare minimum. But everything is finally turning around for me. This has been a dream for way too long. Stay tuned on that. These things take some serious time and patience.
I believe I work with dead people. There, I said it.
CRSSD takes place in your home-town state of California. Would you say your physical surroundings influence your music? How did growing up in Cali affect your sound?
Yeah surroundings and habitat play a roll 100%. When you love where you are, feel inspired, free to express yourself, supported by the people you love and live by, and supported by the world so that you can spend time at home to create music… you will create magic. Also, being around too many distractions can slow you down. That is why I moved out to the woods years ago to 300 acres on a vineyard in a house the Grateful Dead lived in to finish writing my first Tone Of Arc LP, The Time Was Right and it worked and I left. I can’t recreate that album. Cali affected me in many ways, some good some bad. Cali has a kind of stoner vibe. There aren’t any mentors there for me. I mean, there are next level DJs and insane talent, but nobody to look up to for what I do, or to take me under their wing to make a bigger project. It’s easy to get stuck there and feel like you can’t get out if you aren’t making money. Living in SF was not cheap. Local musicians in Cali don’t get paid unless they are touring everywhere around the world or have created their own empire. That’s one of the reasons I moved.
On that topic, you’ve recently made the move to Toronto! We’re very happy to have you here! Has your new ‘home’ had any influence on your music? How has the city treated you so far?
Okay, so I love Toronto SOOO much. That city is my dream. I am so attracted to the energy of the city and the people and the music is so fucking good. The people are not stuck up and are very open to different types of electronic music. People have an economy and this was something I wasn’t used to. Everyone has jobs and money and it’s not like that back home. In America, people are more stingy with their money because there is a lot less. I have the biggest fan base in T-Dot, more than any city and have a lot of wonderful friends who support my work. Support is everything for a musician. Without it they go suicidal or get regular jobs. I’d rather die because music is my everything.
Support is everything for a musician.
It just so happened there were a few factors I moved to Toronto and each of them got me out of my situation in SF. 1. I fell in love with someone from there 2. My new manager Nabil Zakaria lives there and runs Summerdaze Bespoke experience parties and festivals, and it was out of America from the massive Pumpkin we call a Prezhead. Love didn’t work and the Border didn’t like my studio monitors and computer while crossing, so I was red-flagged, had to process legal documents and wasn’t allowed to leave Canada until processed. This resulted in gigs having to be turned down and well, basically that was it for coming and going and building a future of living there… for now. So, I left for New York. I’m staying close because I am so in love with T-Dot. They’ll never get rid of me 😉
Tell us a little about yourself, when and how did you get your start in music?
I have been into music since day one. I’m self-taught on guitar, bass, piano, clarinet, sax, vocals and record production. I’ve been producing House or something for 20 years — I have no idea what I do, I just do it and every song is unique. I actually can’t read music because I hear it and process it faster by ear. I don’t like playing other people’s music because I can just as easily play my own. Much like I don’t like to read books because my imagination runs wild and loses interest in even the most wonderful words and beautifully articulated poetry.
I actually don’t listen to music because if I have time to listen to it, I feel I should be making it. It keeps me original and not lead astray by what is popular. I don’t like to follow people. In fact, I despise it. I swore I would never do a cover, but was convinced to do so by Jonny White from Art Department when he put me under his wing with No.19. I said, Well if I were to do it, it would be Goodbye Horses. Who knew it would be my hit and fuck me, that’s exactly why I don’t do covers! That was the first cover and it took me 6 hours to make and complete from scratch. I knew the song by heart so it was really easy. The next day I tried again because I had so much fun. I went with something way more challenging; Portishead’s “The Rip”. It took three days straight to train my voice and play everything without quantizing a single beat or riff or auto tuning. Right now, I’m working on Dire Straights “Sultans of Swing”, learning it note for note by ear. Wow what a great challenge! The new stuff I have been making is really good. Can’t wait to share and release some of it properly.
I actually don’t listen to music because if I have time to listen to it, I feel I should be making it.
If you could collaborate with any artist, who would it be?
Me. I need more of me. Pipe dreams of having twin brothers. LOL. Caribou aka Daphni. Curt Cobain. I think we would have fun. Actually, who knows I could be writing music together with the un-living and I wouldn’t even know. I don’t believe I really make anything. I’m just a channel and spirits work with me. I am not so naive to think I made any of this all on my own. Some of it is way too advanced for my simple mind. I believe I work with dead people. There, I said it. I’m different in all the ways. Wasn’t easy to face for many years. I’m good now.
What’s next for you on the calendar for Tone of Arc?
Well, I’m about to finish a tour of 6 gigs in Tulum, Playa Del Carmen, Merida, Mexico City and then head home to NY to set up base. Then, in January I have gigs in Warung Brazil, (my favourite club in the world), Ocaso Festival in Costa Rica and well, gigs come in all the time now. Just so long as I take the time to personally reach out. I have some really big news I can’t share yet because I don’t want to spoil it and I have four releases coming very soon on Eyedyllic Music, Touch Of Class Records, Das Sind Wir Records and Bar 25 Records. Shit that’s it right now. Every day is an adventure and I love my job. I’m sitting on a hundred good songs and I’m not going to release them ever. LOL… well, maybe before I die. So, if I release everything, you know what’s up — I’m out!