“Do less. Use the first take. Use minimal effects”: NY-based hot house talent Toribio imparts wisdom

The producer’s ‘less is more’ approach achieves vintage, Latin-influenced house jams full of raw personality.

Toribio in his studio

Toribio in his studio

Rooted in Dominican heritage and influenced by luminaries like Theo Parrish and Masters at Work, stalwart New Yorker Toribio is fast becoming one of the city’s most respected dance music exports. It’s all thanks to his work ethic, infectious persona and raw, vintage-sounding style. Known in the scene as “Papi, ” his BDA parties draw diverse crowds across New York City. As a resident DJ at Black Flamingo and a regular in NYC’s burgeoning club scene, Toribio’s magnetic energy resonates globally, too.

Toribio’s – real name Cesar – latest EP, Tongue In Cheeks, sees the producer and DJ get stuck into his collection of versatile synths from the likes of Moog, Roland – he even owns a Fender Rhodes. This release features a ton of sounds from the Novation Bass Station, though, he says, which provides both basslines and main melodies. They’re centred around Latin-influenced drum patterns sequenced through his MPC. We find out more about this process and why, in his mind, less is more.

Tell us about the scene in New York.

New York has always been vibrant. There is a lot of newer talent that seems to be bubbling up at the moment. Whether it be in the house, techno, club, noise, jazz, RnB, experimental, or other electronic scenes. So many talented people are walking among us and it’s nice to have this perspective I’ve come into. I feel I ’ve reached a certain level of recognition and found my place here (it only took a little over a decade).

Toribio in his studio
Toribio in his studio

Is there anyone in New York you’d love to collaborate with?

There are a lot. Q-Tip, Louie Vega, DJ Spinna, Saso, Pedrito Martinez, Yebba, Robert Glasper, Kenny Garrett, Erykah Badu, Esperanza Spalding, Georgia Ann Muldrow, No name, James Murphy and Tokischa when she’s here. All of these people have made music that speaks to my musical DNA and I’d like to add to it.

Tell us a bit about the studio.

I’m on the border of the Bushwick/Ridgewood neighbourhood of Brooklyn/Queens. I’ve been in this particular spot for about four years now. I moved from a known building called the Sweat Shop where a bunch of bands rehearse and some other people have studios. It was mad noisy there so I had to get out of there.

Toribio in his studio
Toribio in his studio

Through a former studio mate, we found a refurbished garage that was used as an office before for a construction company. I’ve kept everything the same outside so it still looks like a construction company works from there (and in a way the work is always under construction). It’s nice because there is no bleed through the walls because it’s in between two apt buildings.

It’s just a place for me to work and create. I have my DJ setup, I listen to records, I practice, and I rehearse my band. It’s my own little space.

Toribio DJing in his studio
Toribio DJing in his studio

Which DAW do you use?

I use Ableton Live. I used to use Logic and Reason and a bit of Pro Tools but ever since I started using Ableton I stopped using the others and forgot how to use them, honestly. Being able to use loops and record intuitively and instantly helps me not lose momentum.

What is your favourite piece of gear?

My favourite piece of gear is my MPC because it’s so intuitive and is such a strong machine on its own. I can do a lot with just my MPC and one synth.

Toribio holding his MPC Live
Toribio holding his MPC Live

What synth or effect can be heard the most on the Tongue In Cheeks EP?

Funnily enough, I don’t use it as much anymore but I used the Novation Bass Station all over the EP. That and the SH-101.

Where’s the sample from in No Pare and what did you do to it?

The sample comes from a very important song called El Tiburon by Proyecto Uno. This was a huge hit in the early 90s on a global scale. It’s the epitome track of a genre called Merenhouse or Merengue/house. So many people have tried to remix and sample the song but Proyecto Uno and their publisher wouldn’t approve because they weren’t feeling it. They heard how I flipped it and gave us full approval.

Toribio and a bongo drum in his studio
Toribio and a bongo drum in his studio

I sampled the break part where they chant “No Pare Sigue Sigue, No Pare Sigue Sigue” which is the point of the song where they say “Don’t stop, keep it going!” I used that and completely flipped it on its head with my dark electro drums and synths and hard drum programming.

The synth line in Cimarron Palace sounds like one synth is providing the melody and the bassline. How did you get the most of your synth here?

I programmed that line into the SH-101 and recorded one whole take from beginning to end, then I built the track around the improvised movements that I did with the synth. I will program drums and arrange the track around that first take.

Toribio’s studio
Toribio’s studio

Do you have any frustrations with your current setup?

Yes, I do! I think I need a smaller mixer than this big Allen & Heath 24-channel one. I have two interfaces daisy chained and they aren’t perfectly synched so it causes lagging issues.

What is your top piece of production advice?

Do less. Use the first take. Try to use minimal effects but use them well.

What is the one piece of advice you would give someone starting out building a studio?

Know your current equipment inside out before you move on to something else or buy another piece.

Check out Toribio’s music via Bandcamp.

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