- Music Marketing
- Website Development
- Discography Research
- Logo Design
About Toby Wright
Before Alice in Chains’ Double Platinum EP Jar of Flies was released, it’s quite possible you may not have been familiar with the name Toby Wright “Ted, Trevor, Tab, Taylor…”, as [guitarist] Jerry Cantrell affectionately listed in the credits of the first EP ever to debut at No.1 on the US Billboard charts, selling close to over four million since. Nevertheless, his name has since become synonymous with some of the most influential hard rock records that have ever coursed through your veins and staked a claim on your heart.
Always and forever a student in the “old school” mentality, Wright worked, and worked, and worked some more, but was never in any rush to make a name for himself. He simply did what he does best…listen and learn from his surroundings and has been soaking up his surroundings since day one. When your Father runs the Lincoln Center for the Performing arts in NYC, you can bet your interest, development and love of music will take the fast road to some sort of music career. It was just a matter of directing that love and appreciation into a more personal expression of his individual passions and Toby had many.
While attending NYU in 1979 for his Bachelor of Science in Psychology/Audio & Electronics, Wright landed his first “industry” gig at the world renowned Electric Lady Studios as a runner at a whopping $5 per day. The real payoff was of course his opportunity to yet again soak in his surroundings, which just happened to give him access to such illustrious engineers as Neil Kernon, Hugh Padgham and Michael Frondelli, as well as meeting Sal Grecco, whose maintenance team Wright would eventually join. Toby thought, “If I know how to fix something when it breaks, then surely I will be able to operate it when it is called upon.” Electric Lady also gave Wright his first glimpse into the delicate balance needed between an artist and himself in order to achieve the best possible end result. After all, music is an extremely personal thing, so getting to know an artist personally and how to treat them would prove vital in adding to their overall performance on all the recordings he would do.
In 1982, Wright finally had his fill of the New York scene, as many did at that time, and decided to head west to explore the opportunities of the growing scene in LA. There he continued doing maintenance gigs at such places as One on One Studios and Village Recorders where he would build Studio D as well as the Yacht Studios and studios 1- 4 at Cherokee. While working on the construction of One on One, the only other engineer left the project, which left Wright as the sole engineer for the facility. This meant he would be the only engineer available to assist on artists including Sammy Hagar, Kiss, Cheap Trick, Damn Yankees, Michael McDonald and Heart as well as fly solo sometimes, which is exactly how he landed his first engineering and production credit. The manager of Canadian glam metal band Brighton Rock heard Toby’s demo session with the band and asked him to produce them on the spot.
Through the rest of the ‘80’s, Wright continued to do maintenance and assist, working closely with producers Mike Klink and Ron Nevison. In 1987, Klink chose One on One to record Metallica’s …And Justice For All, but he and [drummer] Lars Ulrich did not see eye to eye and he left the project, leaving Wright in the “right” place at the “right” time. He continued to work on the album while Metallica brought in original producer Flemming Rasmussen giving Toby engineering credit for the album. The album, reaching No. 6, was Metallica’s first to enter the Billboard’s Top Ten and was also nominated for Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance. “One”
became Metallica’s first Top 40 hit securing a Grammy for Best Metal Performance and peaked at No. 35 on the Billboard Hot 100.
By the ‘90’s Toby Wright had become a household name, well that is in the house of any rock band shopping for a producer. Doing maintenance and assisting for about 10 years now, also put him in the company of a lot of A&R representatives and the rep for Alice in Chains wanted him to produce two of their songs on the 1993 Arnold Schwartzenegger film Last Action Hero. Wright then went on to produce their next record Jar of Flies as well. “They called from the road during Lollapalooza that they had lots of new songs and were ready to go back into the studio,” Toby remembers. “We had 10 days booked at London Bridge Studios in Seattle. We got there and I asked Jerry [Cantrell] to play them for me. He looks at me and smiles and says ‘That’s funny — we don’t have any songs. Do you mind if we just jam for the next 10 days?’ I said sure — I didn’t have anything else to do. I figured I get to listen to a bunch of great musicians play around for a week. Incredibly, they began writing as they were playing. On the eleventh day, I began mastering what would become Jar of Flies.”
From there Wright produced, mixed, and/or engineered artists including Korn, Slayer, Sevendust, Fishbone, Queensryche, Ozzy Osbourne, Corrosion of Conformity, 3 Doors Down, The Wallflowers, Kiss and yes, more Alice in Chains. “Wanted to let you know that half of my life’s soundtrack was produced or mixed by you, for which I would like to say thanks and great job,” one fan wrote on his Facebook page. Having a strong background in maintenance probably gave Toby that edge over other producers, as he was known for extracting/creating sounds through unusual methods. For instance, with Korn’s Follow the Leader, Toby remembers, “They wanted very much to get sounds that hadn’t already been used on records before. They thought I had the technology background, from fixing such a range of stuff, and was open-minded enough to let them get pretty far out there. We wanted to make sounds without using plug-ins on Pro Tools. One sound in particular, on ‘Freak on a Leash’, was interesting and kind of illustrated what we were doing on that record. There’s this whirring guitar sound, which is a guitar played through a Pignose amplifier placed in front of your garden- variety house fan. I put a Shure 57 and a Sennheiser 421 on the other side of the fan from the Pignose, some dynamic mics with pop filters on them to take the edge off the moving air from the fan. It took a while to get the right position for the mics, but it was similar to what you go through when miking a Leslie cabinet — you’re looking for the spot where you get the most sound but the least amount of useless moving air. Oh, and the fan was set on low.”
In 2001, Wright established his company Mixlab, specializing in bringing the mixer of any multi- channel format closer to completion. It is based around software written by him and his partner, Scott Blum, to aid in the panning of instruments, voice, sound effects, dialogue, etc. and placing them in the appropriate places per song, cue or scene. It proved vital in the completion of the Indie film release Hate Crimes as well as the onsite sound and film for Charleston, SC museum The Hunley (the first submarine to sink an enemy warship in combat).
Being so technically minded and so personally aware of the sheer impact sound has, Wright continually is experimenting. In 2007, he created his sound healing technology, Taummhoms. It is a conglomeration of sine waves at different specific frequencies, mixed in a certain way as
to promote restoration of the mind and body. It is healing specific and can be altered and blended in different ways to target specific illnesses. “Everyone I have shared this technology with has given me positive feedback, so it seems to be a successful technology at this point,” Toby comments. To date, he has only shared it with some of his friends, but all that is about to change.
One of Wright’s current projects is with International 24H Series endurance Racing Team, Jet Black Racing. Their home base is in Denmark abroad and CA here in the states. In January 2011, the “race” team began putting their band together to bring their whole Race-n-Roll attitude to its fruition. “Building J. B. R. as a solid brand in racing, is priority one. However, this is a very different kind of race team. While the foundation of this team will be built around the enormous talent of its members, it will also include elements never before seen in racing. A merger of racing and Rock-n- Roll has taken place,” team owner and band guitarist, Dan Fastuca, told Thrust magazine…enter Toby Wright.
Long-time friend, [J.B.R. lead singer] Erik Leonhardt, suggested Toby to produce the project and since the first meeting it has been a perfect fit. It seems this project has the potential to not only utilize all of Wright’s experience and technical aptitude, but include all his passions as well. “I am very excited to be able to combine my love for cars, music and the science of sound all within one project. It is a total adrenaline rush!” Wright has already introduced his sound healing technology into the project, to aid the drivers in their downtime between their 2-3 hour stints of race time within the 24 hour race. The technology has successfully allowed them to decompress and awake revitalized, giving them more focus and better performance.
Wright will continue to work on perfecting and broadening his sound technology, as well as produce music for special projects like Italian Nu Metal artists Linea 77, Bandit Rock Award winners Sonic Syndicate and Biohazard’s 2012 release, Born in Defiance. [Biohazard Drummer] Danny Schuler comments, “He impressed me with how open he was and how knowledgeable he was for not only our music, but music in general. He’s a very good musician and a really talented guy on his own, so it was great to have his input on a lot of the songs we were writing. Being a songwriter in the group, it was important for me to have someone to bounce ideas off of who wasn’t as closely connected to it as we were in the band and Toby ended up giving me a lot of great advice about where to the take the songs; what direction we should be going in. I would say his input was really crucial and I took a lot away from the experience of working with Toby Wright.”
As for his latest project with Jet Black Racing, the band has just completed the recording of their first record, with Toby at the helm. In the band’s recent press release Fastuca comments, “We consider Toby to be as much a member of the band as any of us on stage, He is an integral part of the writing process as well as the overall production and was the only person we wanted producing us for this project. This indeed will be an exciting project to follow!