Isis Salvaterra on 12 Years of Toi. Toi.

Toi. Toi. Musik is a collective, crew, and musical community very close to our hearts here at fabric. From the first Toi Toi event here at the club back in 2012, where they took over Room 3 in their infancy, to fast forward to right now in 2022, when very soon, Toi.Toi. will be taking over 2 rooms of the venue with a host of hand-selected artists (DJ Masda, Dan Andrei, Junki Inoue, Dea, Edward, Nicky Macha and our own Harry McCanna), representing the diversity and talent of the Toi.Toi roster and sound. Since its emergence, it’s been quite a journey for the brand, who consistently put creativity, their artists, and freedom of expression and diversity of style above and beyond something which might be dubbed a-typical event promotion. 

Perhaps this is why Toi.Toi. has remained such a staple and revered name in the electronic underground for its 12 year (and counting) duration. And much of the success of the brand is undoubtedly down to founder Isis Salvaterra, a passionate music head, dedicated supporter of aspiring artists, and articulate voice in music culture. 

Ahead of the 12 Year birthday party of the collective this weekend (23rd July), we spoke with the mastermind and spearhead of the Toi.Toi. brand. No one knows or embodies the roster, ethos, and spirit of the collective better than her. So, on that note, we hand you over…

For those who don’t know - how, and where, did Toi. Toi. first come about 12 years ago?

I was part of a Sunday party called Lo*kee and I decided to start Toi.Toi. as I wanted something less “lose”, but rather [something to do with] music programming, sound system, community or membership in a much more serious way. Meaning, attempting to achieve the best I could by combining all these aspects' schematics.

From the first Toi. Toi. event at fabric back in 2012 where you took over Room 3, to 2022 where Toi Toi will be taking over 2 rooms, what have been the core changes (and challenges) that Toi. Toi. have faced and embraced in 12 years of putting out music, and putting on parties?

I remember the Room 3 I did on NYE. It was such an amazing party! Room 3 has always been a favourite room to host Toi. Toi.s. I remember fabric staff telling me that it was always nice to watch how Room 3 would become a "club in a club", my crowd and artists would lock it. The journey since has been nothing but a blessing but also very hard, as events and an agency. Taking a different warehouse from scratch every month and building it is no easy task but I love it, but when your license gets taken away from you from the authorities one day before your event you struggle but I never cancelled, we find ways to always go forward. I am a firm believer that no matter how hard things are, everything will always work out, you keep going. In the end when you watch that dance floor unfold, you take a deep breath in awe of satisfaction, and then you do it all over again. On the agency front, my biggest joy is to be able to build artists from nothing, such a gratifying joy to see them develop but of course, there is a price to pay with that too as it takes years until they are ready.

fabric, Craig and Judy mean a lot to me in ways that it's hard to explain in words. Hosting both rooms to me means a lot not only personally, but professionally.

Challenges in general we will always have, now more than usual as we face a post-pandemic crisis but as I said, we keep going, the underground, passionate people and fighters for the right purpose will never cease to exist.

You've mentioned previously that Toi Toi is at its heart a 'community', and not dictated by one genre or style. Has this ethos continued into what Toi. Toi is today?

Absolutely. Celebrating music diversity has always been the core of the philosophy I adopted and I am very proud to say that 12 years down the line that still hasn't changed. In order to achieve this we need to put ourselves in an objective position allowing for an open mind to listening respectfully and consequently learning. Everything is valid as long as we have an open mind to listen and learn. [We] did a comeback event (following my travels and the pandemic), and after 4 years this event showed that Toi.Toi. never left. The core of the community feeling is entirely there. My monthly residency at The Lion & Lamb has also never stopped, therefore a beautiful community [has been] sustained through it too!

You’ve spoken before about working with Romanian DJs, do you think these artists are sometimes pinpointed into what's often called the “Romanian sound”?

If you look into the programming of the past 12 years you will find that the so assumed “romanian sound” hasn't been part of it. The Romanian artists that have taken part in this history, be it in my programming or my roster are those that are not labelled as “romanian djs” or “rominimal” but diverse and full DJs.

A valid example of that Romanian aesthetic to me is Rhadoo and consequently his next generation: Dan Andrei. In this video [see below] of Dan Andrei at fabric, the sound he is playing is anything but “rominimal”. Going back to the diversity I very much celebrate, cornering to one specific sound (or not even a sound but an aesthetic charged to a nationality) would be against my ethos and unfair to the “full DJs” from Romania, I here present and I stand for in line with my overall ethos.

Playing B2B with Dan Andrei is Edward, he is another prime example of that diversity, you find him playing B2B with [Ricardo] Villalobos, as you may also find him playing live at a Giegling event.

What are the stand out events or sets from Toi.Toi. over the years?

Too many to list! The beautiful blessing to be enlightened via spiritual moments lived on a floor, via a set or a mix recorded all the time. I always say that what we do is about the journey, not the destination. If the destination comes before the journey then it’s a calculated aim and that surely isn't artistic. Artists do as they feel and without the feeling, you cannot predict the next step. Then the destination can only be an inevitable consequence, not a calculated aim - this is a way of life for us.

“Celebrating music diversity has always been the core of the philosophy I adopted and I am very proud to say that 12 years down the line that still hasn't changed.”

What are the core ingredients for a great Toi.Toi. party?

Knowledge is king, attention to detail is crucial.

In a previous interview you commented that, “minimal (techno) is the source of my soul but my school was at fabric London...” What does it mean to you to be celebrating 12 years of Toi.Toi. at fabric?

It is an institution. I humbly and honourably host these rooms with a gratitude that goes beyond just this event but one that spams my entire musical education over two decades. The diversity you find at fabric you rarely or never would find in any other club in the world. I suppose it is in line with London and it's cultural, social and racial diversity.

You studied Psychology, Sociology, Politics as a degree, and Ethnomusicology as an MA – Is it hard not to think about music in an academic way, or can you of course still sit back and enjoy the sounds?

There is not one or the other as such as they are intertwined feeding into each other. Academia perhaps implies that it is somewhat “more serious” (to some, to others they are as serious as each other (and not)). When you use academic research to fully understand a particular process or subject matter, for example, 'what is happening to my physical body, mind and soul when exposed to amplified sound?' It does not mean that when I am on the floor I am analysing anything, it means that having read / watched / discussed, processed and understood it I am able to enhance the experience by having more information about it. 

Dance music is probably the most interactive form of music there is. At a concert you only receive - here you give and take. It is a beautiful exchange process. I fail to find any other movement which has such schematics.

We clearly share a love for Harry McCanna! A staple on our resident roster as well as yours. What do you love about Harry’s sound, and what are you excited about with his BSB with Nicky Macha for your birthday?

It has been an enormous pleasure and joy to start managing Harry, alongside his fabric residency of course. In a few months I already had him do a North American tour with dates alongside Rhadoo even in Detroit for the Detroit Music Festival. What I mostly love about Harry is his range. He has a very strong UK identity with NorthSouth, he has a minimal source but at the same time he can easily adapt to the likes of Lutz, Baggs, The Ghost, etc.

At one of my recent after parties – I brought Harry as a surprise DJ. Nicky Macha was playing and they decided to play together. This was a mind bending session, absolutely incredible, so [fabric’s Programming Director] Judy [Griffith] and I thought it couldn't be more suited to have both host Room 3. I'm so much looking forward to that.

“Dance music is probably the most interactive form of music there is. It is a beautiful exchange process…”

What about other artists, perhaps not on your roster, that you're loving the sound of right now?

DJ Masda [Yuki Masda] playing B2B with Evan Baggs during the BCN Off-Week was an absolutely elegant and mind-blowing set.

I remember I was one of the first very promoters to bring Yuki over from Japan to play, him and his sound have evolved a lot (and so it should), but the one constant is the Japanese touch and elegance which I highly admire. Listening to these two playing I thought: It doesn't get better than that; one side the identity of rhythm, the other precision. This mixed together was “wow”. Two very experienced DJs that no matter what, will create a journey, solo or together. It is such a pleasure to have Yuki back with us for this birthday.

Any dream guests for a Toi.Toi. event in the future?

I guess I have always been able to host those I admire, but there is a B2B I would love to see happening — but B2Bs need to come from the artists, naturally and organically. These artists - who I won't mention - are two of my absolute favourites, I call them shamans, I leave you with that. :)

Valid to note it should never be the place of a promoter to suggest a B2B, in fact, many festival organisers or promoters could do with this info in current times, they think its cool and unique to put X with Y but as it turns out, musically and artistically, it doesn't work, so with that you have a bunch of tracks being played, not a set — a journey. 

It has been an enormous pleasure and joy to start managing Harry [McCanna], alongside his fabric residence. What I mostly love about Harry is his range…

You’ve had some incredible artists featured on the Toi.Toi mix series over the years - from Nicolas Lutz, to San Proper, Isherwood, Unai Trotti and countless more - any dream guests for future editions? And do you plan to keep the series going?

I wrote a description for the mix series when I started it, and it is as true today as it was then:

“The Toi.Toi.Mix Series, as the name suggests, is a platform created with the intent of showcasing sets from the most various types of artists. It does not follow any rules as in respect to which frequency it comes out, DJ set or live set or even, sets which we recorded at the Toi.Toi.Events. The rule here is free flow, simply the music and artists we would like to proudly stand for. We come across a lot of talents during our travels and many of those go unnoticed to a wider audience, this is how very naturally, the decision to create this platform came about. Hope you all enjoy it.” 

Realising this series has over half a million plays is nice, but this was never the intention - rather to take the journey with these artists and seeing this as a consequence shows my intention on exposing less known ones has worked out.

Any other exciting plans on the horizon for the brand?

There might be something exciting coming soon but I cannot reveal anything for now…

Lastly, what does it mean to you, as the founder, to have seen Toi.Toi. shape and grow over the past 12 years into what it is today? 

All I ever did and continue to do with music is never plan. I very much value taking things as they come, nothing is forced, everything is organic.

One thing I know is that I as a person cannot do anything else in life so the only constant is that I am staying. I thank everyone who has been on my side, be it my crowd, my friends, other professionals, my dear artists and beyond. Sincerely, thank you. <3

Isis Salvaterra is founder of Toi.Toi Musik. 

Toi.Toi. celebrate 12 Years with DJ Masda, Dan Andrei, Edward, Junki Inoue, Dea, Harry McCanna and Nicky Macha on 23rd July at fabric. Tickets below and here