Get deep with Tone Depth on progressive, inspiration, and creating your life.
Since he first began, Tone Depth has been bringing a vital perspective to electronic music. His tracks were an integral part of the transition into the new millennium, definitive pieces of the soundtrack to the golden days of Progressive. With a deep sense of rhythm and ability to combine dark driving beats with soul filling melodies, Tone Depth’s music finds a special place in the electronic music collective.
When I saw that he recently re-branded his FRISKY show as Bad Pony Sessions, I wanted to discover what prompted the new direction. I found that the energy behind the music, the focused story telling and creative combinations of tracks really pulled me into to its world. It made me want to know more about the man and motivation behind the scenes, and speaking with him revealed fantastic insight into the Bad Pony, Tone Depth, and what it takes to turn your passions into reality.
Bad Pony: From Party People to Organic Melodies
Started in 2009 with fellow Montreal DJ Greg Pidcock, Bad Pony was a product of the scene, a label representing the characteristics of the people and the events that were happening at the time.
“The name basically meant people who are bad but not really bad. Like to go out and party, but they’re not necessarily bad people, hence the pony, so it’s kind of a term for party people. When we originally had the label it was kind of focused on that, and the events, and the party aspect of it, and the kind of crazy weird characters we had at our parties and the events we were doing.”
However with two artists heading the label, the administration and business side wasn’t getting the attention it needed, and after Greg left Montreal, Bad Pony started to fall to the wayside. Tone Depth began focusing more on his engineering and mastering business, and less on his own artistic creations. But Bad Pony wasn’t to be forgotten.
After moving out of the city to maintain the country house his parents had purchased to have holidays close to their sons, Tone Depth was able to concentrate completely on spending time in the studio and returning to the sound that defined his early career, the sound that he truly resonated with. This re-invigoration with his own music began to build new connections as a business partner came into this realm, ready to take Bad Pony onto the next level with a new direction and style.
“I started working with a new partner in the Tone Depth brand and in the Bad Pony brand, and he was like ‘okay listen, we’ve gotta re-brand everything completely together that covers everything from the sound to the look’ because the sound that we were doing with the original Bad Pony wasn’t as focused & defined, it was more just stuff I wanted to put out, that I had been experimenting with. So we sat down and we decided on how we were going to brand everything, and we tied the radio show into that, because that’s where I’m constantly going to be pushing artists from the record label, it’s my brand. So basically we focused on the label having a newer softer direction. He said the best way to take the focus off the pony is to come up with a softer look: flowers. ‘It’s organic, the music you like to do has organic textures in it, it’s not so harsh like techno.’
It was a way to soften up the image to be able to purvey the sound that we’re doing, which is more melodic. Even when were doing stuff that is techno and on the progressive side, we like to be in a more natural state with things, as opposed to having cold dark music coming out. It’s also to push the musical side of things, because it’s natural & music comes from nature. As artists, even if you’re playing a keyboard or guitar, there’s a natural aspect of it. It’s the way we found to push that aspect & my business partner was really the one to come up with that whole concept for me, from talking to me as someone who is analyzing the whole situation. I had no vision or idea where it could go from there, he came up with that vision from psychoanalyzing me.”
Music is The Focus
With a fresh direction and a partner handling the business side, the opportunity opened up for Tone Depth to dive fully into the studio, to:
“Focus on nothing but music, eat live and breathe my own music.”
His move out of the city and away from the noise and influence of those around him allowed him to have space for his creative energy to flow, and here he was able to rediscover the sound that he resonates with.
“I have nothing to influence me. Time to think on your own. This is what really got me back into melodic stuff, I had my keyboard and my guitar back. It really made me realize a lot of the stuff I was missing, to have my dreams back and see them in a clear vision and in a way it was spiritual, because as soon as it started happening, everything started falling into place that was out of my control. This past year has been cleaning house, getting rid of any of the old music that wasn’t fitting the vibe, redoing everything, all the social media. Thankfully I have a team that takes care of it so I don’t have to stress about it, and I can stay focused on what I need to do, which is to make the best music that I can, that I’m really proud of, and hopefully someone else will like it.”
This inspiration into creation helped Tone Depth become consistent and prolific with his own music, one of his goals in this new direction. He explained that opposed to the days when he first began his career and a track would stay relevant for a year or more, in today’s industry your music can be forgotten after a few weeks, as every one moves on to what’s coming up next. To be prolific and consistent is vital to having a successful career as an artist. Creating memorable music is also vital to getting your tracks in as many DJs’ hands as possible, and for its longevity, an understanding which drives the melodic tones in both Bad Pony and Tone Depth’s catalogs. With a focus “on the cinematic, emotional, electronica deep house prog. Trying to bring more melodies back into the mix. Keeping the music involved with the music. When it’s done right, and it comes out and it’s a really memorable, those tracks last longer than a month these days.”
A Progressive Revival
There are many of us who jumped on the electronic music train in the Progressive of the late 90’s / early 2000’s, and we watched as the genre began to be destroyed by an EDM sound that was far removed from the deep and driving, creative and soulful music that we fell in love with. And along that line, the sound we knew as Progressive became defined by descriptions like “Deep House” or “Techno”, something Tone Depth experienced first hand.
“Now I think what’s really funny, and I think it’s foolish, but a lot of the new deep house or techno DJs of today are actually progressive but they would never say it. Which really slims down the people we have, which is like Hernan, Nick, people don’t even count John Digweed in that category anymore, he’s considered “techno”. When I go to Stereo & ask kids there that are new, the new generation, when they say Digweed they say ‘oh, techno, I love that guy’. They don’t associate him with progressive house, when you ask someone my age, they’re like “Progressive House!” I think a lot of that has to do with Beatport’s categories. I was afraid of it… when Bad Pony’s first releases came out it was under electronica because we didn’t want it to be on the same chart as EDM. Now we’ve finally got our Progressive House genre back, which I think is great, which is kind of getting the fear away from that. Also a lot of the big techno DJs are starting to play trance in their sets, like Solomun plays a lot of progressive and trance, which I think is opening up people to play more styles. I don’t like being one style of DJ, I say Progressive House because to me it meant anything you could put into it. House music is the base, which is a danceable rhythm, and you could progress on that in many different ways. To me that’s what progressive house is, not this specific clinical sound that people relate to progressive house, so I think that’s why people are scared of it… and I’m not.”
Inspiration and the Middle East
When discussing influence and where his creative inspiration comes from, Tone Depth explained: “Some music inspires me directly, when I hear music it’s like someone created a scene or a place and I want to go into that place. A mood from something will inspire something in me, as opposed to music in general. Something really weird or tragic, and it will make me think a bit, and I’ll be making music that’s a soundtrack to that emotion.” It’s not surprising that one of his biggest tracks came out of this experience. It’s a great story:
“One of my biggest tracks that came out was the soundtrack in my head to back in the days. I grew up in the Middle East and I think by 1999 it had been years I had been away from there and I was missing my old life there, and the intensity of my memories there. I was there for the first gulf war, I had met a lot of my best friends there, had my first heart break there, it was like the biggest parts of my life that made me who I am was from there, and I was reflecting on that, and for some reason because there was this movie I used to watch called Rumble Fish, that I used to watch all the time back when I lived in the Middle East. For some reason that name of the movie was encapsulating what I felt about the whole time there and I basically was making a song, just playing cords, and it came out. And it was an eighteen minute piece that we cut into two pieces, and I didn’t think anything of it.
I sent my manager at the time a bunch of tracks and I didn’t include that one ’cause it was eighteen minutes long and I hadn’t edited it yet, and I didn’t think it was any good. Then I ended up going down to Boston and it was the beginning of a CD I had printed and he heard it and said ‘What the fuck is this? This is really good!’ and I was like ‘Really? You think it’s good?’ and then it just went from there, the track just had a life of it’s own. And that was inspired by me being nostalgic in the first place. When I listen to the track now, it takes me back to that place, but I realize it feels nostalgic for anybody, even when it was new. It made me realize I made these cords melancholic and nostalgic so regardless of who you are, when you listen to it it attaches that. So this is why people resonate with this track – now I get it. Back then I didn’t get it. For me it was just an expression at that time.”
With layers of beautifully crafted rhythms and transporting vocals from Michel Samah aka Ghish, Rumblefish is an enduring classic.
The Middle East still continues to influence Tone Depth’s music through Bad Pony, with artists such as Ampish, Black 8, and Dish Dash consistently producing Progressive music for the label.
“A lot of Middle Eastern artists, these guys feel like they’re outside of the whole scene. They’re westernized, but they’re living in the Middle East and the world has stigmatized them in a way, where even if they’re doing their own parties and booking their own DJs, they feel like they’re on the fringes of the scene. So we’ve welcomed them in. They’re a lot more passionate and hungry to finish music than a lot of guys here who have the opportunities right in front of them.”
The Next Chapter
There is something so moving to me about Tone Depth’s story. The incredible passion and talent for the music at the peak of the Progressive scene, a loss of direction and focus with time spent helping others work on their music, and then a welcome return to his own creative endeavors, his own passion, emotions, and messages being shared through his own music and a label that represents his story. He is yet another to prove that with true intention and energy, every thing around you will fall into place.
“I always knew that when I was thinking positively or focusing on something, that things would align. It’s really true that if you focus your intent on something, it will happen. If you’re doing it truthfully. You can say you want to get somewhere and want it, but if you’re not focusing your attention properly, it’s not going to happen. I know a lot of my clients come to me and ask me, how can I get where I’d like to go, and I’m like “you have to really want it, and be so focused on it, that’s all you go” and a lot of my clients have day jobs, and come in on the weekend and try to clear their head of what’s going on at work and they have other commitments, and so finding the time to make music is very limited, and when they do, they don’t have time to do much. Which was happening to me, cause I was working on everyone else’s stuff so when I’d sit down to work on a track it was the last priority. Where now it’s the first priority.
Now I know where I want to go, what I want to do, I’ve ironed out all the kinks, so when I feel inspired I can just go.
I think I’m a late bloomer, and it’s a good time to get my career going. I’ve had so many years to experiment and try different things and really pull it all together, so now everything is fusing into one thing that flows easily.”
To me, this is what it is all about. Finding the flow by opening the space around you, creating something that people resonate with because it comes from your heart. Following your passion and focusing purely on what makes you thrive will open opportunities and relationships you never expected. For Tone Depth the move out of the city opened the space for him to work on his own music again, then his new label partner arrived providing a direction and opportunity for Bad Pony to thrive, building a label that resonated with hungry new artists who wanted to be a part of this movement, and with DJs who want to share this energized sound – a sound that captures feelings of nostalgia while creating something fresh, warm, organic, and purely from the heart. This is what makes this music so special, and what unites us. These are the deep tones that bind us, that will drive us into the next chapters of our own stories.
The next episode of Bad Pony Sessions airs Thursday March 23rd @ 7PM EST [convert timezone]. Make sure to tune in!