One of the most outstanding acts at Deserfest Belgium was Toner Low, a Dutch stoner-doom band that was really captivating. I’ve heard about this band a few times before but never got the chance to witness their music. A few days after the festival I sent them a message on facebook, asking if they would be interested in a little interview. Daan (guitars) said ‘yes’ and provided us with a lot of useful information about Toner Low.
How did you experience Desertfest?
It was amazing. We played at the Canyon stage in front of a large number of spectators. As often on this kind of festival we also ran into some old friends.
Toner Low plays stoner doom at its best. What are your musical / non-musical influences?
I think bands like Sleep, Acid King, Electric Wizard and High on Fire are the main influences for Toner Low. But there’s also other bands that have some kind of influence when we’re writing a new album. The songs on our 2013 album are also influenced by non-stoner bands and genres such as Entombed, Manowar, Danzig and some neo-classical ambient music. These influences might be very subtle and maybe not everyone will notice them. Movies or books have no direct credit in what we do.
Miranda, the bass player, has been a member of 7Zuma7. How about the other members, have they played in other bands before?
Since mid-eighties most Toner Low members have been playing in several bands, separately or together. Most of them were on a local or regional level. 7Zuma7 is probably the most famous band a Toner Low member ever played in.
Your third album, III, was released by your own label Roadkill Recordz while the previous one was released by Freebird. Is there any special reason?
The Berlin-based label Bilocation (sub label from Kozmic Artefactz) also had a hand in the release of III. Roadkill was also involved with our previous albums. Freebird is not really out of the picture; they were responsible for the promo-copies. To me it doesn’t really matter who releases our albums.
The main theme seems to be marihuana. Do you ever get in trouble in countries where weed is illegal?
On the Austrian-Swiss border a drug dog has been looking for weed for a long time after one of the custom officers found a tape version of our previous album in the glove compartment of our van. These tapes have been released with rolling papers and filter tips in a plastic bag that resembles the weed bags you can find in some coffeeshops in the Netherlands. The bag had a weed leaf on the front and a beautiful green bud on the back. When the officer found it, he decided to have the dog sniff all over the van but since we don’t carry any marihuana, they didn’t find anything. Besides, although it’s illegal in most countries, you can find it in most cities we play in. Actually, not all
members smoke pot and those who do, don’t smoke that much.
The biography mentions that Toner Low is active since 1998 and has seen a few line-up changes. Did this have an effect on the sound?
Oh yeah. In the first four years we played a mix of several stoner rock genres. Influences back then were Monster Magnet, Slo-Burn, Fu Manchu and Orange Goblin. However, when Queens of the Stone Age became successful in 2000, a lot of bands started playing this kind of music, making it difficult to stand out. Besides, we were no longer satisfied with the old songs and wanted to focus on lower frequencies. In 2002 one of our guitar players left the band and in 2003 most of the old songs were dropped from the setlist. They got replaced by slower and longer songs that we also recorded for our first album in 2004-2005. In those days samples gained importance in our set. We used them before but rarely live.
Did the stoner / doom genre change a lot?
I think so, yes. The scene has grown a lot bigger, leading to a lot of cross-overs with other genres which made the scene a lot more diverse. Because more people became interested in stoner rock,psychedelic rock, doom and sludge, there’s more bands and also more festivals than about ten years ago. The rise of the seventies retro rock has also had an effect on the growing and diversifying of the scene.
The Netherlands seems to be a leading country in the music business. Bands like the Gathering and Within Temptation are pioneers in the gothic scene and the country is also responsible for the gabber/hardcore scene. Do you have an explanation for this diversity?
I don’t think there’s more talented musicians in the Netherlands than elsewhere. Other countries have their musical export products as well, be it about bands or genres. Often, when a trend begins and becomes more popular, more and more bands emerge in that region and style. And the more bands there are, the bigger the chance is that a few of them break through.
Toner Low has been active for sixteen years now but you only recorded three albums. Is it perfectionism or are members too involved into other things?
Well, fact is that the band existed for seven years before we released our first album. Between 1998 & 2003 we released five demo’s and a split 7”. But it’s true that it takes a long time to write a song. We don’t write constantly, only when we feel that it’s time for a new album. In between individual members write riffs and ideas and record them at home. Finally, there’s no label that demands new material on a regular basis.
You’ve toured all over Europe. How about America or Asia?
In 2007 we were asked to play a show in New York but since our drummer does not want to fly, we’re restricted to travelling on four wheels. So overseas concerts and fly-ins are not an option.
What’s next for Toner Low?
In the beginning of November we have a small tour in Austria and after that we have a few gigs in the
Netherlands. We don’t plan on playing more shows for now, except for a weekend-tour through France.
Pictures provided by and used with permission from Toner Low