Toh Imago Talks about His New Album 'Refuge,' Recording in a Forest, and More | Hype | LIVING LIFE FEARLESS

Toh Imago Talks about His New Album ‘Refuge,’ Recording in a Forest, and More

Interviewed By:
Dario Hunt
Interview date:
February 2023

How did you get into music?

I have always been a music lover, when I was a teenager, music was a central passion. But I never had the patience to follow a specific musical curriculum. The discovery of software to make music was a real trigger. At first a game, it quickly became more serious. And then I quickly discovered that I could finally create things, shape sounds, without having any real knowledge in musical theory or in playing an instrument.

What artists have influenced you the most?

What deeply influenced my music and will always do so is what I listened to in my early days. I have always loved music with a strong emotional charge. Two of the albums that shaped my culture were Björk’s Homogenic and Radiohead’s Kid A. These are the albums that opened the first doors to labels like Warp and artists like Boards of Canada, LFO, Nathan Fake… On the other hand, I grew up at the time of the rise of the French touch with Daft Punk or Cassius and the big beat with the Chemical Brothers. I like to imagine that my music could be a mix of these references deeply rooted in me.

While creating my last album I listened a lot to Koreless, Oneohtrix Point Never, Skee Mask, and Overmono, but finally, these more recent projects are in perfect agreement with my deep influences.

Where’d you grow up? How do you think that environment has affected/influenced your music?

I grew up in the Pas-de-Calais, in the north of France, more precisely in the mining area. This place has developed for a century around the coal industry which has now totally disappeared.

This was the theme of Nord Noir, my first album. Refuge, my new album was partly created in the forest of Mormal, still in the north of France. And today I live in the countryside north of Paris.

My environment inevitably influences my music. On Refuge the forest remains a constant sound background. What brings a certain rurality.

How would you describe your sound?

I think to make dance music but which tells something. A “concrete” music, in connection with a territory, a place.

What’s your creative process like?

On this album the creative process was a bit particular and took quite some time.

First of all, I linger on a problem on which I will document myself to the maximum, that allows me to guide my composition.

Then I always tend to produce very busy and complex pieces. So this is my first step, then I prune the sound a bit, simplify it. I then selected some tracks. We went in the forest of Mormal with Olivier my sound engineer. We broadcast these tracks in the forest to re-record them.

Then we came back to the studio, I integrated the tracks recorded in the forest and finally we worked with Alexandre Cazac the artistic director of Infiné to finalize the album.

You incorporate a lot of real sound elements into your music. What inspired you to go this route, and how do you decide what’s worth recording?

Unlike my previous album, I actually used a lot of samples. Each composition is systematically “laid” on a carpet of samples. I used a lot of VHS samples from my childhood, then many samples recorded outside or samples of various objects.

Contrary to the machines which are very often modulable, the samples are more fixed, even if they can be manipulated, we are still very dependent on their shape. It brings life and uncertainty in the composition, and I find it interesting.

There’s something paradoxical about combining nature and electronic in your soundscapes, is this an intentional choice? If yes, why? What draws you to this combination?

The fact of going to record sounds in the forest, in the nature brings even more uncertainty, and here I wanted the forest to be almost like a “musician” on the album. These sounds live alone, they are uncontrollable, it is a form of life in my refuge.

The fact of making play the sounds of the machines in the forest allows a perfect combination between the relative coldness of the machines and the life of nature.

Congrats on the release of your album, Refuge! How has the response been so far?

Thank you! I am very happy with the feedback. I’m especially glad that there is some traction in the UK. To have been playlisted by Mary Anne Hobbs and played often on BBC6 (and also by Tom Ravenscroft) is a real pride. My musical culture is largely English and to be approved by the English is a form of accomplishment!

Any special significance behind the album title?

I like to play around with titles, but I wanted to have a clear article that would describe what I wanted to do with this album.

I wanted this album to be a Refuge, a sound and fantasy refuge, an imaginary place where you can go back to feel good.

What do you want listeners to take from the project? Any specific themes?

I would like the listeners to feel good while listening. That they really enter this forest and create their own inner forest.

I give them an axis and then they follow it in the way that suits them best.

Do you have a favorite song off the project? If so, why?

Oh it’s very difficult to release a particular title…

What can people expect from you in the future? Shows?

I unfortunately don’t have any lives planned at the moment (well, not that I can announce). But I did some, the live is ready, it’s more dancefloor oriented, with some songs from my old projects but mostly songs from this new album.

I’m also working on my next album, never stop…

Damaged City Festival 2019 | Photos | LIVING LIFE FEARLESS

CULTURE (counter, pop, and otherwise) and the people who shape it.

Damaged City Festival 2019 | Photos | LIVING LIFE FEARLESS

My Cart Close (×)

Your cart is empty
Browse Shop


Don't miss out on weekly new content and exclusive deals