Name: Darby Todd
Bands/projects: Touring with Devin Townsend, Martin Barre (Jethro Tull) as well as varied studio work for different bands.
First of all, what sparked your interest in music?
I was always surrounded by music as long as I can remember. My dad was a bass player and coming from America he had a huge love of English rock bands (and we all know the UK bands were the best back in the day!), so I was always exposed to the vinyl he would play. I never really looked at drums and thought that I really wanted to be a drummer. At the age of six I came home from school with a letter saying I could choose to play violin or tuba. I wanted to play violin, but my dad said he had a better idea. A week later I had a pair of drumsticks and a practice pad and I was hooked!
To you, what defines a great drummer? Name a few that you think stand out in today’s scene (regardless of genre) and some that helped shape you as a drummer growing up and learning the instrument.
That’s a difficult question and I am sure everyone has a differing opinion of the qualities of a great player of any instrument. For me it would have to be a musician who is well versed in multiple styles and genres. Not just someone that is good at one particular thing. I would say my playing style is a the result of five main drummers I loved growing up as a kid: Gregg Bissonette, Dennis Chambers, Dave Weckl, Simon Phillips and Alex Van Halen. I stole so many ideas of all of these guys. In recent years I would say that I’m really into Virgil Donati and Vinnie Colaiuta. These are the two guys that are at the top of their game and I find hugely inspiring as players. To me they are among the best out there.
You’re a professional drummer by occupation and have jumped between bands and projects your entire career. Looking back on this journey, any stints or projects that particularly stand out?
I have enjoyed working with virtually every project I have done. I find it extremely fulfilling to be able to work in different situations. In terms of one-off performances I have done with artists I would say playing “The Power of Love” with Huey Lewis and also the entirety of “Whole Lotta love” and “Rock And Roll” with Robert Plant were well up there on the top of my list! My time in The Darkness was definitely up there. I am currently touring with Martin Barre, the guitarist from Jethro Tull, playing his 50 Years of Jethro Tull tour. This has been an amazing experience playing some iconic prog songs that inspired so many of the modern prog bands. I’m fortunate that this gig has been taking me around the world and we look like being busy for at least the next two years. We also have Clive Bunker, the original drummer from Tull in the band, so it’s a ton of fun to play double drums with him. I also play with Swedish guitar legend Kee Marcello. I played on his last album “Scaling Up” which I think is a fantastic record. It’s kinda surreal that as a kid I used to play along to Europe albums and now I’m Kee’s first-call drummer! Also, I’m currently playing drums on Devin Townsend’s European tour. Having been a fan of his for years, its awesome to be being playing music with a rock icon that you were already a fan of. My solo album is definitely something that stands out in my career. I feel like it sums up my 30 plus years of drumming and what I have achieved. Also having amazing musicians on it like Don Airey, Bumblefoot, Per Nilsson, Martin Barre and Justin Hawkins, to name a few, definitely stands out as a highlight for me.
Having played blues, rock, hard rock, funk and, well, literally any style of drums there is – is there any genre/style you particularly prefer?
For me, I am a rock drummer at heart and that will never die, but I learned at a young age that it’s not a good idea to ignore other genres hence why my CV is so varied! I also love my jazz and fusion. It’s a genre that allows me to play to my full ability and fulfill my need to play millions of notes without getting fired!
If you weren’t playing for a living, what would you do for a career, you think?
I’ve always thought I’d be a fireman. Always thought that was a cool job!
You’ve been involved in many Toontrack products in the past, both as an audio demo creator and by providing MIDI material for expansions and MIDI packs, but the Big Stage EZX was your first time actually sampling drums. What’s your takeaway from the process?
My takeaway is that I absolutely loved doing this. One of the key components to being good at drum sampling is to be accurate with every strike you make. This was a good opportunity to see that my years of practice had actually worked out in great consistency in my playing and strikes! I also realized that when you have the correct team of people working together striving for the same goal, you get a product beyond your already high expectations. I can’t wait to record more with Toontrack.
Since we last spoke to you around the release of the Big Stage EZX, you’ve been involved in tons of cool projects. Tell us more!
A ton of stuff has been going on! As well as my continuing world touring with Martin Barre (Jethro Tull), I have also been working with Canadian artist Devin Townsend. I was originally drafted in to help him headline Bloodstock Festival in the UK in the middle of 2021, but we really hit it off musically and a year later we are still making music. We were out this summer on an arena tour for three months with Dream Theater. That was a ton of fun. Before that, we had a few headline shows of our own which included two sold out nights at the Royal Albert Hall in London. We also played a bunch of Euro festivals including Hellfest and Grasspop. Devin’s music is so varied, so it was a ton of fun playing everything from Strapping Young Lad tunes to some of his softer songs. I also played drums on the majority of Devin’s new album “Lightwork,” which has just come out. Garth Richardson produced it and I think it sounds amazing. Yes, there may be a couple of Toontrack samples at various points on the album! This year has also been big for recording albums for other artists from my home studio. I have also done all the drums for the new album from Swedish prog legends Kaipa as well as all the drums for Haken guitarist Charlie Griffiths’ solo debut. That album, playing-wise, is brutal in such a good way. The album I did for a band called Out of This World featuring Europe guitarist Kee Marcello and singer Tommy Heart is well worth a listen. I’ve also just finished playing drums on the entirety of the album by Oblivion Protocol, the new band by Threshold keys player Richard West. I seem to have become the go-to guy for prog music at the moment! I’ve also just recorded drums for British songwriter Willie Dowling. He’s a very talented guy and always pushes me musically. Aside from this, I have also been responsible for making a fair amount of music for the Toontrack product demos. It’s always fun having to write to a musical brief and bring in the right players for each song. I still also make a ton of MIDI for Toontrack, so hopefully people are getting a kick out of using that.