IT BEGAN AT NYU
While attending NYU in 1979 for his bachelor of science in psychology/audio & electronics, Wright landed his first “industry” gig at the world renowned Electric Lady Studios as a runner at a whopping $5 per day. The real payoff was of course his opportunity to yet again soak in his surroundings, which just happened to give him access to such illustrious engineers as Neil Kernon, Hugh Padgham and Michael Frondelli, as well as meeting Sal Grecco, whose maintenance team Wright would eventually join. Wright thought, “If I know how to fix something when it breaks, then surely I will be able to operate it when it is called upon.” Electric Lady also gave Wright his first glimpse into the delicate balance needed between an artist and himself in order to achieve the best possible end result. After all, music is an extremely personal thing, so getting to know an artist personally and how to treat them would prove vital in adding to their overall performance on all the recordings he would do.
In 1982, Wright finally had his fill of the New York scene, as many did at that time, and decided to head west to explore the opportunities of the growing scene in LA. There he continued doing maintenance gigs at such places as One on One Studios and Village Recorders where he would build Studio D as well as the Yacht Studios and studios 1- 4 at Cherokee. While working on the construction of One on One, the only other engineer left the project, which left Wright as the sole engineer for the facility. This meant he would be the only engineer available to assist on artists including Sammy Hagar, Kiss, Cheap Trick, Damn Yankees, Michael McDonald and Heart as well as fly solo sometimes, which is exactly how he landed his first engineering and production credit. The manager of Canadian glam metal band Brighton Rock heard Wright’s demo session with the band and asked him to produce them on the spot.
Through the rest of the ‘80’s, Wright continued to do maintenance and assist, working closely with producers Mike Clink and Ron Nevison. In 1987, Clink chose One on One to record Metallica’s ...And Justice For All, but he and [drummer] Lars Ulrich did not see eye to eye and he left the project, leaving Wright in the “right” place at the “right” time. He continued to work on the album while Metallica brought in original producer Flemming Rasmussen giving Wright engineering credit for the album.
The album, reaching No. 6, was Metallica’s first to enter the Billboard’s Top Ten and was also nominated for Best Hard Rock/ Metal Performance. “One” became Metallica’s first Top 40 hit securing a Grammy for Best Metal Performance and peaked at No. 35 on the Billboard Hot 100.
By the ‘90’s Toby Wright had become a household name, well that is in the house of any rock band shopping for a producer. Doing maintenance and assisting for about 10 years now, also put him in the company of a lot of A&R representatives and the rep for Alice in Chains wanted him to produce two of their songs on the 1993 Schwarzenegger film Last Action Hero. Wright then went on to produce their next record Jar of Flies as well. "They called from the road during Lollapalooza that they had lots of new songs and were ready to go back into the studio," Wright remembers. "We had 10 days booked at London Bridge Studios in Seattle. We got there and I asked Jerry [Cantrell] to play them for me. He looks at me and smiles and says, 'That's funny — we don't have any songs. Do you mind if we just jam for the next 10 days?' I said sure — I didn't have anything else to do. I figured I get to listen to a bunch of great musicians play around for a week. Incredibly, they began writing as they were playing. On the eleventh day, I began mastering what would become Jar of Flies."
From there, Wright produced, mixed, and/or engineered artists including Korn, Slayer, Sevendust, Fishbone, Queensryche, Ozzy Osbourne, Corrosion of Conformity, 3 Doors Down, The Wallflowers, Kiss and yes, more Alice in Chains. “Wanted to let you know that half of my life's soundtrack was produced or mixed by you, for which I would like to say thanks and great job,” one fan wrote on Wright’s Facebook page.
Having a strong background in maintenance probably gave Wright that edge over other producers, as he was known for extracting/creating sounds through unusual methods. For
instance, with Korn's Follow the Leader, Wright remembers, "They wanted very much to get sounds that hadn't already been used on records before. They thought I had the technology background, from fixing such a range of stuff, and were openminded enough to let them get pretty far out there. We wanted to make sounds without using plug-ins on Pro Tools. One sound in particular, on “Freak on a Leash”, was interesting and kind of
illustrated what we were doing on that record. There's this whirring guitar sound, which is a guitar played through a Pignose amplifier placed in front of your garden-variety house fan. I put a Shure 57 and a Sennheiser 421 on the other side of the fan from the Pignose, some dynamic mics with pop filters on them to take the edge off the moving air from the fan. It took a while to get the right position for the mics, but it was similar to what you go through when miking a Leslie cabinet — you're looking for the spot where you get the most sound, but the least amount of useless moving air. Oh, and the fan was set on low.”
Being so technically minded and so personally aware of the sheer impact sound has, Wright was continually experimenting. In 2007, he created his sound healing technology, Taummhoms. It is a conglomeration of sine waves at different specific frequencies, mixed in a certain way as to promote restoration of the mind and body. It is healing specific and can be altered and blended in different ways to target specific illnesses. “Everyone I have shared this technology with has given me positive feedback,” Wright comments. To date, he has only shared it with his personal friends in need, but all that is about to change.
As a matter of fact, change is what Wright is all about. While constantly learning, developing and honing his skills, he is always open to new opportunities and has recently found two close to his heart. First, he jumped onto the other side of the studio glass by joining Bells Into Machines. Collaborative members include Brian Diemar, Janne Jarvis and Ministry’s Paul Barker & Chris Connelly. Second, along with bandmate Diemar, Wright has started a production company, F3 Entertainment, that is currently working with up & coming artists. Their roster is not genre specific, they just follow Bells Into Machines’ motto, “There is good music and bad music; we do good music!”
In the coming months, Wright is very excited to be continuing his work on broadening and perfecting his sound healing technology, Taummhoms, while getting ready for Bells Into Machines’ self titled debut release, as well as the first release from F3 Entertainment.