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When Ian Toomey first took to making music in 1980 with post-punk band Bitches Sin, he never anticipated some 38 years later he’d still be in the studio producing new material as a solo artist who has seen and done it all.
Classic rock runs rife in his solo album Masters Of Light and isn’t a sound we get a lot of these days. But it’s a sound that brings a lot of enjoyment when it’s done well, and it’s the sound that makes Ian Toomey want to keep on keeping on.
“I think music has to come from the soul and I don’t really get that from today’s music,” the Brit says of his sound. “In the intervening time from when we had this style of music in the 80s, I’ve watched from the sidelines and seen different styles come and go and when it came to this album, I wanted to identify this as Ian Toomey.
“In a way the album fell from the ether and it’s music I hope everyone can identify with. I don’t believe we have [this] in music today and sometimes in life you have to hold true to what you believe in and that’s how Masters Of Light came to be.”
With the production prowess of the legendary Chris Tsangarides, Toomey has captured the hard-hitting rock ‘n’ roll of the 80s and inserted it into the 21st century, providing a fresh scope without being a rehash of what was done back in the day. “When we recorded the album, we went to Chris’ studio and we had a handful of riffs and nothing else,” Toomey explains. “Steve [Turton] the drummer, we’ve been friends for many years, we turned up and set about recording and as soon as we had the framework of a particular track taking shape Chris would say ‘Right, let’s go for a track’.
“We’d get to the middle eight or towards the chorus and literally the inspiration would take place at that moment and because Chris is such a great producer he was able to capture that and I think that gives it that life, that true energy people are seizing on.
When you listen to Masters Of Light, that’s from my soul. It’s a total expression of how I am and it’s actually very liberating.
[ Ian Toomey ]
It would seem that this particular collaboration of minds and talent made for an experience that in the moment, was pure and raw, Tsangarides tapping into Toomey’s natural energy and exposing it in sound. “To have that kind of energy, it can only come from your soul and fortunately Steve and Chris are those kind of people so the energy of that creation, there was no delay. You needed someone like Chris to capture that,” he says.
The high-energy and sometimes tumultuous experiences of Bitches Sin in the 80’s did a lot to shape Ian Toomey’s output today, the life and soul of the band still lingering within him and, to a degree, their memory making an appearance in Masters Of Light. “If you or anybody else has heard any of the material from that time, it was always high energy,” says Toomey. “We formed off the back end of punk rock in England. It was a time where a lot of people were frustrated, there wasn’t a lot of work around and there were a lot of bands expressing their energies and frustrations through music. Bitches Sin, my brother and I formed the band, we had bought albums over the years that might have had two or three good tracks on, the rest were rubbish. So we set out to try and create something where each track had something you could identify with.
“It was very in your face, very high energy so from those days, coming forward, energy has always been a part of it. Now, maybe that’s come from the universe, I don’t know, but going back to those days and comparing that Masters Of Light, that energy, in a slightly different form, is still in my music. I believe music should be exciting and should inspire you and if it’s not doing that, me or anyone else have let the listener down.”
Evidently, Toomey has a very particular zest for life, a very spiritual person, centred, grounded and very much in tune with himself and the music he plays. “When you listen to Masters Of Light, that’s from my soul. It’s a total expression of how I am and it’s actually very liberating. When people seize on what you’ve done in something like that it’s extremely gratifying, you’re able to spread a much broader message to everybody.
“In the past, you put your music out there and left it for the listeners to paint their own pictures, but I’m trying to absorb what’s happening in the world at the moment and present information in a different form through music, and guide the listener and say ‘Look, have you ever considered certain things that’s happening around you?’ Masters Of Light is very much that way, it talks about getting to a temple of learning, a place where you can rest and conserve what’s happened in life and then move forward into the future. I guess in many ways I’m reaching out to people and to say we all need to wake up to what’s happening then we can have a better world.”