Robert O’Toole, better known by his peers and fans as Bob Gravity, is a talented, up-and-coming producer of electronic dance music, and I am honored to be writing this expository piece on his behalf. Bob is a close friend of mine and has strongly driven my interest in the music industry. Soon after Bob and his family moved into my building – which, as an eight year old, I was exhilarated over – I learned that he would be attending my middle/high school, The Browning School, in Manhattan. We became even closer through this coincidental connection and our friends all became one. Since we lived merely a few floors away from each other, our friendship quickly grew both in school and out. I experienced Bob’s musical strengths for the first time, at eleven years old, when he played the violin for me in his apartment. Impressed would be an understatement. Bob’s fluidity, posture, and composure implied practice and diligence and mastery of craft.
At this moment, standing in the entrance of Bob’s living room, silent, watching his lesson from a distance, I realized with certainty that his passion would catapult his career toward success. How ironic? Here I am now, ten years later, promoting my friend and musician, Bob, as his years of practice and attention come to fruition and his childhood extracurricular turns into a lifelong career.
By age thirteen, Bob was nominated to the position of concertmaster of his entire youth orchestra. This impressive role, awarded only to the most qualified and seasoned violinist, signified not only his accomplishments with the group thus far, but more importantly the conductor’s faith in Bob as a growing talent and devotee to music. After exhausting the violin, Bob ambitiously taught himself the guitar, as well as the art of musical production. I saw Bob perform several times at school sponsored coffee house concerts, and it was at these events – amongst the first for Bob – where my feelings of astonishment were reciprocated by my fellow classmates and friends. Over the course of dozens of concerts and performances, I have witnessed his technique’s gradual refinement and maturation.
I remember receiving his first DJ mix to put on my IPod. Walking to school in my blue blazer, buttoned down shirt and tie, and khaki pants while listening to hard-hitting dance music started my days off just right. It was fascinating to find a form of music that I really knew nothing about, never heard anything about on Television or the news, and just something novel to get into. I wanted to know everything about the genre of electronic dance music such as who were the great artists, and where to find it all. It was really because of him that I was immersed in this culture of music and followed a path towards a career in the music industry.
Later on when I became more involved in the Electronic Dance Music scene, I began to hear Bob’s production skills. During his initial start I would sit in his room and hear short snippets of tracks he would be working on, each one sounding better than the next. I would plead with him everyday to just FINISH the track and release it somewhere, but he was often too disorganized and unmotivated. Ironically though, I was working out in our buildings gym and found a CD left in there with something written on it. It said, “Bob Gravity Unmastered tracks” and the second I saw it I bumped it in the gym and was blown away (and guess what I have those tracks below for you all to hear!). I had never heard any of these seven tracks before and became obsessed. I knew these sounds and productions were something special even without being mastered. I decided I needed to get this out there so I began playing some of the tracks in my office while I worked. As his sound began to gain compliments and support we started to take things to the next level. We started booking more shows and distributed his music to people around our workspace and social outings. People began catching on to his tunes, and soon enough it was clear that Bob Gravity was a story in the making. This is how it all begins, and how The DJ Next Door came to fruition. After seeing how enthused people were, I came up to Bob and told him I wanted to be his manager, and have been helping him to book events ever since and release his tracks on labels. Its funny how certain parts of your life seem to just fall into place in such a perfect way, where each person is an integral part of each other’s future successes, and that is exactly how I view Bob and I. Our story, however, begins way before any feelings of careers or money were ever in our heads, and the point here is to show you what a true artist’s perspective on music is and how he plans to excel in the industry.
“Guitar was a sort of soul thing, where it was more about the feeling. Violin is less of a feeling thing, you need to learn the proper form and there is more of a structure to it.”
Bob demonstrates an artist who encompasses the many facets of a musician. He is one who has the ability to understand classical training and diligence through his practice of the violin, but also has the ability to be more fluid, internal, and spontaneous with his free form guitar playing. Seeing the way he can show mastery of a piece of music within minutes of reading it, but also having the ability to see him create his own rhythms, melodies, and production is breathtaking. Having this ability to switch from a more structured to a more free flowing creative process demonstrates his diversity as a musician.
“When it comes to actually creating rhythms and stuff I definitely draw from other people.”
As much as he understands that his music comes from within him, he acknowledges that all artists have their influences. There are people who came before us that always have an example to feed from. Its important to observe the successful artists/people of the past, and how they met their goals. Bob was always an emotional character, a guy who can sometimes be quick to pull the trigger when something is bothering him. Using this strong emotional intensity, he channels it into his music and says “before I create a song I think “oh do I want this to sound sad and emotional, or happy and upbeat, or angry and scary.” He uses his specific emotions to filter songs into his genres, for example knowing that when he’s angry or in a darker mood his techno productions seem to flourish more.
“It doesn’t need to be some big commercial thing”
Being the next Avicii or Swedish House Mafia has never been a goal of Bob’s. He has always stuck to the mentality that music is a passion and that what he wants is to have fun with it. Making it in the music industry for Bob is being comfortable and being able to have a couple shows a week, but also to lay down a foundation in his home of New York City. He says, “I want to be recognized locally, internationally obviously, but specifically NYC I want them to hold a place for me with my music.” He most definitely strives for international recognition, but as an artist he cares more about creating the music he loves and sharing it in any form he can.
“Both sides [commercial house and underground house] compliment each other.”
We’ve seen how the commercial sides of EDM and the underground sides have had their separation amongst the masses, but Bob believes in both sides of the genre. There isn’t one way to view this type of music. Bob primarily sees himself as an underground producer doing mostly deep house and tech house productions, but has “a spot for the mainstream.” He’s never restrained himself as an artist. He has produced Dubstep, Electro, Tech house, Deep house, and Disco. He understands that all artists in their realm of music have a way of touching certain groups of people. Whether or not the general public considers Bob a celebrity one day has no affect on how he goes about his productions. To this young budding artist, the underground scene has flourished in Europe since dance music began, and now New York City is opening up to it more by promoting shows such as Verboten or Blkmarket. These events really adhere to the fans of pure dance music through artists like Maceo Plex and Maya Jane Coles, who Bob primarily strives to be like someday.
“When [big stadium DJs] play its more of a concert, but when a DJ plays its more of a party feeling too, and that’s the underground flavor.”
As Bob’s career plans and DJing became more adjusted and professional we began to delve into his thoughts on performing in big festival, commercial settings. As the quote illustrates, DJing for Bob is like throwing a massive party that everyone who loves him and his music can come out to and enjoy. He doesn’t see himself as a big festival DJ performing necessarily in front of hundreds of thousands of people because for him his music is about the mood, and he doesn’t feel he is a concert performer. Being a nightclub DJ for him makes the event more personal and about him, rather than this general EDM atmosphere you find at festivals like Ultra and EDC. The reason he feels this way is because as an artist he wants full control of his production. We often find that commercial DJs are having management agencies placing a lot of forceful commissions on artists to adhere to a certain sound. This is something Bob feels deters his creative process, and staying true to his “underground flavor” is his main goal with every show. He wants his DJ sets and productions to be completely his own.
“A lot of it was also just personal stuff for me. It really was more of a reflection time for me.”
Taking his semester off from school was a time for Bob to personally reflect on his past and where he wants his future to go. Every person, let alone an artist, needs time to ponder his or her careers and take a break from the stresses of schoolwork. Going to school out in Maryland at Salisbury University was a wake up call for Bob indeed. He came to realize that the scene was primarily Dubstep oriented, and he was not getting the support and acknowledgement that he had been so used to receiving out in New York City. This caused his time at school to be more strenuous and less eventful. However, realizing this, he took it upon himself to set up DJ events at colleges outside of Maryland such as Bard College. He did a couple of 300 to 500 person events out there, where the artistic nature of the school itself really opened up to his music and students came out with an upheaval of support. Bob says, “If I am going to be at a college then I want it to be where the college can actually help me.” As a student and developing artist one should utilize one’s universities to help progress their talents, and because Bob’s school could not provide that, taking a semester off really allowed for him to spread his music on a grander scale with shows at Bard as well as smaller venue shows out in the D.C. area.
“People say record labels are dying but I actually beg to differ.”
Controversies arise about the importance of the record labels and if they are even of importance anymore. Many see labels as unprofitable and that the labels are simply latching onto the artists they manage to hold their own in the industry. Bob, however, specifically defends the labels as being an integral part of a producer/DJ’s success. Bob sees the label as “a family” of fellow producers and DJs who love each other’s music and want to share it with the world.
The label is a support system for the artist, and Bob believes that no matter where the industry goes this sense of support will always stick with the artists involved. He even goes a step further to say that without the support of a strong label an artist’s music will most likely not escape the scope of personal and close friends. He feels this way because the labels have built up their repertoire and integrity, and have a following already. By having this loyalty of fans and followers, the labels give the listeners an incentive to listen to something new, “it’s just like a megaphone or a loudspeaker saying this is our new artist, everyone check him out!” Having this mentality, Bob has been persistent in contacting labels to put up his best productions. The most recent mastered track he has done is a remix of Axton Frick’s “Take Off” which takes on a heavy Disco feel. He will be releasing it off of Hype Music later on this summer. Progressing forward, Bob wants to begin by releasing his music on smaller, less known labels, and begin to build this way up that way.
“The best thing is to not worry too much about your sound and have fun with it. Take in a bunch of influences and work with as many random artists.”
Touching on his sound and productions, Bob feels influences come from all around, and when one develops their sound they must know what else is out there. Collaborations allow for new sounds to be heard and created, which is optimal for the Electronic Dance Music scene and is the reason it is such a versatile form of music. He plans to collaborate with up and coming producer, Bailey Smalls, who’s done a great deal under legendary producer, Armin Van Helden, as well as released his first EP off Get Right Records only a month ago. Bob’s production skills and musical talent attracted Bailey to the idea of a collaboration and hopefully in the near future we’ll get to hear a finished product from the two producers.
Now before I cut right into the interview I wanted to give everyone who follows us here at The Drop Media a little treat and that is unreleased, free tracks from Bob Gravity himself. One thing that he did tell me personally to make clear toe very one is that this is work that has been in my library for awhile, but Bob never had the tracks mastered or properly finished and doesn’t want people to think otherwise. I for one think these 7 tracks are absolutely phenomenal which is why I asked permission to share them all with you! Ill give you the down low on each..
Track 01 set the mood up perfectly on this 7 track CD. You think you’ve heard some DEEP house music, well I don’t know if you’ve heard anything like this. Every little detail in this track is heard, and I can’t tell you how many times ill bump these on the KRK’s and I think I’m going to melt from the bass drop. It just consumes you and sucks you into the music so your ears can’t help but love it. Definitely something to get the party started up right.
Track 02 kicks things up a little bit in the beginning. Bob’s got this hipster (hope he doesn’t yell at me for that comment) way of putting in the freakiest, strangest, and most random samplings into his tracks and this one is no different. The vocals slowly rasping out the chorus line “Your everything I want, your everything I’d eat” is the kind of freaky stuff you know you want to get down with at a dark, intimate club setting. Don’t hesitate, let this track make you levitate.
Probably my favorite track off the CD, Track 03 is cool and relaxed as it builds, but breaksdown into a dope dance floor banger. The vocal sample is seriously just right to set the mood for this fun loving, night out kind of track. That drop hits and honestly makes me think of rolling up to some big-headed douche and just taking his girl and swaggin’ out of the building like I own the place. Lets see how you feel.
Now this one takes even me by surprise. A real funky drop hits and really I can’t say it relates to any other artist I’ve heard. Chills go down my spine when you hear that that break down where you suddenly hear that little stab and it feels like your just coasting in some dark street wondering where the hell your going. Take this track for a ride, you won’t regret it.
Onto tracko de cinco, and yes I am terrible at Spanish. This one is for anyone looking to shake and move. Techno breakdowns and fast repetitive synth work that finally drop into the once again the interested vocal stylings of Bob Gravity cooly saying ‘we got some skats in the house.” Since I know Bob all too well this is probably a reference to some skank ass chicks, you got love when you can talk shit about skanks and tricks with dope beats! Check it!
Awwww yeah, now time for the cool, tranquil disco. Track 06 makes me think of roaming down a busy street in NYC with light flashing everywhere and people passing you by and all I can do is dance on by them. This is a song you can snap yo fingas to, and I promise Lil Jon isn’t going to pop out in the middle of the track and scream out “YEAHHHHHHH!!”
The chillest out of all the tracks on our list today, 07 is a gem indeed. This will take you back in time. First thing I thought of was feeling like Tom Cruise in Last Samurai wondering where the fuck am I? Again a definite finger snapper kind of track, I mean especially considering those are added into the music for you.
I hope you guys enjoyed those tracks as much as I did, but seriously this guys on the rise and will be bringing you some official releases, fully mastered and all soon enough! Keep showing your support for us here at The Drop Media and for our artist Bob Gravity! Check out his sound cloud and follow him! Now go check out our exclusive interview that digs way deeper into the personality and life of Bob Gravity.
Ro: So when did you first pick up an instrument, and what instrument was that? Talk about your classical background.
Bob Gravity: I started on violin. I was 10 years old maybe 9, and I started playing at school, and after school. I moved up and joined the inter-school orchestra of Manhattan and eventually made my way up to concertmaster. We played Carnegie Hall for one show, a non-profit sort of show, which was one of the bigger shows I did. I then started to lose interest and picked up guitar.
R: Yeah so explain that, did you ever have any training for that? Or did you just teach yourself?
BG: Guitar, well I bought a video, an introduction to Blues guitar, and it taught you different scales and notes. My friends taught me a bunch of basic chords, I wasn’t much of a song player, I didn’t learn songs, I just kind of wrote my own stuff and jammed with friends. The guitar went well, it was sort of a fun thing back then with friends.
R: I know you did small events in high school like the “coffee houses,” can you talk about that as well?
BG: Yeah definitely, as we got older we started running the shows, and that was a time where it was nice to get a bunch of other people from around the city to come play at our school. Nicolas Jar played at one actually and has become pretty well known. Guitar went on for me for about 7 or 8 years, and actually at a Browning coffee house Nicolas Jarr showed me Ableton and other music programs and I was just getting into Electronic music, so it was pretty fluid and organically I began to move away from guitar.
R: When you moved into the production stuff, what was that like?
BG: I never was too savvy with piano, I know the notes and I can read them and look at sheet music and play it pretty slowly, but I never took piano lessons. But I remember I bought Ableton live and kind of at first just took pieces of songs and combined them to make melodies, which I guess now you can call sampling, but it was basically pretty amateur. I would take pieces of songs until it was my own thing.
R: I guess would you say that music has become a passion for you?
BG: Yeah yeah, even when I was younger with violin my mom pushed me to do it everyday. And I remember with violin before I quit I was playing 5 days a week an hour a day. And violin is one of those things if you don’t keep it up you really lose it, and you could see it happen, I was concertmaster and then I started moving back in the ranks because I wasn’t as interested and I was playing guitar at the same time. I would be walking to violin and started listening to rock music and totally lost interest. It was nice because guitar was a sort of soul thing, where it was more about the feeling. Violin is less of a feeling thing, you need to learn the proper form and there is more of a structure to it.
R: So when you think about how you make your music, what’s the emotions that go into it? Are certain songs driven by emotions and feelings, or is it driven by thought? What drives you to make your music?
BG: Um a lot of the time the creative process is like I mean ill start with drums or something, just as a basic beat, but when it comes to actually creating rhythms and stuff I definitely draw from other people. There is a lot more feeling involved; I think that sometimes before I create a song I think “oh do I want this to sound sad and emotional, or happy and upbeat, or angry and scary.” That’s what I feel you go through with regards to rhythms, or house or techno. Techno has a darker element, and a lot of times I try to approach it with one specific kind of emotion rather than trying to go all over the place. I think that helps with creating a song.
R: Now with regards to EDM or house and all that kind of music, you’re trying to step into that realm, or I guess I am not even sure, I would like to know what your feelings are just stepping into the commercial realm of this music, what is “making it” to you?
BG: You know I’ve been going to a lot of Verboten and Blkmarket shows, and a lot of the artists besides the headliners are normal guys like me. I think making it for me is just being comfortable and just having that support your whole life. It doesn’t have to be a billion dollar thing, as long as you can live comfortably and I can have enough free time to make music that’s when I am happy. I know a lot of DJs go through that struggle, but getting to that point where I have a show a week and I’m making some money off it, I’m happy. It doesn’t need to be some big commercial thing.
R: Ok so then do you feel there are feelings of a battle between underground and commercial house music?
BG: Um I mean I think there is but to be honest, both sides compliment each other you know there is obviously a lot of commercial house that is emerging, but people like Maya Jane Coles and Maceo Plex are huge, and they are underground house DJs. But in the same regard they are HUGE, HUGE celebrities in some places. I think NYC is finally supporting the underground DJs even like a year ago, I have listened to all kinds of stuff and I do have a spot for the mainstream, but I feel like every night nowadays there is an underground house show happening. I feel like that is a new thing in NYC. LA had a couple of parties weekly every year here and there, but you could really only see that underground thing in Europe before now.
R: I guess one question I have to ask you is if you were put in a situation where you were given the opportunity, like this would be your big break, you could be making millions of dollars off of your music and performances, but the catch is they want you to conform your sound. As an artist would you say you’re in full control of your music?
BG: I think I always want to be in full control and I know there are a lot of big DJs, who will sign to a label to just get the recognition, but then that label has them remixing huge commercial pop stuff, which sometimes can be great. I think there are some artist who do a really great job at that, but I think in the whole house realm it kind of stays on its own, and to be honest my only thing is you know you see a lot of DJs getting a lot of forceful commissions from the label saying like “oh we want you to do something like this” and you can hear it, you can tell, everyone can hear it. But a lot of times unfortunately that’s where the big money is, doing cross over hits where other people offer to pay them huge sums of money, why not? But um, I don’t know, I think the real thing is the venues you play at. I don’t want to sell out and be an arena DJ. I want to be a nightclub DJ. I want to play at nightclubs, and you know there are certain kinds of DJs like Avicii, Swedish House Mafia, Alesso those are big stadium DJs. and when they play its more of a concert, but when a DJ plays its more of a party feeling too, and that’s the underground flavor.
R: So if you could talk about labels specifically or genres specifically, what labels would you want your tracks on and what kind of genres do you primarily see yourself sticking to?
BG: Actually I have been trying to ask myself for a while about what labels to direct my music towards and I think once you have that down it helps you with your creative process. My favorite labels right now are Leftroom Records, Saved Records, Hyper Color, which is doing pretty well; Dogmatic, those have always been big house labels; they are big in their own respect. I am not sure if a lot of younger kids of America would know about these labels, but those are the labels, and possibly even Dirtybird, those are ones I aim to get some releases on. Obviously a long way away..
R: Well maybe, maybe not, we’ll try ;). Okay well I guess now I am going to move onto more of your rise, we touched a lot on your beginnings so now lets talk about this past year with you. You took the semester off, so just talk about why you did that, was it for yourself to hone in on your musical skill and production stuff?
BG: Well yeah, a lot of it was also just personal stuff for me. It really was more of a reflection time for me. I needed that time off college, and I know a lot of musicians who do the same thing, just to focus on your music, so it’s good to have that time to yourself. But also a big reason for me because I was at Salisbury University in Maryland and a lot of kids come from Baltimore and they loved that harder Dubstep, so I wasn’t getting as many shows and support out there. A lot of my friends were like wow this is good stuff, but like if I am going to be at a college then I want it to be where the college can actually help me.
R: Yeah like I know you had done a lot of stuff at Bard College.
BG: Yeah exactly, a lot of the bigger shows I’ve done have been at Bard college. It’s a great, great school for music. A lot of kids who go there focus on music, and they are artistic. We did a couple of shows at Smog, it s pretty well known place like GZA played there on 420, and you know they have had some big shows. Those shows we would have over 500 people there and they would all be dancing and digging it, and that was a party for me.
R: So okay now, can you also talk about performing at some of the smaller shows we’ve done like during Thanksgiving and even the one this past Thursday. What’s your feel going into most shows, what’s the message you’re trying to send to all the people that are coming out to see you.
BG: Well I think NY is great for parties in general. The nightlife has been getting better, at least in my opinion, but you know because most of my friends are from the city and being able to do an event where all of my friends can come and support is great; Plus a bunch of new unfamiliar faces, it’s a great opportunity to spread your message. To touch on what you were saying before as a goal, I want to be recognized locally, internationally obviously, but specifically NYC I want them to hold a place for me with my music. It’s a home for me, musically and just as a person, so it’s nice to have a foundation in your own hometown.
R: And then besides the shows, what other ways do you plan to get yourself a little more known, get your tracks on a label, because obviously its not an easy thing to do. Is there a plan of action?
BG: Yeah I think the best route with that is labels. People say record labels are dying but I actually beg to differ. I think with house music you really need a good strong label. I think it’s a family and all the DJs on it support each other and play each other’s tracks. I think without a strong label and a good connection with a group of people you are not going to get anywhere except between your close friends. And right now I’m at a level where all my friends do support my stuff and there are definitely some fans here and there, you know I currently focus just on soundcloud but I had someone hit me up from the Canary islands yesterday and compliment my music and that’s something special. Like the Canary Islands? Such a random place. But you know that’s great and I think record labels are the best way to do that because they already have such a huge following so once you put yourself on there its just like a megaphone, like a loudspeaker saying this is our new artists, everyone check him out. Labels are just as important as artists I think now; people follow labels now with as much scrutiny as they do with artists. My one specific thing is to get my EP on Beatport. I have my Axton Frick remix, the Disco remix that will be on Beatport this summer.
R: Yeah, what label?
BG: It’s going to be on Hype Music. They focus more on techno, they have had a fair amount of Disco releases, but that will be nice because that was definitely some work that I was proud of. I think that track is a first good production to have on Beatport. For this EP I’m going to stick to some smaller labels and see from their how I can get my music out there. But its nice because a lot of labels have been offering me remixes for their labels you know and it’s a great way to get your name out there.
R: Talk about the EP a little bit more, this will be sort of the ending, but I want people to understand the future collaborations to expect, songs, etc. Do you know what the EP is going to be called?
BG: No I don’t actually I haven’t even figured out the A and B sides, like what’s the main track, because for me each one is equally as good. Usually someone has the stronger track as the title, so it’s hard to say, but it’s definitely my first real Deep house/Tech house release. I have never really done anything like that and I am still trying to find that sound to call my own. Its getting there slowly but to stick with a label full time you have to stick to a certain sound you want for the rest of your career. This EP is just going to be two tracks, I probably am going to do a second release with remixes but I am not putting any remixes on it because it’s my debut EP and I kind of just want it to be focused on my stuff. And for collaborations I mean we’ll see, Bailey Smalls has actually been talking about doing a Disco track with me. The best thing is to not worry too much about your sound and have fun with it. Take in a bunch of influences and work with as many random artists, like Bailey Smalls is a completely different sound so maybe in doing a project like that you can get something new out of it. You learn from those kinds of experiences.
R: All right man well thank you that was great!