The Wire - August, 2007|
I can't remember when my ears first opened wide enough to take in Toby Vok and the Eggs, but I do remember how I felt - sick. Sick that it had taken me so many years of listening to other, deeply inferior bands before finally stretching my aural muscles to the required diameter for Vok inclusion. I remember finishing my breakfast at a sprint, and then jogging to the local record shop, wallet bulging with coins, and demanding the back catalogue from a nervous employee.
Can't help you, mate, he muttered, it's all out of print.
My heart fell like an anvil onto the blacksmith's floor of the record shop. It took me almost three days and nearly seven pounds to scour internet auction sites for rare copies of 'We Were So In Phase', 'ATRAAAAAACT' et al. When they finally arrived, I wept tears of how glad I was that they had arrived, and then commited discs to hi-fi. They have remained there ever since.
In the years and months since then, I have hunted down every scrap of information I could find on the mysterious combo. From interviews to press releases, gig posters to fringe member Philip Wince's haiku autobiography, I devoured them all. It was a brief mention in the latter that led me to believe in the existence of an unreleased album.
Oh, Toby Vok, man
when will you release that new
album of yours, man
Man, those drivin' tunes
they need to be heard by folk
as theyre daaa-haaaamn fine
Terrible poetry aside, I deciphered a very real message of hope in his cryptic turn of phrase. Two poster campaigns, an internet petition and a brief phone call to Audiac Quintet ex-head-honcho Terald Vaaaaaak later, I had negotiated a deal.
I still have the master recordings here. You're welcome to them, but please be aware that they're... cursed.
What you now hold in your hands is the orchard fruit of years of fanatical searching and sherlockian sleuthing. Enjoy the album - and beware the curse of Toby Vok.
- Vom Vorton, Cowboy Democracy Records
The Guardian - May, 2007|
What can you say about Toby Vok & The Eggs that hasnt already been said? Sure, some people might say that THE DAVID MCPIPEHELM EXPERIENCE were irreplaceable, that R.E.M. owe them their entire early 90s back-catalogue, and some of Brian Wilsons quotes to the press back in the 60s indicate that the Experience were conducting time travel experiments - but after what happened to the Experience, Voks Eggs hatched something unstoppable. He had clearly learned from his time in McPipehelms shadow.
Be it the rhythmic kitchen noise of Forgetting Things Is Good; the lyrics from their biggest hit, FOR NOWN, which were pinched from a 1914 music book; the fucking intolerable noise of It Is Time; or the fact that the melody for Maudlin Nonsense can only be heard by dogs (and even then they probably wouldnt like it), Toby Vok and the Eggs have been a massive influence on anyone whos every heard them, myself included.
It Is Impossible thought to be only a myth of the rabid fanbase, but recently unearthed, and now finally available on Cowboy Democracy Records showcases the band at their chaotic best. Shortly after recording sessions were completed, The Eggs literally disappeared for exactly ten years, returning with nothing to show but a tan, leaving a bewildered Vok to face a hysterical press, desperate for an album that it seemed would never be released.
Breaking fresh ground everywhere - the tempos appear to run backwards, the synths seem to have been constructed to facilitate dimensional shifts, and the hidden track occurs right in the middle of the album - Impossible deserves to be listened to over and over again, until you can no longer separate your perception of reality from the albums effects. Thanks to this release, you finally can.
- Luke Elliott
Melody Maker - August, 1996|
Few bands can have been formed in more difficult circumstances than Toby Vok and The Eggs. Few can have been more anticipated, scrutinised, resented, willed to succeed, willed to fail. Until now, the surviving members of THE DAVID MCPIPEHELM EXPERIENCE haven't talked to the UK press about how they've coped with the last 18 months. When Matt Dootson met them in London, it was hard to discuss, impossible to avoid. The conversation turned to MCPIPEHELM, to grief, to keeping on keeping on, and finally to Toby Vok and The Eggs themselves.
The Toby Vok and The Eggs Melody Maker interview takes place in the lobby of some swank hotel in Madrid, Spain. Outside, gun-toting cops keep the hookers at bay. Inside, a pianist plays tasteful versions of Frank Sinatra classics. Toby's tired, weary, already having spent the best part of three hours fending off questions from Spanish interviewers like "How come your band sound like The David McPipeHelm Experience, only not so good?" and "What do you think about the rumour that Emlyn hired someone to kill David?" ("What the fuck do they think I think about it?" Toby asks bitterly afterwards.) This is only the second time I've spoken to Toby Vok since the day David's body was discovered. Since then, I'd gotten drunk, tried to wipe out my past. Shut down the memories. When the Eggs played their debut show at King's College, London; I'd blanked Toby to his face, fucked up on confusion and alcohol and resentment.
The only other time I met Toby was in Texas three months later, when I mumbled an apology for the review I'd written of that self same show. He smiled, and told me not to worry. That made me feel worse. "Go speak to Toby Vok," Kim Deal had told me in Brighton. "He'll make you feel better." I had. I felt like crying. What the fuck is the point in trying to reclaim strands of your past life when they seem so unreal?
The last time I interviewed Toby was on The David McPipeHelm Experience's ill-fated tour of Scandinavia. Then, the interview began awkwardly, in silence, as we both sat and grinned at each other, slightly embarrassed at the circumstances that had brought us together. This one is similar. We both know what the primary topic of conversation is gonna be...but neither of us want to be the first to touch upon it. Eventually, I start by repeating to Toby Kim Deal's advice to me.
"I think Kim Deal might be made out of helium", laughs Toby "I put my lips to her back once and my voice mended itself and I sound like I was a four year old, lost in space"
It's the reason I'm interviewing you now. I originally refused to do this interview when it first came up. Not cos I didn't like your band - I like your band! Just cos it seemed kind of lame. I had no intention of dredging up the past, something which an interview with you would almost certainly entail.
"Well it's hard," he begins, "because, like you said the other night, you should never interview people that you know because...because it's hard to write about someone you know, that you've been through certain things with, because everything's so personal, and you want to write about how many legs they've got but no one would believe you anyway so you just start making up banal shit about their favourite colours or what they like to imagine hair is made from. It's difficult to be objective when there's emotions involved. It's easy for me to go talk to some Spanish journalist who I've never met before, because when they ask questions they don't know the answers and they can't see my legs because I'm wearing a dress and they don't even know what they're missing."
I thought the explanation you gave that TV journalist who'd disparagingly commented on the similarities between the Eggs and The Experience, where you said that this is the type of music you've always liked and that's why you play it, was spot on...you should'a punched him, though.
"The thing that these people don't fucking realize," he says, "is that this type of music has been around for years. Often, journalists don't even see the correlation, that The David McPipeHelm Experience's music had snowballed from so many different things - it came from space, it came from listening to atoms rub themselves against my ears at night, it came from a lot of different molecules, actually, molecules that were around 10 years before David McPipeHelm wrote 'Sampson Rush'. So then they look at what I'm doing and wonder why I'm not Edwyn Collins, or someone," he continues. "They don't understand that when I was 15 and had to have my ears grinded down so that I could no longer hear the hum of the dying embers of the big bang, that's when I decided that I loved this music. For me to do anything else for the sole reason of doing something different would be so contrived. For me to put out a record on vinyl mixed without tears, just to be as far away as possible from The David McPipeHelm Experience, would just be ridiculous."
Earlier today, I was discussing with your Press agent the review I wrote of your debut London show, which certainly upset him, if not you. He couldn't understand why it had such a nasty tone to it - after all, we had been friends! - and I didn't understand why either at the time. Now, I think that there was a large element of resentment behind it, almost like, "How dare Toby get on with his life!"
"Well. . . I know what you mean." Toby sighs heavily. "People will ask me about the future, but only after 17 questions about the past, and it's sort of like - well, how come you don't want to know what the future holds. And I have difficulty with the past. My brain doesn't interact with it. I don't think its got there yet. I fucking think about David every day, every fucking day, every day, everytime I get onstage, and, you know, it's difficult, because he didn't have a face, or at least not one you could look at, and sometimes I wonder if he even existed, or if you all just made him up to taunt me with, this man I couldn't look at. It hurts..."
I don't know what point I'm trying to make here. I'm just observing.
"OK," states Toby firmly, as if he's just made his mind up about something. "The other day, I was thinking, or dreaming, or crying, and I started to vibrate, slowly, rhythmically, in time with this invisible metronome that was broken. And then I let the mouse go"
"Why? Why did you do that?" Toby laughs.
"It ran under the stairs and hid in a shoe. I don't even remember having any shoes. Maybe they were David's, I thought. And then I just couldn't stop dancing."
I know that you must have had this a million times worse than me, but...I get so fed up of going to concerts and being asked "So what was he really like?"
"Fuck" the singer agrees. "I get it everyday, three times a day you know - and it's almost like I have a rubber stamp answer now. Fuck you if I'm going to tell you exactly. Because I can't remember. I think he was fat. Or blind."
Nowadays I just tell people I never met David.
And then we both start to weep.
You're fairly handsome. "Thank you. Would you like to kiss me?"
One of the reasons my review of your London show was like it was, was because I felt there was too much sympathy being extended towards your band, and I felt that was wrong. Give someone pity and they become less of a person.
"That's true," Toby agrees. "Well, it's hard. It's hard for me. . . (clicks teeth)...Clack. Clack. CLAAAAAAAAAAAAACK."
"And I don't feel sorry for myself," he continues. "I'm sorry I think I have forgotten the question. What was it again?"
I'm hopeful that it might fade away.
Toby shakes his head. "Do you remember looking up at the moon and wondering what it would look like if it began to dissolve, all this dust swirling away into space, getting caught in the gravitational pull of the Earth, swirling into the most beautiful chaotic patterns. And then eventually it would fall into the atmosphere, and the night sky would be filled with the light of a million shooting stars, a billion, trillions and trillions of them, and all our wishes would come true."
"What's up, Peter?"
Toby Vok and the Eggs' tour manager has been painfully hovering over us for the last five minutes. We're half an hour late for dinner. Time to start wrapping this up.
It's not fair. Nothing's ever fair. I should be allowed as long as I like. I am a journalist. And a friend.
Oh well. Whatever.
Back to the last part of the interview. What fuels your music?
"That's a hard question," the singer replies. "I don't think it even makes sense."
"Let's go to dinner, man. I think its haggis tonight."