How a Sunderland nana has become the talk of the techno world

Garry Todd
Garry Todd
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A Sunderland nana has become the talk of the house and techno world thanks to the talents of her grandson.

Nora Lilian, the artwork of which features the late grandmother outside her Silksworth home, is the debut album from Sunderland DJ and producer Garry Todd.

Nora Lilian is released next month

Nora Lilian is released next month

Though he’s spent the past 10 years entertaining club crowds in Sydney, Ibiza and London, Garry is proud of his Wearside roots and when he was signed to one of the world’s biggest techno labels, he wanted the resulting record to reflect that by naming it after Nora.

Garry, 34, from High Barnes, said: “My grandma passed away four years ago and that photo was taken in her garden a couple of days before I flew to Ibiza for the summer, as she’d asked me to do some work in the garden.

“My mam had a digital camera and she asked me to turn around and that was the photo she took.

“It was my profile picture on Facebook for ages and people have always thought it was funny. People always said it should be the cover of an EP. Then when I met with the label they’d seen it on my page and asked if it could be the front of the album.

Garry's album is released next month

Garry's album is released next month

“The guy from Groove Armada said he really liked the album, and that the artwork is unbelievable, which is funny considering it was taken in my grandma’s garden. I think she’d be really proud to have an album named after her, she was such a little trooper.

“She spent the final years of her life saving money for her grandchildren. I used it to pay for studio equipment, so she actually played a role in my career.”

The Former Farringdon School pupil got his first decks at 18 and would use jobs at Barclays and Van Mildert in Durham to pay for nights out at influential house club night Shindig in Newcastle and To The Manor Born, at Hardwick Hall, Sedgefield.

Feeling uninspired by his job, he moved to Sydney ten years ago to chase his music dreams.

Garry Todd

Garry Todd

He’s spent the past decade juggling his own DJing and producing his own material, with building up a network, looking after DJs and helping to book artists.

But being signed to revered Berlin techno label BPitch Control has taken his career to the next level.

“I realised that I needed to release an album to have more impact. So I took a year and a half off to focus on it. When I came back and put these stems out I think everyone was surprised.”

He added: “The biggest part of the album was created in Rose Bay near Sydney. I was living near the water and jumping into the sea every morning.

“After that, I went to the studio, luring a few rhythms out of the TR-909 or playing around on my Roland Juno-60 synthesizer. While travelling, I would arrange a lot of the recordings and later refine them in the studio.

“Since I was rarely using sampled sources such as interviews or movie dialogues, I would also send some loops to my girlfriend and her friends so they could add some vocals.”

Today, gig offers are flying in from around the world and he’s been booked to play Panorama bar in Berlin on New Year’s Eve.

“It doesn’t happen overnight. It can be frustrating at the beginning. But being signed to the biggest electronic label in the underground dance community will hopefully open doors for me,” he said. “I’m really excited about the future, which is one of the reasons I moved back to Britain so I can devote more time to it.

“Playing Panorama in Berlin has always been an ambition of mine - to play the biggest night of the year at the world’s biggest party - and I’ve managed to achieve it without the album even being released yet. So everything else is a bonus. Shindig in Newcastle was my first clubbing experience, so it would be great to play there, and To The Manor Born, as well as Fabric in London.

“I’m getting gig offers from all over the world, which is great.

“It really helps having an agent now, it takes the pressure and stress off me doing it all. It also helps to have you taken more seriously as an artist.

Garry is influenced by his musical idols Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix and Queen and his dream of being a member of the Happy Mondays during the height of the Madchester Hacienda scene, and he says he’s noticed a surge in the popularity of house and techno.

“People are getting into deep house, rather than just listening to David Guetta, and there’s some really good crossover stuff out there,” he 

“I grew up with ‘90s house which was amazing, people like Armand van Helden. I was influenced more by the Detroit sound, and my stuff is still pretty underground.

“I’m working on some more pop-infused stuff, more urban and mainstream, but I’ll probably release that under a different name.”

He added: “I try to make music that I would buy myself today and still be listening to in five years. As a DJ, I also play a lot of old house, techno and other good tracks that don’t age.”

•Nora Lilian is released on BPitch Control on November 27. To hear snippets from the album click here