Ed Toth, drummer with the Doobie Brothers: Something Else! Interview

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Preston Frazier is joined by Ed Toth, drummer with the Doobie Brothers, for this Something Else! Sitdown covering his time in the band and his work as a former member of the platinum-selling Vertical Horizon between 1996–2005. Toth joined the Doobies after the death of Keith Knudsen …

PRESTON FRAZIER: You have been in the business for a while. Let’s talk about your path to music.
ED TOTH: My path to music was an immediate one. I don’t remember my life without it. My father was a working musician when I was younger. So, there were many albums of many genres being played in the house. I seemed to gravitate towards the drums. When I was 6, I began taking lessons and things just snowballed from there. I participated in school ensembles since fourth grade – back when public schools had such things. My high school [in East Lyme, Conn.], had great Marching, symphonic and jazz bands. Also a great chorus, which I sang in. My first gigs were with my dad’s Top 40 band in the early ’80s. I was 13. I went on to get a degree in music from the University of Miami in 1994.

PRESTON FRAZIER: How did you find you way into Vertical Horizon?
ED TOTH: I was at a Vertical Horizon gig in early 1996. While I was there, I ran into a friend of mine who knew that they were looking for a drummer – and he knew that I was looking for a gig. I talked to Matt Scannell after that show, and that led to a couple of phone calls and me sending them a tape. That led to an audition, which got me the gig.

PRESTON FRAZIER: How did you get the opportunity to replace Keith Knudsen? Did you play in a double-drum band previously?
ED TOTH: With the Doobies, I had become friends with original drummer Mike Hossack. He was a Vertical Horizon fan. When Keith Knudsen – the other long-time Doobie Brothers drummer – passed away, they found themselves auditioning for the other drum chair. Mike knew I was contemplating leaving Vertical Horizon, and asked me if I wanted to audition. I did, and was fortunate enough to get the gig.

PRESTON FRAZIER: Let’s talk about your role in the Doobies. This latest tour must have been a challenge, with second drummer Tony Pia leaving. How did it work?
ED TOTH: The show was and is played to a click track. Although I am hoping, with the recent development of me being the only drummer, that we will dump it for some songs. I believe that some songs were made to breathe naturally. Mike and I – and later, Tony and I – would talk through certain sections in terms of who would take what fills, what the basic grooves were and what we would play in unison. It worked out fairly well.

PRESTON FRAZIER: How has your role changed in Tony Pia’s absence? Do you foresee the Doobie Brothers going back to two drummers or adding a percussionist to the lineup?
ED TOTH: Approaching the gig as the sole drummer is different than when there were two of us. I don’t have to stick to the script as much, because there is no fear of stepping on anyone else’s toes, as it were. It has made the gig a lot more musical for me and, if I am being totally honest, more fun. And that is in no way a knock on the guys I’ve played with. It’s just the nature of being the drummer, as opposed to dealing with the choreography and confinements of being one of two. There are limitations there.

PRESTON FRAZIER: What brand of drums, cymbals and sticks are you using on the road?
ED TOTH: I am a DW, Zildjian, Evans and Vater guy.

PRESTON FRAZIER: A few years ago, I caught the Doobies and Chicago on tour together. Was that the beginning of your side project Secret Agent Orange, featuring Chicago guitarist Keith Howland and Doobie Brothers bassist Jon Cowan?
ED TOTH: I did a couple of things with Keith Howland before John Cowan re-joined. I met Keith on the first tour we did with Chicago, and it turned out we were neighbors! So, we started playing around together. I was then asked to produce a demo for a singer/songwriter, and I did it at Keith’s home studio. After John Cowan rejoined the Doobies, we came up with an idea to put a band together to do some fun covers, and that led to the Secret Agent Orange project – which is now going under the name Button.

PRESTON FRAZIER: There’s already been an EP under the Secret Agent Orange moniker. Tell us about the concept for the band.
ED TOTH: The band doesn’t have a concept really. We just got together and did some jamming and out of that came some songs. We released three or four of them on the net for free, and have since finished a full album’s worth of material. We are still trying to figure out what to do with it, but I am hoping it sees the light of day soon.

[SOMETHING ELSE! REWIND: Preston Frazier counts down the top Doobie Brothers songs featuring guitarist Jeff “Skunk” Baxter, whose influence in 1975-79 arguably equalled Michael McDonald’s.]

PRESTON FRAZIER: I understand that full-length album is underway. What are your plans for 2017?
ED TOTH: 2017 is going to be a year of more touring. I can’t tell you with who yet! But I am also hoping that 2017 sees the release of the Button album, and finally some lives dates with that band too.

PRESTON FRAZIER: Ed, what are your Top 5 favorite albums?
ED TOTH: Picking Top 5 favorite albums are always very hard. But, off the top of my head – Pat Metheny, Secret Story; Joni Mitchell, Hejira; Marvin Gaye, What’s Going On; Tears For Fears, The Seeds of Love; Elbow, The Seldom Seen Kid. There are so many, many many more.

Preston Frazier

Preston Frazier

Preston Frazier is a bass-playing lawyer living in Atlanta. His first Steely Dan exposure was with an eight-track cassette of 'Pretzel Logic.' He can be reached at slangofages@icloud.com; follow him on Twitter: @slangofages. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Preston Frazier
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