Since the early 2000’s, Damen Samuel & Lord Toph have been the best of friends. The great thing about their friendship, is one common thread – Music. It has been the main catalyst and backbone of their bond from the very beginning.
Having met through a mutual friend in New York City, the two artists hit it off well despite Damen’s limited English at the time. “We just clicked,” Lord Toph says. “I remember Damen being soft-spoken and a bit shy to begin with, especially about his English. But we never seemed to have had any difficulties in communicating and in no time at all, we were like old school mates. Damen and I would stay up through all hours of the night just laughing, writing songs and talking about everything we could think of. This is what kept us going… kept us inspired. It was a very bright time for Damen and I as artists.”
When Damen Samuel reflects back on the beginnings of his connection with Lord Toph, he smiles with content. “I can remember it like it was yesterday. At the time, I thought I was living such a crappy life, barely getting by, hardly any money from week to week to week, going to work in the city every day and taking the train back out to the suburbs every night. It was an exhausting routine!” he adds.
But the lull of their simple, yet mundane day-to-day routine dissolved on the weekends for both Samuel and Lord Toph. “Every weekend, I was on the train, heading up to LT’s house, who was just Toph at the time. No matter what else I had going on during the week, nothing got in our way on the weekends. He and I got to do the thing we loved to do the most when we got together and that was create.”
Adding a bit more to the story, Lord Toph says, “Here I was, barely getting by myself and working a really mediocre job… I think I was working in a retail store at the time. I lived upstate in a drafty old house, which I loved, but to say the least, it was a real fixer-upper! There was a carriage house behind the house itself and that’s where I planned to build my studio. My goal was to have a studio where I could record and that goal became even more solid once Damen started coming up on the weekends. He’d set his bag and guitar over in the corner and start lending a hand with the sheetrock and insulation. But before all that even happened, we’d hang out in the gable part of the attic, which he and I called ‘the hive’ at the time. That’s where we wrote our first songs together. It was cold as ice up there, even with a little space heater. But we didn’t mind, as long as we had our snacks and notebooks for lyrics. There in the hive, we even decided on a name for our duet act we had planned on putting together. It was called, ‘Bitter Wine.’”
“Yeah, those weekends were the best… They were the highlight of both his and my life at the time,” Samuel comments. “We kinda pissed a few people off after a while with our devout commitment we had for getting together to create music. Both his woman and mine at the time, never really completely understood why it had to be every weekend. They got a bit jealous too, along with a few friends of mine who just wanted to hang out on the weekends. What they all couldn’t seem to realize is we both had big dreams, big goals and a strong passion for music, so it was something that LT and I were determined to do. We were big forms of support and inspiration to each other at the time and still are today.”
“Yes indeed!” Lord Toph responds excitedly. “Thinking back on it, there has been so much that has influenced me creatively because of that time Damen and I devoted ourselves to. And there are so many great artists that I have come to be familiar with, thanks to Damen. Thom Yorke along with Radiohead, Sigur Rós, Björk, Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley, Nick Cave… Hell, I didn’t even know who they were back then! Damen introduced all of their music to me!”
Whenever they reflect back on there humble creative beginnings as fellow artists, the whole collection of cherished memories seems rather surreal for the both of them. Unfortunately, their plans as the duet Bitter Wine never came to be. But the whole sequence of time which was more like a golden era for these two creatives, yielded some great things.
A good two to three albums worth of music was collaborated on and written together by Damen Samuel and Lord Toph and in the not too distant future, Lord Toph has plans to retrieve it from the Monté CrisToph archives to put it back in production for release. Samuel and Lord Toph both agree that it is only appropriate for the album or albums to don the name, “Bitter Wine” with whatever sub-titling comes to mind by time of the music’s release.
In the meantime, however, we can expect new music from Damen Samuel to be released for this coming spring. Samuel is still deciding on a title for the collection, which will be in EP or short album length. Stay tuned!