Composer and multi-instrumentalist Tobias Tinker has always seen music as a journey, one that has taken him from his birthplace in the countryside near Toronto, Canada, to the dynamic city of Berlin, Germany, where he now makes his home. The journey between the two has been a remarkable one, crossing innumerable stylistic boundaries and opening countless doors to new expressive spaces. Along the way he has produced a series of strikingly original albums, a number of which form the soundtrack to the underground classic, Sundance-award-winning online series / DVD set, Broken Saints.
Born into a musical and somewhat eccentric family, Tobias from childhood has preferred the ‘road less travelled by’. Taking four years off after highschool, he worked his way across Canada and then backpacked through Asia – a journey that later became the inspiration for breakthrough CD Passage, a core part of the Broken Saints soundtrack. Finally, feeling the need to solidify his musical education in a more formal setting, he chose McGill University in Montreal, where he studied jazz piano, musicology, electroacoustic composition and recording techniques. This period was spiritually, philosophically and creatively formative and led to an important collaboration, with writer/performer/filmmaker Atif Siddiqi on the multimedia performance piece Amethyst’s Universe. He also met his partner and future wife, Athanasia, with whom he eventually set off on further international travels.
Settling for a while in Victoria, British Columbia, Tobias became a key member of its small but vibrant and very eclectic music scene. Like a number of other local musicians, he found it possible – and interesting – to dabble in everything from jazz, blues and rock to folk and worldbeat, often all at once. Over a period of three years, Tobias played Irish traditional music on flute, Klezmer and Balkan classics on accordion, accompanied Egyptian belly-dances on keyboards, supported jazz singers on piano, laid down organ grooves in a blues-rock band, played in swing and disco ensembles, and was a member of the Juno-nominated Afro-Indian crossover band ‘Djolé’. He also worked in theatre, playing the part of ‘the piano player’ opposite the incredible Roderick Glanville in the Canadian classic Billy Bishop Goes To War at the McPherson Playhouse.
Around the same time, Tobias wrote and produced the score for Opaque, a ‘dance poetry solo’ by Lori Hamar of Suddenly Dance Theatre. This work, expanded and reimagined, became the solo album A Suite Hereafter, and later, along with Passage, a key component of the Broken Saints soundtrack. Finally, he managed to realize a dream held in secret since childhood: to perform and record a completely improvised solo piano concert, which led to another CD release: Continuum:one. This was to be the beginning of a long and rewarding personal journey which is very much still underway.
In 2000, Tobias moved to Germany to take a post playing piano, accordion and keyboards for Pomp Duck and Circumstance, a circus/cabaret/dinner-theatre show then affiliated with Cirque du Soleil. During the same period – initially as a kind of side-project, but one that became increasingly important and demanding as the project grew in scope and popularity – Tobias composed and produced the balance of the soundtrack for the award-winning online series, Broken Saints. This involved a rekindling of a long-dormant family relationship which grew into a close and fruitful collaboration, with Tobias’ cousin Brooke Burgess, creator and producer of the Broken Saints series.
After four years and almost 1000 shows with Pomp Duck , Tobias decided to focus on his own music and left the show – but stayed in Berlin. In 2004 Broken Saints finally broke free of its online form and was upgraded and reborn as a deluxe four-disc special edition DVD. This involved further composition and rescoring, as well as remixing and mastering of the soundtrack – now available as a four-volume CD set, including the work of contributing composer Quentin Grey. While in Vancouver to complete this work, Tobias took the opportunity to perform and record another improvised solo piano concert – this time based on a number of themes from the series. Once again this led to a CD release, the appropriately dark and introspective Broken Saints Concert.
With a new studio (Subtle Audio) and a number of recording projects underway, the next few years promise to be just as active. The Broken Saints DVD will be re-released in summer 2006 with mainstream international distribution. A new solo piano disc is in the works, this time an unedited and unabridged double-disc of Tobias’ European debut, to be titled Continuum:two – The Berlin Concert. Tobias also continues to perform and maintain a presence in the vibrant Berlin jazz scene. In his own words:
“Music is strongly connected to everything else that is important in my life. Music is my spirituality, or at least it is as close as I can get to expressing what I feel about the world spiritually. I tend to put a lot of emphasis on being ‘open’ in my playing, and on searching for those elusive moments when time stops and I realize I am playing things I have no idea how to play – the lightning rod effect… At the same time, my compositions tend to concern form and structure – while maintaining a focus on finding the ‘organic’, or (put another way) what the music ‘wants to become’. Very often, they bring together combinations of sounds or influences from normally unconnected musical worlds. This process of ‘juxtaposing the unexpected’ has led me to almost everything I’ve been lucky enough to learn and experience in this strange and fascinating journey of music and life.”