"Toby was great to work with because he totally understands & masters both the playing & programming sides of making rhythm tracks. His playing has a great natural feel, & he is tireless in pursuing the best sounds for a song, whether played or programmed."
Jim Abbiss (Adele, Bjork, Artic Monkeys)

"Toby has no ego, genuine enthusiasm, and serious talent...my favorite three qualities of any musician. He makes any song you're working on a breeze and he can swing like an MF."
Sam Farrar (Maroon 5, Phantom Planet, Newton Faulkner)

"Toby Couling has an infectious cheerfulness that artists, bands and musicians are drawn towards. Luckily for us, it just so happens he’s an exceptional drummer too"
(Drummer Magazine)

"Toby Couling is fast becoming a mainstay of the studio and touring world"
Ian Croft (Editor of iDrum Magazine)

"Toby is a really fun and expressive performer"
Kevin Spacey (Actor)

Zildjian Artist Page

Zildjian Family

My favourite shape is a circle, which is lucky as I look at those shapes most days for hours on end – when I’m sat behind a drum kit. Some of circles that I hit from time to time are a shiny golden colour. These wonderfully unique hand made slices of magic when hit sound absolutely amazing! They elevate my sound when playing live or in a studio recording session.

You can check out my most common cymbal set up here on my Zildjan artist page.

Mount Snowdon

1. My way to describe Vic Firth sticks.


This photo is a visual way to describe Vic Firth sticks; Inspired to show the strength and versatility in a creative way (hopefully). It was taken about 3 steps from the summit of Mount Snowdon In North Wales.

Photograph by Ollie Couling


The Africa Express Train

My first entry from the trip:


This year’s Africa Express was a tour rather than a one off show. A 70’s diesel train was chartered to take more than 80 African and Western musicians across the UK, stopping off for pop up performances in schools, factories, platforms and at a series of special gigs in main cities along the way.

Firstly, I’d like to thank rapper M1 from Dead Prez who I met on board the Africa Express Train who has inspired me to write this piece and maybe to write more things down in the future. I sat with him on the train en route from Manchester to Cardiff, we spoke for a while and exchanged our feelings about the trip and about some previous moments shared on earlier shows. After what only felt like a little while talking, I realised that I might have interrupted his journal that he’d been writing before I sat down to speak with him. I asked him about his word filled book in front of me on the carriage table and he told me that most days he would write down a sort of diary. He said ‘It’s a good way to let out what you’ve done, a sort of closure. Sometimes I look back at what I have written to remember what I have done, sometimes they turn into lyrics and sometimes they just stay in the book for another time’. I asked him if he was happy for me to just sit and think about things whilst he kept writing. We sat there in train silence. His left hand wrestled the pen over the page trying to keep up with his thoughts. I was transfixed by the English countryside melting away like an assortment of different coloured green paints dripping horizontally across the window. This encounter with M1 felt special, because so far the memorable moments that had captured me were really only through music. I think we both just felt at ease and that feeling with an almost complete stranger was good.

Dan and Shingai from Noisettes asked me to join the trip just a couple of days before the Manchester performance and before they could quote Alan Partridge and shout ‘Skirmish’, I agreed. I have been lucky enough to be involved in the Africa Express before in La Coruna, Spain with Noisettes 2 years previously, so if it was anything like that I knew I was in for a treat.

We arrived in Manchester a few days into the tour as we had been busy with Album Promo commitments and got a taxi to that evening’s venue called The Ritz. I was backstage for a few minutes and came across the most amazing juicer with a huge pile of fruit and veg next to it. I chopped ginger, beetroot, carrot, orange, apple and pear and began to juice it all. Shortly afterwards everyone started turning up from the train. They all looked extremely happy, buzzy and also slightly tired, so I decided to offer my new juice making skill. I ended up making juice for about half an hour! I was getting well into it when a small lady appeared whom I recognised. It was Lucy Rose. “yeahhhhhhhh!!!” I said. I offered to make her a juice, I can’t remember if I did or not.

I went downstairs and had some amazing Ethiopian food and sat with Shingai and Africa Boy who I have met before. There were so many people from the music world everywhere I looked. A lady came by that Shingai knew and I was introduced to R&B singer Terri Walker who I had only just listened to that morning. She features on a Michael Olatuja song called ‘little Sister’ that I really like. The song has a great groove by one of my favourite drummers, Troy Miller.

A few minutes later I bumped in to Lucy Rose again who was with Rae Morris. I asked Lucy if she was going to perform a song of her own tonight. She was. I offered to play on the song if she needed a drummer. She did. When she was teaching some African singers the chorus, I saw Dan with his guitar and asked Lucy if she wanted a guitarist to play with her too. She was into the idea. When the girls had learnt the chorus lyrics, which was a little difficult because of the language barrier, Lucy, Dan and I went through the song a couple of times with some instruction from Lucy. I was tapping my sticks on my shoes trying to get the structure nailed in my mind, as I knew this would probably be the only practice we would have. It was. I really loved her song called ‘Scar’ and I was really looking forward to playing it later that night. Lucy introduced me to Jack Steadman from Bombay Bicycle Club who would be playing bass for her that evening. I got a great vibe from him straight away.

That night’s show was immense. The rendition of ‘Hip Hop’ was off the hook with every rapper involved in the tour taking 16 bars to rap. The crowd totally lost it!!

I was jamming on the side of the stage when Jack asked me if I wanted to get up and play cowbell on his song ‘Shuffle’. I got up and jammed some cowbell and had a blast! I’ve loved that tune ever since I came across it online and then bought it straight away.

After more amazing collaborations, it was time for Lucy’s performance. I was slightly apprehensive as it had been about 3 hours since I had first heard the song. I tried to re-call the tempo and chorus in my mind but couldn’t remember it as I had heard so many amazing riffs, songs and solos in between. As soon as I heard Lucy’s guitar intro it came back to me and we all smashed it! She is amazing! It was awesome to think we all just pulled together and made it work. That was really the spirit of the whole week for me. I was totally hyped after this performance and tried to get on stage and play percussion whenever I felt the song needed it…every song!

The last performance of the evening was by Amadou Bagayoko with the rest of the musicians standing on any available space on the stage. I played cowbells that Shingai had leant me a few days earlier. The jam went on over the curfew and no one wanted to stop playing, it was really really fun!!!. It only fell apart after Jupiter’s drummer literally got lifted up by the stage manager and removed from the drum kit. I saw this opportunity to keep the music going so just kept my rhythm going. Everyone started clapping again and stamping their feet whilst leaving the stage. We jammed all the way back stage and then more people started jamming and singing and dancing until the whole backstage was jumping! The energy surrounding us all was incredible!

Later on in the evening a load of us went out to a wicked club with 4 pool tables just off Oldham Street. We ended using all of the tables and everyone got well in to it. I had a game of doubles with Yao (Amadou’s Bass player) against Afrika Boy and Damon Albarn… The game got serious pretty quickly and it became clear this was going to be an epic match. It was close for the whole game and came down to the wire. The pressure was raw and we were all making cheap errors (probably because of the Guinness). There were no colours left on the table, just the black. Damon had the first proper chance shot on the black and missed…phew!! It was my go. I eyed up the shot. I couldn’t believe that I was playing pool with Damon Albarn and I also couldn’t believe there was a chance I might beat him. I took my time and eyed up the shot again. My best option was to aim for the bottom right corner pocket. The people watching around the table hushed with anticipation. I let out a small slightly nervous quarter laugh, breathed in, drew the cue back and then took the shot… one team won and one team lost. We all hugged and shook hands. I’ll leave the result to the people who were there and saw the match… ha ha!



P.S. we won!


Newton Faulkner

How I ended up recording for his new Album:


When it came near to the end of Jan and work was still a bit slow I started to worry a little..I thought to myself that I have probably been concentrating on playing and practicing for me and forgetting about getting gigs and sessions when suddenly I had a call from a Producer friend  Matt Wiggins who wanted me to go in the studio to record with a new artist called Foxes for her new album. The sessions went really well and it was a whole lot of fun. I recorded with my 20″ DW kick with a soft beater, some dirty 15″ Istanbul hats, the studios 14″x5.5″ black beauty with a Remo Controlled X coated Skin and a 70′s maple Singerland 18″Floor tom. The KIt sounded amazing!

A few days after this session I had a Noisettes rehearsal and a show back to back for the Music and Sound Awards at KOKO.. This was great fun (as usual) and we got to play some new songs from the new record (which should be out in August time by the way). Just after the Noisettes sound check I was sorting out my stick bag when I felt a tap on my left shoulder, I looked up and saw massive ginger dreds and a big smily face… It was my old mate from music college Sam (aka Newton Faulkner). We had a nice catch up chat for a while and then went our separate ways until the gig began later on in the evening..(A few hours pass) I watched his set in the crowd and then made my way backstage to say hello again. Just as I was going to go up stairs and warm up for my show he said “What are your plans for the next few weeks?” I said “umm, I’m not sure.. I think I’ve got some free time.”) he sad “cool! can I take you number again?”) I was a bit confused by the random question but thought it was just Sam’s funny way. The gig went well and I thought nothing of the Newton’s phone number exchange apart from hoping we might hook up along the way sometime.

Two days later I received a text from Sam asking me weather is was free on the Monday coming to record a track for his new album. I was free and well up for it! I turned up on Monday to the address given which turned out to be a big red boat moored on the Isle of Dogs. The boat was an old lighthouse boat that had been refurbished into the most amazing studio that floated twice a day with the Tide!!

I recorded a track with another drummer who used to be in a band called the Sundays. we came up with a great complimenting part which built really nicely throughout the song, It was pretty fun to record with another drummer (a first for me, him and the producer) after we got the take they were looking for I started packing up my stuff when Sam farrar (the Producer) said, “do you mind staying a bit longer? I think I have a few more tracks that you might suit playing”  I said yes (of course). I played on another track that day and learnt one more to record the next morning as they had other things to get done. I went back the following day and was told that I was going to record on another track that day too!! After finishing the two tracks I started to pack up my stuff for the day. when again, Sam farrar and Sam (newton Faulkner) said, “are you up for playing on one more track? I couldn’t believe it, This was amazing! The song was awesome and I did the third track that day and went home with a great feeling in side my belly.

I had call a few days later from the Producer asking me If I was free anytime next week to record on one more song.. I couldn’t believe my luck. With a little bit of date jumbling I was there on the friday. We recorded a Ballad live with Sam on Guitar and John from Nislopi on double bass. after two listens to the demo in the control room we were in the room getting ready for takes… in the second verse of the third take the boat starting wobbling from side to side from the tide moving fast in from the Thames barrier and for the rest of the song we were bobing about like a yellow rubber duck in a bath. to be honest, I got a little lost in the take because of this and I think everyone else did too. when listening back to the takes, There was something about (the wobble take) which had a certain “something” that the others didn’t. That was the take we all went for!

The kit I used on these session was a mixture of my 1964 Ludwig and a Yamaha 70′s maple that the studio owned. I think I used my Limited edition ludwig 400 on all but one song when I borrowed Patch from the Sundays yamaha Brass snare. I think I used most of my cymbal collection too..nice! one of my favorite kit sounds was when I convinced the engineer to mic up my manuscript note book pad with a small snare wire in side. I played by flamming the note pad with a brush (left hand) and a hot rod (right hand) I did so to try and  make the the first verse and chorus more dynamic and light.. It sounded mental! like a weird programed snare hit from a garage tune.

Any hoo,

This is the most I have typed in ages…I better go and play drums to balance my self out!

Bye for now



1964 Ludwig Superclassic


I am now the very proud owner of a 1964 Ludwig Superclassic in Silver Sparkle!!

It is incredible, wonderful, solid, delicate, warm, inspiring, beautiful, sparkly, mint, elegant, classic, vintage, majestic, marvelous, rich, exquisite, distinct, sophisticated, regal, iconic, idiosyncratic and above all, MINE!!!!!


Grouse Lodge Studios

Day 9


I made a wicked drum add on thing over the Christmas break with wood, wire and bottle tops.  It was loosely based on an Instrument I saw in Malawi when I was there a few months back for the lake of stars festival. I have just used it for the first time on a tune we are working on. it sounds awesome!!!

We have slowly be turning a bit  more nocturnal each day we’re here, last night i got to bed at around  7.30am this morning!!?? (we all knew it would turn this way!!)…hence why this picture (below) is so fitting.


Progress is good and the creative flow is higher than ever!

I love Guinness.

Bye for now


Grouse Lodge Studios

Day 4



Another fine day of crisp weather and light  inviting skies has just passed.

We are all getting on very well and are having a blast. Dan and I went for a great walk up a big hill (just near the studio) to a Ciarn where there is an ancient Buriel site.  It is so great to be up so high with a 360 degree view of the Irish landscape. we are situated almost in the centre of Ireland and  feels it when you can see for miles in every direction.

We are just coming to the end of another track,, It has been so interesting and creative. Trains have a great groove….(you will know what I am talking about where you hear the album)…ha!

Congratulations to the England Cricket Team. what a series!

I will try and do another BLOB tomorrow.

Here is a little photo of a guy I met in Namn.

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Much Goodness to you all.


Grouse lodge Studios

Day 2


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This picture was the scene looking from the doorway of the control room at approximately one o’Clock this afternoon. We spent most of yesrtrday setting up the outbard and equipment. we made a drum room with Acoustic pannels, Duvets and Canoe ores!

late last night  we set up a small kit (Kick, Snare, Hat, ride, crash) in the vocal booth (which is probably the size of two phone boxes stuck together) and recorded  on a tune. this set up worked really well for the track and I really enjoyed myself!  one sound in particular which i though was awesome was using an SM58 in a ambient mic position just over the kick and snare (maybe where most rack toms are placed) was sent directly through an old selmar amp which was on a chest of drawers in the big stone room… it sounded amazing! The blend of really tight (phone booth) punchy drums and  an old Selmer amp was really cool!

Drums: I used my awesome Birch Premier 20″ x 18″ kick, a lovely crisp, even Brady 14″x 5.5  Australian Hard wood, block built snare with a small TEA towel on the top side as i nice dampener.

Cymbals: Zildjian 22″ K Ride, 12″ K hats and my wickedabo 18″ EFX Crash.

That is all for now!

p.s Feel free to to get in touch if you have any questions or funny suggestions for me to do.

Noisettes 5 Star Christmas Show Review

Independent review *****

Noisettes – Electric Ballroom (14/12/2010)

It’s a gross injustice that the Noisettes’ greatest exposure to the record-buying public is via a car commercial (Don’t Upset the Rhythm), because if there is anything to be learned from this gig, it is that they are infinitely more than an ad man’s go-to band.

Support comes in the form of a kitsch bingo session, but it’s clear from the very first howl from guitarist Dan Smith that this is one band who don’t need a warm-up. Heating the crowd to boiling point within the first few bars of storming disco number “Saturday Night”, the Noisettes deliver song after song of high-octane indie pop. As assured a threesome as they may be on record, their live show belongs to frontwoman Shingai Shoniwa. Barefoot, be-tasselled and bedazzling, she leaps and shimmies around the stage, displaying a Grace Jones-esque talent for snarling theatrics and gravity-defying headgear alongside a flawless voice capable of rootsy growls, electro yelps and soulful balladry.

New tracks, notably the impressive “Love Power”, sit comfortably alongside crowd favourites “Don’t Upset the Rhythm” and “Wild Young Hearts”, which are met with a healthy amount of pogoing and arm-waving from their fans, while a thumping dance version of the Buzzcocks classic “Ever Fallen in Love” tips a hat to their pop-punk past.

Shoniwa’s electrifying performance somewhat overshadows her band mates, who nevertheless deliver gut-busting basslines and garage guitar riffs in an impressive backing. The encore brings a magical version of Nat King Cole’s “The Christmas Song” plus the superb “Atticus”, delivered, in part, while dangling backwards over a balcony. Finishing with the rockabilly stomper “Don’t Give Up”, Shoniwa thanks the crowd, gushing, “We love you all to bits”. After this barnstorming masterclass in performance art, they can be assured that the feeling is mutual.

Reviewed by Rachel Clare.