With a background in classical music, heavy metal, folk, jazz and bhangra, Toby Marks formed Banco De Gaia in Leamington Spa in 1989 after absorbing sounds he heard while travelling around the world. For the first six years he worked closely with the producer and sound engineer Andy Guthrie. Along with bands such as Transglobal Underground and Loop Guru, Banco De Gaia began performing live at Megadog and Whirl-Y-Gig events, which benefited from a more broad-minded and eclectic feel than most clubs, often featuring a heady world/dance fusion.
Marks first released material on tapes, with ‘Freeform Flutes And Fading Tibetans’ appearing on his own World Bank label. Following tracks on a number of compilations, including Planet Dog Records’ ‘Feed Your Head’, he released ‘Desert Wind’ in November 1993, followed by the albums Maya and Last Train To Lhasa. Banco De Gaia’ varied melodies, rhythms and textures blend techno, hip-hop, ambience, dub and rock with samples of traditional music from around the world, particularly the Middle East and Asia. Tracks such as ‘Last Train To Lhasa’ and ‘Amber’ encapsulated Banco’ moderate-paced, melodic sound, while ‘Kuos’ and ‘Data Inadequate’ presented a more percussive, four-on-the-floor side; ‘China’, complete with storyteller, provided some moments of blissful ambience.
‘Live At Glastonbury’ was more upbeat than the studio albums, with less ambient tracks, different mixes and an enthusiastic festival audience. The 1997 release Big Men Cry sounded rather like Pink Floyd, but featuring some memorable moments, particularly ‘Drippy’ and ‘Drunk As A Monk’. In live performances since Big Men Cry, Marks has worked with a live band including percussion, drums, bass guitar, saxophone and flute, sometimes edging towards a rock sound. The Magical Sounds Of Banco De Gaia attempted to update Marks’ sound for the late 90s with the introduction of some more club-orientated beats.