Since graduating from E-Media in 2000, Tobe Donohue has been producing music and performing with some of the biggest names in hip-hop and modern music. For seven years, Tobe has been the sound engineer for Bootzilla Productions, working with Bootsy Collins in the studio and shooting commercials with athletes including LeBron James and big name actors like Samuel L. Jackson. Tobe has also been running his own record label and studio, Manimal Records since 2001, and has been performing and creating his own music with his group the Animal Crackers and new power trio BAMela.
Tobe was hired by Hammond Communications right out of school as the head audio engineer/ producer as well as the assistant video editor. Tobe worked on commercials for the likes of Toyota, Valvoline, Donato’s, Keeneland Horse Farms and even NCAA Basketball Championships.
After leaving Hammond Communications Tobe began working with hip-hop producer Hi-Tek in artist development and sound engineering. There Tobe worked with hip-hop artists like Mos Def, Talib Kweli, as well as friend and MC Piakhan, who he still DJ’s for during live shows.
Not long after, Tobe began mixing and producing music for funk legend and Cincinnati native, Bootsy Collins. The first big project he worked on was a Nike commercial featuring LeBron James, Bernie Mac and Bootsy. He flew to Cleveland to shoot the video, where Bernie Mac played the preacher, and Bootsy Collins was the conductor of the choir while LeBron James dunked a basketball over everyone.
Tobe also did the track design for an animated Gatorade commercial featuring Tiger Woods playing golf and meeting a bear voiced by Samuel L. Jackson.
“Samuel L. Jackson put us up in the Four Seasons Hotel while we were there, and was one of the coolest most intelligent people I’ve gotten to meet and hang out with,” says Tobe.
In past Bengals seasons, Tobe was on the big screen in Paul Brown Stadium with Bootsy Collins in the “move the chain” clip that was played every time the Bengals got a first down. People around the stadium would recognize him and yell “hey! It’s the move the chain guy!”
Tobe and local bass prodigy Freekbass also recently did the theme for the Notre Dame athletic department. They shot the video in front of Touchdown Jesus, and had about 300,000 YouTube hits the first week it was uploaded.
As a co-writer and producer for Bootsy’s recent music, Tobe has contributed to the soundtracks for several video games, most notably Don King’s Prizefighter, where one of his songs can be heard on the menu screen. Some of Bootsy’s new music features rappers, which places Tobe right at home as his forte is combining hip-hop, rock and modern music into a new, universal and massive sound.
Lately Tobe has been out performing more with his group Animal Crackers- a group of DJs and artists who manually remix music to blend all styles and create what is known as “musical recycling.” Tobe has also begun working on his new music project BAMela, a reinvention of the power trio featuring Freekbass on the bass guitar, singer Amy Baron and Tobe to create the beat and soundscape of the songs.
“When you create art you’re only successful if some amount of people don’t like it. Otherwise you clearly don’t have enough visibility. If you’re not getting negative feedback you’re probably not pushing hard enough,” Tobe astutely states.
In 2007 Tobe went on the James Brown tribute tour with Bootsy Collins, who served as James Brown’s bass player at the beginning of his career. With the remaining members of James Brown’s band, Tobe traveled throughout Europe, and went as far as Japan with the group.
“I’ve always been approached by aspiring musicians and producers, and they say, “everything I hear from you is so massive, how do you keep your sonic thumbprint?” and I tell them, at the end of the day a large catalog is the best thing to have. Not every idea is a good idea, and you have to be content with that. Continuing onward is what helps you develop your sound and style. It’s not ok to just wait around for another idea, you have to chase them down the rabbit hole.”
Written by Nick Solimine, Fall 2010