OK I HAVE TO TRY NOT TO FREAK OUT AND DORK OUT because Todd Terry is one of the few Electronic artists I get completely star struck with. Todd was a regular customer at my father’s record shop on King’s Highway in Brooklyn, NY – Music Factory… but what nobody but my wife knows was that when he would come in I would freak out and have to go hide in the basement LMFAO because the genius who wrote fucking ‘Can You Party’ and ‘Party People’ and ‘Weekend’ and ‘Sume Sigh Sey’ and ‘A Day In The Life’ and ‘Bango’, ‘Hear the Music‘ and ‘Back 2 the Beat’ and about half of my early House Music record collection was right in my face and I knew I was gonna sound like a fucking dork if I said anything lol! I was also afraid my father would embarrass me if I tried to give him a discount like he did when I was in my late teens and it was suggested that we save the tax for our other good customer Marky Ramone whom after a world tour somehow remembered to bring me a picture autographed ‘TO URI,’ by each of his fellow Ramones to which my Father said, “I DON’T CARE IF YOU’RE A RAMONE! NO DISCOUNT!” You know, either that would happen or I would get a chance to talk to him only to be interrupted by 40 DJ’s that had no idea who he was and would insist I play them the latest Debbie Gibson record, need I say more?
Talk about possibly the most influential of House Music artists and producers, after Levan and Mancuso had made their earlier impact. Todd Terry was the artist that brought our music to the present.
Todd was and still is that guy who (to this day) simply spews amazing music endlessly out of his fingertips. I can really only think of one, possibly two other artists from this relatively early moment in House music that could revolutionize the genre and set the industry standard with ONE SOUND, or a simple twist on what was a perfectly acceptable hi hat pattern for years prior. Things you didn’t even know were tired he would change for the better, and he did it over and over and over and after ten years when everyone thought he could’t possibly have anything left, he remixed Everything But the Girl’s ‘Missing’ and we all gagged yet again. Not because of the beautiful vocal and brilliant lyrics to that song, but because he had the gall and intelligence to splice that guitar lick up into one of the most famous quintessential house hooks of all time. Legendary DJs still emulate his work to this day.
Here’s another example: I didn’t even know why the conga sample from ‘Happy Bongos’ made the hair on the back of my neck stand straight up whenever I heard it. But it was Todd Terry that threw Adam West over it to declare that it was time to jet to the Batmobile only to be followed by those monstrous ‘Bango’ drum patterns, and I knew I could die on that dance floor and die happy. House Music can do that for you. Do you people feel me? Because Todd Terry still isn’t finished. Have you heard ‘Back 2 Warp’? If you haven’t investigated what Todd is up to at In House Records lately, you’ll be pleasantly surprised!
WAREHOUSE MAGAZINE: So how did it all begin?
TODD TERRY: It began in Brooklyn, NY. I was DJ-ing at parties, bazaars, sweet sixteens, and weddings.
W: WOW! You did weddings? Is That what gave you that initial push to become a club DJ?
TT: No, It Just happened.
W: Ok, I know You’ve probably been asked this thousands of times, but no dance music fan ever tires of hearing the answer, please tell us who your biggest influences are be it musical or personal?
TT: James Brown, Quincy Jones, Arthur Baker and John Robie.
W: Brilliant, I totally hear you. Four one million percent original human beings. Right. Wow, ok next – Do you remember the first record you ever bought?
TT: (Laughs) It’s funny, I actually can’t remember!
W: (Laughs) Mine was a 45 single of ‘Popcorn’ by Hot Butter on Buddah records lol. Ok.
W: Wow man, Todd Terry! I can’t believe I am interviewing you. I think you more than any other dance artist have influenced me. Possibly more than Kraftwerk even. I was so into sampling and drum programming in the late 80s, I was heavy into Prince since about 1982 and New Wave and I always loved Kraftwerk even though I really didn’t understand what I was hearing until probably 1984. I loved early Big Audio Dynamite and what Mick Jones was doing after the whole New Wave synth moment but when I first heard your tracks I lost my fucking mind! It’s never been about sweating or biting you (which I do anyway lol) for me, it was because as an artist you came across as very Punk Rock to me in the sense of your can and will do whatever the fuck you choose to when creating music attitude. To me you are a completely unique, original artist.
You were that bold guy with the sampler and the brilliant knowledge of music and you were the one who really pushed that whole concept of the Sampler as a musical instrument and laid the groundwork for so many genres of music, you developed House Music in a way that we all kind of take for granted. Nobody today remembers that what you were doing was considered completely TABOO at that moment. Let everyone not forget that in the 80’s ‘real’ musicians were pissed when they started to loose jobs to drum machines and computer sequencers… I know I had many an argument because I thought the fact that you could make these gigantic sounds without a band was totally amazing, but other musicians said you were just ‘stealing’ music and playing everyone else’s songs. It wasn’t real (Kinda sounds like older DJs today crying about the kids who know nothing using serato and traktor lol)!
You weren’t afraid to use the vocals from a First Choice record and you did these things in such an original and catchy way. I wanted (and still do research where every sample you used came from! So in essence you opened up a whole world of music I might have never known, dude you did this for so many… You did what you were in to and sampled what you needed without any shame and used hooks, hits, and percussion and vocals in such a fucking sick way – it defined DJing for me, so Thank You.
W: OK! I’m sure you’re falling asleep here so let me get down to the shit I’ve been waiting years to ask you lol: I’ll start with my absolute favorite track you’ve ever done. “Back 2 The Beat”. It was the first House party I went to knowing practically NOTHING about the genre, and I walked in to the Tunnel main dance floor right as the DJ cut to the opening sequence with the – whatever those sounds are and the drum fill and the “HOW Y’ALL FEEL OUT THERE?” sample and the laugh and everybody lost their fucking MINDS! I will never forget that moment as long as I live. I was sold. My question is this. Q: What are those sounds in the intro? Where did it come from and secondly how did you ever get that breakbeat to fit back into the track sequence because it goes way off beat right before it finishes and there was no pitch shifting digitally back then!
TT: It’s from Kevin Saunderson’s “The Sound”.
W: Sound Design – ‘Found Romance’. Just love how surprisingly hard this is Tell me the story behind it.
TT: Inspired by another one of my favorites, it’s my tribute to Earth, Wind and Fire.
W: Samba – House Of Gypsies. I think the Roland 909 Drum machine had just come out or something but you were the first to utilize those sick hi hats with that pattern that even I have used in tracks – WHERE did you come up with that? That might have been the second or third time you dictated the direction the genre took with drum pattern as the hook.
TT: Both “Samba” and “Jumpin” were from a loop I got off a Chicago House record.
W: A Day In the Life – Black Riot. I think this track is important to House Music because it was the second time you made a sampled sound famous – I remember everybody was biting this sound even Rob Base! What was that organ?
TT: The organ is from “If This Ain’t Love” by a group called Sequel, and produced by Louis Martene.
W: Royal House – Party People/Can U Party. OK, ‘Party People’ was the prelude to what became the all time greatest house music anthem in my opinion – ‘Can U Party’, Each of which I think are brilliant in their own way. What gave you the idea to sample that piano from the Marshall Jefferson record?!
TT: It was my way of combining “Planet Rock” with “Move Your Body”.
W: Early on, did other non-house producers verbally criticize you or give you a hard time at first? You know, 1988-98, this was the time of the great argument, “IS SAMPLING AN ART FORM? ARE THEY JUST STEALING MUSIC?”
TT: I tried to use it as an art form, I believed that I was doing things different than other people that sampled records.
W: I believe you have succeeded! OK, so now people tend to talk about Serato & Traktor the same way, how do you feel about digital DJ setups? Do you use them?
TT: No, not using them, still using CD’s.
W: Cool! What advice would you give to up and coming Dj’s?
TT: I would say to find a balance between tracks and vocal records.
W: This isn’t a question, I just wanted to acknowledge that on one of the Latin Kings tracks – There was a motif or a hook you were fooling around with for a minute which ended up being the techno synth hook in your track ‘Can You Feel It’ under the name CLS and you brought it back in the Latin Kings -‘Quiero Saber’ Record on Nervous but with a different synth sound. I think what was that was brilliant that you would do things like that. No one else does, no one else even thinks to do shit like that. You have no idea what you have given me musically. Thank you so much for granting us this interview and for taking the time to answer all our questions!
– DJ URI DALAL
TODD TERRY LINKS
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New Resident Advisor profile RA/ToddTerry
SoundCloud Todd Terry – InHouse Records
- Dj Uri Dalal Interview With House Music Legend Johnny Vicious (uritraxx.wordpress.com)
- Through the Years – Todd Terry, Davide Benedetti (erotikelectronik.wordpress.com)
- Kevin Saunderson (threadlog.wordpress.com)