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In Conversation: Todd Terry

In Conversation: Todd Terry

Andrew Kemp | Features & Interviews

We’re lucky to live in a time where many of the pioneers of house music are still enjoying life on tour, and Todd Terry is certainly one such character. Already a well-practiced DJ on the New York circuit, by the time house music emerged as the driving force in dance music during the mid-80s Terry quickly set himself to advancing the cause with a steady stream of excellent releases under a variety of different aliases, inspiring a new wave of techno and house music overseas as European DJs started to pick up and deploy his powerful releases. Soon stopping by at favourite London haunt Egg for a Bank Holiday special at the end of this month, Terry took the time to give us a little insight on how he’s stayed at the top of the house game for decades.

You’ve been making music for thirty years now; is it still as entertaining for you today as it was when you first started?
It's great to reach new fans and turn them on to House Music, and to teach my old fans about what the scene is about now.

How have your working practices changed in that time? Are you still devoted to hardware or do you prefer to embrace modern software-based techniques?
I have moved to working in Logic X on my laptop, I'm on the road so much I have to be able to create while on tour. I'm loaded up will all the plug-ins and software synths and I'm ready to go, plus I have all my classic sounds sampled and loaded up.

As one of the old guard of producers who were making house music during its early days, what do you make of the state of house music today?

More tracks now, less songs. The young guys have all the technology, but can't write a decent song. We need more songs!

You’ve spoken before about New York not offering you the break that the UK did, so what do you think initially made your music more suited to audiences across the Atlantic?
It's funny a New York artist breaks in London and an artist from London breaks in NYC, it has been happening that way for decades. Everybody loves an import, something exotic from somewhere else. Who knows?
Much is made of your relationship with sampling, which has been a cornerstone of your productions for decades now. Do you think that the context of a piece of music is lost when it is sampled, or does it carry that context into the composition that lends from it?
I tried to take the essence of what I liked about the track and rework it into something completely new when I sampled, so it's brand new.

Your set at Egg London for Promised Land will take the audience on a voyage through the early days of house. How difficult is it to convey the spirit of the early days of house to the current generation of clubbers?
I have to say for me it's not hard to get it going when I play at Egg…some clubs just have that magic, the crowd, the sound, the right vibe, it just makes me drop a great set. I can't wait to be back at Egg London.

How have previous experiences of London been?
I love London, I might have played more shows in London than any other city ever. The crowds and the fans that come out really know their music.

You’re a man with an extraordinary number of aliases; do you seek to establish different identities with them or are other motives at play? 
Back in the day I did different aliases so I could sign multiple "exclusive" record deals.  I made too much music to get stuck in one deal with one label and have them control the flow, so I became a bunch of artist to get my music out on more labels.

You’re widely regarded as an innovator who has inspired generations of producers, but who were the artists that inspired you in your first forays into music?
Then as now it’s the big three for me, Quincy Jones, James Brown and Arthur Baker.

Todd Terry will be picking out the best house records he can find when he joins The Promised Land on Bank Holiday Sunday August 27th at Egg London.

Photo courtesy of Todd Terry

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