INTERVIEW: Todd Terry (2013)
The superstar DJs of today owe a lot of credit to Todd Terry, or Todd the God as he was affectionately nicknamed. Back in the day, he was criticized when he DJed and played a lot of his own productions. Can you even think of a superstar DJ today who doesn’t do his own production? Reenergized and embracing his heartfelt house grooves, Todd Terry is back to creating music for dancefloors embracing a multitude of genres – samba, hip-hop, and even electro with original productions and great collaborations. I must say it was a true honor to speak with one of the true legends of house music.
DJ Ron Slomowicz: How was the OWAP (Original Warehouse Acid Party) event at Amsterdam Dance Event?
Todd Terry: It was great, gritty and dirty and exactly what I was looking for when I do OWAP. They just know how to fuse it together and make it real house and real funky.
RS: Barbara Tucker was with you, was she performing her new stuff or old stuff?
Todd Terry: She did her old stuff, which is new now, that is the key. Everything has turned around over the last five years back to where it needs to be. There are a lot of new kids that respect the old records and they’re buying them like crazy, which brings us to the forefront now and keeps it moving.
RS: I am having a dream that you will do an artist album and bring the classic divas back like you did with Shannon.
Todd Terry: I have been working on that, the next album that I am doing is Todd Terry vs. hip-hop and after that I want to do a freestyle album to get it out of my system, and by next March to do a divas album. I plan on begging them to come to the studio and sing and hopefully I will make it work. I have two songs already that I think will be really great. I am working on getting Chaka, Dionne Warwick- who I saw yesterday but I don’t know if I can pull that off, and hopefully Gladys Knight. It is going to be a surprise in the making over the next six months.
RS: What is Todd Terry vs. Hip-Hop?
Todd Terry: It is me messing around with hip-hop and house beats, kind of going back to my roots with what I did with Royal House but with today’s sound. A little bit of the old and a little new, but I am doing hip-hop and rap records mixed in there along with rap videos. It is really interesting and I am going for it.
RS: That is really interesting because when house started you played hip-hop and house together in a set, now it is two totally different worlds and now hip-hop is coming into our world.
Todd Terry: It is interesting and I am just going with the flow, it is always evolving and now it is just evolving one more time.
RS: This may seem like a silly question, where did vocals and the idea for the song Gypsymen – “Barbarabatiri” come from?
Todd Terry: The idea came from the Tito Puente and Beny Moré track. I first heard it at a bar where the guy played the original and I loved it. I went back and bought every version of that record and I went for it. I decided to jack the record and knew it was going to be the biggest record ever. I have always loved the Latin sound and felt that it was the best club sound.
RS: From my perspective, it seems like we haven’t heard much from you lately.
Todd Terry: I have 100 records out on Beatport and Traxsource, I am doing too many records right about now. There are a lot of records that I did. We charted a lot of records and we just did a giant Samba package and I worked with Richard Barkin, there are a lot of records out there. You gotta do your research.
RS: I definitely will. Going back in time a bit, when you did the “Missing” remix did you have any idea that it was going to be as big as it did?
Todd Terry: I knew it was a great song and I am always going to go for a great song. That’s the key to this business, if you have a great song it will last forever.
RS: I used to see you as a trailblazer for many reasons, one of them being that back in the day when you were doing a lot of productions. You would DJ and play your productions and got a lot of flack from the press. These days you can’t be a DJ unless you are producing your own stuff.
Todd Terry: That was my vision back in those days, and whether they liked it or not it worked for this industry and made people creative and made the DJs a bigger entity. I started the big budgets, owning the clubs, the big venues, and look at it now. I’m not going to get all the respect but I started that whole big idea with the Tiestos and all that type of stuff.
RS: You definitely are “Todd the God.”
Todd: Thank you.
RS: Who in the current generation of house producers do you like or would you like to work with?
Todd Terry: I did a track with J Paul Getto who are the new up and coming guys, D. Ramirez who is old and new, I did a really hot track with K-Klass- we should have been working together years ago, and Matteo DiMarr. I am just doing my collaboration thing and it’s really cool to hang out with the new jacks who are like old jacks that are all doing new things and collaborating.
RS: I am guessing back in the day you weren’t working on laptop Ableton, how did you used to produce tracks and how do you do it now?
Todd Terry: I used to use a 24 track Otari tape machine and do everything track by track, and before that I used a 4-track. I would go track by track and bounce. Today it is a different thing, I can make 10 records on my laptop – that’s the feeling now, you just move with the technology.
RS: Do you think that it may have gotten so simple that anyone can do it and there is too much stuff coming out?
Todd Terry: Yes. There are too many things going out, it makes it disposable, but I think that if I stick to making songs and great tracks and make them more classic-sounding, they will last forever. I think that a lot of these guys are not making tracks that last forever; they are disposable and they disappear very fast. I am going to try to stick to making records that you can play 5 years from now.
RS: The big Dirty Dutch and Europop songs make it to the radio; do you think that there will ever be another house record that makes it all the way?
Todd Terry: I think that it has turned around for the better now, and everything is going back to acid house and real house music. David, Kevin Sanderson, or I have to come up with a good current house record and that will save the day. What is on the radio today and considered house music is not house music, it is a bad fusion, but at least the kids are starting to find out what real house music is.
RS: House became a generic term for anything faster than hip-hop, what is house music to you?
Todd Terry: House music to me is the sound of Robert Owens, Marshall Jefferson, Derrick May, and David Morales. What Larry Levan introduced back in the day is house music, with the supertronic days and stuff like that, that is what had that feeling – the real warehouse sound.
RS: If someone is entering the EDM world right now, what 5 house records do they need to know?
Todd Terry: They need to know Jocelyn Brown “Somebody Else’s Guy,” some of the downtempo records as well as the uptempo records like Robert Owens “Bring Down The Walls,” Adonis “No Way Back,” Tyree “Acid Crash,” some of the acid-y stuff. Promised Land, Ce Ce Peniston, and Steve ‘Silk’ Hurley stuff- “Music is the Key” Those are the records that gave house music life.
RS: Are you active on Twitter or Facebook?
Todd Terry: Yes I am around, Twitter and Facebook is taken care of by my label but that is the best place to find me, I also have pictures on Instagram.
RS: How has your label InHouse changed recently?
Todd Terry: We are doing a little bit of everything now, we do house records and now we are doing some techy and electro things here and there throughout the SoundDesign label. We are branching out but we are always going to stick to house.
RS: What would you like to say to all of your fans out there?
Todd Terry: We are still here and still going, I love doing the collaborations and we are back. We are really going to rock it this time.
RS: You seem to be in a much better place now, was there something personal that changed?
Todd Terry: I think that the music over the last 7 years was just bad and I was fighting to fit in. Over the last 2 years it has just felt better to DJ and to make records. I can feel it and I know that it is back, I hear the songs in my head again. There was no feeling for me on the dance floor, I dealt with it and got through it but it feels better now, you can tell right away.
Interview conducted during Amsterdam Dance Event 2012.