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Todd Terry interview

By phil june
todd-terry

Strictly Rhythm [l] are back with their first all-new release in five years and fittingly Todd Terry [a], the first big producer ever to work with the label back in 1990, is the man behind the huge track ‘Get Down’.

The sexy house groove was produced by Todd Terry, with a little help from his superstar friends – Kenny Dope, Louie Vega, DJ Sneak, Terry Hunter and vocalist Tara McDonald (as featured on Armand Van Helden’s ‘My My My’ ) all helped out on the record. Beatportal caught up with Todd Terry to find out more about his All Stars group and to discuss the world of house music.

I think it’s fair to say that it has been a while since you produced a big vocal record.

“Well I’ve been doing vocal records, but whether people label them as big vocal tracks or as an underground record doesn’t matter; it’s all the same to me.

“However people label it or whether this person sang it or that person sung it, you know, to me it’s the same.

“Sometimes people label one record as being way bigger than another and I don’t really get that.”

What was the inspiration behind the ‘Get Down’ track?

“I first came up with this idea maybe two years ago, and I’d always wanted to do a record with all the gods, with all the stars that make records.

“I felt as though that had never been done before.

“It has happened in rap music on a Destruction record, but no one from dance music has ever done it so I thought it would be a cool idea. And so far so good!

“But actually at first no one really took up the offer of a record because with me, Kenny [Dope], Louie [Vega] and [DJ] Sneak all featuring they couldn’t figure out how to promote it.

“Really what I was trying to do is keep the hype on dance music in general.

“There are so many people out there creating dance music that there are no stars any more, and I think that’s becoming a problem in the industry and I think that’s why kids are looking into other avenues and other styles of music.

“You need a face to the music and that was key when I was putting this project together.

“There’s a real benefit to having a face to music, cos then kids can go online and check us out and see what we’ve done before.

“There’s a new generation out there that doesn’t know what Todd or Kenny or Louie or David [Morales] did, you know, so it’s kinda like I’m trying to school them too.

“When I started out, I looked at the Chicago and the Detroit sound, and that’s what I mimicked, that’s where I got it from, so keeping the kids clued up is definitely the way to go.”

How did you hook up with Tara McDonald for the track?

“After we’d finished the whole album we sent it out to a few labels, and I ran into Sven Kirschner in Ibiza, and he gave me some of his records and I told him about the project.

“I said I was looking for a smaller label to branch it out cos all the bigger ones didn’t know how to push it and didn’t want to pay for it.

“I got tired with the whole big name thing, so I thought I’d start off with a smaller guy.

“So he got into a lot of the tracks and said that he wanted to put some vocals over the top of them.

“So working with him we got a couple of really great songs together.

“I believe that Tara brought the whole pop vibe to the project and a keen edge to take the track to the next level. I think that’s what’s going to make this project branch out.”

How did you and Kenny Dope meet?

“I met Kenny through another partner of mine, Mike Delgado, who I made records with back in the day.

“We were just friends hanging out in the neighbourhood and it just went from there.

“We’ve know each other for years, you know, we’re homeboys! A lot of what we created came about because we were like family.”

Is it true that you introduced Kenny to Louie Vega?

“Yeah that’s true. Louie was playing at this club called The Fun House, and me Mike and Kenny all met Louie, and he played one of his first tracks called ‘All My Love’, but it never came out, that’s how I knew Louie years and years ago.”

You were the first big name to record for Strictly Rhythm weren’t you?

“Yeah I would say that me and Kenny were among the first.

“I’m always interested in the new labels starting out.

“I felt that they were going to give it their full attention and that they were gonna go after it as hard as they can, instead of the criticism that comes from the major labels if the record doesn’t sell.

“That’s they kind of crap I hear sometimes so I’d rather go with the smaller label.

“We threw them a couple of records for them to get to the next level.

“I think going with them was a good move at the time and I think that this time it’s an even better move. I think it makes a lot of sense – 10 years later, we’re back!

“Mark [Finklestein] is a great guy, and for a time I had a management group that were telling me to get a load of money out of him.

“Mark’s like family to me, so I couldn’t do it.

“I’m not out to jerk Mark around; I’m very honest with him in everything that I do.

“So that’s a big part of why I was unable to put out a record with Strictly for a while. I think it’s part of the music business that some times it turns into a money issue.”

And you were probably one of the first US DJs to come and play house music in the UK.

“Yes. We did a bit of touring back then, we did The Wag back in the day, we did The Fridge, you know, they we among the first clubs that even cared about that type of music.”

How did it compare to the kind of places you were playing in New York at the time?

“It was just different. Everybody was into it, you know I used to play at The Walk in New York, Studio 54, 1018, I used to play at all these clubs and it was just a different vibe.

“You could play stuff that no one had ever heard before.

“There was a lot of space to play with and that’s what made me enjoy it.

“Now you have to be more careful with the space that you have.

“Back then I always thought that the US was gonna be way ahead of the UK when it came to dance music, but in the US it just completely died; it’s just not there no more!

“All the European countries own house music now.

“Back then, house music was massive in the US.

“First it was Detroit and Chicago and then it came to New York. It was everywhere.

“But then there was this one radio station which we thought was going to take it on and make house even bigger, and they wouldn’t play any of our stuff.

“That was a real smack in the face. When that disrespect happened, they killed the whole damn industry.”

Do you notice a difference in style or attitude between the old and new DJs?

“Well when I play in clubs I play a lot of older stuff, which I guess is a breath of fresh air compared to what most DJs have been playing all year.

“So I guess that’s what keep me going and keeps me playing a lot of gigs.

“A lot of DJs are hitting the hard trance stuff with no lyrics, which I think is just a little too much.

“My biggest records were always the vocal records.

“I’ve always said it’s good to have the best of both worlds, which is why I’ve always tried to have a strong pop life while also maintaining a strong underground life.

“I think that’s always got to be the way to go.

“Make songs and then on the b-sides make dubs. There’s nothing wrong with that.

“You know, I wish I had some defining philosophy about dance music, but I’ve been doing it 20 years and I still can’t figure it out.

“I just want to make music for the people and I’m think I’m gonna stick to that.

“What will make the industry big again is to promote us as the stars, but I don’t think they think about it like that.”

Do you think it’s harder now for upcoming producers and DJs?

“I think it’s gonna be harder because they’re not allowing the pioneers to open it up.

“I think there will be a few lucky hits here and there but there should be a lot more space open now.

“And radio stations are partly to blame for only adding 10 songs to their playlists when they could be adding 30 or 40.

“It’s been going on for a while, but maybe it’s time for it to stop, because it’s not helping.

“I think they grab what they think is hot, hit it really hard for two or three months and then drop it. They don’t have a long-term plan.”

Of all the clubs you’ve played over the years do any stick in your mind as being particularly memorable?

“The biggest clubs over the years have been the Paradise Garage, Ministry of Sound – no matter how much they jerked me; Hacienda was probably the greatest ever.

“There are a lot of clubs that really stick out, that put a stamp of approval on the music. I’ve had a lot of great times, I will never tear that down.”

What can we expect from you this year?

I’m just gonna do what I do! When I DJ, my concept is to play a lot of my own tracks because people don’t get to hear that kind of thing the rest of the year. It’s worked out for me that way.”