A key figure in the NYC House scene since the early days, Todd Terry has always had that something of evasive. Taken between what appeared as the look of a leading man and an intellectual, an obvious shiness. Then eventually what could be seen at times as arrogance for those who don’t know him. Something that didn’t get him away from getting some international recognition though. And more precisely – although this is quite reductive – after the release of his rework of ‘Missing’ by the likes of Everything But The Girl back in 1995…
If kinda hard to approach Todd Terry, it’s probably not easier for the man to be himself, referring to the countless sollicitations he’s the center of. This putting him into the obligation to sort of surround himself with filters and not add to an already heavy schedule. His publicist back then, David Millman, saying of him how he was such a “workaholic!’. Meanwhile coming to deliver an average 60 remixes a year during the second half of the 90’s…
“Most of the people in the record industry don’t give a damn as to who you are at the end. They come to call you. Not because of who you are, but because of the potential success your contribution might bring to what’s been left under their responsability. Everything’s just a matter of immediate productivity. You have no choice. Either you go for it, either you miss the turn! And whenever I go for it, I want them to be getting their money’s worth meanwhile asking the maximum I can!” With the exact same applying to a DJ gig…
Some might argue that this is nothing but the reasoning of a mercenary. But Todd Terry‘s pretty much aware as to how the system works. Jumping from a sensation/trend to another along with time. And he therefore decided to act the same, capitalizing on his situation as much as he could.
“I’m just taking everything I can, and done”, he explained me back in 1997. “I’ll always do music, be I licensed by the record industry or not!”, he said. Relying on an enormous background beginning with Hip-Hop and Freestyle which surrounded him in his native Brooklyn. This before being hypnotized by the very first House tracks he heard from Chicago. And eventually blending the vibes together the way he did along with Royal House on the memorable ‘Can You Party’. But also the Latin grooves he came to discover from his pals, Kenny Dope and Louie Vega (introducing them to each other), or Mateo & Matos.
“I’d come up with a myriad of tracks on Tommy Musto’s Northcott Records label. Meanwhile doin’ Latin Hip-Hop at the same time. But I really started in the Rap scene, submitting demos people there “couldn’t get to hear”. To the exception of the Housey ‘Weekend’ – an adaptation of Class Action‘s Disco classic of the likes – which ironically found a niche on UK Hip-Hop label Sleeping Bag…
“One thing is to do a piece of music. Another one is to give it a proper identity. Which isn’t the case regarding 90% of what you get to hear in the clubs! And if the track has no lyrics, then I’m adding a sample or a melody that people will be in the position to recognize. I eventually tried to come up with something original on Everything But The Girl’s ‘Missing’ and I wish I could do the same elsewhere. And what I’ve mostly got in return was bad critics from people who booked me to do a remix. When not by the artists themselves, which is why I’ve decided to focus on the essential.
No need to go any further while recreating a melody speakin’ of which people will never recognize you for. Many of the executives in the record industry haven’t got a single clue as to what they’re talkin’ about. And this coz’ they simply know nothing about music. So I’m just considering things as they are, and I keep my best ideas for myself…”
This Will Be Mine (Freeze Records) – Todd Terry Presents Sax
Sound Design Part II (Freeze Records) – Todd Terry Presents Sound Design
A Day In The Life Of (Sound Of Ministry) – Todd Terry
Ready For A New Day (Manifesto) – Todd Terry
Resolutions (Astralwerks) – Todd Terry
Interview: Todd Terry
You might also like…
30 Years of House Music (Pt. 7) – Frankie Feliciano