An active member of the electronic music scene for over two decades, Brooklyn, New York native, Todd Terry has established himself to be a highly influential figure in the House music genre. Remarkably proficient with a range of equipment such as synths, drum machines, he has topped dance music charts in both the U.S. and the U.K. on several occasions. Having watched the scene emerge and burst forth from the underground, Todd has commendably stayed true to his signature, classic style over the years, allowing it to evolve and progress with new technological advancements.
“I think with it being big right now is great, as the kids get into the modern EDM culture they do start to look at the roots of where the MUSIC comes from. That is when they find me and I’m ready to take them to school.”
In addition to being a Grammy Award nominee, this seasoned DJ, producer, and remixer has also been a member of a handful of electronic music groups such as Black Riot and Gypsymen. Being a prominent artist during some of the developmental years of the House music scene, Todd undoubtedly has some insight as to how the current scene has diverged from what it once used to be, some of which he has shared with us in an exclusive interview.
Check it out below as Todd Terry talks about his Hip-Hop roots, modern “EDM culture”, as well as some advice for up-and-coming artists.
1. When did you start listening to electronic music? What prompted you to start producing in the first place?
“Growing up in Brooklyn I would go to the Brighton Bizarre to hear Marky B and DJ Larry spin. I was around 12 then. I started DJ’ing at street parties in Brooklyn, but I actually listened to and played mostly Hip Hop back then. A friend turned me on to House Music and I embraced it, anything worked. I started producing when I realized I could get a check and pay my rent. So I pulled from my Hip Hop roots of sampling and started approaching writing House music that way.”
2. What were some of your favourite tracks growing up? Favourite artists?
“Anything by Quincy Jones, but especially “Razzamatazz”. Favourite artists: “Quincy Jones and James Brown.”
3. Electronic music has evidently grown from a small subculture to a massive industry over the past few years, and there have been several pros and cons to this paradigm shift. How do you feel about the way that this scene has taken off?
“Everything runs in cycles. We have been making dance music since the 60’s. Sometimes it goes mainstream and it’s hot, then it recedes back into the clubs and to the underground to evolve some more. I think with it being big right now is great, as the kids get into the modern EDM culture they do start to look at the roots of where the MUSIC comes from. That is when they find me and I’m ready to take them to school.”
4. In an age where almost everyone has the tools to become a producer, what do you think it takes for a producer to stand out from the rest? What makes a real ‘artist’?
“To create your own sound, sounding like someone else will never get you anywhere. A real artist is more than just eye candy. You have to be the full package, write, perform, entertain, and manage your career.”
5. What do you feel delineates a great producer from an average one?
“The ability to consistently deliver great tracks over time. You can get lucky once and have a hit, but repeat that over time that’s the difference.”
6. Having long been involved in the House music scene, what are some of the most noticeable changes you’ve observed over the years?
“The technology has evolved but not what it means to be a real house song. I can now do on a laptop during a trans Atlantic flight what it use to me take days in the studio to accomplish. That’s better for me, but the downside is it lets cats into the game that can’t write a song. On the DJ side carrying flash drive is a bunch easy than lugging crates of vinyl all over the globe. My back loves that technology!”
7. Do you have any words of advice for aspiring producers who are inspired by your music?
“Listen to everything, but chart your own path and don’t let anyone tell you what to do, go with your gut always.”