NJ GARAGE: TODD EDWARDS

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Rabid Todd Edwards fans, don’t get mad if I leave something out, this is by no means a definitive or informed post. People who have no idea why I need to make that disclaimer? You’re in for a treat. Here are a few YouTube clips of music by Bloomfield, NJ based dance producer Todd Edwards. To my ears this guy is very responsible for a big fat slice of the main ideas in 2-step garage, speed garage, UKG or ‘old school garage’ as they now call it in England. Like Burial’s cut-up distorted vocal style? This guy created it. Akufen? Yup, another fan of Todd “The God” Edwards (as his obsessed fans call him). JME’s “Tropical” mixtape? This is the blueprint.

People have called his style “micro-sampling” which is pretty appropriate, displayed to excellent effect on the below clip, a mix by UK legend EZ (ask any DJ in grime now who inspired them to start mixing, it’s EZ). Listen to all those little dots and chirps of sound, many of them in different tempos, keys etc, woven together into a delirious, delicious whole.

EZ mixing older Todd tracks, recorded 2004:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YhVryO8L7I0[/youtube]

Shadetek fans surprised I like this stuff? I sort of am too, I was talking to Rupture about it this afternoon and he said “Everybody secretly or overtly loves house.” I replied “Secretly even from myself!” But actually I sort of grew up around New York House, being a teenager in the city in the nineties and although I hated it at the time (really hated it, as only a teenager can) somehow House was programmed into my mind and now when I return to it in my twenties I actually have a real soft-spot for it (the good bits anyway). Also the more music I make and the more I work with music the more I realize how stupid genre-tribalism is and how a good song is a good song is a good song. Music is a technical language of emotion and someone who can speak that language honestly and clearly can communicate across most borders. Todd is also a born-again Christian (and proud) and this may well have something to do with the unashamed, delirious happiness in his music. There is no posture of coolness or cynicism here (witness the Enya remix below), just someone taking a great deal of pure pleasure in sound which is one of the things I especially love about his music.

NEXT TO YOU

This is a very very weird video, apparently made by Todd himself. It has this weird digital apparition of Björk in it and it sounds like her on the track but she is referenced no where else besides in that clip. A below the radar collaboration in spite of label disapproval? That’s my guess. This is one of the more recent things available.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CU0jvscjtZo[/youtube]
ENYA REMIX:

Yes, there’s an Enya clip on Dutty Artz. And what? I love this remix, beautiful breathy stuttering. There’s also a REALLY funny argument between some trance DJ Enya fan and Todd’s fans in the comments to this.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r0NZg5nkfds[/youtube]

JUSTICE REMIX:

I sort of really don’t like Justice, much too big-beat cock-rocky for my taste, but strongly in spite of that this Todd remix is great, also an example of his more recent work.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-_zw3Jzwrvo[/youtube]

Here’s an interview that Matt Mason (former editor of RWD and all-around interesting writer posted on the Todd thread on Dissensus). He’s got some interesting stuff to say.

FROM RWD MAG MARCH, 2003:

So tell us about the new album?

It’s a collection of some of the singles I’ve put out since the last ‘Full On’, some of the ‘New Trends’ tracks and some fresh stuff with different elements coming through. I spend a lot of time on sampling, on average I spend about a week just gathering samples and a week or so building a tune. Even when it’s something like a remix I put my all into it and it can be very draining. I know I was blessed with a certain amount of talent. But it’s not just me. I’m doing it for God. I believe God is using me as an instrument to spread love, I’m not in control. I don’t want to force it down anyone’s throat, I try to keep the positivity out there and keep the message there, but it’s subliminal. It’s only there if you need it.

Was it always a conscious thing to put spiritual messages in your music?

Yeah pretty much from the start. From my mid twenties, when I was 27 I guess, I got bolder with it. I’m proud of who I am and my relationship with God. It’s not about preaching to people or making them follow rules, it’s about having hope, having a friend and someone to turn to. The messages I put in tunes like ‘Shut The Door’ are very religious, very personal, but you don’t need to hear that to enjoy the tune. I’m trying to put something positive back, there is so much hostility in the world, in the clubs, and what with the war building up…

Talking of clubs you were recently over here for EZ’s 4 by 4 event. How was that and what did you think of the scene in the UK?

4 by 4 was brilliant. It was very humbling. I was… beside myself. I knew I had a following in the UK, but being in New Jersey you don’t realise… I have friends in Jersey who like dance music but here I’m just Todd! It was very re-affirming. The garage scene in the UK is really interesting. There is definitely a power there, there is so much energy it borders on hostility. I went to a few clubs with EZ, and we saw some fights even break out. There are two types of energy, spiritual energy and hostile energy, I saw a bit of both in the UK but in both cases the DJ interaction was there.

Your music is so inspiring to so many. What music inspires you?

Recently it has been soundtrack music and orchestral music. I love sampling orchestra. Orchestra has chord changes that really change, that doesn’t happen so much in dance music. I don’t like doing the same thing. I’ve always said Mark Kitchen (better known as house producer MK) was a big inspiration, a lot of ’70s music, disco, pop, everything inspires me. I’m not sure what genre the music I make is, I don’t think it’s my place to say where I fit in. I don’t consider myself a house producer, even R&B and hip hop influence me, I don’t know if you could tell but the Beckon Call remix was influenced by stuff Timbaland and the Neptunes are doing.

You get bootlegged a lot. Does that bother you?

It kinda sucks that people are stealing, I work hard, it’s not all about the money but it’s not really fair. It’s also a form of praise though, if someone thinks my stuff is worth the risk of pressing up that’s good, when you stop getting bootlegged is when you’ve got a problem!

A lot of it is down to your stuff not getting an official release. Like the ‘Fully Loaded’ project and several mixes which have only come out in Japan etc. Why does that happen?

Fully Loaded just got really complicated, what with everyone having their own really tight schedules as individuals; I don’t think anything will be happening with that this year. With things like Bonnie Pink and M-Flo, who knows why people do what they do, just because you’re a record exec it doesn’t necessarily mean you know what the right thing to do is. But what are ya gonna do?

What is your favourite piece of studio kit?

The Akai S6000, it’s a quality sampler, it’s not without its bugs though… Also the Ensoniq EPS sampler which was the first one I ever used, it’s a keyboard sampler with a really good swing feature. I bought it for $1400 and built an entire studio with the money it made me!

What can we expect to see from you in the future?

I want to do some more singing like on Beckon Call 2003 and Face to Face (with Daft Punk). I have a whole bunch of tracks that need vocals, plus I have some very interesting remixes on the horizon. 2002 was a very inspiring year for me, I felt I made some really good tracks and I’m looking forward to DJing more after New years Day. It looks like it will be a really good year.

top photo from Stylus magazine, from their interview with Todd from last year.


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11 responses to “NJ GARAGE: TODD EDWARDS”

  1. wtc says:

    fantastic.

  2. WaNanchy says:

    we couldnt agree more w. you on justice, yo.
    ..”and SHADETEK for All”!!

    still, one should check the “stress” video:
    http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x58z2a_justice-stress-official-video_music

    by KOURTRAJME,
    disturbing citizens peace since 1995

  3. thanks for the post! one thing i’m curious about — why is house still seen as such a shameful, “guilty pleasure” type of thing? i’m not singling you out, but the conversation w/ rupture that you cite sort of begs the question, and i’m interested to what your take on the matter might be. at a time when just about every possible musical style is deemed ripe for the picking, house and techno continue to be held in suspicion if not outright contempt — in the US, that is. (tokens like daft punk get a pass, but their tokenism makes the exclusion of other stuff all the more notable.)

    obviously homophobia must have something to do with it — you routinely see house get called “gay,” in both the literal and pejorative senses, especially amongst indie-rock crowds. (chuck D, if i recall correctly, also thought house was too “gay” to be acceptable by hip-hop standards; i’ve seen a quote to that effect somewhere.) and then there’s also the curious notion that house is “too euro,” despite its US origins. (of course, much of the energy in house and techno these days IS based in the EU and the UK. not that there should be anything wrong with being european — hell, many of them had the good sense to oppose the current war — but you see “euro douches” routinely slagged in places like brooklynvegan and other sources of indie-rock conservatism.)

    perhaps things are changing a bit; the rising popularity of folks like switch and sinden are making house music more acceptable to indie audiences, while bassline may be bringing grime fans back around to the 4×4 beat. and, granted, house and techno often define themselves as insular genres, while many of the new club styles are aggressively inclusive and eclectic. (personally i think both stances are appropriate, depending upon your purpose and context.) the current re-evaluation of disco may help matters. anyway, i’m sort of rambling, but i’d be interested to hear your further thoughts on house and its marginalization, should you ever manage to work it into another post.

    thanks for the geko jones WFMU set, btw. blistering!

  4. bok bok says:

    house is absolute truth !!!!!!

  5. Thanks for all the replies.

    Phillip: I think that one thing that accounts for the draw/alienation of house (and tech to a lesser extent) is their highlighting of the pleasure principle, dancing and overt expression of emotion. A lot of this is associated in many people’s minds as being either feminine or gay and DEFINITELY not ‘serious artistic music’ or ‘hardcore underground realness’ or fitting into a lot of the other categories that people seem to allow themselves to like music under. A great many people can’t allow themselves to like anything too explicit or overt, hence the demonization of the 4×4 kick as ‘stupid, simple, easy’ etc (try making good 4×4 producers, it’s HARD) which is really because this is a powerful rhythm that people respond to. House with it’s 4×4 beats, emphasize on melody, warmth and feeling often gets filed under ‘cheese’ because people, I think, feel it would be too easy to like and therefore is not artistically or intellectually valid. Sort of stream-of-consciousnessing there but hopefully you get my drift.

    KOURTRAJME: I actually sort of hate that Justice video. Firstly I don’t like the song but more importantly, what does it mean? I feel like those kids are being turned into dehumanized angry threatening apes. The riots in Paris were started by police brutality, not just random opportunistic marauding. The video actually fits really well with my perception of Justice’s petulant indie machismo, their wedding of psuedo-punk nihilistic rioting to inner city ghetto anger just rings really false to me and strikes me as an attempt on their part to ‘urbanize’ their rock-ist sound. I’m not buying it at all.

    Coming full-circle I feel like Justice is a great example of how if you’ll just apply white, middle class rock aesthetics (visual and musical) to a black-underground aesthetic (house and disco) the white rockist mainstream will suddenly treat you seriously, like ‘artists’ and shower you in praise and money. Its a long story that’s getting really boring and ugly. Puke.

  6. WaNanchy says:

    agree with all your views on justice again.

    the KTJ video however is only moved by artistic will/freedom, and then defly more related to media than to the actual riots/violence. the very last cut has the kid saying “does it make you horny shooting this u m’f#cker?”

    there’s (obviously) a wave of extremely balanced reactions about the clip. started here (in french):
    http://blog.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=blog.view&friendID=47106334&blogID=394138278&indicate=1

    Lomami writes: “trying to find a message in this video would be much like watching the suburb riots from the top of the Eiffel tower while eating pricy apetizers”

    the whole Kourtrajmé history of filming is very savvy, and diverse, and definitely worth digging, though.

    Peace for All.

  7. Matt Shadetek says:

    I wish I spoke french to follow that conversation. Ah well.

    Still I don’t know if I agree w/ Lomami on principle, when dealing with filmed art there is always meaning if only because film/video is basically a hermetic environment where every shot and cut is the product of direct conscious decision. It’s a lot of work to make a film (or video) and decisions are made at every step usually by one person (the director), nothing is there by accident so whether anyone likes it or not it’s definitely a text that’s open to reading and interpretation of meaning. I distrust anyone who tries to assert otherwise because I usually assume they’re trying to slip something under the radar or being dishonest.

  8. Lomami says:

    Thanks Shadetek-san to focus on our french rioting-and-filming-it thang. Kourtrajme collective are known for giving the insider point of view during suburbs events (check out “Paris riots are good time” and “365 jours à Clichy”, the only documentary from the inside shot during 2005 by Ladj Ly, with a real work to explain what is to live during one year in our projects). I can say even when messing around they control what degree of violence they show and how it should affect the audience.
    Now, shooting for Justice and their “I look like a rebel but I crap in my pants when kidz in hoodies ask me for a fag” audience, they know they do scar and shock the bourgeois.
    Me ain’t scared of those kids in hoodies, as I live with them in the suburbs, knowing they are much less dangerous than the tv news images (that are imitated in the clip) try to convince me they are.
    That’s why I say searching a message in it is already taking the point of view of the bourgeois that has never been in the hood and takes for real those kind of images.
    Hey Shadetek! No dissing just discussing! I’m so glade you said rightly what we all think about Justice sound. Moreover I take the Brooklyn Anthem has the HOTTEST SHIT in a while. Wicked sound!
    Hope to see Rupture with Jahdan soon in Europe. PLEAZ come with 77Klash, we’ll know how to receive U guys. And as Uncle Gil used to say, revolution won’t be televised…Still it will be shot on cellphone. Peace!

  9. yo Lomami,

    Thanks for chiming in and crossing over to English for those of us who still don’t speak enough languages.

    That documentary sounds great, I’d like to see it.

    As far as taking the view of the bourgeois, that’s the main perspective I take, I’m not from the ghetto, though I’ve been to a few. I grew up in Tribeca in downtown Manhattan.

    I think that it’s possible to understand that the images aren’t real but also see them as powerful at the same time and that perpetuating the images that make the bourgeois crap in their pants is confirming their view of these people and feeding their fear which, in my opinion, is the driving force behind most racism.

    Ignorance, the lack of knowledge that fundamentally people of other races and social backgrounds are just like you and brush their teeth, fall in love, laugh, watch the same tv shows you do, feel nervous about people different from them, etc is what causes people to be afraid and maintain distance. Distance allows this ignorance to continue, and allows people to remain racist and bigoted. If the bourgeoisie in question knew any of the people they are nervous about enough to have some positive experiences with them and become friends the next time they see someone on the street who looks like them they’d say “oh that looks like George who I met and was funny” rather than “That looks like that boy from the newscast who was setting the cars on fire”.

    Obviously this is a simplification and racism is a pretty complicated and difficult problem. The next thing to me is what do Justice seek to achieve by having such a clip for their video? It didn’t happen by accident. They are trying to identify themselves with a ‘tough and dangerous’ image of young people and make themselves look cool in the process. Are they from these places? Somehow I really doubt it. That then crosses the line into exploitation in my eyes.

    I’m happy to have generated some conversation here, it’s interesting that the posts I get the best responses for are when I diss someone. Ha.

  10. TiNy says:

    Todd Edwards will be playing a exclusive 2 hour set Aug 16th…at the knitting factory.

    go to http://www.myspace.com/fit135

  11. […] For a truly educating experience (as always) head over to Dutty Artz, where Todd received a lengthy special feature from Matt […]