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:
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.
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.
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.
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.