From Enya to Warehouse Parties: Todd Edwards Talks Roots

By Tristan Parker

New Jersey-born DJ and producer Todd Edwards helped to pioneer the unmistakable early garage sounds that filtered through Europe and eventually exploded as UK garage in the early ’90s. Ahead of playing a London warehouse party this Friday, we caught up with Edwards to talk dance roots, remixes and Enya.

How did you first get into garage?
Todd Edwards: From the age of 18 I started listening to house music. My friend Rich Criso introduced me to the works of Todd Terry, Frankie Bones and other house music producers. I then started listening to the weekend late night house shows on the radio, and would record them on cassettes. I still have the cassettes. For the next two years I would walk around with headphones on, and listen to nothing else but those cassettes. That was my starting place.

How would you say garage has changed between its early U.S. incarnation and the current U.K. garage scene?
Does US garage exist? I hear a lot of club music coming out of the States, but I don’t hear anything that resembles what I listened to when I was 18. US club music, from what I’ve listened to, has mostly left the shuffling beats, and the rough underground sampling behind, and has taken up with synths with a lot of effects.

How did you develop the vocal sampling/chopping technique you’re now known for?
There are two people that can take credit for my cut-up style. MK (Mark Kinchen) and Enya. MK took vocals, cut them up, and made very catchy hooks that sounded like they were singing something, but you couldn’t tell what the words were. I was drawn to that sound and attempted to imitate it. Then, I listened to Enya and loved the way she used her vocals as part of the instrumentation. To add to that, the lead vocal was always blended into the music so well that it almost didn’t seem like a lead vocal. I never heard anything like it. I decided to combine the two ideas and use vocals as the instruments in my tracks instead of using the limited access of real-sounding instruments I had at the time. I slowly developed the sound I had.

Which of your own are you most proud of, and why?
I get asked that question a lot. Today I would like to say that I feel really good about my album Odyssey. It wasn’t as rough or shuffling as my past work. It was polished and a little more pop-based. However, it was genuine in the songwriting, and was my full heart, soul and experience. It became semi-auto biographical, and the album is a journey through happiness and depression and the relationship to the divine.

Is there something that draws you to a track to remix it?
Yes, there is… The e-mail that requests a remix from me and offers to pay me for it!

What have you got coming up in the near future?
I’m working on a new album. I’m focusing more on my vocals. I’m very thankful to have Scion A/V backing this album. As I’ve said before, I owe them as well as my manager Alexis Rivera for the new life and direction my work has received.

Todd Edwards plays the Basslaced London warehouse party on December 7, alongside DJ EZ, Loefah, Oneman and Roni Size, as part of GetDarker vs. Drum & Bass Arena. Tickets here.