Todd Edwards has been one of the most influential dance music producers of the past 25 years, inspiring artists far beyond the house scene in which he cut his teeth in the early 90s.
Noted for his his idiosyncratic production techniques – a hypnotic collage of cut-up samples atop pounding house beats – his influence on the UK Garage scene, his extensive remix work, and his collaborations with Daft Punk on the albums Discovery and Random Access Memories, Edwards has just dropped a new single on emerging dance imprint Undisputed Music, The Chant (download it here), which bears all the hallmarks the New Jersey native is famous for.
With Edwards having been namechecked on Daft Punk’s Teachers, one of the stand-out cuts from Homework, you know what to expect.
909originals caught up with the Grammy Award-winning producer to discuss his latest release, the inspiration behind his unique style, and what he reckons the future has in store for Daft Punk following their recent ‘retirement’.
Hi Todd, thanks for talking to us. We’re now a year into the pandemic, which has obviously impacted the music industry hard. How has it been for you, did you find it a productive period at all?
Honestly, 2020 has been one of my most productive years. I’ve composed over an album of material. If I wasn’t going to be touring I wanted to make sure I used the time as productively as possible.
Tell us about your latest release, The Chant – it’s quite an uplifting house track. How would you describe it? Who provided the vocals?
I don’t have a particular adjective for it but it immediately makes me think about having drinks on a beach and dancing with friends. I was experimenting with cutting up vocals from African songs. I found syllables that sounded pretty when played over the piano riff in the track. Then I had my friend and singer Tashi Condelee re-sing the syllables.
Tashi sang with me on my previous release Catch My Breath. I want to continue to work with her. She has a soul in her voice I don’t hear in a lot of current songs.
The latest release is on Tony Garvey and Marc Thomas’ new label, Undisputed. You obviously have a good relationship with them, from their time with Defected – are you impressed with what they are trying to do with the label?
I have been very impressed with what they are doing with Undisputed and in particular the way they have handled the release of my record. Everything has been top tier, the release artwork is particularly impressive.
You’re synonymous with the ‘cut up vocal’ technique, which became a key part of your sound – “a honeycomb of blissful hiccups”, as author Simon Reynolds once described it. How did that originate?
The main inspiration for my vocal cut up technique was the legend himself, MK. Ever since his iconic remix of NightCrawlers’ Push The Feeling On I started exploring cutting up vocals. I think every new producer begins by imitating his or her inspiration and hopefully takes it into their own direction.
Along with MK, I was inspired by Irish singer Enya who uses her own vocal harmonies as instruments. I brought that idea into the dance music I made. Those two vocal stylings are the reason I do what I do.
You were a major influence on the development of the UK garage scene. How aware were you of that scene emerging on the other side of the Atlantic back in the mid 90s?
At first I knew I was having an impact by hearing from DJs and producers like Tuff Jam, and DJ Camacho. Camacho was the sweetest soul and would DJ in the downstairs room at the Sound Factory Bar on Wednesday nights – Little Louie Vega was in the main room.
I saw him after he went to England and he says with a smile, ‘You’re blowing up!‘ But since I didn’t really DJ at the beginning of my career, I didn’t feel the full effect of what that phrase meant. I was getting a lot of remix work so I knew I was doing something right 🙂
You will always be closely associated with Daft Punk, with your appearances on Discovery (Face to Face) and Random Access Memories (Fragments of Time). How did you first come to work with Thomas and Guy-Man?
Thomas and Guy-Man met up with me and my first manager before they released Homework. I was so impressed with how Thomas handled himself when discussing the music business for someone in only in their early twenties.
Though I didn’t collaborate with them on Homework, I presumptuously listened to the track Teachers and heard my name. So, I knew they were at least still into my work. They did contact me again to work on Discovery. During the summer that Random Access Memories was finished, Thomas shared with me that they took interest in working with me when they heard my remixes of St. Germain’s Alabama Blues.
Daft Punk’s Discovery recently marked its 20th anniversary. Why do you think it continues to prove so influential?
Discovery is a perfect artist album. It isn’t common to have an album that is enjoyable from beginning to end. The album was composed with a story in mind and it plays out in every song. Add that to its innovative use of samples and musical elements and there’s no question why it’s considered a classic.
For how long do you think Daft Punk had planned their departure from music before last month’s announcement, and what do you think they will do next?
Thomas and Guy-Man have always had their individual paths along with their work together. They aren’t departing from music making. Thomas has spoken to me about things he’s researching and potential projects, and Guy has been active as well.
I am curious about why they made the split so official. Because if they decide five years from now to work together again, absolutely no one is going to hold them to the Epilogue. I know they have their reasons for everything they do. Hopefully it will be something they share with me.
You’re an accomplished remixer, having reworked artists such as Beyoncé, Justice, Moloko, Hot Chip and St. Germain over the years. What to you is important when putting together a successful remix?
I treat a remix as an original production and put as much energy into it as well. When I was younger and worked on a remix, I would focus more on my production and fit the vocals around that. As I evolved as a producer I started focusing on making sure the song really shines. With each remix, I try to put musical chords together that conjure positive emotions.
It’s been more than a decade now since your last album – is a new album part of your future plans?
Yes, it makes total sense right? Not releasing a new album after winning a Grammy? …Kidding. When I moved to Los Angeles in 2013 I went through a lot of growth and trying to figure myself out. My views on music were opening up and what inspired me to make music was changing. I wasn’t ready to write more songs.
Fast forward to six years later, and I’m in a good place. The creative flood gates opened. The writing started to flow again. I’ve written songs for Pete Tong, Groove Armada, Tchami, Picard Brothers, Dance System, and Vantage, so far. I’ve also written songs for myself to sing, and as I said before I have over an album of new material to be released.
There’s a re-mastered version of my first vocal album Odyssey that will be released as well. April and May will see my back catalogue released on Defected Records along with a House Masters CD and vinyl release. There’s also a new single called Angel being released soon on Defected as well. It’s been a busy year.
What sort of dance scene will emerge once the pandemic subsides – what will have changed?
I think the end of the pandemic is going to show a return to clubs and festivals like it’s as necessary as breathing. Will there be a new scene? I don’t know. ‘New’ requires some originality and innovation. I think we need to hear more of that in music for it to translate into new dance scenes.
Thanks Todd for talking to us. You can download or stream The Chant by clicking here