Guest of Honour: Todd Terje about unicorns and strong beers

Guest of Honour: Todd Terje about unicorns and strong beers

Mar 17, 2012 |  by  |  Music
About the author
Born and raised in Amsterdam, lives to dance and dances to live on electronic music, has a small vinyl addiction, appreciates a little sarcasm now and then, thinks musicals are annoying and loves those moments where you lose track of time completely.

For me, Todd Terje used to be one of those DJs of whom the name vaguely rings a bell but you don’t really know the actual sound that well. When several friends told me they’d kill me if I didn’t visit his set at Time Warp Holland, I decided it was about time to figure out more about this man from Norway. And I absolutely, completely, totally, extremely, and entirely fell in love with his style. Todd’s melodious nu-disco sound is one to lose yourself to in happiness, over and over again.

Todd Terje is playing in Amsterdam at Dekmantel’s 5 years anniversary on April 1st, and I got to ask his some interesting questions beforehand!

Next to disco, what are the other not so obvious influences that inspire your music?
“Rhythms have always been important for me. Be it’s Steve Reich´s asian experiments, Art Blakey´s drum journeys, Arthur Russell´s offbeat programming or Caribou´s pop techno. I’m getting more into old synthesizers (and gear in general), so ambient music is also growing on me. Classical music probably plays a bigger role than I realize as well, as I’ve played the piano since I was seven; the first music I learned to play. It might not be so evident in my music though, because it’s the simple tricks that work best in dance music.”

Nu-disco is growing more popular every day. How do you see this genre developing in the future?
“It will fade off a bit of course, like every other genre. I don´t really mind to be honest. Even the word nu-disco makes me shiver… I used to love nu-disco (around 1995-2000) because it felt like it was a small scene that sounded ‘wrong’. Now it sounds so right and edgeless that I’m focusing on other genres right now. I guess I prefer oldschool nu-disco!”

You’ve played at the Melkweg and Trouw before. How would you compare the electronic music scene in Amsterdam to one in your hometown Oslo, and in the rest of Norway?
“Amsterdam has a longer history of dance music than Oslo, so the Amsterdam scene feels a bit more ‘grown up’. But we´re catching on and right now it´s actually pretty good. There´s always something happening such as new clubs opening.”

What would your perfect setting for a DJ-set look like if there were no limitations and money wasn’t an issue? It doesn’t even have to be realistic.
“The perfect set for me does NOT include thousands of drunk Englishmen on E. I think I´d rather do a 24 hour DJ set at a beach, maybe lying down sunbathing and drinking coconut juice. Hey, I just did that… Only I didn´t actually DJ… Doh!”

Your band page picture on Facebook is Pegasus and your ‘interests’ include mooses, dolphins and unicorns, particularly in sunsets. What is the story behind your fascination with these iconic creatures
“It´s from my Shari Vari days, a club night we used to do in Oslo. Horses and unicorns were the theme, always. Later it just stuck. I both like the tackiness AND the super manly power they symbolize. The power of tack!”

How would you describe the process of making a track and how long does it take?
“The best tracks are made within 30-60 minutes, but that rarely happens. Eurodans was made in 1 hour for example. The tracks I prefer personally however, have been made over several days, weeks, if not months. I moved into a studio 2 years ago, so I don’t work from home. I play my Rhodes piano in my flat a lot but I never manage to write down any sketches. That´s probably why I’m a producer, and not a song writer, hehe.”

You have remixed a lot of other artists. Have you ever decided not to remix a song because the original could not be surpassed? And what songs are still on your to-remix-list?
“I just heard about Psychemagik getting the remix kit for Dance Hall Days by Wang Chung, and I thought; “wow I´d like to have a look at those”. Then I realized I could never do a mix that came close to the original 12” mix anyway. (There are definitely more credible titles than Dance Hall Days I suppose, that was just the first I could think of.)”

Do you have time to go out yourself? Where do you go to enjoy yourself?
“I’m going out less these days, probably because I’m never home. But also because I’ve started drinking strong beers which make me fall asleep. Very yummy, but very zzzzzzzzz.”

You once said that if it wasn’t for The Prodigy breaking through, even in the village where you grew up, and the fact that your sister brought tapes home from Tore “Erot” Kroknes, you probably wouldn’t have been a DJ right now. What would you be doing then, career wise?
“Well, I wanted to study bio-chemistry before switching to music. After a year of nonsense lectures in university, I switched to physics. Later I switched again, to astro physics. Needless to say, music hasn’t always been my top priority work wise. I was always afraid of having to make compromises when working with something creative. It didn’t turn out that bad though, and I’m glad all the things went the way they went.”

How did your breakthrough take place growing up in a small town?
“The short story: I DJed in Oslo at small clubs and cafés for 5 years. Then after releasing Eurodans and a Michael Jackson edit I started playing abroad. The last 5 years have been amazing, and I’m really lucky to be where I am now. Being able to make music has definitely been important. I just want to say that I really believe in DJs making it WITHOUT having to make music too, but unfortunately it´s rare that they get a chance these days. Clubs want producers, not DJs.”

You started a blog where you ‘ask smart people stupid questions’. Why did you decide to start a blog and what do you hope to achieve with it?
“The internet is the perfect place for geeky subjects because there´s always someone interested in the subject in question. You don´t have to feel ashamed for excluding people, like you probably would if you would discuss something incredibly nerdy in a social setting. When my friends start to talk loudly about the different modulation settings of Vangelis´ CS80 synth on “Blade Runner”, I wanna sink through the floor. Online it’s natural.”

You’re part of the line-up of the 5 years anniversary of Dekmantel on April 1st. What do you expect the party to be like and what do you think of the other DJs in the lineup?
“I´m really looking forward to this! How can you go wrong with Rahaan AND San Proper? I wish I could stay around for the rest of the weekend too, but have to be somewhere else…”

Dekmantel 5 year Anniversary – day 3 with Todd Terje

When: April 1st, 2012 (I’m not joking), 18:00 – 03:00
Where: MC Theatre
Tickets: €10 early bird | €15 pre-sale

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