After nearly two decades as one of the preeminent figures on the house music scene, Todd Terry finds himself at a place in his career he never expected to be -- starting over.
“It’s definitely like the beginning stages of my career. I never thought I would get back to this, but I’m back to that type of feel,” the iconic New York producer-remixer-DJ says.
There are, of course, differences between Terry today at 36 and the Brooklyn-born teenager who felt the inescapable pull of DJing after falling under the combined spell of his local hip-hop scene, the Chicago house music explosion and Italian disco during the early 1980s.
Primary among those differences is that as much as Terry says he is starting over, the reputation and the resume follow him wherever he goes.
Four years since his last album of original music, the drum- and bass-tinged “Resolutions,” he remains Todd the God, a nickname he was given by the London press after they witnessed his proficiency behind the decks during his mid-'90s residency at the influential Ministry of Sound nightspot.
And he will forever be the man responsible for the remix of Everything but the Girl’s 1995 smash “Missing,” a song that sold 3 million copies globally, reinvented the duo as a dance act and brought the term remix out of the clubs and into the mainstream lexicon.
As a result of that resume, Terry is no longer DJing on the streets of Brooklyn with early DJ partners Scooby Doo Crew. And Brooklyn spot the World, where he got his start, has given way to venues like the L.A. Sports Arena, where Terry will spin this weekend before thousands of dance enthusiasts at Monster Massive, the city’s annual celebration of dance music and Halloween.
So, how exactly is Terry starting over? Well, while the gigs are now bigger, the approach is the same as it was in the early days.
“Basically, the next records that I do I’m giving them away. I take my gig promotion money and spin it into making CDs and give them out to everybody,” he says.
“My new concentration is just getting the artist, which is me, out there. That’s my new plan; get the music out there and that’ll keep on getting me gigs,” he says. In addition to trying to keep his name out there, Terry is looking forward to returning to L.A. to see what the West Coast is serving up right now.
“I don’t do a lot of California gigs,” he says. “You never know what the new thing that’s being played that day is, so I’ll definitely keep my eyes and ears open.”
Monster Massive, where he’ll share a stage with house music peers such as Roger Sanchez and Derrick Carter, as well as artists from other dance genres, including AK1200, Dan the Automator, DJ Spooky and local favorite DJ Irene, is the perfect opportunity for Terry to check out what his colleagues are doing.
Terry believes that’s still the best way to get turned on to new tracks. “Out there the DJ before you and the DJ after you are trying to do something different,” he says.
As with so many musicians in the current climate, much of Terry’s views are shaped by frustrations with a music business he feels is out of touch. That’s largely why it has been so long since fans have heard original material from Terry on record. “It just doesn’t pay to do a record right now; nothing is paying off when it comes to the record and it’s not just [that] records are not selling. It’s that you can’t even get a company to listen to what you really want to do,” he says.
Much of what Terry wants to do in 2003 is shaped by his love for hip-hop. Ask him what he’s playing at home and he calls out names like Nas, Jay-Z, DMX, Cameron, OutKast and the Heatmakers, a young crew he is working with. Though it may be a minute before people get to hear new material from him, he does offer a little taste of what to expect in the future.
“I guess being so involved in the rap stuff brings my rawness to the table,” he says. “I really don’t hold back when I make a track. If something’s static-y I leave the static in there, if something’s too loud, I leave it too loud. When I do my own records I stay rawer.”
Longtime Terry fans can breathe again, though. The man who helped define house music in America has no intention on abandoning the scene altogether. He promises those at Monster Massive won’t be disappointed. “This gig is more house-heads,” he says, “so I’ll bring my old-school house stuff.”
Halloween dance events
Where: L.A. Sports Arena, 3939 S. Figueroa
When: Friday, 6 p.m.-4 a.m.
Cost: $35 presale
Info: (323) 960-5155 or www.monstermassive.com
Haunted Ball at the Gate
What: DJ Mirage spins tracks from the worlds of R&B;, hip-hop, trance and house for this costume party.
Where: 643 La Cienega Blvd, Los Angeles
When: Friday, 10 p.m.-3 a.m.
Cost: $10 presale
Info: (818) 220-2014
Costume and Lingerie Ball
What: DJs Louis Osbourne, Peran, DTJ, and others serve up beats for the adult contingent.
Where: The Highlands, 6801 Hollywood Blvd.
When: Friday, 9 p.m.-3 a.m.
Cost: $20 presale
Info: (323) 761-6490
10th Annual Halloween Bash
What: DJ Mark Lewis, tabbed by “Mixmag UK” as one of the 10 breakout DJs in the new millennium, has toured with Paul Oakenfold and remixed the likes of Kinky and Erasure. The theme for this event is “dress in red,” which only serves to turn up the heat.
Where: Arena, 6655 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles
When: Friday, 10 p.m.-4 a.m.
Cost: $30 presale
Info: (213) 891-2775
Ministry Halloween Party
What: Features Kimball Collins, D’Morse, Joseph Christopher. Collins has represented the American trance scene for more than 15 years and remains one of the best-loved figures on the international circuit.
Where: Grand Avenue,
1024 S. Grand Ave.,
When: Friday, 10 p.m.-10 a.m.
Cost: $25 presale
Info: (213) 747-0999
What: Special event featuring performances by DJs D:Fuse, Soulstice, Spinderella, Tom Stephan, Tim Lawson, Monkey Bars, Sol and more. For sheer talent this event ranks second only to Monster Massive.
Where: Roosevelt Hotel, 7000 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood
When: Friday, 8 p.m.-3 a.m.
Cost: $40 presale
Info: (323) 651-3370
Steve Baltin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.