In the mid 1990s, New Jersey native Todd Edwards exerted such a major influence over the UK garage scene — via pioneering a type of sampling — that Daft Punk shouted him out on their 1997 track “Teachers.” “Todd Edwards in the house,” goes the song, which places Edwards amongst other electronic world royalty like Green Velvet, DJ Sneak, Kenny Dope, Louie Vega and Jeff Mills.
Four years later, Edwards was in the studio with the French duo, working on the track that would become the 2001 Discovery classic “Face To Face,” for which Daft Punk’s Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter famously advised Edwards to sing “like Foreigner.” (The song was recently voted Billboard‘s No. 2 deep cut of 2001.)
But by 2007, Edwards was so burnt out on music that he’d quit the scene and taken a nine-to-five in customer service. It wouldn’t last. Six years years later, Edwards was at the Grammys, where he won an award for his work on Daft Punk’s 2013 LP Random Access Memories. In 2019, he scored a No. 1 on Hot Dance/Electronic Songs with “You’re Sorry,” and while a 42-track compilation of his work was released earlier this year via Defected’s House Masters series, Edwards is confident his most prolific years are still to come.
That starts tomorrow, with the release of Edwards’ remix of the 1998 Fatboy Slim classic, “The Rockafeller Skank.” The pared-down, toughened-up edit is the first of a series of remixed Fatboy Slim classics, called Everybody Loves a Remix, coming out via the UK’s Skint Records.
Here, Edwards reflects on his family, his career, and where he keeps his Grammy.
1. Where are you in the world right now, and what’s the setting like?
I’m in London at the moment. The weather is pretty warm, cloudy and sunny. I’ve been in the hotel room catching up on sleep after three nights of gigs. I love sleeping.
2. What is the first album or piece of music you bought for yourself, and what was the medium?
I believe the first piece of music was a 45 vinyl of Peter Brown’s “Dance With Me.” Nostalgic!
3. What did your parents do for a living when you were a kid, and what do or did they think of what you did and do for a living now?
My dad was a carpet salesman. He was actually the best amongst his peers and won awards for his sales quotas. My mom has been a receptionist for a technical school for over 30 years, honestly, she could run the place.
My parents have always been supportive of my music career. I wouldn’t have had my first sampler if it weren’t for them buying it for me. They also tolerated me living at home for way too long and blasting music the whole time. To this day they still don’t understand fully what I do, but they are proud of me though. Funny, my father goes around asking if people know who Daft Punk are, and then tells the people that know that his son worked with them. Oh dad.
4. What’s the first dance music show that really blew your mind?
It was the first DJ EZ 4×4 in Romford. That was my first true DJ set. The video of my reaction to the crowd cheering to my intro track went viral and showed my poor execution of a rewind. I knew I was successful in the UK, but seeing the reaction of a crowd was next level for me.
5. If you had to recommend one album for someone looking to get into electronic music, what would you give them?
I can’t say that there would be one definitive album, because influence should come from everywhere. I would recommend Homework by Daft Punk, all of the remixes and original tracks by Masters at Work, MK and Todd Terry from the ’90s. Also, I would recommend UKG from TuffJam, MJ Cole, and Wookie. Oh, a few of my own tracks, too.
6. What’s the first non-gear item that you bought for yourself when you started making money as an artist?
Good question. I bought myself a Nissan X Terra SUV. Paid for it outright. Up to that point it was always used cars. I loved that SUV.
7. What’s the last song you listened to?
Honestly? Rihanna’s “Sledgehammer.” It was written by Sia. I never get sick of it.
8. You grew up in New Jersey, and now you’re based in L.A. When did you make the move, and why? How do the two places compare in terms of artistic communities and the electronic scenes specifically?
After playing the party Club Called Rhonda a couple of times in L.A. and meeting so many wonderful people from that, I was already craving to move there. Then I worked two weeks in L.A. with Daft Punk for their Random Access Memories album. I called my mom during that first week; she could hear the calm and happiness in my voice and said, “You need to be out there. There’s nothing for you in New Jersey. I’ll miss you when you go, but I’d feel worse if you stayed.” That summer I packed up a truck with all my gear and drove across country to move to L.A.
9. “The Rockafeller Skank” is obviously a classic. How do you approach remixing a song that’s so beloved in the canon of electronic music?
I approached this remix differently than I normally do. I just had finished a week of gigs. I was so inspired by the vibe when I played Defected Croatia festival. I wanted to make sure my remix was going to be more of a club track than a radio track. For a while I’ve been wanting to make a track that used samples to build the tension in a track, rather than the standard “snare roll and riser.” This was the first of present and future tracks and remixes I am going to approach with this technique.
10. What was Norman’s reaction when you passed him the edit?
Norman sent me a kind message via text. I was honored to just remix this classic, but even more so that he liked the remix.
11. You’re often cited as the godfather of UK Garage. In the time when you were exerting such influence, did you know the effect you were having? Was there a particular moment when you realized your influence?
I knew when I started to hear my influence in other producers’ tracks that my style was having an impact. I honestly was just trying to develop a signature sound, so when you heard my tracks you knew who it was. I never would have imagined that it would help influence a scene in a place 3,000 miles away from where I lived.
12. Like you said, you’ve been particularly successful in Europe. Did you ever desire to make a big U.S. crossover hit, or just generally become more famous in the States?
Yes. At the time when I was successful in Europe, I wasn’t thinking strategically about what areas I was having an impact on. Now that I am older and much more centered, I see the potential for reaching new fans and territories. This is something that’s in my plans to accomplish. Of course, the style of music that I do isn’t really the type that the masses are into. I don’t know if I could make that type of music and stay genuine to what I enjoy creating.
13. House music has become the prevailing genre in the U.S. scene over the last few years. What do you make of that? Did you ever think you’d ever see it happen?
This is just my opinion, but I don’t think the dance music that you hear on U.S. radio — at least the stations I listen to in L.A. — is what I would call house music. It’s more of a pop producer’s interpretation of what house music is. I think it’s great that it’s brought attention to dance music in the U.S., but the last time I ever heard genuine house music played on radio was 1991-’92. I heard the likes of Masters At Work’s remix of Saint Etienne’s “Only Love Can Break Your Heart,” MK’s remix of Nightcrawlers’ “Push The Feeling,” and Todd Terry’s “Hear The Music,” to name a few.
14. You’ve famously worked with Daft Punk twice — on “Face To Face” from Discovery, and then on “Fragments of Time” from Random Access Memories. How did those two experiences compare?
Working on these projects were two adventures for me. To be a part of the behind the scenes of creating the music, along with ideas of the storytelling and marketing, inspired me. Work on “Face To Face” was done in my home studio and Thomas’ home studio. “Fragments Of Time” was recorded at Henson Studios in Los Angeles. There were also legendary musicians passing through to record on RAM. It’s an example of two geniuses taking their success and reinvesting into their craft to make more great art. It also shows the freedom and the musical assets you can afford and talents you can work with when you are successful. Honestly, I could take up multiple pages with the growth from my experience working with them.
15. You won a Grammy for your work on Random Access Memories. Where do you keep it?
I keep my Grammy on my piano, which is actually my mom’s Baldwin piano that my father bought her when I was three years old. She told me she was selling it and I almost came to tears. That piano represents so much to me, and she was kind enough to let me have it and take it with me to L.A.
16. Surely there was a pretty epic Grammys afterparty the night you won. What did you end up doing after the awards ceremony?
Daft threw an amazing afterparty! I was fairly intoxicated and spent the time with the people I love the most. I did miss the celebrities that came. Madonna was there, actor Chris Pine passed through, and many others that I was too drunk to see. [laughs]
17. Who’s your favorite DJ/producer?
DJ EZ is my favorite DJ. He has such amazing skills and plays CDJs like they were a drum machine. As far as production is concerned, Masters At Work is at the top of that list. I am still inspired by Kenny Dope’s drum programming. Thomas Bangalter and Guy Homem-Christo are geniuses. Though Thomas is a dear friend, it is difficult to not put him on a pedestal. He can get so deep with his conversations that if I don’t proactively follow everything he’s saying, I would get lost. I haven’t met anyone else in my life I can say that about. I haven’t met any other artist with his energy.
18. What’s the best business decision you’ve ever made?
The best business decision I’ve ever made was taking a two-year hiatus from making music in 2007. I had a love-hate relationship with music. There were lows that matched the highs, and at times I was going backwards instead of progressing. After two years of working as a customer service rep, I appreciated who I was and where I truly am the best version of myself. I’m a music producer. Whether it makes me rich or poor, this is who I am. So at the height of the American recession, I quit that customer service job and jumped back into music. In less than five years, I was standing on stage with Daft Punk winning a Grammy. I made the right decision.
19. Who was your greatest mentor, and what was the best advice they gave you?
There has been more than one person who has given their advice. The first was Andy Tripoli, who produced the Latin Freestyle group The Cover Girls. He said to “Eat, sleep, and s–t music.” I did that for a while. However, that advice wasn’t perfect. There was no balance, and taking proper time off when you need a break definitely is important.
My uncle Albert, who passed away recently, told me to be mindful of being like a tank. A tank destroys everything in its sight. As a person we can find the negative in everything and destroy even the positive. Growing up, my father always told me if I were to do a job, do it the right way. As a producer, I strive to make the best music I can make and continue to better myself. Those core beliefs helped make me who I am today.
20. What’s one piece of advice you’d give to your younger self?
Believe in what you do. Cut negative people out of your life, and don’t be afraid to leave bad situations for fear of the unknown. Fear prevents growth. Every time I shed my fear, I took a bold step forward. And love yourself.