It might raise an eyebrow or two to learn that one of the founding fathers of UK Garage is native to New Jersey rather than a West London suburb. Exploding into New York’s house consciousness in the early 90s, Todd Edwards honed a unique, vocal-led style of garage that hit the UK with an unexpected bang. It came as a shock to him, too - ‘back when it occurred there was no internet, and you were basically learning through word of mouth and magazines and the feedback I was getting from the label that I was on and, yeah, it was cool.’ Originating in the US as a blend of soul and house music, Great Britain latched onto the garage vibe and Edwards came to dominate the scene, rising to the position of chief taste-maker in its heyday.
The bubbling-over, choppy sound that he popularised was through his obsession with sampling and intricacy. As a producer who has been known to scatter up to 100 samples into one track, he humbly discloses ‘I’ve been simplifying my work, which actually has been a struggle, because whenever I hear space in a track I just wanna fill it, and so I literally have to go; no, no, keep it simple!’ That penchant for sonic density is audible on the cuts that crowned him ‘the Godd’. Recall the classic reworks of St. Germain and Sound of One, which brim with house-infused energy, and you might wonder why simplicity is a concern of his.
But it’s Todd’s work with vocal reconstruction to form stilted, unclear phrases that has made the deepest imprint on electronic music as we know it today. The aesthetics of Burial, Joy Orbison and Daft Punk (whose ‘Face to Face’ actually saw Edwards singing on the track) are inherently linked to his experimentations with lyric splicing and the treatment of vocals as instruments in their own right. While he acknowledges that the UK has been home to his biggest audience, Todd has a worldwide following, and he’s keen to nail the differences among cross-Atlantic club scenes which he flits between like clockwork – ‘there’s some distinctly different vibes going on with how they produce their basslines – I could literally spend time just observing and listening to UK house’. So what does he think about when UK garage mutated into the now-reviled offshoot speed garage? Despite Todd’s name getting tied up in the whole movement, ‘I didn’t really pay attention to it. I never really liked that phrase – yeuch! I mean, things would get played at 140. And I had to reprogramme myself for that. I’m making tracks at 124 again - things that are done at slower tempos definitely have a different groove than when you play them fast.’
But now’s the time to dust down that patterned Moschino suit and spritz the cloying scent of CK One into the air with the UKG revival in full swing. ‘There’s always been this thing in England about people saying ‘oh, garage is dead, garage is dead’, and I’ve heard this for almost ten years now and it’s not dead, you know what I mean? Things go in cycles’ Edwards says. His label, Nu Trend Music, is the place for garage-heads to browse new releases, and he’ll be joining a host of the nu-skool of producers on the slopes at Snowbombing this year, including Mosca, Disclosure and old-timer DJ EZ. ‘I’m always excited whenever I play a new venue’ – Todd grins, and as more or less a newbie to the DJing world, adds, ‘I’m still developing a style, I just kind of wing it when I do…y’know, it’s all smoke and mirrors...’ Coming from such a dance veteran, we’ll have to take this with a pinch of salt.
Words by Felicity Martin
To find out more about Snowbombing and buy tickets to this year’s festival, visit www.snowbombing.com