Among the many streams that flow from the mighty river that is electronic dance music, none are as much a straight up guilty pleasure than the remixers of classic tracks. When they are at their best, they create sublime versions of beloved anthems — think The Reflex — and make you listen with new ears. In many ways these innovators are an extension of the great DJs of the disco and Paradise Garage era, who created dance mixes cutting up tape and providing dance floor edits that focused on the rhythm and groove over the choruses. In the case of India’s Todh Teri, whose name itself is a remix — his sonic playground is the rich, often mind-boggling sounds of Bollywood disco-inspired soundtracks. Certainly, the Moog synthesiser set off a revolution in Indian cinema, and this is where Todh Teri’s inspiration seems to spring from.
But his tracks aren’t so much remixes as they are edits — entirely new works that evolve out of an older analog sound or loop, with some cheeky dialogue vocals thrown in just at the right places for emphasis, as if to remind you what he’s doing. The tracks themselves are deep, funky and playfully executed, much like his vaunted live sets. Rarely straying past 120 BPM, Todh Teri keeps it in the house, but takes clever, and sometimes startling excursions that keep you on your toes, while never losing the groove. Think Indian cinema. Think deep house. Think the kitchen sink.
Hey Todh Teri, it’s great to have you here, we’ve been loving your releases and live sets for a while now at the Mixmag Asia office. Please give our readers a bit of background on how you got started as a DJ and producer.
“Thank you so much for having me Sean and great to hear that you like the sound, really appreciate it!
The story about how I got started is an old old tale to tell. But to cut a long story short, music has been in the family for two generations. It got passed down to me eventually and took its own form that gets sonically channeled via Todh Teri.”
There’s a guy in New York who’s using your name, but misspelled! Have you heard of him, and is he an inspiration to you?
“He is neither using my name, nor I am using his! He is a legend, and an inspiration for me. My name is a word play --- let me explain.
Todh Teri (noun) Origin : Hindi/Urdu
If said aggressively, it can imply ‘I’ll break you’.
Although in this case, I’m only breaking tunes.”
You seem to really draw inspiration from the Kalyanji and Anandji era of Bollywood, with that Moog and other synths sounds. What other producers inspire you from that classic period?
“The K&A duo have been around since the time I learnt to perceive music. Hence, they're a strong influence on me including many others like Bappi Lahiri, Biddu, Kersi Lord, R.D. Burman, Mohammed Rafi, Charanjit Singh and of course the South Indian funk master Iilaiyaraaja.”
On the dance side of things, what shaped your musical direction? Are there other producers who inspired you?
“One does not need much to get inspired once the creativity is flowing. Of course a lot of dance music producers have had an influence from Larry Levan to Shep Pettibone, Quincy Jones, James Mason, Metro Area, Move D to Schatrax, to name a few. The musical direction is usually shaped by the original composition, which has been my approach since the beginning of this project to respect the original composer and enhance the original idea without losing its essence.”
Can you tell us about your live set up? Is there room for traditional DJing in your performance repertoire? After watching your Mixmag LAB session in Mumbai, I saw how you manipulated sounds and samples to great effect. Can you share which are your favoirite bits of live DJ kit? What about software?
“As Todh Teri I only perform live, although on a couple of rare occasions I did deliver a DJ set which was more like a mixtape than a traditional one. The live set up consists of a few hardware synths — Roland TB 03, MFB 522 Drum Machine, Korg Volca Sample and another analogue bass module and Ableton, plus a couple of basic controllers.”
Your ‘Deep in India’ EPs are heard around the world. I believe you’re up to Volume 8 now? What kind of reactions do you get from both fans and other artists?
“Yes, ‘Deep In India Vol. 8’ was released earlier this ye"ar and I guess it's safe to announce that Vol.9 will soon be seeing the light this summer. The reactions from fans and fellow artists are very different. People who know the original tunes and listen to the revised interpretation usually are pleasantly surprised. DJs and producers see the edits more like a floor-filler, exotic disco from India which is also quite amazing, I have to say.”
Finally, can you take us through 5 of your favourite edits, track by track?
“Ok, so you saved the most difficult question for the end…”
"It all started from my all time favourite Nazia Hassan track, which I desperately wanted to transform into a club friendlier version, and little did I know that it would lead to something so unexpected."
"The original is a masterpiece by R.D. Burman. It took a long while to arrange this one, since it has so many great elements to work with and I wanted it all, which of course was not possible."
"Kalyanji and Anandji’s composition which was screaming for an acid bassline, and it got one. The edit was done in my old studio which was located above a club in Berlin, where I used to play occasionally. The mood and idea is basically an interpretation of one of the dance floors where this kind of music is played."
"Probably the grooviest edit (at least for me). Sampling this was a lot of fun and certain parts just fit in unintentionally, and that is the beauty. The track guided me, or rather placed itself where it belonged!"
"By the Synth Funk legend from south India. This track caught my attention instantly and became an ear worm. The basic sketch was created at the Bangalore airport due to a delay in departure, thanks to which the track was finished and tested out on the dance floor right before a gig I played in Mumbai."