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GODS OF GARAGE

We talk Boiler Room, Daft Punk and SW4 in this exclusive back-to-back interview between Tottenham’s DJ EZ and legendary US producer Todd Edwards...

Legends is a word that is bandied around so lazily these days that it often loses all meaning, but with Todd Edwards and DJ EZ, the cap well-and-truly fits. Back in the mid-'90s, the unique, sample collage soul of Todd Edwards’ bumpy 4/4 house productions essentially laid the template for the modern garage sound; inspiring UK producers to pick up the baton and birth the phenomenon that persists today.

DJ EZ was — and is — undoubtedly the most heavy-hitting DJ champion of the garage movement that ensued; taking it next level with his definitive platinum-selling 'Pure Garage' mix compilations and his hugely popular Kiss FM show. Both still at the top of their game some two decades on, we catch up with the transatlantic jokers ahead of their exclusive back-to-back set at this year’s SW4 festival on London's Clapham Common, Sunday 25th August...

Right, let’s start off with the story of how you two first met. EZ how did you first become aware of Todd?

EZ: “Well back in the day, I used to play hardcore and the jungle stuff before I got into UK garage. One day, I was record shopping and I came across a record by Todd — I think it was the 'Sample Choir EP' — and it was that EP that got me into UK garage and the sound of Todd Edwards, so I owe a lot to him really. No doubt he will send me an invoice after this phone call!”

How about you Todd, when did EZ first come on your radar?

Todd Edwards: “First of all, I was completely isolated back then. I was in my own little world making music. There was no internet, it was all what you would see in magazines or word-of-mouth. I think the first time I knew about DJ EZ was when he had given a quote about me in an interview.

"The first time I actually met him was the first time when I was in England. It was at the Metropolitan Hotel, the day I did a party called City Sounds. It had to be around 2002 or 2003. It was me, EZ, our friend Benji and Phillipa Reed who used to work at DJ Mag. I actually have video of EZ dancing around to 'Shut the Door' in my hotel room from that night.”

EZ: “You know I got some stuff on you right? [both laugh]”

Todd: “EZ to me is a role model. I was always impressed with his DJ work, but since I have been DJing a heck of lot in recent years, it means that much more. It is one thing to be a spectator and admire a talent, it is another to appreciate a talent that blows you away when you are trying to hone the very same craft.”

EZ : “I could say the same thing when it comes to production really. I have done a few productions in the past, but not on the same scale of Todd, which is why I haven’t made any tracks for the past five or 10 years! It just made me give up.”

What is it in particular about Todd’s productions that you feel sets them apart?

EZ: “They are just unique to me. I love the way he cuts up vocals, I am a massive fan of key changes in music, and a lot of Todd’s work has a lot of them. His drum patterns, structures, everything really. The actual talent that he has got with sampling tracks and making a track out of it just sounds like no one else. I have been a follower since day one and I am a fan of all of his work. There is not one bad track that has come out of his studio. He can do no wrong really.”

Todd: “Getting all choked up now… if there is a track that EZ doesn’t like, that is the day that I’ll consider retiring!”

Todd, on your side, what is it about EZ’s DJing that puts him in a different league for you?

Todd: “I think that the reaction that a lot of DJs get is more about the size of the club or their popularity — their image basically — than technical skills. For me, only a few rely on technical skills, and EZ is the top at that. The only other DJ that I feel has that technical ability is A Trak. You listen to EZ do his thing and I can’t even follow it — he plays CDJs like a drum machine. It is an art form. He always reads his crowd so well too, and knows exactly what to play.”

EZ: “I am about to cry right here. If you need any work Todd, I have some jobs going here in PR right now…”

Todd: “I can carry your CD case any time Z.”

EZ: “It would be an honour.”

Have you guys ever collaborated on a production level?

Todd: “We have started a few things over the years, but never finished. But you know, we’re still young…”

EZ: “Same old story with EZ. Never gets stuff finished… that’s me!”

Todd: “EZ’s problem is that he has so much going on, that there’s never time for productions. He needs more people working for him. I’ve been out on a trek with him multiple times and it’s like two or three gigs a night, multiple times a week. It’s crazy.”

EZ: “I know, I’m against it, man. I think I should move you over here Todd, I need you over here.”

Todd: “I dunno man… you need to fix the London weather patterns, I am very happy in LA right now.”

EZ: “Maybe I come there then?”

Todd: “That I would love. You can sleep on my couch!”

[both laugh]

Have you been out to LA, EZ?

EZ: “No, I did go out to see Todd a couple of years ago when he was in New Jersey. As he said, we worked on a little project that never saw the light of day. But I do plan to get back in the studio and hopefully he will invite me over again to maybe do another project in the future.”

Todd: “I think that EZ has exposure in England and Europe, but I really think the States need to get a good dose of him because it’s an amazing show to watch. To actually watch someone technically work the decks and the DJ mixer for the whole set or basically make a track on-the-fly just by using the pause button on the CDJ, that’s what every DJ should shoot for. That’s showmanship.”

EZ, where is your DJing taking you this summer?

EZ: “Loads of sitting in airports and getting in planes. Lots of new gigs. Off the back of my set for Boiler Room, I have seen a big influx in bookings in places I have never been before, and nights I have never played.”

What are some of the new ones?

EZ: “Off the top of my head, Italy, Belgium, as far afield as Australia and New Zealand at the end of the year. There’s loads mate, and I am very grateful. The Boiler Room set brought a lot of new fans to me and a lot of new exposure, so it’s going to be a very hectic summer.”

Todd: “I am really happy about all the exposure that EZ is getting. It just goes to show that as big as he is, there’s still new doors to open. The Boiler Room thing was great.”

EZ: “Yeah, the Boiler Room thing was big. It’s funny as I didn’t see it coming. I am a bit like Todd really. I keep myself to myself, I don’t get out much apart from my gigs. When I got the phone call to do Boiler Room, I didn’t know exactly what it was, to be honest. When I went, I was like, ‘What is this, it’s a room full of people with a camera in the middle?’ I never thought that would have such a major impact, so I think I need to keep my ear to the ground a bit more.”

How do you feel the interest in garage music is right now?

EZ: “It’s really good. My only issue with it is that it’s got so many names… you’ve got bass music, you’ve got underground house, you’ve got this, that and the other, but it all sounds garage to me. Especially the underground house, which just sounds like the '90s garage vibe. The early Disclosure stuff for example. Julio Bashmore still sounds garage to me.”

Todd, what sort of tracks have you been making lately?

Todd: “I did a track with this French group recently...”

[EZ cheers]

EZ: “Todd you need to start that again. You need to say, “You may have heard that I have been working with a French group, I kind of got lucky'.”

Todd: “Dude, that was the year-and-a-half secret that I hated keeping. To not be able to tell anyone about that for over a year was crazy.”

How was it working with them again?

Todd: “They are one of the main reasons I moved to LA, well one of three. My manager Alexis Rivera lives out here, Scion AV are also out here, I came out a few times to speak at their conference and fell in love with LA, but working with Daft Punk for three weeks really pushed me to move here. I made so many connections and had such an epic time that I packed up my studio into a 14-foot truck and drove across the country.”

Inspiring times then…

Todd: The guy that engineered the album is a very talented engineer called Pete Franco. He offered to co-produce my album, so we’re going to be working on a vocal album together, where I’m going to be singing. Thomas from Daft has been key in that whole process. God willing, if everything goes well with the amount of time he has, Thomas [Bangalter] is going to oversee it as a friend and get involved where he sees necessary. He was the one that convinced me to do a full vocal album and focus it on myself.”

What styles of music will be on your album?

Todd: “It will be a real mix. The bottom line is I want to showcase my ability to write songs. Some things are going to have an older soul vibe. [I'm] going to dabble in some orchestral stuff, we’re definitely going to be pulling in live musicians and then actually doing some cut-ups with the actual live sounds as well. I also intend to remix the album myself, so that I cater for the dance and garage heads.”

What about you EZ? Are there more mix albums on the horizon?

EZ: “Yeah, I have a major compilation planned for 2014 that I can't say too much about right now, but I am actually doing a 'Fabric Live' compilation, which is scheduled for September.”

Will you approach the 'Fabric Live' one differently?

EZ: “Yes definitely. That one is going to be really difficult to do in my eyes, because it is just going to be one CD. I am going to try and cram as many [tunes] as I can in that hour. I will keep it old school garage but with the new stuff as well, and go quite wide and across the board.”

It feels like changing times for both of you, then…

EZ: “It is really exciting times for myself and Todd. Because if you go back a few years ago really, I was more known for the old school garage, but now I am able to play a more diverse set and more diverse events.”

You always played across the full spectrum of garage, though?

EZ: “Yeah but if you take my set now compared to two years ago, it has changed a lot… I can hear it myself. I’m loving it right now, I’m loving it, loving it, loving it…”

Todd: “Loving it, loving it, loving it…”

[both crack up]

Todd: “But seriously, I had the same situation on a smaller scale. When I started DJing I was always playing my own stuff, but you can only do that for so long. Tastes change, crowds change and people want to hear something a bit different. It took a little time for me to dive into changing up my format, and fortunately it worked when I did.”

EZ: “I’m also happy to see Todd on so many DJ bills as well man, because I remember him coming to my house those first few times…”

[Todd laughs]

EZ: “Yeah I got some shit on you too dog! He used to play my events 4x4 in Romford, and he came to my house, preparing his set, and his mixing wasn’t too clever back then, I must say. But now he’s amazing, his mixing is tight, he’s all dancing behind the decks. It’s great to see.”

Todd: “Thank you Z.”

EZ: “I am happy for you man.”

Todd: “Part of the reason I never DJed is because I had massive, massive stage fright and that took a while to get over. You are up there in front of 1500 people and you’re worried about screwing up the mixes, or whether they are tight enough. It took about 17 years before I felt confident behind the decks… better late than never!”

EZ: “The confidence level in you now is just through the roof. The difference is night and day man, night and day.”

Todd: “Thank you but I would still rather open up for you than go on after you! You can not follow this man up. The energy is insane.”

You’re playing back-to-back at this year’s SW4 festival. How did that come about?

EZ: “We were approached by the SW4 festival and the idea was to go back-to-back, which we loved.”

Todd: “I am very grateful for being so busy but my single regret is that I am not able to see friends so much… I used to see Z a lot more. But hopefully we can hang out more, do some gigs and do some music together…. so SW4 will be a chance to kill a few birds with the same stone.”

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