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Interview with Terror Danjah (2004)


Martin Clark
London Hyperdub HQ
Also published in Touch magazine 2004

Martin Clark: So what’s been going on Terror?

Terror Danjah: As everyone knows I’ve got a tune with Sadie and Kano called “So Sure” which is getting the most response from everyone in the industry. It’s crossover garage/r&b. garage tempo, garage drums but with an r&b twist to it. Call it what you want: I aint naming it anything but it works. “So Contagious” is with Shola Ama and D Double E which is coming on Aftershock 10. “Bruising” is number 9, which is Shizzle, Triple Threat and Footsie.

MC: R&b/garage fusion eh – why?

TD: So Contagious is for the girls, we need to bring back the girls. Look: without girls no guys are gonna go to raves or you’re going to have more anger and more violence. Ladies kinda break it up, it breaks the pH level. Older girls don’t want to go now because it’s too much problems. That’s why girls are needed in the scene. If you’re gonna have beef with someone but you see so much pretty girls you’ll think ‘ah I’m gonna leave it til next time, I wanna talk to this girl here.’ if you get lucky it breaks off the war. I don’t even go to them too tuff because I know I’ll see everyone I see in the ends. Girls who are my age group don’t go. It’s only the youngers and they only go for five minutes before they go somewhere else. So we need to build a scene properly. We need to make not just grime but music in general. Whatever it is, it has to be part of the scene: and that’s what I’m trying to do.

MC: But you did “Cock Back” – the most blatant gunman anthem…

TD: I did Cock Back over a year ago, January 2003. I was messing about with the gun samples to make it go in time. I made the drums light. A month later Hyper checked me, I played him the tune and within a second “in east London we cock back!” I was like ‘that’s your tune mate.’ The history of it was mad because it was supposed to be Doogz originally, then 9mm from south but he used the riddim in a war, and I didn’t want it involved in a war. Doogz was just to busy, though we will do something in the future. So it ended up being Riko, with Titch and D Double E.

MC: D Double E is everywhere at the moment. How did you meet him?

TD: I’ve known D Double from school. We started out together on the pirates. We were 16 in 1995. We were at St Bonaventures in Forrest Gate. Tinchy went there, Mac 10, Sharky went there, a few others. It was a little breeding ground. Back then we were playing jungle. Everyone wanted to be the next Brockie, Stevie Hyper D and Nicky Blackmarket, nahmeen? When garage was kicking off I was still diehard strong into the drum & bass, I was playing at One Nation, Telepathy and Slammin Vinyl. I’ve done main arenas outside London with Skibba and Shabba.

When I’d done that I was like: I’ve done my dream. You dream to have Skibba and Shabba on your set. There was nothing more I could do because they’re not letting me through, so I went into producing. I have to thank the drum & bass scene still because I had to make myself beats because no one else was sorting me out beats. I knew a couple of guys, Zinc and Bad Company. I was the first to play a Bad Company dub before they blew up.  Big up Fresh, BC – I’ve made it now. And MC Fun too, he helped me a lot.

MC: Grime fans act like jungle never happened or that their sound isn’t musically influenced by it, how does that make you feel?

TD: Tsch! They need to know! From the drum & bass scene I learnt a lot of the textures of the drum patterns. When I was jungle – before it got too dark – with Roni Size, V, Shy FX: that’s when it was how garage kinda is now. It’s coming back though, full circle.

MC: So you’re bringing the vocals back single-handedly then?

TD: I hear Wookie got a big vocal tune. Come back Wookie man I need some competition out here! It’s big. He’s put me on my toes, I like it, I like it. I look up to him I don’t even rival him. I don’t rival anyone, I just believe I’m doing my thing. I think everyone should have the same attitude. If you try to compete you’ll not be happy in yourself. You’ll say the wrong thing, it’ll get back to them and they’ll think you’re playa hating.

MC: What do you make of the “version” fashion in grime?

TD: They’re following the dancehall movement. Each cut will have Elephant Man, T.O.K., Vibez Cartel which makes the riddim more popular. Wiley started to do it so people thought, ‘yeah lemme try this.’

MC: Wasn’t your riddim that started the Sharky and Wiley beef?

TD: It wasn’t the start it was the end of it. It started with Triple Threat and Lethal B, because Triple was “Lethal” in jungle and was quite big. Then Lethal B came about and Triple was a bit sore. He took Creepy Crawler, and everyone started calling it the war riddim. Wiley done a tune dissing Sharky and 2Tuff. Sharky did my one and that was it.

But you know what, I’m not a war person. To me if they wanna war, they wanna war but I don’t think it’s the right way. If someone comes up to you and they did something to you, don’t run, defend it. But we don’t need to war. War’s for the street, but music’s music. Music’s for vibes, it’s soulfood innit. Someone did a tune dissing me. When I heard it I said, ‘you know what, I can’t be bothered.’ They need me to diss them back to create hype and get their name back. But I didn’t go down that road because I didn’t want to be known as that. Then you get vulnerable, everyone goes for you. I don’t want to be in Wiley’s situation. I feel for him but at the same time he wants it. I don’t think that’s the right way in the long run because it’s not helping is it? I hope people can leave him alone as well because he’s a major player in this scene. People need to realise although Wiley says things it’s only music, don’t take it personal. Lyrically get back at him but you can’t really knock him because he’s the only one who’s done it.

MC: For someone in their mid-twenties you know a lot about late-80s/early 90s rave tunes…

TD: My brother in law, he used to play me lots of reggae tunes, my brother used to play all that Guy Called Gerald, D-Mob, Cathy Dennis. When you’re six and seven, he got me into it. When I got older I had different tastes. People my age, they didn’t know what I was talking about. My brother-in-law ran a little soundsystem, he was one of the first DJs to play on Station FM.

MC: The MCs, the stations, the music, the culture: what is it about east London?

TD: Round here, because one person’s done it – from the Pay As U Go days, Maxwell D and everyone started bussing – people are like ’rah I used to go school with them. You know what, I can do it.’ I used to go to college with Wiley, so I though ‘y’know what, I can do it.’ I think people are realising it’s not about doing it yourself it’s about all working together.

MC: So are you going to blow up?

TD: I’m on the verge of signing a deal with either Relentless (Virgin/EMI) or Ministry. Everyone else is sniffing around. But I don’t want to sign as an artist cos I’m not. I’m just a producer. I just want to work with everyone, do what I like and push forward the scene. If I sign then I’m restricted and I can only do so much. If I got dropped then I’d have to start all over again. I don’t want to. My label’s doing well in the climate, so when the majors come to me I can say ‘look I’ve got the urban market, it’s ready and this is what they like.’

I’ve been DJ and producing for years when I realised you can only be in the game for five minutes as an artist. So when your five minutes are up, what will you have to show? What will you have contributed? I’d rather see smiling faces of people coming through than come through myself and shut the doors.  When you get up to the top and you haven’t got a scene, what you going to fall back on? If you keep bringing things through then you have a scene behind you. Tomorrow I know that most artist who come through will come through my way of working. It’s just all it is: the major or the streets. I want to have a go between where we are our own major, like the Americans do. The Americans are 15 years ahead of us.

MC: But jungle started over a decade ago…

TD: What jungle went through, that’s what garage is going through now. It needed to reclense itself. Garage is branching out, it’s better. Drum n bass is stuck at one thing. Drum n bass only sounds one way. With garage you cant even tell if it is garage nowadays. I think that’s good. Garage can be leaking into all types of music – it can be r&b, hip hop, bashy, housey and trancy. Drum n bass doesn’t have artists. The MCs are not really cutting it. You aint got singers, vocalists. With garage you’ve got the whole package, you’ve got stars. They can do different music, not just garage as well.

MC: So with your Aftershock camp and solo single signings what’s going on you’re N.A.S.T.Y. crew?

TD: It’s still there, but D Double, Footsie, Monkey not there no more though. Me I’m trying to sit down with Marcus and work on an album.  I’ve got a track coming with Shola Ama for the N.A.S.T.Y. Crew album and one with Tubby T, so I am working. Obviously everybody’s got to sort their heads out, and if I said to you ‘everything’s good’ I’d be lying. Things are changing and we’ll show now the test of character if we can live up to the name. At the moment everyone’s trying to run in different directions. Obviously Kano’s more or less the next one to blow. He is. He’s going, he’s got the major’s interested an everything.

MC: Will he leave N.A.S.T.Y. if he signs?

TD: It depends on the relationship he’s got. I don’t know. But you can’t hold someone back. If they need to go they need to go. Nothing lasts forever. But it should be on good terms. He could still do his career and still shout NASTY, like Wu Tang Clan. They still do their thing but when they come together they’re Wu Tang. It’s like me. I’ve got my own label but I still rep NASTY. We just need to sit down and do a NASTY album. But when Terror is on his own, he’s Terror. That’s why I did ‘Cock Back’ as N.A.S.T.Y. to give everyone the credit.

MC: So what’s next for you then?

TD: I’ve got a new label FL with Big ED, and another A-Level – bashment with Shizzle and 2Nice. I’m working on Saide’s album, plus track with Sherona.

MC: Will they all feature your sonic trademark, the giggle? How did that come about?

TD: It’s a laugh. I had a drum n bass sample CD and I used the laugh as a joke but people went ‘it’s big!’ people started identifying it. Even Skepta said use it or I’ll use it. Now every tune I can’t help it, it’s natural. It is my trademark.

It’s a laugh. Ha ha ha: I made it now. I’m coming – if you like it or not! I’m not angry – when I am I stick to myself. I like being anrgy. I ask myself ‘why is this happening to me?’ Because I believe things only happen if you allow them to happen to you. I’m 25 this year, it’s not like I’m 16. I’ve gotta think about having a house, kids. I could probably have a yute anytime. I can’t think ‘ah there’s always tomorrow,’ I got to think for today. I’ve got to set up my business now, I’ve gone to far to go back to a 9-5. I’ve given up my day job to do this. I can’t go back. That’s it.

MC: So what was your last dayjob?

TD: Ahhh. I was working in Burtons in Ilford as a sales assistant. They didn’t show me no love and I put my music first. I went there just to get off the signing on, cos I was studying. I sold my Technics decks to get the money to study a course. I got a job part time and I was there for three and a half years. I’d just met Sadie, through Cherona though the tune was no way thought about at the time. It went from 30 hours a week to 4 hours a week. I said ‘you know what? they’re taking the piss out of my life.’ I might as well shott or something. So when kids say they do certain things, I understand. But I know I didn’t want to go that road.  Even now I haven’t made enough money, only now is it coming in. When you put tunes out, it’s only a promotional thing. 500 is nice sales in terms of the climate. But when you split it between the artists and the label, you’re not making a month’s wage. You have to keep building your name because it’s not for the money, it’s so you believe in yourself. I just kept coming out with quality tunes until they couldn’t ignore me.

MC: So how do you stay on the next ting?

TD: I’m just always looking for the next crew on the streets and giving them beats so I keep my name alive. You have to. If you sit back someone else is going to find them. I give dubs to the hungriest DJs. Mac 10’s and East Connections, I give dubs to them first, but then I say to other DJ [hushed voice] ‘you know what? ake that. you’re over that corner, no one’s gonna hear you. You’re Birmingham or on 1Xtra – no one’s gonna hear you cos you’re a different market – take that.’ You can’t be stingy: if you keep knocking people back for tunes they’re not gonna play your stuff. Because I’ve been there from the bottom. I know how it feels.

MC: What about the sounds in your tunes?

TD: I like abstracty sounds because I come from drum n bass. I like to do different sounds – I don’t like the same sounds. I don’t like nothing straight. If it sounds like someone else’s I’m not in it. I’ve got to be different, I have to be different. I’ve got to dress different, have my hair different, my girl’s gotta be different. How I brush my teeth gotta be different, even how I sleep is different. I snore loud ladies: it’s a problem.

MC: So who’s next, production-wise?

TD: Da’Vinche, Big ED, DOK – he’s my protégé watch out for him and Magnum. They’re all coming through. But I think the best talent is what we haven’t heard yet – and I want to find them. So when you see a new Aftershock artist it’s not an alias, it is someone new.

Interview with Terror Danjah by Martin Clark on March 30th 2004 for Touch magazine under Erno Goldfinger’s Balfron Tower, Bow.


Copyright © Hyperdub 2004 – Reprinted with permission.

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