In fact many of Todd Terje's remixes and edits have been a bit unofficial. House and techno fans will know him for his big piano house remix of Lindstrom's 'Another Station' (the peak of Michael Mayer's 'Immer 2'), but probe a little deeper and there are dozens of Terje unofficial and semi-official edits of classic disco, house and pop tracks floating around the ether. If you're in the mood for digging, his sly tweaks of the likes of Curtis Mayfield, Paul Simon and KC & The Sunshine Band on Supreme Records are especially worth your dollar. Tell us about your edits, Terje. "Well, it's gotten to a point where they aren't really edits anymore because when I DJ, I usually go through all of the stuff I want to play. I'm recording straight-up intros, extending them, and doing equalization and maximizing it so makes records easier to play out. It's more like I'm just tailoring music for myself."
Has he ever played a record that's been a complete disaster? "Yeah, I think at least once at every gig. I'm very good at clearing the floor." Again that Norwegian deadpan thing. "I mean sometimes I play a track that I know might sound really great, but there is also a chance that it will just kill the floor. But I do it anyway."
Todd Terje was born Terje Olsen - the stage name is a sly homage to Todd Terry - in the rural village of Mjøndalen, Norway, not exactly a hotbed of disco revivalism. "My dad used to listen to Chris Rea and Hank Williams cassettes in the car," says Terje. "Not very funky stuff." He mucked around on old computers making house and jungle in his teens, but confesses he didn't catch the disco bug until 1999 - supposedly it was local hero Bjørn Torske’s track 'Sexy Disco' that first turned Terje on to the genre's possibilities. Then came a move to Oslo (in true space-disco fashion, to study astrophysics) and hookups with the likes of Lindstrom and Prins Thomas, fellow Norwegians making music that floats somewhere between the 70s and the 00's. "We used to play together a tiny bit but not that much really," says Terje. "There was never much of an exchange. But we've all always been fascinated by the same kinds of music, like Idjut Boys and their slightly offbeat, leftfield disco sound."
With so many Norwegians making this kind of music nowadays, is there a bit of a queue at the disco bins in Oslo? "Well, I buy my new stuff at Piccadilly, Juno and Phonica. The old stuff of course I get off eBay, flea markets, record fairs, dealers. That's the best way I think, if you know some dealers who are friends."
If you're playing in another city, do you make a point to go out to the record stores? "Yes, always. I'm still a nerd. I'm still addicted. The only time I haven't done that lately is when I went to China a couple of weeks ago. I decided I wasn't going to look at any records, but that was probably because China's records kind of suck."
With the Norwegian take on disco gaining traction across Europe and America, these days Terje is getting a lot of opportunities to indulge in foreign crate-digging. Yet when I ask him his favourite city to play, he chooses Oslo. "We have a monthly night called Shari Vari, named after the protohouse disco tune from 1980. That's my favourite place to DJ. I know the kind of people that go there. I know the sound system. It makes me much more free and relaxed to play more loosely and more adventurous as well."
How is the scene in Oslo generally? "It's been a bit up and down. Two years ago, there was nothing really happening, but now it's really easy to play the kind of music we're playing and to get people to really enjoy it." A hint of relief creeps into his voice. "You don't really get that many requests for Christina Aguilera anymore."
Todd Terje narrowed down his 10,000 record collection to these ten babies for Under the Gun:
Arrow - Groove Master (Acid Soca House Dub) [Mango]
"This is a tune I found in Gothenburg two weeks ago. I was really happy because it's been a while since I discovered something from scratch - that doesn't happen very much anymore because we have eBay, DJ History and messageboards where people recommend stuff. It's by Arrow, who had that huge hit 'Hot Hot Hot'. The original of this is quite horrible, it's so happy that it makes you want to puke, but this one was called the 'Acid Soca House Dub' and I just had to check it out. It reminds me of the first time I heard Modern Romance's 'Salsa Rhapsody', which is a perfect example of genius arrangements. I mean the sounds aren't that sharp but the way the remixer has arranged the tune, it's just genius. It's based around this crappy Soca groove, but when he strips it down to one monotonous groove it gets really beautiful. Then he slips in some dub effects here and there and some dub guitars and just tiny snippets of the original song so that it's unrecogniseable. It's six minutes long and I play it from the first millisecond to the last millisecond. This is the most genius find ever. It's a bit silly but it captures everything about my DJing. Like I said, I'm silly but effective."
YouTube: Arrow - Groove Master
Hot Chocolate - Cadillac (The Revenge Rework) (Less Productions]
"This is quite different from all the other re-edits coming out right now. They've added lots of sounds and remixed it in a proper way, which I really like. It's really stomping. It's totally what disco is all about: rocky guitars, really heavy bass and lyrics about picking up girls. This is quite new, but it's only out on CD though and quite rare. I've really opened my ears to Hot Chocolate in the last few years. I remember two years ago when Dirk from Eskimo told me he was really into Hot Chocolate, I couldn't really understand why because their sound is quite muffled and I usually like it quite sharp. The hi-hats are almost non-existant in their percussion. But recently they've been growing on me and now I'm really loving all the Hot Chocolate albums. I'm playing more and more of their tunes."
Debbie Jacobs - High On Your Love [MCA]
"This is produced by Paul Sabu. I haven't really heard much from him, but the stuff I have heard sounds really good. He seems to follow a blueprint in his tracks, which is basically just a stomping bass guitar on all the 4/4 kicks, a clarinet, a Nile Rodgers-ish guitar and lots of crazy synth effects. If there ever was a big room disco tune, then this is the one. Not just because it's very energetic but because the sound is really good. It's just been reedited on a label called Combi but I haven't heard that yet. I actually discovered this on YouTube because Rub N Tug played it at a really dull-looking Japanese outdoor festival. The party looked really horrible but I managed to spot the tune. Debbie Jacobs released a couple of records also produced by Paul Sabu, but that's all I know about her."
YouTube: Debbie Jacobs - High On Your Love
El Coco - It's Your Last Chance [AVI]
"I'm a big fan of Rinder and Lewis, who produced this track. But this is one of their lesser known ones which wasn't released as a single. It was on an album called 'Dancing in Paradise'. It's quite strange because it starts off as a normal disco track with very digestible Chic type vocals, then in the middle of the tune it breaks down after this gigantic synth break. Then it just builds up again from there, and it's really really beautiful. But I could never really see how they made this tune thinking of a dancefloor. To me it's really great because that's what it's all about, trying to push the limits. I'm really looking forward to playing it out for the first time, but the timing has to be right because of the strange part in the middle where it loses the beat and it just kind of stops. The first part of the track is like your normal warm-up disco tune which you can play whenever, but this tune has to be timed so that it can handle the breakdown."
Jichael Mackson - The Grass Is Always Greener [Musique Risquee]
"This is new music from a German guy from Munich. I don't know what he's done before but this is really appealing to me right now. This tune is very, very deep and very, very rhythmical. I think he has a minimal background because it consists of tiny sounds fitted into a big soundscape with lots of reverb. It's very atmospheric music. One of the pleasures of DJing right now is mixing up the old stuff with the new stuff like minimal. Of course a lot of the minimal stuff is really really boring because everyone thinks it's so easy to make when it isn't. But if you have patience, you can always really find some really good stuff. I tend to pitch a lot of it down anyway and then everything sounds better. Jichael Mackson actually sounds better the more you pitch it down too."
MySpace: Jichael Mackson - The Grass Is Always Greener
Tony Allen - Kilode (Carl Craig Remix) [Honest Jon's]
"Carl Craig is doing some really good stuff these days and even if a lot of it sounds the same, it's a really good formula so I don't mind. He can repeat it as long as he wants. This is this year's Afro for white kids. I think it's really well done because it's got this Afrobeat repetitiveness combined with quite a white, uh, modernity. The other side is quite primitive but the mixture of the two is interesting. It really works. There is another Tony Allen remix 12" on Honest Jon's which is really good, too, called Mark's Disco Dub I think. I'm not really into Afrobeat. I'm like the percussion and jungle sounds, but I think a lot of Afrobeat is more trancey than focused. I like that but sometimes I feel like it's seventeen minutes of the same percussion thing with only minor changes."
Listen: Tony Allen - Kilode (Carl Craig Remix)
DiaBolic Man - Diabolic Man (NRDS Edit) [NRDS]
"This is an old tune which I don't know much about. It was released on a French disco compilation called 'Bimbo Jet'. Bimbo Jet was the band who wrote 'El Bimbo' - a very famous tune that was used in that scene in Police Academy where the chief inspector was tricked into going into a gay bar. They were like, "Oh no! We're in a gay bar!" and that record was placing. Anyway the compilation has lots of cover versions of 'El Bimbo', but this is one of the tracks at the end called 'Diabolic Man'. It's a real mid-tempo, cosmic, phased-out chugger of a disco tune. Massive, but hard to find. Actually I haven't really found it yet - it's going to be released as a LP on the NRDS label. I also don't know who is doing the edit, but it's coming out soon. This was a tip from my friend Pål Nyhus, who is producing as part of Mungolian Jet Set. He's a really good DJ as well. I think Pål, next to Prins Thomas, they are the best DJs I've ever heard. You should definitely check him out."
Baris Manco - Lambaya Puf Deh [Yavuz Plak]
"This is also a tip from Pål. I was going to play in Istanbul but I didn't have any Turkish music so he sent me a CD with lots of Turkish stuff on it from a compilation that I can't remember the name of. This starts of really really downtempo and then builds...well, it doesn't really build actually, it just changes in tempo. The speed goes from 77 to 104 BPMs in two and half minutes so it's a nice tool if you want to beat mix everything you have, which I like to do! This track might seem a bit difficult to play but you should just try it. Trust me - if this doesn't get the girls on the floor then you're probably the ugliest DJ in the world. It doesn't have a crazy Turkish guitar in it but it definitely has a Turkish influence in it. It's very wah wah. It really worked in Istanbul though. I played it at this tech house club which was really commercial and was sponsored by Coca Cola. I think all the guys just went "Huh?" but a lot of the girls ran to the floor."
Radio Slave - Secret Base (Rob Mello Dub) [Rekids]
"I play this shitloads. If you heard me play once in the last year you definitely would have heard it. It's not really a tune. It's more like a tool or a groove, but the groove is so good that I just want to hear it all the time. It also has this funny element in it, kind of like a minimal hook. Whenever you play it, you always get three or four drunk guys going 'Aaarrgggh!' when they hear this hook because it's so primitive. They go really bananas to it. It's not really a guy's tune though. It's quite crossover, quite mid-tempo and it blends with every track you can find. That's the thing I appreciate about it most."
Stream: Radio Slave - Secret Base (Rob Mello’s No Ears Dub)
Dave Samuels - New Math [MCA]
"I just discovered this Dave Samuels guy because he had this track on the soundtrack for 'The Firm' called 'Dance Class', which was a really good tune. Sometimes when I see movies, if something is really good, then I try to check out the soundtrack. But actually this tune I found on a Joe Claussell compilation called Music: A Reason to Celebrate. I've always been a fan of that kind of mid-eighties, television jazz stuff that's very rhythmical and has all the latest synthesizers, all those Prophet synthesizers and stuff. This track fits right into that genre because it's like very Balearic. Actually, it's the very first time I've mentioned the word 'Balearic'. Sorry. I'm trying to cut down on that."