Terror Danjah Undeniable
Published Oct 24, 2010As a producer for N.A.S.T.Y. Crew, the pioneering grime collective that exploded out of East London, UK back in the early 2000s and altered the course of UK dance music for the decade that followed, Terror Danjah emerged from the bass underground alongside Kano, Wiley and Dizzee Rascal. But Danjah wasn't an MC. As grime rose in popularity, it grew more personality-driven as its more mainstream-leaning talents sidled up to British pop and hip-hop. As such, Danjah and a host of other grime producers were left behind to a dance music circuit that had moved on to new styles. But in the last few years or so, Terror Danjah's early productions have been lionized by Kode 9 and others, as funky house DJs have rediscovered the grime scene for the production signatures that had previously played second fiddle to MCs. Undeniable is something of a triumphant return for Terror Danjah, a vindication record that blisters with syncopated handclaps, wobbling lasers and a distinctly rave-y clamour. It's an aggressive record, but one that sidesteps all the egoistic bombast that often made grime's first go sound too much like over-complicated hip-hop. Released by the ever-eclectic Hyperdub label within weeks of Darkstar's debut album, Undeniable is a gleefully unclassifiable shape-shifter of an album, but one that's as rooted in the clubs as Darkstar's North is eager to escape them.
How long were you working on this?
I've been talking to Kode 9 for ages, telling him I wanted to do an album on his label. But it was Christmas time  that I came over with the ideas and jams I had to share, and he was like, "Yeah, it's brilliant, let's get it finished." I spent the first three months of the year doing nothing, doing bookings and being busy. So from May to July, it was a mad rush to get the tunes done. Even in June I was kind of worming back in. But from then on, it was every day, almost non-stop, finishing the album.
How did you meet Kode 9?
Years ago I used to see him at various club nights and we always used to pass each other and say, "hi." One of my friends, DJ Illness, was a student of his. And he said to me, "this is Kode 9" and filled me in on what he was doing, how highly esteemed he was and all. When I dove into Kode 9's background, the majority of his sets, he was always playing my tunes from Aftershock. It was a mad one to hear that he was playing my old-school tunes in Fabric. I had Martin Clark [aka Blackdown] coming up to me, saying, "You made a new Aftershock tune like you made 'em in the old days.' And I was like, "No, I haven't. It's probably the old stuff." Then Planet Mu approached me for my retrospective album, Gremlinz (The Instrumentals 2003-2009).
You had a pretty busy period in the early 2000s and then it got quiet for a while. And now it seems that a new generation has discovered your tunes.
Yeah, that's basically it; I was doing a lot of artist stuff and then the music scene changed for grime. It was only selling numbers in the UK and then it got popular and the CDs came along and the sales of vinyl depleted. I used to sell between 1,000 to 10,000 a release, and then I was suddenly shifting only 500 records when I had to order a 1,000 minimum. The way grime changed, it turned from dance music to an MC/artist fest. I'm a producer, so I put my energy into artists, but the artists blew up and then it was all tiny tempers. But as a producer, I couldn't really eat, because as soon as an artist got signed they wanted to make music for the masses and my beats weren't a popular, in-demand music. So they left us in the cold. I was still active, but there was no outlet; I've always been active. I looked after a label of 25 artists. So this is now a holiday to me. I can do an album in two weeks because I'm so used to it. And I can put it out.
You sound like this is a pretty inspiring time for you, to come back and get another chance.
Definitely. For five years I've been in the wilderness. I've always had this energy, but it's always been unseen until now. Before, I was hitting brick walls; I was punching the walls and I couldn't find a door. Now, I know where the door is and I can walk in and out of the room; I can focus more. Now, instead of just thinking about what Terror's gonna do, I can instead rebuild my empire from an instrumental infrastructure and I can put it on new MCs, music that I would never play before, but now I could chance as a wild card, because anything could work. Exactly what Kode 9 is doing, but in my own special way. (Hyperdub)