Technique: Terror Danjah’s ‘Undeniable’

14.01.11

Terror Danjah’s music is brash, neon-bright and hyperactive. Despite being one of the most important and respected producers in the grime world, his work since 2001 has been collected on Planet Mu’s Gremlinz album, and Hyperdub released his latest album, ‘Undeniable’ at the end of last year. We phoned him up last month and found out exactly how he made his tracks.

Grand Opening
With this album, I wanted to make it an old school, orchestral grime sound. I saw the album like a film, and this track was like entering the amphitheater as the gladiators approach. It was the intro, and an opening to the idea, hence the name. Dream Maclean got that and just came up with that chorus. The choir was a sample, in fact everything was sampled, from the crescendo and toms to everything going on in the music was from this site soundstosample.com, so I just grabbed it, programmed it and got the strings to sample and layer and used the sample tank layered with various reverbs, Arcade New Media and Four.

Acid
When I made this, I said to Kode9 that this is the first single. Right there. I took the drums from Sidechain, added the stabs from Charley by the Prodigy and I had a sample from years ago that just went up and dropped a riff from it. I added a dancefloor effect, and I wanted an old drum and bass breakdown like you used to get – that old school drop, build, drop, build, drop that makes the crowd go mad. And a kick-drum would go out and make them go nuts.

This Year
I made that tune last year, it’s one me and DOK made together, him taking the synth and melody, me taking the drums. This is what came back. DOK added the melody after I did the drums and I mastered it, while Mz Bratt added her vocals over the top. So it’s a co-production. How it’s working now is we’re treating producers as artists. When I started out you were on your own if you were a producer, but now I’m working with lots of people. Sometimes you click and it works, sometimes you don’t, but it all comes down to knowing who you’re going to collaborate with and know your strengths. With DOK, we’ve got a few ideas to finish each other’s tunes off – like, I’ll do just do the synths and edit it around.

Bruzin’
Put out the original in 2003, Bruza’s track with Newham Generals and Triple Threat. Yeah, that came out in 2003. What happened was I was going through some old DAT tapes and took a devil mix, but made some new drums and drum and bass break from a sample pack. And instead of some bate grime drums, I used the drums from Bipolar in October, originally from BHK Drum and Bass breaks sound sample pack. I go through hundreds and hundreds of these drums, and there’s one or two that sound just right. Then I just rearrange it how I want, split it where you want it, pull the hat, the snare, the kick and rearrange it to my groove. I do this all day, and just stick them in a folder of loops to use another day. I have the worst attention span in the world. It’s just like being a chef – if you’re making teriyaki chicken, you make the sauce, then you put it to one side and you fry the chicken.

S.O.S.
This took me ages to make because of my insecurities about how people would look at it. I was late to use this plug-in – so late that all the dubstep guys were laughing under their breath about it. It’s called Nexus (from Vanguard FX) and it lets you mix two types of virtual instrument – it could be a bass, drums, synth or virtual modules, or the effects, reverb, delay, a grenade even. I was using CuBase on PC, but you can use it in Logic and ProTools, I have for all of them. CuBase is what I started on – from 2004 to now I lived on CuBase. It’s the easiest and cheapest way of getting sounds. But now I’ve moved onto a Mac, ProTools and Logic, but you work within your means. But even FruityLoops can make some real tunes. But you can’t beat a Pro G for Macs, I’m just raring to go to make the next album.

I’m Feelin U
That was done two years ago – it was just a loop I made for Mz Bratt’s album, finished in one day and edited down. This one has no samples apart from the vocals – the chorus is my singing! So stripped it down to its parts to show that I played the whole tune. I wanted to write something so well that it looked like it was sampled. I wanted to show the link between garage and grime and where you came from – almost an Artful Dodger thing that I flipped into a grime tune.

Minimal Dub
That was the wild card: it was me mucking about with a synth – I pitched it down, didn’t do much to it and gave it to Kode to see what he said. He liked it and still plays the looped up version with no synths! I was just testing the synth, playing around, put it in as a laugh and gave it to Kode – and every rave I’ve been to he still plays the stripped down version. Imagine that!

Breaking Bad
Did it with my mate Baby Face Jay, we’ve been friends since school, so this is the sort of tune I did when I was at school: old school jungle, but taking in every other genre I could think of. I told him “Gimme a hard faced house tune”, so I got the parts then kicked in to a grime tune and took the piss at the end and stuck in dubstep! It’s named after the TV show. I love that show!

Sonar
I made it in 2003 and it came out 2004, and this is an edit without the drums that I kept behind – I found the DAT and recorded it onto DVD. It’s not that ‘Undeniable’ is a best of, it’s that all my tunes are somewhere in the making, I keep going back and re-shaping and edits.

Undeniable
This was the title track, and D Double E didn’t take it as the typical “best in the game” thing. But the sound was a ladies’ tune, so he heard something else – and I wanted radio play, so I was happy to get away from the gun chatter! I wanted to do that “R&G”: http://www.grimepedia.co.uk/wiki/R%26G sound, and the tune changed three times – I wanted to show the key-changes and the structure. I’m not a very combative person, but when I read people writing that grime is just people making simple PlayStation shit, I wanted to prove that it’s so much more and has so many more possibilities. Every music starts in a simple form – listen to early Hip Hop and now listen to Kanye West’s album – it’s the same thing but it’s miles away from where it started. It’s the same with grime – it started with just a kick drum, but now there are people like Swindle who can actually play and imagine the sound in whole new ways. That’s what I wanted to prove to the world. This is pacing, this is getting attention. The second album, I’ve got to come hard on it.

Leave Me Alone
“Bruza”: http://www.myspace.com/bruzamc is one of the most underrated MCs. If he’d come through now, he’d be a phenomenon. When I made the beat, and I heard the song Insomnia by Faithless, and I said to him – think about festivals. Think about where we could go. So everyone can relate when you have a black curtain day, and day when you turn your phone off – everyone can relate to it, so let’s make that emotion but let’s make something for moshing at a festival. I wanted to do something different. I’m not a fan of Faithless, but I like the commercial ones, and I wanted to show what I could do. The synths lead the tune and turned it into a trance tune – the bassline is played live, so I can make the mood change as I go and Bruza feed off the bassline. I also sidechained the synths that punches the compression, that’s what makes that that womp-womp effect – another thing I was late to using!

Think About Me
Instead of an RnB tune I wanted to make an indie tune, so I messed with the vocals. I started scratching and rerecording it in CuBase, and I put weird effects in the Vestaxs, put some more sounds in and Lauren Mason vocalled it in just twenty minutes. Then I manipulated her voice, using chopping and screwing techniques to make it seem like there’s 8 of her on the track, and AudioDamage to give that mangled effect.

Time To Let Go
That’s me singing on it again. And I used PSP Nitro on that – that was my testament to Kode9. He always tells me to mess it up and change it, so I made this for him. It’s from that early work of mine that’s now called the purple sound. I wanted to make it more aggressive, then I added some warm chords, then I stripped it back again, made a keychange bridge with Steve Wonder-type thing, then made the tune change into a funky drum-track, and kept it morphing and twisting. Showing off, always.

Story Ending
The vocals are sampled from a CD, but off the top of my head, I can’t remember which one – I’ve got 30 physical CDs of samples and literally 2,000 virtual ones. I only use the internet for social networking and downloading various samples. That’s it! The main one is Soundsstoample.com – and I’d rather not say the others! DOK made a tune for my label and I wanted to use the vocal to come in, but then turn into a ravers’ tune. It’s enough to be happy– the rhythm is driving to where it’s going. It’s like getting your coat and leaving on a good note.

Hyperdub released Terror Danjah’s album ‘Undeniable’ on the 8th November 2010

READ TERROR DANJAH: ‘WE’LL SMOKE THEM OUT LATER.’