Without a cheat sheet you wouldn’t have known that Todd Edwards never released a track on Strictly Rhythm before this. Nearly 30 years after the rise of his early career intertwined with Strictly Rhythm’s golden age, he’s remixing one of the greatest records from the storied New York house music label’s catalog.
“Deep Inside” by Hardrive — an alias for Louie Vega — was released in 1993. It was, for most of the next decade, utterly inescapable. If we measure a track’s greatness by how many times it was played by professionals, I don’t know if there’s another house music track that comes close to it. It is the quintessential ’90s house track, embodying the best of a whole genre, but it lived long and prospered well into the next century. Even in 2005, when you heard a DJ mix that vocal loop in, you put down whatever you were doing and you got serious.
That’s similar to how Todd Edwards first experienced it — on a Wednesday night on the floor of New York’s legendary Sound Factory Bar. “It was the Underground Network Party hosted by Barbara Tucker and Little Louie Vega was spinning,” he remembers.
The kind of records released by Strictly Rhythm and played at Sound Factory Bar helped mold the young producer’s sound.
“Obviously Strictly Rhythm was one of the biggest labels coming out of New York. Masters At Work released so much good music on this label both together and individually. Projects like Sun, Sun, Sun, The Untouchables, works with Barbara Tucker like ‘Beautiful People’ and ‘I Get Lifted’ all had an impact on the development of what would become my signature sound.”
The closeness of that sound (as well as the physical proximity between producer and label at the time) is one of the reasons I worried I was humiliating myself when I couldn’t find a previous Todd Edwards release in Strictly’s back catalog to ask him about.
“This is my first release on Strictly Rhythm,” he says, “and I will share a personal reason why. When I first started catching some attention in the early ’90s I released a couple of EPs on Nervous Records. Obviously, Strictly Rhythm and Nervous were two of the biggest labels I wanted to work with. I had spoken to Gladys Pizarro and George Morel at Strictly about working with them not too long after releasing on Nervous.
“However, at that age I was struggling with depression which gave me social anxiety and many times I could not bring myself to go out to clubs or keep in proper contact with people. Unfortunately, that fact probably painted an image of me that seemed like I didn’t care about working with people when in fact I went through periods of complete shut down with no productivity or communication.
“I wish I didn’t have to go through that, but those mental battles made me the man and producer I am today.”
Todd Edwards is regarded as one of the kindest people in the industry and also one of the most thoughtful. Here, too, the character of the man leaves its traces in the work he does. He’s not the kind of remixer to throw some drums on and trigger some trendy effects before collecting his check and calling it a day. “When I remix a new track, I try not to listen to the original,” he says. “I want to develop a completely new idea as I would if I were making my own track or song.”
Obviously, you couldn’t avoid the original of “Deep Inside” if you wanted to (and, for the record, nobody has ever wanted to). For this project, Edwards said he wanted to show “reverence” to the original, to “try to pay homage as well to the producers who I still hold in the highest regard. I’ve always been inspired by Louie’s keyboard playing and early on was inspired to be a better keyboardist because of that. So, I tried to keep the musical elements positive and uplifting.
“Also, I made the intro with tribal-esque drums as a nod to the true Masters and how much their drum programming has inspired me. A lot of personal meaning went into this remix, but it all flowed rather naturally as I produced it.”
The original itself was based on a sample from “Beautiful People” and has been sampled in turn by artists from Kanye to DJ Rashad (not to mention “Deep As Fuck,” Double X-Posure aka Grant Nelson & Dave B’s rave-up). The remixes too have never really stopped, from personal DJ edits to recent remixes by Shadow Child and Low Steppa.
There’s always been an ongoing record store counter debate over the better track on the original EP or the remixes, including the MAW remixes made in 1995. There’s not much question there about which side Todd Edwards comes down on.
“The original remix had epic drums. Every Little Louie and MAW remix takes the track into a new direction. The original is perfection. It isn’t easy to make a track with just a few elements so perfect. Each musical chord and riff has to pop to keep playing in your head. Hence why out of all the thousands of tracks produced from yester-year, there are few that still get rinsed 30 years later. ‘Deep Inside’ will continue to be one of them.”
Todd Edwards’ remix of Hardrive’s Deep Inside is out now on Strictly Rhythm — his first release on the label, though he would be “honored” to work with them again.
“Let’s see what the future holds.”