UK producer, DJ, guitarist, songwriter and arranger Chris Todd is one half of UK house stalwarts Crazy P, producers of classic disco-house cuts with a well deserved reputation as one of the tightest dance music live acts around. Aside from the illustrious Crazy P back catalogue, Chris also has a parallel career with his Hot Toddy guise and has released two acclaimed solo albums – 2000’s Super Magic and Late Night Boogie in 2010. Hot Toddy has also put out a bunch of well received EPs, and remixed artists like Joey Negro, Soul Clap, Llorca, Fred Everything and Kraak & Smaak.
An in-demand remixer, Chris expertly combines live instrumentation with studio based trickery to produce glitterball-house epics and slo-mo cosmic disco chuggers alike. In addition to what is an impressive discography, he’s also an accomplished and well travelled DJ, so 5 Magazine decided to quiz Chris about his approach to the art of DJing.
Why do you DJ?
I see myself as more of a producer and musician than a DJ to be honest. DJing came off the back of these aspects of my work. But it’s a way to connect directly, musically to people, trying out my new productions, trying out what new music I’m feeling. It’s a great buzz to play somewhere where you really connect with the crowd and get in the zone, when everything just seems to flow. It’s a feeling thats hard to top.
What genre do you say you play and what’s your DJing style?
I play fairly eclectically, but play a lot of disco, and disco-influenced music. But also drop in some house and more acid and techno vibes. Really depends on the venue, if it’s appropriate I love to play more laid back soulful stuff, and move the tempos around a bit.
Have you been through all the formats? Do you still buy vinyl?
I’m not too precious about formats. I buy less vinyl now but still keep my hand in. Still buy a bit of second hand stuff, thats where it all started for me, buying old disco and soul to sample to make music with years ago. I don’t harbor any snobbery when it comes to which format to play, to each their own… I play off USBs, I can carry 1000s of tunes around in my pocket… It wins!
Do you have an idea of what you might play before you go on?
I have a rough Idea, I base it on where I’m playing and what time I’m on. Then fill up a playlist of about 50 tunes, and see what happens. I always have loads of other stuff with me so if what I’ve prepared ain’t doing it then I can change tack pretty easily.
Does my bum look big in this? Are we living in a computer simulation? Why’s everyone filming me, wouldn’t they rather dance??!
Do you play loads of your own productions when you DJ?
Not really. I play a bit, but I won’t keep playing the same old stuff just ‘cos it’s mine. I like to keep it fresh when at all possible, for my benefit as well as for everybody else! Sometimes I’ll get a request for something, which is always nice and that might sway me, flattery will get you everywhere!
What do you think about when you DJ?
Did I leave the stove on at home? Does my bum look big in this? Are we living in a computer simulation? Is music created or discovered? Why’s everyone filming me, wouldn’t they rather dance??!
Ha! OK, assuming you’ve got your audience off their phones and dancing, which artists/labels/producers have been doing it for you lately?
In the unlikely event that you mess up a mix when DJing, do you: (a) power through it/style it out; (b) turn it off and start again; (c) frown/angrily gesticulate at the sound engineer; (d) other, please specify:
I have a recurring dream where I’m looking for the next tune to play, I’m playing with CDs, and I’m flicking through them frantically trying to find a suitable tune to follow the one playing. It runs out, and I continue searching, nothing seems to do the job. The audience are left standing there and I’m flicking through CDs, they start heckling and throwing things, and rather than sticking any old tune on I’m still searching for something… It’s weird! It’s never happened thankfully! As far messing up a mix – in the extremely unlikely event that happens! – I mix out extremely quickly and I suppose style it out!
Any thoughts on rewinds? Do you ever pull a cheeky wheel up when DJing?
You mean playing a tune again or a spin back, “pulling a cheeky wheel up”?!? I’m so not down! A cheeky, well placed spin back can be really good, but I’ve never done it!
Track IDs have been a subject that suddenly everyone seems to have an opinion on lately, any thoughts on the subject?
I don’t have a problem with people asking for what a track is, I guess if someone was IDing every track I played it would get a little annoying… I imagine what you’re getting at is that technology is democratizing this information and this is diluting DJ culture. Stuff that’s available digitally is all up for grabs and if it means that the artists get more money then that’s all good. Obscure stuff won’t show up on Shazam so the extreme digger will be safe. At the end of the day, a good DJ will always be able to rise above the crowd with good programming, it all comes down to taste and a good ear.
What clubs do you really love to play at and why?
I always like to play in smaller venues, 100-200 capacity. Preferably with the DJ booth on or more or less the same level as the crowd. Not too keen being above everyone, feels a bit weird. So I love clubs like Bonobo, Oath and Zero in Aoyama, Tokyo. Tokyo does this thing really well and these clubs have excellent sound systems, the attention to detail in Japan is second to none.
And what’s your favorite ever DJ booth?
The one at Potato Head in Hong Kong was pretty special. I played there a few years ago, it’s described as an “Audiophile Music Room,” which it was! Beautiful wood paneling, very loungy atmosphere, amazing sound system with rotary mixer, I can’t remember the spec, but it was a gorgeous place to play some music.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell us?
I’ll be getting back on some original material after the Crazy P tour, lots of half finished projects that need revisiting as well! And I have a Hot Toddy remix out on Boogie Angst, for a band called Patawawa, they are a three piece band from Matlock (my neck of the woods), young, talented and full of spunk!