With remixes under his belt of everyone from Hot Chip and Franz Ferdinand to The Bee Gees, Bryan Ferry, Michael Jackson and Chic, it’s fair to say that Terje Olsen (aka Todd Terje) knows his way around a Disco edit.
What’s more, in recent years he’s notched-up a string of bonafide club anthems all of his own, most notably in the form of 2012’s joyous, all-conquering synth jam Inspector Norse.
It’s little surprise, then, that Terje is considered one of Europe’s top DJs and live performers, a reputation he recently cemented with a triumphant headlining set at Barcelona’s annual Sónar festival.
Now, a decade into his career, Terje has released his debut LP, It’s Album Time, a record which sees the Scandinavian widening his concept by experimenting with new tempos and song structures, and even colluding with debonair glam rocker Bryan Ferry.
Future Music visited him in his Oslo studio to find out more.
“I rent a very small place right in the centre of Oslo, maybe 22 square feet, where I’ve got my piano, synthesizers, computer and monitors, and a little corner where I can practise my live sets. I prefer it to a home studio because I have better acoustics, but also the feeling of going to work without having to clean the toilet instead [laughs].
“I have a home studio as well, but I have a kid, so if I’m at home it’s really difficult to concentrate because there’s always a diaper to change or some vomit to clear.”
“There are very few instruments that are so inviting and it’s quite comprehensive; you can pretty much do anything you want. In fact, I did the Inspector Norse EP just through that synth. You can make simple bread and butter sounds really easily, like spaced-out BBC-style sound effects.”
“The Odyssey has a keyboard, so it has more limited features, but what it does it does really great. If you’re playing by hand and want to find a bassline that’s inspiring and sounds good immediately, the Odyssey sounds great from almost every setting.
“I have a lot of other synths that don’t sound as good to my ears right away, and I need an instrument that can inspire me fast, because I make music fast. I like a lot of those ’80s sounds; the guy from Ultravox that went solo, John Foxx - he was big on the ARP Odyssey. The way he used it was quite similar to how I use it. I don’t like it when you take a great instrument and ruin it by trying to make the weirdest sounds possible.”
“The Jupiter-4 was one of my first [synths]. Today I have many more polys, like the Jupiter-8 and the Memorymoog - a lot of good stuff - but there’s just something about the Jupiter-4 and how you interact with it. You have faders instead of knobs and everything is driven internally.
“I like working with the envelopes; the JP-4’s filters are what makes it unique - it sounds great without having to process the sounds afterwards. I use an IO MIDI Kit with the Jupiter-4, so you can make a MIDI track in Cubase or whatever, but in addition to normal MIDI it does a lot of other functions. You can pretty much automate every parameter, so if you don’t want to touch the Jupiter you can do it all by MIDI, and in addition to that it has four times the memory.”
“I mainly use it for hi-hats. It’s also got bass, kick, snare, tom toms - that’s about it. It was at the time that I was quite inspired by analogue drum machines, but I never really got it to fit in the mix.
“There are many good things about analogue drums, but bass drums should be quite tight in my opinion, and the bass drums that you create from analogue drum machines can be quite loose, so I never really got any satisfying sounds from that.
“A hands-on drum machine usually has an internal sequencer, which is good for making ideas, but I would never use it in a production.”
“It’s just easier I think, although the multi-window thing kind of puts me off as there’s so much that you have to do with your mouse. My arm hurts just by thinking about Cubase.
“Right now I’m in a transitional phase - I’m thinking of switching to Logic. At the beginning, Cubase was a very easy way to get into music production, instead of FruityLoops or Acid, or whatever was available, and I thought Cubase was going to be as smooth on Mac as PC, but the program quits unexpectedly at least five times per day, which makes me want to throw it out the window.”
Cwejman S1 Mk2
“With the Cwejman S1 there’s a speed to how the envelopes work that I really like; it’s got better possibilities in that you can do many weird sounds. You can do even more if you have a lot of Eurorack modules - then you can go really crazy, although I prefer musicality over instrumental module tweaking.”
“I’ve heard that other people have had problems with the tuning. Sometimes it double-triggers, but it’s alright.”
“The Diva thing, by u-he - that’s definitely my go-to synth. It feels very similar to the Jupiter and resembles synthesizers that I know quite well. It takes me less than a minute to create the sounds that I want and it sounds really wonderful. You can also have as many copies as you want open in a project.
“For effect plugins, there’s one called Brainworx Digital V2 EQ, which is my bass surgery plugin, and also the one I use to check phase, stereo widening and compatibility. The Valhalla Vintage Reverb is also really amazing; it’s quite resource light as well. And Voxengo's Elephant’s really nice too - I use that for simple limiting. The SPAN audio spectrum analyser is great to check what the music looks like.”
ATC SCM25 monitors
“I’ve just bought a nice set of ATC SCM25 monitors, as recommended by my mastering engineer, so now I’m listening very critically. When I tried them in the studio, I almost shed a tear. The sound had a clarity that I didn’t know I could hear.”
“I like the Boss DR-55 for the sound; I can get good samples out of it. But the LinnDrum is a different thing because it uses digital samples in the box, so if you can get your hands on the original sample then the box becomes obsolete.
“There are some things with the LinnDrum that I like to do. With normal drum sequencers every sample is played at exactly the same time; however, on the LinnDrum the hi-hat comes a little bit before the kick and the snare comes after, so there’s a wobbly offness to it.”
It’s Album Time is out now via Olsen Records. Find out more on the Todd Terje website.