Terror Danjah links grime's past and its future

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The East London producer talks early innovations and his boundary-pushing label Hardrive. “If you listen to grime and you don't hear my influence, you’re not in the right place.”
Written by Joe RobertsPublished on
Terror Danjah has a conspiratorial chuckle that echoes The Gremlin, the evil cackle that’s been his production stamp since before the birth of grime. Forming the label After Shock in 2003, Terror quickly marked himself out as one of early grime's greatest innovators, contributing to the subgenre R&G (or rhythm’n’grime) with tracks like Sadie Ama’s So Sure and working with everyone from Wiley to Kano to Jammer. Over the years he's released three artist albums via Hyperdub and Planet Mu, while his ongoing project Hardrive – originally a mixtape, now a label featuring the likes of P Jam and D.O.K – is 10 years old. In short, Terror is bona fide grime royalty. But as he laughs, as we meet before his monthly show on Radar Radio: “I ain't got my credit yet… I need to get my pay-as-you-go phone out.”
Growing up in Forest Gate with Jamaican parents, from an early age he was exposed to soul and dancehall. “All the Ranks,” he tells us dryly. He started out DJing jungle, and hit an early milestone when he bagged a set at ‘90s jungle rave One Nation with Skibadee and Shabba D on the mic. But after that, Terror decided to pursue producing further, selling his decks and signing up to a sound engineering course. Hanging out at Music House, a cutting house in Holloway, he was mentored in developing his unique sound by Paul Chue, father of UK garage icon Wookie.
“I ain't got my credit yet… I need to get my pay-as-you-go phone out.”
Terror Danjah
The first two tracks released on After Shock, Crazy Titch's I Can C U and Terror’s own Cock Back – released under the name N.A.S.T.Y, thanks to his role in N.A.S.T.Y Crew – made an immediate impact. Terror recalls delivering vinyl to a London record shop. They’d barely even left when he got a phone call, asking for more vinyl. “I'm looking around the shop, which is packed, and I can see from the logo that everyone has the record,” he recalls. “That was the turning point.” After Shock soon became a crew, rather than a label, which is when the problems started. The debut After Shock LP, Shock To The System, took a year to put together, and featured a cast of MCs from Tinie Tempah to the Ragga Twins. “Too much money was spent on the wrong things,” laments Terror. Alongside it, though, he'd put together his own Hardrive mixtape, which took just two months. “It had a better response than the After Shock album. So when I started a new label I used that name.”
Last year was Hardrive’s biggest year yet, with three volumes of Terror Danjah’s unearthed Lost Mini Discs compilations, powerful 12-inches from Trends, P Jam and D.O.K, and the Dancehall Grime Starter Pack, featuring grime-tinged reworks of the likes of Vybz Kartel and Buju Banton. Terror is full of support for the current rash of grime MCs, but with Hardrive, he’s interested in exploring the possibilities of instrumental grime. “The MC thing can only take you down a certain path. Some of them aren’t even grime MCs, they’re hip-hop MCs, or drill MCs, or bassline MCs. They’re all in grime to get that golden break. If you say grime now it’s an “it” word. I remember saying 'grime' in 2010, when it was a swear word.”
I remember saying 'grime' in 2010, when it was a swear word.
Terror Danjah
It’s a mark of Terror’s production magic that his music reaches far outside of grime. A couple of years back he worked with Kieran Hebden, aka Four Tet, after reaching out to him on Twitter. “I didn’t think I'd get the, ‘Let’s do it’,” he grins. “Four Tet is a big force. He kept me going in a sense as he opened me up to an audience. Kieran is one of the blessest guys. What I like is that he doesn't care, he just does whatever. I went to Warehouse Project and he started with just sweeps! I want to get to that level when I can start with just sweeps.”
It's this vision of the vast possibilities that can be applied to grime that make Hardrive such a vital label to watch. The next step for the label, he says, is the formation of a supergroup – a grime foursome with D.O.K., Trends and P Jam, inspired by the reformation of mighty drum’n’bass group Bad Company. Always pushing the boundaries, Terror Danjah isn’t just a veteran of grime’s first wave, he’s still working at the vanguard of the genre in 2017. As he puts it, “If you listen to grime on the radio and you don't hear my influence or Hardrive, then you're not in the right place.”

Four Hardrive classics, selected by Terror Danjah

P Jam – Anger Management
“He's been there from the beginning. He had a classic track back in the day with D Double E called Anger Management. I heard Logan Sama playing it and I went, 'I wonder if he's going to put that out?' He put the Tempa T vocal on it and that's what blew the riddim up again. So I heard it and said, ‘P Jam, can I put this out?’ We had a Hardrive and Butterz party at East Village – it was my album lauch with Hyperdub, where Kode 9 was headlining. It was rammed and the tune of the night was Anger Management. It got three or four reloads. I said, 'I told you', so I put it out on vinyl.”
Champion – Motherboard
“Motherboard was one of the biggest tunes of its era. It came out on vinyl but it didn't get serviced properly. My friend Pioneer told me about it first but I was like, ‘You can't tell me about no-one, I have to find out for myself.’ Then I remember being at a rave at Corsica with Elijah and Skilliam [of Butterz] and hearing this tune. ‘What's this? This is hard, this is different!’ Elijah went on the phone and showed me the name. Pioneer said, ‘See, I told you!’”
D.O.K - Grove
“People thought I was D.O.K, I don't know why. He was another producer who was there from the beginning. I've know him all my life, he lives on my road – I just left his house to come here. His cousin is Spyro, so he was part of After Shock as well. Grove was an integral tune of last year.”
Mz Bratt - Selecta (Bok Bok Night Sluggin' Remix)
“At the time, hardly anyone was putting out vinyl for grime. But I was way ahead, all my sleeves were glossy. I was throwing money I didn't have at it, but I wanted to make a statement to show that we're not just kids from our bedroom making music.” 
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