Developing Dance Artifakts with Terron Darby

Lauren Krieger

The impact Terron Darby has been making on the dance music scene for decades has come from a variety of directions, each one driven by his unrelenting love for sound. Not one to desire to discuss his accomplishments or accolades, nevertheless they have helped influence the underground in legendary scenes in places like Miami and New York, where his love for the music has brought like minded souls together to enjoy what it’s all about.

Growing up in South Beach Miami, Terron co-founded the DJ collective DHM (Deep House Movement) in the early 90’s, sparking off what would become a life surrounded by the sound. He knew that he wanted to do nothing else but work with music, which drove him to learn and later teach audio engineering at Full Sail University in Orlando, ultimately leading to careers that have included professional audio engineer, record store manager, promoter, producer, and DJ (to name a few). Traveling north he ended up in NYC where he continues to work with audio technology giant Avid while also hosting the successful Playdate events that rock the underground. In speaking with Terron it’s obvious that he is an excellent example of the importance of following your passion; his thoughtful advice “Stay the path. Know what you believe in” is a valuable statement to take to heart.

Everything he has experienced has come together for his latest venture: Dance Artifakts. Beyond the ordinary label, Dance Artifakts represents the deep connections formed between friends and artists when the common goal of sharing what moves you is the collective focus and driving force. The label promises to be something special, with the new show on DEEP showcasing its eclectic sounds that aim to take the listener to another level. What has been important to Terron throughout his long career will continue to impact his musical decisions as Dance Artifakts develops, his motivation never wavering:

Do it for the love. It really matters.

Tune into the premiere of Dance Artifakts on December 17th @ 7PM EST [convert timezone] or listen on-demand anytime after, but first – get to know the driving force behind the scenes, Terron Darby:

How did the idea for Dance Artifakts first begin?

The idea for my label, and the vision behind it, has been a culmination of my personal experiences in the music industry since the early 90’s. Through decades of work in records stores, music studios – both private and commercial, A&R, DJ-ing, releasing records and throwing events, I have been exposed to many aspects of the business. I’ve always dreamed of my own personal outlet in the form of a music imprint to bring all those separate experiences together. Some time ago, I landed on the word Artifact. The general definition is: an object made by a human being, typically an item of cultural or historical interest. This stood out to me, as I’ve always enjoyed the “experience” of music in the form of physically “creating” it and then “collecting” it – purchasing the actual vinyl or CD, admiring the album art, reading about the artists/collaborators, etc., and then reflecting back on different styles as time passes. I wanted to evoke this feeling in my own label, and create both digital and tangible special edition vinyls of some releases, so this is what brought me to: ‘Dance Artifakts’. I felt like the entire concept came together, and it had meaning and depth in representing my take on the electronic music culture.

What do you consider the most important aspects of Dance Artifakts? What are your goals for the label?

The relationships I’ve fostered over the years. It’s been so interesting to re-connect with people from my past, situated across the US and Europe, and start to produce music with them. The label is a way to bring us together and reconnect. Some of these were people I was DJing with back in Miami , or Orlando days, and in one case the younger brother of a partner in Miami, is living in Berlin and we have been working on music together. It’s wild how small the world is, and these are the type of friends that I want to collaborate with, as we have that familiarity and it’s very fluid to generate new ideas in music production. Those solid foundations are the backbone of the label. Also, Dance Artifakts is a lifestyle, a home for friends to be able to produce music that’s not genre specific, a platform to explore all shades of electronica and art.

How does the label represent your own personal mission and passion?

I remember staring at the needle playing a record and thinking to myself, “I must learn how to make one of these”. The primary reason I went to audio engineering school was to learn how to make a vinyl record. Once I started my education I realized that there were so many different ways I could express my passion for music and art. My personal mission has always remained the same, to find a way to collaborate with others so we can all express ourselves artistically and have a home for it.

How will the FRISKY show fit in with the Dance Artifakts brand?

I’m so grateful to the FRISKY team for giving me the opportunity. The Dance Artifakts radio show will be a way to showcase the different producers/remixers on the label as DJs, and expose listeners to upcoming releases for the label. I will be dropping in some select tunes in the mixes exclusive to the show. Listeners will get a taste of music, before release dates. It’s exciting to have a platform like FRISKY so we can can weave together our productions along side some of our favorite artists. Thank you FRISKY.

I’d love to go back to the beginning and hear about some of those early days in Florida when you were first getting started. What are some of your highlights from the ‘90s scene in Miami and Orlando? Did those experiences influence the way you play and work today?

This would have to be answered in phases as there are way to many highlights:

Considering that I attended the first winter music conference in 1986 when I was in high school, I recall my favorite thing about it was that we would gather at places like the Fort Lauderdale Marriott and later the Fountainbleu hotel pool and hand out vinyl to each other as promos. We would go to the record store ‘Yesterday and Today’ and all the worldwide producers were in there and they would be playing the latest records. As the day went on, you would just raise your hand if you wanted it or not, developing stacks of vinyl to take home. Sometimes you would not get one as there were only a few test pressings and you would have to wait for it to come out months later.

I also recall one of the first real warehouse parties I went to. It was pre Groove Jet days with Danny Tenaglia. I remember always looking forward to Danny’s set at WMC each year with him playing 15+ hour sets.

Another highlight during those years was while I attended audio engineering school at Full Sail University in Orlando, Florida. While taking my audio engineering courses I was living next door to Jimmy Van M and during that time Sasha would stay at Jimmy’s house. Those weekends on our cul de sac will never be forgotten. I recall one morning Sasha and I were simultaneously searching through a crate, and we both pulled the same record “If You Don’t Love Me” (Future Sound Of London Stateside Swamp Mix) – Prefab Sprout, I think it was actually on Epic Records (1992). That moment will remain one of my most inspirational moments as a young aspiring DJ.

Before I moved to New York I was in a DJ crew we called DHM (Deep House Movement) we had a very long-standing event series called ‘Phylos Sessions’ in Miami. These experiences definitely shaped the way I play and work today and I’m constantly changing to evolve with the times. I sometimes like playing records I played in the past years and still getting a great response on the floor.

A timeless record is a timeless record, and that’s what I live for.

Your Playdate events have been so successful – can you share more details about the goals of Playdate and what makes it stand out in the New York Underground scene? 

My intention with Playdate, was to build a foundational community of like-minded people that would be a testing pad for my label’s music. I wanted to create an environment for new talent and friends that may not get a chance to play in such a saturated market. What I think really helped Playdate stand out in the underground scene, was the disruption of the normal booking methods practiced by most promoters. We always focused on music first and maintained a family vibe since its inception. We never focused on the headliner plus opener formula; all of the DJs that played at each of our events were solid relationships built over the years. I feel very honored to be able to achieve such success in such a short period of time. The one thing all our community knows is if you come to a Playdate party you know what you’re going to get – A solid music experience that always delivers. I honestly can’t thank all of our friends old and new that always show up. We couldn’t do it with out you. So thank you.

What has been your favorite part of running Playdate?

I always say the experience is more than the outcome, but if I had to say one thing that I always look forward to, it’s creating an intimate music experience. A space that you feel enveloped to experience quality music. We strive to have our events in a beautiful surrounding, with great people and amazing sound. When I can find the right venue, and create a curated environment from a blank canvas by working with different visual artists on the aesthetics of the room, it’s huge satisfaction to watch the people fill up the room and form a dance floor – it’s one of the best feelings I could imagine. I live for that.

In what ways have the events changed over the years?

In the short period of five years, we were able to have many events that were frequented by the local DJs and their friends. It’s a DJ’s DJ party. There was a period of time we were able to have an incredible warehouse space unique to us that has now become an apartment building. After the warehouse was sold, we moved the event around to different locations and that continues to be a challenge. Now with the mega productions of many brands, and the prices being charged by the venues, it’s becoming harder to curate a special intimate experience. The challenge is to find the right venue that allows the customization we require. Now that the label is going I’ll be focusing on events strictly for artist showcases, and we have many great things in store for special live performances from the artists on the label with DJs playing before and after.

Having been a part of the electronic music scene through different eras, I’d love to hear your thoughts on today’s scene – what do you think is something that we could be doing a better job of, either behind the decks or on the dance floor? 

I’m grateful that we currently have such a thriving scene across the globe and are all connected in ways we never were in the past, specifically from social media. It’s become the most powerful tool that one could imagine for promotion and reaching new and existing fans, but it’s also a double edged sword. In some cases, there’s the tendency to focus more on providing content to outlets for a certain image, verses spending the time in the studio developing music skills and honing in on the craft of music programming. For me, it’s about striking a balance between the two, and staying authentic. Behind the decks we all need to respect each other as artists, and when possible help others on their journey and foster a sense of community. There are many party brands in NY that do an amazing job at cross promotion and coming together to support different causes. On the dance floor, I say let’s all remember that it takes a lot for event producers to produce a great experience for us. Let’s support them and what they are doing to keep the vibe alive.

Listen to the premiere of Dance Artifakts on December 17th @ 7PM EST [convert timezone] or listen anytime / anywhere after with a FRISKY Premium Subscription & FRISKY Mobile Apps.