Terry ‘Hooligan’ Ryan is a respected DJ, label owner, remixer and DJ tutor. For over six years, his On The Rise Academy has provided lessons to students both amateur and advanced on everything from turntables, CDJs and controllers to DJing techniques, music organisation and new tech.
Terry first entered the music business as one-half of the now legendary Atomic Hooligan, who signed with the genre-defining label Botchit & Scarper in 2000. For the next decade, they toured the world playing huge festivals and clubs (Russian megastar Lady Waks called Terry the “first international DJ to ever go to Russia and play breaks”), managed to record and release two albums, graced the covers of IDJ and DJ Mag, and remixed everyone from Underworld to James Brown.
In 2004, Terry co-founded the Menu Music label. He spent the next six years discovering new talent across the globe and releasing music by the likes Finnish bass god Rico Tubbs, who teamed up with Terry to form Bass=Win records, heralding a new era focussed on releasing the very best in bass music. Terry is also the owner of On The Rise Music, a music services company working with big names in the bass scene, including The Prodigy, Viper Recordings, Sunday Best, Punks Music, and Love & Other.
Q: You’ve had a love of music, in particular hip-hop, from a very early age. How did this start and what were your first steps to becoming a DJ?
When I was about six, I heard Herbie Hancock’s ‘Rockit’, and I became absolutely obsessed by the scratch sequence (as performed by Grandmaster DXT). I asked my mum to help me get the song, so off we went to Woolworths. I played that record constantly for the next two years. A little later, my sister gave me a cassette (or I may have ‘acquired’ it) called ‘Rap Attack’. When I heard Big Daddy Kane’s ‘Set it Off’, that was it. I became obsessed by the beats and the scratching noises, and very soon after that, I discovered Public Enemy and 3rd Base – that was where it all really started.
One of the things I did was making ‘pause-break’ tapes. Using the intro and favourite bit of tracks, I would make loops onto another cassette and write raps to go over the top of the music. So, for all those who talk about vinyl being the hard medium to learn on, my very first DJ activity was on a cassette player!
Q: How did this transition to you becoming a DJ?
When I was 15 I got my first paid work as an ice cream man’s assistant, which meant I was earning money. I bought a pair of Soundlab decks and a Kam mixer and taught myself to mix. I was just starting out at college on a graphic design course where there were a lot of DJs, though I was pretty much the only hip-hop DJ. One of my mates played jungle, and another was a house DJ, and together we asked the college if we could DJ at the student union. So, I’d take my decks and mixer along, we’d hire a little sound system and we’d all play for about four or five hours. We would also do a few house parties for friends of friends. In around 1995 I got my first Technics, which was when I started DJing much more regularly.
Q: You’re known in particular as a hip-hop DJ, how did you develop this?
As I started to DJ more often, I got into ‘scratch battles’ and I just became ‘the hip-hop DJ.’ I also started a group with my mate Rob, called the Basement Brothers (he was the rapper and I was the DJ), and Rob would drive me up and down the country to these little scratch battles. All of this time, I was learning my craft.
Q: How did you end up focusing exclusively on a DJ career?
I was doing the local parties and scratch battles, and I had started to build up a tiny bit of a name for myself. I met two guys called Matt and James, who were recording music, and they asked me if I wanted to come into a recording studio and do some scratches for them. Obviously I did, and we ended up doing a few gigs together. At the time a club called the Red Eye in Islington was running a new bands night. We went and did a gig and the promotor loved us. Essentially, we were doing a set of big beats with me scratching over the top of it, and at the time there really wasn’t much of that around. This basically turned into Atomic Hooligan. We were deep in the music scene with a lot of now huge acts – on one of the nights we were there, Snow Patrol were supporting us.
In 1999 we got signed to a record label called Botchit & Scarper. We released a few tracks and an album, we also did a lot of remixing, with artists from Underworld to James Brown. That’s when my DJ career really started to take off. I quit my day job – as a music buyer for a retailer called MVC – to go full time.
Q: When was the moment you knew it was all going to get much bigger?
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The full review can be found in Pro Mobile Issue 106, Pages 36-39.