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Chicago House Music: History in Interviews and Recordings
January 11, 2010 11:33 AM   Subscribe

Gridface has an on-going series of interviews as part of its Chicago House music history section. The first interview was with Stacey Collins, aka VERB, who started working security at The Music Box in 1983. Others interviewed include producers Merwin Sanders (discog) and Jamal Moss (aka Hieroglyphic Being, IAMTHATIAM, The Sun God) and Frank Youngwerth (discog), and DJ Leonard "Remix" Rroy. [via mefi projects]

If you're looking for the sounds from the early days, Gridface also has mixes and playlists from Frankie Knuckles and Ron Hardy.

As mentioned in the interview with Leonard "Remix" Rroy, Rroy has shared various clips on YouTube, including some of his own re-edits, and a 7-part series called he's titled Chicago House Music Truth (1, 2, 3, 4 (House Music & Gangs), 5 (Before It Was House), 6, 7)

More Ron Hardy love, from YT user shotkider: Musicbox 15.12.83 Part 1, Part 2; playing a record backwards (bonus: how-to video)

More viewing fun: History of House Music in 15 parts, Maestro: Larry Levan & early DJ culture (8 of 9 clips from the DVD [IMDb, Discogs] ).
posted by filthy light thief (15 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite

 
Yay!
posted by empath at 11:58 AM on January 11, 2010


I am favoriting this post so hard.
posted by ixohoxi at 12:59 PM on January 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


Thanks for promoting me to the blue! More interviews are coming soon.
posted by hyperizer at 1:01 PM on January 11, 2010


On playing records backwards: one of the best things I've ever seen a dj do was Max graham (I think) stopping a record and running it backwards by hand at more or less 33 rpm while flawlessly mixing in another record running forward on the other turntable. I'm still not 100% sure that I saw what I think I saw because it seems so impossible to do.
posted by empath at 1:11 PM on January 11, 2010


I saw someone with a Technics turntable that had had an odd off/on button. Press it a 3rd time, off. 4th: play in reverse. Push again, off. At least, I think that's how it worked. But seeing someone mix while back-spinning a record: mad skill.

hyperizer - thanks for sharing those interviews! I love music history, especially "electronic" stuff.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:26 PM on January 11, 2010


The only reason any DJ is a star is because of the stars who listen and dance while they play. Without the crowd the DJ is nothing more than a human radio playing music.

This is the truest thing that anybody can say about DJing and throwing parties in general. When examining a party in terms of artistic criticism, I think the obvious thing to focus on is the music, but in my opinion the art that is actually produced at a club night is not the music that the crowd hears, but the crowd and the vibe of the crowd itself.

Everything, the promotion, the venue, the sound, the decor, the djs -- should be in the service of attracting the right crowd to your party and to driving that crowd into a frenzy.

Some of the best times I've ever had clubbing have been with more or less anonymous DJs playing songs that I couldn't have begun to tell you the titles of by producers that no one has ever heard of.

When you're dancing at a club and everything just feels perfect and there's no where else you'd rather be in the world, congratulations, you are part of the equivalent of a Picasso masterpiece, enjoy it while it lasts.

I've seen so many promoters drop a few grand booking a headlining 'superstar dj' and had the party completely bomb because even though people showed up to see the DJ, there was no vibe. At the best parties, it doesn't really matter who is DJing because the crowd is just up for it no matter what, and it takes a really brilliant promoter to keep that going week after week after week.
posted by empath at 1:29 PM on January 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


I saw someone with a Technics turntable that had had an odd off/on button. Press it a 3rd time, off. 4th: play in reverse. Push again, off. At least, I think that's how it worked.

I've seen those, too, but I've dj'd on the turntables at that club, and they didn't have a reverse button.
posted by empath at 1:30 PM on January 11, 2010


in my opinion the art that is actually produced at a club night is not the music that the crowd hears, but the crowd and the vibe of the crowd itself.


All music does this to some extent, but like many other kinds of art that participatory aspect becomes more and more prevalent in a democratic society. Pop culture is continually evolving towards Girltalk, like it or not.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:57 PM on January 11, 2010


All music does this to some extent,

Yeah, but I think the difference has to do with 'scene music' and 'personality-focused music' for lack of better terminology. Like, compare DC's Hardcore Punk scene where people really just wanted to rock the fuck out and they didn't really care if it was Minor Threat or Fugazi or whatever, to like your average show at the 9:30 club where most people are there for that particular band and don't just show up every Friday night no matter what just because they like the scene.

Personally, I prefer scenes to superstars.
posted by empath at 2:09 PM on January 11, 2010


Pop music history on demand. Fm de streets FINALLY. I mean, thank you Internet.
posted by Twang at 4:23 PM on January 11, 2010


Pop music history on demand. Fm de streets FINALLY. I mean, thank you Internet.

With this, MetaFilter has covered a brief musical history of Garage and a brief history of Electro, and probably more styles I haven't come across. Within a few years, we'll get (much) of the pop music world covered.
posted by filthy light thief at 5:09 PM on January 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've seen so many promoters drop a few grand booking a headlining 'superstar dj' and had the party completely bomb because even though people showed up to see the DJ, there was no vibe.

I've seen a bunch of superstar DJ's playing sets before they were famousand the vibe that they were able to create was what was about to make them famous.

However, I've never seen a DJ after they had actually made it to superstar status who was any good. I've no idea why that should be. Something to do with the crowds that they were attracting post-fame, perhaps?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:47 PM on January 11, 2010


I've never seen a DJ after they had actually made it to superstar status who was any good.

When you're a Superstar DJ, people are excited to be in your presence. Maybe not everyone, but enough to bolster your self image. I'm sure the same thing happens with any celebrity: enough sycophants surround them, and there is no one to keep them grounded in what they were. "Your last set RAWKED DOOD! What? Those kids who were saying you can't mix any more can suck it, they wouldn't know a superstar DJ from their own ass! Yeah, those kids were dicks!"
posted by filthy light thief at 7:35 PM on January 11, 2010


However, I've never seen a DJ after they had actually made it to superstar status who was any good.

I think Paul Van Dyk is almost always brilliant.

Part of the problem is that DJs become stars generally for two reasons:

1: They had a regular residency at a successful club
2: They had popular remixes or productions.

In the first case, that's very hard to translate success as a resident as a touring DJ unless you have a fanatical following. Most local DJs get popular because of their personality and the way they have a feel for a particular time and place. Scott Henry, for example, was(is?) probably the best DJ that's ever worked in DC, IMO. He basically built the rave scene in the city from scratch, by himself. He played at Buzz every month for 10 years, and more or less owned the place. The anthems he played were his anthems and they were anthems in DC because he played them.

He was also a touring DJ, but I'm not sure that ever really translated for him. There was something different about Scott Henry playing (for example) Baby D - Let Me Be Your Fantasy in DC, vs any other DJ playing it or him playing it in some other town. In DC, he was the one that played it first and played it the most, and the people that came to see him came to expect it, and when he played it, it was magic. The guy that played that song first was different in every other town, though, if you know what I mean.

Especially when you aren't producing original tracks, its hard to take what makes you unique on the road. You can be the first person to break new songs in your home city, but in every other city, it's someone else was breaking those songs.

As a producer, it's easier to be a superstar DJ and take your sound on the road, because you have songs that nobody else has, and it's different hearing Paul Van Dyk playing For An Angel, because it's his.
posted by empath at 7:02 AM on January 12, 2010


Oh, to finish the thought: For DJ that got famous for remixes and productions, there's absolutely no guarantee that being able to write a good techno song will make you a good DJ, there's not a whole lot of overlap in the skill set, and particularly in the case where a young producer gets famous without paying their dues, they don't get the basic skills.

Like, for example -- I've played empty rooms, rooms with broken equipment, clubs where they were aggressively antagonistic to what I was playing, i've had to shorten sets, play longer than I expected, etc and so forth. You learn a lot of coping strategies, etc.

A lot of 'superstar DJs' started DJing AFTER they released a couple of tracks and started getting booking requests -- more or less learning on the job. When you start off playing big rooms with people who already like what you're going to play, it may be a hell of a lot of fun, but you're not really learning how to win over a room.

I think the difference is pretty apparent between old school superstar DJs like Oakenfold(though he's off his game recently) and Sasha who came up the hard way and a lot of the newer guys who get signed to a label and agency before they're old enough to drink.
posted by empath at 1:02 PM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


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