Posts Tagged ‘Chicago’

Bottom Heavy

On Saturday, the Laurel and Hardy of Dalston and legendary DJ’s, Dan Beaumont & Wes Baggaley,  are joining forces to get you all bumping and thumping to some deep homosexual house with their brand new night: Bottom Heavy! Having both been prominent figures in London’s queer nightlife for over a decade and played some of the most infamous parties around the globe including The NYC Downlow, we are pretty sure that these two bottoms know how to throw a TOP party.

Despite their quite sickening resumés and having been pals for years, its actually the first time they’ve collaborated together! Don’t worry huns, this isn’t the only venture for the duo. Later in the year, Dan and Wes will be playing back-to-back at Farr festival alongside Prosumer, Tama Sumo and Lakuti! 

To get you lubed up and prepared for Bottom Heavy, Dan and Wes had a little chinwag amongst themselves! Read on to find out what these two legends think about the state of London’s LGBTQ+ Nightlife, their most played records and whats on the horizon for them both!

 Dan: Can you remember the point in your life that house music grabbed you?

Wes: I do actually. I was still at school and too young to go clubbing but I remember when Steve Silk Hurley’ ‘Jack Your Body’ and Raze ‘Break For Love’ were in the UK charts and on Top of the Pops. I remember the video for ‘Jack Your Body’ having a bucking bronco in it. Then there was the whole acid house /rave thing in the tabloids. I became mesmerised by it. I used to buy 7-inch singles every week with my pocket money from being really young and I remember buying ‘Jack Your Body’, ‘Love Can’t Turn Around’ and Inner City ‘Good Life’ on 7inch. The first house music 12 inch I bought was Lil Louis ‘French Kiss’ in 1989/90 which I still have and still play.

Dan: I remember all those weird cartoon videos they threw together for those Chicago house records that became hits. Also remember thinking ‘who is Steve Silk Hurley and why isn’t he in his video?’ Then I got totally obsessed with Betty Boo.  

Wes: What inspired you to open Dalston Superstore? 

Dan: I met Matt and other Dan (DSS co-owners) when they were running Trailer Trash, and I was doing a party called Disco Bloodbath. As promoters, we often had problems with venues, and talked a lot about starting our own. Eventually we began looking in earnest and around 2008 we found the site that became Superstore. It had been empty for a couple of years before we found it. We just wanted to create a space where the people who came to our parties would feel at home, where the music, drinks and food were all good and our friends could be themselves.

Dan: What sounds are you looking for when you go shopping for records to play out? What are you trying to communicate through DJing?

Wes: That’s a tough one. I like a really wide range of different music and play various styles but when I’m looking for sort of functional dancefloor records I tend to be drawn to quite energetic stuff with lots of percussion. I’m a massive fan of the old Cajual, Relief and Dance Mania Records and always tend to gravitate towards that type of jacking type sound. I also like disco and I’m a sucker for a disco sample but I don’t like playing the same sound all night. I just tend to play what feels right at the time, could be soulful, disco, acid, techno, hypnotic deep stuff, jazzy stuff, ravey breaks type stuff, broken beat, African percussion.

Wes: You’re partly responsible for some of the best LGBTQ+ parties around at the moment including my favourite, Chapter 10. What are your thoughts on LGBTQ+ clubbing in London at the moment, especially with a lot of venue closures in the last 5 years? 

Dan: I personally think that LGBTQ+ clubbing is very inspiring right now. Adonis, Discosodoma, Homodrop, PDA, Femmetopia, Gay Garage and loads of others are all pushing underground queer music and culture to new places. Unfortunately the gay scene is still affected by misogyny, internalised homophobia, body shaming, transphobia and masculine bullshit, but it seems like more interesting voices are starting to come through, which means more creativity and more talent steering queer clubbing. Also it’s exciting to see groups like Friends of the Joiners Arms, Resis’Dance, and London  LGBTQ+ Community Centre (all rooted in queer dancefloors) disrupting the status quo.

Chapter 10 Dan

Dan: What do you think are the positives and negatives of LGBTQ+ clubs right now?

Wes: I also think it’s a very good time for LGBTQ+ clubbing at the moment. In spite of a lot of the recent venue closures there are great nights popping up in non LGBTQ+ clubs. Seems to be a sort of creative DIY culture happening which is great. There same is happening in other cities like Manchester with great nights like Meat Free at the White Hotel and Kiss Me Again at the Soup Kitchen. There’s some great music events and brilliant cabaret stuff going on at the likes of The Glory and The RVT. As you mentioned, the internalised homophobia, transphobia and misogyny needs to be addressed. A lot of the fetish venues have closed down and some of the bigger LGBTQ+ fetish nights in London are struggling to get venues. I do think this is a vital part of the culture that is dwindling. I reckon we need a LGBTQ+ fetish rave with good music. 

Dan: Good point about all the amazing queer parties outside of London!

Wes: Can you tell me some of your favourite producers and record labels at the moment?

Dan: Labels: Lionoil, Let’s Go Swimming, Lobster Theramin, E-Beamz/Hothaus/UTTU, Not An Animal, Ransom Note, Sound Signature, Stillove4music, Dolly, The Corner, Work Them, Mistress. Producers: Telfort, Powder, Mr Tophat & Art Alfie, Jay Duncan, Midland, Jonny Rock, LB Dub Corp, Stephen Brown, Garrett David, Steffi, rRoxymore, Pariah, and everything Luke Solomon touches. Loads more that I’ve forgotten!

 

 Dan: I love it when you find a record that you know intimately from the first bar to the outro, and it does a really long stint in your bag. What are your most played records over the past couple of years?

Wes: I’ve got a few of them. I’d say my absolutely most played record is Braxton Holmes and Mark Grant –The Revival on Cajual, which has never left my bag in 20 years. I actually need to replace it because I’ve almost worn it out. Also the Maurice Fulton Syclops ones, Where’s Jason’s K, Jump Bugs and Sarah’s E With Extra P are go to tracks but luckily he’s just released another album of gems. The man’s a genius. There’s Kinshasa Anthem by Philou Lozolo on Lumberjacks in Hell that came out a couple of years ago that I’ve played a lot, and then there’s that Danny Tenaglia remix of Janet Jackson – The Pleasure Principle that I’ve owned for many years but didn’t know what it was until I heard you play it at Phonox haha

Dan: I’ve totally stolen The Revival off you. It’s pure magic.

Russia Wes

Wes: Tell us a bit about the idea behind Bottom Heavy. What can we expect?

Dan: The main idea is so we can play together all night and I can steel your tunes! Whenever I’ve heard you play, I can hear a sound in between all your records, a sort of energy that I’m always searching for myself. It’s hard to describe, but it exists in the space between that jacking Chicago sound, leftfield Detroit stuff and tribal New York tracks. Plus also jazz, afro, techno, electro and disco elements. As we mentioned earlier, here are loads of great gay nights popping off, but I think what’s missing is a really great HOUSE all-nighter that joins the dots between all those sounds. 

Wes: Haha! Well there’ll be a lot of tune stealing going on because I’ve been known to have a sneaky peek through your bag as well. 

 Dan: Back to your earlier point about Fetish nights. Why are they important to the gay scene? Are there any you remember particularly fondly? If you were to throw a fetish party, what would the vibe be?

Wes: With the fetish thing I thing it’s important to have those spaces where you can dress up and sort of act out your fantasies and do whatever you want within reason. I’m actually not massive into the sexual side of it myself believe it or not, but I do like the spectacle of the whole thing and the dressing up and the fact people are free to express themselves sexually at those nights without judgement. Sadly a lot of the fetish nights are also men only parties that go hand in hand with the whole gay misogyny thing. 

 A few years ago me and my friend Lucious Flajore put on a fetish night at The Hoist which is now closed. The night was open to everybody, gay, bi, trans, heterosexual men and women. The soundtrack was dark disco, slow brooding techno and weird electronics in one room where we also had alternative cabaret and showed art house horror movies and in the other lighter room we played disco and showed John Waters films. 

 The atmosphere was great but we had problems with the sound and there was no dancefloor to speak of then the venue closed. We also had a problem with heterosexual men complaining about gays (I know right? At the Hoist!). I am actually thinking about re-launching the party at a new venue and putting in a good sound system but making it more LGBTQ+ focused and making sure people know that women and trans people are more than welcome 

Dan: That sounds amazing. You need to make it happen!

Dan: OK last one from me. Who is your biggest DJ influence?

Wes: That’s really tough but I have to say Derrick Carter. I first heard him play in about 1995 and became obsessed. I loved the way he seemed to mix different styles with ease and mix the records for ages.

Dan: I used to go to his Classic residency at The End religiously, and would always try and describe tunes that Derrick played to people in record shops the following week. I never had any luck. I was probably trying to describe about three records being played at the same time.

Wes: And for my last one I’m going to fire that question back at you and also ask if you have any music coming out soon?

Dan: I’ve got a bunch of music nearly finished that I need to sort out. I’m going to lock myself away and do that. Arranging tracks does my nut in. 


 Catch Dan & Wes at Bottom Heavy Saturday 23rd June 9pm-3am at Dalston Superstore!

Chrissy

After a year of quality parties which saw guests ranging from Rob Mello to Gideon and Nathan Gregory Wilkins, the TUSK boys are ready to celebrate their birthday in style. They welcome genre-bending juggernaut of the Chicago dance music scene and Smart Bar resident Chrissy for a house, techno & disco birthday blowout. We caught up with him to chat alter-egos, remixes and plans for 2016! 

You have been known by quite a few monikers over the years – from Chrissy Murderbot to Chris E. Pants and now just Chrissy. How did each of these projects differ?

Chrissy Murderbot was footwork, juke, ghetto house, a bit of jungle—more uptempo stuff tied into the bass music world. I grew a little bored with that scene so I’ve used the Chrissy moniker to concentrate more on what’s closest to my heart, which is house and disco.

You ran a Year of Edits blog in which you posted a disco re-edit every week for a year. That’s pretty damn impressive considering how many other projects you have going! What was that process like?

I’m always making edits for personal DJ use, so I had a pretty large stockpile of things that I felt were strong and deserved to be shared. It was too many to realistically press to vinyl so I thought, “Why not just give them away to everybody?” That ended up being the initial batch of edits—challenging myself to make enough to have a whole year’s worth was just an interesting little addition to it.

How has the Internet changed the way you work with other DJs and producers?

It has allowed me to better keep in touch with DJs I meet on the road, and to share music back and forth between other DJs and labels that I love. More importantly it has revolutionised collaboration.

Your recently released Growl EP features one of our faves, Shaun J Wright. What was it like working together?

We did it all over the internet! I emailed him a batch of instrumentals, he picked one he liked and wrote some lyrics, emailed me some recorded vocals, I did a little bit of effects-work on the vocals and edited everything into a structure that I thought worked, sent it back to him for his notes, and we just kinda bounced it back and forth online until it was finished. Everybody’s so busy that usually that’s the easiest way to do it.

You have collaborated with and remixed an amazing array of artists – who is still on your ‘to work with’ list?

I’d love to produce a Pet Shop Boys record. Or do something with Dego from 4Hero. There are a million amazing new artists that I’d love to remix, but when asked this kind of question I first gravitate toward my heroes growing up. Vince Clarke would probably be fun to work with.

You are a resident at one of Chicago’s most iconic venues, Smart Bar. How has Smart Bar influenced you as a DJ and producer?

The DJs at Smart Bar are all so talented—easily one of the best groups of DJs on earth—that it really causes you to step up your game. It’s at once a very welcoming and very challenging environment, and it really keeps your skills sharp.

For those who haven’t made it across the pond, what is unique about the Chicago music scene? Why should it be our next party destination?

The world’s best DJs. There are some amazing DJs in every city of course, but Chicago is a brutally competitive city full of great DJs and savvy audiences that grew up with house music and DJ culture. As a result, the no-name opening DJ at some hole in the wall bar is often better than other cities’ headliners. (Detroit is also amazing in this respect, for the record.)

Which emerging artists are you most excited about?

Savile, Olin, Phran, Policy, Umfang, Ali Berger, too many to list!

What does the rest of 2016 have in store for Chrissy?

I have a new project called Chrissy & Hawley with a vocalist friend here in Chicago. The 12” single for that is coming out on Smart Bar’s label, Northside ’82, and the album is coming this Summer on The Nite Owl Diner. And I have a couple other edits 12”s and solo bits lined up as well!

And finally, can you give us a taste of what you plan to bring to TUSK in three words?

Fun party music :)

Catch Chrissy at the Tusk First Birthday Party on Saturday 27 February from 9pm-4am at Dalston Superstore. 

Shaun J Wright

Dalston Superstore is beyond excited for our upcoming family affair this Friday featuring the unstoppable force that is Shaun J Wright. Between playing at Berghain’s Panorama Bar, releasing tracks on his own label – Twirl – and jetting between gigs in the US and Europe, he and Twirl partner Alinka debut new track, Way Back on Hannah Holland’s label Batty Bass today! We caught up to chat collaboration, dream-gigs and favourite parties.

 

What has been the most exciting moment for you since the launch of Twirl?

Alinka and I have shared some really cool moments since the launch of Twirl. Getting a  nice review for our first single, “Journey Into The Deep” in DJ Magazine was super affirming. Also, having Annie Mac & Heidi play our tunes on BBC Radio 1 was special.

The Twirl brand is a collaboration between you and another Superstore fave, Alena Ratner (Alinka.) How did you guys come together as creative partners?

We met through Scott Cramer, a Chicago-based promoter who is good friends with Alinka. He thought that we would get along well musically and personally. He was correct. He also helped us to facilitate our party Twirl! in Berlin.

The first time we met was in her studio. We had instant chemistry and we haven’t stopped making music since. That really is my favorite part of the process. Sitting with her and creating new material is always fun, always driven by our current moods, recent experiences and encounters with fresh sounds. We sometimes surprise ourselves when we head into new directions. It’s all very exciting!

You guys have had a pretty huge year, from being featured on BBC Radio 1, gaining the support of Robert Owens and featuring artists such as Eli Escobar. What’s next for the label?

We have a single out now called Need Someone with stellar remixes from Aerea Negrot, Snuff Crew and The Cucarachas. We have one more single in the works before releasing a compilation in celebration of our first year.

Can you tell us about any exciting new artists you have coming up on the label?

Yes, Alinka made contact with a young man from the UK named Spatial Awareness who will be our first official release from an artist besides ourselves on Twirl. His sound is massive and we’re really excited to have him on board.

We hear you’re also working on a solo EP– can you tell us a bit about that?

Wow! That’s been quite the labor of love. I’ve been working on the EP for about five years. I have collaborated with Alinka, Stereogamous and Aerea Negrot. I’m very close with all of them so the work and the entire process has been very personal and in ways quite revealing. I find the material to be very inspiring and I hope it resonates with other listeners as it does with me. 

It’s been an adventure attempting to carve out my space as a solo artist as I have yet to release any material under my own moniker. I’ve enjoyed the process of discovering my voice with collaborators who I can trust – who push me further than I thought possible. I really thank them for helping me shape this vision.

How much have you, as an artist, been influenced by your roots in Chicago?

 I don’t know if I can separate my Chicago upbringing from my work as an artist, at least, not objectively or analytically. I do recognise how my experience(s) with the various cultural offerings from my hometown are shaped by growing up in the west suburbs and on the westside of the city and coming of age in the 90’s. Oftentimes, it’s easier to talk about house music cultures(s) from Chicago in a homogenous fashion but it was so diverse when I was growing up and it was all under the umbrella of house.

I was a footworker. I joined Mega Sweat (a juke-dance posse) in high school and participated in events like the Bud Billiken parade and local talent shows/competitions. I started sneaking into black gay clubs like The Generator and The East of The Ryan on the southside when I was way too young. That’s where I was first exposed to ballroom culture which opened my mind to an entirely new way of engaging with the music via voguing.

As a dancer and now musician, I’m certain I wouldn’t have received such a diverse education and offering of styles had I not been born and raised here in Chicago.

You must have been to some incredible parties over the years! What is your most incredible Chicago House memory?

Beyond a doubt, Frankie Knuckle’s last birthday celebration at Queen at Smart Bar. Derrick Carter, Louie Vega, David Morales, Michael Serafini and Garret David burned the decks. Inaya Day sang gorgeously. I had the honour of chatting with former Warehouse owner Robert Williams. It was packed to the brim and I thought the roof was going to lift off the building. The energy in the room was palpable!

What is one record you like to throw in as a curveball to keep people on their toes?

I’d have to go with Kink’s Source of Uncertainty. It is so twisted and full of surprises. If I’m looking to raise the energy of the room that one usually does the trick and allows me to push further into darker, more aggressive sounds.

 If you had access to a time machine and could visit any dance floor anywhere/anywhen, where would want to go dancing?

If I could only chose one I would go to the Music Box while listening to Ron Hardy spin. Just to experience the newness of house music during that era must have been riveting. I can only imagine the combination of the cutting edge sounds, the looks and the gyrating bodies. Pure unadulterated ovahness!

What does your perfect queer utopia look like?

Sitting in the living room with my closest friends with a bottle of red wine flipping between the latest political news/commentary and vogue performance clips from Ballroom Throwbacks.

Join Shaun J Wright on Friday 8 August for Twirl Presents at Dalston Superstore from 9pm-3am.

The Black Madonna

By Dan Beaumont
 
The Black Madonna has had quite the year in 2014. We fell in love with her from afar via some standout mixes, stellar word of mouth, on-point interviews and through booking all of our favourite DJs at Chicago’s legendary Smart Bar, where she just happens to be talent buyer by day and resident by night. She makes her first appearance in the lazer pit on January 3rd so we thought we’d have a look inside her record box…
  
A record where the vocal gets you every time?
Hit It N Quit by Jamie 3:26 and Cratebug.This is one of the best records ever made and the vocal is scorching. It’s really become a signature record for me. 
 

A record that reminds you of when you first real dancefloor experience
Bizarre Love Triangle by New Order. I remember spinning around on a dancefloor when I was 14 in a tiny club in Kentucky when the arpeggio comes in. Heavenly experience. It sticks in my mind clearly over 20 years later. 
 

 A record that is forever Chicago
Gotta go with The Percolator by Cajmere. I used to have a Percolator ringtone on my phone and when it would go off it didn’t matter who was around. Grandmas in the grocery, bus drivers, teenagers: everyone knew just what it was. I think it’s the national anthem of Chicago. 
 

A record that was passed to you by a DJ mentor
You know, I wasn’t really friends with my mentors. My “mentors” were people who made the mixtapes I loved. I learned to DJ essentially completely alone in a college radio station. So many records I play came to me from knowing the sets that my “mentors” played, but I don’t think any of those were ever given to me. I had a lot of DJ friends, but I wasn’t lucky enough to have a close, trusted mentor in that way. 
 
A record that who’s lyrics could be about your life
Getting Away With It by Electronic.
 

An album you listen to from start to finish on a regular basis
Metro Area, Metro Area. I heard this right when it came out. It appeared in my local record store in Kentucky, Ear Xtacy (RIP). It actually took me a while to warm to it. My ears just weren’t ready for the whole idea. What made me really pay attention was the use of Miura in a DJ Hell mix. He did something with that record that framed it for me in the way I needed to have it framed and suddenly the whole record made sense. I think no matter what I do as a producer, I’m still returning to this record. As a producer, as a listener. 
 

Your favourite Smart Bar anthem
You Can’t Hide From Yourself, Teddy Pendergrass. Our main man Derrick Carter rinses this one. I have several specific memories of him dropping this in his legendary 7 hour sets. No bassline has ever been bigger. Those stabs. The horns. It’s pure Derrick.
 

A record that’s missing from your collection 
The 12″ of Losing My Mind by the Pet Shop Boys. I have never owned it, believe it or not. I probably have dozens of PSB records, but this just isn’t one of them. 
 

A record that you can’t listen to because it makes you too sad
What’s Going On by Marvin Gaye.
 

Join The Black Madonna for Battered Sausage alongside Severino, Nadia Ksaiba and more on Saturday 3rd January at Dalston Superstore from 9pm – 3am.

Alinka

One half of Chicago’s Twirl, partner-in-crime to Shaun J Wright and celebrated DJ and producer in her own right, Alinka finally joins us here at Superstore for B(e)ast! Having just quit her day job to focus on making music alongside launching Twirl Records with Shaun, she took a moment out of her busy schedule to talk to us about dancefloors and DJ booths, the importance of her hometown, and of course, the Classic Music Company and Derrick Carter…

Who are your UNSUNG house heroes and why do they warrant more appreciation?

Well I’m very much obsessed with Hard Ton and Mamacita’s music right now. I wouldn’t say they’re so much unsung heroes because they’re doing amazing things and are definitely out there in the world, but I think they deserve all the attention and more because their sound is so unique. There’s so much music coming out these days and so much of it just sounds similar or fits a formula. I think what they’re doing is really creative and special, and I really want everyone in the world to hear it and appreciate it as much as I do!

My unsung DJ hero is definitely Michael Serafini who owns Gramaphone Records in Chicago, he’s by far one of my favorite DJ’s. I’ve known Michael for about 14 years now. I used to skip school to go hang out at the record shop when I was starting out. He would help me pick out tracks, and put away little side piles for me because back then you’d have to fight for all the new stuff and you know I was young and quite little haha. He’s finally getting the attention he deserves. I know he just played Panorama bar recently for the first time and has been traveling quite a bit. He’s just a great person and an amazing DJ that deserves the spotlight.   

Let’s have some positivity instead of eliciting a DJ rant… what makes you full of love?

Shaun J. Wright makes me full of love! Since we met and teamed up, the series of events that have transpired, the people I’ve met, the music we’ve made, all the experiences collectively have been the most amazing and significant in my life. I’m very grateful for that. It’s just been really positive all around and I know that energy and love flows into the music we’re making. I’ve definitely sat down and cried listening back to songs in the studio, and we’ve had many moments where it just feels really magical.  I don’t think I ever really quite fit in or found people I completely relate to musically and in life until the past few years because of meeting Shaun. Not to say I didn’t have great friends and mentors prior, but my newfound little music family around the world has really inspired me and made me feel complete.

We previously had your sister-in-Twirl, Shaun J Wright, playing at B(e)ast here at Superstore- how do you plan to turn it out even more than he did?

Ha! Shaun is an amazing DJ and performer! I don’t think I can honestly say anyone would turn it out more than Shaun, but I’ll do my thing and give you a little piece of Chicago!

What’s had the biggest impact on your sound- the city of Chicago or Shaun J Wright? Or are they inextricably linked?

They are definitely linked! I’ve lived in Chicago since I was eight years old. It’s tattooed on me in a few places, I would say it’s in my blood at this point. I learned from watching DJ’s like Derrick Carter, Heather, and Justin Long so I think my style of DJ’ing is very much influenced by Chicago. Chicago house is what made me fall in love with dance music and basically give up any chance of a basic life (thank god). Shaun has had the most impact on me as an artist. I had taken a break from dance music for a few years because I got really burnt out and I wasn’t feeling inspired by the music that was coming out at the time. I was really down and unsure of where I wanted to go musically and in life. I really didn’t feel like I fit in with what was happening around me. Hercules and Love Affair was pretty much the only electronic music I would listen to at the time, I thought it was so epic. It got me through some difficult times and made me feel like there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. I never actually thought I would meet any of those guys, it was never a goal or anything I just really loved their music and it was monumentally important to me.

Flash forward a few years… I was in this band when my manager at the time Scott Cramer said “Hey Shaun J. Wright just moved back to Chicago you guys should do something together”.  I looked at him like he was crazy for not thinking of this earlier and keeping this info from me haha! Three years later here we are. I was so nervous to work with him because I admired him so much as an artist, it really pushed me to become a better producer. He gave me the confidence to finally make the music I always wanted to create. He really brought it out of me. He’s constantly inspiring me to grow and evolve as an artist and a human. I would say meeting him has been the most impactful thing in my career and my life generally. As you can see there’s a lot of love there haha!

Can you talk us through the evolution of Twirl?

Twirl started out as a monthly party from Shaun, myself, and our good friend Mr. White, with the help of Scott Cramer and our host Sissy Spastik at Berlin Night Club. We started it because we wanted a fun space to DJ together and wanted to showcase some of our favorite DJ’s and friends that weren’t necessarily playing in Chicago as often as they should. We just wanted to do something unique that fit our style. Berlin Night Club and Scott allowed us to really be creative and do our thing. We were fortunate to be able to bring in Eli Escobar, Lauren Flax, Heather, Derrick Carter, JD Samson, The Carry Nation, and a long list of DJ’s we really love. It recently evolved into a record label because Shaun and I were making so much music we wanted to give it a home of its own. We love working with other labels, but nothing compares to having full creative control over your own tracks and really working on every part of the release from the ground up. It’s been really amazing curating remixers and just being involved with every bit of what goes into the process. Luckily we have a great team that works very hard and supports one another. It’s gotten a pretty amazing reception thus far so hopefully we’re doing something right!

You’re taking us out in your hometown… where are we going, what are we doing? What are your Chicago musts!

Ok so I’m a huge foodie and there’s so many amazing restaurants in Chicago, but there’s one I bring every (non-vegetarian) guest to when they’re in town. It’s called Au Cheval and it’s my absolute favorite! Best burger in the universe, though really everything there is amazing. Now that we’re not hungry, we’d have to go to Gramaphone Records and pick up some classics. I hardly play vinyl out of the house these days but I’m still a collector and anyone visiting me likely is as well. It’s just a part of Chicago history you can’t avoid if you’re a music fan. After we’ve gotten that fix we’re off for drinks at Wang’s. Wang’s is my favorite bar, it’s our spot. We have a song called Wang’s On Broadway coming out on Classic Music Company next year, so obviously Wang’s has been an inspiration! It’s just epic. Our friends Banjee Report and Men’s Room have thrown some great parties there. Wang’s is a must. If you can still walk after this there’s obviously some great clubs in Chicago. Smart Bar, Primary, and Spy Bar are all doing great things on the regular so if you’d like to go for a dance then I’d head to one of those. Outside of that I spend most of my time at home in the studio so you’re more than welcome to hang out at my apartment with Shaun and I plus ‘The Ratners’. I have two cats and a dog currently, which I refer to as ‘The Ratners’ or the children. Anyway, you’re all invited! 

How did you come to be part of the amazing Classic family?

I met Derrick Carter when I was 19 through my friend DJ Dayhota who was dragging me around town to lots of amazing places I couldn’t get into on my own. Being illegal and very curious wasn’t always easy, but with the help of great friends anything is possible. Her and Derrick were good friends and I was still very fresh to the scene and learning about house music and life in general. I remember I had drinks with her and Derrick one night and then I went to Gramaphone Records a few days later and that record 10 had just come out on Classic with his picture out it. Whoever was working at the time rushed over and told me I had to get this record, and in my head I was like whatever I just had drinks with that guy no big deal, because I was actually that clueless at the time. Then I listened to it and basically bought every record on the label I could get my hands on, and he became my favorite DJ. The label has a massive section in my record collection dedicated to them and Music For Freaks. I’m a huge fan of Luke and Derrick and the artists they’ve had on the label. Classic and Cajual really changed my life.

Anyway, when we finished our first EP we sent it off to Derrick who then passed it onto Luke. We didn’t really know if they’d even listen to it but we like to aim high and luckily they picked it up! It was a dream come true for me honestly, and it was really encouraging that our first project was going to them. It meant a lot. It’s just been an amazing experience working with them, and I’m really looking forward to our second EP on the label and hopefully others to come. 

We managed to secure you a time machine and you can visit any dancefloor for any point in time! Where/when are we setting the dials for?

Oh wow my own time machine! First I’d go back and buy all the Air Jordans I can no longer afford, then we can go dancing!  To me the best decades were the ’80s and ’90s and I’d have to get to Chicago, NYC, Detroit, and definitely tour the clubs in the UK. I got to go to The Loft last year thanks to my friend Will Automagic, and that was an amazing experience! Honestly my time machine would probably be flying in circles trying to figure it out with a mild hangover like we were trying to decide on brunch. Life is hard sometimes. Thankfully we’ve had some amazing dance music come out throughout the years to make this decision nearly impossible. 

Speaking of dancefloors, who has been your most musically out there guest ever at Twirl?

This is a difficult one. They’ve all been pretty out there that’s why they’re our friends.  Musically I’d have to say Tiffany Roth of Midnight Magic. She’s really incredible and her track selection is brilliant and very versatile. 

What is your ultimate DJ booth horror story?

Ooh I have a good one! This happened recently actually. I’ve never been one to understand the ‘request’ thing but I try to be as polite as possible about it when it does happen. Like if I’m playing at your house or your brother’s birthday party then fine I could see a reason for asking me to play your favorite song which you just heard 10 times in your car on the way to the party. But luckily we’ve moved past that point in my career when you show up at the crowded club. Anyway, I was opening for Roy Davis Jr to a packed room. About half way through my set I could see this group of girls in front of the booth staring at me like they wanted to have a chat. I knew where this was going so I continued mixing and didn’t pay any attention to them. A minute later I could see long dark hair to the side of me in the DJ booth and of course I thought it was my friend because who else would force their way into a tiny DJ booth at a packed club when they don’t know the DJ. Please visualize a tiny space where there is definitely not enough room for two people to stand unless one is being pressed back into the wall.

All of the sudden the long hair started getting closer and I turned my head to notice not only is this not my friend but she’s now pushing me off to the side and leaning over the CDJ’s reaching out to her friends while laughing and trying to have a conversation with them like reality has just left the building. As I’m in shock and staring at this person with a look of confusion while also in the middle of a blend, she elbows the CDJ stops all the music and then continues her conversation as well as hovering and bumping into me and the gear at which point I have to restart the track and everyone is staring at both of us. I asked her if she knew that she was in the DJ booth and why she was there. Instead of having any kind of remorse she turned to me and said “I’m here to make a request” with a very eager look on her face, to which I responded “Absolutely not.” This did not register and left her in shock and unwilling to leave at which point I knew we would never be on the same page. So it ended in her getting escorted back to her circle followed by her making evil eyes at me while all my friends and I shook our heads in disbelief while mouthing “Unbelievable.” She still didn’t understand why anything was wrong with any of this and thought I’d done her a great injustice by not letting her back in or playing her song. I’m not sorry.  

Join Alinka for B(e)ast at Dalston Superstore on Saturday 6th December from 9pm – 3am.

Jeffrey Sfire

Detroit DJ Jeffrey Sfire joins us here at Superstore for an extra special European date in between playing at Panorama Bar and at Lab.oratory in Berlin. With a love of all things hi-NRG, Italo, ’80s, Chicago house; Jeffrey’s sets span genres and gets gay men dancing across the world’s discotheques. He’ll be flexing his disco muscles next Saturday for Little Gay Brother’s Locker Room down in the laser pit with Vauxhall babes Maze & Masters.

Having discovered Detroit’s underground warehouse scene at 15, moved to Chicago at 18 and having lived in Berlin, Jeffrey has finely tuned both his music taste and DJing style to suit banging clubs, sleazy afterhours and gay discos, and that’s all in addition to releasing productions under the Sfire name with Samuel Long on Discodromo’s celebrated Cocktail D’Amore label. Ahead of the Little Gay Locker Room we chatted to Jeffrey about his secret past as a restauranteur, going on dates and why everyone loves hi-NRG again…

The theme of the party here at Superstore is Locker Rooms. What’s the naughtiest thing you’ve ever got up to in a locker room?

A boring old BJ.

That’s not boring! That’s naughty!

But it’s not as exciting as it could be.

Tell us what happened.

Oh no wait; I have a good locker room story. It’s not naughty though. My biggest crush in high school, one year in fitness class, had his locker next to mine and it was kinda unbelievable haha. Nothing naughty ever happened but… no I’ve never really gotten up to too much in a locker room.

You’re super influenced by the ’80s- what did you look like then and what kind of music were you listening to… tell us about 80s Jeffrey!

Well I think a lot of my musical influence comes from riding around in my mom’s car listening to pop music.

Mum Jams.

Yeah totally. And I had a little afro because I had really curly hair. She used to make me have this little golden-brown afro which was cute. Oh and my mom used to make me model in department store runway shows! Which is pretty adorable!

I always go back to my mom’s, listening to pop music in her car…. like Madonna, and Wham, just early ‘80s pop. Just radio hits, but back then it was all synthesisers and drum machines, and it was all dancey stuff so it really appealed to me.

If you’d been in your early 20s in the ‘80s, what music do you think you’d have been into of your own accord though?

I don’t know, I always wonder that. You never know… you could have found something else totally interesting. I always wonder what people then thought about the ‘80s music I listen to now. Some people say Italo disco was like trance in the ‘80s. Certainly when dance music from the ‘70s to the ‘80s became more electronic, there were so many musicians that totally disregarded it because they thought it was soulless. Um, I don’t know. I hope I would have been into the same dance music! The Chicago taste, and the Detroit taste really appealed to me, which was mixing everything together- from disco to house to pop to freestyle- all that stuff, just mixing it all together and dancing. I think the New York sound was a little more Afro for me… but then I also think ‘would I have been really New Wave?’ like the Liquid Sky soundtrack kinda music. But I think being in the Midwest especially; it’s humble and more about having fun than being fashion.

Back to baby Jeffrey… you were going to warehouse parties in Detroit from the age of 15. What are your formative rave memories?

It’s funny because I just moved back to Detroit and I’ll pass some burnt out warehouse and be like “didn’t we party there?!” I just remember when I was coming up I was so interested in DJing and so many of my older friends were DJs and I was all about just soaking it in, learning by watching and going to see as much music and different styles as I could. I was so excited. I grew up in a suburb that’s very Old Money, kinda posh and conservative, so getting to escape on the weekends and go to these crazy parties, with tonnes of queer people and all these older people too, so there was all these freedom. It was everything.

But mostly for me it was about watching DJs. There’s so many good DJs here, and so many good styles.

Who are some of the first DJs you saw around that time?

One of my favourites is this guy called D. Wynn. He’s an older Detroit guy, along the same time period as Derrick May and Kevin Saunderson. But he like didn’t become mega famous. I think he’s one of the best DJs from Detroit ever though. He had a really cool style. Also Mike Huckaby was a huge influence, just in his DJ style. And some of my friends that I hung out with all the time, like this guy Derek Plaslaiko who lives in Berlin now. Him, and some other people, I would watch them all the time, and pick up on their styles. I think they had a huge influence on my taste. I think Detroit has a really specific taste. I mean even between Detroit, New York and Chicago, even other cities, I feel like each has a very specific taste. I’m really grateful to be from here, and picked up that, y’know. 


D-Wynn Boiler Room Detroit DJ Set by brtvofficial

Why do you think hi-NRG making such a resurrgence this year?

Because everyone who is like 20 wasn’t sick of it eight years ago! Because they were 14 haha! Honestly, I was at a house party the other day, and this girl that had to have been like 21, she put Spacer Woman on. She was like “Oh.My.God. you guys, listen to this song! It was made in like ’81!!” and she put it on and I was like “You have got to be kidding me. You’re not like totally sick of this song??” She said “I’VE NEVER LIKE HEARD THIS BEFORE!!”

It was just resissued by Dark Entries…

Oh well that’s probably why. I was in San Francisco too. Well that makes sense. Hahaha! It is funny though, because things like that pop up and you’re like Ohhh that’s why.

It has felt since at least the beginning of the year that the genre is reaching a zeitgeisty point and people have started to get a bit bandwagony…

Well I feel like it keeps going through waves.

Everything is cyclic, certainly… but hi-NRG is like the “thing” this year.

Well that’s good to hear, because I like to play it. I mean I guess people just got sick of house music.

If you had a time machine and could visit any dancefloor anywhere/anywhen, where would you want to go dancing?

I think I would wanna go to the Muzic Box in Chicago. And hear Ron Hardy DJ. I would wanna hear him do his thing live.

Or even, there was a club in Detroit called Heaven with this guy Ken Collier.

Tell us about how you met Samuel Long and how Sfire came about?

He and I met on a dancefloor, in Berlin. His band was playing at an art gallery. We had some mutual friends so we were introduced. Then I saw them play and I was really into it, and I could hear the genius in his music. I suggested they make a dance version of a song they did, and he was like “well, why don’t you come and help me make it.” He had heard me DJ a few times, and he just invited me over. He’s very friendly and like ‘lets just have fun making music’ kinda guy. So we worked on it, and then we made a new song and then we were like “lets make a new song”, “lets make a new song”, “lets make a new song” and after a while we had a handful of songs, and we became really good friends. It was really fun just to go hang out and be really casual about it, but still have fun.

Any plans for more Sfire records?

Um yeah, we have maybe five songs that haven’t been released that we could work on. I think the project will turn into us working with lots of different people for each record. It’ll be really fun. Some new producers, and new friends, people from all over really.

You’ve lived in Detroit, Chicago, Berlin… where is your spiritual home?

Oh that’s a tough question. That’s my existential crisis right now. I left Berlin about a year ago and that was my spiritual home for a long time. So I’m really wondering this right now. But I’m starting to think it’s California. It’s a really magical place, and people are really happy there.

Where in California?

San Francisco.

Whilst in Berlin you were also a restauranteur, how did that develop from your supper clubs?

Well my ex boyfriend who I moved to Berlin with, he is an extremely talented chef, so for money we did a supper club that got a ton of press for it. We just ran with it, and it just seemed like an easy thing to do, to open the business in Berlin. There was a great demand for it, so we knew it would be successful. And so we went for it! American style!

There’s a video interview online with you both in the restaurant and the décor is amazing, especially all the lights… owl lights, and deer lights… it just seemed like you’d obviously put a lot of thought into that.

Yeah. We did. We completely renovated that place. It was this disgusting filthy restaurant before, so we tore out everything, and built the bar, and the shelves and everything. The flea markets in Germany are so great because they have so many of these animal figurines; actually most of them are on my desk right now! The owl lights and all the bunnies. Flea markets in Berlin on Sundays. You just have to go. And the best thing we would do was take loads of road trips, and if you drive down the country roads, every town you get to has a second hand shop where you can fill up a trunk for €10. It’s incredible.

RADIUS.TV | Little Otik | Jeffrey Sfire & Kevin Avery from RADIUS. magazine on Vimeo.

You’re taking us on a date in a city of your choice. Where are we going, what are we eating and where are we dancing?

I could do this for all the fun cities right now. But lets say San Francisco. We’re gonna eat Burmese food, and we’re having tea salad (lahpet thoke). My favourite restaurant there is called Burmese Kitchen.

Isn’t it closing down?

Oh yes it is. We’re going before it closes. Anyway, this is a fantasy so it’s still open. So we’d eat there and then we’d go get a doughnut at Bob’s Doughnuts. Then we’d go to a Honey Soundsystem party. It would be amazing.

What are we drinking though?

What are we drinking? Well honestly we’re probably drinking tea, because me and Josh [Cheon] and Robot Hustle always have tea when we’re together because we’re old ladies. We’ll drink tea and then go for a dance.

What’s the first record you ever bought?

A Jeff Mills record. Purpose Maker record. When I first started DJing I was really into a lot of hard techno. So I think my first records was like Jeff Mills records and Joey Beltram records.

The last record you bought?

A Mantra record on Bunker from The Netherlands.

And what’s the record that never leaves your bag?

It’s this freestyle record that I love to play. It’s by Shana and it’s called I Want You. It really never leaves my bag. I played it once in Berlin and my best friend was like “oh, such a Jeff record.”

What’s the reaction it gets from people, other than those that already know you?

I think it’s normally a great reaction. But the best reaction I get is when I play in New York or Chicago and someone runs up and you can tell it was a childhood track of theirs and they’re like “I FUCKING LOVE THIS SONG!!! THIS IS MY SONG!!” A lot of times that happens and it’s the best. When you see someone with that genuine look on their face and it’s not a club hit. Especially in Chicago, I get that a lot. Almost everything I DJ was on the radio in the ‘80s there. People just get so happy to hear that stuff so you get these genuine reactions that are priceless. I love that. Going back to Chicago and DJing is really fun for me.     

Join Jeffrey at Little Gay Locker Room at Dalston Superstore on Saturday 15th November from 9pm – 3am.

Meet Honey Dijon

By Whitney Weiss

Whether spinning euphoric disco sets at Le Bain or stripped-down techno in Berlin, Honey Dijon is always on top of her game. A DJ’s DJ with an encyclopedic knowledge of dance music, she currently divides her time between New York, Berlin, and a packed touring schedule. Ahead of Honey’s set at Fhloston Paradise, we chatted about the current state of New York nightlife, testing tracks on actual dance floors, and why it’s impossible to choose a single historical club to visit with a time machine…

So to be clear for those who might not know, you’re from Chicago but currently based in New York and Berlin, or just New York?

I spent the last three summers in Berlin, and I love the city. I’m just trying to figure out how to move there full-time, since everybody and their mother lives there. And I still work quite a bit in North America. I’m going for three weeks, actually, because I’m going to Tel Aviv to play The Block, then I come to London to play Dalston Superstore, then I play Homopatik, then I go to Ibiza. It’s just easier [to tour in Europe] if I’m there.

Since you’ve been involved in New York nightlife for such a long time, what would you say is the biggest difference between what it was when you first arrived and where it’s at now?

The biggest difference now is that I don’t see very many people of color at the clubs anymore. It’s not as culturally diverse as it used to be. Musically, New York doesn’t have a sound anymore. It was once one of the most influential dance capitals of the world, it had so many influential artists back in the day. There are party promoters who are very successful, like ReSolute, Blk|Market, and Verboten, but I wouldn’t say that there’s a definite New York sound. The only DJs who are really making an impression in Europe right now are Levon Vincent, Joey Anderson, and a/just/ed but I’d have to say they’re much more embraced in Europe than in the States. I mean, EDM is still quite popular here. 

And is that one of the reasons you’re interested in Europe at the moment, aside from the fact that it sounds like you’re booked so often?

Yeah, I think musically. Also, New York is such an expensive place. The best line that I ever heard about New York, as it is today, is ‘New York is a great place to sell art, but it’s not a place to make art.’ I think that’s one of the main reasons why I’m looking more to Europe. And it’s so funny, there’s such a resurgence in house music at the moment, and that’s something I’m very well versed in. They’re talking about how deep house is this next big trend, which is so funny because it never went away. It never went away, it’s just a difference face has been put upon it, if you know what I mean.

I definitely know what you mean.

Yeah. So I really feel more artistically free in Europe as an artist, so that’s one of the reasons that I would consider living there. But fees are not as high; it’s a trade-off. It’s a great place to live, but there’s a DJ every two minutes. And great ones. 

And how do you feel about London?

I absolutely love London, I think it’s such a musically rich city. I mean, the music I find in London I tend to not find anywhere else. The record stores Phonica and Kristina are curated so well, I find such amazing things there. And they just really love music. Not just dance music; you hear all kinds of music in London. From jazz to pop to dub, you can hear anything. It’s very inspiring for me. But it’s mad expensive. And so vast. It’s not like the city of New York, where it’s expensive but you can sort of walk anywhere. it’s really spread out, the east is far from the west. But I absolutely love London.

And what sorts of records have you been playing out a lot lately? What can the crowd at Dalston Superstore expect on the 12th?

I’ve been playing more raw these days, more stripped-back, more techno-influenced, mixed in with classic things. But techno has been really inspiring, I don’t know if that’s coming from spending a lot of time in Berlin. I just listen for things that reflect my personality and reflect how I want to express music. I’ve been accused of being eclectic, and I’ve embraced that. Because when I was on Traktor for so many years, I found that I was more concerned with what I could do with the music instead of letting the music breathe. I realized I was a much better artist just going back to vinyl and using USB sticks and playing records. So I guess what they can expect is a more stripped-down version of house music. I don’t know what to call it anymore! The best word I can come up with is “soultek.” 

So the fashion weeks are about to be upon us. You have a long-time collaboration with Kim Jones from Louis Vuitton and have DJed a ton of fashion week parties in the past. Are you playing this year or doing any shows?

Um, I’ve transitioned more into a personality.

Even better!

So I’m going to more fashion events than actually doing after-parties now. The thing about fashion is it always has to be the next, the next, the next, you know, I’ve had my turn. The fashion crowd went to Ibiza this year for some reason, so I think you’ll be hearing a lot more house music and stuff like that. Now I just work with friends and do soundtracks for events or do soundtracks for shows more than I do parties. Which is much more exciting and fun, because you’re actually collaborating with artists and designers instead of being the after-party soundtrack.

Can you tell us anything about what you’re collaborating on this year or is it a secret?

I think the longest-standing relationship I have is doing the music for Louis Vuitton. There’s always research that goes into that show, that goes into that music, and every season I’ve worked with Kim, I’ve always done special edits of particular music. Last season, I did a special edit of Hounds Of Love. Kim likes really obscure things, so it’s really a matter of doing a lot of research and doing special edits tailor-made for the show. That’s always exciting and challenging and fun.

And do you have any new remixes coming out?

I just did a remix for My Offence for Hercules & Love Affair, I actually have two projects about to come out on Classic. I’m about to do a remix for DJ W!ld, I just did a bunch of original material that I’m shopping at the moment. So I have lots of little musical things on the go. 

Do you think you’ll be playing your original stuff out while you’re DJing?

It’s so funny, I don’t even want to hear half the stuff after living with it. But yes, I slip things in. I have to, just to hear what they sound like. Sometimes you make a track, then you take it out, then you realize that the kick could be a lot louder, or the highs could have a lot more movement. You know, it’s one thing to make a track in the studio, but it’s another thing to play it out and get a reaction from the crowd. And sometimes, you don’t even think the stuff you’re gonna have a good reaction for gets a great reaction. So the trick about making music is just to make it. 

And then test it.

And then test it. But that’s the thing, back in the day you used to have residencies where you were able to test your stuff. But now, you just test it on the road. And you don’t get a chance to really hear, you know, have a place where you can go. I don’t know how to express it, like if you had a residency, you could test things and live with them and see the crowd’s reaction change before you release it to the world. But now, now you don’t have that. Unless maybe you’re a Berghain or Panorama Bar resident. Or a Robert Johnson resident. A club where you can have a residency to play that kind of music. I think that’s the biggest challenge. 

Now for the classic Dalston Superstore question, which is: if we had a time machine ready to take you to any dance floor, past present or future, where would you like to go and why?

God, that’s such a loaded question because there are so many dance floors. Oh my god! I mean, you’re talking to a person who loves music. Okay, I’m just going to give you a list. I would have loved to have gone to The Loft to hear Nicky Siano, I would have loved to have gone to The Music Institute in Detroit, I would have loved to have gone to The Warehouse in Chicago. I would have loved to have gone to Berghain in 2004. The Mudd Club, 1978. Danceteria, 1979. The World with David Morales and Frankie Knuckles. Disco 2000. Um, of course Paradise Garage. Of course Ministry of Sound in the early ’90s. The Saint. 

But also, there are so many clubs that people don’t talk about that were heavily influential in my development as a person and as an artist. There’s one called Club LaRay in Chicago, Rialto’s, Cheeks. These are all clubs that were in Chicago that weren’t talked about. They’ve sort of been erased from the dance music vocabulary because they were predominantly black gay clubs that were very underground. And back in the day, the most two famous ones were The Warehouse and the Power Plant, but back then they were really… you know, it was black and gay. Straight people went, it wasn’t like straight people didn’t go, but they weren’t the popular clubs. Like I said, there are so many dance floors around the world… God. It’s like, there was Fabric when it first opened, or Home when that first opened in London. Jesus Christ, I mean it’s hard for me to say which and when and what because yeah, there are just so many. DTPM, Trade. For me, it wasn’t about black white gay straight, it was about a movement of music. And I didn’t think there was one school, the list could go on and on and on. So if I had a time machine, I would probably go back to each and every one of them.

I appreciate the history. I had never heard of Cheeks before you just said it.

Yeah, Cheeks was actually a trans bar where Ralphi Rosario used to play. I’ve been going to clubs since I was 12, I don’t even remember what year that was, but it was definitely late ’80s early ’90s. But I was able to get a fake ID and go to these places, and I was friends with a lot of other DJs and I got snuck into clubs, too. It was a different time, you know. It’s so funny now how…you know, it’s funny to me, I don’t want to use this word to offend anybody because at the end of the day anybody who loves this kind of music and promotes this culture I’m all for, but I don’t see a lot of um, it’s still a very heavily male dominated industry. I don’t see a lot of people of color that are tastemakers. There are hardly any women of color. I don’t see any queer women of color. I just have a different reference point about it, I suppose. But I don’t want to insult anybody or sound like a victim or sound like I’m jaded or bitter or upset. I think you have to be very careful in how you word these things, because it should be about the music at the end of the day. 

And do you feel, because like, as a female DJ  I don’t usually like asking other people the identity question, but do you feel responsible as a public figure or as someone in the scene, for being…

Trans?

For being representative, for doing a good job representing your viewpoint?

Well, I think you can probably answer this. You don’t want to be considered a female DJ, you’re a DJ.

Exactly.

You don’t want your talent to be pigeonholed by your gender. But having said that, I don’t think I would have had the experiences I’ve had if I wasn’t who I was. So I think it’s important for me to tell those stories and those experiences, because those stories won’t be told otherwise. So it’s not so much that I feel a responsibility to anyone, it’s more that I feel like I’m giving a voice to experiences that otherwise would not have seen the light of day. Being a trans person now has become en vogue, as we so care to say. It’s one of those things I don’t want to be put in a box because of, but at the same time, it’s a thing that also gives me the advantage of having had such a rich musical cultural experience. And being able to move between different worlds and being able to have different dialogues with different audiences with music. You couldn’t put a Chicago house DJ on the main floor at The Black Party, but yet they did, because I’m from Chicago, and I’m trans. 

I think my quote unquote ‘gender experience’ has allowed me to navigate different worlds, which has given me the opportunity to have a rich musical cultural experience that I get to share with other people. I can’t control what other people say about me, but I can control what I say about myself. I don’t define myself by my gender, I don’t define myself by the music that I play, I don’t define myself. I just define myself as Honey. I’m Honey. And all of these experiences have made me who I am as a person. So if I have to communicate that to other people, that’s the best answer that I can give, that I’m fortunate in a way that I’ve been able to navigate different worlds, because I’ve been many different things. I’ve been able to go from straight to gay, gay to straight, whatever you want to call it, black white straight gay bi purple trans, and each has its own language and vocabulary, and I’ve been able to incorporate all of that into my expression of music. Not a lot of people get to do that. Most people you know have only been to one, they’re comfortable. Not comfortable, but if you’ve never had to question your identity and you’ve been able to be successful in one lane, well, there’s a whole freeway out there. 

Join Honey Dijon for Fhloston Paradise in the laser basement and Whitney Weiss in the top bar for Nancy’s this Friday 12th September at Dalston Superstore from 9pm – 3am.

Gene Hunt

By Dan Beaumont

Gene Hunt was a protégé of legendary Music Box resident DJ Ron Hardy and had a front-row seat for the genesis of house music in Chicago while still in his teens. He is fiercely protective of Hardy’s legacy and personifies a distinctive style of DJing that dates back to the beginnings of club culture itself. Gene Hunt is a collector of dance rarities, producer of unique analogue house tracks, reel-to-reel edit specialist but first and foremost a DJ.

I met him from Heathrow and accompanied him to St Pancras for a gig in Ghent. He agreed to let me record him talking as we had lunch waiting for the Eurostar.

DAN: Can you share a Ron Hardy DJ secret?

GENE: I remember we were playing together, I think it was about ’87, ’88.

I played this track and he was like, “Why did you rush it out, why didn’t you play the rest of the track?”

I said “But the floor cleared.”

He said, “Let me tell you something: This is what you’re gonna do.” He looked in his bag and he gave me a couple of records. The first record was called Galaxy, by War. So I play this record and cleared the floor again.

He said, “Play it a couple more times.”

I said, “Tonight?!”

He was like “Yeah! Play a couple tracks, do that, then play it again.”

So I played it again. And the crowd stayed on.

He said, “Do you see my point? You have the power to break records. But you cannot be afraid as a DJ to let them experience what you experience. Now what do you think about this record?”

I said, “I love it.”

“Now, what makes you think they don’t? If a record is eight minutes long, play it! Don’t just rush it out or rush it in because the drummers and the singers don’t start getting into their groove until the middle or towards the end of the record. So play that shit! Don’t be afraid. See what you just did?”

“What I do?”

“I just let you break the record.”

And I was like, “wow, you tricked me.”

“I always trick you.”,

Y’know, Ron would give me these challenges or tasks when we’re live at the club. “Alright, c’mon, bring something in.”

I’m like, “I don’t have my stuff with me!”

“Use my stuff.”

So, that was the part about execution. That was the part about timing. That was the part about learning. It was not being afraid to express what you want to express. Give them what they want, but then also educate them.

DAN: Do you think that DJs play too safe now?

GENE: Yes a lot of them do. A lot of them choose their hot spots, a lot of them find more simplistic ways to work an audience without being as creative as they are in other aspects. Now, since you have Traxsource and Beatport and all that other stuff, it makes it very accessible for people to just sit there all day and just purchase shit. Back in the days we had to go to the shops. We had to go to Loop Records, we had to go to Imports, we had to go to Gramophone, we had to go to different places to look in the bins and get creative to find what’s hot. You could get Hot Mix 5 [house music radio show] or you could go to The Playground or the Music Box or Sawyers or what have you and you would just sit back and feel the vibe of what’s going on. You would go to the record store the next day with your tape. We had somebody to educate us, to keep music going on.

DAN: What is the Chicago sound to you?

GENE: Basically, when house music occurred, I mean we had the disco era first, but when house music first came about, we had Chip E doing shit like Time To Jack, and It’s House. We had Jesse Saunders making On and On, we had Robert Owens and Fingers Inc and Bring Down The Walls and Mysteries Of Love, Ron Hardy doing Sensation, Frankie bringing out bring out reel to reels and tape decks to play the exclusive stuff. People didn’t have a Traxsource or a Beatport, you couldn’t just go there and buy something to sound and fit like everyone. The way they’ve designed the game now is you don’t have to go fish and find your music. We would take reel to reels and grab a razor blade and splice and do edits and make stuff go backwards, with the drum machines and outboard gear like Roland 909 or 707s or 303s and we would create our own stuff to play at parties that accentuate to make us different from one another. When Derrick May and Kevin Saunderson used to come down to the Box and bring the Rhythm Is Rhythm shit and strings of life. They would come to the Music Box and give us all that shit.

DAN: So what did you think of what was happening in Detroit?

GENE: Oh, they were really starting to break that edge. You had like Blake Baxter and Model 500, Metroplex, all that shit from Inner City, all that stuff they were doing, they had their own flavour. Like they took a certain element, they added their own attribute to it, and created a sound called techno. Like when I used to take a 909 track, I would just put basslines and make it real abstract, that would be considered as techno now. I would play that with disco, I would play that with house music because it was my rendition. Okay, what makes Gene Hunt so different? Tracks! He makes acid tracks with a 909 when Phuture 303 made that shit with a 707 and and the 727… he makes his acid tracks with the 909! Oh my god!

Everybody had a different flavor. Lil’ Louis when he did French Kiss and The Music Takes Me Away… I remember when he paid 300 bucks for an 808 drum machine, he started making French Kiss, got the deal with Ray Barney [owner of Dance Mania records].

DAN: Someone said that Jesse Saunders On And On track was important because it taught the whole of Chicago that anybody could make a house record.

GENE: All that stuff was being distributed by Larry Sherman who owned Trax Records. This man had a record company, a pressing plant, right in the back of a meat market! Everybody would come down there and get their stuff pressed up and they had different labels and so forth and we’d press vinyl. You would sit there with a hammer. Me and Ron Carrol would sit over by the garbage can. Ron Hardy would be in the other room doing the shrinkwrap. Steve Poindexter would be doing the typesetting and the labels. We would have all these old K-Tel records and shit and we’d have a hammer and break the records down so we could re-melt the wax. All those records that came out, that you would see on television, we’d break the records and tear out like the vinyl part of it and press records and you’d still see the old records pressed in the new records, oh it was gangster!

DAN: Was Larry Sherman a bit dodgy?

GENE: “A bit dodgy” wasn’t the word! Haha. Let’s try “total dodgy”! But we all learned. We would take the vinyl recording, get a good quality recording of it, go downstairs, make a plate of it, then press it up. The vinyl quality was shitty but back then it was beautiful just to be able to get a record that you couldn’t get. So, Ron would take personal shit out of his collection, record it, and then put it out.

DAN: Why do you love playing records?

GENE: If you’re playing records and the record skips or the record jumps or gets dirty, that’s the fun about it. You’re really up there doing it. You’re really conducting music in a sense, to make it realistic to everybody in the room. The warm sound of a good quality recording and the fidelity that comes out of those speakers, the sound and the feeling of it, it doesn’t sound processed, it’s a real live feeling, it doesn’t have a synthetic feel whatsoever. That’s the importance of playing vinyl. The tape hiss. That analogue thickness. That warmth. It’s different from some shit being processed and watered down. It sounds too perfect. It has to be a little dirty. It has to have a little dirt, a little grunge in it to get with the natural aspect, to make it more organic.

It’s like some broccoli, if you overcook it. You cook all the nutrients out of it and you lose that crunch to it. It’s soggy and synthetic. You want to have warm and organic attributes to get the natural aspect of what you’re doing. That’s why it’s so valuable to play wax.

[Gene is eating a forkful of broccoli at this point]

Dan: What is your state of mind when you’re DJing? Do you get nervous?

GENE: Not really. I know I have a job to do. I have to entertain a room full of people for a number of hours so I have to get everybody on the same page. So based on the way that I feel emotionally – If I got personal problems at home, or I’m going through some shit I’m taking my problems out on the dancefloor. So they’re loving it, and it’s helping me get through my problems. Because I’m unleashing the way that I’m feeling, I’m expressing myself to a room full of people. My car got towed, I got tickets, some shit happened, so I’m going to take it out on you guys and you’re going to love it. I like to tell a story when I play. I like to give you past, present and future. I want to give you aspects of where I started and where I came from. Let you know what’s going on in the now, and tell you things about where I want to go. It’s like a rollercoaster – you anticipate, and you go up, but you don’t know when the drop is coming. My advice is to never plan what you do. Because I want to enjoy it just as much as you want to enjoy dancing.

DAN: What do you think about EDM?

GENE: It has its moments. If you come from Chicago which is the Mecca of house music, obviously, you should have some form of education and history. You hear EDM stuff in a club – I went through this a couple of weeks ago –  I’m like, “Why would they put me on to headline and they got this person and that person” It puts me in a challenging state because here I am in a room full of people who don’t have a clue about what they’re dancing to – but it feels good to them. It’s a mind opener.

DAN: Would you play a disco record to an EDM crowd?

GENE: Yes. Most definitely. I wouldn’t hesitate. I’m relentless. “Alright, they’re digging that. Let’s try this.”

I still hear Ron in my head saying, “Don’t rush that record out, you better let that record finish.”

DAN: And back to Ron – how was it working for him?

GENE: Pins and needles. Out the blue. It was scary. You never knew when he wanted to take a break – he would just say, “Get on.”

There wasn’t a plan, like, “You’re going to play 11:30 or 12:30.”

He would just play a record and then go out the back and chill out. 

“Go ahead, get on.”

He’d be back there taking a nap.

I used to open up. If I was five minutes late and he gave me shit about it. At the very last Music Box – 2210 South Michigan was the very last one. I was like less than five minutes late.

“You have to be punctual, you gotta be on time.”

I’m like, “It’s nine fifty!”

“You should be here at nine thirty.”

He was in my ass because I was there at nine fifty. Subliminal mind games that just got me fucking rugged. And Frankie was the same way with me. I would pick him up – Frankie Knuckles does not drive, Frankie Knuckles does not drive a car, he’s terrified of driving a car. You have to drive him. I would meet him and he would give me music. “Give it to so-and-so, give it to so-and-so, don’t give it to so-and-so.” Specific instructions. Ron was the opposite. But they both respected one another and they were both training me.” They saw a young kid that was ambitious.

Gene Hunt

DAN: How did Frankie’s style differ to Ron’s?

GENE: Very similar and yet different. They both played the same music, they both played the same things. But the way they played them was totally different. Frankie was real sexy with it, real smooth. Ron was more aggressive. It was like passive and aggressive. But you wanted both aspects. In Chicago you couldn’t have one without the other.

DAN: Describe your style…

GENE: [smiles] That’s a good one. Once I get in the groove I want to stay in that groove. I don’t want to have any intermissions. I’m relentless. Once I get it going and once I get everybody into that mode. I keep that flavour going. I want to keep that room and give it bounce. We gotta have some vocals, we gotta have some live drums, we gotta have some groovy shit, we gotta have some sexy shit. I want to give you a four course meal of music.

DAN: Who are your current favourite Chicago DJs?

GENE: My girl Serena – CZ Boogie. She owns a publication called 5 Magazine which is like the house music almanac when it comes to parties.

Czboogie & guest Lurob on the 5 Magazine Show on CHFM by CZBOOGIE

We have a group in Chicago called The Untouchables – it’s me, Farley (Jackmaster Funk), Paul Johnson, a guy named DJ Box, Craig Alexander and CZ Boogie – so it’s the six of us.

How is the gay scene in Chicago?

Off the chain. It’s off the chain. We got a night on Sunday called “Queen” at Smart Bar. It just so happened that the person who does this night owns Gramaphone [legendary Chicago record emporium] – Michael Serafini. The night is explosive. Frankie’s birthday was ridiculous. You had Louie Vega, you had David Morales, you had Derrick Carter. All star lineup. You couldn’t move in the place.

Join the Chapter 10 group: here

Shaun J Wright

This Saturday we welcome DJ, producer and vocalist Shaun J Wright over from the Windy City to our little Dalston laser basement for B(e)ast’s 3rd Birthday! As a former member of Hercules & Love Affair, and now an acclaimed producer and DJ in his own right, this banjee boy is sure to set the basement on fire! Ahead of the party we posed a few questions to him about running hot gay nights in Chicago, releasing on Classic Music Company and his time living in London…

What inspired you to set up your night Twirl?

My close friend and musical partner Alinka and I were constantly discussing the type of party that we wanted to attend prior to starting Twirl. We wanted an intimate night with quality dj’s that focused  on house music and where we could test run our new demos with little pressure. Berlin, the legendary venue where we have the party, is a Chicago landmark. Everyone is welcome at Berlin. The full spectrum of sexuality and gender expression can be found in the club and it creates a unique, pulsating vibe. The door policy is very relaxed and everyone is up for a good time instead of posing. That sense of inclusiveness was important to us from the beginning.  A Club Called Rhonda, the incomparable monthly in Los Angeles, was also a source of inspiration. I would talk endlessly about how I wanted to start a mini-Rhonda in Chicago. A party that felt inspired and free. I hope we’re on our way to having a Rhonda-ita or a Rhonda-ette. 

Boystown was recently voted “most incomparable gay neighbourhood”. As a Chicago native, can you attest to this and if so, what is it that makes it so special?

Honestly, I’ve spent the majority of my adulthood away from Chicago. I’ve only had the last couple of years to reacquaint myself with the city and that has been disrupted by frequent travel. I spent a lot of time in Boystown during my teenage years skipping class and shopping at the vintage shops with my friends. It was a very safe space for me then and it still feels that way now. My favorite place in Boystown is a bar called Wang’s that everyone traveling to Chicago must visit. It’s off the beaten path on Broadway and is the most charming space in the city. There’s a cute dancefloor tucked in the back where my friends Harry, Jpeg and Ace throw a party called Men’s Room that is off the charts. There’s always something fun happening there. I also love Smartbar, which is in the neighborhood directly north of Boystown. Queen at Smartbar sets the bar for impressive gay parties in the city. This past Sunday the line-up included Michael Serafini (Gramaphone Records), Garrett David (Bell Boys), Derrick Carter, David Morales, Lil’ Louie Vega, Ultra Nate and Inaya Day for Frankie Knuckle’s Birthday Bash! I spent part of the night chatting with Robert Williams from The Warehouse. I guess those kind of things are what make Boystown specifically, and Chicago in general, special. 

Can you tell us something we should know about your girl -and close collaborator- Alinka? Any plans to release together on Classic again?

The most important thing that I can tell you is that she is awesome! She’s an amazing dj and super talented producer. We have such a great mutual respect for each other and we also encourage one another to grow, grow, grow. I have learned so much from her.  As a singer I’m often faced with collaborations where the roles are super rigid or there are geographical and time constraints that don’t always allow the nurturing of a personal relationship prior to working. With Alinka I’m free to express myself in a very open manner and I think that translates into our music. We talk about life experiences and hang out together and that makes our music much more personal and cohesive. 

Classic will be releasing a remix package of Twirl Vol. 1 very soon. We hope to release a Twirl Vol. 2 with Classic, too. 

What, in your opinion, is the most pressing issue facing queer people of colour in the US at the moment?

I can not answer this question sufficiently with a singular issue. I would say, in general, there is a very widespread and accepted disregard for the humanity of queer people of color. This manifests sociopolitically with policies and practices that continue to allow and encourage discrimination based on sexuality, gender, class and race.  Queer people of color tend to find themselves the most vulnerable with the least amounts of resources and agency when their historically oppressed identities intersect (e.g. black, transgender and impoverished). 

I’m often left shocked by the lack of advocacy for the end of violent transmisogyny by larger LGBT organizations that tend to focus primarily on the issue of acquiring gay marriage while our sisters are being murdered everyday. While I believe fighting for marriage equality to be a noble cause, transwomen of colour, particularly black, are murdered at a disproportionate rate to others in the community. If they receive any media attention they are often misgendered and blamed for their victimization. It is tragic that their lives have not been regarded as a cause worth fighting for on a much larger scale. 

Who would you say are your protégées right now?

I don’t think of myself as someone established enough to have protegees. I’m still learning the ropes myself. I do have a few close friends who are at an earlier starting point to their careers as far as releases are concerned. Some, like Newbody or Banjee Report, have been working on music as long as I have and they are dope. We share experiences and encourage one another. I’ll get back to this question in about five years. Hopefully, I’ll have some names. 

Signature catch-phrase…

My signature catch-phrase is literally catch in all of it’s variations. Catch it (punctuated with a finger snap)… You caught?… CAAATTCHHH! 

What’s your most tangible memory from your time with Hercules & Love Affair, like if you could step back into that frozen moment right now…?

There are just too many! It was such a special period in my life and the friendships that I was able to establish with the other band members are so precious to me. What sticks out the most was our tour with Gossip. We opened for them in sold-out stadiums throughout Germany and France. That was exhilarating enough but to top it off we had so much fun with them backstage after the shows, laughing and carrying on until the bus call. It was a blast! 

What was the absolute best thing about studying fashion at London College Of Fashion and what impact (if any) has that time had on your life now?

Living in London was the absolute best part of the entire experience. It had been a lifelong dream of mine to live in London. During early childhood my grandmother shared with me the movie ‘To Sir With Love’ starring Sidney Poitier and Lulu and I knew that I would live in London one day. The kids were so cool and I loved everything about their environment.  In the U.S.A. we have much fewer historical buildings so when I arrived in London and it still resembled the imagery from the movie I fell in love again. It is my favorite city in the world and I hope to live there again. 

I studied MA Fashion Curation at LCF and it was such an enlightening course. The approach to education and research was much different than I had experienced during my undergraduate studies in the US. The process was much more relaxed, but the expectations were just as high if not more so. I feel like the experience helped me become more confident in my ability to create and execute my own ideas instead of relying on others to see the value in them. 

You’ve spoken at length before about your introduction to the ballroom scene and your decision to join the House of Escada… If you were setting up your own dream House, what would it be the House Of and who would be your children?

[read the article on ballroom that features Shaun here]

Ooooh, very interesting….It would be the House of Revolution and my children would be a mix of fab, progressive political figures, vogueing children, and fashion icons. We would cause a stir on the steps of D.C. goverment buildings as we sashayed (instead of marched) for change. Yes we can, Hunteeee!

Join Shaun this Saturday 1st February at B(e)ast 3rd Birthday at Dalston Superstore from 9pm – 3am.

Photo by: Emily Marren

K’Alexi

This Thursday we welcome Chicago legend K’Alexi to Dalston Superstore! Immersed in the then burgeoning house music scene as a pre-teen, he was exposed at an early age to seminal DJs and legendary nightclubs, not to mention a whole range of different genres and styles. For his DJ set here this week he’ll be joining Robert Owens in the laser basement for a real Chicago house love-in…
 
Is it true that you were hanging out with the likes of Frankie Knuckles and Ron Hardy when you were 12? If so how did this come about?
 
Yes, but mostly Ron, as an older friend he took me under his wing and got me in with him with no I.D and that set me on the path. 
 
As someone who’s experienced quite a few seminal clubs first-hand, if you had a time-machine what dancefloor where and when would you like to go back to?
 
The Musicbox with Ron Hardy, the sound fx of rain as he played an edit of Clouds by Chaka Khan, such a beautiful moment…
 
What’s your one failsafe, timeless record?
 
My Mudusa – K’ Alexi Shelby 

You’re playing alongside Robert Owens this Thursday! Besides him of course, who in your opinion are house music’s most inspiring vocalists?
 
Robert Owens, Byron Stingley, Paris Brightledge , Me, Dajae, Stephanie Cook, Ronna Ray, Jamie Principle, Russoul, Peven Everett, Terisa Griffin, Josh Milan, India plus much more and this is NOT in any order.
 
Why do you still do it ?
 
It’s so deep within me at this point I couldn’t stop even if I wanted too…
 
What would you be doing if you weren’t making or playing music?
 
I’m a creative person by heart, so I think photography. I love being behind or in front of the camera.
 
What’s next for K’Alexi?
 
I’m revamping my label K Klassik and it’s doing well. We’ve got mixes for some of dance musics best known, and soon to be known. We came together for me doing a mix on my song The Dancer… with vocals by me!

 
We’re really lucky that Chicago house is still important and still revered in dance music… having been there from the start, why do you think it’s so enduring?
 
The pure history of it rings out and goes way pass 4 on the floor. And as much as the world tries to name other places as the birth place we all know the truth… Chicago baby.
 
Join K’Alexi this Thursday 24th October at Robert Owens Live At Dalston Superstore from 9pm – 2.30am.