The city of Chicago is home to its fair share of musical heroes. Early sounds of seasoned veterans Kanye and Frankie Knuckles, and even new faces such as Mick Jenkins and Noname, can be heard bouncing off the bold architecture that stands tall on Lake Michigan.
It’s fitting that a city that is renowned for its museums is the home to an artist as knowledgeable as Chrissy. Described as “one of the best DJ’s to ever walk the earth” by The Black Madonna, and “a virtual walking encyclopaedia of the last 30 years of dance music” by music publication XLR8R, Chrissy has dipped his toes in a wide variety of genres, ranging from footwork, disco and ghetto house. A residency at Smart Bar, Chicago’s most renowned and prestigious environment for great underground music, is a testament to the artist’s tireless passion that hasn’t diminished, even slightly, over the years.
We sat down with Chrissy to talk about influential records, the positive message of disco and favourite ghetto house tracks ahead of his Belfast performance at Belfast’s Thursdaze this weekend.
Your musical knowledge is vast to say the least. Can you recall any records, or record stores, which aided you in the discovery of new sounds?
When I was first getting into dance music it was Deee-Lite, Orbital, Crystal Waters, Altern-8 and a lot of kinda mainstream rave comps like Only For The Headstrong. Then the Enforcers records on Reinforced, A Guy Called Gerald’s Black Secret Technology, and a Movin Shadow / Suburban Base comp called The Joint Vol II were big influences getting me into jungle. Model 500 – Sonic Sunset was a big one for me getting into Detroit stuff, as well as the New Dance Sound of Detroit comp from 1988. Other than those, it was mostly random 12″s here and there. I did a ton of shopping at a place in Kansas City called Music Exhange (that sadly no longer exists), and then (as now) I was in love with Gramaphone Records in Chicago.
What’s your favourite ghetto house track?
Too many to pick from! ‘Work This MF’ by Deeon, or loads of stuff by Funk or Waxmaster or any number of other people. Does DJ Rush’s remix of ‘Where’s Your Child’ by Bam Bam count? Or The Percolator?
There has been much debate over the years as to whether disco is dead or not. It certainly isn’t with influential figures like you keeping its heart beating. Do you feel that in today’s modern society, with the state of Western politics, it is as good a time as ever to be indulging in such a positive message like the one disco maintains?
To me disco and house have always been about a specific kind of positivity – namely unity and togetherness and hope and activism in the face of ascendant right wing shitheads and bigots, which of course makes sense now as much as ever…
What is everyday life in Chicago like? Can you describe to me your perfect day in the city?
Chicago is great. Some of the best food in the world, really friendly people, super easy to get around by bike or train, and a lot cheaper than other big cities. There are also a lot of problems, of course, but on a good day it is a really nice place to be.
Chicago has had its fair share of house music legends, to say the least. I’m interested in the emerging artists pushing through. Is there any emerging Chicago house artists that we should be keeping tabs on?
There are tons and tons of really talented people in Chicago, but Garrett David and Adam Rowe are two of my favourites as of late…
You’re playing Belfast on September 28th and 29th. You’ve played Belfast before. I actually caught your set the last time you came across! Have you had time yet to explore the city itself, or is this something you’re hoping to do it the future?
I haven’t had much of a chance to look around, but this time I’ll be in town for more than just a day so I’m hoping to explore a bit 🙂
Your latest project is a sister label of The Nite Owl Diner called Cool Ranch. What is the thinking behind this and what do you hope to achieve from it?
Cool Ranch is basically an outlet for some more edit-based disco house I’ve been making, kind of on a 90’s Chicago tip. I really just want to get the music out there and in front of as many people as possible!
Any future projects coming from you or out of The Nite Owl Diner that we should keep our eyes peeled for?
My new 12″ is out now on Cool Ranch, and the next Nite Owl Diner EP (by the always amazing Alex Burkat) comes out in October!