Hey, Mr. DJ
BY Neal Broverman
April 11 2011 9:00 PM ET
Girlfriends and reality shows are to thank for the fame, or infamy, of DJs like Samantha Ronson, Tracy Young, and Jersey Shore's Pauly D. But for the past 20-odd years, Chicago-based Derrick Carter has quietly amassed a fan base for simply being a talent behind the turntables; a house DJ who actually knows music and doesn’t resort to Abba remixes to get people moving. In between globetrotting sets through Europe and North America, Carter put together 17 tracks for fabric 56: Derrick Carter, the latest compilation album of DJ-mixed tracks commissioned by the London nightclub Fabric. Carter, wry sense of humor on blast, talked to The Advocate about the health hazards of DJ work, why gay audiences often don’t get him, and how he was born out of the closet.
The Advocate: Tell me about fabric 56 and how you got involved.
Derrick Carter: They asked me. [Laughs]
Did you have a relationship with them before?
DJ Sneak was supposed to play at Fabric and he got stuck in Amsterdam and couldn’t make it. I just happened to come into town a day later and got pressed into service, and that kind of began the reawakening of joy between the people behind Fabric and myself. I told my manager, “Get them to let me do one of those mixes.” And he did and they did and we did and it’s done.
Do you pick all the tracks?
I get a release slot and I fill it — what I have to do is put together a track listing of God knows how many tracks it takes, and they try to license as many of them as they can. Of the ones that they license, I attempt to put together 70-somewhat minutes of mixed music.
What kind of places do you typically DJ at? What are the crowds like?
I spin at all kinds of places. I do a lot of European things; I do some stuff in Chicago here. A lot of crazy mixed crowds.
Gay, straight, black, white, purple, green. I don’t play at a lot of strictly gay places because the gay places I used to go to don’t exist anymore. The places where I was brought up on music were definitely more interesting and less homogeneous. Now, a lot of gay audiences want to hear pop remixes. That’s fine, if they want to hear that but that’s not what I do. So, it’s hard for me to play places where I think my job could be done better by jukebox. I’m not someone who really enjoys playing four or five Rihanna records into four or five Lady Gaga records into four or five Kylie Minogue records into four or five Scissor Sisters records. And it’s not to say that I don’t like those records either, but for me there is a line I draw.
When did you come out?
[Laughs] Does anyone ever really come out? For a lot of people it’s a gradual evolution, rather than one day you had too much and couldn’t take it and, “God damn it, I’m gay!” I just was out — I told my parents and they were like, “Fine, your key will still work, we still love you, we knew that already, nothing’s changed.” After that, like whatever, the world can kiss my ass — my mama loved me.