Hey, Mr. DJ
BY Neal Broverman
April 11 2011 9:00 PM ET
So what kind of clubs did you go to as a teenager?
I was going
to all kinds of clubs, underground clubs, parties, a lot of lost
parties, and juice bars. Chicago used to be a Wild West renegade society
of clubbing. If you had a club with alcohol you were regulated very
tightly. But if you had a club that didn’t have alcohol, you weren’t
regulated at all. They would serve fruit juice and people would do
drugs. Then they passed juice bar laws and all those clubs had to close
at 2 a.m., so they curtailed a bit of it. But there were still loft
parties — for a long time, that’s what informed my musicality. Just
hanging around with loads of different people. At the loft parties, it
was everybody — the drag queens would come by after the other clubs had
closed, there were the party children, the jocks.
Why did the club culture get so homogenized? Is that exclusive to Chicago?
That seems in most places. I don’t know, I’m not a social anthropologist, I’m a DJ. [Laughs]
But as a DJ, you do witness a lot of humanity.
I don’t actually have a lot of conversations with people and find out
what they’re thinking and why they’re here or their reasons for doing
anything, apart from seeing if I can make them dance and have a good
time. What I like to do is pick a couple of people and see if I can make
them go crazy. It’s a social experiment in a way, but it’s more of my
own making and my own casting. I don’t follow any certain protocol or do
anything according to rules. You’ll see a kid and you’ll think, “Oh,
she’s got a wiggle. Maybe I can make that get better.” A lot of times, I
spin at regular clubs and I’m trying to make the girls dance, so the
boys dance. Or get somebody moving so we get at least over that initial
hump of a dry empty dance floor where people are self-conscious. Once you
get the kindling and the fire’s lit, you can throw some logs on it so it
becomes a full-on rager.
In the circles you operate in, do you feel like an anomaly because of your orientation or skin color?
don’t feel anomalous in any way, shape, or form. Here’s the thing, my
identity isn’t wrapped up in my sexuality. My identity is wrapped up in
my totality. I’m a fully fleshed individual who has a lot of interests
and loads of different friends from all walks of life. My friends are
the same way, so I don’t only hang around only queens or only butch
dykes. My best friend is transgender, my other best friend is a white
guy from London, my other best friend is from Texas and he’s married to
an Asian lady. I hang out across the board because I like people who are
interesting and funny and that can be almost anyone. Usually, though,
I’d rather hang out with my dogs.
Who are you listening to these days?
having a real ’80s revolution. I did this party in London recently that
was a nightmare: I had to distill 30 years of musical influences down to
this eight-hour period — all these lofty ambitions and grand statements.
When it ended up being was just a party. [Laughs] But after I got the
synopsis of the party’s theme, I went through my whole music library and
tried to think about all the years I’ve been collecting and listening
to music and the things that have turned me on. What I found is that
from about ’82 to about ’88, a lot of that music built my vision. That
includes pop stuff like Talking Heads, King, Love and Pride, Spandau
Ballet, Culture Club, and underground stuff like John Robie and Arthur
Baker Productions. There’s this line from this Chris Rock comedy
special — the music you listen to when you first start getting laid is the
music you’re going to love forever. When I usually listen to music,
it’s for work and it’s, like, 110 decibels and ear splitting, so I when I
do it for pleasure I don’t want it be serious, I want it be fun.
How do you handle the volume situation? Do you wear earplugs?
should, everyone tells me I should. I know some people that had to bow out
because of tinnitus issues, but luckily I’m not there yet. I want to be one of those old men who has a horn stuck to his ear and
says, “What did you say, sonny?”