Some know him as Stax, others as Harmony Funk and most as Abicah Soul. With a plethora of releases over the last few years Stax, founder of Abicah Soul Records, is quickly becoming a household name in the House Music community. He has worked on projects alongside industry superstars like Louie Vega, Dennis Ferrer, Osunlade and Glenn Underground. He has been featured on mix CDs by way of Kenny Dope, Steve Bug, Gilles Peterson, Marques Wyatt, Blaze and JoJo Flores. Many may see him as an overnight success, but his accomplishments are a result of years of dedication and discipline.
What does Abicah Soul mean?
It stands for Always Bringing In Chicago Abstract House and I just added the Soul in there to give it more feeling and define it.
Many people also know you as Stax. How do you differentiate what music you release under which alias?
Stax was the alias for the trackier stuff I did in my earlier days. Now I just use the Abicah Soul moniker. If the name on the release includes “Project” then there is someone else involved with the release. In the past I also did stuff as Harmony Funk with Cei-Bei. Those are pretty much the 3 monikers I have used.
Let’s talk about your label, Abicah Soul Records. What’s the current direction and focus of the label?
I’m featuring new artists. I’ll do remixes but the main focus is new artists. I’m not going to be biased towards anyone. Whatever I’m feeling at the time is what I’m going to go with.
I have this crew I am working with from South Africa called Femme Sounds that consists of 5 female DJs. I also have this guy named DJ Trance with an EP called Ancestral Nights which has a remix by me. I’m licensing some stuff from Culoe De Song, I haven’t heard the tracks yet but everything he touches is like gold. It’s similar to our style but it’s a bit more tribal. It’s deeper but it totally works the floor. And another new guy from Durban called Soletek. He’s hot! Watch out for him!
Does he have anything released yet?
Not yet – he’s only 17! They’re young over there in South Africa. It’s like rap music here, it’s more mainstream. There’s a huge market and budget for it there. Their artists are actually treated like artists, not just sitting around on the back burner. They don’t just download music; they sell from like 15,000 – 50,000 physical copies of CD compilations!
You’ve really blown up a lot in the past couple years. What do you attribute that to?
That comes from dedication! Go to bed at 5am and get up at 9am and go back to work. I treat my music like it’s a job! That’s what it is, it pays the bills. You gotta dedicate yourself to your work. You gotta put in at least 8 hours, that’s the only way you’re going to get results. I tell a lot of people that you can’t just come out with one record and feel like you’re the man.
I eliminated a lot of the bullcrap I was doing. I just work. It’s been 2 years in May that I quit my job. I told myself this is want I want to do. I’ve seen the hope in it, I believe in what I do and I dedicate myself. A lot of work has came my way recently and I thank God for that because there are a million other producers out there without that opportunity.
You’ve had the opportunity to do projects on labels like Jellybean Soul, Vega and Code Red. Has that been beneficial with helping you get work from other labels?
It’s helped me get way more work with other labels! Very quickly after those releases I was getting offers like crazy – a lot of smaller independent labels, but I try and help out as many people as possible. I appreciate them letting me know they respect the work I put into it.
Do you turn down a lot of projects with the overabundance of offers you are receiving?
I don’t turn down nothin’ but my collar. I’m a working man so whatever comes my way, if the price is right, let’s make a deal.
The sound of a lot of your work seems to be heavily New York influenced. Is that the case?
I’m influenced by a lot of people. There is a NY influence. The people that listen to me really inspire me to do what I do. I’m just trying to give back. I try and keep it versatile and appeal to everyone. There are a lot of different minds out there and everyone likes something different.
You recently played at DEEP in LA. How did the show go?
Wonderful experience! Getting that gig alone just comes from hard work. Good crowd, a bit different from Chicago. I appreciate them even bringing me out. The people there appreciate the music.
What other noteworthy gigs have you played recently?
I had a South African tour a few months ago. I also played in Napoli, Italy and Greece the end of last year. I should be going back that way in April for a few more shows. I like to play 3 gigs a month. I don’t like to do too many and stretch it. I love Chicago; I like to be at home. It gives me time to produce more music.
Anything you don’t like about Chicago?
[laughs] Are you asking me this question for real? I’m pleading the Fifth! That’s the question I didn’t want to answer! How about what I do like?
OK, keep it positive!
I like that there are a lot good artists here. There are artists that have the potential to grow, but I think they lack the dedication and experience. They may have made a few records but that doesn’t necessarily mean everyone knows them.
I like the city. Everyone plays their own role with what’s going on in the scene. I think a lot of people sell themselves short because they don’t have people backing them and the motivational skills to work hard. They figure they make a track and they’re good. In this industry, dedication is key. That’s the only way you’re going to get where you want to be. Some people have beer skills on a champagne attitude. I just think a lot of DJs need to step their game up. Think big, think outside the circle. Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing or how someone else made a track. Who cares!? Just worry about you and build your craft and who you are.
As far as what I really don’t like about here? The weather sucks! It kills the motivation of people to come out and support the nights. People need to support Chicago artists – when a DJ is playing, show love. He’s there to do a job and entertain you and give something back to his city, but people are disinterested and act like they don’t care. But if you had a DJ from out of town like Louie Vega they’d be roaring like a lion. You need to support the upcoming DJs because they’ll be the next ones carrying the torch. There’s a good chance they’re going to another city and packing the house but here you can’t get 15 people to show love.
I have a remix coming out for Ursula Rucker called Journey’s Prelude and it will be out in April on Vega Records. I just remixed Luisito Quintero as well and have some more projects in the works with him.
With all the stuff I have stockpiled, it’s enough releases to hold me over for about a year. It’s about 14 projects. Right now I’m really trying to focus on marketing my career. It’s hard to do both at the same time. My current agent is Connected Music, and they’ve been helping me out a lot. I have 3 gigs through them in March as well as a tour in South Africa in May.