As a concert-trained percussionist since he was 11 and an integral part of Chicago’s 3rd wave of house music artists, Andrew Emil has acquired a incomparably prolific musical repertoire and depth of experiences from across the industry.
Credited on over 100 releases as well as countless writing and engineering session jobs, Andrew has developed and produced releases on some of dance music’s most respected institutions in his decades of dedication to his craft. “It’s the thing I’ve been doing longest in my life,” he shares, looking back on his trajectory from playing with the Kansas City Symphony to writing and programming his own music. The allure of production had soon overtaken his passion for performance, as Andrew said, “Finding this world of being able to write your own music and contain it and come back to it was so intoxicating.” It was this pathway which as kept him exploring music’s possibilities as he continued to push its boundaries for the decades to come.
While 9 years ago he began feeling like he had “said all I needed to say in house music” and “needed to take a from formatting musical ideas to 120bpm”, Andrew’s work with Chicago’s S&S Records would come to embody what he loved best about working within that genre throughout his musical career. “It became fun again through working with them”, he says about S&S Records’ 4-time GRAMMY® nominated producer Steve “Silk” Hurley and global DJ/Producer Shannon “DJ Skip” Syas.
“It’s really a pleasure to work with them, they are kind and considerate and supportive. It’s refreshing to see other people be supportive and have confidence in what you are doing.” In a competitive industry where some feel that bringing others down leads to their own rise, the collaboration of peers to each play their own role in a record’s success creates its own sort of magic, and S&S Records Chicago Presents | The Andrew Emil S&S Sessions represents that special synergy.
The compilation showcases the extensive work that the team has produced together and highlights the exceptional multi-platinum, GRAMMY® Award-Winning artists and legends of contemporary music which have been released on the Chicago-based label. Artists like R&B music sensation Syleena Johnson, Steve “Silk” Hurley & CeCe Peniston, Anthony Poteat, DJ Skip and members from the iconic musical group Shalamar are given his attention and interpretation with main vocal mixes, dubs, and instrumentals for each track. Making multiple remixes per track was a practice that Andrew had been following since his early days when record labels would often reach out to many artists for dance remixes of their popular songs, and providing several versions gave you a better chance of yours being selected. That practice still proves valuable today as the variety of versions offers a range of options to satisfy DJs and dance music fans alike.
Featuring 34 of his remixes from the past decade, the collaboration is a combination of released and unreleased mixes, including the official premiere of his previously unreleased reworks for Malik Yusef, Kanye West, Common, JV, Steve “Silk” Hurley & CeCe Peniston, Roy Davis Jr. Feat. Terry Dexter, Jump Chico Slamm and Tommye. Not interested in taking on projects that he felt he couldn’t truly add something to, Andrew’s passion for reimagining old songs in a new way was ignited through his years of work with S&S. “Steve is a product of the major label record system and his ability to have access to that network, material etc and run that through an independent system… the records and catalog are incredible,” he says, excited about the role he can play to help highlight tracks that may have gotten lost in the mix but deserve to see the spotlight. “What they are doing is so overlooked.” Also giving credit to Matt of MIL-MGMT for promoting this special work and getting previous releases some fresh attention, he appreciates that everyone who is a part of this project has had their focus on the music first. “It’s a team effort with everyone playing their role in sharing good music,” he shares.
Creativity finds you working. The more you practice, the better — even if it’s just 20 minutes a day. In 3 months you’ll find you are so much better.
It’s a project that captures the essence of what makes house music so enduring. It represents relationships where everyone works to their strengths and respects the talents of each other, while doing their part to release great music into the world. It’s about “doing it for the people involved and getting the artwork out there,” Andrew tells us, lamenting how often “chasing the dragon” of making records in order to get on a chart can cause music to miss the mark. “The creation should be the reward for creating,” he says, a practice he takes to heart in his own life. The act of creating is not as simple as sitting down in the studio and waiting for inspiration to appear however, and Andrew Emil provides insight into how he has been able to get past those difficult artistic blocks. “Creativity finds you working,” he says. “The more you practice, the better — even if it’s just 20 minutes a day, in 3 months you’ll find you are so much better.” It’s also what you do with those practices which can make the biggest difference. Instead of treating each session like you must come up with a chart-topping hit every time, just dedicate to showing up and trying, playing, or experimenting. As he says, “Be compelled to create and enjoy making things, then figure out what to do with it when it’s done. That’s when you have a spiritual connection.”
A technique which has been beneficial for him in his own creative work is intentionally putting restrictions on himself in order to meet a specific challenge. By giving himself a problem to solve, like “How can I create a song with only five notes in three minutes?” there is less self-pressure and more opportunity to build creative muscles. “Paralysis by analysis doesn’t set in if you can be musical with just a few notes,” he says. “If you take the macro out of the picture and you’re just thinking that you’re solving a problem, there are not pressures to create something grand out of no guidelines.”
It was from this intention of flexing his creativity where his experimental and diverse Change Request series emerged. After decades of making house music and feeling a desire for something to push himself in a different direction, Andrew began a project that would encompass over 150 pieces of work inspired by challenges that fostered his artistic growth. Diving in by “building expectations that there were no expectations, and exploring with 100% effort,” Andrew used questions like “What does ominous orange (or frightful purple) sound like?” to produce individual yet interconnected pieces of music that each had their own unique story to tell. Archived over four years, each piece was curated and arranged into albums based on the variety of emotions that would take the listener along an epic journey from start to finish.
Whether re-imagining classic tracks or experimenting in unexplored sonic territories, Andrew Emil has always put the music first. While working alongside others who have shared the same experiences and who remain focused on the same goals today, their combined efforts represent the best of what the scene can still offer. Through collaboration, connection and creativity, the heart of the music continues on.
Andrew Emil photo by Timothy Shumaker.