If you ever wondered how a city like Chicago stays relevant in the dance music scene for more than 35 years running, it’s thanks to people like Boogie Nite. The DJ and producer is the man behind several explosive records – on Grimy, Glenview, Lumberjacks in Hell, Rush Hour Store Jams and more. He creates records made with the ear of a musician and the honesty of a craftsman. I’ve praised his records here in these pages as often as I’ve found them, and it was a pleasure to meet the artist behind them and talk to him about disco, DJing and what it means to rep our town.
I think nearly everyone I know from Chicago started DJing years before they made records. Was this the same for you?
Yes it was. Although I wasn’t putting out records at the time, I was doing a lot of edits of songs. Mainly disco songs.
When did you get your start DJing? What were your influences at the time?
I actually started learning to DJ in 1987. I was in high school and I was doing a lot of house and basement parties. My first gig-gig was at this club called Vinyl. It was located on North Ave. & Elston. I was playing with the likes of Brian Reaves and Vick Lavender just to name a few. My influences at the time were Brian, Lil Louis, Frankie Knuckles, Quick Mix Claude and of course the radio jocks at that time like The Hot Mix 5 and Pink House on WKKC.
Were there any DJs you looked up to? Did you have a crew you ran with?
Sure there were DJs I looked up to. At that time all I hung out with were DJs and dancers. Many of the DJs that played a huge part in my upbringing were Kats I literally grew up with – Brian Reaves, Mike Brown, Rahaan, Izrail (who we lost a few years back – much Love IZ!!!), Bruce Ivery, Kenny Mahone and Bad Boy Bill. So many successful DJs came from “The Woods” as we say. Around 1988 or so I became a part of the crew, “The Chuck Brothers” and I’m still a part of the “Chucks” today.
Do you remember the first paying gig you had?
Yes I do. Well… I was getting paid from doing high school parties and such but my first paying club gig was at Vinyl. It was a bi-level spot on the North Side and I was spinning upstairs and Brian Reaves was spinning on the main floor. That spot was off the chain. Believe me!
I was told that you were a self-taught musician and learned music by playing piano?
Well not completely self-taught, I took piano and drum lessons around 8 years of age. So I knew my way around the keys and sticks a little bit. I took lessons until I was 15 and that’s when I witnessed my first party and saw my homies rocking it out on turntables and that’s what I wanted to do ever since. Needless to say I stopped with the piano and drum lessons, got my first set of 1200s and started to learn and emulate what I had witnessed. I’ve been in love with them ever since.
What were the first electronic tracks that you made? What were you using to make them, gear-wise?
I was making tracks for a long time before my first record came out. But as far as my tracks being put out on a public format it was my “Do Your Thang” and “Earth To Mickey” (Lumberjacks in Hell) tracks that really kicked it off for me. Both of those tracks were PC-based. I used Acid Pro and Reason to make them. I still use Acid Pro today alongside with Logic Pro for my new stuff.
The edit scene exploded about 8 years ago when SoundCloud showed up on the scene. Was that when your name started getting known outside of the local scene?
You hit the nail right on the head. Eight years ago I had a lot going on to say the least. I was making edits, tracks, spinning records both domestically and abroad. Things were really picking up for me around that time. I was spinning in Atlanta, Vegas, Detroit, Newcastle U.K. and Italy during that time. I was in rare groove DJ battles on BringTheHeat.com and started putting mixes out on DHP, SoundCloud and Mixcloud. I was also doing weekly internet shows titled “Thursday Nite Therapy” on Stickam at the time , then moved to Livestream and “The Boogie Nite Underground Sessions” on Cyberjamz.com. All of these avenues played a huge part in getting me known outside of the local scene.
When I listen to a track like your “Shine” I hear just as much Fela Kuti as anything else. Does Afrobeat and roots music play a role in your music?
Yes it does. The rhythms and instrumentation of Afrobeat play a major role in some of my tracks and “Shine” is just one example of it with a little experimentation. Just like Afrobeat I wanted to make a track like a cadence sort to speak. A constant groove – you know what I mean?
What’s the secret of making a good disco record?
That’s a good question T and a hard one at that. To me it’s just all about emotions. How one feels at the time. You know life can spin you around and upside down at times. Whether the tempo is at 110 or 127 it has to grab you emotionally. From the bassline and drums to the keys of the piano, synth or organ to the strings and the horn section if that’s what you hear in it. I love instrumentation so to me that plays a huge part in a record.
What’s the secret of playing disco? I mean as a DJ, working with records that maybe aren’t in perfect time.
Well T, the only secret, so to speak, I can think of about spinning Disco is “To Love and Use Your Pitch.” Growing up being a DJ in Chicago, the first skill you had to learn was to blend. Therefore the first secret to me is learning the Art of Blending, and the second is Learning Your Music. Without learning those basics you can just forget about it.
The only thing I have that other DJs don’t is the fact that there is only one Boogie Nite and that happens to be me.
The West Side of Chicago has brought so much amazing talent to the world. What is it about West Side DJs that make you guys such in-demand talents? What do you have that other DJs don’t?
I don’t know about this question T, LOL. But seriously, no matter what side of the city you were from I think it’s the mere creativity and the selection of songs that you put together. There are a bunch of creative DJs and producers both male and female that can definitely rock a party here in Chicago. Some Kats play Top 40 songs (and that’s cool) and some others, like myself, like to play out the box and challenge not only themselves but the dancers and music lovers as well. I have a lot of pride with the music I play. Whether I just made it in my studio or just bought it from a local record store it is definitely getting played. My motto is “If I Own It, I’m Playing It!” If it makes sense in my set I’m playing it. Honestly, the only thing I have that other DJs don’t is the fact that there is only one Boogie Nite and that happens to be me.
Can you name a few of your disco “secret weapons” – lesser known or just really good disco records in your crate?
Sure I can. I own about 3000 records so to try to narrow it down or let’s just say the ones I really like to play out I would have to say:
1. Moon Child 12″ – Captain Sky
2. Ripplin – Ripple
3. Don’t Chu See – Chin Chin
4. Fuel For The Fire – Larry Young’s Fuel
5. Dreams – Force of Nature
None of the above are your average Disco records, but are definitely floor fillers and stone cold grooves.
What does your studio look like now?
I have streamlined my studio down a bit.
1. PC & Power Mac
2. 2 JBL MK II’s Series 3
3. Mackie Universal Control and 2 extenders – Total of 24 tracks when all are connected.
4. Mackie Big Knob
5. Akai MPK 88
6. 2 Technic 1210 5G’s
7. Denon DNX-500 DJ Mixer
8. 2 KRK 6’s Gen 3
9. Focusrite Saffire Pro 40
10. Pro MPA II – Tube Mic Pre
11. Pro VLA II – Compressor
If there’s one record of yours that you’re really happy with and you want people to check it out, which one is it? and why?
This is a hard one T. I know you said only one but it’s hard for me to do that because there’s a part of me in each one and each one reminds me of where I was and what I was going through when I made them. I’ll tell you this. “From The Mind Of Boogie Nite” which is on Beat Phreak Records UK gives you a variety of what I’ve been doing over the years. It has a little bit of everything on it. From ’80s sounding Boogie Music to underground tracks. I think it’s a solid record.
Is there anything new people should check out?
If you know anything about Boogie Nite, being consistent is my #1 goal. I would like to finish off 2018 with a bang. Currently my track “Jazz-A-Nova” is part of a new compilation put together by Marcel Vogel of Lumberjacks In Hell/BBE which, by the way, is the fourth project that I have been a part of coming from the Lumberjacks camp. I’m also working on another project, titled: “4 The Love Of It” focusing on more of a current sound with a lil bit of funk and R&B thrown in the pot. I’m also working with a very talented young lady by the name of Fathom DJ or as I call her “Starr.” Currently Fathom and I have a few tunes out digitally, Friday Nite Africa and Vibez Vibez Vibez, Both are soulful and jazzy. Lastly I want to mention that I will be introducing my own record label, “Greedy Baby Records”, in 2019.