If you’re reading 5 Magazine, it’s likely you are already familiar with DJ Three, Hallucination Records and a long, storied career that’s defied all the conventions of the industry. When you’re known to be one of the most diverse diggers among DJs, certain rules don’t apply – which is one reason you don’t see DJ Three producing and remixing countless records just to keep his name in the game.
But you’re going to be seeing Mr. Three’s name a lot more often in the coming months, with the long-awaited launch of Hallucienda, his own arm of the Hallucination label that was the driving force behind his career trajectory. I was able to chat with Chris while he was on a short tour between Ibiza and Berlin, on his plans for Hallucienda as well as some obligatory yammering about how great the raves were in Florida back when we had all our hair and could hear things.
Lead Photo by Q6
Hi, Chris. We really appreciate you taking the time out of your hectic schedule to talk to 5 Mag! How are you and what’s going on in “Hallucination land” for you at the moment?
Things are good, thanks. Currently abroad for short week doing Kater Blau in Berlin then off to Ibiza for Circoloco at DC10 and then Guy Gerber’s Rumors party.
That sounds like quite a week. Definitely a contrast between vibes and styles in Berlin and Ibiza… Do you feel that from your perspective, DJ-wise, or go into both with the same mindset?
Yeah, with each one of these gigs being very different from one another, it’s good for me as a very eclectic DJ. I prefer it that way, actually. Sunday night at Kater Blau, I don’t think I played anything above 120 BPM. It was a very raw, low-slung House Music vibe. The next day was in Ibiza, at DC10. I started after Ben UFO and worked backward, from 130 BPM to around 125 bpm with loose Techno and House. The Rumors party will outdoors, there will be a much more Balearic vibe. All three of these parties are exceptional in their own way, so it makes it easy to just go with the moment. Nothing is pre-planned, so it’s all about finding the vibe and being in the moment for me.
It’s interesting to hear you speaking about those contrasts, as it’s that versatility that has always seemed a bit enigmatic to many over the years. You’re one of a very few that have lasted so long in this industry being known as a “DJs DJ” but more so as a “dancefloor’s DJ.” Most have either faded away entirely into obscurity or begin producing tons of tracks in order to keep up and stay relevant. What do you think it is about you as a DJ, from an inner perspective that’s allowed you to do what has otherwise proven for 99% to be “the impossible”?
I’m not sure. I feel that although music changes and stylistic trends come and go, I’ve somehow always played with the same aesthetic, regardless of what I was actually playing on any given night. I do try to play to my instincts in the room, but it’s always dictated by me being able to connect with the room first.
I’m not a superstar DJ, where I can just walk in and do whatever I want. At the same time, though, I still have my way of doing things. I do what I do, and do it the way I want to do it. Everything must come together and hopefully it does, sooner rather than later! I suppose the short answer is that I just follow my instincts.
Clearly you’re a humble guy, and keeping that sense of humility has likely played a big role in your ongoing success over the years. We both share the same lineage, geographically speaking, by way of our roots in the rave scene in Florida. Obviously, things are worlds apart these days, musically speaking, compared to what you may have been playing back then. Those were magical times down there! It’s where it all began, for many. Do those times down there still inspire you musically when you’re DJing?
I still play some old stuff, but I’ve found that the trick when playing older music is to note that unless it’s a recognizable classic, you need to mix in a way where the old sits comfortably with the new, and if you’re playing well, there should be no distinction between the old and new music during your set. I suppose it’s about playing music that I perceive to be “timeless” rather than “timely.”
I’d say “timeless” is a good word to use which defines your career and DJing style as a whole. Speaking of that time-span, you also set your roots with Hallucination during those years. Can you speak a bit about how things began with the Hallucination brand, which you still remain as the standard torch-bearer for to this day?
Hallucination was of course started by DJ Monk and David Christopher aka Confucious (who together formed the musical duo of Rabbit In The Moon) as an outlet to release their own material. David and I had thrown a couple of the first warehouse “raves” in the Southeast, so we were all connected from the start. We also came from an “alternative dance music” background prior to rave culture hitting the US in ’91. Records like Master C & J’s “Dub Love” on Trax were getting played right next to records like Revolting Cocks’ “No Devotion,” so prior to the rave scene taking off, Chicago House and Industrial dance music had already shaped my musical tastes. I feel like Medusa’s in Chicago was ground zero for the same type of approach that was going on back then in clubs, from Miami, Tampa, Dallas, to other big cities like New York.
No self-respecting electronic music lover from the ’90s could possibly forget Rabbit in the Moon’s notorious classic, “Out of Body Experience,” which has always been the record that first comes to mind when I think of Hallucination. It reached anthem status via it’s inclusion on Hardkiss’ Delusions Of Grandeur, while also being one of the standout tracks from Sasha & Digweed’s infamous Northern Exposure mixed compilation.
“Out of Body Experience” was initially released on Hallucination, but afterward, we put together the Phases Of An Out Of Body Experience release and took it to New Music Seminar in New York, which was the most popular music conference in the U.S. at the time. Labels like R&S, Plus 8, and Harthouse (Sven Vath’s imprint) all wanted to sign it, but much to David’s credit, he chose Hardkiss, to keep it an American record. You see, this was a time when people wouldn’t pay attention to a record from the US unless it was from New York, Detroit or Chicago. A lot or new school cats from outside of those cities were trying to make their records look like they were from the UK, or an import in order to get people to pay attention!
Mr. Christopher made many wise moves! It’s interesting to hear what may NOT have been, had that record not landed with Hardkiss! So while we know cities like New York and Chicago were predominantly focused on house music, we both also know that the most dominant sounds in Florida (during the mid-’90s and 2000s), tended to be electro breaks and funky breaks, both styles which you largely shied away from. Seeing Florida as the setting in which you broke your teeth in as a DJ, was there ever a moment where you felt pressured to adhere to, or shape your sound as a DJ to what the dominating sound of the moment was?
Although it certainly took me a long time to feel confident about playing much differently than most of the other prominent DJs in Florida, it was quite the opposite, actually (regarding needing to shape my sound around what was popular then). Eventually, though, I realized that playing differently than everyone else was an asset to me.
I recall showing up to gigs in Florida, where all other DJs would be jockeying against one another, to see who’d be able to play the new records and promos before the others. Meanwhile, I was getting the same type of response without playing those types of records at all.
What was your favorite venue in Florida to play? For me as someone who had not yet even considered the idea of DJing professionally, from a partygoer and then self-identified “raver,” it was definitely Simons in Gainesville.
I’ve always said that without Simons – there is no DJ Three! I learned how to play longer sets there. It was the first club that allowed me to play in that way. The standard in the US circuit for set-times was one or two hour sets, almost one-hundred percent of the time. Simons was everything that was right about clubbing in that era.
Set times in the U.S. being far too time-constraining seems to be an issue to many DJs and partygoers on the dancefloor as well. As of late, here in New York, at least, we are beginning to see more promoters and clubs allow DJs more time – thankfully.
It’s a different way of existing for sure, for the people on the dancefloor, as well as the DJ. I think six to eight hours is the ideal time for a proper set. That’s a time-frame when you can feel more assured that – at the very least – you’re likely to be playing for mostly the same audience. I’m not the biggest fan of the 12 to 24 hour DJ set thing, to be honest.
I distinctly recall hearing many people in the scene here in New York talking about a set of yours, way back around 2009 or 2010 that was talked about for quite a long time and considered to be one of the “it” events that you either witnessed or missed out on. That went well into the daytime as I recall. That had to have been a long one! What’s the longest set you’ve played and where was it?
The longest set I’ve done was around nine hours, solo. Also, I played an eleven-hour set at Club Der Visionaere in Berlin back in 2009. That party in New York was also in 2009. That really was a brilliant night! I think played 5:30 am until noon. That was a long one!
Well, rather than discuss what WAS, let us move on to what IS, and that brings me to the recent launching of your new Hallucienda label. I’ve been playing one particular track from Terry Francis, “Changes,” quite often as of late. It’s one of the many amazing club-focused cuts that came out recently on Francis’ debut LP, which you released on Hallucienda this Spring. What brought the Terry Francis album together, and most importantly, what inspired you to launch a new label, branching from the traditional Hallucination brand, after so many decades?
Well, I’ve known Terry for many years. He’s been sending me his music since the early 2000s. His music is timeless, and I felt I had enough to curate a great album of club tracks. A few tracks were previously released on Hallucination Limited, so were only available on vinyl. Several others from the album were ones that I had stored in the vaults.
Hallucienda came to mind after noticing that the Hallucination label history seems to have run in ten year cycles. Hallucination originally ran from 1992 to 2002. In 2002, I formed the Hallucination Limited label, which released on vinyl until 2012.
After noticing the decade trend, I saw this cycle and decided to break it, and so the best way to move forward was to start Hallucienda, which is a project that is solely my own endeavor, however, I do have access to the entire catalogs from the two original Hallucination labels. Threading the needle is important to me, so there’s a method to the way I am doing things. We’re not gonna just put the whole catalog up at one time, but rather do a series of annual or bi-annual compilations, which will be titled “Colorfast” (meaning timeless).
The Colorfast compilations will feature nine tracks or so, culled from the previous vinyl-exclusive releases of Hallucination, Hallucination Limited, as well as Hallucienda. Essentially, the digital arm of Hallucienda will be focused on releasing albums, various artist compilations, and EPs.
Hallucienda’s vinyl imprint will be running on its own schedule and timeline, separate from that of our digital release schedule. For me, this is an attempt to keep some inherent value in each medium.
Interesting. So while Hallucienda is focused mostly on new music, you’re also able to and going to reach into the extensive back-catalog of Hallucination at times.
Yes, that is correct. Hallucienda is just the latest chapter of the story and you will see things from our past, sometimes reimagined like the Terry Francis album, trying to peddle as many angles of my DJ-ing as possible, I guess.
You’ve also released another compilation on Hallucienda as well, which featured some tracks that varied from well-known producers such as Ryan Crosson, but also some stuff from guys such as Fahad Haider, who’s half of NYC’s Blkmarket Membership founding duo, Taimur & Fahad. Can you tell us a bit about the idea behind that compilation and if there will be more?
Yes, that is another compilation series called “Phono Obscura.” These are small compilations with exclusive material, usually pointing to other Hallucination artists, or sometimes it may be a first-time digital re-issue of a record I love. Another compilation series I’ve recently began working on is called Wow & Flutter, which will focus on ambient, electronica, indie, dub and anything else I see fit which is not normal club fare.
So it sounds like there is a whole lot of ideas and concepts that we’ll be seeing coming from Hallucienda. One highly-anticipated release which is finally seeing the light of day is Oona Dahl’s debut LP – how excited are you to get this one out?
Very excited! When we first heard some of (Oona’s) demos a few years ago, I found myself putting the vocal electronica tracks in playlists with things like This Mortal Coil and 100th Window-era Massive Attack. I realized there was an emerging songwriter here, with music that would sit perfectly on labels such as 4AD or Apollo.
Oona’s album is a real pleasure to listen to as an album. It’s sort of a traditional album experience, in that it’s a mere 50 minutes long. So far the initial feedback has been as diverse as the music. It’s been great to see it be so well-received by so many types of heads!
We have a lot of what I consider to be “proper” albums coming up. Ulysses has delivered a Krautrock-inspired album that is just incredible. There are a few others I can’t discuss yet, but that is definitely an important direction that Hallucienda is going in.
Albums are the places where artists with this kind of range can really be themselves this way, then can curate singles or EPs from the albums and include remixed translations for the club.
Indeed, as I’ve written in my review of the album, in my opinion it’s more than just a pleasure to listen to, it’s an experience. It’s a journey that actually accomplishes what few artists are able to achieve especially on their debut album. It connects you to who Oona is as a person and gives you a pretty good idea of what she values: life, nature, the world in general, and the music sounds as if it comes from a very deep and spiritual perspective. At least that’s what my feeling was after listening to it for the 384th time. [laughs]
Well it’s great to get that kind of response. Getting Oona Dahl’s album to its release date has been a really rewarding journey.
Well good music takes time, and it’s clear the album took time and its release will be a feeling of “Wait.Lifted” off both of your shoulders! From my perspective, “So Cruel (Nite Version)” is Holograma’s opus. Is there a “day version” of “So Cruel” lurking about?
If there is one thing different about Hallucienda so far (compared to Hallucination) its that we are being rather consistent with our releases. Kinda weird, huh? [laughs] We certainly can not be accused of rushing anything! And yes, there is going to be a So Cruel EP. The original mix is actually three-and-a-half minutes, with no kick drum.
Hallucienda proudly presents Holograma, the new LP from Oona Dahl out now.