A founding member of the Ghetto Teknitianz and the Teklife crew, Chicago’s DJ Ttre is among those at the forefront of the Juke and Fotwork movement.
Aside from his appearance on Next Life, Hyperdub’s compilation dedicated to the late DJ Rashad (and one of the best compilations released in the last five years), Tre’s raw, gritty tracks have appeared on Juke Traxx, Sublvl, Moveltraxx and TAR.
I had to talk to you after I heard your record for TAR. It was a great record and next-level – from the strings of “A Doughnut Thing” to “The West Coast Vibe,” which sounds like straight up Metalheadz-style Drum’N’Bass. Can you tell me about this record? Because if it’s not huge right now, it should be.
You know it’s funny you mention Metalheadz because some good friends of mine from L.A. believe that the Teklife crew is breaking through sorta the same way they have.
But as far as the TAR release, the homie Paul came to me and said he would be honored if I’d put a EP together for them. I told ’em I was down with it. So really there’s nothin’ major I’ve done to put this EP together – I just went in my lab and went to work. Though I was interested in what kinda feedback I would get from these tracks and you saying this EP should be huge – I appreciate that a lot, man.
What is your background? Were you DJing in the ’90s? I mean I can tell you know music forward and backward – from juke to bass to ghetto house to where ghetto came from and the roots of the whole thing.
Well I was exposed to all types of music as a very young child in the ’80s. As I got older my dad and my uncle were responsible for everything, they gave me all the tools it would take for me to do my own research. My dad took me to my first concert to see Run DMC, and while I was there he bought me my first record which was Run DMC’s Raising Hell. Listening to the album, hearing Run going nuts throughout the whole album, I begin to build a interest in DJing.
Back then there was was no internet to do the research I needed, so I had to use TV for everything. So thanks to radio and cable TV and MTV and BET and other stations that were in their prime back then! [laughs] God I miss those days! So yeah, in the late ’80s to early ’90s, listening to a lot of local radio stations I started to learn things that I never really knew. I learned that Chicago wasn’t really known for Hip-Hop in the ’80s… but it was being played a lot on major radio stations and that we were more known for Disco and House Music. So I would asked my uncle about House Music because he was a DJ. He played a lot of it for me one day and I’ve been hooked ever since.
In my pre-teen years I was hanging around my sister and cousins, going to this field house close to where we stayed at the time. There were a couple of dance groups that were practicing in the field house which were called House-O-Matic and U Phi U and we all ended up joining U Phi U and being one of the youngest out of all the dance groups. This is where my first love for Ghetto House had begun because DJ Deeon & DJ Milton were the providers of performance tapes… I’d get my hands on tapes from my cousins and it was over from there, man. And also going to the Skating Rinks like Markham Roller Rink and Route 66 – these and others were the places to be to hear Ghetto House and House Music…
I really didn’t take DJing very seriously until late ’97. I got my first pieces of gear in ’99 thanks to my parents… and I bought my more gear when I got my first job in 2000.
The reason I asked about the ’90s is that I hear some wicked echoes of it in your tracks – like “That Shit!” is right up with some Dance Mania classics. It’s got that rough, fuzzy sound you’d hear in Robert Armani and some Funk and Deeon tracks from them beating on the MPC. It’s got some grit and doesn’t sound super-clean, like the way a lot of new releases today sound “clean.”
Wooow… Well I listened to a lot of Dance Mania in the ’90s for sure. I’ve learned a lot from the DJs from the Dance Mania family and also learning a lot about production. Teaching myself how to recreate that Dance Mania grit in my music is a fun and great sounding experience and I believe it separates me from all the other juke and footwork producers so I have my tools to get dirty with, always! [laughs] I’m not a big fan of super-clean production. I believe there should be some type of gritty analog love in it…
You’re one of the founding members of Teklife, right?
Yes I am.
Where do things stand with Teklife in 2015? There was a lot of focus on picking up after Rashad passed – Gant talked on it in a piece we wrote late last year.
The mission is to continue pushing the Teklife sound and juke and footwork to the masses – to get people familiar with it and know who’s responsible for it. Before my brother Rash passed it was only just the beginning. It’s very hard because he’s not here to celebrate what he has accomplish for himself and the rest of the crew.
Over the years I’ve heard about “rituals” some DJs do to get in the mood to mix. Whether it’s lighting one up or playing something they used to listen to as a kid. Is there anything you have like that before you play?
Well it’s pretty basic! For me what I do always is make sure my family is doin’ well, and the rest… well, you nailed it! [laughs] Nothing out of the norm – jus’ basic and straight forward… Oh oh oh! There’s another thing. I’m a lava lamp dude. My next investment is to put two really huge lava lamps in my new studio. Yeah, yeah! I know it’s soooo ’70s but it’s still tha shit to me!
What do you have coming up?
I’m tryin to finish up my Underdogg EP. That should have been out awhile ago but after my brother Rashad passed, that really really killed the vibe for months, for me man… I had take some time away from the lab to pull my self back together so I wouldn’t force myself back in the lab and start making half-ass and shitty tracks, you feel me? I want everything to be pure heat!
I wanna make everyone around me proud of my work at the end of the day… I wanna make sure I have something my brother Rashad would have been proud to bang in all of his sets.
Hit up DJ Tre via Soundcloud, Facebook, Twitter, Bandcamp and teklife57.com.