IT’S HARD TO BELIEVE that anyone could pass over Kerri Chandler, but that’s exactly what we’ve seen happening. When the sun rises every morning and sets in the west, you can take it for granted. As a producer, as a DJ, as an artist blessed with commercial success but faithful to his own inspiration, Kerri Chandler is so consistent, so damned consistent and so damned good at what he does – no matter what the genre, no matter what the sound, for a major label or for a record company run out of someone’s garage – that it’s easy to take the genius in our midst for granted.
Kerri was born into a musical family – several were jazz musicians, and his father was a DJ that used to take his son with him to gigs. Like Chicago’s own child prodigy Gant Garrard, Kerri began spinning when he was barely old enough to carry a crate, made his worldwide debut at the age of nine, and by thirteen had played publically at the Rally Record Club in his hometown of East Orange, New Jersey.
Kerri’s first single, “SuperLover/Get It Off” was scooped up by Atlantic in 1991 in the groundswell of major labels capitalizing on the resurgence of dance music in the United States and abroad. Yet he always kept a foot in the underground, and some of his most influential productions such as “A Basement, a Redlight and a Feeling” have been released on indie labels (in this case, his own Madhouse Records, but also Champion, Shelter, and more). He became well known in the industry for his stringent standards when considering new projects – it has never been enough to just throw money at a man of spirit, and it never will. Stories or maybe just rumors have him turning down projects for multi-platinum, Grammy Award winning artists simply because he felt his soul wasn’t in it. He might be called a producer’s producer, a DJ’s DJ, an artist’s artist, but one thing is for sure – the Good Lord certainly broke the mould after He made Kerri Chandler.
In addition to keeping up with the “business” part of the “music business,” Kerri also takes time out to interact with fans and aspiring artists and DJs as well. But it’s more than just a myspace page here: on his personal website, simplycool music.com, Kerri often releases tracks or remixes for free – no strings attached – in addition to free DJ mixes and the like. I recall coming across a post on deephousepage.com about this a year or so ago, and figured that this had to be an imposter. But nope – aside from his million and one solo projects, remixes, collaborations on original tracks, and the non-stop touring schedule that brought him through Chicago to play at Ohm in January 2007, Kerri takes some time to give back some love. That’s why we say they won’t make another like Kerri Chandler – and why we’re fools if we take this amazing artist for granted.
What was it that brought you to wanting to become a DJ or a producer?
I wanted to do music as far back as 5 years old, and I have got the photos to prove it. I just think I got older…
If you weren’t a producer and a DJ, what do you think you would you be doing?
Engineering or architecture.
It seems like there are some NY DJs that come to Chicago and play nothing but classics, assuming that’s what people here want to hear.
It is because Chicago classics are New York classics . . . We love them. I won’t spin them anywhere anymore, even if I like them. The songs are still dope, but it starts too much BS these days.
What’s your stance on the well known battle over where House Music started Chicago or New York?
It is not where you are from, it is how you grow . . . and if it ends.
What do you see as being the next wave of House Music? (i.e.; electro/disco loops, Latin, tech, etc)
I still feel it is about being personal with the music, how well you can relate to the feel of what’s coming across in the record.
Where’s your favorite place to play in the United States or just the world?
I have too many favorites for different reasons, but basically anywhere that there are happy people.
Do you feel that House Music is responsible for the next generation of House Music lovers, DJs and producers (like their interests, their education, their knowledge of the history), or just responsible for bringing in a next generation in the first place?
All of it has to do with each other, the same way we heard it or introduced someone to it. It may take someone bringing you out to a nightclub or you just stumbling across someone’s compilation album looking for that one song. I feel that the music will guide you anyway, all you have to do is hear the right song at the right time.
What in your opinion is the best way to maintain our culture in the era of hip-hop?
Well the biggest thing is to stop worrying if it’s going to die out and just have fun. It is underground because there is no real way to spot a househead, unless he or she is a DJ. It’s kind of like a Jazz following . . . we can spot each other, but for the average Joe, it is not like we have some kind of ID style – you know, like how hip-hop does. And if it does, it kind of looks like hip-hop anyway.
Can we ever be as successful as hip-hop is now? What would we have to do or change?
Well, one thing is the media and who’s making sure it is heard. However, I think if we try other routes to let people hear it rather than the conventional mainstream media we have been trying to hit – then yeah, there will be that kind of scene.
There are tons of ways to get the music out there, you just have to be creative. An example would be that with every purchase of a new (insert brand) car, the dealer would give a CD of House Music. With that new (whatever brand) car, they would have a positive memory and some new music they haven’t heard before to associate with it. Or maybe if when you get to your hotel room, there it is on your pillow, some Deep House CD.
Plus, we now have alternatives like XM Radio, “The Move” with Luis Baro and other shows.
How do you respond to those who just started DJing and chose the Final Scratch route, versus actual wax or CDs?
I think it is a personal preference – you know, what you feel good about. I love all of it, from reel-to-reel to DVDs. If it plays, I’m playing it.
Analog or Digital?
You need both.
What projects are you working on that we can look forward to hearing?
I have a lot of things coming up. Deep Blue (Jazz Project), Computer Games LP on Deeply Rooted House, a video for a new song I have coming out called “Brand New Sun” on Max Trax, and The Southport Weekender Vol. 6 compilation.
Any new collaborations or collaborations with old friends?
I’m going to do more stuff with Dennis Ferrer, Monique Bingham, and Barbara Tucker and her dad. I am just trying to have some fun this year.
Interview by Shani Hebert.