We had the pleasure to interview the incredible producer & DJ, Kerri Chandler at our HQ. During the chat, we talked about his career, labels, next projects, his friendship with Frankie Knuckles and much more!
Hello, here House of Frankie, Underground Radio in Milan, Italy. Today, I have been joined by Kerri Chandler, The Godfather of Deep House and extraordinaire producer & DJ. Hi, how are you Kerri? Nice to have you here in Milan.
I’m good! Thank you, so glad to been here at House of Frankie!
You’re working on a new project, aren’t you? Because I know there’s a new upcoming EP that features remixes by Peggy Gou, Josh Butler and more. Could you tell us something about it?
Here we go with the older things again (laughs). My label just turned 25 years old this year and just getting a lot of remixes done by a lot of people. Peggy just did “I need you” and it’s amazing… I have a lot of remixes on as well but we’re going to reissue a few things. “Get out” just came up with Detroit Swindle and there’s a lot more, like Jimpster so… And this year I’m going to finish up finally ‘A Basement, A Red Light’ number 3. I played one of the song earlier today at a radio station.
You’re an international artist, you travel a lot, your music is known all over the world. Which countries do you think appreciate your music the most? And what do you think of the European underground scene?
I think everything is in cycles. Every 5 to 7 years is a new generation coming in and going out. For example, today I had the pleasure of working with a bunch of young producers and DJs. I took them all to the sound-check and I just kinda spread love back with them and It was really, really cool! We were just playing songs and show them how the room and sound work while we were in…just technique.
As for places, I’ve really never had too much of a favourite place, it’s always been about the people for me and that’s really more important. The places have never really been as important as the people.
I heard you’re a very spiritual man. Would you say your music reflects this aspect of your personality?
Music is therapeutic for me and I always feel spiritual. I love the way music makes me feel but I always take it from my life. Every song I have ever done has something to do with something of my life, every single one I’ve done. There are stories for everything. If I don’t feel like there’s going to be a reason to make a song, I won’t make it. I just don’t force myself.
Going back in time, you started your work as a DJ very early in your life and soon after that you started your projects as a producer. In 1991 your first single as a producer came out “Super Love/Get it off”. Could you tell us something about it? About the beginning of your career?
I was making a lot of music to do for edits for clubs. “Get it off” is what kinda started for me. Someone killed my girlfriend at the time and I had a lot of stuff on my mind. Just trying to get over that situation and “Get it off” was exactly what sounded get if off of my mind. So, I used all the sounds and music to kinda work that way. It’s like the scratch going through the record made me think of how someone took her away from me. There are sounds in the song, something that goes “You- are- so-Vicious” going through the song. I put that in here, it’s like I was talking to the person that killed her. “Now is the time”, that’s me saying to myself all the time “oh my God, stop this, I got to get it off my mind”. And I found myself making music around that kinda thing… the pads, the cords, that’s how she made me feel, really warm and deep. She was a very big house lover and was the one that got me into it, so I thought “Try!”. I never did house before that, that was my first house attempt, first house record and I find it like “Wow, I really should be doing this!”.
I know you’re very passionate about technology too. How much does this affect your work as a DJ & producer? Describe your technical set-up…
It changes… it depends on what they let me give away with, I’ve done everything from holograms to laser synths, reel to reels, keyboards. Most of the time keyboards, which is great so I can have a live feel or a studio feel. To me, the more I can create and the more I can bring to clubs, the atmosphere… but my set-up normally, the basic set-up, consists of turntables. There are CDJs, mixers (they varies) …it depends on what I’m inputting it to the input. Usually a keyboards that’s my basic set-up and after that it can branch off, pretty much going anywhere. For example, sometimes I set up for a live band… so, I really don’t have a particular set but if I’m just playing, it could be just a couple of basic turntables, some CDJs, but I like to have a broader, you know, spectrum of thing to play with.
Our digital platform, House of Frankie, was born as a project dedicated to Frankie Knuckles, and more in general, as a tribute to house music. You had the chance to meet him personally. Right? Do you have any memories of him you want to share with us?
I have so many… umm, the one stands up for me… there’s a lot what stands out for me. First time I met him – I can’t remember the club, some place in New York – he came up my friend Caroline Robins and took me to see him and David Morales. I just got my first set of records, first thing out and when I met Frankie, it was more like “Oh my God”, I was like he knew who I was now and I was surprised, cause I already knew who he was, and he gave me the biggest hug (he was always giving the best hugs). He was just playing and he’s kept turning back to me, I was standing next to the booth, and I’m just like “Wow, this is so cool getting to hear all this him and David”. They were mixing, and he asked me if I knew that particular record. I can’t remember what record it was but I was like “That’s so cool!” And he says: “You need this!” and I replied “Yeah, I’d love to have it!”. I’d never think that he would do what he just did, so he finishes to play the record, puts back in the sleeves and he hands it to me and I’m like “Wow! Cool man, thank you for this record!” and he says “No, no, it’s cool, it’s my pleasure! It’s one of my newer ones” Five/ten minutes later he’s playing another song, “You know this one?” and I was like “No, but that’s kinda cool!” and he does the same thing again, he put it back in the sleeves, handed it to me saying “you need this” I’m like “No, no I’m not taken all your records, are you kidding?” As you know, I’ve just met this man! It was one of those things… He and David were like big brother to me, they were always that way. And one of my favourite memories was probably the last time I’ve seen him. We were playing at Southport Weekender together, he was on before I was, and he was just like “I get to play with my family!”. So, he’s playing and I have my keyboard set-up and the same booth and he’s just like “Is that your keyboard?” and I say “Yeah!”. He replies “You’d better put it to use” I ask him “What you mean?” and he’s like “C’mon, play, play, play over this thing”. He had “Where Love Lives” on, so I play over that track as he’s DJing and I was like “This is fun!”. We were just having fun with the jam session. Every time something happened, we called and we kept in touch but I never said goodbye to him. Always said “Until the next time” and that was our thing, because I never liked to say goodbye to people I’m really closed with. So, I just say “Until the next time” and funny enough the next time I was supposed to see him was at Southport Weekender. We had the same agent that books me, him and David, so I got to see him all the times and it never occurred to me that I won’t be seeing him again, it never triggered. So, when I found out that, I was shocked. The first person I called was David, and I asked him “You’re ok?”. David couldn’t even speak… It was one of those things we all had to kinda take it in. Then, the next place I had actually played for him it was some kinda benefit in Canada and I actually had to take his place. I did this all long set of just Frankie stuff. And that’s when it really hit home, it was really emotional. And I think the year before that, David took his place, but nobody taking Frankie’s place.
He definitely was a great man.
Yeah, very, very inspirational, pioneer, really funny! He was so funny without even trying, biggest smile… he’s like give you the best hug in the world and never let know that there was any trouble with him ever. His health was deteriorating and I could see he was in pain in a way but you’ve never know, he used to smile and just be really happy. And he’d just never really let on, like if he did he was like “Okay, who I’d gotta beat up”. This is Frankie. It’s that kinda thing, so we were always overprotective.
You are also the founder of three labels: Madhouse Records and its spin-off MadTech Records & more recently Kaoz Theory. So, what’s the idea behind all these labels?
Oh, that’s really simple! Madhouse has been my baby for 25 years, that’s just my favourite way to create, it is really soulful, really deep stuff, vocals and that’s where I started. Those our my roots.
I wanna the next generation coming in to kinda give them information. And that’s why I started MadTech, because I always thought I’m gonna try to give this opportunity that Mel Medalie gave me. Back in 1990 I said “I want to start a label” and Mel said “Ok, let’s do it! I’ll show you how it works”. So, I wish I would do that as I get older and do the same thing, like pass what I know on to the next generation, sort of a stepping stone for a label.
Kaoz Theory is more of me the way I like doing dubs at bit rougher, grunger, raw, and that’s the bases for all 3 of them.
I know you’re also doing workshops in schools. What advice would you give to young people who want to take up DJing as a career?
Wow, it’s a lot tougher now to get in, because everyone’s a DJ. I would just say learn to play an instrument, not to just hit the button, learn sound, learn engineering, you know because it’s like you have to know how sound works and levelling just not putting on and go for it. Don’t ever go for it if you’re trying to do for money, that’s the worst reason in the world to go for it. Money come if your hearts in it, people can listen to the music and tell right away. That’s never really been a thing for me, it has to come from you heart, because it comes through your music immediately. And easiest way, don’t be an asshole! There are two people in the world: the real cool people and then there’s assholes. Don’t burn your bridges being an asshole, simple!
Thank you, Kerri! It was an honour to have you here! your time here at House of Frankie. See you soon!
Listen to Kerri Chandler’s latest releases on Traxsource