By the end of the last decade Farris had released through other renowned imprints like Soma, Force Inc. and 83 West, and launched
his own label - called, appropriately enough, Farris Wheel - through all of which he unleashed some of the best reinterpretations
of disco (here think grooves chock-a-block with funk, yet smacking of an undercurrent of more eclectic electronica) to hit
dance floors to date.
Now, in 2006, Farris is one of the more respected Chicago house DJs who, ironically, no longer lives in the Windy City
(he just moved to Amsterdam) and has a brand new label called Industry Recordings.
Our roving hack journo Andrez Bergen, who's been a bit of a Gene Farris fan for years, caught up with the guy in January
and pressed out some answers to a wad of unrelated questions...
|farris vs. relief
To my mind you are one of the funkiest, coolest DJs around, and many people dig the sets you mix for their diversity and
innovation as much as for an inherent sexy ambience and a mischievous sense of humor.
So which is most important - diversity, innovation, ambience or humor - and why? And which do you think is least important
out of these four ingredients...?
Wow! First I would like to say thank you, and it's a very nice thing to say!
I think personally the most important thing is for me is innovation - to bring something original and new to the table,
that no-one else is doing or you haven't heard before, is a very cool thing. I believe that's what the people want: something
different but good; something fresh always...
The least important has to be humor, even though this is a very important thing too - if you're at a party, who wants
there to be nothing humorous? They're all important qualities!
Do you think that some DJs take it all too seriously and forget the fun?
Yeah! That's what I mean... first of all a lot of us get to caught up in the business, and then the ego starts to fly!
I think a DJ's worst enemy is his or her self... if we would just realize why we started in the first place... at least
for me it was because I love the sound of the music so much I wanted to make people feel what I felt. And that I would do
even if I didn't get paid one cent or didn't get one interview, because I love the music.
If more DJs would remember their love for the music, then they would be in the party, not just at the party - you know
what I mean?
You've been a DJ yourself for a helluva long time - what is it you most get out of DJing, and what do you hope to impart
Hmm... What I get most is making other people happy for the night. We're not scientists or doctors, so the only way we
can make our patients feel better is to play them really good music for a few hours.
A lot of DJs forget this isn't their full-time life, and people have normal things to do outside of the club life. Our
job and my passion is to make people forget about their normal life for as long as I'm playing music. That's what I get out
of it - making you forget for a few hours!
|farris vs. soma
Please fill us in on upcoming Gene Farris projects you have planned over the next few months, both with regards to your
own music production and label-wise.
I got a lot of cool stuff in the works, actually - obviously my new label Industry Recordings. We're on our 4th release
at the moment; the first three did very well, with the first project done by me called "Take Me Back"... hot!
The second one by myself and Yousef - "Da Number 8" - is very nice, and Pete Tong was running it on his show
for a bit!
The third one, by Demarkus Lewis, is the "Top Shelf" EP, which is getting good reviews from all the DJs, from
Derrick Carter to Honey Dijon... it's a very cool record. And now we have the fourth, "Al Campos De Mi Conga", by
some new Chicago boys Broadway & Wilson Amderw Emil & Jeff Bloom.
Plus we got a few more hot ones coming after that: Hollywood Bongalow - a very nice, sexy vocal record comin' soon - and
also the return of Onionz from New York. He just did a very nice record for us, so keep your eyes open for Industry... it's
gonna be a good year I think!
What's this we hear about a 10-year compilation...?
The compilation is called "A Decade of Beats", and it's all the cool tracks that I produced over the last 10
years! All the goodies will be there, like 'Sanctified Love', 'The Spirit', 'Visions Of The Future', 'Summer Affair', and
a host of other cool tracks from then till now... I don't wanna give too much away, but trust in me - it's gonna be good!
How is Gene Farris, as an ongoing artistic project (not to mention DJ), most relevant in 2006?
I think with the new hot label Industry Recordings [he laughs] we're gonna have a great year! I got a lot of cool new
stuff coming out from myself and my other artists, and I'm constantly working on my DJ sets to take the people even higher
in the clubs!
So I think 2006 will be sort of a Gene-Farris-Returns, you know?
OK, so what about your own approach to live sets and DJing these days? How would you describe the "typical"
Gene Farris set in 2006...?
Hmmm... In four words: chunky, sexy, quality, funky. It's house music! That's what I try to bring to the table each and
every time I play music...
What is it about playing live that continues to appeal to you as a musician?
I just love the people! I'm the people's champ!
They give me inspiration - their smiles, their screams, their cheers, their tears... there is nothing like being appreciated
for what you love to do.
I would do it alone in my bedroom, but it so much better when you have people, who love what you do, make it that much
more personal and passionate...
What kind of gear/software are you using these days?
I never tell! ...gotta have some mystery! [he chuckles]
Going back a bit, when did you first begin both DJing and production work, and what motivated you to start?
You're going way back! [he laughs again]
I started DJing when I was 11 in 1983, and I got into it because for me and my friends from the neighborhood, DJing house
music at basement parties back in the day was like a dream! Chicago was a lot different then; it was pure house music! I worked
on my first track when I was 17, back in 1989. I was - and still am - a huge Lil' Louis fan, so in 1989 I wanted everything
to sound like him.
Thank god I've grown into my own sound!
In what way would you assess that your music has most developed since you started out?
It's definitely grown and is still growing, and definitely not the Lil' Louis sound anymore! But I would hope that the
people that follow me would agree that I always try to give the people something different and funky, and also fresh.
By the same token - what's remained the same?
The kick drum! [he laughs]
No, seriously, the soul of my music stays the same; some like it, some don't, but - hey - you can't please everyone and
everybody. You can only strive to please the ones in your life who appreciate what you are giving them, and to make yourself
happy at the same time. That's all I try to do.
Last year you moved to Amsterdam - why make the big shift?
I wanted to be closer to you guys! Europe... The scene over here is amazing. In America it's all hip hop and rock &
roll, and you don't see electronic music on TV or anything.
It was becoming very uninspiring, so I needed change and challenge. I knew when I came over here with the big boys, it
wasn't gonna be a walk in the park, but with the right people around me I think I'm ready to step up to the challenge and
see what I've got...
How do you find the city, the people themselves, and how does it all compare with Chicago?
The people are cool.
It's also a cool place to live, and beautiful people are always walking around. Very nice.
The first material of yours that I (quite literally!) stumbled across was the Chicago Relief Records stuff back in the
mid '90s. I heard that Ron Trent introduced you to Cajmere - is that correct?
Yeah that's very true. I knew Ron for a long time - we go way back to our high school days! He was doing a label out of
the same building as Relief and Cajual, and he heard some tracks of mine - I think this was around 1992/93 - and he thought
they would be perfect for Relief Records.
Then he introduced me to Cajmere (one of my really good friends now), and the rest is history.
What was it like working with the Relief acts, including people like DJ Sneak, Glenn Underground, Rush, Gemini, Paul Johnson,
Boo Williams and DJ Spookie - not to mention Curtis Jones, a.k.a. Cajmere/Green Velvet - when they were Chicago's vivacious
new house music blood in the early '90s?
Man, we had some great time all growing together - our first big tour together was at the Ministry of Sound in London.
How is that for poppin' your cherry?!
We all got along pretty well then, but now a few of those guys on the list let their egos take over, but 98% of the people
on that list I still speak to and are good friends with.
Do you have much in common with any of these guys over a decade later?
Well, yeah, we're gonna be forever connected, and I'm still friends with most of them, but we have all grown and gone
our separate ways. There's still love between 98% of us, but you ain't getting it outta me who the other 2% is!
Why do you think that Chicago was such an inspiring and diverse place for house music from the latter half of the '80s
through to the same period in the 1990s?
I would have to say because we were already doing quality house music in the '80s. The same way people would look to Detroit
and Germany for quality techno back in the day, people would look at Chicago for quality house music, and we delivered big
time: Ron Hardy, Lil' Louis, DJ Pierre, Frankie Knuckles, Marshall Jefferson, all the way until now... Gene Farris! [he does
that kind of charismatic chuckle again] - and Derrick Carter, Green Velvet, Paul Johnson, Ron Trent, etc. We still deliver...
Your own production work in the second half of the 1990s rethought the whole disco ethic in innovative new ways. Why approach
this medium? And how has your technique changed over the years?
Like I said before, I always try to stay fresh.
I grew up on disco. A lot of producers who were sampling disco back when it was hot didn't grow up on it, so they would
sample a lot of commercial records like Michael Jackson, Teddy Pendergrass and so on.
What I wanted to bring to the game was underground disco samples, still maybe some known artist, but their underground
B-side hits to sample. So that was my strategy..
Farris Wheel had some truly scintillating releases that really changed the way some people (including me) listened to
music in the late '90s. What was the intent behind the label?
Man, this was my way of giving you a bit of Disco Education 101! [he laughs] That was what Farris Wheel was all about
- underground house. I don't need to be a big commercial star; I just wanna be respected, and for people to appreciate what
I've done... That's the underground..
Finally, which three artists, DJs, musicians or whatever do you think have had the most impact on your own creative psyche?
Prince, Earth Wind & Fire, and Roy Ayers.