A Sit Down With DJ Derrick Carter
Derrick Carter is a deft mixer and can build and release the energy in a room so subtly his touch is almost subliminal, but other than that there's nothing understated about his sets. This is an essential part of his practical-minded philosophy of DJing.
Carter became one of the citys most popular local DJs, securing residencies at Shelter, Foxys and smartbar. Along with Cajmere, Felix Da Housecat, Chez Damier and Ron Trent, he went on to play a vital role in Chicago houses second wave from the mid-1990s onwards. Carter began spending more time in Europe, founding the Classic Music Company with Luke Solomon in 1995. Two decades on, he remains house music royalty, indulging his twin passions of DJing and music production.
"What I feel is that some people are made for what they do. I just feel for me, the core of who I am suits this music thing."
Did you really start djing when you were 10? How was that?
Actually, I was nine when I got my first taste of djing for a crowd. It was at a family reunion and was really the spark which kicked off my interest in it. I'd play music at family functions and small parties that my parents would host but this was the first time I used two turntables and a mixer.
When did you start going out to clubs?
I didn't start going out until I was about 16. There was some sneaking there as well. One of my earliest club memories was going to see Loleatta Holloway perform around 1987. It was weird to me, because nothing ever got started until about 2 or 3 in the morning. I was used to getting up and going to school. It was kind of awesome at the same time.
What do you think of EDM?
Its horses for courses. Do what you do, and Ill do what I do. I frame it with almost a Darwinian kind of thing, so Im just going to do what I do, and Ill either survive or go extinct based on that. Theres always going to be things I dont like. I live in a bubble. Theres room for all kinds of bubbles. You vote with your McDonalds paycheck, or your mamas money.
Do you feel an obligation to speak out about the real nature and history of dance music culture, for example as a generation gets into EDM and acts like its something new?
Well, yeah I dont want to be forgotten. Thats how cultures always manage to spread themselves is the story. The whole Folkways thing that went on in the early 20th century in America where these guys rode around and got stories, sang songs, visited oral traditions, thats some important stuff there. I dont want it all to disappear just because Coca-Cola jumped on the bandwagon and Sprite has Tiesto in a fucking commercial and theyre using some track that I know to sell a Buick, pushing cars with Avicii records. I dont care about that. That isnt how I get my information, its not how I manage to find my connections to things. What Ive tried to stand up for is quality, in the respect that its not cookie-cutter, its not simply put your hands in the air and jump up and down, because heres a song at 125bpm that has similarities to what we call dance music. I stand up for things that have soul and vision and points of view and attempt to maybe push the envelope or stretch the fabric or right a wrong. Something clever, something that has power: I live for that, I live to find that in music, thats what takes me to I wont say happy place because my happy place isnt necessarily soundtracked all the time but I do listen to music because its a voice that people who make the music have, and it feels like a conversation when you hear what they have to say.
What are your thoughts on the evolution of club culture?
It functions as a breeding ground, a training situation, a place to work out ideas and hone your craft. Club culture is its own thing. I'm just a worker though. All that evolution stuff eludes me most days.
What do you look for when you engage with art?
Just something I like. Whether it be wit or emotion, colours or something completely abstract, it's often hard to pinpoint.
Do you think you can get tired of your work DJing?
I still love it but the truth is that it evolves for me. I see it much more as "work" now than I used to. I am trying to be more professional and do what it takes to do the job properly.
So no, I don't get tired of it in general. I do have good days and bad days like anyone else. I also am not a fan of 8-10 hr flights every week but, it's all part of the situation that I'm in. I'd never complain to anyone other than my manager and my travel agent.
How would you describe yourself as a person?
I think I'm fairly care-free; I'm not easily stressed or worried about a lot of things. Being easy-going allows me to be relaxed and settled when I work.
When did you become world dominant?
That was the idea I had when I was 20. I realized soon after that there was a lot of bullshit and malarkey required to make it happen. And I'd rather not participate in trying to make that happen.
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