In the Mix with Chip E. - DJ, Producer, Artist, Innovator, Daddy
Chip E. Started spinning records in 1982, by 1984 he was producing records. In 1985 Street Mix magazine declared Chip E. as the "Godfather of House Music". In 1987 he became the first (and still the only) Chicago artist to be in regular rotation on all 3 major Chicago radio stations (WBMX, WGCI, B96).
Former B96 programming manager Joe Bohannon (Joe Bo) made the decision to add "If You Only Knew" to regular rotation and with that began the transition of the station from CHR (contemporary hit radio) to a Dance Music station. Chip E. took DJ/Remixer Frankie Knuckles under his wing when he co-produced Frankie’s first record "You Can’t Hide". Other artists Chip jump started into the music world were Liddell Townsel, Kevin Irving, and
Harri Dennis of "The It". By the age of 21 Chip E. was a world wide name. Because of difficulties getting out of a contract with D.J. International records, Chip decided that he would rather not record if he had to do it for D.J. International. Although he does the rare DJ gig in Britain or Italy, to quote Sean Bidder’s book "House – The Rough Guide", Chip E. has moved into "the realms of mythology". Most people know the
name, and the music, but few have even seen pictures of this House legend. Here in a very rare interview, we get a closer look at Chip E. "Godfather of House Music".
Gman: Where were you born and raised and how old are you now ?
Chip: I was born in Chicago and raised on the South Side, on 87th street, smack dab in between Prairie and Calumet. Gman, if it was anyone else but you asking how old I am I wouldn’t tell. But I respect what you’re doing in faithfully becoming the historian of
House. I’m 34 years young.
Gman: How long have you been Djing\Producing and how did you get into it. ?
Chip: Well I’ve been Djing since I was a Junior in high school (1982) and I started producing shortly after that in 1984. I got started Djing when friends of mine from grammar school (grades 1 – 8) were cutting classes in high school so they could spin records at a friends
house. I thought that what they were doing was the snizitz. I’d heard DJs on the radio and seen them play at parties like the Vertigo – Loft Parties (featuring the Chosen Few, Alan King, Tony Hatchet, Wayne Williams, Jessie Saunders and Andre Hatchet) but I’d never seen Djing close-up. It looked easy enough. I was wrong. It took a lot of practice, and a lot of patience.
Gman: How would you classify your style of djing ?
Chip: I like to think of my style as music first. I try to make mix two records so that they sound like a single record. I don’t just listen to the BPM (beats per minute) but I try to listen to the phrasing, the melody, and even the lyrics. I really want to create mixes where
people aren’t aware when a song ends and another one begins. I guess you could say my style is "mixing without mixing"
Gman: I know its hard but what would be your ten favorite records of all time?
Chip: Yeah Gman, that IS hard. Well, I’ll try.
- Martin Circus – Disco Circus
- Charlie Calelo Orchestra – Sing Sing Sing
- Dr. Buzzards Original Savannah Band – Chez Chez LeFemme
- Black Ivory – Mainline
- Machine – There But for The Grace of God
- Vince Montanna Jr – Heavy Vibes
- Marvin Gaye – Got to Give it Up
- Dinosaur L – Go Bang
- Exodus – Together Forever
- In Deep – Last Night A DJ Saved my Life
Gman: House is a very comprehensive term; what is your personal definition of house music?
Chip: I could write a book on that question. The short answer is…House is minimalist music, just exactly what the body needs to get it jackin’ on the dance floor. And Jackin’ is doin’
standing up what you’d rather be doin’ layin’ down. But jackin’ and House are better than sex because you can do it all night long, you can do it with close friends and complete strangers, and you’ll never catch a disease from it.
Gman: Who are some of the DJ's past and present that you respect and have influenced you the most?
Chip: Of course Ron Hardy was a big influence, and I can even say that the early HotMix5 were influential. But from my old basement parties in the ’80s til last week at SideCar, there’s no other DJ like Andre Hatchet. Of the new breed, DJ Izrail and Cordell Johnson are
Gman: Who are some of the house artists\producers that you are feeling right now?
Chip: I’m really not feelin’ any new music right now. It could be my own fault, but I haven’t heard anything that’s caught my ear in a while. This is no offense to anyone, I probably just haven’t been out enough to hear your stuff. PLEASE send me some new music.
Gman: Are ,or were there any artists, that are not considered to be house, that have
inspired you? For example: Flavio likes to collect Beatles memorabilia.
Chip: Yeah, Marvin Gaye, Kraftwerk, Klein & MBO, and the Beatles (Chip laughs).
Gman: Please tell us about one of your most memorable nights at a club, where you were the DJ and also when you were just part of the crowd.
Chip: The first time I did a gig in London was so damn live. I had grown up in the US, I believed that white people didn’t have rhythm. I believed that there were White clubs and Black clubs. I believed that if there was alcohol served at a club it wasn’t a serious dance party.
All these myths were smashed in one night. I saw white people jackin’ so hard that I thought they were gonna fall out. I saw people being treated as people, not being judged by the color of their skin. I saw a few people drinking, but 90% were on the dance floor. As for me just being part of the crowd, I had a really nice time last year at Ministry of Sound. It was a birthday celebration for Eric Morillo. On each and every floor, in each and every room, the party was "goin’ on!"
Gman: If you were fortunate enough to hear Ron Hardy and Frankie Knuckles at some of the historic clubs in Chicago please give a short commentary on what it was like to experience them live? If you actually deejayed with them let us know about that too.
Chip: I don’t think I can say much about the PowerPlant or the Music Box that hasn’t been said before. There was intense energy at those clubs. Yes, I’ve played at both clubs before, and I
performed at he Paradise Garage. What can I say about those audiences…they didn’t come to judge the DJ or artist, they came to enjoy the music. They put their trust in you and showed their emotions when they were over joyed.
Gman: Please comment on the current house scene in Chicago (clubs and radio)?
Chip: Let me start off with radio, House music was really never made for radio. Most radio music is meant for sitting down and listening to. That’s really not what House is about. Sure there are a few exceptions, but House will never fit into a plain vanilla radio wrapper.
House will always be for specialized stations, specialized shows and primarily for mixes. As for the House scene in Chicago…we need to educate the younger generation. We need to get them into the love of this sound. I think we’ve lost a lot of the younger generation to Hip-Hop. Don’t get me wrong, I like a little Hip-Hop too, but I think they should be exposed to the great sound and history that is truly Chicago.
Gman: A reoccurring comment I hear from some folks, is that Chicago has not progressed with their house music like New York has . Please comment on this.
Chip: I think that back in the dayz, we didn’t have the unity required to go the distance. It’s only because of the strength of the music that we’ve come this far. If we want to continue and to grow, we’ve got to unite. We’ve got to treat each other as brothers and sisters, not as competing DJs, artists and producers.
Gman: What about the ideal of House, where it is supposed to be one nation under a
common love of the music, where Latin’s, Blacks, Whites, Gays, Asians etc. can all party together in peace. Is the scene in Chicago achieving this or is there segregation in the clubs.
Chip: I hate to make negative statements but the only way to address this question is with the truth. Chicago IS segregation. Things are changing a little bit, but I’m sure that anyone
that rode an "L" train in the ‘70s and ‘80s would tell you that there were Black people on one side of the platform and White people on the other side. We used to joke that the Italians ran it, the Jews owned it, and the Blacks & Latinos enjoyed it. But things are progressing. Things are definitely changing. It has to.
Gman: Considering some of the problems
that House is experiencing today in the US (Lack of radio air play, club
politics, mass misunderstanding as to what house music is , etc) What do you see
as a solution ? What can be done to reach folks on a massive scale to let them
know about the parties that are going on in Chicago now?
Chip: Gman, you’re doing it. You are doing it with your site. You’re lettin’ people know the history and the Who’s Who of House. You’re letting people know what’s going on in Chicago every
weekend. If we all support your efforts, we will all win in the end.
Gman: If there is one thing you could tell us about the Chicago scene past or present that you thought no one knew what would that be?
Chip: Who knew that Frankie made most of the Power Plant flyers? (Picture(R) Chip and Janet Jackson)
Gman: Was there a rivalry between the Southside, Westside and Northside DJ's back in the day?
Chip: It was a mock rivalry. It was a way to get more people to the parties. It was a way to get people to travel beyond their comfort zones. It was all about business.
Gman: Now everyone may not be able to answer this but before Frankie and Ronnie started at their prospective clubs in Chicago and influenced what everybody else was playing, what were the clubs on the Southside, Westside and Northside like?
Chip: Sorry, I’m too young to tell you about "before Frankie and Ronnie". You better ask some of those old headz like Alan King and Lee Collins (Chip smiles and laughs).
Gman: A lot of older heads in Chicago are not happy with the historical accounts of the Chicago House scene that have been
printed recently. Interviews with key people who were part of the scene was not done. Any comments on this ?
Chip: Sadly there were a lot of people critical to House that have never been interviewed. I try to make sure that I drop names like Leonard Remix Roy and Andre Hatchet as people who should get more credit for their affect on the scene.
Gman: Chip, you have experience playing overseas what has been your favorite country
to play in ? What country would you like to play ?
Chip: I’ve only played in the UK and in Italy, but I’d really like to do Japan and France. I can’t say that I like Italy or the UK better. I like America and Chicago the most.
Gman: As far as producing, what projects are you currently working on ?
Chip: I’m working on a couple of remakes of some of my older tunes, and I’m working on some new music. I’m always interested in working with other artists, young or old. So if you wanna get with me, drop me a line.
Gman: Where can people come and here you play these days?
Chip: At my house. Seriously, I have a 9yr old daughter, Chelsea, that I only see on weekends. So it’s kind of tough doing gig instead of being with her. But…if the right offer comes my way, I’ll consider it. But I couldn’t do a residency, at least not ‘til my daughter is
old enough to party.
Gman: Now what does the future hold for you ?
Chip: Gman, I ‘m just hoping the future holds good health and peace of mind. Thee’s a greater force that controls my destiny and I trust that force.
Gman: Personally I think the internet is the future of broadcast music\video. Soon a computer will be in every home like a radio or TV and bandwidth will increase to accommodate delivering it in higher
quality. What are your thoughts on the internet presently as a means for DJ's and house music to get more exposure?
Chip: Like I said Gman, your discussion group and your site ARE the future. House will only grow through communication and the sharing of knowledge. Keep doin’ what you’re doin’.
Gman: Any final comments or words of wisdom to share with the other heads out there ?
Chip: Yeah, don’t let money be your goal. Don’t sell out. Do what you do because you love it, the money will come. (Picture (R): Chip and some lovely ladies)
Gman: Chip, how can people get a hold of you ?
Chip: If you wanna talk to me about a booking, doing a tune, or just wanna say "what’s up" hit me at Chip@HouseNation.com
Gman: Chip, Thank you for the interview!! It has been quite an honor having you share your some of your history with us. Wishing you and your family nothing but peace and prosperity
Chip: No Gman, thank you.