meta-scriptSoul Clap Wants You To Rave The Vote This 2020 Election | GRAMMY.com
Soul Clap DJ set during Rave The Vote

Soul Clap DJ set during Rave The Vote

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Soul Clap Wants You To Rave The Vote This 2020 Election

The second episode of Rave The Vote, which kicks off today, Fri., Aug. 14 at 12:00 p.m. PST/ 3:00 p.m. EST, serves up half a day of house music and voter education. The final two events will go down on Sept. 11 and Oct. 2

GRAMMYs/Aug 14, 2020 - 08:08 pm

With the 2020 Presidential Election less than three months away during an unprecedented pandemic, voter education and access is an urgent issue. Enter Rave The Vote, an online voter registration and education initiative ignited by four 12-hour virtual raves filled with educational segments and music from DJ Jazzy Jeff, DJ Pierre, Aluna, Marques Wyatt, TOKiMONSTA, SOFI TUKKER, Carl Craig, Seth Troxler, Desert Hearts, Louie Vega and many more names in the underground dance scene. Viewers are encouraged to register to vote, check their registration status and/or request an absentee ballot, all of which can be done on their website.

"Rave The Vote was created in an effort to mobilize the dance music community to register to vote and get to the polls. We know the wider community is both passionate and engaged, and encompasses a key demographic of voters that should not be overlooked. It's clear that we are all searching for ways to contribute to see significant change, to move towards the America we want to live in—and we can't do that if we're not exercising our right to vote. Ultimately, we aim to motivate viewers to use their collective voice to bring about change, and to educate them on the various ways to take action," Carré Orenstein, the executive producer explained over email.

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"We are in the most important election of our time and people are finally starting to pay attention! Electronic dance music and the culture that surrounds it was founded in a space where people came together to celebrate music and each other, it was and has always been a safe haven for many, myself included. It originated with Black roots and eventually became a space where people felt free to express themselves no matter who they were.  Our goal here is to re-catalyze a space and community that has such powerful and strong roots of unity, love and freedom. To get them engaged, and to the polls!  We have been blessed to welcome a diverse and beautiful collection of artists to represent Rave The Vote and the American dance music community. I have worked in this industry for the past 10 years and our lineup is far and away one of the most diverse I have ever seen in this culture on this level. It represents our country in its true heart and soul," Tadia Taylor, director of artist relations, added.

Supported by Orenstein, Taylor and a mighty team of fellow industry professionals, the ringleaders of the epic dance party for good are Eli Goldstein and Charlie Levine, a.k.a. Soul Clap, a funky-house vinyl-spinning DJ/producer duo formed in Boston in 2001. With their energetic DJ sets at clubs and festivals around the world, eclectic and talent-filled Soul Clap Records and overall joyful demeanor, the pair has been widely disseminating joy and great tunes and sharing the love with fellow funky artists for quite some time. Now, with Rave The Vote, they're helping ensure the dance community is civically engaged and present at the upcoming election.

We recently caught up with the beloved duo ahead of the second episode of Rave The Vote, which kicks off today, Fri., Aug. 14 at 12:00 p.m. PST/ 3:00 p.m. EST, serving up half a day of house music and voter education. The final two events will go down on Sept. 11 and Oct. 2. You can tune in on the LostResort Twitch and YouTube channels, and RSVP at Rave The Vote's website to stay looped in to all things related to getting out your vote. Make sure to read on to hear from Goldstein and Levine about the original vision for Rave The Vote (hint: It was IRL), why political engagement is so vital to democracy, being an ally and more.

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Let's start with the spark that led to the creation of Rave the Vote. What was that and where did it lead?

Goldstein: Well, I mean, I think we both voted in every election since we were 18, so we've always been active in that kind of politics. But I think, as we've gotten a little older and further along in the music thing, we just had more of a desire to use our platform for positive change. We do a lot of work with an organization called DJs for Climate Action, which is all about educating DJs and getting us to use our platforms for education and positive change around climate.

This year obviously feels like a really, really important election and has for a while, for the last three years. Until someone's in the White House that acknowledges things like climate change, social justice, equality and these kinds of things, we can't really make much progress, or we can't make enough progress with all the other activism.

We had an idea to do a voter registration drive. It was originally going to be a real live tour around the Midwest, hitting swing states, going to colleges and clubs in Ohio, Michigan, Iowa, those kinds of places. We had been planning it since last year, but obviously we had to pivot quickly when everything got canceled and we realized that IRL events would not be happening.

Luckily our manager, Jonathan McDonald, got really excited and put together, with people from Infamous PR and others who put in so much effort to take this into a huge online livestream concept. It's been really exciting. And I think we are reaching a lot more people than we would have just with the IRL.

Levine: This is definitely one of Eli's ideas. He's very politically minded and tuned in to what's going on, whether it's climate action or social justice or race relations. Eli comes from a Cambridge political family. If it wasn't for Eli having this idea at the origin, I don't think we'd be where we are. That being said, we've been really fortunate to have the [dance music] community rally behind it, whether that's the DJs like The Blessed Madonna, Seth Troxler or Justin Martin, who are signed up way back when to do the real-life college tour with us and donate their time. And our manager Jonathan has been helping make it happen. And 2+2, our management and touring team that really got behind and it felt like it really had legs. And once Infamous got involved, forget about it, then it really branched out. We are now a whole community of dance and music professionals, artists and administrators that are blowing this thing up.

And to piggyback on what Eli said, we may have been able to reach X amount on college campuses, but the way that it grows exponentially through the web and social media, it's just so powerful. I think we're probably going to do a lot more good this way, as unfortunate as it is to not be able to be all buddied up in a tour van, somewhere out at some gas station in the Midwest, which would've been fun. We've only got to do some touring via bus, and that's all has been a laugh.

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There's some really huge names involved, especially some of the OGs, like DJ Pierre, Kevin Saunderson/Inner City, Louie Vega. What has the outreach looked like? And what has the reaction of the dance community felt like so far?

Levine: I want to throw in that we got the nod from Dr. Cornel West that started our whole four-part Rave The Vote online series. So big shout out to Dr. West, who's a big supporter of the house and techno community, which was a total, delightful surprise. He's super dope. As for a lot of these names—including Louie and Kevin Saunderson—Eli and I have been fortunate enough  over the years to build personal relationships with a fair amount of them. It's wonderful to call upon them.

Goldstein: I also would say this is kind of a testament to how connected the American, more-underground dance music scene is. It's a pretty diverse range of artists that we have built relationships with other years and were excited about getting involved with activism stuff. That list was a great starting point.

And everybody has really jumped at the opportunity. Some of these were personal connections, but a lot of the work was also done by the team. And it's cool. Each episode has a theme running through it. One of them is curated by Blessed Madonna. The first one was all our favorites. This one coming up next week is more of the kind of younger tech house scene. And then the last week is more of the beat, hip-hop oriented one. It's a testament to how diverse the underground is, but also how together and connected it is.

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The Rave the Vote livestreams are around 12 hours each, so what's going down during it and what viewers can expect? Also, what are you hoping happens after someone tunes in and engages with the livestream?

Goldstein: Well, obviously the most important piece of this is either registering, checking your status or requesting a mail in ballot, if that's available in your state. So the goal is to get people to go to RavetheVote.org, which they can do in advance of the streams too, it is 24/7. You can go to the website and do all this and also RSVP to the stream. By putting your information in, we'll be able to help provide support and guidance leading up to Election Day [Nov. 3] to help you come up with a plan to vote. Also, any outreach you can do to your friends and family to have them registering and voting is important. That's joining the movement, I would say.

That's the goal with the streams really, is to get as many people as possible involved via the site. It's funny, we had half a million unique viewers tune in to the first livestream and about 600 registrations. 600 registrations is great, but it's such a small percentage of the viewers. It's crazy. But that shows how important it is to have as big of a reach as possible and to get a lot of viewers with these livestreams. It's great to give people a call to action when they're enjoying music. Because there were a number of people who checked their registration or requested mail in ballots on top of the 600 who registered to vote. It's a great way to interact with people.

For the streams themselves, it's a really great, diverse range of DJs who are all super excited to be involved. Everyone's putting their best foot forward musically and also production-wise. At this point, all the DJs involved are pretty experienced with streaming. They know how to make a good looking and good sounding stream. More importantly, we have these really fun educational segments and PSAs from other artists, DJs and politicians in between the sets. So that's a fun way that allows for more of an interactive connection than just watching DJ livestreams. This is actually a way to be learning and also be involved with the initiative.

Levine: Yeah, the [Rave The Vote] producers did a really great job, they definitely deserve a bunch of hats off. They have been putting in real late hours to make it all come together. We can't wait to see what they come up with for these [three] next ones. Similarly, if you speak to other musicians or people through the GRAMMYs that feel passionate about this topic, we're always accepting more PSAs. This whole thing does not end with dance music DJs. This should be for the masses.

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Definitely, let's put it out there! So, as frustrating as it is, there are still people out there that feel either indifferent about voting, or just over it because they voted in 2016 and that guy still got into office.

Goldstein: That guy. [Laughs.]

What do you say to people who still say "It doesn't really change anything" or "Why does it matter?"

Goldstein: So there's multiple layers to this. A big part of this initiative is this educational piece of it. I do feel like we've been fed propaganda for most of our adult lives that our votes don't matter either, one, because the state we live in either always goes Republican or always goes Democrat. Two, because both the parties are the same. I feel like those are the big two.

And I guess three would be that the whole system is broken. That the two-party system doesn't work and we're not really represented anyway. In response to that, I say, one, that is not taking into account how important local elections are, both in our towns and also on a state level. I live in New York state, and I've seen how, the moment that we got a super majority after the 2018 election, the amount of bills that were passed for things that I care about was wild. From climate change stuff to worker protections, to healthcare, to all these things that at the state level can have a huge impact on your life and the world around you.

And then the local level of your community, this is where you actually can have the biggest impact because you actually can get to know your local representatives. These are all people who live in your neighborhood or near you, and you can connect with either them or their aides closely. These are people who are making the changes in your town or your county that impact you directly. For nightlife specifically, that's noise ordinances and liquor laws and all these kinds of things that affect where clubs can be, how late they can be open and more. So young people getting involved in that really can have a huge impact, because then we can advocate for what we care about, nightlife and culture and all that stuff.

Then you have district attorneys and attorney generals of the states who have a huge impact on what's going on around police brutality and social and racial justice. So these are really important positions as well that you're voting for in a local election. This is all one big part of it. Just to say that our federal system is broken, it's overlooking how much of an impact we can have on these other levels.

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Let's look at our federal system and jog everybody's memory. There are three branches of our federal government. I feel we learned this in school, but either we don't pay attention or it just goes right over our heads, but they are so important. The impact of the three branches of government means that the president doesn't make all the final decisions, right? You have Congress, which passes all the bills and actually makes a lot of the legislation that's impacting us and that we care about. But the most important piece of all this is the Supreme Court and the federal courts. When somebody either retires or dies on the Supreme Court or who's a judge in a federal court, the president at the time, appoints a Supreme Court justice or federal judge, who serves for the rest of their life or for as long as they want to.

This has a huge impact on generations. So now, if the president is appointing somebody that aligns with their values and ideals, that person is going to be representing that for the rest of their time in the courts. This administration has gone out of their way, they have a whole strategy to really make as big of an impact as possible on the federal courts. They've appointed over 800 federal court justices, which is almost twice as many as [Barack] Obama appointed in his eight years. Basically, they asked and pressured older conservative judges to step down so they could appoint younger judges to take their places so they can hold the roles for longer.

They have such a huge impact on the little decisions that are made every day or a few times a year, that then lead to things like abortion being legalized or made illegal, or segregation and desegregation, civil rights, prosecuting police, voter rights, all these things that we care about, the Supreme Court makes decisions that impact it.

That's crazy. That just blew my mind.

Levine: It's a lot.

Goldstein: It's a long answer. But the basic part of it is, look, we've been fed propaganda that our vote doesn't matter. Yes, the system is not perfect and yes, politicians are not perfect, but this is what we have. And if we don't participate, we can't make any changes.

Levine: I mean, with the pieces of the puzzle that are intangible for citizens, like the electoral college, gerrymandering, voter suppression, all this stuff, there's things you can do and there's things you can't do. But if you are not even registered to vote, if you're not even attempting, if you are not participating, then it's guaranteed there is nothing you can do.

To your many mic drop points, Eli, how do you educate yourself on state and local candidates and measures? Sometimes the language on ballots can be sort of misleading and can also just jargon-y. What are some ways that you educate yourself on the issues, or places that you point people to that are don't even know where to start?

Goldstein: Well, I mean, this is complicated. Most of the places that you get information are partisan. There's no easy way to get all the information. It's not just right there. Maybe it should be, I don't know how they could necessarily do that. Some cities and states send out mail that has information about all the initiatives and candidates in your city. Not all cities do that. When they do, it's a great way to encourage participation and understanding from everybody.

But here's the thing, if you really care about this stuff—this goes back to the last question. I heard this in a Noam Chomsky livestream recently, politics is actively participating in things that you care about every day. That's what politics really is. It's not easy. It's not sitting back. To really get involved and really make a difference with this stuff, you have to put a little effort in. Maybe it's not every day for you, maybe you don't have that time. Maybe you're doing other work that's important. Maybe you're just trying to survive. And that's totally understandable. But putting in that 30 minutes before the election to find this information and be educated can go a long way. There are places you can look. One is your local newspaper.

Almost every city or county has a local newspaper that shares this information on their website. And then another way is our mostly two-party system. There are a number of smaller parties in states that are under the other parties. So here in New York, there's the Working Families Party, which supports workers' rights and a number of other issues that I care about. They endorse candidates or send candidates that are supported by that party, and then have a voice in their policy. This is something that's often overlooked, these smaller organizations run by citizens like you and me who have an influence and impact by endorsing candidates.

So maybe you believe in unions and you see what the local union is endorsing. Maybe you believe in climate justice, you're an environmentalist, and you look for whatever the Green Party is endorsing. These are all a number of ways you can look for value-based guidance on this stuff. It is amazing how hard it is to find nonpartisan information on the internet. But if you go in with the idea that it's going to be partisan and you just look for the party that you agree with, that can do the work for you.

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That's such a good point. Also, certain nonprofits will share what candidates that align with their values, like the Human Rights Campaign will endorse candidates that support LGBTQ+ issues. You can always cross reference these lists too. I guess now most of us are hopefully voting by mail, so you have more time to sit with the ballot.

Goldstein: Right? But the other thing is you can be at the polls and take out your phone and do the research right there. It's not like you're not allowed to go on your phone and use the internet, you're taking a test. You can sit in there for 30 minutes if you want. I mean, obviously I wouldn't encourage that because there's other people who want to vote and often lines can get long. But if you need to take the time, take the time and make that educated vote. It's better to do that.

Levine: I've got a question. If you order the mail-in ballot, are you then obligated to vote that way, or can you still go to the polls?

Goldstein: You can still go to the polls. Actually, that's a good question. I may be wrong.

I think it depends on the state or county. In Los Angeles county, it is default vote by mail, so everyone registered gets a vote by mail ballot, which you can also drop off at a polling location or bring it in and basically forfeit your vote by mail. Of course it's super important, especially now, the ballots show up to your current address. [If you lose or forget your absentee ballot, some counties let you vote with a provisional one. Check your local county's website for more info.]

Goldstein: This is why it's so important to check your status beforehand and look at the policies of your state, what do you have to bring to prove you're eligible to vote and all these things. This is why we advocate for making it as easy as possible to vote, so people are not intimidated and they can exercise their right without feeling like they have to jump through hoops. I know our so-called President likes to say that voting by mail is rigged, but there are statistics proving it's not fraudulent.

Levine: [Laughs.] Everything's rigged with this guy.

Goldstein: States like Utah have universal mail-in voting, and Utah's a Republican state. It's not like mail-in voting makes Democrats win where Republicans were winning before. It's still pretty even, none of what he's saying about it is factual. It's important to keep putting that out there that mail-in ballots actually are as secure, if not more secure, than voting in person. We've seen that voting in person has potential to be hacked.

Levine: Absolutely. Or it can just malfunction.

To your point, the President has been doing a lot to try to suppress voting, by attempting to defund the USPS, which delivers and collects the ballots, making those erroneous claims about voting by mail, and now trying to postpone the election. What can we do to make sure this election is fair? 

Goldstein: I mean, it's so hard to be nonpartisan with this stuff. My first answer, which is totally partisan, is win by a f***ing landslide. If everybody goes out and votes, it doesn't matter how corrupt, how broken the system is and how much they try to suppress voters and hack the vote in swing states, if the win is so overwhelming it doesn't matter. There's nothing they can do. It would just be too obvious for them to hack it. So, that's one answer.

The other answers are you can volunteer or you can sign up to work at the polls. You can literally get paid to be a pollster. There's actually a shortage of people this year because it's always older folks and a lot of them are high risk for COVID-19. So young people going and working in the polls and seeing exactly what's happening is going to be our most valuable tool.

There's a great website called Vote Save America, they have an initiative called Every Last Vote. There, you can get resources, including a great FAQ about voting by mail. There's also a sign up for being a poll worker and a sign up to volunteer to go to the polls and make sure everything is working the way it's supposed to. I will say that it's also really important volunteering because the Republican party has established a program called Protect the Vote, which means they're going to be sending monitors to polling places and challenging voters deemed "suspicious." So it's really important that we're out there making sure that people are allowed to vote. Every Last Vote is a great resource for doing that.

And, with any of this, the only way you can feel like it's actually going the fair way is by participating as much as you can, educating yourself, voting, volunteering, working in the polls, getting involved with organizations that do work that you believe in. This is how we stand up and take away this feeling of not having power. We take back the power for ourselves.

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You've been using your platforms to point people to different actions they can take on important social justice issues, including standing in solidarity with the Black community and against police brutality. What do you believe it means to be a true ally, and how do you continue to educate yourselves and stay informed?

Goldstein: I think we've learned so much over these last few months. I always thought of myself as an ally, but I think learning what that really means has been a really important process over this time and, like anything, it's always a process. And so, a big part of that is obviously educating yourself. One great way of doing that is by following accounts for organizations like Black Lives Matter or Color of Change on Instagram, or some of the smaller local organizations, like local chapters of Black Lives Matter, and following activists that you believe in. That's a great start, they're posting information.

And then just listening. If you ever get in conversation about this stuff, ask questions and just listen. That does not mean just hitting up your Black friends and being "Hey, what do I do about this?" There's plenty of resources online to figure that shit out yourself. That also doesn't mean you shouldn't check in with your Black friends and have conversations and say hello. Let them know you're here to support them, and if they need anything to reach out.

And then also donating to organizations. I've been talking about voter suppression and voting rights—there's a couple of great organizations you can support. One is called Voting While Black, which is advocating for voting rights for Black and brown folks. And then there's also Fair Fight, started by Stacey Abrams, which is doing work to make sure everybody has a right to vote.

it's also saying Black Lives Matter, living Black Lives Matter and making sure that's part of what you're thinking about every day. And part of that too is looking at your privilege, looking at how your Whiteness got you what you have and being real about that with yourself. That's another important thing, figuring out how you're going to try to use that, what you've accomplished, to help lift up other people who don't have that privilege.

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Levine: I would just add to that, I know it's difficult, but when friends or family members say things or act in a way that could be perceived as a micro-aggression or as flat-out racist, to hold them accountable and point out that this is inappropriate. If you allow some of this behavior, it's dangerous. It can be difficult, especially when it's friends and family, but making sure they are educated as well is important. it's also important to check in with your Black friends. I think communication and conversation is at the heart of what will make a big change.

Goldstein: This is what we've been trying to do with the "Schmoozing" show, to have these hard conversations. I agree it's so important to see where people's heads are at, see what they believe in, where they're coming from and how they want you to make an impact and be an ally.

Levine: The long conversation format is really is wonderful. It allows you to ask the difficult questions and it's okay to get it wrong. It's okay to learn something from a conversation. Maybe people are scared of that, but that's a big part of the growth, I think.

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Moby performing on stage
Moby

Photo: Mike Formanski

interview

"Let Yourself Be Idiosyncratic": Moby Talks New Album 'Always Centered At Night' & 25 Years Of 'Play'

"We're not writing for a pop audience, we don't need to dumb it down," Moby says of creating his new record. In an interview, the multiple-GRAMMY nominee reflects on his latest album and how it contrasts with his legendary release from 1999.

GRAMMYs/Jun 11, 2024 - 01:29 pm

Moby’s past and present are converging in a serendipitous way. The multiple-GRAMMY nominee is celebrating the 25th anniversary of his seminal work, Play, the best-selling electronic dance music album of all time, and the release of his latest album, always centered at night. 

Where Play was a solitary creation experience for Moby, always centered at night is wholly collaborative. Recognizable names on the album are Lady Blackbird on the blues-drenched "dark days" and serpentwithfeet on the emotive "on air." But always centered at night’s features are mainly lesser-known artists, such as the late Benjamin Zephaniah on the liquid jungle sounds of "where is your pride?" and Choklate on the slow grooves of "sweet moon." 

Moby’s music proves to have staying power: His early ‘90s dance hits "Go" and "Next is the E" still rip up dancefloors; the songs on Play are met with instant emotional reactions from millennials who heard them growing up. Moby is even experiencing a resurgence of sorts with Gen Z. In 2023, Australian drum ‘n’ bass DJ/producer Luude and UK vocalist Issey Cross reimagined Moby’s classic "Porcelain" into "Oh My." Earlier this year, Moby released "You and Me" with Italian DJ/producer Anfisa Letyago. 

Music is just one of Moby’s many creative ventures. He wrote and directed Punk Rock Vegan Movie as well as writing and starring in his homemade documentary, Moby Doc. The two films are produced by his production company, Little Walnut, which also makes music videos, shorts and the podcast "Moby Pod." Moby and co-host Lindsay Hicks have an eclectic array of guests, from actor Joe Manganiello to Ed Begley, Jr., Steve-O and Hunter Biden. The podcast interviews have led to "some of the most meaningful interpersonal experiences," Moby tells GRAMMY.com. 

A upcoming episode of "Moby Pod" dedicated to Play was taped live over two evenings at Los Angeles’ Masonic Lodge at Hollywood Forever Cemetery. The episode focuses on Moby recounting his singular experiences around the unexpected success of that album — particularly considering the abject failure of his previous album, Animal Rights. The narrative was broken up by acoustic performances of songs from Play, as well as material from Always Centered at Night (which arrives June 14) with special guest Lady Blackbird. Prior to the taping, Moby spoke to GRAMMY.com about both albums. 

'Always centered at night' started as a label imprint then became the title of your latest album. How did that happen? 

I realized pretty quickly that I just wanted to make music and not necessarily worry about being a label boss. Why make more busy work for myself?

The first few songs were this pandemic process of going to SoundCloud, Spotify, YouTube and asking people for recommendations to find voices that I wasn’t familiar with, and then figuring out how to get in touch with them. The vast majority of the time, they would take the music I sent them and write something phenomenal.

That's the most interesting part of working with singers you've never met: You don't know what you're going to get. My only guidance was: Let yourself be creative, let yourself be idiosyncratic, let the lyrics be poetic. We're not writing for a pop audience, we don't need to dumb it down. Although, apparently Lady Blackbird is one of Taylor Swift's favorite singers 

Guiding the collaborators away from pop music is an unusual directive, although perhaps not for you? 

What is both sad and interesting is pop has come to dominate the musical landscape to such an extent that it seems a lot of musicians don't know they're allowed to do anything else. Some younger people have grown up with nothing but pop music. Danaé Wellington, who sings "Wild Flame," her first pass of lyrics were pop. I went back to her and said, "Please be yourself, be poetic." And she said, "Well, that’s interesting because I’m the poet laureate of Manchester." So getting her to disregard pop lyrics and write something much more personal and idiosyncratic was actually easy and really special. 

You certainly weren’t going in the pop direction when making 'Play,' but it ended up being an extremely popular album. Did you have a feeling it was going to blow up the way it did?

I have a funny story. I had a date in January 1999 in New York. We went out drinking and I had just gotten back the mastered version of Play. We're back at my apartment, and before our date became "grown up," we listened to the record from start to finish. She actually liked it. And I thought, Huh, that's interesting. I didn't think anyone was going to like this record. 

You didn’t feel anything different during the making of 'Play?'

I knew to the core of my being that Play was going to be a complete, abject failure. There was no doubt in my mind whatsoever. It was going to be my last record and it was going to fail. That was the time of people going into studios and spending half a million dollars. It was Backstreet Boys and Limp Bizkit and NSYNC; big major label records that were flawlessly produced. Play was made literally in my bedroom. 

I slept under the stairs like Harry Potter in my loft on Mott Street. I had one bedroom and that's where I made the record on the cheapest of cheap equipment held up literally on milk crates. Two of the songs were recorded to cassette, that's how cheap the record was. It was this weird record made by a has-been, a footnote from the early rave days. There was no world where I thought it was going to be even slightly successful. Daniel Miller from Mute said — and I remember this very clearly — "I think this record might sell over 50,000 copies." And I said, "That’s kind of you to say but let's admit that this is going to be a failure. Thank you for releasing my last record."  

Was your approach in making 'Play' different from other albums? 

The record I had made before Play, Animal Rights, was this weird, noisy metal punk industrial record that almost everybody hated. I remember this moment so vividly: I was playing Glastonbury in 1998 and it was one of those miserable Glastonbury years. When it's good, it's paradise; it's really special. But the first time I played, it was disgusting, truly. A foot and a half of mud everywhere, incessant rain and cold. I was telling my manager that I wanted to make another punk rock metal record. And he said the most gentle thing, "I know you enjoy making punk rock and metal. People really enjoy when you make electronic music." 

The way he said it, he wasn't saying, "You would help your career by making electronic music." He simply said, "People enjoy it." If I had been my manager, I would have said, "You're a f—ing idiot. Everyone hated that record. What sort of mental illness and masochism is compelling you to do it again?" Like Freud said, the definition of mental illness is doing the same thing and expecting different results. But his response was very emotional and gentle and sweet, and that got through to me. I had this moment where I realized, I can make music that potentially people will enjoy that will make them happy. Why not pursue that? 

That was what made me not spend my time in ‘98 making an album inspired by Sepultura and Pantera and instead make something more melodic and electronic. 

After years of swearing off touring, what’s making you hit stages this summer? 

I love playing live music. If you asked me to come over and play Neil Young songs in your backyard, I would say yes happily, in a second. But going on tour, the hotels and airports and everything, I really dislike it.  

My manager tricked me. He found strategically the only way to get me to go on tour was to give the money to animal rights charities. My philanthropic Achilles heel. The only thing that would get me to go on tour. It's a brief tour of Europe, pretty big venues, which is interesting for an old guy, but when the tour ends, I will have less money than when the tour begins. 

Your DJ sets are great fun. Would you consider doing DJ dates locally? 

Every now and then I’ll do something. But there’s two problems. As I've become very old and very sober, I go to sleep at 9 p.m. This young guy I was helping who was newly sober, he's a DJ. He was doing a DJ set in L.A. and he said, "You should come down. There's this cool underground scene." I said, "Great! What time are you playing?" And he said "I’m going on at 1 a.m." By that point I've been asleep for almost five hours.

I got invited to a dinner party recently that started at 8 p.m. and I was like, "What are you on? Cocaine in Ibiza? You're having dinner at 8 p.m.  What craziness is that? That’s when you're putting on your soft clothes and watching a '30 Rock' rerun before bed. That's not going out time." And the other thing is, unfortunately, like a lot of middle aged or elderly musicians, I have a little bit of tinnitus so I have to be very cautious around loud music.

Are you going to write a third memoir at any point? 

Only when I figure out something to write. It's definitely not going to be anecdotes about sobriety because my anecdotes are: woke up at 5 a.m., had a smoothie, read The New York Times, lamented the fact that people are voting for Trump, went for a hike, worked on music, played with Bagel the dog, worked on music some more went to sleep, good night. It would be so repetitive and boring. 

It has to be something about lived experience and wisdom. But I don't know if I've necessarily gotten to the point where I have good enough lived experience and wisdom to share with anyone. Maybe if I get to that point, I'll probably be wrong, but nonetheless, that would warrant maybe writing another book.

 Machinedrum's New Album '3FOR82' Taps Into The Spirit Of His Younger Years 

 

 

Sofia Ilyas Q&A hero
Sofia Ilyas

Photo: Grace Phillips

interview

Beatport's Sofia Ilyas On Creating A More Equitable & Connected Music Industry

"What I love about the music industry is there are so many gaps, and so many observations you can make and sort of insert yourself in and create something quite special itself," Sofia Ilyas of carving out a career as a music professional.

GRAMMYs/May 7, 2024 - 01:42 pm

Given that Beatport Chief Community Officer Sofia Ilyas has dedicated the last 15 years or so of her life supporting burgeoning artists, subgenres and underrepresented groups, it's somewhat surprising that she grew up in a household without music.

As a teen, a Sony Walkman with a radio and mixtapes featuring the likes of Radiohead were a lifeline to a world Ilyas' family didn't want her to participate in. She was even kept home during school field trips to the National Gallery museum in London, where she's since hosted her Piano Day music and art event, and will soon be curating a room for their 200th anniversary celebration.

Ilyas has had to sacrifice a lot — namely, a relationship with her strict Muslim family — to carve out a career in music, and hers is a story of patience and resilience. After leaving her home in Cardiff, Wales for London to pursue higher education (against her family's wishes), she found solace and connection in live music. She'd hang out around the sound booth and introduce herself and ask questions about how things worked. Slowly but surely, she befriended people that worked at labels and venues, and even artists — Four Tet grew to know her by name after she kept coming back to his shows.

After years of being a part of the London scene as a dedicated fan, at age 30, Ilyas became co-manager of indie record label Erased Tapes, where she helped popularize neoclassical music and one of its purveyors, experimental German pianist Nils Frahm. Alongside Frahm, Ilyas launched Piano Day, where a diverse range of artists help them celebrate the past, present and future of the instrument alongside contemporary dancers and painters.

Now, as the first Chief Community Officer at major dance music platform Beatport, Ilyas is building community within and across disparate global electronic communities. She aims to bring more women and people of color into the mix.

"We're living in a time where people are feeling incredibly lonely and disconnected from community," Ilyas tells GRAMMY.com. "I [want to] facilitate people to come in to hear from each other, especially women, in a room that feels safe to hold discussion."

GRAMMY.com recently caught up with Ilyas for an insightful, engaging conversation on her work to support women and people of color in electronic music, making piano cool, her hopes for a more equitable music industry, and much more.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

You recently hosted your Piano Day annual events in Melbourne and London — tell me your vision for Piano Day.

When we launched Piano Day in London with Nils [Frahm], it gave me an excuse to try my own events. I had the artists performing in different corners of the room and a painter in the middle, watching and being inspired. I've always looked at different arts and wondered why they can't also be present in the music world and why we can't support each other across various industries. I've had a contemporary dancer at almost every event I've done in London. Piano Day was my way of having my own event that I could own and really show off my curation. Even with the first event, people were saying the space was beautiful and the curation was so good. I felt really validated.

[For Piano Day,] I always ask artists what they can do that's a little bit different, beyond performing their album or recent EP. I had one artist who had never played piano before, and he made a few mistakes and everyone was applauding him like it's okay. It's really important to me that Piano Day offers something that maybe the audience will never see again and they feel they've experienced something very special. An even bigger extension of that is the lineup that I curate for the National Gallery; coupling a piano player with a dancer who had never met before, and multiple artists only ever played piano maybe three times. I love that the artists have felt safe to trust me and that it's the type of event where they can take a risk.

I'm always looking for acts that are open to trying something a bit different and to be challenged by the fact that it's solo piano predominantly. And to also be inspired by the space, the National Gallery is such a prestigious, iconic venue. It's quite an unusual event because you've got people who've come to see the artists and regular visitors who have just come to see the paintings and they happen to stumble across what's happening. What's even more special for me is the audience is full of children. [I've been wondering] how we can do more music events that kids can come to, because I saw how inspired they were.

You'll be returning to the National Gallery in May to help curate their 200th anniversary event. How are you thinking about everything it stands for while bringing it into the future with music and women and people of color?

I've always had an attachment to the Gallery because there were school trips to it and my parents would never let me go. So for them to email me, "Hey, we've been to a couple of your events, would you like to bring Piano Day to the National Gallery?" I was just overwhelmed and hugely complimented.

I went to each room, sat down and thought about the feelings [it brought up]. I ended up landing on the blue room, it's got a lot of English paintings in it. I liked the idea of English artists against old English paintings, sort of breaking that mold of stiffness and classical looks to be like, this is now the future of London coming into the gallery. We placed the piano right in front of this really famous huge horse painting to really make that statement.

I am very mindful of having a diverse and interesting lineup. I always have one artist that starts the event that is a nod to the traditional kind of way of playing [piano]. It usually evolves to some artists playing the neoclassical sounds and then it moves into more the dance element and vocalist and then it ends on "this is the future" type of thing. I always like having that momentum.

Let's talk about your new record label RISE. What's your vision is with it and who are the artists you're currently working with?

I started Rise last year for artists that want help to get to the next level and get the attention of the label they want. I wanted to do a label that was within my bandwidth because I have a full-time job. If there're artists that I can help get from point A to B, then they go on to C, that's a great thing. I have Frank Hopkins on the label, who's an electronic artist, and Kareem Kumar, who's a Black artist who is known for playing in the streets of London. [Kumar] has built an incredibly huge audience on socials that has been a real inspiration to so many youngsters during COVID. They played together for the first time at the National Gallery, where Frank added some really nice ambient sounds and Kareem played the piano.

Too often, labels are quite a stiff experience, they want to assign that artist forever. If there are any artists that want help on press releases, overall branding and PR, that's exactly what RISE is there for. We can help them release some records, sort their online profile and offer guidance to basically uplift the artist so they can get the attention of booking agents, a label etc.

I see the future of labels where they are this sort of incubator-type of model, where they help an artist and the artists can grow into their own team or go off into another label. I envisage more labels existing like mine, where they're helping the artists onto that next level.

What do you think needs to shift for the music industry to be more supportive — financially and otherwise — of artists, particularly young people of color?

One thing that could be great is the labels that are doing well commercially — I'm sure they do this to a certain extent — choose two artists every year for an incubator program and make it more visible. Right now, most labels' A&R is a very closed thing. I think [it would help] if the labels made a very clear way of sending them demos. I know it is difficult because these days, even [people at] labels are so overworked and they don't have time to think about things like this. Maybe a music organization or a body out there could pick this idea up and take it to some of the major labels.

On the live side, [we need] more community spaces where an artist can come by and play regularly to fans and bring their friends and family around. Most venues are so hard to get on the bill, [so there's a need for] smaller 100-capacity-or-so spaces that open the doors more to local artists. We rely on the same names over and over again, whether it's festivals or local clubs, etc.

With your work as Beatport's Chief Community Officer, what are you actively doing to bring in and celebrate more women and people of color in dance music?

I've always been aware of diversity and my color and who I am in the music industry. Especially when I was around all those white male composers who knew everything about production and I knew nothing, that was very daunting. Even things like drinking — I don't drink and the amount of times it feels uncomfortable to be in the music industry. Many people in South Asian communities, especially Pakistani, grew up in a non-drinking culture, and we should have awareness to make those people feel comfortable otherwise they're never going to join the music industry.

What's been incredible is that Robb [McDaniels, Beatport's CEO] and the team have been, "You own it, you do what you believe." In the first few months, I hired a DEI consultant named Vick Bain, who was an amazing mentor for me. I'm a real big believer in experts. I was able to really upskill myself very fast through having her around.

Putting aside diversity, we're living in a time where people are feeling incredibly lonely and disconnected from community. That's why I'm doing panel events with DJ sets with Beatport. I [want to] facilitate people to come in to hear from each other, especially women, in a room that feels safe to hold discussion.

How have you taken it upon yourself to bring more women and artists of color with you along the way, and do you make space and advocate for people?

It's always something that's on the top of my mind because being a South Asian woman in music is already quite difficult at moments. You look around wondering Is there any support for me? And with my journey of having walked away from my family, part of me is already exhausted from that experience and existing in the music industry in an environment that often feels very alien to me.

Just being a woman in a C-Suite position isn't not easy. I've never been in a role where the focus is to champion women and that's why I'm so grateful for Beatport.

Throughout my career, I've always given out a lot of free PR and guidance, and quite often that's been for women. I've always wanted to be available and I'm always happy to give my time. If anyone reads this, and they want to email me and ask me any questions, I'm always really happy to help.

What's some advice you have for young women of color that want to work in the music industry but don't know where to start?

What I love about the music industry is there are so many gaps, and so many observations you can make and sort of insert yourself in and create something quite special itself. Once you start getting to know your local community, [you can get] so much support from others. I made a lot of my friends by going to vinyl markets and going up to my favorite labels and saying hi. When I was trying to work in the music industry and sending a ton of emails, I got nothing in return. But as soon as I started being a bit more active in the live [music] side, I met so many people.

Don't think you need to do it alone. For so many years, I kept what I was experiencing to myself and I would always present this polished person on Instagram. Lately, I've started really opening up more about how I feel. When I turned 43 recently, I posted on Instagram about how I sometimes overwork to avoid [loneliness]. I was surprised by how many people, especially men, messaged me and said I feel that way too. I'm learning to be more vulnerable.

Don't be afraid to ask questions. You just have to get over ego and fear. I can't sugarcoat it; unfortunately, there are [some] people who are going to make you feel really stupid for asking. Lean on your friends and know you're on the right path. Know that we need more women and more diversity in the industry. Look at people that inspire you. When I used to look at Four Tet, I'd be like, Oh my God, an Indian man on stage, that's so cool. So, look for your inspiration points and be vulnerable with your friends, because it is going to be difficult sometimes. And you can definitely email me anytime. [Chuckles.]

What does a more equitable music industry look like to you?

Well, that's a big question. I think [it would involve] everyone being more conscious. Whether it's a booking agent or a label looking to sign someone, if everyone is thinking around diversity and consciously looking and making their spaces more open to women. I always think about open doors. How can everyone open their doors more while considering the space people are entering into. It's one thing opening your door but it's another thing if that person enters a space and doesn't feel safe.

For me, a place where everyone's consciously thinking about this, and it isn't just on the organization or a few artists or someone like me in my role to try and figure it out. I think if everyone was conscious of it, things would just happen more seamlessly.

How LP Giobbi & Femme House Are Making Space For Women In Dance Music: "If You Really Want To Make A Change, It Can Be Done"

DJ Deorro performs  during the Mextour Live Concert at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles in 2023
DJ Deorro performs on stage during the Mextour Live Concert at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on December 14, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Omar Vega/Getty Images)

Photo: Omar Vega/Getty Images

list

8 Essential Latin Electronic Releases: Songs And Albums From Bizarrap, Arca & More

Electronic sounds can be heard throughout Latin music and will be recognized in a new Field and Category at the 2024 Latin GRAMMYs. In honor of the new Best Latin Electronic Music Performance award, read on for eight Latin electronic music essentials.

GRAMMYs/May 2, 2024 - 01:22 pm

Electronic music is embedded within the diverse world of Latin music and, for the first time, will be recognized in a new Field and Category at the 2024 Latin GRAMMYs. Within that field, the award for Best Latin Electronic Music Performance was created to shine a light on DJs, producers, and artists blending proudly blending electronic music with the sounds of their cultures.

Electronic music embodies various subgenres like house music, techno, trance, electronica, and many others rooted that have been popularized by DJs and producers. Latin artists have long enriched those subgenres: Mexico's Belanova globalized the electro-pop wave, while Bomba Estéreo blended cumbia with electronica in Colombia. 

The explosion of EDM in the 2010s also allowed the careers of Latinx DJs to flourish. Mexican American DJ Deorro has showcased both cultures during sets at music festivals like EDC, Coachella, Tomorrowland, and more. Arca's music pushes the boundaries of electronic music through a Venezuelan and Latin American lens. More recently, Colombian producer Víctor Cárdenas bridged the gap between EDM and reggaeton with the global hit "Pepas" by Farruko. Since then, electronic music has seeped through the work of Latin hit-makers like Tainy, Caleb Calloway, Bizarrap and Diego Raposo. "Pepas" and many of Bizarrap's music sessions crossed over onto Billboard's Hot Dance/Electronic Songs.

"That’s something that’s very big for us," Deorro tells GRAMMY.com about the new category. "How beautiful that this is happening, because it shows that what we’re doing is working, we’re breaking down doors, and we’re creating more opportunities for artists like us in the future." 

In honor of the Latin Recording Academy's new Field and Category, here are eight must-hear Latin electronic music essentials.

Belanova - Cocktail (2003)

Belanova revolutionized the Latin music space with their 2003 debut album Cocktail, an atmospheric LP that seamlessly blends Latin pop with electronic music. In the dreamy deep house of "Tu Ojos," singer Denisse Guerrero sang about getting lost in her lover's eyes. The trippy techno of "Barco De Papel" was reminiscent of the music from Madonna's Ray of Light album. Electronic music on the ambient level wasn’t common in Latin music until Belenova changed the game in Mexico, which later reverberated into the rest of Latin America and the U.S. 

The trio — which includes guitarist Ricardo Arreol and keyboardist Edgar Huerta — later delved into electro-pop on 2007's Fantasía Pop, which won a Latin GRAMMY for Best Pop Album by a Group or Duo the following year. 

Arca - Kick I-II (2020)

Venezuelan producer/artist Arca is a pioneer in the Latin electronic music space. Arca first began producing her experimental electronica in Spanish with her 2017 self-titled album.

Arca then masterfully mixed the diverse sounds of Latin America and beyond with EDM throughout her Kick album series. 

For Kick I, she combined Venezuelan gaita music and reggaeton with a cyberpunk edge in "KLK" featuring Spanish pop star Rosalía. Arca then blended electronica with neo-perreo on Kick II's "Prada" and "Rakata." Both albums garnered Arca GRAMMY and Latin GRAMMY nominations. 

As a trans and non-binary artist, she is also breaking boundaries for the LGBTQ+ community in the genre. Arca is just not creating more space for queer artists in Latin music, but also in EDM at large by embracing the totality of herself in song.  

Bomba Estéreo - Deja (2021)

Bomba Estéreo, which is comprised of core members Simón Mejía and Liliana "Li" Saumet, has masterfully melded the music of Colombia’s Caribbean coast with electronic music. Since breaking out in 2008 with their sophomore album, the group has often reimagined the African and Indigenous rhythms of their country like cumbia through dance music. Bomba Estéreo’s folkloric approach to EDM has led to collaborations with Bad Bunny, Tainy, and Sofi Tukker.    

In 2021, Bomba Estéreo released its most ambitious album Deja, which garnered a GRAMMY and Latin GRAMMY nominations. The title track put a funky spin on the band's signature electro-tropical sound. House music collided with the Afro-Colombian rhythms of champeta in "Conexión Total" featuring Nigerian singer Yemi Alade. Their album that was based on the four classical elements was a breath of fresh air in the Latin music scene. 

Bizarrap - "BZRP Music Sessions #52" (2022)

Argentine producer Bizarrap launched the BZRP Music Sessions on YouTube in 2018, first remaining behind the console for freestyle rapping sessions with local acts. The sessions quickly went viral, and have featured increasingly larger names in music.

Over the past five years, Bizarrap worked elements of electronic music into his hip-hop productions. In 2022, he fully delved into EDM with his global hit "BZRP Music Sessions #52" featuring Spanish singer Quevedo. The traptronica banger peaked at No. 4 on Billboard's Hot Dance/Electronic Songs and earned Bizarrap his first Latin GRAMMY Award. 

Since then, his music sessions have become a global event. Bizarrap later infused electro-pop with a trap breakdown in "BZRP Music Sessions #53" with Shakira, which garnered him two more Latin GRAMMY awards. 

Javiera Mena - Nocturna (2022)

Javiera Mena first debuted as an indie act in 2006 with Esquemas Juveniles. With that freedom as a producer and artist, the Chilean star pushed Latin music into the electronic space with her 2010 album Mena

She fully immersed herself into Latin electronica on her latest album, 2022's Nocturna — an album filled with nighttime club bangers that invite everyone to dance with her. Mena also proudly sings about being part of the LGBTQ+ community in the alluring "La Isla de Lesbos" and the fierce house music of "Diva" featuring Chico Blanco. Considering the influence of queer artists in the formation of electronic genres like house, it’s refreshing to see an artist like Mena remind people of those roots and bring that into Latin music.  

Deorro - Orro (2022)

Mexican American producer Deorro has established himself as one of the world's top DJs, and is known for mixing both of his cultures into his music festival sets. Even before the música mexicana explosion last year, he was one of the first mainstream EDM acts to bring the genre to music festivals around the world through his songs and remixes.   

With his debut album, 2022's Orro, Deorro fully bridged música mexicana with house music. He collaborated with Latin acts like Mexico's Los Tucanes De Tijuana and Maffio in "Yo Las Pongo," which blended the band's norteño sound with EDM. Deorro also explored cumbia with deep house in the sweeping "Dime" featuring Los Ángeles Azules and Lauri Garcia. In his recent sets, he is spinning a fiery remix of "Ella Baila Sola" by Eslabon Armado and Peso Pluma

Sinego - Alterego (2023)

Sinego first broke through in 2019 thanks to his house bolero sound like in "Verte Triste," which put a refreshing spin on an age-old Cuban genre. With traditional genres within the Latin diaspora often falling to the wayside as the years go on, he is reintroducing them to new audiences through EDM reimaginings.   

For his debut album, 2023's Alterego, the Colombian producer pushed his electronic music to another level. Sinego traveled to different Latin American countries and Spain to record with local musicians, reimagining genres like cumbia, tango, and mambo through Sinego's EDM lens. With the sultry "Mala," he blended Venezuela's variation of calypso with house music. He also gave Brazilian samba a house music makeover in "Boa Noite" featuring Tonina. 

Diego Raposo - Yo No Era Así Pero De Ahora En Adelante Sí (2023)

Dominican producer Diego Raposo has helped Latin acts like Danny Ocean, Blue Rojo, and Letón Pé embrace elements of electronic music. In 2018, Raposo released his debut album Caribe Express, which demonstrated his knack for mixing the sounds of the Caribbean with EDM. 

Raposo took that inventive mix into overdrive with last year's Yo No Era Así Pero De Ahora En Adelante Sí. The otherworldly "Si Supieras" featuring Okeiflou blended house music with reggaeton, while "Al Contrario" with Akrilla aggressively mixes drum 'n 'bass with dembow. Rapaso also channels Dance Dance Revolution-esque electronica in the spellbinding "Quédate" with Kablito. 

7 Latin DJs To Watch In 2023: Gordo, Arca, The Martinez Brothers & More

Curtis Jones, aka Cajmere & Green Velvet, performing live. Jones is wearing dark sunglasses amid a dark background and green strobe lights.
Curtis Jones performs as Green Velvet

Photo: Matt Jelonek/WireImage

interview

Dance Legend Curtis Jones On Cajmere, Green Velvet & 30 Years Of Cajual Records

As Green Velvet and Cajmere, DJ/producer Curtis Jones celebrates everything from Chicago to acid house. With a new party and revived record label, Jones says he wants to "shine a light on those who sacrificed so much to keep house music alive."

GRAMMYs/Apr 17, 2024 - 02:19 pm

Curtis Jones is a dance music legend, whose multiple monikers only begin to demonstrate his deep and varied influence in the genre.

Jones has been active as a producer and DJ for decades, and is among a cadre of dance music acts forging a connection between the genre's origins and its modern iterations. Crucially, he  joined Chicago house legends Honey Dijon and Terry Hunter on Beyoncé's house-infused RENAISSANCE, providing a sample for "Cozy." He’s also produced tracks with house favorites Chris Lake and Oliver Heldens, and DJed with Dom Dolla and John Summit.

Jones contributed to the aforementioned collaborations, young and old, as Green Velvet. He’s been releasing dance hits like "Flash" and "Answering Machine" under that name since the mid- '90s. He is also currently a staple of the live circuit, his signature green mohawk vibing in clubs and festivals around the globe — including at his own La La Land parties in Los Angeles, Denver, Orlando, and elsewhere.

Green Velvet is appropriately braggadocious, even releasing the popular "Bigger Than Prince" in 2013. But by the time Jones had released the heavy-grooving tech house track, his artistry had been percolating for decades as Cajmere.

Where Green Velvet releases lean into acid house and Detroit techno, Cajmere is all about the traditional house sound of Jones’ hometown of Chicago. When Jones first debuted Cajmere in 1991, Chicago’s now-historic reputation for house music was still developing. Decades after the original release, Cajmere tracks like "Percolator,” have sustained the Windy City sound via remixes by prominent house artists like Will Clarke, Jamie Jones, and Claude VonStroke.

"I love doing music under both of my aliases, so it’s great when fans discover the truth,” Jones tells GRAMMY.com over email. Often, Jones performs as Cajmere to open his La La Land parties, and closes as Green Velvet. 

But beyond a few scattered performances and new tracks, Cajmere has remained dormant while Green Velvet became a worldwide headliner, topping bills in Mexico City, Toronto, Bogotá and other international dance destinations. He’s only shared two original releases as Cajmere since 2016: "Baby Talk,” and "Love Foundation,” a co-production with fellow veteran Chicago producer/DJ Gene Farris.

This year, Jones is reviving Cajmere to headliner status with his new live event series, Legends. First held in March in Miami, Jones' Legends aims to highlight other dance music legends, from Detroit techno pioneers Stacey Pullen and Carl Craig, to Chicago house maven Marshall Jefferson. 

"My intention is to shine a light on those who sacrificed so much to keep house music alive," Jones writes. "The sad reality is that most of the legendary artists aren’t celebrated or compensated as well as they should be."

Given that dance music came into the popular music zeitgeist relatively recently, the originators of the genre — like the artists Jones booked for his Legends party — are still in their prime. Giving them space to perform allows them to apply the same innovation they had in the early '90s in 2024.

Jones says the Miami Legends launch was an amazing success."Seeing the passion everyone, young and old, displayed was so inspiring."

Curtis Jones Talks House, Cajmere & Green Velvet performs at Legends Miami

Curtis Jones, center, DJs at the Miami Legends party ┃Courtesy of the artist

The first Legends party also served as a celebration of Cajual Records, the label Jones launched in 1992 as a home for his Cajmere music. Over the past three decades, Cajual has also released tracks from dance music veterans such as Riva Starr, as well as contemporary tastemakers like Sonny Fodera and DJ E-Clyps. 

Furthermore, Jones’ partnership with revered singers such as Russoul and Dajae (the latter of whom still performs with him to this day) on Cajual releases like "Say U Will” and "Waterfall” helped to define the vocal-house style.

Like the Cajmere project, Cajual Records has been moving slower in recent years. The label has only shared four releases since 2018. True to form, though, Jones started another label; Relief Records, the home of Green Velvet's music, shared 10 releases in 2023 alone.

Jones says he's been particularly prolific as Green Velvet because "the genres of tech house and techno have allowed me the creative freedom I require as an artist."

Now Jones is making "loads of music” as Cajmere again and recently signed a new distribution deal for Cajual Records. The true sound of Chicago is resonating with audiences in 2024, Jones says, adding "it's nice that house is making a comeback."

Jones remembers when house music was especially unpopular. He used to call radio stations in the '80s to play tracks like Jamie Principle's underground classic "Waiting On My Angel,” only to be told they didn’t play house music whatsoever. In 2024, house music records like FISHER’s "Losing It” were certified gold, and received nominations for Best Dance Recording at the 66th GRAMMY Awards. Jones is embracing this popularity with open arms.

Read more: The Rise Of Underground House: How Artists Like Fisher & Acraze Have Taken Tech House, Other Electronic Genres From Indie To EDC

"The new audience it’s attracting is excited to hear unique underground-style house records now. This is perfect for my Cajmere sets,” Jones says. "I never saw Green Velvet being more popular than Cajmere, and both sounds being as popular as they are even today.” 

While Jones is finding success in his own artistic endeavors, he points to a general lack of appreciation for Black dance artists in festival bookings. Looking at the run-of-show for ARC Festival, a festival in Chicago dedicated to house and techno music, legendary artists play some of the earliest slots. 

For the 2023 edition, Carl Craig played at 3 p.m on Saturday while the young, white John Summit, closed the festival the same night. In 2021, the acid house inventor, Chicago’s DJ Pierre, played the opening set at 2 p.m. on Saturday, while FISHER, another younger white artist, was the headliner.

In 2020, Marshall Jefferson penned an op-ed in Mixmag about the losing battle he is fighting as a Black DJ from the '90s. He mentions that younger white artists often receive upwards of $250,000 for one gig, whereas he receives around $2,000, despite the fact that he still DJs to packed crowds 30 years after he started.

Jones is doing his part to even the playing field with Legends, and according to him, things are going well after the first edition. "Seeing how much respect the fans have for the Legends was so special,” Jones says. "Hopefully they become trendy again.” 

The story of Curtis Jones is already one of legend, but it is far from over. "I feel it’s my duty to continue to make creative and innovative tracks as well as musical events. I love shining the light on new upcoming and emerging artists as well as giving the originators their proper dues,” Jones says. 

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