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Last Night a DJ Saved My Life
by Christina Li on Jan 06, 2011
Gant-Man has come a long way since he released “It’s About Time” on Dance Mania Records when he was fifteen years old in 1995. As one of the pioneers of the ghetto house genre, more commonly known as juke these days, his musical endeavors have taken him around the world. Surprisingly, this Chicago native has never been to San Francisco, so be sure to give him a warm welcome at the debut of Lights Down Low at SOM. on January 14th.
SF Station (SFS): At age five, you already knew how to count beats. Did that make you really good at math in school?
Gant-Man (GM): (Laughs). Yeah, I was really good with adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing.
SFS: Since you started out really young, do you think there was extra pressure for you to constantly improve and reinvent yourself?
GM: This is a good question. I'll have to say sometimes. At that age, the only thing I had to improve on was bettering my mixing skills and becoming a better producer. My competition wasn't DJs and producers my age because I was one of the few young DJ's and producers at that time. I hung around older big-name house music DJs and producers so I was trying to keep up with them. I didn't have to worry about reinventing myself yet because I had my own sound and my own way I played records. I was ahead of my time.
SFS: In 1997, you attended your first Chicago rave party. What were some thoughts going through your mind?
GM: Actually, in 1994 I attended my first rave in Chicago, and in 1997 I played my first rave in Chicago. When I first went to a rave I thought to myself, "Wow, what the fuck is this? All these people with glow sticks, multi colored hair, big bell-bottom pants, and they look like they're high on more than just weed". (Laughs).
It blew my mind to see an underground party in a big warehouse, and it's majority white people listening to house and techno. I come from the south side of Chicago, and I was used to Blacks and Latinos listening to house music. For me to see that it was universal, was amazing. At that time, I was 15 years old and I was just starting to get around more. When I played my first in ’97, I was already prepared from going to a lot of raves in the past, so my rave cherry was popped. I was really excited to finally show these ravers what I had in me.
SFS: Tell us about how you discovered ghetto house/juke music.
GM: It was called ghetto house before we called it juke. I first heard this kind of house music around ’91-92 when I heard tracks and mixtapes from Paul Johnson, DJ Deeon, and DJ Milton. They would make their own tracks and play them with other house songs that were more "tracky," more underground. For example, you would hear songs like "It's Time for the Percolator," "I Beat That Bitch With a Bat," "Work That Mother fucker," and they would sample and remake these house songs and make their own versions with words and chants over them. It was catered to the ghettos in Chicago for mostly teenagers.
SFS: How did it get to be characteristically 150-160bpm?
GM: The dance groups would make dance routines to these tracks we were making. They started footworking to these tracks and over the years the speed would gradually go up. Most ghetto house tracks in the early 90s were most 135 bpm, then it went to 138, 140, 145, and by 1998 it was 150 bpm.
The guys and girls who footwork would say, "speed the track up" and "play it faster." I guess it was more groovy and energetic to dance to the tracks faster. So we'd pitch the speed up on the turntables if we were playing vinyl, or speed the pitch up on the cassette deck when we played our own tracks or speed the tempo up initially on the beat machine when we were creating these tracks. By 2000, it was 155 and now 160 bpm.
SFS: Some people are just starting to discover this genre. Why do you think it's just catching on like wildfire now?
GM: It's the digital age, I assume from the Internet with these blogs sites and DJs and people transferring files. Also, people always want to gravitate to a "new" sound. It was always around because the tracks we made were on vinyl and they were distributed all around the world.
I really think it started from people like DJ Funk and DJ Godfather playing ghetto house and ghetto tech at a lot of parties around the world and the mixtapes/CDs would spread around. I credit myself to making it spread like wildfire too because I remixed Beyonce's "Check On It" single in 2005 and it was officially on her label Columbia Records. A lot of younger DJs got that 12” vinyl and played it all over. I also remixed Green Velvet "Shake and Pop" in 2006 and that track was his best seller digitally, then with Kid Sister's "Switchboard" I produced made it more mainstream.
SFS: You are now entering your 21st year of DJing. What are the most important things you've learned thus far?
GM: The business of music, how to make a living off of this, humbling myself, how to stay current with the times but stay true to what I do, and to open my mind to new genres of music even if I didn't like them, but don't follow trends — if that makes sense. (Laughs).
SFS: What's something you're looking forward to doing in San Francisco?
GM: Besides jukin' the party and being a tourists cause it's my first time in SF, I'm definitely going to the herbal shops to test out some different kinds of greenery!
Gant-Man makes his San Francisco debut at SOM. on January 14th. The party starts at 10pm.
by Christina Li on Jan 06, 2011