Published Nov 04, 2013Chicago has always been ahead of the curve when it comes to pioneering electronic music. From the warehouse parties that spawned a multi-generational legacy that reverberates to this day, the soulful breaks and processed percussion that makes up the Chi's musical heritage have been turned on their head in recent years. A frenetic mutation of the ghetto house sound that flourished in the '90s, juke emerged originally as a soundtrack to the dance competitions that saw young steppers competing in dizzying displays of athleticism to the barrage of subs and loops of whatever hit had been judiciously chopped for that particular track.
Fast forward a few years and footwork, as it is now known, is a phenomenon. The sound has spawned club nights, compilations and scenes from Japan to Serbia. Leading the charge is DJ Rashad, who along with DJ Spinn and a number of fellow collaborators have done more to bring the footwork sound to the masses than anyone. His jungle and acid-indebted new LP Double Cup is out now on Kode 9's UK imprint, Hyperdub Records. We sat down with Rashad and Spinn to talk jungle raves, production techniques and samples.
For the people that don't know, could you explain the difference between juke & footwork?
Rashad: There's really no difference. They have the same tempo, 160, the rhythms are the same. Only difference really is footwork is bassier.
Spinn: And hype.
Rashad: Juke is more personable, footwork is the hardcore shit.
Footwork is made more for the dancers, right?
Rashad: Yeah, that too. But you can footwork to both.
You guys started off as dancers, could you tell us a little about that?
Rashad: Yeah, we used to dance.
There's a huge scene in Chicago, right? Could you take us back there to your youth?
Rashad: Well, there were parties like any other city. But instead of breakdancing there was footwork, you had crews that battling every week, for money, for fame.
Spinn: Street fame.
Rashad: And respect.
Was it localized, or a city-wide phenomenon?
Rashad: Definitely all over the city.
Has the dancing scene spread out to other parts of the States now?
Rashad: Definitely, they do it in L.A., Texas, NY, Indiana, Detroit and the whole Midwest for sure.
Could you take us through your track making process? I've read interviews where you say you "juke-ify" a track. What is this process?
Rashad: The process is pretty simple. We don't try and add too much of our own style into it. For example, we take a Kanye song like "Mercy," you take the song, time-stretch it up to 160 bpm, the tempo that we play, and just edit it. It's just like a sped-up remix with a juke or footwork beat.
What do you produce on these days? Are you still on the MPC or have you moved onto newer tech?
Rashad: Yeah, we sync the MPCs with Ableton.
What is your top sample flip of all time (of samples you have used yourselves)?
Rashad: [Laughs] I really can't think of anything. Spinn?
Spinn: That's hard man, lots of samples. I'm going to say Sunshine.
Rashad: I'm going to go with Double Cup.
The new LP is incredible. You're receiving a lot more worldwide press attention. Europe has been supporting the footwork sound for a while, with you guys being on Planet Mu and now Hyperdub. Do you feel Europe is a natural home of the sound?
Rashad: Well, it's certainly becoming the home, we're getting so much love out there. Also jungle and drum & bass are coming back so people like mixing our shit. We're taking jungle breaks and putting them in our tracks. I think it could become a new home, yeah.<
It's like a natural progression of jungle, the tempo, the intensity they are very similar to footwork. It's great to hear you using jungle elements in your tracks and bridging the gap.
Rashad: Most definitely, also we've been properly educated on jungle. It's amazing that in '92 when this shit was going on, that they were sampling the same stuff we're sampling now. We never knew that until recently a couple years ago, when we were properly introduced to jungle. It's cool to see it popping off across the world.
Is there a big jungle scene in Chicago?
Rashad: Not like there used to be, but in the early 2000s the raves were huge.
How is it working with Hyperdub?
Rashad: Oh man, it's great. Everybody over there is real cool and respects what we do, it's an honour and a privilege to work with them.
How did you start working with them?
Rashad: It started off about a year and a half ago when we did some radio shows with Kode9 on Rinse FM in London and guested on some events over there in the UK.
It seems like a natural home for you. Hyperdub are known for championing new sounds. Do you have plans to release more music with them? Was making Double Cup a different process from making a mixtape?
Rashad: Yes, definitely. I wanted it to sound different from all my other releases so far. It was a special for me and all the guys involved.
Are there any footwork artists that we might not know that we need to hear?
Rashad: Yeah. Heavy Dee, DJ Earl from Teklife. Manny, Slick Shoota from Europe. There's a lot of talent around right now.
Are you still affiliated with Lit City Trax?
Rashad: Me, Spinn and Manny aren't doing any more releases with Lit City but Traxman is, his album <>Teklife Vol 3: The Architek is out now. We're just rolling with Hyperdub at the moment.
There was a rumour that after you played the Pitchfork Festival in Chicago this year, that Kanye West came and spoke to you after the show. Is this true? Are we going to see a Chi-town collaboration?
Rashad: Nah, that's not true. What happened was that we had a special guest at Pitchfork, the Treated Crew, which is DJ Mano, who is Kanye West's tour DJ. They saw us talking to Mano probably. Shout out to Kanye though, we would collaborate!