The lushness and the weirdness. When Mark E’s imprint MERC released the Chicago Damn EP “Hold on/Be Your Man” last autumn, we liked that. Very much so. It comes as no surprise then that 33-year old Gavin McClary from Sunderland has put together a superbly delightful mix. Don’t miss out on the interview if you want to learn more about this promising newcomer. And yeah, that last track on the mix is a new one by his funkyness.
ROOF.FM: Chicago Damn. That clearly references the funk classic by Bobby Humphreys. Why did you pick it as your artist name?
Chicago Damn: Well it’s a great track first of all, but to be honest I was just looking through my records to find a name that stood out. I didn’t want to use my own name in case nobody liked the music I made, so I was looking for a name I liked that no one had already used, harder than you think!
Tell us a bit about your musical background?
The first music I was a bit obsessed about was Techno. I was seeing this girl and her brother gave me a tape of all R+S Techno, and one of the tracks on their was Energy Flash by Joey Beltram. I remember listening to it on my walkman and being blown away.
When was that?
That would have been about 93 or 94. After that I definitely wanted to get more into dance/electronic music and find out how it was made. Artists like Model 500, Carl Craig, Ron Trent, Basic Channel, Pepé Braddock, Moodymann, Funkadelic also influenced me.
Which shines through in your mix, blending soul, jazz, disco, house and hip house…
Well, I like all of the tracks! In the past I might have just included house/techno but now I try and fit in anything that I really like. I still like to mix records though, for me that’s important.
Just out of curiosity: how do you make a living?
Until recently I worked with children who had been excluded from school, offended, or just not engaging in mainstream education. I taught them DJ skills and how to produce tracks. The recent budget cuts in the UK have meant there is less work for me so I’m currently not doing much!
What does your production setup look like?
I like to use an MPC1000, sometimes nothing else. I record into Ableton and then maybe overdub if I want too. I have done some tracks solely with Ableton that I’m happy with and I think it’s a great way to work, but there’s something about an MPC that gives you results you never expected. I have some hardware synths that I couldn’t do without, I like to keep them secret, but they’re NOT analogue.
When did you start producing?
I started producing maybe 10 years ago, I released some tracks under a different name, then got out of music altogether because I didn’t like how some people conducted themselves. I started producing again at the beginning of last year 2010 and started to send my tracks out to people like Red Rack Em and Mark E. I have been fortunate enough lately that because I was working short days I had a lot of time for making tracks, now I have even more time – maybe too much. A good balance would probably be 50/50 real job/music.
I have some hardware synths that I couldn’t do without. I like to keep them secret, but they’re NoT analogue.
You debuted with the first non-Mark-E release on Mark E’s label MERC. Quite an achievement. How did that come about?
I sent Mark another track (not on the MERC release), he liked it and he passed it on to a friend who ran a label, they contacted me to talk about a release. It never happened, but it gave me the confidence to send more stuff to Mark. The next thing I sent him was “Hold On” which he was really into, then, I sent him other tracks I’d made and he picked “Be Your Man” for the B-Side.
What does the future hold for Chicago Damn?
My next track “If I Could” should be out soon on Wolf Music Recordings UK. Later this year should be an EP for Wurst, a remix for Jansen Jardin and an EP I’m going to release myself, and hopefully more DJ gigs.
Any other goals you’ve set yourself?
Just to be able to continue making tracks, really. I would love to build one day a small music production school for kids who don’t fit in to mainstream education.