Guest of Honor: Terry Hunter talks roots, Chicago house culture & ADE

Guest of Honor: Terry Hunter talks roots, Chicago house culture & ADE

Sep 25, 2017 |  by  |  Event, Music
About the author
I’ve been a music hoarder all my life and it was I who coined the phrase: ‘Every genre has something to offer’ (patent pending). My main infatuations are House, Disco, Jazz, Funk, Hip Hop and every subgenre in between. As long as the tunes spark up a euphoric feeling. Writing about Music expresses my passion for the art.

Hailing from Chicago, Terry Hunter has been an active member of the house community since the late ’80s. With his own productions and remixes for artists like Jill Scott, Michael Jackson and Kanye West, Terry has definitely made his mark on house culture. He’s also traveling across the globe to showcase his sound and profound DJ skills. While he was in Amsterdam, we had the opportunity to have a chat with Terry, about his roots, house culture and more.

Hi Terry! In a previous interview you mentioned that DJs from your era had to come to Europe to make a living out of playing records. What was it like to get there?
“Us kids from Chicago dreamed of being DJs at the time. I was looking at my heroes, Ron Hardy and Frankie Knuckles –rest in peace–, and what they were doing. For years Ron played and appeared in several clubs in Chicago such as the legendary Music Box. By the early nineties Frankie took the opportunity to travel the world, while still playing in my hometown before returning to New York. It made me realize that, in order to travel the world emulating the sound of Chicago, I had to make records and use it as a business card. My friend had a drum machine and a keyboard. We went to his basement made a track, which we put out on Armando’s label Muzique Records. That track was Madness and it paved the way to Europe, to London to be exact. The rest is history.”

What was that first experience like, playing Chi-Town in London?
“Amazing. I was 19 years old and my family dropped me off at the gate. I didn’t know you had to have record cases. So here I am with a duffle bag filled with 100 records, hand-carrying them on the airplane. By the time I arrived in London, a friend asked me where my record cases were, with a confused look on his face. I was like ‘what’s that?!’, so he started laughing and took me straight to Catch A Groove Records to get me some record cases. My learning experience already started when I arrived at the airport!”

Terry-2 By Sebastiaan van Thienen

“Little less than a year later I came to Amsterdam. We heard so much about the city, the ’tolerant’ regulations you guys have over here. It gave me a sense of freedom I wasn’t able to experience in Chicago. It also led me to meet good people who were striving the culture over here.”

Did you experience that sense of freedom in the clubs as well while you were DJing here?
“Yeah, absolutely. When I came out here I was blown away by how susceptive the people were to the music. I didn’t feel pressured to play a certain kind of way. I’ll always remember Frankie and Ron telling me ‘when you DJ, do you’. And that sentiment still holds true today. I went on stage and the crowd was ready for a Chicago DJ and that’s exactly what I did and gave: me. I like to give a reflection of where I came from and that is Chicago.”

Terry-4 By Sebastiaan van Thienen

At the age of 13 you started DJing at house parties in the most literal sense of the word. How did these events differ or relate to house parties at the clubs?
“The first couple of parties I did were in the basement of my aunt’s house. Me and my friends were promoting at our high school: party for 99 cents in a basement. After a couple of them, there was such a big turn out, half the city was coming over there trying to get in. The block was full of cars, hundreds of people were lining up and I said to myself ’This is getting too crazy, that’s it’. Luckily, different promoters who were hosting big club events in the city were coming to my aunt’s house promoting their own parties, while at the same time trying to find out who was playing the records in that basement.”

“Eventually one of them, Marvin Terry, asked me to DJ at one of his events and if I could bring all these people. In my mind the basement parties wouldn’t be any different from the club, aside from the venue. This made it easy for me to bring them and that’s how I got my first gig in a club. The vibes at both parties were totally the same; music first!”

Chicago has issues with its criminality, both at this moment as back in the days when it wasn’t televised. What part did music play in relation to the criminality to you?
“That’s a great question! To me, I was in between two situations. Since my mother had me when she was 13 years old and was still a child, my grandparents raised me. Around the time I started getting into music, I’d spent weekends with my mother in the hood, who wasn’t as strict as my grandparents. There I was heavily in the streets at the age of 13, to the point where I started skipping classes, getting kicked out of school and started gang banging. I’d also hang with a gang and go to parties where rivalry crews would be at. I was really heading down that direction. When my grandparents heard what was going on, they weren’t having it and restricted me from going back to the violence and gang banging in the hood my moms lived.”

Being a DJ first definitely saved my life, because I was on a path to no good.

“When I moved back I realized I loved the music so much, it stopped me from going out. I was at home practicing every day. During Summers I’d keep on buying records and practicing which let me to being a DJ. So I’d say being a DJ first definitely saved my life, because I was on a path to no good. Music strayed me away from that path. I owe it to the DJ culture.”

You already touched on the state of House culture in the Chi. How did 27 years of the Chosen Few Picnic contribute to the current state?
“Chosen Few was initiated by Andre and Tony Hatchet, who were very influential around the late 80s (and still are). It started out as a small gathering. And years later it grew into the soulful picnic we see now.”

“I became a part of the crew in 2005. All the others were good friends from back in the day. When my friend Wayne Williams asked me to join, I said yes without any hesitation. Not to put words in their mouths, but I think I brought more of a international look on the group, because of the records I had put out and because of the travels. At that time I was well established as a DJ and producer. From that year on, the picnic started growing very rapidly.”

What made it grow so exponentially?
“I think the whole vibe of us really pushing Chosen Few, but of course it was the music that was central to it. You had six great DJs who all shared a great camaraderie. DJ crews back in the day, like the Hot Mix 5, were more focussed on radio and not so much on the evident expression of it by organizing events, so we took it on ourselves to make that happen. People felt the urge to express their love for house music.”

“We never thought this was gonna get to a point where 30.000 house lovers would come to the picnic, bringing their family, drinks and grills to cook food. People understood us and were aligned to our labour of love. They would line up around 2 in the morning to get a spot for their grills and tents. That combination of mutual understanding and the openness to bring your own stuff is what made Chosen Few special. The camaraderie House evoked within people really topped it off.”

To us, the Chosen Few Picnic was just a labour of love.

Seeing where you guys came from 27 years ago, that’s amazing. And it’s now to the point where Chosen Few is going global, with the first ever event in Amsterdam during ADE. What can we expect?
“Hell yeah! We’re trying to expand the Chosen Few brand and what we stand for around the world. Like I said, I like to give a reflection of where I came from, and I feel Chosen Few is a great opportunity to showcase just that. And what other place to do it at than at ADE, along with the LostInMusic team. We’re trying to spread the awareness of what we’re doing in Chicago to see a country like the Netherlands capitalize on a genre of music that was birthed from Chicago. So I think it’s only right to do it here during ADE. I’m excited for the other guys who stayed local heroes and didn’t get as much shine as some of the Chosen Few DJs like Mike (Dunn) and myself, because they’re great DJs too. Additionally, I’m DJing at the Groove Odyssey event with my brothers Kenny Dope, Bobby & Steve and Mike Risk.”

Lastly, a week packed with good music can be exhaustive. Additionally you’ve been traveling and working late night shifts for quite some time now. How are you staying healthy?
“Staying hydrated is important. I’m having a soda now, but I’m gonna chase it with a bottle of water. It’s easy for us to get something quick to eat while traveling, so I’m watching that too. Hence, we’re going to that great chicken spot in a minute, haha! What I want next is to incorporate hotels that have a gym. So next year you gonna see a skinny Terry Hunter, a sexy Terry Hunter, being on GQ magazine!”

After our conversation, we headed to Rush Hour to get some records…

Terry-5 By Sebastiaan van Thienen

Catch Terry Hunter with Kenny Dope, Mike Risk and Bobby & Steve at the Sugarfactory on October 18. Grab a bird ticket here. The Chosen Few will be performing at Ma’adam October 19, alongside Mike Dunn, DJ Spen, Alan King, Wayne Williams, Chuck Roberts & Mike Risk. Get your tickets here.

We’re giving away two tickets for the Chosen Few ADE event on Thursday October 19! Pick a househead friend you’d want to dance your ass off with to the records played by Terry Hunter, Mike Dunn and more! Simply tag him or her in a comment to the post on our Facebook page to participate. We’ll announce the winners at the end of next week!

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