Your sons are launching careers now. They must be about the same age as you were when you were starting out.
One is, one’s a little younger.
So what’s your fatherly advice when your sons come to you and say, ‘Dad, I wanna be a DJ, I wanna be a producer’?
The first one, Dantiez, is the most active. When he first came to me I didn’t take it serious, I just said, ‘OK, that’s nice, but this is work, you gotta work at it’. He moved out to stay with some friends when he was 18, 19 and little did I know those friends were making music and DJing. That’s where he got his fire. He was around me all his life but that’s just Dad DJing and doing his music, you know? It didn’t click for him until his friends inspired him, so I didn’t see it until he moved back with me. He’d be in my studio and the beat never stopped. We had to make him put on headphones at a certain time. I knew he was serious then.
At some point he started asking more questions so I started giving him some advice, but some stuff I wouldn’t give to him right away. I’d tell him to go look it up on YouTube, then come back and we’ll discuss what you’ve got. Either pick up a book or go to YouTube, then I can say that he’s put in some work. When he started developing like that I said he was ready to start travelling with me. At the time his influences were very Avicii, David Guetta, so I wanted him to see the whole picture and understand what the underground’s about, not just what’s on radio.
My other son [Damarii] was inspired by his brother. He was a professional baseball player but his career ended because of injury.
Kind of similar to you.
Yeah! So he wanted to do music too but he’s not as active as Dantiez. Dantiez makes five tracks a day. I guarantee he’s up in the room making a track right now. But I’m proud that it happened organically. Nobody can say I pushed my sons into making music. Actually, I pushed them to play sports.
You were a pushy dad in a different way.
Definitely for sports. I was thinking college education, pro ball. One made it pro, the other didn’t make it but I still was pushing them. I’ve got a young one and I’m pushing him too.
Nobody can say I pushed my sons into making music. Actually, I pushed them to play sports.
You were a pretty serious football player, right?
I was pretty good. With a little more guidance I could have played [professionally]. I didn’t realise how talented I was – sometimes you don’t really understand. I played college football but I only played for a year and half because techno took over and I wanted to make music. My heart changed to music. I was a pretty good athlete, though, from high school on up. I played all sports in high school and was a star in all of them, but football was my best.
You seem like a pretty competitive person in general.
[Immediately] Oh yeah.
Are you competitive with the kids when it comes to music?
Yes! Right now I’m losing that battle, to be truthful. I don’t have the same energy. Obviously I’ve got like seven or eight different aliases, so I had that energy then, but I had a lot of time. I didn’t have a family, it was just me. It wasn’t like you’d be flying around the world DJing every weekend – it just wasn’t that way. Now I don’t find the time as much. I have to really force myself to get in the studio, tell my manager let’s not do no dates for a while. It’s a hard call. Eventually hopefully I’ll get a good string of back-to-back-to-back records going.
As an artist has your attitude to music changed at all over the years?
I don’t know if anything’s changed. I make music from the heart and I don’t care whether the next person likes it. I’ve been fortunate enough that people liked a lot of my music but I don’t try to chase hits. I don’t get caught up in the spotlight. That’s not important to me. And I’m with technology just like I was in the beginning. I was using 909s, 808s, DX100s, and now it’s computers with plugins, DJing with Traktor and stuff.
Have you always been into technology? Was that from childhood?
Yeah. I get excited with technology. It keeps evolving.
I make music from the heart and I don’t care whether the next person likes it. I’ve been fortunate enough that people liked a lot of my music but I don’t try to chase hits.
I wanted to ask you about this myth that one of the Detroit guys had a DX100 which was modified with an Oberheim filter. I’ve heard it was either you, Juan or Derrick but I asked Kirk Degiorgio and he was pretty sure it wasn’t Derrick. Was that yours?
It wasn’t me! I just had a straight-up DX100. I ain’t ever seen one like that. I’d like to see it! [Laughs] I’d like to get my hands on it!
What about setting the record straight on where those stabs on the Inner City records came from? Was that a Nitro Deluxe sample?
[Laughing] It’s… part of it. I layered it with other things. You could add to your sound library by taking notes and changing the parameters, making a whole unique sound. Back then people didn’t really use samples that way. To me it’s being creative, because I took one note and turned it into something else.
I probably didn’t let people know that back then. You’re the first one I’ve told. That’s the first time I’ve ever let anyone know that!
We finally got the definitive answer. How do you feel about the fact people are still trying to imitate sounds you made 20-something years ago?
It’s good and it’s bad because when people imitate you, you can’t always sound like you. You need to re-imitate yourself, find a way to be creative. I’ve come up with quite a few unique sounds – the Reese bass was taken by quite a few artists. The hardest thing when you come up with such a great unique sound is not to wear it out, record after record. Sometimes you’re like, ‘Wow, another record that sounds like me’. It’s not a bad thing, it’s just…
You’ve moved on to something else?
Or it forces you to move on. Once I’ve done it I just like to move on.