“House is welcoming, adaptive, and for everyone, but take an evening and immerse yourself in the history of it all before you take that plunge of representing it. It’s a way of life here.”

– Hiroko Yamamura

It is nearly impossible for Chicago not to come up when you have a conversation about house music. It is the city that not only birthed the genre but nurtured and cultivated a music scene that still acts as an archetype for people today.

For some, “The Night that Disco Died” acts as a pivotal point when one genre rose from the literal ashes of another and was able to offer a new haven for a community of POC and LGBTQIA+ that needed it most. Fast-forward 30+ years, and DJs are still influenced by those early records of Frankie Knuckles, Larry Levan, and DJ Ron Hardy that helped define a generation.

While dance music has undergone a strong mainstream adaptation over the last decade, there has been deliberate preservation of the roots of House music within the Chicago scene, where the genre still thrives. Whether catching Derrick Carter throw down Sundays at Queen! or chatting up Michael Serafini while crate-digging at Gramaphone Records, Chicago is undeniably House.

ARC Music Festival can help carry on that tradition by bridging the gap between the roots of House music and a younger generation of listeners with a combination of Chicago artists and new school acts on its lineup.

Your EDM spoke with artists performing this weekend to hear about how the genre has influenced their work and the scene they are a part of.

Hiroko Yamamura

(Chicago Based)


I am so excited to finally get a chance to showcase all the diverse factors which contributed to my perspective of the “Chicago sound.” As an Asian woman and part of the LGBTQIA+ community, I’m thrilled that this festival has chosen to have artists that don’t fit the traditional mold of what folks think of as a “festival DJ” and have encouraged me just to hit the stage and be me. I want the people of this city to be proud of the amazing music and diverse sounds that are a product of what can be an unfair, unjust yet beautiful city. You don’t always have to be reaching for the newest sensations and trends from overseas. I promise you’ll find brilliance in your own backyard.

What was your first exposure to Chicago House music?
We had a huge advantage that one of the commercial terrestrial radio stations in Chicago (B96 and WBMX) featured world-renowned House DJs regularly, so it was just part of growing up. In my social circle, the lines between techno and House were always intentionally blurry, with many artists seamlessly incorporating the two. I’d say the first track that I felt represented Chicago House purely at the time has got to be Cajmere & Dajae’s “Brighter Days.” It’s soulful, got a juke attitude, and has a tremendous vocal hook that is timeless.

With the rapid expansion of dance music genres, do you feel a commitment to keeping Chicago’s influence well represented?
I feel like, in many ways, Chicago’s influence in House and Techno has devolved to that, just influence. So many of the innovators and creators of the hits are playing small bars on the weekend locally, while younger, better dancing DJs are making incredible wages playing their tracks around the world. It’s a genuinely working-class issue, where those DJs would have no music to play at these festivals if the working-class producer wasn’t home carefully composing songs. It’s not an easy issue to approach, as, in the end, it is up to the attendee to choose who they are buying a ticket to see and what artists resonate with them. I’m just hoping that maybe it’s worth taking a second glance at some of the foundations of this city because I promise you’ll be impressed.

What role do you think more mainstream adaptations of house music play in leading more people to Chicago house music?
I think it’s a great way to get started when you are first getting into electronic music. Seeing something on TV or a commercial may get you interested in the concept of Chicago House music. However, while genres are subjective and lose meaning by the day, a lot of the pop music that is sold as House has more in common with a Justin Bieber / Skrillex than a Derrick Carter. From a technical, structural, and artistic standpoint, adding the word house to many of these top 40 “house” songs is such an incredible stretch. It is by no means the fault of the artists and likely a significant labor marketing decision. However, these words have power and history, and putting a bit of respect on something that has a different meaning to those that coined the term and lived its inception might be a step in the right direction. So, if you feel like your song is House, go nuts, call it what you like, but don’t put too many feelings on waiting for folks to agree with you. House is welcoming, adaptive, and for everyone, but take an evening and immerse yourself in the history of it all before you take that plunge of representing it. It’s a way of life here.

Will Clarke

Will Clarke

How has Chicago house influenced your career as an artist?
Chicago was a huge influence on the beginning of my career as an artist. Green Velvet, Paul Johnson, DJ Deeon, DJ Funk; They are the reason why I was making records like I was during my early days as a producer.

When you think of Chicago house music, which quintessential track comes to mind?
Green Velvet – Stalker

House music has seen an explosion of sub-genres over the last five to ten years, is there an artist that you feel properly bridges the gap between the old school stylings and this new era? Why?
This is a tough question because, in house music, most artists are taking influence from the 80s/90’s so it’s almost hard to say who has bridged the gap. Personally, right now, after covid, I feel like electronic music needs a bit of a shakeup as it feels like there is a lot of the same stuff out there.

Do you think festivals like ARC represent a revival of House and techno within the US?
100% it’s what the states need right now; more proper techno/house festivals. Movement has always done that so well in Detroit, and it’s nice to see ARC do the same with solid lineups in Chicago.

Gene Farris

(Chicago Based)

gene farris, chicago based dj

What was your first exposure to Chicago house music?
My first exposure to House music was when I was nine years old. Some friends of mine were DJs in my neighborhood growing up, and I caught the bug very early. The first album I bought was Kraftwerk’s “Computer World,” and my life changed – I’ve never looked back since.

With the rapid expansion of dance music genres, do you feel a commitment to keeping Chicago’s influence well represented?
I always feel a commitment to keep Chicago relevant and one of the major cities in the game. We started it all there, no question about that, and with that comes a certain sense of pride. So, with every DJ set and every song I make, I always have Chicago in mind.

What role do you think more mainstream adaptations of house music play in leading more people to Chicago house music?
Well, I think the more people hear commercial House music, the more they want to hear the real shit. When I was first going out, I had no idea what was up. I was learning and finding what I actually liked. I believe it is the same for kids today, they usually get introduced in the scene to the music by something commercial and popular, but they usually never stay in that lane once they find the real shit. If you turn on the radio looking for real hip-hop, you’re never going to find it there, and the same goes for Chicago House music.

DJ Heather

(Chicago Based)

dj heather, chicago based

What was your first exposure to Chicago House music?
My first exposure to House was via the radio. Like most Chicago kids, radio shows like those presented by The Hot Mix Five provided so much music at our fingertips.

What role do you think more mainstream adaptations of house music play in leading more people to Chicago House music?
I think the signature sound of Chicago is one that incorporates many different styles of music; techno, disco, new wave, industrial, gospel, etc. It’s how you present it, seamlessly merging genres and making them your own. That’s the Chicago way.

Do you believe that a festival like ARC is doing enough to represent Chicago artists amongst its lineup?
ARC creating a space for hometown talent to shine is invaluable. The talent pool is deep, and it’s good to remind people of that fact.

MEDUZA

meduza, dj group

What excites you most about playing the debut ARC Festival in the birthplace of house music? Have you done anything different in terms of preparation for this festival?
It will be exciting playing our first festival in Chicago until now we only had club experiences in the city, and both of them were amazing, our set will be full of our music and music we love from other artists as always, we have a lot of new music coming soon so expect some new things.

How has Chicago house influenced your career as an artist?
I think we’re all have been influenced by that Chicago house sound. It created a new world in the industry. We are grateful to all the House gods that gave us the opportunity to grow up with this magical music and enjoy and celebrate the city that gave them a chance and the opportunity to spread this music with the world.

When you think of Chicago House music, which quintessential track comes to mind?
Marshall Jefferson with “Move Your body” and with “Love Can’t Turn Around”. These two are iconic.

House music has seen an explosion of sub-genres over the last five to ten years, is there an artist that you feel properly bridges the gap between the old school stylings and this new era? Why?
Eric Prydz, he’s for me, the perfect example of the old and new school. His style includes sounds from the ’80s, modern House groove, and funk bass rhythm.

DJ Pierre

(Chicago Based)

dj pierre, chicago based dj

With the rapid expansion of dance music genres, do you feel a commitment to keeping Chicago’s influence well represented?
Most definitely. I genuinely believe it’s up to us and our city to completely take ownership of this music like never before. But I can’t do it alone. We all have to play a purposeful part to elevate the people in Chicago and the scene here.

What was your first exposure to Chicago House music?
My best friend Spanky from our group Phuture took me to hear Ron Hardy at the Music Box!

What role do you think more mainstream adaptations of house music play in leading more people to Chicago House music?
I’m not sure that any adaptations lead anything back to Chicago. Most think this music came from Europe!!

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Thank you to all of the artists who took the time to speak to us for this piece. We can’t wait to catch you perform this weekend at ARC!

You can find more information on the festival and purchase tickets via their website.

This article was first published on Your EDM. Source: ARC Music Festival and the Influence of Chicago House [Interview]

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