Kerri Chandler: ‘The place we lived, you had three decisions: medicine, gangs or music’

One day in 2018, Kerri Chandler was in New York Metropolis making an attempt to trace down a few of his previous haunts: well-known golf equipment the place he had DJ’d with mentors akin to David Mancuso, Frankie Knuckles and Larry Levan. He stopped on one road in entrance of a well-recognized constructing, scaffolded and coated in netting, and peeked by way of. “They only occurred to be gutting the Paradise Storage,” he says with a shudder. “I put my arms over my face. I couldn’t consider they did that. I’m glad I’ve it as a reminiscence, however in case you haven’t seen footage of it, you’d by no means comprehend it existed.”

Chandler is aware of the bittersweet aftertaste that membership closures can go away. The deep home pioneer was 13 when he started warming up for his DJ father in New Jersey nightclubs, balancing on milk crates to succeed in the turntables. The primary time he took a flight was to play London’s Ministry of Sound at 19. He spun on the Paradise Storage, one in every of New York’s biggest golf equipment, simply earlier than it shut in 1987. He’s seen too many beloved dancefloors come and go. “It’s like watching your good friend die.”

Since these heady days, the 53-year-old has despatched music indicators into area, designed a laser harp and launched information by jazz-funk nice Roy Ayers and deep home disciple Jamie Jones on two of his labels, Madhouse and Kaoz Principle. Areas and Locations, his first solo album in 14 years, is a love letter to the worldwide dancefloor: 24 tracks recorded at 24 of the world’s greatest golf equipment, together with Printworks in London, Watergate in Berlin and Output in NYC. Chandler turned every membership into a brief studio and created songs greatest suited to every membership’s distinct persona, from disco to deep home.

Among the areas featured on the album have, certainly, since shut. Information of the potential Printworks closure was a selected shock (although it nonetheless appears to be open for the winter). Chandler’s observe By no means Thought, a jumpy jazz-laced home heater, was composed on a piano stationed in its inexperienced room, which had been signed by virtually each DJ who had performed there. He hopes that listeners can “return and examine these locations, in the event that they’re nonetheless round”.

Chandler on the decks.
‘If it retains our scene alive, that’s fantastic’ … Chandler on the decks. {Photograph}: Bryan Kwon

Areas and Locations arrives as home music is again on the popular culture agenda. Two of 2022’s largest releases, Beyoncé’s Renaissance and Drake’s Honestly, Nevermind, bounce to a four-four beat. Each stars have been mentioned to be reclaiming house music’s Black roots, regardless of originators like Chandler – who solely stopped working briefly when his two youngsters have been born – plugging away for many years. However he sees it one other manner. “Numerous us really feel that home music by no means left.” He provides that he is aware of “folks may be indignant or mad” about speak of Beyoncé and Drake saving home music, “but when it crosses over to what we’re doing and retains our scene alive, that’s fantastic. They could carry the following technology, and perhaps we are able to all develop collectively.”

When Chandler was a younger DJ in East Orange, New Jersey, he had excessive hopes for the style’s nationwide potential however “hip-hop turned what I believed home ought to have been” – the dominant musical language of the US. Home discovered its manner throughout the Atlantic and was embraced by Europe. Past the odd 90s hit, he’s nonetheless uncertain why it didn’t take off within the US and set off a second summer of love: “I don’t know if folks stored the ‘disco sucks’ factor of their heads or one thing.”

East Orange wasn’t precisely an idyllic place for a child, however “it had a hell of quite a lot of expertise”, says Chandler. His mom used to babysit for the household of Steve Washington, of funk group Slave; Whitney Houston was hanging round, as have been hip-hop trio Naughty By Nature. Aged 14, Chandler would go into the studio along with his father’s buddies, Kool and the Gang, and watch them excellent their disco hit Girls’ Night time. Music was a ticket out. “The place we lived, you solely had three decisions: medicine, gangs or music. There’s a saying Naughty By Nature has: in case you go away East Orange with out getting stabbed or shot, you’ll be all proper.”

Chandler left and toured far and extensive, however New Jersey remained a cornerstone of his type. His free-ranging eclecticism – a love of jazz, funk, soul, rap and particularly disco that got here from his father – received him observed by the resident of well-liked native nightspot Membership Zanzibar, Tony Humphries, who performed Chandler’s tracks on his radio present. Zanzibar was a mecca for home, and the Jersey sound – which favoured soulful, gospel influences – was king. For Chandler, it was additionally the positioning of unfathomable tragedy: his girlfriend Tracy was raped and murdered exterior the membership.

She had been an enormous home fan, and her dying impressed Chandler to get out his drum machine. “I’d by no means actually thought of making home music, however I sat down and wrote Get It Off. It was me making an attempt to get all of this stuff off of my thoughts. There’s a component within the music the place it seems like somebody takes a document and rips it. That’s the way it felt, like anyone ripped my complete life.”

It proved to be a turning level in his profession: “Proper after that, I received signed to Atlantic Data.”

Ever since Tracy’s dying, Chandler’s songs have come from a private place. Areas and Locations features a observe that includes his gospel singer cousin, Aaron Braxton, in tribute to Braxton’s father, Chandler’s late uncle. One other, Soiled, was recorded at Paris’s Rex Membership and options his good friend, French producer DJ Deep, and Deep’s son. The Rex Membership was instrumental in bringing American pioneers to Europe as soon as home music exploded there within the 90s. It’s additionally the place Chandler went viral in 2013, when he was filmed telling the audience, in a flurry of expletives, that he wouldn’t be enjoying something industrial.

“I suppose I used to be a little bit bit daring that evening,” he says regretfully. “This woman comes as much as me and says, ‘Do I’ve any EDM?’ I didn’t know what EDM was. I used to be like, I’m sorry, I don’t do medicine. Then she mentioned, you recognize, like David Guetta or – I can’t bear in mind their title, these three guys from Sweden [Swedish House Mafia]. And I simply stopped the music. And I used to be like, look, anyone who needs to listen to this EDM shit gotta go. I’m not enjoying any of that. By the point I landed residence, my telephone was on fireplace.”

Did he get any requests after that evening? “I didn’t get a rattling factor,” he laughs.

Chandler recording Spaces and Places.
Chandler recording Areas and Locations. {Photograph}: Sally Twigg

At the moment, there have been extra white producers promoting out stadiums than you possibly can shake a glitter cannon at. However Chandler by no means felt like his contribution to accommodate music historical past went underappreciated. “I’ve by no means gone ravenous in my life,” he says. “I’ve turned down extra work than I may get. Truthfully, thank God for that.”

Chandler says that these days he sees quite a lot of younger DJs who simply need to be well-known. The true life-style is much much less glamorous: “My life has been the lodge, again to the membership. I received a selection between the brown salad or this difficult sandwich. Again on the street once more, don’t get to talk with my household.”

That actuality hit onerous when his father died instantly in 2017. “We have been on the brink of do one in every of his legendary birthday events, he’d had some surgical procedure and he was getting again to regular,” Chandler remembers. “He determined to go for a stroll and get some groceries. I used to be touring, and I get a name from my sister. This man hit him with a truck as he was getting back from the shop, and that was it. He was strolling again throughout the road with a bag of popsicles and a half gallon of milk.”

“I couldn’t get again residence in time,” he continues, his voice cracking. “I attempted to get each flight but it surely was too late. Subsequent factor I do know, I’m arranging the funeral.”

Areas and Locations is Chandler’s first album since his father’s dying. The discharge date has come ahead in order that it’s Grammy-eligible; if he makes the listing, it is going to be the primary time he has been nominated. It could be a becoming consequence for a producer who has all the time pushed ahead and by no means stopped being curious throughout his 40 years in dance music. “Everybody appears to have that favorite time interval,” he says. “I’m nonetheless on the lookout for it.”