While listening to Joey Kay productions you can easily understand what the definition of true Chicago House Music is. He began his career in the mid 80’s and since then, he has produced an impressive number of qualitative tracks. Far from easy option, he is very close to the musical underground philosophy and he shares its values through his music. Currently reediting many old projects, he shows us that House has still beautiful secrets to offer. Being able to talk with such a House Music veteran was a real luck and here is the result of our mail correspondence.
MiXiT : Hello Joey, first of all could you briefly present yourself for those who don’t know you?
I am a Chicago-Based Electronic Music Producer and as also a D.J. After receiving my B.F.A. and a certificate in recording engineering at Columbia College, Chicago, I have interned at Major Chicago Studios and have done much F.O.H. (Front Of the House) Live Sound as well. Plus, I’m a pretty laid-back dude, for those who know me well 😉
MiXiT : When did you start to produce music? What were your influences at that time?
I began actually producing in about 1986, though I was DJing for fun since about 1983. In 1986, I had a chain of Casio Keyboards with the wicked-est sounds, before I ended up buying an Ensoniq EPS in late 1988. I grew up at teen Clubs and later, Fake ID’d my way to the downtown clubs at about 18 or 19 years of age. I loved to dance, and even since the earliest advent of Electronic Music, I absolutely loved the Pulse of the Electronic Beat.
I had many influences : The Cars, Afrika Bambatta, Kraftwerk, Paul Hardcastle, Frankie Knuckles (R.I.P.), 808 State, Jamie Principle, Oscar McMillan, Michael Serafini, Danny “Sweet D” Wilson, Brian “Furious” Frazier. I also listened to radios like The ORIGINAL Hot Mix 5, WGCI 107.5 FM Chicago Jams, WBMX 102.7 FM Chicago. As far as clubs are concerned Medusas, The Shelter & Kaboom influenced me at that time.
MiXiT : Could you tell us some words about Stylistic US, the label you have created?
The label is currently in “Hiatus”, due to financing. I would love to have the chance to re-vamp the label eventually but as for the moment, it is on the back burner. I believe some of my best material has ended up there. It did not receive enough attention off the bat, but sales of back-catalogue are increasing rapidly. A new label can sometimes be caught in “The Shuffle” of other vinyls and artists, some of which are not worthy of being released on vinyl, but that is just my opinion.
MiXiT : You produce many kind of music, not only house but also jazz or drum n’bass. What is the link between all your productions? What do you want to express through your music?
All of it is really from the heart and soul. I make music to relax, sometimes to release angst; it is almost second-nature to work a hard day at my job, and the remainder of the day being mass amounts of production. It is my release from the grind.
MiXiT : You have produced a lot of tracks over 22 years, but since 2010 you have started to release a lot of old projects. Why have you decided to do that?
I felt the pieces were more than “worthy” of release, and needed exposure. I found a few friends who were beginning labels overseas that were fond of what I had been doing. I have always appreciated the attention the overseas market has shown, and some overseas artists I can say. I have been blown away by what they are doing, and always give props and support. I wish I was a “Vinyl Machine” that could press up some of my fav’ artists, to make it worth their countless hours of production.
MiXiT : You took part to the rise of house music in Chicago, has the scene changed a lot for 20 years in this city? In which way?
Well, a lot of it is “Politics”. I am getting of age that I don’t really buy into “Politics”. Much of the Chicago clubs are also CDJ or laptop-based Djing … A vinyl club or party is less likely to attract the bunch. I really hope both labels and clubs in Chicago would have more vinyl. I don’t think there is even one vinyl label here in Chicago, which is disheartening… In the 90’s, there were SOOOO many vinyl-based labels here in Chicago.
MiXiT : According to you, what enabled the creation of house music in Chicago, what were the roots of this kind of music?
House Music is really “Electronic Disco”. It is in place for the need for others to enjoy and DANCE. It’s nothing much different to Studio 54. People enjoy dancing, it can turn into a good social interaction, or even meeting a new love on the dancefloor. It surely beats the idea of standing around and looking at each other… It’s interactive. That’s the key to the need of the people at dance clubs and/or dance parties. House Music provides that.
MiXiT : You have created Blacklight Room Motion Pixel Labs Chicago, could you tell us more about this visual and musical project?
Well, Blacklightroom was formed when video was at different standards… Gosh, I think until 2008, the YouTube Standard was 4X3 (Like an old CRT Tube TV). Since then, it seems to have evolved nicely.
I do have a fondness of cinematography, mostly because in my BFA, we did study cinema, art, video, music. I film a lot, with a variety of over a dozen cameras and each have different “feels”. At the suggestion of a friend, who is also a Universal Records A&R executive, he directed me to film my own footage because, before that, I was using what’s called “Free-Domain”, or Copyright Expired Footage. This can be found in vast abundance at www.archive.org.
Much of what I do, I try to coincide with the feel of the music behind the video and the activity is somewhat therapeutic and hypnotizing. I believe it is fun to watch, too bad I’m not big enough for Vevo!
Well, as I spoke with Joseph (Skylax Records), the idea began to unfold, for both of us. We both agreed that the idea of a “Retrospective”, spanning the length of my productions, would really hit well. I am in huge anticipation of this Release, most of which Joseph had hand-picked for this 2X12 Inch release. I must have sent him a couple hundred tracks or songs for him to decide. I was also told there is eventually going to be a “Part Deux” of “Heart and Soul” (another 2X12 Inch Vinyl), as well as Part One and Part Two on Compact Disc, including Bonus Tracks. I will keep you informed!
MiXiT : In one of your videos, called “Mystery of the Broken Machines”, you talk about the consequence of internet in the music industry. Do you consider it as a real threat for producers?
Well, it’s sort of a “Double-Edged Sword”. If the economic state of the world is in trouble, people are much less likely to purchase music… Instead, they seem to “acquire” it, whether stripping CD’s, or downloading on the internet. Many people that I have spoken to, truly believe that music is free. If that is true, artists suffer. I can only encourage buyers to purchase music to support their favorite artists. Yet another issue is that “Everyone is a Producer”. I mean, buying spots for a front page of Beatport or Traxsource would have never crossed my mind in choosing music to buy. Also, the advent of “Home Recording” has, not only killed both the seasoned producer/engineer and even most of the major recording studios but, since these “Newbie Producers” lack in engineering skills and experience, you notice a decline in overall audio quality and feel in music productions.
MiXiT : Through your own experience, how do you consider the development of house music across the world? Do you think it could be dangerous for this music soul and values?
Well, even at it’s inception, overseas welcomed House Music almost immediately. With raves in the 1980’s (before raves arrived in the States), this made “House Music” very appreciated overseas and abroad. Many Chicago-based Djs toured Europe and It has evolved into its own “Life Form”, where most of what I choose to buy musically, or listen to, is actually a “European-based Deep House Music”. Dolls Combers is a FAV!
MiXiT : How do you produce? Which tools do you use?
First, I have to be in the mood, not fatigued from work or other obligations. I produce best at night. I usually sequence some drums, and create templates, with some nice piano keys, organs, bass sounds etc. If it sticks after a few hours, I could work on it, and three more songs/tracks within a three-day period, in which I lack sleep, food, and anything but music.
Some of the tools I currently use are 3 Ensoniq EPS (12 Bit) samplers, an Ensoniq Mirage (8 Bit sampler), anything and everything on computer, VST-I and drum modules. I also use a lot of comprehensive monitoring for playback of audio (A/B situations… usually more like A/B/C/D monitoring) and a few outboard and MIDI Mixers.
MiXiT : We are now at the end of the interview, could you tell us what are your projects for the next months ?
Well, since my Back-Catalogue is very large, I first will be Releasing “The Heart and Soul Of Joey Kay” (Part One 2X12 and Part 2 2X12, and look forward to other releases as they come.
I just do it. I guess I can’t explain. It’s PRIMAL.
I wish PEACE within every reader of this, and to project your peace outward, to the world.