by Ryan Meehan
Lady D marries the classic house tracks of Chicago’s past with the choicest four to the floor stomps of today, and always throws down a soulful and sinful set. Known widely as Chicago’s Queen of House Music, Darlene has been rocking dance floors both nationally and internationally since 1995. Recognized for her top-notch A&R, production, and remixing talents first at Label Manager at AfterHours and currently as owner of D’Lectable Music, Lady D is respected industry wide for releasing some of the hottest records in house music over the past ten years. We’re lucky enough to have her in town doing a show this weekend, and she’s our guest today in 5 Questions.
FOH: Has house music in some form or another always been a part of your life? And how does Chicago’s version of house differ from that of say…New York City’s?
LD: Absolutely! I loved House music the first time I heard it and have ever since! Chicago’s House is the most exciting style of House. It’s a bit faster and has a very exciting energy. But it’s more than one thing, it’s many things all together that make it that way. New York’s house, for example can be very vocal driven, or very poly-rhythmic, or a very electro style. So, for me, it’s not as diverse as Chicago’s House, in mixture of styles as well as in the way our native DJ’s mix. If I had to make a distinction (or since you asked!!!), that’s what I would say.
FOH: Back in the mid to late 90s, the term “rave” was attached to any big party with several DJs performing for a large crowd. I haven’t heard anyone use that term in a very long time…Do you think that somewhere along the line there was a negative stigma attached to that word that still holds true now? Why or why not?
LD: Rave became a dirty word politically, maybe rightly so, and politicians found ways to eliminate the act of raving. The lack of these types of parties took the word out of the lexicon. Politically they were a hot bed because many of them were done in an outlaw fashion. People are wiser and older now and are now creating “festivals”, doing them within legal hours and with the proper permits and safety standards. I think most of us look back at the time when we used to rave fondly so to me there’s no negativity in the word itself. The experience got sullied over time and therefore they were done away with legally. In their most pure form (i.e., in the beginning…) they were beautiful, peaceful and highly unifying events.
FOH: Which venue in the United States has been your favorite club to DJ at, and what about that particular venue made it so special? And what does your ideal gig look and sound like?
LD: I have played a number of venues and I think, in or out of the US, it’s not so much the place or space but the faces. The warm reception from people is always what I remember. I loved the parties I’ve played in Seattle for instance, many for a group called HitGirl who (unfortunately) are no longer doing events. But the way I was received there by everyone will always stay with me, especially since I played many different venues there. I’ll always love Smart Bar here in Chicago which has a great Function One sound system and the best staff in the business. I also remember well a place in Hawaii called Open Door (Honolulu). One time I played there they had a huge Shepard Fairey installation that was awesome to see inside a club. My ideal gig looks like a sexy and sophisticated party with people from all walks of life. It can be on a beach, a hotel lobby or in a huge warehouse as long as the listeners are open and ready to have a good time and a great decor goes a long way too!
FOH: How would you describe your set? Do you always try to switch it up a little bit each time, even between consecutive shows?
LD: In describing my set, I would say I will go where many fear to go. I tend to be very irreverent–I never play the same set. While feeling out the crowd for where they are musically, I play in a way that brings you into a place you didn’t even know you could hang. Before you know it, you are having a great time! I feel the DJ was made to take you out of your comfort zone, the place where radio keeps you. If the radio is dictating your home, your car AND your club, you have to wake up from all that programming and trust the DJ to excite your senses in a new way. I’m the DJ who likes to tickle your fancy!
FOH: At what point during a live performance did it hit you that this was what you were born to do?
LD: It’s always apparent to me when I come into a situation where a club is just not popping with one DJ or another before I arrive, and when I get on the decks the whole room can change–it becomes livelier and the sound is enhanced. When I realized how much I can control and affect the mood and energy of the performance space I knew I was born to entertain.
FOH: What do you think of dubstep as a subgenre? And do you think maybe that classification isn’t really anything more than a buzzword for a style of music that many DJs and producers had slowly been developing for quite some time?
LD: Classifications don’t really exist for DJ’s, there’s just the music you play or don’t. I think dubstep is a phase… a musical fad that will pass. I didn’t mind when I heard little bits in mainstream music, like in Britney Spears’ song. I just happen to believe that it’s music for teens and young adults, at an age where they can consume large amounts of it, but as they grow up they will want more mature sounds. It’s quite noisy you know.
FOH: What’s next for Lady D in the twelve months to come?
LD: I’ll be Europe in October for the Amsterdam Dance Event–one of the best musical conferences around. I have more music coming with my friend and collaborator Ron Carroll and hopefully we will finally create a hit that will take me around the world in the next 12 months and perhaps a repeat performance at Lollapalooza. From your page to God’s ears!
Don’t miss Lady D at Fourplay Sports Bar in the District of Rock Island Saturday, July 28th. This show is sure to be a banger and will also feature sets by DJ Buddha and Chronik Solutions.
Official Website: http://www.djladydmusic.com/
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