JERROME DERRADJI PRESENTS: KILL YOURSELF DANCING-THE STORY OF SUNSET RECORDS INC.1985-1988.

Jerome Derradji Presents: Kill Yourself Dancing – The Story Of Sunset Records Inc. Chicago 1985-89.

Lately, there’s been a renaissance in compilations of early Chicago house music. That’s no surprise. After all, house music is nearly thirty years old. While not quite heading into its middle age, many people who were around at the birth of Chicago house are. These heady, hedonistic days are but a hazy memory. Long gone are nights of dancing till dawn in clubs and warehouses. That was another country. One maybe best hidden from children and grandchildren. It wouldn’t do for dad or mum’s wild days to be brought out in the open. Awkward questions might be asked. So we keep quiet about our eighties heydays. Sadly, all we’ve got are our memories. 

Records bought back then, have long been forgotten and in some cases lost. Numerous house moves, marital breakups and late-night parties have seen to that. Then all of sudden, something triggers a memory of song. You’re back in the eighties, dancing in a club. House music being pumped out the speakers, the bass bins’ tolerance being tested. Sadly, you’ve no music from those days, no music to fuel your distant memories. Out of touch with music, you head into town, in search of a compilation to fuel your memories of dancing until dawn to Chicago house. 

If you’re lucky enough, the town or city you live in, might still have an independent record shop. You head in, looking for a compilation of Chicago house. Realizing there’s a decent selection on offer, you wonder which one to choose? Like someone long out of the dating scene, you’re awkward and uneasy. You’re tempted to just quietly leave. No, you’ve come this far. Looking through the shelves there’s plenty choice. Not knowing labels, you’ve no idea if a compilation is good, bad or downright ugly. Some are held in cheap, gaudy boxes. Hardly aesthetically pleasing. Confused, you wish you’d had a look at the various magazines or checked out websites online. Then you might have a clue. Eventually, you just want out the shop.  Literally choosing at random, you pay your money and leave the shop. What could’ve and should’ve been a simple choice was a traumatic experience. It shouldn’t have been. Don’t let that be you. No. Best to head out and buy Jerome Derradji Presents: Kill Yourself Dancing-The Story Of Sunset Records Inc. Chicago 1985-89, which will be released on Still Music on 19th August 2013. Why? That’s what I’ll tell you.

Jerome Derradji Presents: Kill Yourself Dancing-The Story Of Sunset Records Inc. Chicago 1985-89 features twenty-one tracks spread over two discs or albums. Included on the two discs, is includes some of the most innovative Chicago house music released between 1985 and 1989. This includes tracks from Ben Mays, Boom Boom and Master Plan, Hex Complexx, Master Plan, Matt Warren, Michaelangelo, Razz, Modern Mechanical Music and Razz Featuring Matt Warren and Ralphi Rosario. Then there’s the lengthy, well-researched and most importantly accurate, sleeve-notes, written by Jacob Arnold. As someone whose written sleeve-notes, I appreciate the time and attention taken by Jacob. They’re miles better than certain sleeve-notes I’ve come across recently. Jacob obviously knows and loves the music he writes about. The same can be said of Jerome Derradji. He’s brought together twenty-one of the many highlights of Sunset Records Inc, which they released between 1985 and 1989, when Chicago house was in its infancy. Sunset Records Inc. were one of the many labels that sprung up around Chicago, the home of house music. Once I’ve told you about the background to Sunset Records Inc, I’ll tell you about the music on Jerome Derradji Presents: Kill Yourself Dancing-The Story Of Sunset Records Inc. Chicago 1985-89.

House music had been born almost out of necessity. In 1979, disco had died. Its death occurred the Disco Demolition Derby, at Comiskey Park, Chicago. Death was pronounced on 12th July 1979. DJs were left with a dilemma. What would they play? Disco was yesterdays music. It was in disgrace, literally left sitting on the naughty step. For DJs everywhere, this presented a problem. They’d spent the last few years amassing a huge collection of disco. Drop a disco track and the dance-floor would empty. That’s a DJ’s worst nightmare. What were they going to play that would keep dancer’s dancing? 

In Chicago, a group of DJs that included Ron Hardy, Frankie Knuckles, Ralph Tee and Marshall Jefferson decided to play a much more eclectic selection of music. It was a case of needs must. The music must go On and On. Their soundtrack to an evening encompassed everything from boogie, European electronica, funk punk, hip hop, Italo Disco, funk, electro, synth pop and classic disco. This eclectic musical collage was heard in certain Chicago clubs, including The Warehouse and The Power Plant. No music genre rose above the others to gain supremacy. That was until the birth of Chicago house.

Before the birth of house, making music was an expensive business. It required equipment and the use of a recording studio. Neither came cheap. Things were, however, beginning to change. 

By the early eighties, music technology was much cheaper than before. Drum machines, samplers, sequencers and synths were suddenly much more affordable.  For a new generation of producers this opened up new opportunities. Suddenly, they could make a record in their own home. The first wave of producers had shown what was possible. This included Jesse Saunders, who’d released On and On in 1984. A huge success, it was one of the first D.I.Y. Chicago house tracks. Other future producers listened to tracks like On and On, and thought they could do just as well. Inspired they set about trying to replicate the success of Jesse Saunders. This included Matt Warren, Miguel Garcia and Ralphi Rosario.

Since the early days of Chicago house, Matt Warren, Miguel Garcia and Ralphi Rosario had watched with interest. They were producers in waiting, who watched and learnt. By 1985, they’d waited long enough. So, they joined forces with Alex and Robert Rojo, two brothers who owned the Sunset Mobile Disco. It had been established in 1979, and quickly, gathered a reputation as the promoters of some of the best parties Chicago had seen in recent years. Lavish, flamboyant extravaganzas describe the Sunset Mobile Disco in action. Alex and Robert were the go-to-guys for anyone wanting a party to remember. They also knew Chi Town’s music scene inside out. So, they were perfectly positioned to form a record label with Matt Warren, Miguel Garcia and Ralphi Rosario.

Together, the quartet of Alex and Robert Rojo plus Matt Warren and Miguel Garcia decided to pull their talent and experiences to form Sunset Records Inc. This was the latest arrival in Chicago’s ever-growing music scene. Record labels were springing up all over the Windy City. The two biggest record companies were Traxx and DJ International. They went on to dominate house music. signing up as many of the talented producers they could. Despite that, many other labels were releasing innovative and influential house music. This included Sunset Records Inc.

Founded in 1985, Sunset Records Inc. started as they meant to go on. That meant releasing groundbreaking music. Sunset Records Inc’s music was a fusion of genres and influences. Best described as a musical potpourri, the basic beat track, which was created by a Roland drum machine, was then combined with new wave, disco and industrial music. An amalgamation of influences, here, music from the past, disco and industrial music, was combined with music from the present, new wave and post-industrial music. Dance-floor friendly, innovative and influential, this wasn’t like much of the house music being released. Instead, it was music of substance. There was much more that just the hypnotic 4/4 beat. Much more. That was the case from Sunset Records Inc’s earliest releases. 

From Sunset Records Inc’s earliest releases in 1985, many of which feature on Jerome Derradji Presents: Kill Yourself Dancing-The Story Of Sunset Records Inc. Chicago 1985-89. The twenty-one tracks include contributions from some of the most important artists on Sunset Records Inc’s roster. Some artists feature more than once. This includes Boom Boom & Master Plan, Matt Warren, Modern Mechanical Music, Razz, Master Plan and White Knight. Ben Mays and Kajsa feature just once. So do the dream team of Razz Featuring Matt Warren & Ralphi Rosario. These twenty-one tracks take you on a roller coaster journey through four years in the history of from Sunset Records Inc’s history, which I’ll tell you about.

It was 1985, that the newly formed Sunset Records Inc. released its first singles. This included two of Sunset Records Inc’s most important artists, Razz and Matt Warren. Pump It Up was released by Razz Featuring Matt Warren & Ralphi Rosario. It’s one of three tracks they contribute to the compilation. Kill Yourself Dancing and Say It are the others. Written by Marc Warren, Pump It Up is a myriad of thunderous drums, hissing hi-hats and percussion combine. House, new wave and industrial music is fused on a truly innovative track with a strong Kraftwerk influence. 

Quite different is another track released in 1985, Michaelangelo’s You Can Do. It’s best described as fusion of house, hip hop, funk and soul. Stabs of synths and crispy drums set the scene for Matt Warren’s rap. Stealing the show is Tammy Thomas’ vocal.  Soulful and heartfelt, it plays a huge part in a track that’s a house classic.

1986 saw Sunset Records Inc. release even more music. No wonder. House was at the peak of its popularity. Chicago was the house capital of the world. It was like a gold-rush, with record companies mining for house gold. One of the men providing Sunset Records Inc. gold was Marc Warren. He wasn’t just an artist, but like Miguel Garcia, in charge of A&R. In 1986, he released Club Mix of The Way To My Heart, where new wave, electro, soul, disco and funk are combined to create another irresistible uptempo dancer. It’s helped no end by Pepper Gomez’s vocal which can only be described as sultry and extremely sensual. Pepper Gomez been inspired by seventies soul and disco as she delivers a coquettish and  sexy vocal. The other track Marc Warren contributes to Jerome Derradji Presents: Kill Yourself Dancing – The Story Of Sunset Records Inc. Chicago 1985-89 is Rock The Nation, which was remixed By Kenny Jason.

Boom Boom and Master Plan released Face The Music in 1986. Both the original and the Dub version. Produced by Master Plan, mixed by Matt Warren and with Pepper Gomez adding an alluring and soulful vocal, it’s Sunset Record Inc’s A-Team. Sharp stabs of synths and thunderous drums provide the backdrop for the vocals. They’re best described as house meets the Human League. The result is a glorious slice of dramatic, anthemic music. 

As 1987 dawned, house music had become a musical phenomenon. The record buying public’s appetite for house hadn’t diminished. Far from it. Instead it was growing. What had started underground, was becoming a mainstream musical scene. Suddenly big record companies wanted a slice of the action. What they didn’t have were people on the ground who knew the scene inside out. If they did, they’d have been able to sign artists like White Knight, Ben Hays and Hex Complex, who released singles during 1987. This was one of Sunset Record Inc’s best years. They’d matured as a label and so had their artists. 

White Knight released two tracks during 1987, Yo Baby Yo and White Knight Jacks. The latter us a track that’s dramatic, sensual and leaves a smile on your face. That’s thanks to the sultry, sinister and cartoon vocals. A track made for jacking, it’s one of the highlights of Jerome Derradji Presents: Kill Yourself Dancing – The Story Of Sunset Records Inc. Chicago 1985-89. White Knight Jacks is just one of a quartet of tracks from White Knight. Acid Dub, It Could Be Acid and Demons which was released in 1988, await the discerning connoisseur of house music. So do the many more highlights of Jerome Derradji Presents: Kill Yourself Dancing – The Story Of Sunset Records Inc. Chicago 1985-89.

Jerome Derradji has dug deep into the Sunset Records Inc’s vaults in pursuit of quality house music. He doesn’t let the listener down. Far from it. Other tracks on Jerome Derradji Presents: Kill Yourself Dancing – The Story Of Sunset Records Inc. Chicago 1985-89 worth mentioning include Razz’s Razz-Matazz. It’s a pulsating fusion of electro, new wave and house. Modern Mechanical Music contribute the hypnotic Doo Doo Da and Persia, which is all squeaks and beeps. Then there’s Hex Complexx’s  The Dash Riprock Mix of the I Want You Suite. Featuring a jazz trumpet, stabs of synths, handclaps and spoken word samples it’s an intriguing track, but one that’s worms its way into your consciousness. Another way to describe the track is timeless, which describes many of the tracks on Jerome Derradji Presents: Kill Yourself Dancing – The Story Of Sunset Records Inc. Chicago 1985-89, which will be released by Still Music on 19th August 2013. This is the first in a two-volume series with Jerome Derradji Presents: Bang The Box! The (Lost) Story Of AKA Dance Music. Chicago 1987-88 due for release in September 2013.

Unlike many of the house compilations I come across, the music on Jerome Derradji Presents: Kill Yourself Dancing – The Story Of Sunset Records Inc. Chicago 1985-89 has stood the test of time. The reason for that is that it was music that was innovative. It’s music that pushed boundaries and challenged norms. Having watched the birth of house music from the sidelines, Matt Warren, Miguel Garcia and Ralphi Rosario had watched with interest. They were producers in waiting, who had watched and learnt. Learnt from the experiences and failures of others. By 1985, they’d waited long enough. Realising they could do if not as well, if not even better, they approached Alex and Robert Rojo. Joining forces with two legends of Chicago’s party and music scene made sense. Through their Sunset Mobile Disco, Alex and Robert Rojo knew their way around Chicago’s music scene.  For the producers in waiting, here was a musical marriage made in heaven.

That proved to be the case. The twenty-one tracks that feature on Jerome Derradji Presents: Kill Yourself Dancing – The Story Of Sunset Records Inc. Chicago 1985-89  are proof of that. Innovative and influential Sunset Records Inc’s artists were determined to push musical boundaries. This was house, but with a twist. Fusing disco, funk, industrial, new wave and post-industrial, Sunset Records Inc. forged their own unique and inimitable sound that was different from other labels.

Although Sunset Records Inc. were one of the smaller labels in Chicago, they punched above their weight. That’s no surprise. The cream always rises to the top. Sunset Records Inc’s artists were some of the most talented, innovative and influential producers in the first wave of Chicago house. Listen to the music on Jerome Derradji Presents: Kill Yourself Dancing – The Story Of Sunset Records Inc. Chicago 1985-89 and you’ll soon realize that. Here is music that has a contemporary sound. Not only has it stood the vagaries of time, but changes in musical fashions. Over twenty-five years later, the music on Jerome Derradji Presents: Kill Yourself Dancing – The Story Of Sunset Records Inc. Chicago 1985-89 still sounds innovative, imaginative and influential.

Jerome Derradji Presents: Kill Yourself Dancing – The Story Of Sunset Records Inc. Chicago 1985-89.

 

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