JEROME DERRADJ PRESENTS: BANG THE BOX! THE (LOST) STORY OF AKA DANCE MUSIC, CHICAGO 1987-88.

Jerome Derradji Presents: Bang The Box! The (Lost) Story Of AKA Dance Music, Chicago 1987-88.

Having cofounded Sunset Records in Chicago, in 1985, Matt Warren spent the next two years transforming the label into one of Chicago house’s most progressive and innovative labels. Then in 1987, Matt decided to part company with Sunset Records. A couple of months later, Matt decided to found his own label, AKA Dance Music. 

Founded in 1987, AKA Dance Music, just like Sunset Records, continued to release groundbreaking Chicago house. A favorite of dancers and DJs, sadly, AKA Dance Music didn’t enjoy the longevity of Trax, DJ International or even Sunset Records. It was in business for little over a year. Despite this, the music AKA Dance Music released is fondly remembered by discerning dancers and connoisseurs of Chicago music. That’s why Still Music’s latest compilation Jerome Derradji Presents: Bang The Box! The (Lost) Story Of AKA Dance Music, Chicago 1987-88 is one of the most hotly anticipated compilations of 2013. 

Released on 14th October 2013, Jerome Derradji Presents: Bang The Box! The (Lost) Story Of AKA Dance Music is the followup to Still Music’s Jerome Derradji Presents: Kill Yourself Dancing-The Story Of Sunset Records Inc. Chicago 1985-89. Just like its predecessor, Jerome Derradji Presents: Bang The Box! The (Lost) Story Of AKA Dance Music, it’s a double-album featuring not just classics, but a disc of previously unreleased tracks. Twenty-six tracks are spread over the two discs. This includes contributions from Michaelangelo, Nexus 6, Team, BnC, Michael Griffin, Modern Mechanical Music and Matt Warren. Included are a variety of mixes, including many that have never been released before. For veterans of Chicago house, Jerome Derradji Presents: Bang The Box! The (Lost) Story Of AKA Dance Music is the perfect companion to Jerome Derradji Presents: Kill Yourself Dancing-The Story Of Sunset Records Inc. Chicago 1985-89. I’ll now tell you why. Before that, I’ll tell you about the background to Chicago house.

House music was born in Chicago out of necessity. Disco had died a slow lingering death. After the vitriolic Disco Sucks campaign succeeded in killing disco. It had provided the musical backdrop to the second half of the seventies. Ironically, disco went from hero to zero in the space of a year. Suddenly, disco sucked. Disco’s downfall started on Christmas Eve 1978, That’s when Steve Dahl was fired by Chicago radio station WDAI. It had previously been a rock station, but switched to disco. Steve wasn’t out of work long. He was hired by WLUP, a rival station. WLUP played rock, which suited Steve Dahl. He’d an inkling that disco wasn’t long for this world. 

Steve wasn’t a fan of disco, and took to mocking disco on-air. Openly, he mocked WDAI’s “disco DAI.” It became “disco die” to to Steve. Soon, Steve had created the Insane Coho Lips, his very own anti-disco army. Along with co-host Gary Meier, they coined the now infamous slogan “Disco Sucks.” The backlash had begun.

From there, the Disco Sucks movement gathered momentum. Events were held all over America. This came to a head at Disco Demolition Derby, which was Steve Dahl’s latest anti-disco event. Each one was becoming bigger, rowdier and attracting even more publicity. Disco Demolition Derby, which was held at Comiskey Park, Chicago on 12th July 1979 surpassed everything that went before. WFUL were sponsoring a Chicago White Sox game at Comiskey Park. if fans brought with them a disco record, they’d get in for ninety-eight cents. These records would be blown up by Steve Dahl. An estimated crowd between 20-50,000 people attended. Quickly the event descended into chaos. Vinyl was thrown from the stands like frisbees. Then when Steve blew up the vinyl, fans stormed the pitch and rioted. Things got so bad, that the riot police were called. After the Disco Demolition Derby, disco nearly died.

Following Disco Derby Night, disco’s popularity plunged. Disco artists were dropped from labels, disco labels folded and no further disco albums were released. Disco was on the critical list, and suffered a near death experience. It took a long time to recover. After disco’s demise, dance music changed. 

No longer were record labels willing to throw money at dance music. Budgets were suddenly much smaller. Gone were the lavish productions of the disco orchestras of the seventies. This is epitomized by The Salsoul Orchestra and John Davis and The Monster Orchestra. Strings and horns were now a luxury. Music would have to go back to basics. Replacing them would be sequencers, synths and drum machines, which during the last couple of years, had become much cheaper. Previously, they were only found in studios or were used by wealthy and famous musicians. Now they were within the budget of many musicians. This would prove crucial in the rise and rise of house music, one of the musical genre that replaced disco as the favored choice of music for discerning dancers and DJs.

For DJs all over America, disco’s demise was proving problematic. What were they going to play? If they even dared to drop a disco track, they were risking clearing the dance-floor. While DJs wrestled with this problem, a group of Chicago DJs decided to think laterally. They came up with an eclectic and inventive selection of tracks. Rather than playing just boogie, which was replacing disco as the choice of discerning dancers, DJs like Frankie Knuckles, Ron Hardy, Tee Scott and Marshall Jefferson cast their musical net wider. 

Rule nothing out seemed to be their approach. So, a typical DJ set during the early eighties, saw Italo Disco tracks sit side-by-side with hip hop, electro funk, synth pop, funk punk and vintage disco. Then there was boogie and the classic European electronica of Kraftwerk, Yello, Telex and Yellow Magic Orchestra. This eclectic musical tapestry won over Chicago’s clubbers. This included one of Chi-Town’s top DJs…Frankie Knuckles.

Before his arrival in the Windy City, Frankie Knuckles, had previously DJ-ed at Better Days in New York. When it became insolvent, Frankie, without a residency, travelled to Chicago. He was booked to play at the opening night at The Warehouse. That was Frankie’s introduction to Chicago’s club culture.

After The Warehouse’s opening night, Frankie was asked to stay on and become resident DJ. At the start, Frankie attendances were poor. He persisted, gradually, winning over The Warehouse’s discerning dancers. His style is best described as a fusion of his slick New York style with the more eclectic “Chicago sound.” So successful was Frankie, that he founded The Power Plant in 1982. It became the place to go in Chicago. Frankie’s marriage of The Chicago and New York Sounds had dancers hooked. His eclectic fusion of musical genres and influences wan’t just successful, but was influential. 

The Chicago Sound could be heard on radio shows like Hot Mix 5’s, WBMX and Kent’s Punk Out. With Frankie fusing everything from boogie, Italo Disco, synth pop, hip hop, electro funk, funk punk and vintage disco he quickly established a loyal following. This just happened to included a new generation of DJs. They went on to become the first wave of Chicago House producers.

Chicago’s new generation of DJs included Jesse Saunders, Farley Jackmaster Funk, Ralph Rosario and Steve “Silk” Hurley.” Their musical tastes were equally eclectic and their approach to DJ-ing progressive. An example of this is Jesse Saunders and Farley Jackmaster Funk using a drum machine to add a 4/4 beat over other records. This would prove to be one of the tell-tell sounds of house music. It would prove successful, but problematic.

When DJs added a 4/4 beat over other records, dancers were instantly won over by this new type of music. There was a real problem with that. The music was all improvised, not recorded. Once it was played, it was gone. Dancers couldn’t go out and buy a copy of the music. This frustrated dancers. Soon, DJs realized they could recreate the music. Then dancers and other DJs could play their music. Inadvertently, for this new breed of DJs, this was the start of successful production careers. This was only possible because of the affordability of new technology.

Back in the seventies, synths were way beyond the pocket of the ordinary musician. They either belonged in recording studios or were within the budget of successful musicians. Pioneered in the early seventies, artists as diverse as Stevie Wonder and Kraftwerk popularised synths. Gradually, they found their way into more studios and onto more records. As the seventies became the eighties, synths, just like drum machines and sequencers were much cheaper. Now anyone wanting to make their own music could do so, if they could afford synths, sequencers and drum machines.

Suddenly, a new wave of producers were able to make their own dance music. They didn’t even need access to a recording studio. Spare rooms and basements became makeshift studios. To do this, the Roland Corporation supplied the necessary equipment. Many of the early house releases featured the same sound. This meant a Roland TR-808 drum machine and Roland TB-303 bass synth. Other musical weapons of choice for the nascent house producer was the Korg Poly-61 synth. Add to this either a vocal, or samples “borrowed” from classic funk, soul or disco tracks. The result was, early Chicago house music. With all this new music being produced, new labels were springing up. In 1983, Chicago house’s biggest label Trax Records was born.

Born in 1983, Trax released its first singles in 1984. Gradually, it became a huge force in Chicago house. They signed many of the best up-and-coming producers and released some of the most important music in the history of Chicago house. For a new breed of producers standing on the sidelines, this inspired them. They realized what was possible. Among them were 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 quintet of Alex and Robert Rojo plus Matt Warren, Miguel Garcia and Ralphi Rosario 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. Two biggest record companies were Traxx and DJ International, went on to dominate house music. They signed 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. Playing an important part in Sunset Records Inc’s success was Matt Warren.

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 label’s raison d’etre was to innovate and create groundbreaking, genre-melting music. To do this, Sunset Records’ roster included Boom Boom & Master Plan, Modern Mechanical Music, Razz, Master Plan, White Knight, Ben Mays and Kajsa. Another of Sunset Records’ most successful artists was Matt Warren. Not only was he co-founder of the label, but on the roster. He was an important part in Sunset Records’ success story…until 1987.

By 1987, Matt Warren decided to leave Sunset Records. After a break lasting a couple of months, Matt wanted back into the music industry. He decided the best way to do that, was by forming his own label, AKA Dance Music. 

Just like Sunset Records, AKA Dance Music had its own sound. It’s best described as a fusion of disco, new wave, Acid House, Chicago house, industrial and postindustrial music. This pot pourri of musical genres and influences featured on each of AKA Dance Music’s releases. In total, AKA Dance Music released just seven singles between 1987 and 1988. Each of these seven Jerome Derradji Presents: Bang The Box! The (Lost) Story Of AKA Dance Music, Chicago 1987-88. There’s also B-Sides, alternate mixes and previously unreleased mixes. Best described as everything you wanted to know about AKA Dance Music but were afraid to ask, Jerome Derradji Presents: Bang The Box! The (Lost) Story Of AKA Dance Music, Chicago 1987-88 brings together every piece of music Matt Warren’s short-lived, but fondly remembered AKA Dance Music released. You’ll realize that when I tell you about Jerome Derradji Presents: Bang The Box! The (Lost) Story Of AKA Dance Music, Chicago 1987-88.

Disc One.

AKA Music’s first release was Matt Warren’s Bang The Box with the serial number AKA 1. Recorded at Trax Records’ studios, Matt wrote, mixed and produced the track. On Disc One of Jerome Derradji Presents: Bang The Box! The (Lost) Story Of AKA Dance Music, Chicago 1987-88 there’s two version of Bang The Box. There’s the Bang The House Mix which featured on the original single and there’s the Original 1994 Remix. Like so many things, the original version of this groundbreaking track is the best, with the Original 1994 Re-Mix bringing something new to the track that launched a label.

Close Your Eyes by Michael Griffin featuring George Karchmer and Khrissie Henderson, was the second release from AKA Dance Music. Written by Michael Griffin and Jerry Soto, who produced the track with Matt Warren, the track was recorded at Trax Recording Studio. Of the three versions of Close Your Eyes on AKA 2, the Club Mix features on Disc One, while the Matt-N-Steve House Mix features on Disc Two. Both versions let you hear different sides of a track where elements of disco, new wave, electronica and Chicago house are combined to create a track that’s way ahead of its time.

BnC released House Ain’t Givin’ Up in 1987. Written by Bernie Colvin and produced by Dean Anderson and BnC, the track featured the vocal prowess of Jack N. House and BnC. The original single featured four different versions. Dean’s Mix and the Jackin’ Mix featured on the A-Side. Rather than choosing Dean’s Mix, Jerome Derradji has chosen the Jackin’ Mix. For me, it epitomizes everything that’s good about the early days of Chicago house.

Take It To The Wall was Mat Warren’s sophomore single on AKA Dance Music. Written by Matt, he co-produced the track with Nick Huminsky a.k.a. the White Knight. Unlike the three previous singles, Trax Recording Studio wasn’t used. Instead, Off World Studios were used. Three versions of Take It To The Wall were recorded. The version to feature on Jerome Derradji Presents: Bang The Box! The (Lost) Story Of AKA Dance Music, Chicago 1987-88 is Matt’s Mix, which featured on the B-Side. It’s something of a hidden gem that Jerrome has rediscovered and decided to share. 

AKA Dance Music’s last release of 1987 was Pleasure Dome from the dream team of Modern Mechanical Music featuring Matt, Nick, Michaelangelo. Written by Matt Warren and Nick Huminsky, who produced the track at Off World Studios, it’s a paean to hedonism. Of the four mixes on the single, the House Mix and Instrumental version feature.The House Mix is the best of the two. With electronica, new wave and house combining, cutting-edge and sleazy is the best way to describe this particular Pleasure Dome.

As 1988 dawned, AKA Dance Music would only release two more singles. Team’s The Music’s Got Me was the first release of 1988. Written, arranged and produced by La-Dell Jones and Milton Patterson, featuring vocals from Pimp, recording took place at Star Trax Recording. Four versions were recorded, with the Club Mix and Dub Mix featuring on Disc One. Of the two versions, the Club Mix is one of the compilation’s highlights. Sultry, hypnotic, soulful and funky, AKA Music were hitting their stride releasing some of the best house music around. Sadly, this wasn’t going to last.

It’s almost fitting that Nexus 6’s anthemic Take Me Higher was the last track AKA Dance Music’s released. Written and produced by Jaime Bonet and Matto Christy, a.k.a. Nexus 6, four versions of Take Me Higher were recorded at Off World Studio. Two versions are included on the compilation, the Club Mix and The Ultimate Acid Mix. Choosing which is your favorite is like choosing between your children. Both versions of this anthemic track are potent reminders of the heady days of Acid House. Take Me Higher is also a reminder of AKA Dance Music, an innovative label, who punched above their weight releasing some of the best Chicago house released during the late eighties. 

Disc Two.

The other fourteen tracks on Jerome Derradji Presents: Bang The Box! The (Lost) Story Of AKA Dance Music, Chicago 1987-88 have never been released before. This includes eight tracks from Matt Warren and Michaelangelo. Why these tracks have never seen the light of day before seems strange? After all, there’s nothing wrong with the quality of music. Far from it. This is Chicago house at its best. You’ll realize that, when I tell you about these hidden gems.

Matt Warren and Michaelangelo had collaborated before at Sunset Records. So it’s no surprise they joined forces at AKA Dance Music. The eight unreleased tracks include five tracks. There’s three versions of Exotic, the Vocal, Dub and House It Up Dub versions. Of this trio, unsurprisingly the Vocal version on Disc One is the best version of this sassy, feisty slice of old school Acid House. 

Other collaborations between Matt Warren and Michaleangelo include the driving, synth lead Rock It, a progressive track which epitomizes Chicago house during the late seventies. Don’t Bring Back Memories sounds like a track from the early nineties. Again, AKA Dance Music were ahead of the musical curve. Best described as soulful, anthemic and occasionally dubby and lysergic, it’s another example of the label’s progressive nature. Apart from these tracks, there’s the Short Version of Let It Flow, a thunderous track built for jacking. Then there’s Remember The Last with its sci-fi sound, thanks to a myriad of beeps, squeaks and synths. Mattmattmatt Warren and Michaleangelo final contribution is Dusty House, a track that instantly, transports you back to Chicago circa 1987, 1988.

That’s not the last we’ve heard from Michaleangelo. Six of his unreleased tracks feature on Disc Two of Jerome Derradji Presents: Bang The Box! The (Lost) Story Of AKA Dance Music. Jackin’ does what it says on the tin, and is a track to jack to. Disco House is another track to jack to. It’s a much more sophisticated track, fusing classic disco and Chicago house to create what’s the highlight of Disc Two. Pick It Up explodes into life and is propelled along by synths and crunchy drums. With its old school sound, it’s the perfect track to relive your misspent youth.

Shake It features Pepper Gomez adding what can only be described as a sultry and sensuous vocal tour de force. Synths, percussion and drums provide an old school backdrop where seventies electronica, new wave and Acid House unite. Add to this the sassy, and extremely sensual sound of Pepper Gomez’s vocal prove and the result is a potent and pleasing combination where the truly talented house diva plays a starring role.

Lost In The World is the final track from Disc Two of Jerome Derradji Presents: Bang The Box! The (Lost) Story Of AKA Dance Music, Chicago 1987-88. It has a wistful, dreamy sound. Seventies electronica, specifically Kraftwerk combines with Chicago house to create a track where two decades and musical genres unite.

Jerome Derradji Presents: Bang The Box! The (Lost) Story Of AKA Dance Music, Chicago 1987-88 is the perfect companion to Jerome Derradji Presents: Kill Yourself Dancing – The Story Of Sunset Records Inc. Chicago 1985-89. Just like that compilation, it features progressive, innovative music which is way ahead of the musical curve. That’s why the music is timeless. Twenty-five years later, and the twenty-six tracks on Jerome Derradji Presents: Bang The Box! The (Lost) Story Of AKA Dance Music, Chicago 1987-88 have stood the test of time and the constant changes in musical fashions. That’s no surprise.

After all, Jerome Derradji Presents: Bang The Box! The (Lost) Story Of AKA Dance Music, Chicago 1987-88 was innovative. It’s music that pushed boundaries and challenged norms. Having watched the birth of house music from the sidelines, then at Sunset Records, Matt Warren, headed out on his own. He’d watched and learnt, learnt from the experiences and failures of others. By 1987, he’d waited long enough. He left Sunset and after a few months rest, founded AKA Dance Music. His timing was perfect. Chicago house was King. Better still, Matt had established a reputation as a talented and inventive writer, arranger, mixer and producer. For just over a year, he was also the owner of a progressive and innovative label, who released some of the best Chicago house music of the late eighties. 

Proof of that are twenty-six tracks that feature on Jerome Derradji Presents: Bang The Box! The (Lost) Story Of AKA Dance Music, Chicago 1987-88. Innovative, progressive, inventive, imaginative and pushing musical boundaries describes what AKA Dance Music were doing. If Trax Records had been releasing the music AKA Dance Music released, they’d have been hailed as geniuses. Instead, AKA Dance Music, who punched well above their weight for a year, failed to get their music heard by a much wider audience. This meant that AKA Dance Music remains one of Chicago’s best kept musical secrets, who were only in business for just over year. At least they leave behind a rich musical heritage.

Each of the seven singles released by AKA Dance Music features on Jerome Derradji Presents: Bang The Box! The (Lost) Story Of AKA Dance Music, Chicago 1987-88, which will be released on 15th October 2013 by Still Music. As of that’s not enough, there’s fourteen previously unreleased tracks. This includes hidden gems from Matt Warren & Michaelangelo and Matt Warren himself. The twenty-six tracks on Jerome Derradji Presents: Bang The Box! The (Lost) Story Of AKA Dance Music, Chicago 1987-88, are a reminder of one of Chicago house best kept secrets. 

No wonder. Innovative and influential describes the music released by AKA Dance Music. They were always determined to push musical boundaries. It was Chicago house, but with a twist. Disco, funk, industrial, new wave and postindustrial, was thrown into AKA Dance Music’s musical melting pot as they forged their own unique sound. It was inimitable, totally different from AKA Dance Music’s competitors and peers. That’s why despite being one of Chicago’s smaller labels, AKA Dance Music punched above its weight and influenced another generation of producers. 

Although AKA Dance Music was one of the smaller labels in Chicago, they punched above their weight. They continued to attract talented producers and artists. That’s no surprise. Matt Warren had established a reputation as a producer and artist with a big future. Other artists felt that by some of his talent would rub off. It did. Just listen to the seven singles AKA Dance Music released. They ooze quality. That’s why dancers and DJs hungrily sought out each of AKA Dance Music’s release. Who can blame them, given the quality of this groundbreaking, timeless music.

A quarter of a century after AKA Dance Music closed its doors for the last time, discerning dancers and connoisseurs of Chicago house music still remember AKA Dance Music fondly. They cherish the label’s seven releases, which are prized possessions among record collectors. Now, these discerning dancers and connoisseurs of Chicago house can relive their youth with Jerome Derradji Presents: Bang The Box! The (Lost) Story Of AKA Dance Music, Chicago 1987-88. Featuring twenty-six tracks spread over two discs, old favorites and hidden gems sits side by side on this double album. Each of these tracks have one thing in common. They’re innovative, influential and groundbreaking examples of Chicago house from one of Chicago house’s most underrated labels, AKA Dance Music. 

For just over a year, AKA Dance Music rose to the top of Chicago house, with their inimitable brand of Chicago house. The reason for this is simple. AKA Dance Music’s artists and producers were some of the most talented, innovative and influential producers in the first wave of Chicago house. AKA Dance Music may have been short-lived, but punched well above its weight and left a lasting impression on discerning dancers and connoisseurs of Chicago house music. One listen to the innovative, groundbreaking and timeless music on Jerome Derradji Presents: Bang The Box! The (Lost) Story Of AKA Dance Music, Chicago 1987-88 and you’ll realize why. Standout Tracks: Matt Warren Take It To The Wall, Team’s The Music’s Got Me, Michaelangelo Jackin’ and Matt Warren and Michaleangelo Rock It.

Jerome Derradji Presents: Bang The Box! The (Lost) Story Of AKA Dance Music, Chicago 1987-88.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: