Chicago Producer and DJ Jordan Fields on Three Decades of House Music and His Dozen Aliases
With a career that was shaped by the early days of breakdancing, boom-boxes, and '80s house, Chicago producer and DJ Jordan Fields has gone through three decades of technological and cultural change in the club scene. Teaching himself to DJ in '83 on cheap record players with no pitch controls, he could only make edits with a well-timed push of the pause button. After hustling his way into getting the necessary tools, he began perfecting his sound, and was DJing clubs by the early '90s. His first big break came in 1991, when he got hired to remix Jungle Crew's "Don't Abuse the House" and shortly after put out his first EP under the alias Thrillseekers. Today, with dozens of releases on multiple labels under his belt, he runs labels HeadphoniQ and the newer disco-centered label LeFreQ. He plays Go Bang! this Saturday at The Stud with DJ Osmose and Go Bang! residents.
As someone who started to DJ in the '80s, what piece of technological equipment changed the DJ game for you the most?
Vinyl records were normal household items in those days. Being a 6th grader with access to record players, what was going to make me a DJ in my mind was getting my hands on a DJ Mixer. I had an older brother who was driving at the time, so he was the one who actually took me to downtown Chicago to get my mixer. I will never forget that experience going there and making a deal on the price. I was going back and forth with the man over how much money I wanted to spend. When people say "born to do it" I have to say this is true, because these sorts of things are not coincidences; I think this was my path from day one.
What's something from the past you wish Chicago dance clubs still had?
I would have to say everything from the original culture of house music. There were so many aspects to house music in the early days that is lost now. Back then, house music was not only a noun but also an adjective; people described themselves as being "House." If someone says, 'I'm House,' you know it's a very old school saying. There were also various styles of fashion! Almost too many that only made sense to us during those moments. I remember being at Six Flags and hearing some guys thinking they were cracking jokes on me because I was wearing something like Tretorn or Original K-Swiss gym shoes on, but the joke was on them, as I was House and they were obviously from somewhere that had no concept why I had those on.
We paid close attention to details. We had lots of fun in those days. The whole culture that existed in those days isn't even on people's minds.
Tell us about your latest label, LeFreQ Records. How did it begin?
LeFreQ Disco is an original filter disco house label out of Chicago. I had the idea to do LeFreQ around 1995, just after my first record performing as Thrillseekers came out. I was very much into disco edits and had been doing lots of heavily disco-flavored grooves, so the name LeFreQ Disco was perfect. It was French-sounding and at the time Chicago and Paris were coexisting in this style of house called filter disco. The name also has a mixture of meanings. It's an homage to the song "LeFreak " produced by Nile Rodgers and the short spelling for frequency, a knob you see on synthesizers that is used to tweak the sound and that connects the dots to the filters.
Who is that girl on all the releases?
That's Bebegirl! The love of my life, my muse, and the one and only real cover girl LeFreQ has ever had. The first images were taken from fashion magazines, but I never felt anything real from those scans; it was just a look I was going for. The label seemed to just come alive once she became the look! I know it can like a predictable thing for a guy to do putting his girlfriend on album covers, but surprisingly I really don't know label owners who have done this; at least not this level of commitment like I have. There is more to this than covers -- actually she is presenter for LeFreQ. People from around the world love her series called Bebegirl's Grooves that's up to five volumes. She's got her own style 100 percent, and is only into what she is into.
What do you think it takes to build a solid label?
You have to set the stage for this by spending a good amount of time and energy [deciding] what your brand and your sound will be. You have to have a vision and be creative and think of your own identity.
As far as the sound, when you do get started, you should release what you are feeling. If your goal is to have a defining label you have to be consistent with your sound. People can tell a poser from a mile away. People are free to do as they please and music is about freedom to be creative and open-minded. It's never good to see artists who have a craft for a certain genre being edged out by fly-by-night bandwagon people who've figured out how to manipulate the system and end up in the deep house section at Beatport when they obviously have no business there. I like to stay positive and happy at all times, but "keep it real" is a good saying people need to follow.
You have quite a few aliases. Which was/is most fun for you and why?
This is a funny topic to me, because I started off using a few aliases and realized it was more important to use my real name. So I stopped for a while, but Risqué De Funk Electrique has to be one of my all time favorite because I came up with this one during the same era I created LeFreQ and lots of people love the music I have released under that name. On the other side of things, DUBraziL has a soft spot with me as I love Brazilian house music and I've produced a great body of work under this name. It's really out of hand with me, because people don't really understand how much music I have created due to the fact I stopped making it a point to spell out that it's me. Another thing that makes it even more beyond crazy is some of these names have spin-off aliases. A project like DUBraziL may have a remix by Pablo Montana and Pascal Cordoba and those are both me!
What direction do you hope to see house music go in the future?
Speaking for myself, I can safely say I am on a path that is going in many different directions at the same time. This fall you will be able to find many different vinyl records on various labels from all over the globe releasing music from every decade I have released material in. I have been working nonstop, and all the fruits of my labor are paying off. I have to thank my partner in crime Bebegirl; she stays on me to keep it moving in the studio!
What's coming up next for you in terms of releases?
It's been a very busy time for me I am happy to report. I have been working with lots of cool new fresh labels from Europe, and there are countless projects on the way! I am also excited to announce we are releasing three new records on our own labels Klapmaster, LeFreQ, and HeadphoniQ!
Lastly, one track we'll definitely be hearing from you on Saturday is...?
My unreleased disco re-edit of Donna Summer's "I Feel Love"!