“I want all the wild, crazy, freaky, sexy, nerdy people there; all together having the times of there lives! That’s my goal each and every time I’m on the stage.”
Interview by Arnold van der Walt
Any self-respecting house fan would instantly recognise the name Gene Farris. Considered a bona fide Chicago legend, Gene has been pushing musical boundaries for close to three decades. Initially starting as a resident DJ across his city at venues such as The Power House, Boom Boom Room and as well as Amsterdam’s Jimmy Woo, he has evolved into an electronic music powerhouse with releases on iconic labels like Relief, Dirtybird, ViVa Music and Defected alongside some of the most esteemed collaborators like Green Velvet, Erick Morillo, Harry Romero, and Sonny Fodera just to name a few.
Apart from taking over clubs across the world with his dynamic house sets, he founded his own label in 1998 called Farris Wheel. Proving that after 20 years, Gene Farris still manages to be innovative in an ever-changing industry
Next month, Gene Farris will be releasing a track with GAWP on Idris Elba’s formidable label, 7Wallace.
We sat down with Gene Farris and spoke about the 20th anniversary of his label Farris Wheel, how the scene has changed over the years, and the industry’s lack of kick drums
Watch the video below to see Gene Farris at The Lab NYC, brought to you by Mixmag:
Before we dive in – set the tone for us. Why the arts? Why music?
I’ve always been drawn to music since I was very young and I started DJing at 10. I also tried the saxophone, guitar, trumpet and piano.
This year marked 20 years of your iconic label Farris Wheel – congrats! What were some of the incisive moments in the past two decades that insured the longevity and success of the label?
I think the move to Amsterdam helped a lot. I grew into a man while I was there for four years. I learned a lot about the business there and how things are done. That and me quitting drinking three years ago were definitely moments that insured longevity.
The music industry has changed a lot over the past twenty years – tell us about something that’s changed that you’re really happy about?
I’m really happy about how small the world has become, and how now you can have friends and business relationships all over the world and actually keep up and in touch with one another. It’s fascinating how many friends I have in Europe and other countries these days compared to 20 years ago.
…and something about the contemporary music industry that bugs you?
No kick drums…
Over the years you’ve also been involved in some really special residencies with your music – can you tell us about one or two that really stood out as special? Why were they great?
One would definitely be Boom Boom Room in Chicago: it was my first residency I had when I moved back from Europe. It was also one of the longest running nights in Chicago at that time. And this night moulded me to be a DJ and be able to read the room very well. It was an honour to play there and share the decks with some of the greatest DJs in the world.
Tell us about the chemistry you have with your fans on stage.
I love my fans, they bring life to me and good energy every time. I dance almost my entire set because I’m feeding off the energy of the crowd. The chemistry is amazing, I’m getting excited just thinking about it now!
How have you refined your craft since you entered the industry?
I’ve definitely evolved over the last two decades, that’s for sure, and my sound is very current. I listened to a set of mine from 20 years ago and one today; there’s very little comparison. I believe that’s from the life experiences I’ve had over the last 20 years.
Was there a specific moment in your life, perhaps when you were growing up, where you thought, “this is what I want to do”?
I was at a party at the Bismark Hotel in Chicago and Lil Louis was playing. About 2000 people were there or more. I was 16-17 years old and everyone was going crazy in a good way! At that moment my life changed and Lil Louis was my hero, at that moment I knew this what I wanted to do.
What do you keep close by while you’re playing a set?
The thing I watch more than anything is the vibe and energy in the room. At my shows, I want a party! I want all the wild, crazy, freaky, sexy, nerdy people there, all together having the times of there lives! That’s my goal each and every time I’m on the stage.
Any emerging/unknown/upcoming artists on your radar that you think the world should know about?
GAWP: he’s my good friend and he’s doing a lot of great stuff right now. Keep a look out for him for sure.
You brought out an awesome new EP recently, ‘Call Back / Juicy’ – how has the response been to the release?
It’s been great actually Danny Howard loves it and features it on his Radio 1 show sometimes. It’s been getting work with Viva and Steve and I can’t wait to get them some new tunes soon.
What’s been one of your major highlights for the past year when it comes to creating music?
2018 was a great year for me learning how to write better songs. I’ve had the pleasure and honour of collaborating with some of the best artists in the industry – Green Velvet, Jamie Jones, Loco Dice, Riva Starr, Erick Morillo, Sonny Fodera… it’s been amazing the support and love from these guys. I can’t wait for what’s to come next.
Breakdown the news for us: what can we expect from you in 2019?
In 2019 you can expect to see some insane fun freaky parties, more good fun party music, and last but not least fresh new music and collaborations with some of the best artists and DJs in the industry.