ANDRE HATCHETT IS my new party buddy. The first time I met him, he spun at my dance show at the HotHouse and blew everyone away. Fast forward three years later, I make it a point to go to his Wednesday night gigs at the Dating Game, and attend practically every party he spins at. He is funny, humble and can outdrink me under the table.
He also happens to be one of Chicago’s most legendary DJs to date. Known to many as the “baby” of the Chosen Few (a well-known and highly respected group of 5 Chicago DJs), he has established himself as a force to be reckoned with. Unlike many well-known DJs, Andre is fiercely loyal to Chicago and never strayed at the first sign of success. His ear for old and new school alike has kept Househeads jacking the floor since the early ’80s. One night over an abundance of long islands and tequila shots at 7-10 Bar & Grille, Andre and I finally hold the interview which we’ve procrastinated on for too long.
Tell me how it all began…
Going back to at least the ’80s… Actually my brother Tony showed me what to do with turntables and a mixer, Wayne [Williams] gave me my debut. That was around ’79/’80 at the Loft on 13th and Michigan. That was when the Chosen Few was playing (Tony Hatchett, Alan King, Jesse Saunders & Wayne Williams.) I just came along at the last minute! I came in, started playing music. Then I did a battle of the DJs… They needed someone to play for the battle, so Wayne let me open up. That was my debut. I remember it like it was yesterday.
This was an afterhours?
It wasn’t even a club, no bar, just a loft. And we would have parties until 6 or 7 o’clock in the morning. All the other DJs were in the battle. So they needed somebody to play that wasn’t in the battle. I opened up for them and it went wonderful.
Then I started doing little opening stuff for the Chosen Few. I got my first gig playing for Ojay (67th St. Loft Parties), believe it or not. Ojay and my cousin lived across the street from each other. So we always hung out when we were kids. So the older we got we started partying together more. We never lost touch.
She gave me my first gig at the Rainbow Motel on 79th and South Shore Drive. She had double rooms and both rooms were crowded and they partied! She paid me $50 for it and I thought I was rich! [laughs] I went on to spin for places like Sauer’s and First Impressions.
Were you 21 when you were playing at some of these clubs?
So your brother was the main one who taught you how to spin?
He showed me how to use the turntables and the mixer and I just took it from there. I was on the tables damn near 24 hours. The only reason I got off is if I was falling asleep.
Did you ever get into making tracks?
Oh yeah, I made a couple of them back in the ’80s. One was called “It’s Track”. I wasn’t into it at the time though. I just did it for fun. I have to have that desire like I do for spinning. I don’t have that desire to be in the studio. It just takes too damn long. I just don’t think I have the patience anymore to be in the studio.
How did you know Ronda Flowers [promoter of Wednesdays @ The Dating Game]?
We used to go to a lot of parties, and then they started hiring me to do parties for them. I knew her from going up to Kenwood when I was passing out pluggers with the Chosen Few. I used to hang out with all the Kenwood crowd.
Why don’t you tell me about Wednesdays at the Dating Game. How long has it been going on?
We’re coming up to a year in August. We struggled in the beginning. We took a gamble on Wednesdays. And then all of a sudden, boom! People started coming in. And then during the holidays, you couldn’t move in that place anymore! You walk in thinking it’s a weekend!
How did the 67th St. Loft Parties came about?
When they (Ojay and Willie Wills) first moved over there over a year ago, I came over… I looked at the living room and said “You know, this reminds me of the dance floor in 206 S. Jefferson” which was The Warehouse. And me and Ojay at one point said “Oh this can be a party house!” So we started doing parties. The first one turned out good so it became a monthly thing. We didn’t know it would turn into this!
What do you enjoy about DJing?
There’s so much I love about it… just what I can create with 2 songs… and I can smoke a joint, and people will say let’s roll! That definitely gets me into the groove.
Can you be drunk and DJ?
Uh-huh. I almost fell on the turntables [laughs]. You can print that! It was a holiday, a long weekend and I was doing all these parties. And I’m standing there, and I’m like “Okay, balance yourself Andre.” And I’m thinking to myself, “You’re going to pass out!” But I kept my self composure, I was good, and on top of that I ordered a cake!
You know some people call you today’s Ron Hardy. Did you know him?
Oh yes, God rest his soul. We were good friends. I’m honored that some people think that. I appreciate that. Ronnie inspired a lot of us DJs here. A lot of us didn’t think about playing “The Love I Lost”, and Ronnie comes out here and does an edit of it and has these people going fucking crazy. He inspired me, Frankie Knuckles and all the other DJs to start doing our own edits. We all really inspired each other.
Now isn’t it typical that when you first break in a song that it clears the floor until the people get used to it?
Now here’s the trick with that: When you get on the tables that’s the first thing you play… get them into the groove of it… put it back on about an hour later. And if it’s that good and you really like it that much bring it back an hour and a half later.
No way, you can’t play a song three times?!
Like hell you can’t! If you want them to like it, yes. I’ve played a song four or five times! If I really like that song, yeah! You have to school them. If the DJ is playing the song that much, then you all better listen. Check out this song, I like this song, I think you all should like it too.
Do you always play the music you like, or is it sometimes about trying to make the crowd happy? Sometimes maybe selling out…
Nope! I’ll never sell out. When you hire me, it’s because you know my talent. So no you cannot hire me and tell me what to play.
But it’s also a fine line whether to please the crowd…
That’s my job! My job is to make you dance and y’all job is to make me dance with you.
So how do you do that? Sometimes you get a crowd that’s really picky.
Then you have to start digging for some tunes and figure out “Okay they don’t like this, maybe they can get with this.”
They might not like the song or they might not like the mix either! Or both! The mix is very important, just as important as the song is. You could have the crowd jumping up and down, and if you mix the next song wrong, they’ll be like “What the fuck’s wrong with you?” In Chicago, they want to hear the mix.
Do you watch the crowd all the time?
Oh yes, I’ve got to watch the crowd. I love all you people! You all make me happy. It’s just really good to see the people out there enjoying themselves because it makes me enjoy myself even more.
I’ve noticed that many Southsiders like to hear a lot of the older stuff, like at The Family Den on Mondays.
The Family Den Monday nights is old school. I spun there on my birthday and I did it all, I played old and new. I said “Hey this is my damn night this is my birthday. I’m playing what I want!” It’s about timing. You bring the new stuff in first, and then you do the old stuff. Because early on people are still coming in.
Then everyone’s drunk, you play the old stuff…
Then I can play some new shit! By that time they’ll dance to anything pretty much! (That’s a joke people)… Ooh college boys college boys…. [We are temporarily distracted by the constant flow of good-looking college boys that keep walking by our outdoor table…]
Where do you go shopping for your music?
Do you even use any vinyl anymore?
Oh yeah, my turntables will never go anywhere. But me transporting records everywhere, those days are over!
So you DJ fulltime and don’t have to do anything else?
Oh always! I made that my heart to do it. I love my job. Back in the day I used to take records out to clubs (I would call it the “whoring”), and just whore your way in and get some money and get to DJ.
Do you ever go out anymore?
No not really. That one night I went to see you dance at Zentra then I went over to Frankie’s party, that was the first time I went out in a long time. When I get the chance to hang out at home, I usually like to go to my mom’s house to play cards and get drunk. Me, my mom, my sisters and my aunt, whenever we get the chance to get together we play cards. We’re a strong family, we’ve all got each other’s backs.
Off the top of your head, some things you hate about being a DJ.
There’s nothing I hate about being a DJ!
Yes there is!
Sorry! I always do that to you! What else?
Well, it was carrying all them damn records, now I don’t have to do that anymore. Also, motherfuckers that come and keep talking to you when you’ve got your headphones on and you are trying to mix. Print that!
In terms of your personal life, when did you come out?
Almost 17, 18. The older and older I got, I’m like “You know what? I’m getting too old and I’m not hiding a goddamn thing. I ain’t holding nothing back.” I’m so glad I’m still appreciated. [2 more college boys pass by and we stare.]
Have you ever had to sleep with anyone to get a DJ gig?
Hell no! They gotta sleep with me! [laughs]
I’m so glad I got to know you this past year, you are a truly awesome individual. Any last words you’d like to say?
You can all kiss my ass!
No, I’m just playing. I want y’all to just keep on dancing. Because as long as you keep on dancing, I’m gonna keep on playing! I love you all!