Traxsource’s #1 Jacking House Producer of 2015, Demuir has been blazing a trail of music in the last few years at breakneck speed, as if to make up for lost time. A Trinidadian born and raised in Toronto, he’s been on our 5 Mag to-interview list for a long time, and I’m glad we finally got around to doing it. Intelligent and soft-spoken, Demuir doesn’t mince words with his thoughts on music, the new generation of producers and the labels we put on the gray areas that meld the genres.
You seem to have gotten into my personal radar around sometime two years ago, but I gotta tell you what really attracted me to your music was your “Derrick Does Disco (Stanza 1).” That is literally my song of the year! I play it at every set and I’m telling you it works overtime! Whether I play it in the southside at an old school party or on the northside, it works everytime!
Thank you! Cassy has been a big supporter of the track and included it in her Mixmag CD. So how the whole “Derrick Does Disco” EP came about? Uncle Milty gave me an opportunity to come out to Chicago, just hang out and do a couple of gigs. So my first night there I went to see Derrick Carter at Smartbar, I’d never met him before. Derrick randomly hit me up on Twitter before, because I think between Derrick, Mark (Farina) and Sneak, they all kinda trade tracks…And he said, “I don’t know how I got your songs but they’re good.”
So when I got to Smartbar I was in the booth with him all night long. Oh my God it was shot after shot after shot!
Was he giving you Jameson?
Yeah! It was that night in September, that’s why when you look at that picture of me and him on the cover of the EP, that was from that “Derrick Does Disco” party. I walked away from that evening so inspired that I went record digging the next day at Dave’s Records and found all of the samples. The First Stanza is from the record “Sister Power,” I’m pretty sure the girls on the album cover are queens. The Third Stanza came from Ashford & Simpson and the reason that is so special was because Derrick played a few of their songs.
So I walked out of that whole evening like… wow! I also wrote another track that came out on King Street called “Pork and Mustard at Little Jim’s,” and that was from the same night. Milty took me to that Polish Sausage place on Maxwell Street.
I was so riding on that high that when I came home that Sunday afternoon, I got those tracks done within two or three days.
And you were able to connect with some of your Chicago people?
I made a lot of good connections. One of my first releases when I was just starting to come up in the game was with BlueTown Records, owned by Jeff Broderick and I met him there for the first time. I also met Kid Enigma and we’ve done a few songs since. So I’ve got nothing but love for Chicago.
I see in your YouTube videos that you play the keyboards… tell me about some of the other instruments that you play.
I play keys, bass, drums and a whole slew of Latin percussive instruments. My dad is classically trained in guitar and my grandfather was one of the first piano makers in Trinidad. And my other grandfather (on my mom’s side) played five instruments. I’m not trained, though, I play by ear.
We have people literally buying their own songs just to get some sort of chart placement and I really find that displeasing.
I know your background was originally making Hip-Hop as well as Samba. How long exactly have you been making music?
Sneak had reached out to me and asked me, “Yo weren’t you putting out records in the late 1990s?” And I was like “yeah.” I had stuff on Stickman Records, Aquarius Records. Then everything just stopped in 2001. I had a number of significant life events happen, the biggest one being that I was going through a divorce at the time. And then the whole market flipped with iTunes, as you know. It used to be a sweet deal – you press up 2000 records, and being in Canada with our exchange rates at the time, all you had to do was sell those and you were golden. The market was nowhere near as saturated as it is now.
I had to step back and rethink this stuff. I basically took eight years off from music. It was such a strange thing. I decided in 2010 to get back into it. When I did, Doc Link remixed a track (“Bitchin’ Out”) from me and it just kind of took off from there. I think that Doc Link remix came out around 2012 or 2013. I had people all over the world hitting me up saying Sneak, Farina and Derrick were playing my stuff.
And you won Traxsource’s best Jacking House Producer in 2015? How do they determine that?
Yeah from what I understood it was a mix of sales and also the artistry component which I guess is subjective. I think they’re looking for people that really represented the music and that they can hold a poster up to and say, “Yeah you repped this category well.” It’s such a huge honor and those are great principles to live by because being in a digital world, we have people literally buying their own songs just to get some sort of chart placement and I really find that displeasing. I mean, there’s people like myself working really hard, and there’s someone with some distributor out there buying up his own tracks to give him better placement on the charts, I think it’s a real shame. Can you imagine buying like 20 copies of your own songs so it hits the Top 10 so there’s the perception that your song is better than the other songs in that field? You should let the buyers choose. And it’s not the fault of Traxsource or Beatport, you can’t police the buyers.
Now I do want to ask you what you think about the whole idea of the Jacking House movement and some of the stigma that has recently accompanied it. When do you think its height was? It was at one point the big thing and then I feel like the whole UK Garage/Disclosure and “Deep” sound (however you’d like to interpret that) became big and all of a sudden a lot of the Jacking House guys switched over and started making Deep House. And it was almost as if they were ashamed to be associated with the Jacking House sound.
I’m so glad you asked that question because I really want people to understand what’s on my mind. I think what people call Jacking House today is definitely not Jacking House. And I think what a lot of people call Deep House is definitely not fucking Deep House, either! It’s people moving around trying to make a point of distinction that allows them to stand out. And I think it’s really too bad because you should just make really good music.
Jacking House, the boompty bumping stuff that Mark Farina, Derrick Carter, Sneak and Stacy Kidd made (to me those guys are the forefathers) – that’s the foundation, that’s what Jacking is. I heard that shit in the ’90s. I wasn’t even producing Jacking too hard in the ’90s, I was doing more what you’d call Filter House. But that intelligent snare game, those raw samples with a consciousness of Hip-Hop elements – that’s what Chicago Jacking House is. And what some of these guys are putting out today isn’t it.
What it sounds like to me today is it’s a loop with no intelligent snares. If you listen to Derrick’s records, it’s got that swing. I’ll go as far as say that something happened around 2008.
Some of the Deep House I hear nowadays is nowhere near inspiring! It’s completely gone away from the roots of Detroit Techno where I would say was one of the first places that had a soulfulness to it.
Sneak and I were having this conversation about Electro. Remember that shit? We talked about how a lot of Jacking and Disco House producers kinda jumped ship and then said, “I produce Electro.” There was a lot of that. And it’s the same argument with Deep House. You’re Jacking House one day and now you’re Deep House and I hit you up and I talk to you about your earlier Jacking releases and you don’t want to be associated with it and I just think that’s really sad. Because as an artist you should be proud of everything that you put out. Or at least acknowledge that that’s what made you who you are today.
When I think of Deep House, I think of the “Whistle Song,” I think of old Warehouse – deep, slowed down songs. Then you have Afro Deep House, which has more African percussive elements in it like what Black Coffee and Nick Holder would play.
And some of the Deep House I hear nowadays is nowhere near inspiring! It’s completely gone away from the roots of Detroit Techno which I would say was probably one of the first places that had a soulfulness to it. And all of that is missing, man. That’s the irony about some of the things about this generation today. I’m not trying to alienate myself but it’s funny how they’ll only look back at maybe the last five years, and don’t really look back at what is truly the history here.
If I were to be really interested as a listener, let’s take it back to when I first heard Detroit Techno, or when I first heard the early recordings of Ron Hardy. I’m coming in with all of that experience. Today, despite the internet and all of the available information that is out there, people’s attention spans are much shorter.
There was a time when the aim of all producers was to make music and thus get more gigs. But now with the over influx of music, there’s no room to book so many producer/DJs. I’m glad to see that your production success is translating to more gigs.
It’s funny, I was watching this interview with Bono from U2, and he said, “Making music is the easiest part. What’s hard is all the other shit you gotta do to stay on top and get gigs.” And he’s absolutely right! Making the music is the easiest part – anybody can buy a laptop, make a track, throw it up on Soundcloud, put it out, get a little distribution and put it out there. Fine. In today’s day and age the music is just the invitation to the party, it doesn’t necessarily guarantee you’re going to get all of these promoters clamoring at you for gigs. The market is what it is and there’s only so many spots available. So you’ve got to have a really solid plan in addition to the music. And I’m happy to say that it’s kind of paying off for me now and it wasn’t an overnight thing for me whatsoever.
Lastly I’d like to pick your brain for some production tips and advice. We have a lot of up and coming producers that read the magazine that would love to know what you have to say.
My first thing would be to always have an open mind to learning new things and listening to different music. Never get greater than yourself. I think that’s the number one thing that kills a lot of artists. Don’t pigeonhole yourself.
In terms of getting technical with it, I’d say my number one thing in terms of sourcing sounds is to get unique sounds. That’s why I love record digging. You will tap into sounds that are nowhere near any iTunes library, you won’t find those records anywhere. So to go into a record shop like Gramaphone or Dave’s Records in Chicago, Cosmo’s Records out here in Toronto, and you’re exposed to a whole range of music that you’ve never ever heard before. Artist names you’ve never known. And especially if they’re really great artists. Like Eddie Harris is a jazz musician from Chicago. I’ve learned a lot about him and sampled him a lot. I’ve got him in “Ode to Chicago” 1 and 2. And it’s only when I did the research on him that I found out he not only had a massive commercial catalogue, but he had a lot of independent records that are still in Chicago that people should go and try and find. I initially found out about him through Hip-Hop, I think A Tribe Called Quest had sampled him. And from there I started reading about him.
You’ve got to come up with some uniqueness and I think that record digging is one of the biggest ways to do it, and that’s the distinction between me and a lot of those cats out there. They just want to just jump on a keyboard, play a little 4 note bassline, throw some played out tired beat over it, call it Deep House and say, “Yeah this is the shit.” Don’t give me this watered down, wack bassline with a little bit of distortion in it, repeat it for 64 bars without change. That has no soulfulness in it.
The third thing I would say is passion. To really put passion and work behind what you do.
Demuir’s album TruSkool is out on Sneak’s label Magnetic Recordings on October 7th.
Support! This was originally published in 5 Magazine Issue 137 featuring Demuir, Igor Jadranin, Apollo Music Group with DJ Heather, Lil’Mark and Dan X, a DJ’s guide to music streaming and more. Support Real House Music and become a member of 5 Magazine for First & Full access to everything House Music for just $1 an issue!