Isaiah Major is an international man of mystery. DJ Rush as many know him has conquered the world and the music industry one city and one genre at a time. The Chicago native is perhaps best known in the Windy City for his relentless no-holds-barred Disco and track marathon DJ booth workouts at legendary Chicago venues like The Reactor, The Power House and Medusa’s. Internationally he has single-handedly changed the face of the Techno world headlining Europe’s biggest festivals including Nature One, Dance Valley and Love Parade.
Saying Rush’s style is uniquely his own is far more than an understatement: never could the phrase often imitated but never duplicated be more accurate than with The Major. His presence on stage and in the booth brings energy and emotion that is unparalleled and genre defying. Looking for excitement? Look no further –
Welcome the world of Russian Roulette.
A few years ago you moved from Germany to the Netherlands. Why did you decide to move and what change has that brought?
I wouldn’t so much say I moved from Germany to The Netherlands because I still have business in Berlin. But five years ago I felt like I needed a change. It was time to explore more. The people in The Netherlands are more laid-back. I can turn on the TV and see all my American TV shows in English and there’s a variety of music stations. The biggest downfall of being in the Netherlands is the price of living and going out. Everything is so expensive. The weather can be a big problem for some people, but I can deal with the rain since it rains every other day, all day.
In Germany you have so much to do – nice restaurants, museums, bars and clubs. Since I’m in the music business I can find locations to go out and party until the next day.
When it comes to making it in the business, Germany is the place to be. Club locations and promoters are willing to help with open arms (I am speaking for Berlin). Don’t get me wrong – you still have some clubs that will laugh you off, but 98% of them will open their arms and give you a chance.
I go crazy shopping, but I had to slow down some when I packed on the pounds some years ago. The language will kill some people. Television is all in German, no subtitles. You only get news in English – all the American shows and movies are over-dubbed into German.
In Germany, DJing is considered a real job, but the Netherlands it’s not. I enjoy both places, but overall I would continue my journey in Germany.
Here in Chicago you’re still best known for playing Disco and early beat tracks from reel to reel when you DJ. The emotion and excitement of the crowd is just as much if not more than anyone else even Frankie Knuckles and Lil’ Louis. How did you create that type following for yourself here?
As a kid growing up on the Southside, all I wanted was to play music. I’d pretend my bedroom, living room or bathroom was a club, and all of my creativity would be flowing. Playing around with my family’s old records and being exposed to music almost everyday in the house, I got into Disco and Blues.
When I started DJing, I found it hard to get noticed but I never gave up. I continued to do high school parties, project parties and parties at friends’ houses, until one day a friend and I tried to rent out a garage and turn it into a club. When we threw the first party, no one came. When we threw the second party, five people came. The third party, only our friends came. I tried giving demo tapes to all the big hitters in Chicago but no one replied and no one was willing to give me my shot.
I organized one last event and invited some people I met from a Lil’ Louis party; they came and were really surprised. We ended up forming a group named “Gaucho”. One of the members heard of this place called The Reactor so we went down, had a meeting with owner and that’s when it all started – when DJ Rush put his stamp on Chicago.
I was different from all the other top heads, and I came up with some songs that people wouldn’t think of playing, and then the tracks kicked in. I became a household name, playing from 10pm until the late morning hours, sometimes from 10pm-10am.
I always wondered why, when people spoke about Chicago House, no one ever mentioned DJ Rush. When there’s a reunion, no one asks DJ Rush. DJs now that weren’t DJs back then and went to my events – now they do interviews and don’t mention my name. It’s like no one wants to give me credit for doing my part and helping keep Chicago alive. Gaucho and I started a whole new movement in the Disco scene; we kept it fresh. My story was never told. In a short interview I cannot even begin to start telling the whole story.
How did moving from Chicago to Europe in 1996 change your life and your career?
Moving to Europe changed my life in so many ways. I’ve always been different and my music always had this energy that kept pushing higher and higher. I needed to explore more because I felt like some things I wanted to do, I couldn’t do in Chicago anymore. Everyone was out for himself or herself. I couldn’t get booked for the rave scene when that kicked in, and times were getting harder and harder, so I packed my bags after talking with my mother. She said, “Go. And if it doesn’t work out you can always come back.”
The first day I arrived in Berlin, some friends I met when I played at the Love Parade in 1992 picked me up. I dropped my bags off at a friend’s house and went out to a small club. The music I heard – oh my God, I felt chills. I finally found my place.
Being in Germany for 3 days I already made some serious contacts. In less than 3 weeks, I was playing in clubs in Berlin. I decided to contact DJ Hell’s agency and received a call back the next day, which was amazing. And in a few days I had some gigs around Germany.
The years passed and I started my own agency in Berlin with my manager, gathering up some fresh talent and Kne’ Deep Bookings was born (the name was inspired by my dance group and record label from Chicago). We’re currently one of the leading techno agencies in Europe.
I am so proud of what I have accomplished. Even though it’s hard to get credit from my fellow people in The States, I never turned my back on Chicago. I have been featured in so many major magazines across Europe, headlining big events, playing with some of the top names in the world and even won an award for best DJ of the year. I’ve done two videos that have had heavy rotation on MTV Europe and other music stations. I changed the Techno scene in Europe.
I still don’t believe what has happened to me since I packed up my bags and left Chi-Town. You feel like a star here. On the streets in each country someone will notice you, taking snapshots, asking for you autograph… It’s crazy. Techno became my second home.
For years when playing outside of the US you only played Techno. Now you also play your famed Disco sets as well as House too. Why the change and has it been received by your regular techno audience?
In Europe you have so many chances to play everything. I love having that space to just wake up one morning and my mood is Disco. Just a little work contacting clubs and BAM – I got a gig playing Disco. I’ve also played Jazz music in a few bars and clubs and that went down really well. People in Europe just love music and go out to have fun and your fans look to you to see what you’re going to do next, so I always keep them on their toes by doing different things. Playing Disco and House sets in Europe – it’s like going back to the roots and this relaxes me from the heavy Techno sessions I play on the weekend.
I would like to turn it around and come home from time to time and play a Techno session for the good old folks in Chicago and give them a taste of Europe. I know it’s hard because I’m considered a “local”, and they really come out to see folks that aren’t from Chicago. I will continue to try to share my soul and music back home, because I never forgot where I came from.
My true fans are so educated (well you have to be if you’re listening to my music, haha). I am far from being “normal” on the decks. My diehard Techno fans have been taking my Disco and House sets well. Yes, you get a few who complain on the forums (which I refuse to read) but I have a wide range of supporters from Techno to Disco, House and Jazz. I made it popular to have Disco songs incorporated in hard Techno. I use to have people say you cannot do that – and years later you couldn’t stop the kids from bootlegging Disco songs and mashing them into hard Techno. I keep telling people I haven’t changed – I’ve been playing other styles of music for such a long time and the change is within them. They just caught on to me playing this and now they’re paying attention to what I’m doing on my off night.
What’s the future for Techno?
Techno has lasted through the hardest of times and will continue to grow, because you have so many talented people out there creating new sounds with Europe leading and keeping it alive. I wish there were a better future for it in the US. We have electronic music, but more of the commercial stuff.
There is a wide range of electronic music that needs to be heard and explored. If we’re going to be a part of the Techno movement, then we need to take risks and not worry about the figures and the fame, but be a part of the growing experience and do our part. That’s what I’m doing: contributing to the scene and not following trends or doing what’s hot for the moment. Step up and make new things happen. I would love to come home and see a nice Techno community supporting their talents, and our talent thinking outside the box and making things happen on the home front and not following Euro rules or UK rules, but making some rules of our own and showcasing some damn good music and club nights. I would love to share my music experiences with my hometown, but as long as they are treating me like a local and not coming out to support, then I cannot do anything to help Chicago feel the experience.
What is it that separates you from the pack as a DJ and producer?
I’m different from a lot of DJs because I dabble in all styles of music while playing. I can go from Disco and Blues to Jazz or House while playing Techno and still keep that energy. I focus on what makes me dance. If I can dance to it then it’s worth playing. Being from Chicago, a lot of promoters had a hard time believing I was playing Techno. I would get booked for being DJ Rush (I thought) and once I arrived I noticed it was a House club and I had my Techno records. I didn’t get discouraged – I just went on the decks and did what got me to where I am and just rocked the place with what I had. I am not afraid to take a challenge head on and make it work in my favor.
My production is weird to some people, because I don’t follow the laws of producing, upgrading to software, 16 bars, etc. I go with the feeling and I put a lot of love and groove in my production. I never watered down my music, stayed true to myself and became recognized for my sound. I have a sound like no one else and this makes me feel good.
You’ve frequently given new and virtually unknown talent the opportunity to release their music and tour with you.
I remember like it was yesterday: giving my cassette tapes to so many DJs and contacting clubs in Chicago and being rejected. I would go home after a party thinking, maybe this time someone will contact me and give me a chance. Months would go by with no phone call, but I still supported these DJs. My mom always said, “Never stop and never give up. Your day will come and when it does you better shine.”
That’s what I did, giving some others a chance to shine alongside me. I came from an era where no one gave you a chance, backstabbing and cheating you for what’s yours. I said I’d never be like that. I know how it feels to get dumped on and rejected. I also learned the hard way that when you are gracious, people will take advantage of you. These little hungry-for-success people are only looking out for themselves and will use you like a paper towel but I continue to trust people. I feel there’s enough room out there for everyone, so why not give a young talent a chance?
My best advice to newcomers or someone who wants to break out internationally is just save your money, book a flight, set up some contacts, leave your home and explore every possibility you have. Don’t think twice. I did it and I never gave up. If you get rejected don’t let this stop you, just keep going. Also remember that in Europe, dance music is a part of everything, not like the States. In Europe, dance music is in commercials, elevators, taxis, political conferences, restaurants, airplanes – it’s unbelievable. Thank you Berlin, Germany for opening your arms.
If you could take any part of Chicago with you overseas, what would it be?
If I could take a part of Chicago to Europe, I would take a selection of party people to show them how we can party. Our people can party hard when given the right moment. The amount of energy we have is amazing and they don’t believe how we can have so much energy and go crazy when our clubs open and close so early. I know that when I get our crowd in Europe, we will let these clubs have it. We need stop being a Third World party country compared to Germany, Spain, UK, Portugal and Poland. We need to be up there with the big countries and cities.
What tricks do you have up your sleeve for near future? Anything you’d like to mention or plug?
Well since I am moving away from all the extreme hard Techno, I am working on a new image to showcase more of the pure Techno stuff I also like. So I’m starting up a new production that is all about me, separate from my agency Kne’ Deep Berlin. I also started up a Dutch agency called Vigorous Bookings. You can check it out vigorousbookings.com or facebook.com/vigorousbookings. I will channel a lot of energy into that. I will also work on a Rush and Friends live record release tour, I have a solid team and I will spend a lot of time and energy getting this off the ground… This will start in February and I hope to feature our talent in January in Chicago. Record releases are in the works, and another video, so I am happy about working on that.