Interview by Boogie McClarin
YOU MIGHT NOT KNOW his name, but you’ve definitely danced to his songs. Now, after a decade of production and a list of tracks long as my arm, there is a distinctive Stacy Kidd sound: soulful, balanced, a pounding vital beat that’s sure to get you moving.
A lot of older hedz know him from his productions, and the new kids in the clubs were exposed to House at the raves of the mid- to late-’90s. Stacy was one of those House DJs that worked the late rave scene and exposed kids under 21 to soulful Chicago House, keeping the sound alive.
He’s traveled to almost every state in the country and around the world exposing people of all cultures to House music. Now he’s finally getting his due. Like his primary musical influence Paul Johnson, Stacy could fill two iPods with all of the unreleased EPs, remixes, dubs, and other tracks he’s created over the years. Rather than keeping it privy to industry insiders, he’s embarked on an ambitious project to release his entire catalog of music on traxsource.com.
Set to play in Orlando, Florida for New Years and with a tour of Europe and Australia ready to get underway, Stacy took time away from the studio to share with us the reasons why you need to know his name.
How would you describe your music? Is that distinctive sound something you developed with Paul Johnson?
Well, when it comes to tracks, my sound has always been the same – I try to really make things soulful. Paul taught me to be versatile. He taught me to get into different styles but to always keep it at a certain level. No matter if it’s your disco house, your funky filter house or whatever. I know some cats who were doing what they were doing to get where there were and then flipped the switch and their sound isn’t the same anymore, so they lost their following. Me, I’ve always had the same sound and so I’ve been able to keep my good following.
One of the things that I love about your tracks, like “Jazzy Days”, is that they are balanced, never too loungey or phony and always with a certain kind of kick that moves me to dance. Without labeling your music or putting a specific label on the variety of House you make, which can be stifling and misleading, how do you know a track is ready for the world to hear? What do you listen for in a track that let’s you know it is done but not overdone?
You never really know because, to this day, there are tracks that I did three or four years ago and I still think of different things I wanted to put in but I just never did. With me, I started out making funky instrumental tracks and now I hear vocals, so I might go in the studio and do a remake of it…
Do you use live instruments to achieve that funky sound? If so, do you play the instruments?
Yeah, definitely, from the jazz piano to organ to guitar players. But usually I contract that out. Although on the last couple of tracks I did play a little harmonica and some of the keys.
So at least part of your skill is knowing how to use talent. What inspires you? For instance the track “Gotta Have House” samples a sacred anthem “Move Your Body” without losing any of the original soul and texture. Did you start out intending to bring a new flavor to a classic?
Actually I stumbled upon this loop, which most people think is one loop but it’s two that I chopped up and put back together and all I could think was “gotta have house”. Next thing you know, I threw that vocal in there and it was just hot!
Hot indeed – you know hot doesn’t just describe you. It’s also the track that got you named DJ Magazines one to watch. Did your career change after that sort of recognition?
It was cool. At the time I had three hot joints out – one with Tony Humphries, I had one on the Riviera label that was hitting the charts real big in France and the UK and I had the “Jammin'” track that Mark Farina had on his CD so it kind hooked me up and made people kind of look at me, since each one of those had it’s own feel. But they were all soulful.
In addition to your production work, you have also been touring for over 10 years, going to almost every state and as far as Johannesburg, South Africa. You have toured both independently and more recently as part of the Chicago Sound Source artist roster. Has your sound changed at all from seeing so many different places? Do you notice anything different about touring with representation versus touring as an independent artist?
Touring never changed me because people don’t realize that when a promoter books you, you get hired for your sound. I’ve seen people try to change their whole set for the crowd and it never works.
The thing with Dave and Adam [David Sabat and Adam Rivera of Chicago Sound Source], they really know where they want to see things go with the company. Most people don’t know that I was the one that contacted Dave! A lot of people were like, “It’s great they got you,” but I contacted them.
I don’t work with a lot of people – I’ve gotten burned before so I was always doing production, traveling, you know, by myself, without an agent or nothing. Just doing it. I would go out and a lot of times promoters would ask me if I could bring someone. Yeah, I knew a lot of people, but not on a level where I could bring them in, not like that. Now that I have a [music] family where everyone is dope, I can easily throw some names fast and bring them with. I’m real family oriented. I love having a family, being supported and supporting others.
But Chicago Sound Source is not your only musical family because in addition to your own company Underground Elements, you are also a part of the Masters At Work family. How did that happen?
In 2002, after I did “I Wanted You” and “Thank You” with Tony Humphries, Tony called me and told me that Louie Vega wanted me to release something on the label. I was shocked and honored, you know. So my first project I sent them was a joint I did with a guitar player named Bryant Ford. I met him at one of FLX’s events when he was playing live on FLX’s set. I already had the track done and he just came on and did his thing. Then I wanted to make it a little better so I called Glenn Underground and he put some live keys on top. Next thing you know I went back and contacted Byron Stingily and got him to sing a little something and there it was…
That was “Where Did It Go”. Were there any others? Or are there any other MAW projects in the works?
I did that one and then I did “Ancient Forests” as a single. When “Where Did It Go” was re-released, “Ancient Forests” was on the other side…
Right now I’m focusing on my other projects because, you know, I’ve never done a mix CD in all these years. Never.
I’ve been doing production for years so that’s really my goal now.
Like so many other DJs, have you converted to CDs and a laptop when you travel or are you strictly a vinyl man?
The only reason I’m playing a CD is if I’m playing unreleased joints. I LOVE WAX. CDs do seem easier for travel, but I don’t know… Wax is wax. CDs – that’s just not for me.
Because you are so prolific you must always have a million things going at once. So what else is happening for the end of 2006? What about goals for 2007?
Well, I just finished with a video shoot with me and XL. I’m also doing a video tour for “Let Love Enter”. You remember that track? We just did a remix with vocals and a hook and everything.
I’m doing a “Let Love Enter Tour” where I’m traveling all over the world, filming parts of the clubs for the video. I’ve got a lot of support for that. I’ve got Belgium and France so far, and Utah, and Orlando for New Year’s, and then I have Australia and New Zealand coming up. I’m hoping to have the video as a bonus for my mix CD.
And actually the video we just shot just got picked up by MTV-UK. That’s pretty exciting and there are two companies overseas that have video shows that want me to send it to them, too. There’s really no better marketing than that!
I’ve also been told that you are releasing your work on Traxsource through Chicago Sound Source?
Yeah, yeah, I’m releasing all of my back catalogue ‘cuz I’ve got people sending me emails and calling for stuff they can’t get anymore. So I’m gonna release some special extended EPs on Traxsource like my Jazzy Days series. And I’ve got a brand new one called Jazzy Days 4. I’m pulling all of my stuff from 1990 to 1996 that a lot of people didn’t get ‘cuz it didn’t come out here but it did come out in France or Australia or something like that. And vice versa. There are things that were released here that you couldn’t get overseas, but most of it has come back to me. Plus I have a lot of remix stuff – a brand new “Lake Street”, a brand new “Jammin'”. It’s a lot. I’ve got so much plus another twelve DATs of unreleased stuff.
And I guess I can tell y’all – you will be the first to know – I got this remix with Daft Punk that I’m working on but I can’t say much more. [laughs] Y’all can be the first to know… I plan on really flooding them with my stuff.
Video tours, new tracks in production, re-releases and spinning around the world, do you ever get to just go out and enjoy a House night in the city?
Well it sounds like a lot but the traveling, it comes in spurts – mostly on weekends. And there’s always stuff I can do in the week, cuz I’m here for work – I do production work for WGCI. I do all the drops and intros and outros for the Beyonce Fox Show and I also do it for the Bad Boys Show. You gotta keep it busy. If you don’t do nothing, that’s when people forget about you.
Are you at a stage in your career now where you mentor other producers or DJs? What is some advice that you can give to someone hoping to make a career in House music?
Yeah I have a couple of guys – Tyrone Davis, a vocalist. He’s got a lot of talent and I want to help develop him and get him out there. Ice Mike L – he’s an up and coming producer who’s hot. The young cats – all I tell them is always keep your head up because no matter what music you’re into, you will have ups and downs, someone won’t want to sign you and so on.
I used to think that when I sent a track to a label – if they don’t take it, then it must be garbage, and I’d look past that track and go to make something new. That’s not the case. Everyone has their own taste.
For example, Paul Johnson’s “Get Get Down”. I know two companies that he shopped it to and they turned it down. He put the track on his album and look what it did. It became an anthem. So never take someone else’s judgment to heart. Everyone has his own taste.
By most measures, you are a success in a business that is cutthroat and dirty. Was there ever a lesson that you had to learn the hard way or early on that has helped you remain one of the most prolific producers on the scene?
The lesson I had to learn is never take the business personal. I’ve been friends with a label or a company and I was certain they were going to go a certain way – you know, you look out for them so they would look out for you. But in the end, it’s all about business so don’t ever take it personal.
Do you think House will become a part of mainstream America? Will it go back to being commercially viable like the days when Lipton Tea used “The Whistle Song” and had even rural America singing Frankie Knuckles?
It is mainstream. It may not be as big as hip-hop or something else but we wouldn’t be going to the Miami Music Conference if it wasn’t mainstream. I mean, every city has it’s own little dance station or night. But like I said, if you aren’t into it you won’t find it.
I don’t know if, or how big it’s going to get here. It is already pretty huge overseas and there is a bigger and bigger demand. One thing is for sure – it’s not going anywhere.