Interview: Kerri Chandler

You can’t throw a rock in a club these days without hitting a Kerri Chandler track, or one that sounds strikingly similar. While it’s no revelation that producers are strip mining the sounds of the 1990s, his brand of buoyant New Jersey House is in high demand. While his imitators are legion, there’s only one Kerri Chandler. For those who need an introduction, Kerri “Kaoz” Chandler cut his teeth working at recording studios and DJing at the legendary Club Zanzibar in Newark, New Jersey. Producing for other artists led to putting out tracks under his own name, and releases like Atmosphere have become a blueprint for anyone looking to recreate the magic of the early 90s tri-state house scene. Not one to be confined to a particular time, place, or genre Kerri recently launched the sublabel MadTech as a platform for young guns who put their own twist on the 4×4 template. Ahead of the release of his new mix album Watergate 15  and the re-issue of Trionisphere, one of his most sought after records, we had a quick digital sit down with the man himself.

Stream: Kerri Chandler – Keep Me Inside

Hey Kerri! We’re big fans here at Truants! For those who might not be familiar, mind telling us a bit about your background? How did you get into music, and what do you imagine you’d be doing without it? “I come from a musical background. My family has always been full of musicians, singers, DJ’s – I’ve been around music my entire life. But if I wasn’t doing music I’d probably be in a lab somewhere – science is my other love. I’ve always had a thoughtful approach to anything, I try to figure stuff out from physics to mechanics which of course also includes sound. The fact that my dad was a DJ gave me a great playground as a kid.”

You seem to spend a lot of time in London, are you based there or do you still call New Jersey home? “London’s always been kind to me. I played my first international show at MOS in 1991 and haven’t looked back since. I have a lot of wonderful friends here so its always great to be here. Truth be told, I live on airplanes it seems – I spend more time there than anywhere else.”

A lot of people venerate, and even try to re-create, the club scene in the New York area during the late 80s and early 90s. What do you think is so timeless about the music produced then? Also, is there anything that the revival is missing? More Zima maybe? “I suppose that if you weren’t there, hearing the stories about the Loft, Paradise Garage, Warehouse, etc its all very nostalgic. We had a great time then but I love everything that is going on now as far as a revival- its great. But it’s missing the vocals. There should be more vocal tracks, more singers and more live performances in my opinion. I really love that people are being creative and using so many different avenues to create but I feel that a lot of newcomers are missing out on an opportunity to really take it to the next level by learning how work with singers and work with vocals.”

We had no idea until recently that you’ve done vocals on many of your own tracks. Your voice is great! Have any tips for a producer who wants to take their vocals into their own hands? “Thank you. I never considered myself a singer, I feel I’m more of a vocalist. I write my life’s story and let it out through the music. Every song I’ve put my voice to has a real story behind it. The big thing is if producers can express what they are trying to achieve to singers it can go a long way.”

Stream: Kerri Chandler – Rain

We trust you were at Zanzibar quite often. We’ve gotta ask, what was the craziest night there? “The opening night. I was there a lot over the years but nothing topped that.” [Editors note: Kerri didn’t go into much detail but this article does and we’re inclined to agree that nothing could top live tigers.]

Through MadTech you’ve released records from a number of up and coming artists. Is there anything you’ve learned from the newest crop of producers? “I’ve learned to do what I’ve always done and trust my instincts and that’s what’s working for now. We have some really exciting new material coming up and I’m glad these guys are being given the same opportunities I was fortunate enough to enjoy. As for what I’ve learned- I learn so much from so many people that its hard to name any one thing.” On that note, who are some new talents we should keep our eye on? “As for new, Voyeur, Citizen, Krystal Klear, No Artificial Colors, Disclosure, Steve Mills, Detroit Swindle, Huxley and pretty much all my family at Circo Loco. There’s just far too many people whose music I love to name them all.”

Are there any things haven’t changed since you began DJing and Producing? Are there constants? “Obviously we’re enjoying more options as DJ’s in the booth – the technology has become more portable and more powerful. I work very closely with Native Instruments and recently released a production pack for their iMaschine App. Its something I was using a lot in airport lounges, planes, trains and…automobiles. I can then transfer it over to my computer once I get back to the studio. In terms of musical style, I simply play the way I always have – I play what I feel, whatever my mood dictates at the time and hope that the crowd enjoys what I do.”

We recently saw a dance floor lose their minds to your remix of The System, ourselves included, what’s one of your earlier tunes that never leaves your crate? “Track 1!”

Stream: Kerri Chandler – Track 1

Spending as much time in clubs as you do must be exhausting. Any tips for younger DJs on how to avoid a burnout? “I don’t party when I’m not working. If I’m not DJing then I’m rarely in the club, but when I am, I give it everything! I always give my personal professional best and remember that people have spent their hard earned cash on a ticket to see me… I don’t want to let them down! Otherwise I’m more than likely in the studio or having some quiet time at the beach before going into the studio. The only real advice I can give is to pace themselves – not overdo it and to take some quiet time out for themselves once in a while.”

Finally, we’ve heard you have a season pass to Six Flags. What ride should we make sure hit next time we go? “Kingda Ka! Its the tallest coaster in the U.S. And the Superman coaster – you’re strapped in standing and coming down you end up laying belly down and you’re flying like you’re Superman.”

Watergate 15 and Trionosphere are out now on Watergate Records and King Street Sounds.

Stephanie Neptune

Spends a lot of time in loud and/or dark rooms. Surfing Twitter as @spacejamzzzz.