Wednesday, 7 November 2012
Curtis Jones, aka Green Velvet and Cajmere is the founder of Cajual Records. Used as an outlet for varying forms of techno beats since '94, Curtis has provided an array of sounds from the label's Chicago base. Cajual has featured DJ Sneak, Gemini, Dajae, Glenn Underground, Johnny Fiasco and many others.
One of the great second-generation Chicago labels set-up by maverick genius Cajmere (aka Curtis Jones), who also produced many of the great releases on the label, including ‘Percolator’, a huge anthem in his hometown clubs and ‘Brighter Days’, the tune that brought Dajae to the world’s attention. Cajmere also released productions from some of the Windy City’s best house producers, including Johnny Fiasco, Derrick Carter, DJ Sneak and Glenn Underground, as well as displaying the harder side on the subsidiary label Relief.
By the time Curtis Alan Jones (a.k.a. Cajmere a.k.a. Green Velvet) began producing in the early 1990s, house music was a global pop concern but had been scattered to the fringes in his hometown of Chicago. Rave music, imported from the UK and just beginning to incorporate classic Midwestern electronic sounds, had roped in a suburban audience that was younger and whiter. Still, there remained a small community of worshipers who had had their lives changed by DJs like Frankie Knuckles, Marshall Jefferson, and Farley "Jackmaster" Funk. Only 4 U crystallizes this moment, and while there's no denying the instant, raw appeal of Cajmere's breakthrough single, "Percolator," it's the bolder, vocal-oriented tracks that define Cajual Records.
Looking back over his career in house music, Curtis Alan Jones laughs "Regrets? No, not really!" In the 90s, Jones' label Cajual (the first three letters used his initials) and its sublabels - in particular Relief - influenced a rebirth, or third wave, of house music. By the time Jones ditched his Masters degree at UC-Berkeley to return to his hometown Chicago and focus on music, two major phases in the evolution of Chicago house had passed: the early innovations on disco by the likes of Frankie Knuckles, Ron Hardy and Jesse Saunders (beginning with Knuckles using a drum machine and reel-to-reel tape edits to augment his disco sets at The Warehouse in Chicago), and the darker 'acid' sound that began with the TB-303 sound on Phuture's 'Acid Trax' and catalysed the late 80s rave scene in the UK and Europe.
Writer and theorist Kodwo Eshun has since attributed to Relief an impact on the resurgence of house, via the influence of its artists - including Gemini, Tim Harper, DJ Sneak and Boo Williams - on the likes of Armand Van Helden and Daft Punk. The Relief style of stripping the brutal but trance-inducing mechanics of acid into mean, kicking house was also an obvious precursor to ghetto house, juke and today's footwork scene. (Another sublabel of Cajual, Circuit Records, also deserves a nod in that regard.) It also wasn't just the Relief output, however, but Jones himself who bridged the distinction between house and techno. Jones created a techno persona, Green Velvet, replete with a green Mohican and a dark sense of humour, who made techno tracks about parents seeing what their children got up to at raves ('Flash') and coming home to the worst series of answerphone messages imaginable ('Answering Machine').
You’ll hear different things among artists – a lot of people say, oh it was better back in the day, and then you have people who really are popular with the younger kids, who feel differently. And obviously those kids don’t have any connection to this other than something they’ve heard in the last couple of years.
Those people who say it was better back in the day – they’re right. It was better back in the day. But those people who say they love what they hear now, they’re right too. You know? Its just like you said, because to them, this is the scene that is really getting them excited and getting them to be a part of the house, or techno or electronic scenes. So its all a good thing.