December 05 2018

A House Tale: Chez Damier

New York-Le Bain
We catch up with Chicago House hero Chez Damier, before he plays Le Bain on Saturday, December 22nd.
LE BAIN: You started going out at 14 in Chicago and you danced at the Warehouse, Power Plant and the Music Box, where you experienced first hand the birth of house music, but also the birth of modern DJing and club culture. What did you learn from those first late nights as a teenager in the early 80's?
CHEZ DAMIER: I
 learned that there was a place where people could go, people who felt that they're different than the normal, people who are very artistic kind of people. We found refuge in this nightlife. Also, as part of the DJ culture, the modern day DJ, I was completely overwhelmed. My master was Frankie Knuckles. By sixteen years old I knew that my life would never be the same. What I wanted was not necessarily to be a DJ, but the magic that he was able to give by making two or three hundred people feel like they knew each other. We all felt they were family in harmony. That's what I learned from the modern culture DJing. I knew what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. 

Right after that, you moved to Detroit and you opened your own club in 1987, the Music Institute, with your friends George Baker and Alton Miller.  The three of you were inspired by The Paradise Garage in NYC and the Music Box in Chicago and you made club history, this time in Detroit, with The Music Institute. Can you describe a “regular” night at the Music Institute?
We were trying to produce a level of freedom for young people to come and express themselves. So regular nights, Friday nights, were techno and Saturday nights were back to basics. Both had pretty much most of the same people but some on Friday liked it harder and some on Saturday liked it deeper. An average night for us, really from beginning to end, was just fun. We were definitely trying to assimilate or copy what we had seen in Chicago and New York. That was amazing for us to see it come to life. 
Photo by Marie Staggat

Photo by Marie Staggat

"We were inspired to hear music in a way that we had never heard it before."
About your label Prescription records that you created with Ron Trent, you said “we had taken ourselves from being artists to architects. We were trying to design music for sound systems”, specifically for the Sound Factory in New York and the Ministry of Sound in London. That was an intellectual, even scientific approach to producing music and still you ended up making classics that didn’t need to be played only on those perfect sound systems. Does that make perfect sense or is it a contradiction?
It's not a contradiction, and it makes perfect sense. What we were doing is that we were enlightened to a different intelligence of dance music by sound systems. It's not so much that we were designing music for these places. It's just that we were inspired to hear music in a way that we had never heard it before. Frequencies that we had never heard before. For us to be inspired by these sound systems, particularly Sound Factory, was amazingly overwhelming for us. So we kind of figured that if it was good enough for us to make it with the Sound Factory in mind, it was good enough to be played on any system. I don't know what becomes classics, but we were just really having fun doing what we were doing.

Tell us about your next frontier. 

The next frontier is writing a book. The next frontier is doing more mentoring to young artists, encouraging them. The next frontier is releasing a double album that I just recorded in Paris over the last few years. The next frontier for me is mastering this game called DJ. I don't know what people call mastering, but for me, mastering would be where it feels the same and looks the same anywhere in the world that I go, so hopefully, I'm able to achieve by "producing" the room when I play. Producing the room is quite different than just DJing. Producing the room is also psychological, it's emotional, it's learning to communicate with your audience in a way that they can express themselves in the way that produces to them, inspiration, good feelings, emotional release, stress release, and all the good things.
Ron Trent & Chez Damier, Prescription Records, 1994

On Saturday, December 22nd, 
Le Bain presents Chez Damier 
w/ Shahar & Gabriel Torres
10pm | The Standard, High Line