LE BAIN: You said you’re “breathing new life into disco” and it's a good definition of re-editing. Disco is a Sleeping Beauty and you’re the Prince Charming?
LEONARD PART SIXX: [Laughs.] I’ve been called lots of things, but never Prince Charming! Seriously, the reemergence of disco in the last few years is no accident. Good music and great artists never get dated or passé. The disco edit has always been the extension of the DJ playing it, but it should never define who the DJ is. It’s just a tool in the toolbox. I like to compare disco to this infinite blackhole where the possibilities are never-ending. I like to discover new sounds, different techniques, and skewed visions of what music is and can be. I get inspired by some of the new editors on the scene like Todd Terje, The Reflex, Jacques Renault, as well as my buddies like Dimitri from Paris, Al Kent, and Victor Rosado. They’re excellent at what they do and I always strive to be on their level.
"Danceability is always the key."
You've been one of the key players of Chicago’s disco edit scene. Is there some kind of competition in the city between disco re-editors?
I’ve always called Chicago a city of DJs. There’s so many out there trying to make a name for themselves and stand out. I’ve never looked into what others were doing and considered them competition, because the only person that I’ve ever competed with is myself. I’m always pushing, trying to outdo something I did before, and yet keep the integrity of the original music and its danceability intact. I think that’s where some re-editors get the game twisted. You never let the technology steer the course of the music, it’s always the other way around. My heroes like Walter Gibbons, Shep Pettibone, Danny Krivit, and others made incredible work with the material they had. Danceability is always the key to a good edit. If you’ve kept your dance floor engaged with the work, mission accomplished!
We’ve interviewed a few Chicago DJs this summer, and, not surprisingly, legendary DJ Ron Hardy’s influence always comes up. What’s your own story with Mr. Hardy?
The one DJ that influenced me in those early days was actually a dear friend of Ron’s. His name was Michael McNeal and he was a resident DJ at legendary gay Chicago clubs like The Jeffery Pub, The Bitter End, Den One, and sometimes US Studios/The Warehouse. He was very tight with Ron, Frankie Knuckles, and Robert Williams (owner of The Warehouse and The Music Box). He was one of the many unsung heroes that made Chicago what it is for dance music. He introduced me to those clubs, DJs, and club kids.
How was Chicago at that time?
It was such a magical place back in those days. The music was new and fresh, and Ron and Frankie made every night bigger and better than the last. I guess that spirit of experimentation, tech, and groove control is what still affects my work today. Underdog Edits wouldn’t be what they are if it wasn’t for those nights sweating out on the dancefloor and studying under those great selectors.
"From Ron Trent, I learned DJ expressionism."
You’ve been a record collector since the age of 12. What are the first and last records you collected? Are there any weird connections between the two?
My very first record was a James Brown 45 called Get On The Good Foot (Parts 1 & 2). And the latest one I just bought was a CD from Donald Fagen of Steely Dan called The Nightfly. I guess if there were any connection between them, it's their infectious grooves. That 45 began my deep devotion to James Brown. And Steely Dan’s fusion of rock, jazz, and soul has always intrigued me. Another connection? I winded up doing a few James Brown edits. Donald Fagan? Hmmm…we’ll see!
What's the story of your release with NY label Razor-N-Tape?
I took a long hiatus from working with the Underdog label to focus on personal stuff, as well as be the music director and facilities manager of now-closed The Shrine Nightclub. All the while, when Aaron Dae moved from Chicago to New York and started Razor-N-Tape, he kept prodding me to send him some new edits and get Underdog Edits back going. I was questioning if there was a need for Underdog Edits again with the edit scene exploding like it did. He said, “Ah, hell yea!” And so, two years later, I’m proud to be the first vinyl double 12” release on Razor-N-Tape.
You’ve been working with Terry Hunter and Ron Trent, two of Chicago’s greatest dance music talents. What did you learn from those two?
Razor-N-Tape's "Underdog Edits" (2016)
From Terry, I learned discipline and attention to detail. What makes Terry Hunter one of the best in the business is his blunt honesty in music and production. He knows what works for a dancefloor and what doesn’t. He has made me become a better engineer and producer and has helped instill that confidence and musical instinct within me. From Ron Trent, I learned DJ expressionism and how to be a creative individual at all cost and with no compromises. I was honored when Ron asked me to be his opening DJ for the ListenUp parties. He shaped me to always come with my “A” game and express myself on the decks. Ron lives for his music and I love being around that creative energy.
You’re not an underdog anymore.
That’s nice of you to say, but in many aspects, I still consider myself an underdog. I don’t ever feel comfortable or complacent. I like having that hunger and drive to succeed. My next step is to continue the Underdog brand as well as pursuing other production and remixing opportunities. Dogtronix is my other production moniker and I’m working on an afro-based house EP for release towards the end of the year. The future is looking real bright, so I’m bringing my shades to NYC! I’m very excited about the record release party at Le Bain. Playing in New York as always been a dream of mine, and now I feel like I’m walking on air!
On Friday, September 23rd, Le Bain presents Razor-N-Tape
featuring Leonard Part Sixx (Underdog Edits), JKriv, and Aaron Dae
The Standard, High Line at 10pm