Gene Farris lives and breathes house music.
A bonafide Chicago legend, he’s been pushing musical boundaries for close to three decades, from spinning at underground warehouse parties in the early 90s to working with the current crop of world-leading labels and artists. Relief, Dirtybird, ViVa Music, Defected: all have released and championed Gene Farris records over the past few years, alongside his own Farris Wheel imprint: a fitting testament to the quality and relevance of the music he creates.
2018 sees Farris Wheel locked back into a regular groove of releases after a few years’ absence, with Paul Johnson, Roy Davis Jr, Sydney Blue all set to release over the coming months. And with the continuing success of his Gene Farris & Friends events – Chicago’s favourite monthly house party, with recent guests including Black Coffee, Jamie Jones, Patrick Topping and Walker & Royce – Gene is undeniably a major player on today’s electronic music scene.
Welcome to CU Gene! How’s the summer been for you?
Summer has been great a lot of traveling and making music, it’s been very productive. We’ve been fans of yours for years, right back to your first Farris Wheel releases.
Over the last 20 years or so, what do you think has changed about your music and the way your make records, and what has remained constant?
Well thanks first off:) I dunno I think now I have more confidence in what I’m doing, so now I’m more comfortable making straight up songs now. Before I was making “tracks” now I’m making songs. What hasn’t changed is my 909:) that’s a constant and always will be in my music production.
Over the years you’ve balanced touring with a pretty consistent release schedule… how have you managed to keep both the quality and quantity so high? Do you sleep much??
Lol nah I don’t sleep much actually only 5-6 hrs a night and I’m back at it. Also I don’t drink booze I’ve been sober now for 3 years so I believe that has a lot to do with my productivity. I’m in the studio at least 4 hrs everyday minimum. Usually a lot longer.
Your first release came on Green Velvet’s Relief, and you’ve worked with him a lot over the years. What is it about him that makes him such an iconic figure in dance music?
Consistency..He never stops as well, he’s my big brother so I’ve gotten a lot of my work ethic from him. He’s a machine also.
Let’s go back to the beginning… when did you first even consider dance music as something you wanted to dedicate yourself to?
When I was 16 yrs old and heard and saw Lil Louis for the first time DJ and perform. I had seen many iconic dj already in my life, at this point. But Lil Louis was different for me, I wanted to be like him. He dressed nice played the best music and had all the girls and the best parties. He was my hero and made me want to be a dj and producer.
You started off playing at venues like Power House, where I imagine you’d be able to play a pretty wide range of music. Does the way clubs and events are run now mean you’re more restricted with what you play? If so, how do you keep a crowd engaged?
Well the crowd back then we’re adults 30 something’s on average. So I was performing for a crowd that was educated on all kinds of music. So now it’s not that’s it’s more restricted but the crowd is asking for a different experience that was asked for the 90’s crowd. Completely different. So how do I keep them engaged? Play some good frakin music! Lol same as always And remembering to engage with the people, it’s a performance.
You’ve worked with an extraordinary role call of labels over the years… are there any releases that you are particularly fond of?
My favourite release that I’m most proud of is the Cosmos Album on Relief. It’s dear to me, I wrote this album when my first son was being born.
You were a resident DJ in both the US and Europe for many years… how did playing on two different continents with their own distinct musical scenes shape your approach to DJing?
Great question.. I think it’s given me a unique perspective that most djs don’t have the luxury or having. I lived in Europe (Amsterdam) for 4 years so I learned the culture and what they like to feel in the clubs. Also I’m from Chicago the place we’re all this began, so I’m very familiar on what works in the states. So with these unique experiences I think this why my approach may be a bit different that most other djs from Europe or America.
Dance music has changed so much in the time you’ve been producing, and there are so many more producers and DJs these days. Does it feel more competitive? Or is competition the wrong word to use?
For me competition is the wrong word to use. The reason is because you aren’t actually competing against another dj or producer. You competing against he or she’s PR TEAM. Lol Listen I’m from Chicago I could sit here and name drop all the djs and producers who came from my city, but I won’t. I’ve been competing since I began I’m from Chicago.
Farris Wheel is now back up and running with a regular release schedule… what can we expect over the next few months?
Rebranding and reshaping the look and feeling of Farris Wheel making her more modern and sexy. What excites you about the electronic music scene at the moment? The potential of were it can go. More films commercials and even more rural areas. I wanna see House Techno Tech House everywhere Hip Hop is.
Finally, what’s been your favourite record of the year so far?
Losing It “Fisher”