So after the Black Friday battalion of the Primark proletariat and High Street hoi polloi descending upon work last weekend (the joys of being a Retail Manager in the run up to Christmas…) I took a quick sojourn to Soho seeking solace in one of the vinyl mecca’s many wax haunts…
There was one particular vinyl emporium I wanted to check out and that was Poland Street paradise Phonica Records. Now you’re probably thinking ‘what the f*ck?’ as Phonica is the antithesis of what House Hunting is all about – ain’t the first place you think of when crate crusading for dusty dollar bin obscurities and bargain basement belters… However, you may have witnessed me attempting to ‘break the internet’ with the new Vincent Floyd 12” on Rush Hour postin’ it all over place and recommending to every househead goin’– now released I had to jet to Phonica as I knew they’d have it in stock… Phonica’s contemporary approach to record retailing has helped establish it as London’s best source of underground house and techno records – if you’re after a new, exclusive 12” chances are they’ll have it behind the counter and on this occasion they didn’t disappoint… Loads of heat goin’ down about that new Theo Parrish LP (if you’re a proper Theo head you’ll cop it regardless of price) and yeah probably a future classic but to me Vincent Floyd’s first release in nearly two decades is the house happening of the year for me…
Though he only released a handful of records in the early to mid-nineties Vincent Floyd aka Floyd Walker has gained a cult following amongst the Chitown trainspotters and hardcore house fraternity. His majestic productions have attained mythical status whether it’s the serene synths and crystalline keys of ‘I Dream You’ and ‘Cruising’, the harder-edged deep anxiety of ‘I’m So Deep’, or the Gherkin flavour of ‘Cactus Juice’. Hard to pick a favourite but I think ‘I Dream You’ perfectly encapsulates his signature sound.
After vanishing into relative obscurity fast-forward 20 years later and Rush Hour chief Antal tracked Vincent down to reissue his house Holy Grail ‘Your Eyes’ – unearthing his long lost dusty DATs in the process… The result of raiding the vaults is ‘Moonlight Fantasy’ which is a six track opus that captures the essence of his early records with his ethereal sound. Before I kill you with another house thesis I present to you a House Hunting exclusive in the form of an interview with Vincent Floyd himself! Shouts to Antal for the hook-up – read on to hear this enigma’s Windy City tale…
So Vincent welcome back and congratulations on the new 'Moonlight Fantasy' EP for Rush Hour! It's been nearly two decades since you released your last EP so how has life been during your production exile?
Thank you very much. I am grateful to have met Antal at Rush Hour and get back out there on the dance scene. I have two daughters Dawn and Joy, being a dad has been my number one job. I also have a grandson named Christopher. I teach music at Beethoven Elementary for Chicago Public Schools, play guitar, keyboards, drums and saxophone, so I have always been doing music on some level.
Naturally family will always take priority though great to hear your career encompasses what you love and the opportunities to teach/play on an array of different instrumentation. Anyway, you mentioned Antal at Rush Hour and prior to your forthcoming EP the label reissued the long lost classic 'Your Eyes' off your Dance Mania debut - how did Rush Hour approach you for the potential re-release opportunity and were you surprised with the reissue request?
I met Antal through Facebook. We exchanged messages for a while and met when he came to Chicago for a record convention. I was excited and flattered when Antal mentioned a re-issue. I had pretty much forgotten about those recordings so I would have never thought that anyone else would be interested. Every artist wants their music to last, and “Your Eyes” is over 20 years old. I had just started using Facebook not long before I met Antal, I was pleasantly surprised to get messages from people around the world who appreciated my music.
The wonders of social media... Though years ago basement bargain bins would be littered with Dance Mania records your releases have been the more the hard to find – even with the deserved reissue of 'Your Eyes' you know the original can still command over 100 dollars, right? So when Antal jetted over to Chicago I presume this is when he had the opportunity to raid the vaults and listen to your long lost DATs?
100 dollars! No, I did not know that; now I wish that I had held on to the copies I had. The funny thing is that when the word “classic” is used, I had no idea the song was a classic. Yes, when Antal was in Chicago I let him check out the unreleased material that I thought that he would be interested in.
Yeah some Dance Mania records go for serious dollars now! So regarding your unreleased material that will feature on your 'Moonlight Fantasy' EP for Rush Hour the tracks have that same melodic, timeless aesthetic that is synonymous with your earlier productions like 'Your Eyes' and 'I Dream You' on Dance Mania plus 'Cruising' on your EP for Gherkin subsidiary Resound Records. Were these tracks produced in the same early nineties era when you released your Dance Mania and Resound EPs and was there a reason you didn't pursue in releasing them?
The tracks from “Moonlight Fantasy” were done at various intervals in the early 1990’s; from about 1991-1995 if my memory serves me right. At the time I had a lot of tracks with that same feel and I was going to release them on an album called “Time Machine.” I have a business model that some labels don’t agree with. That model is that if we have an agreement that you will pay a certain amount of money to me through the selling of my music, then I expect to get paid the percentage we agreed upon. I also like to receive statements and feedback about how the process of selling my music is going, which is something I like very much about Antal. I spent a ridiculous amount of time on my music and money on gear; I just wanted people to live up to their part of the agreement. I am very passionate about music, but I realized that I knew very little about music, how sound worked, and why our ears like what they do. I made a decision to go back to school, finish my music degree and learn all that I could. I don’t prescribe that method to everyone, but it’s what I felt that I needed to do. Also, I am older now, time and experience has made me wiser. I was just telling someone, if I had known then, what I know now, I would have been more true to myself, not been discouraged and getting so far off track when it came to producing music.
Judging by many Chicago producers' experiences the Windy City was the wild mid-west when it came to contracts... Pleased to hear you're happy with Antal/Rush Hour's terms and the 'Time Machine' archives are finally seeing the light of day! Anyway you stated that the tracks were recorded approximately in the early to mid-nineties and listening carefully to me they sound very reminiscent of Larry Heard productions of the era. You toured with him for his live sets along with Strong Souls' Ray Dilla - was he an influence on your sound and production process?
Certainly, I am the biggest Larry Heard fan. My copy of the “Another Side” double LP is one of the things that I would grab if my house caught on fire. More so than the individual components such as his bass lines, chords, and melodies; I love the feel and mood of his music. I studied his music in the same manner that I studied Yellow Magic Orchestra, Kraftwerk and many others that I admire.
Yeah I cherish my 'Another Side' LP too - hard to pick a Larry Heard favourite but still nothing sounds like this a proper house Holy Grail... So how did you get the opportunity to tour with Larry – it was to promote his ‘Introduction’ LP and singles on MCA right?
I first met Larry when Armando and I dropped by his place around 1987 and he and Robert Owens were working on some things. He gave Armando a record, I’m not sure which one. I was like a little kid and told him that I played piano and played something on his keyboard. We ran into each other at parties and record stores and such over the years. He eventually gave me a call and I of course said “cool!” Yes, the tour was to promote his MCA release.
Nothing more amazing than playing with one of your house heroes… Anyway though you couldn't find the right deal for your 'Time Machine' material and not releasing anything for four years after 'I Dream You' you ended this sabbatical with releases on Relief and Subwoofer in '95 and an EP on Rated X a year later. Was there a particular reason you released these records around that time and did you feel that your sound developed in those years?
There was no reason for the timing of those releases. I could give one label a master copy and they schedule the release to come out three months later; another label might not release the material until a year or so later. I work in many different areas of music outside of dance music; I am an educator, producer of dance, hip-hop, alternative and R-n-B, church musician, DJ, and song writer. So I guess if there is a real answer for gaps and timing it is due to involvement with other things. My sound is always developing; I suppose the same as most artists. The funny thing that happens in the music industry is the need to categorize artists into one genre or sub-genre but people grow and change all the time.
Yeah it's like when a DJ plays some house and someone requests some 'Deep House' yet the track playing will be something by Larry Heard or Marshall Jefferson! There are many facets of house/music but totally agree with you... Anyway taking it way back the late Armando was a kindred spirit who you spent a lot of time with in your younger years. Was he a mentor with your initial forays in the studio? To me I can hear his influence in your harder-tinged tracks on Dance Mania like 'I'm So Deep' and 'Cactus Juice'.
I met Armando when I was about five, he lived across the street from me, we grew up together, hung out all the time, promoted parties together, he taught me how to spin records, he was at my studio sessions when I made some of my records, and I was in the studio when he made some of his. Armando mixed half of my first EP containing “I’m So Deep” so his influence is there. Being friends we discovered about gear and some studio techniques at the same time; but we also learned from one another. I learned a lot from Armando, not just about gear and the studio, but also to work hard and enjoy life.
In your promoting days as you along with Armando were part of the generation that witnessed the rise of Chicago club institutions such as The Warehouse, The Music Box and Medusa's did you experience any of these hallowed house sanctuaries?
I was very young when I was going to the Music Box, I must have been 14-16 years old. Ron Hardy was DJing there and that is when I first heard house music on a real sound system, seeing people doing the dances at that time was amazing. Medusa's was a cool place and reminded me of a fun house with a very unique design. We would go to the Warehouse every Saturday, that was a pretty wild time. At the parties we promoted I was usually at the door collecting money, that wasn't much fun.
With him running his legendary labels Warehouse Records and Muzique Records complete with his residency at The Warehouse he was a prominent figure in the Chicago House era of the late 80s/early 90s. With him being a close friend and mentor did his influence bring you into contact with any other revered Chicago producers? I'm sure you got a few stories to tell...
This question has me thinking about some things that I had not thought of in a long time. Chicago is a big city, but I remember the house music community being close. I remember running into a lot of the same people at parties so there really was a chance for everyone to meet or at least see one another. I used to work at a popular record store which is where I met Jordan Fields, he worked there too. Back then everyone was just having fun, enjoying the music and doing what they loved to do, the same as all young people try to do. Armando was a very ambitious person, maybe there is some way he knew that he wouldn't be here long and he wanted to make his mark on the world. I would promote parties with him and we would hang up posters in the cold winter starting at 10:00 P.M. and finish around 5:00 A.M. Those were fun times, but I look forward to the future, putting out new music and performing.
Jordan Fields seems to be having a revival of late too… I know fellow Chicagoan Joe Lewis was an acquaintance through Armando – can you shed some light on this enigma? Though he has produced some of the rarest house joints including ‘The Love Of My Own’ and ‘Change Reaction’ on his hallowed Target Records imprint he has proved a controversial and divisive figure especially in the UK having allegedly stolen DATs off a young Jaime Read…
In the past I had spent a lot of time with Joe at parties, hanging out with Armando, promoting parties and that sort of thing. As a person I don’t have anything negative to say about Joe, he was cool with me. Unfortunately, in Chicago for someone to “borrow/steal” another artist’s music and put it out under their own name was a common occurrence. I know of a few instances of this happening but I don’t want to expose anyone without solid evidence. I do find the practice bogus as hell though. Imagine if someone stole your car and drove it around as if it were theirs. Take bootlegging for instance, I see that there are bootleg copies of my music out there. I have no idea who the bootleggers of my records are, but I have a Paypal account and I want my money.
Yeah unfortunately a lot of Chicago House tainted by these rip-offs that were typical of the era – standard practice at some labels like Larry Sherman’s Trax Records… Nothing worse than a non-legit reissue or dodgy bootleg – safe to say I have all original pressings of your records (got OCD can’t have a repress!). Anyway, back to Armando… With him and yourself being very close I presume his untimely death had a profound impact on you and the tight-knit house circle?
His death had an impact on everyone personally because he was a wonderful person and he helped a lot of people in the house scene. I left Chicago not long after his passing and moved to California for a few years because I needed a change in scenery.
With you migrating to California did this life-changing decision prove a productive process in producing new material or did you just understandably take a complete break from the music scene?
Sort of both, it was a break from the usual routine and I spent more time playing guitar and producing more alt rock vibe.
Yeah I think it's important to experience change and broaden your horizons... You mentioned that you look forward to releasing new music in the future. Will your productions remain house-orientated or take a new direction influenced by your life experiences and more varied musical career as a music teacher?
I have my dance side which I will always do. I love dance music and all of the various sub genres. I produce hip hop, neo soul, and rock as well. I have listened to world music for years and I want venture in that genre as well. I like to cook and most of the times I am just trying things which is the same way I feel about music. I like to experiment, if something sucks I can always hit the delete button. Overall I love music and I want to incorporate my knowledge of music into my production in the same manner that you use your knowledge of music in your writing.
I still learn everyday... With your future productions it sounds like they'll be more varied with the instrumentation used too. Do you still turn to any of the more primitive equipment you used in your early house productions and do you have a favourite piece of kit? One for the gear geeks and hardcore hardware enthusiasts...
I loved all of my old outboard gear, especially the rack mounts synths like the Yamaha TX81Z and Roland D-110. I used to have a few Korg Poly 61's which had a nice feel. "I'm So Deep" was made with a Casio CZ1000 which is on some other tracks from that EP. I loved my little Roland 606, the 909 is still awesome but I never owned one. I sequenced all of my old records on a Kawai Q-80. I ended up selling most of my gear and started PC recording only to find out that I need to touch the gear, knobs and sliders. I am in the process of re-buying a lot of it. In the end it's the artists who make the gear. I find it odd when certain pieces of gear are the industry standard. Every artist should set himself or herself apart by not using the same thing as everyone else. I used a toy to make my first record. Young producers and DJ's shouldn't worry themselves with having the same gear and decks as everyone else, they should get what they can afford and be the best that they can be with it.
I agree limitations on what equipment or resources one has can influence them on being more creative or productive. Aside from 'Moonlight Fantasy' is there any other long lost DATs from the era where you've utilised your favourite hardware and you think would be worthy of releasing? With the Rush Hour release it wouldn't surprise me if an armada of labels get in touch wanting to raid the vaults or check out any potential new material...
I let Antal hold on to a few DAT's that I had not listened to in a long time. I used to number my tracks instead of naming them and some of those tracks were in the 400's. I recently found a box of old tapes in my basement that I am going through with some nice tracks on them. I think that the people will like the material that I am currently working on, now I actually know what I am doing. I am also doing more vocal tracks working with singer Shavonne Nicole, she is amazing. In the past I was very critical of my music, now that I look back I should not have been so hard on myself. I could have been the type to put out 20 records a year, but that wasn't my style and I am glad that I didn't just throw a ton of stuff out there.
Amazing that you're producing new tracks and look forward to hearing the vocal collaboration... You must have been a very harsh critic as you only released a handful of records - of your small but perfectly formed discography do you have a favourite track or record and if so any particular reason?
I put “Cruisin’” out on my own on a label called Resound Records because I wanted it to stay 12:00 minutes long. The concept is that it’s a driving song and represents a road trip. I liked the sound and mood of the track. That track was made with an Ensoniq ESQ-1. I learned from that experience the challenges of running a label which is a different process these days. By the way, there are some records out there that I have done under a different name.
I knew Resound Records was an affiliate of Gherkin but that's news to me you founded the label! Yeah 'Cruising' I think is one of your most under-appreciated tracks - a proper serene journey that has to be heard in its entirety so props to releasing it on your terms... So care to elaborate on your alter-ego or is it strictly an anonymous affair?
One of these was under Loop II Loop on Mindfood Records which was more of a sample based project. The rest shall remain anonymous.
A House Hunting exclusive wasn't aware of that one! Will check it out… I know Sherman Rodgers of Gherkin and Black Ice fame released some records on Mindfood but I agree some things are best left anonymous... Anyway talking of records I hear you have a vast collection of vinyl - do you still play and dig when you can?
I do and looking forward to getting out of the Windy City sometime soon.
Though always worth checkin' your backyard - when I jetted to Chicago seven years ago picked up some proper house holy grails for bargain basement prices at joints like Gramaphone, Kstarke... So to sign off in true House Hunting style what's been your best house record find when diggin' deep in the crates?
I go to Hyde Park Records which is near me on the south side. Last Friday I re-purchased John Rocca's AEIOU which has been a favourite of mine for a long time for about $6.00. That song is my time machine, it takes me back to my high school days.
Classic! OK so Vincent been a pleasure chattin’ to you and good luck with ‘Moonlight Fantasy’ and any future releases/projects… Anything I’ve missed that you’d like to add?
It has been great chatting with you as well. The only other thing that I would like to add is to share from my life’s experiences. I have met a lot of talented people who get discouraged and give up on their dreams which I find regrettable. If there is anyone in that situation reading this, don’t give up; stay true to yourself, don’t worry about what other people think, stay the course, and you will get to where you want to be.
‘Moonlight Fantasy’ by Vincent Floyd is available now at all good record shops including this week’s choice Soho joint Phonica Records don’t hang around…
You can also buy directly from Rush Hour – hit ‘em up here.