House Hunting #44 – Le Noiz

So after a holiday hiatus House Hunting is back...

House Hunting #44 – Le Noiz

So after a holiday hiatus House Hunting is back...

So after a holiday hiatus House Hunting is back! I jetted out to Croatia for the Electric Elephant festival where I was werkin’ it in my gold and silver satin shorts to some serious selectors such as Prosumer and A Guy Called Gerald – who was a revelation on the Bicep boat party droppin’ a load of Chicago House from the house hall of fame including Larry Heard, Frankie Knuckles, Marshall Jefferson and Jamie Principle. A proper mind trip you could imagine I was in my element take me back miss and reminisce… On the festival site I clocked a lil’ record stall and as it’d been a couple of weeks since I had a crate crusade (wax withdrawal was kickin’ in on my house hunting exile) I had a quick browse but was mainly new in-vogue house/disco records – there were a few disco/boogie records but my rack raiding radar was all over the shop due to mixin’ too many Pina Coladas and Croatian beers so was best I went back to the beach bar…

Back in the UK and prior to jettin’ away as ever when not undertaking the primitive artform of diggin’ deep in a record shop I’m gettin’ down with modern technology to see what records and collections I can scope out on apps such as eBay, Gumtree and Instagram. As ever during the commuter chaos of London rush hour I sought solace in my phone for a house hunt and when scannin’ on my Instagram feed I did a double-take as I clocked that the Music and Video Exchange had posted a pic of one of weaknesses – a platter of black crack on Trax Records! I instantly replied to check if they still got in stock which they had and it was in VG condition (real ‘VG’ not ‘Discogs VG’) complete with my OCD pre-requisite of havin’ clean labels so jacked a lil’ jive on the train! However, I’m sure if you’re a diggin’ deviant that you’re aware that their Soho stronghold has had to batten down the hatches and shut down – losing the battle and surrendering to the area gettin’ gentrifucked RIP Soho MVE another influential institution and piece of history wiped off the wax map... Still, way out west they’ve got their Notting Hill joint which (whisper it…) arguably has the better stock where I’ve unearthed many a wax jewel – check out this edition of House Hunting from a few months back where I copped an Arthur Russell 12” on Jump Street in the Notting Hill outlet.

Anyway, I presumed the Trax record would be in Notting Hill but no they replied it was in their Greenwich branch south of the river – a mission when you live in North London I can jet up back home to The Midlands quicker! So I queried if they’d transfer it thinking it’d be a long shot but to my surprise they said they would and give me a shout when Notting Hill had it in stock. This was a few weeks back and when I was I was in Croatia I got a notification from ‘em stating that it had been transferred and reserved for me – now that’s what you call super customer service nice one! I got back from Croatia last Thursday night and I was on the late shift at work the next day (as a Retail Manager contending with sale shoppers on Oxford Street a bit strong after a week in Tisno proper Croatia comedown…) so I called the shop up to double-check they had the Trax 12” on hold. It was music to my ears when they had it bagged up ready for me so deviated to the Central Line to go cop it which also presented me with the perfect pick-me-up in the form of a quick pre-work peruse in the racks…

As I only had 20 minutes or so time was of the essence so flicked furiously through the usual house racks – nothing of note really in the Chicago section however I pulled out some NY flavour in the form of House Hunting fave Nu Groove – this one was the ‘Secret Code’ EP by Burrell Brother Rheji under his Jazz Documents guise. It was a shrink-wrapped cover (bonus!) and surprisingly must have been languishing there for a while as had a fair few reductions and was now only a few quid. So I took that to the till and upon inspection labels were clean (phew!) and looked at least in decent condition so another Nu Groove added to the collection – if like me you’re a Nu Groove nerd you can check out this love letter I did on the label. Listen to Rheji’s inimitable production flow on the EP here…


So that was a nice lil’ surprise but as you know the main reason I was here was to cop that Trax 12”. On inspecting it true to their word the record in decent condition so without hesitation copped that and this lifted my mood – vinyl is always the answer…

So what Trax 12” had I scored? Well this one is TX 103 so a piece of house history as this was the third record ever to be released on Trax way back in ’85 – considering it’s 30 years old and it’s in VG condition that plays well it’s even more remarkable as we all know how notorious Trax pressings are with Larry Sherman not giving a f**k and using cheap recycled vinyl. Anyway, for the majority that don’t identify their records with the catalogue or matrix numbers (anoraks anonymous…) this record is ‘I’m Scared’ by house forefather Jesse Saunders under his lesser-known ‘Le Noiz’ alias. As Le Noiz Jesse released just this and the ‘Wanna Dance?’ 12” which launched Trax Records – the track utilised samples from the old Three Stooges comedy routines which you may detect on the breaks have a listen here…

Now you all know Jesse Saunders, right? I’ll get on to his genre-defining record that was the catalyst for House in a minute, but first a lil’ history on the founding father of house. Though multitalented at sports (especially Tennis) and excelling academically at college, coming from a musical household in which he learnt to play the guitar, bass, flute, trumpet and drums (plus was part of the Chicago Children’s Choir for several years) naturally this child prodigy gravitated towards having a career in music. In ’77 his step brother Wayne Williams (who founded the now massive Chicago event ‘The Chosen Few Picnic Weekend’ and released records under his Doctor Derilict pseudonym as featured in House Hunting #28) managed to hustle a set at the 2000-strong Mendel High School Saturday event – his formative years spent at Frankie’s sanctuary The Warehouse plus years practising DJing paying dividends when his set went down a storm. He secured further gigs through this and wanting to raise the bar got Jesse on board as he had a decent disco selection and could surprise the crowd with his tape edits which he was adept in rearranging into new edits. They decided to call their DJ tag-team ‘The Chosen Few Disco Corp.’ and though only teenagers found success with their selection and dexterity behind the decks. In the following years he had secured a successful residency at Sauer’s plus had a couple of short stints in LA where he attended university and hooked up with DJ deity Ron Hardy who was in town for a while. Though he was looking to lay his roots in LA long-term, when on a visit to Chicago he was presented with an opportunity to open a new club with Craig Thompson who he promoted his Sauer’s night with. So come the Spring of ’82 they launched their new venture ‘The Playground’ and on the opening night hosted Frankie Knuckles and Farley “Jackmaster” Funk along with Jesse himself. The club was an overnight success and evolved into another Chicago institution along with The Warehouse and Music Box.

During his residency at The Playground, Jesse was approached by Vince Lawrence who he knew from his time at Sauer’s. He handed Jesse a record he produced and pressed himself on his Dad’s Mitchbal Records imprint – the new wave styling of ‘(I Like To Do It In) Fast Cars’ – which he wanted Jesse to break for him. This inspired Jesse to produce his own compositions and in January ’83 influenced by the records he dropped at that Playground composed a melody and bassline complete with lyrics. The resulting arrangement was ‘Fantasy’ which was in essence all about following your dreams. To finalise the production Jesse sought advice from Vince as he released a record before and when Vince demonstrated the capabilities of a Moog naturally Jesse had to cop one but he got the more advanced Korg Poly 61 synthesizer – which as opposed to the Moog which could only play one chord at the time the Korg was more dynamic being able to play multiple chords and simulate more sounds. Vince was feelin’ the production so much he wanted to release it on his Dad’s Mitchbal label. His Dad agreed but proposed getting Vince’s band Z Factor involved.

So in the summer of ’83 in Vince’s garage deep in Chicago’s South Side , Jesse, Vince and Z Factor rehearsed and recorded an album’s worth of material with songs like ‘Thorns’ and ‘I’m The DJ’ – along with a reinterpretation of ‘Fantasy’ in which Vince’s Dad recruited rock vocalist Screamin’ Rachel (personally I ain’t sure about the vox all about the instrumental for me). Anyway, according to Jesse, ‘Fantasy’ is the first house singles ever recorded and would have been the first house record released had it been pressed-up quicker – apparently Vince’s Dad procrastinated over releasing them and they didn’t see the light of day until ’84. Check out some of their discography below complete with an ace lil’ Mitchbal mini-mix courtesy of Thunder main man Miles Simpson - only a few tracks but hey original Mitchbal pressings ain’t easy to come by…

 

 

So it looked like that ‘Fantasy’ would give birth to a new genre and be the first ‘house’ record to be released but a twist of fate would lead Jesse to release one of the defining records of the era. His residency at The Playground was goin’ strong, with the crowd always knowing when Jesse was at the controls as he’d always drop the track ‘On And On’ by Mach on Remix Records. The record was an unofficial release with two disco medleys on either side – though the majority of selectors opted for the more obvious ‘Funky Mix’ on the A-side Jesse’s preference was always ‘On And On’ with this b-side bomb a mini-megamix melding ‘Get On The Funk Train’ by Munich Machine, ‘Space Invaders’ by Playback, ‘Funky Town’ by Lipps Inc. and the acapella of Donna Summer’s ‘Bad Girls’. Check it out here…

However, you gotta have heard of this fabled house tale when on one fateful night on approaching the booth to ready his signature record to his shock and dismay his records had been stolen. When hitting the record store to attempt to buy what had been jacked, Jesse had a brainwave that he could recreate his signature record ‘On And On’. From memory he recorded the bassline and added some drums rhythms that changed up every minute – complete with some added rap and vox from Vince and himself. The 808-induced rhythms evolved into five separate tracks which Jesse utilised in his sets to compliment the songs he played and surprise the crowds. On one occasion when Jesse was visiting legendary vinyl institution Importes Etc. to pick up a fresh batch of wax (he was involved in the shop’s record pool), the head of sales Frank Sells (apt name!) told him that everyone was requesting a specific track he was playing in his sets. Unsure which track he was referring to, Jesse brought in a tape with one of his most-recent recorded set and turns out it was one of his ‘On And On’ rhythm tracks.  Frank advised Jesse to get these tracks pressed onto vinyl as he was confident it’d sell well with the volume of requests the shop was receiving. So after gettin’ the prototype mastered as Mitchbal still hadn’t pressed up ‘Fantasy’, Jesse approached Precision Record Labs run by none-other than cult Chicago enigma Larry Sherman. Though Larry was more used to pressing Blues seven inches and was dubious about these productions, with the potential demand the record had he agreed to press them up. Vince drew the logo for Jesse’s newly incepted label ‘Jes Say Records’ (the Z Factor logo looks like some of Vince’s handiwork too) with the labels coming in black and white complete with shrink-wrapped white covers. With his last 800 dollars Jesse got Larry to press up 500 copies with ‘On And On’ on the A-side and all the rhythm tracks on the flip. The record was released in January ’84 and the rest, as they say, is history…

Naturally Jesse pushed the record hard like he would his parties, with Importes Etc. ordering 250 copies and the other half selling out within days… He got another 1000 pressed up by Larry Sherman who couldn’t believe they sold ‘em all so quick so cut him a deal – he’d press up the records for free taking the cost of the records outta the profits and take an additional percentage dependent on the sales figures (giving you an insight into the early dealings in which he’d become notorious for). Anyway, the record was a major hit in the Chi-town environ blazin’ outta clubs and car stereos 24/7 and would be the catalyst in him being a house hero in his hometown. He wasted no time in releasing his next 12” which would be an original production inspired by Duane Buford – who incidentally co-produced the Le Noiz 12” that I copped for this week’s House Hunting. Duane first me Jesse working at The Playground and was a talented pianist who had a jam session with Jesse and Vince. Anyway, Duane was seeing a girl who went behind his back and when confiding in Jesse both talked over how a girl can “F**k you up” with this phrase sticking with them and being the basis for Jes Say Records’ second release a – ‘Funk You Up (Those Pretty Girls)’. 

A 1000 of these were pressed up and as receiving heavy rotation on WGCI and WBMX the track became the best-selling record in town even gettin’ into the billboard charts – to most Chicagoans Jesse was a bigger deal than Prince mental… The record went through various incarnations on several labels including Larry Sherman’s precursor to Trax ‘Street Fire Records’ which he set up with Importes Etc. owner Paul Weisberg. With Duane being the inspiration for the track he was naturally involved in this and future productions/remixes of Jesse’s records including the next release on the label – ‘Undercover’ by the aforementioned Doctor Derelict aka Jesse’s step brother Wayne Williams. Meanwhile Jesse had projects goin’ on all over the shop… He co-founded legendary house stable Trax along with Larry Sherman and Vince (who’s designed the iconic off-centre logo), released records on Larry’s new start up Precision Records including ‘Dum Dum’ as Fresh, Gwendolyn’s ‘Come To Me’ and their infamous rip-off of Jamie Principle’s ‘Waiting On My Angel’ – the story goes that Larry was so p***ed that Jamie signed to Persona instead of Trax that as well as blocking the distribution and sabotaging the record in any way he could he got Jesse to record and release a cover version. I know what version I prefer…

However, it wasn’t long before Jesse grew weary of Larry ‘Shady’ Sherman’s dodgy business practices so turned his attention back to his own Jes Say imprint. His next single was ‘Real Love (Is It Real?)’ featuring his band Jesse’s Gang which he conceived along with Duane Buford. Enlisting ‘Fantasy’ keyboardist Duane Grant, Eric Bell on drums and Duane Roof on bass, Jesse developed them into a live outfit that would use real instrumentation and perform at The Playground.

The Prince-styling of the track gave birth to a crossover Chicago anthem that sold in the tens of thousands, which caught the attention of label major Geffen. Reincarnating Jesse’s gang as a triptych, Jesse brought in Twala Dawn on vox along along with production partner Duane Buford on drums and keys. They released a few records and the ‘Centre Of Attraction’ LP in ‘87 but with a more radio-friendly, commercial direction the record was a departure from Jesse’s house roots and one that his following weren’t accustomed too as the city was still gripped by house-fever. If you want some house-pop flavour have a listen to the LP here…

One more piece of (as the Mrs would say ‘useless’) house trivia – not content with launching Trax, Jesse also helped Duane Buford form legendary house imprint Dance Mania with the label’s first release (DM-000) a collaboration between Jesse and Duane Buford as The Browns with ‘What’s That’ – I picked up a mint copy of this at Haggle Records (RIP) last year. Anyway, a close friend of Duane, Ray Barney, wanted to start a label and Duane let Ray use the Dance Mania imprint he used for The Browns record. Duane offered to release the first record under his Duane & Co guise which would be ‘Hardcore Jazz’ and released a couple more including ‘Hard Core (On The One)’ featuring Marshall Jefferson and ‘Ultimate J.B. Trax’ – these basic 808 rhythms with grunting James Brown samples would be the blueprint for the rudimentary flavour that became synonymous with the stable. Check ‘em out here…

I could go on (and on) but don’t wanna kill you with more early house obscure allure – hang on I forgot to mention you know Jessie was behind ‘Love Can’t Turn Around’ don’t you? I won’t bore you with the details but you can check out the piece I did on Farley “Jackmaster” Funk regarding the furore surrounding the best-selling house record of all-time. Anyway, though ‘On And On’ ain’t aged well you can’t deny the impact and influence it had though if you ask any of the Chicago House hierarchy I’m sure the eternal debate of who produced and released the first house record is still raging on…

I’ll leave you with this week’s find ‘I’m Scared’ – another typically fun, primitive house rhythm from Jesse and Duane that’s reminiscent of the debut Le Noiz record. Another piece of house history from one of the forgotten Trax…

AIDEN D’ARAUJO

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