House Hunting #55: The Mike Dunn Connection

It’s been a while so Happy House Hunting New Year and here’s hoping the platter perusal proves prosperous for 2016!

House Hunting #55: The Mike Dunn Connection

It’s been a while so Happy House Hunting New Year and here’s hoping the platter perusal proves prosperous for 2016!

It’s been a while so Happy House Hunting New Year and here’s hoping the platter perusal proves prosperous for 2016! Anyway, as work’s been jam-hot hectic (retail at christmas is not the one…) I’ve broken house hunting protocol as I ain’t checked out a record joint in weeks (you what?!) so wax withdrawal kickin’ in – I’ve still got a £10 gift voucher Xmas prezzie my Mum got me to rinse on a rack raid at my Hoxton haunt Love Vinyl. I know, slacking! However, a potential house haul has been on the horizon as a House Hunting fan hit me up on Discogs under the name Blazin-D who just scored a collection of 15,000 records, sounds serious… On reading further he (Daryl) said the bulk of it was early house outta NYC and the Chi plus some proto-house and boogie styling so def my kinda flavour – when he said the majority mint complete in shrink wrap it was game over… 

Daryl invited me to his gaff in Leigh-On-Sea which at first I thought would be a trek but actually on planning my route I could get there in just over an hour – turns out only a few more stops from choice Essex emporium Crazy Beat Records. So I said just give me a shout when suits and within a couple of weeks he got back to me saying the upcoming week would work so wasted no time in booking my tickets. Though the depths of Essex was looking forward to a change of scenery as there’s only so much diggin’ déjà vu I can take at all the London joints – I’ve rinsed ‘em enough another week away won’t hurt!

I arranged to meet Daryl at Leigh-On-Sea station for 10am as jettin’ there earlier would maximise house hunting hours on my crate crusade. Upon arriving at the train station I rang Daryl to rendezvous with him but did a double-take as on exiting I bumped into Rob who supplies my choice club couture Werk Chicago – turns out he lives here small world… Anyway after a brief exchange (“What you doin’ here?”) a few minutes later Daryl picked me up. When we got to his house he got the kettle on and it was only natural we were waxing lyrical to each other about house and records. Turns out Daryl was a resident at The Soundshaft (those old enough will remember at the back of Heaven) who regularly played  with Kid Batchelor (of Bang The Party and Riviera Traxx fame) and jetted in a whole host of house heroes such as Kerri Chandler, Derrick Carter and Danny Tenaglia.

Anyway, time to get down to business… Daryl lead me to his outhouse and upon entering there was lethal lacquer burstin’ outta the racks – it ain’t often you come across a 15,000 strong wax stax round someone’s gaff. 

All the piles of platters on the floor were pure bargain bin fodder – he recommended to focus on all the racks as he categorised them into all the house flavours (Chicago, NY, NJ) complete in label order just the way I like it! He pointed out on the chair next to the racks there was some records I maybe interested too so I had quick flick through them and there were a load of Movin’ and Jump Street joints (pretty much the whole discographies) so knew this collection was gonna be serious… My flickin’ fervour took me to the top racks which housed all the Chicago house. I instantly clocked the Trax stax (all in original sleeves!) which included Frankie Knuckles’ ‘Your Love’, Virgo Four’s ‘Do You Know Who You Are?’ and two copies of the hard to find ‘I’ll Never Let You Go’ by William S which you don’t see everyday… There was more of the usual suspects overflowin’ like DJ International but I went into sensory overdrive when I detected that Gherkin flava… As well as a mint copy of Gallifre’s lush orchestration ‘Set Your Mind To It’ there were two copies of the red label Gallifre and Mondee Oliver mournful melter ‘Don’t Walk Out On Love’ complete with the ‘Acid Mix’ that adds the Gherkin Jerks’ Tar-Disc acid from the ‘Stomp The Beat’ EP – this one not especially hard to find but just one of those I ain’t come across so copped that shout to Brett Wilcots! On delving deeper I scored one that’s been on the House Hunting hot list for time – the Jack Street joint ‘The Night Calls’ by Bizzy B that features choice cuts such as the jackin’ ‘B With U’ (that samples the Ron Hardy re-edit of Nightlife Unlimited’s ‘Peaches & Prunes’) and the more ethereal ‘Summer House’ that sounds like a long lost Larry Heard or Vincent Floyd production. Again, even though a seldom seen slice there were two copies – can’t beat a collection with a load of doubles! However, beating that to my diggin’ disbelief I pulled out a blue-shrink sleeve that housed the Chicago House Holy Grail ‘Code Of Acid’ by Code 3. This one a proper B-side bomb for the acid auteurs that is super scarce like a Joe Lewis or Marcus Mixx 12” – I’ve had one battered G+ copy which I scored for a decent thirty quid and sold on for £75 so a wantlist weapon. This one mint and have seen ‘em go for over 200 notes (!) so let’s hope I can sort a price with Daryl…

Man I was gettin’ high off this deep dose of black crack and that was just off the Chi House racks! Daryl played the perfect house host fuelling me up with tea and biscuits in his winter wax wonderland pure house hunting heaven… I deviated to the disco rack and this didn’t let me down either as there were scores of Salsoul and West End complete with some prime Prelude platters. Disco diamonds that caught me eye were Larry Wu’s ‘Let Me Show You’ (complete in original Atlantic jacket with hype sticker) and Wuf Ticket’s ‘The Key’ – had to add this James Mason joint to the pile… Amongst all the Supertronics, Emergency and Becket boogie bombs I pulled out Richie Weeks’ ‘Custom Made Love ’ under his Rush Hour guise on Star Gaze too a proper jam-hot boogie house hybrid.

Hang on, I gotta stop being a fallacy playing disco deviant and get back to the house hunting! My rack raiding radar detected a NY collection and again loads of house heavyweights to spar with including half a rack of Strictly Rhythms alone plus a load of Nu Groove necessities (about 30-odd) by label mainstays such as the Burrell Brothers and Joey Beltram. This dig was proving dangerous – this ain’t the time of year to check out a collection like this especially when you’ve just rinsed serious £££’s on a new MacBook and mixer! Actually that may be a blessing as as don’t think Tonya would have coped me spending hundreds on an arsenal of vinyl… Anyway, back to the rack and as I set myself a budget of £150 my plan was to pursue the rarer records that I may not see in mint condition again in this lifetime – you’re always gonna find a Trax or Nu Groove so all about some obscure allure. Riflin’ through there was loads of Easy Street joints (no less than 20) plus more Paradise Garage platters on Pow Wow, Sleeping Bag and Streetwise. Talking of Streetwise I scoped the proto-house pressure of Colonel Abrams’ ‘Music Is The Answer’ which as mint and in shrink company sleeve had to cop in tribute to the big man falling on hard times of late – I’m sure you’ve all got a 12” by the Colonel in your collection so help a brother out via this fans fundraiser page. As well as that I unearthed ‘Seven Day Weekend’ by Open House which you may be familiar with via the later Nu Groove release with the New York and Motor City mixes but this one the scarcer original pressing on Lethal Records. However, my fave find from the east coast was unearthing ‘Into The Groove’ by Jefferseif aka Jeff Seifer and Bottom Line boss ‘Ed The Red’ Goltsman – before you ask yeah that it is a killer cover of Madonna’s ’85 hit forget her allure keep it obscure…

Right I better wrap this rack raid up otherwise I’ll be typing s**t for days about this diggin’ daze… Jesus which wax weapon am I gonna wax lyrical about? Well, there was one more choice Chicago cut I pulled out which was the ‘Tracks That Move Ya’ LP by The MD Connection aka Chicago House hero Mike Dunn. As he’ll be jettin’ over to the UK next week for a rare UK gig at Thunder I gotta do a love letter to the main man Mike harkin’ back to some Chicago House history…

Hailing from the Englewood ‘hood projects in the South Side of Chicago, though not the most salubrious surroundings Mike grew up in a the sanctuary of a musical household where his parents’ passion for music was a major influence – his Mum would take him on vinyl ventures to the record store checkin’ out the latest disco releases and his Dad had all the latest equipment like Bose speakers and Revox reel-to-reel complete with thousands of records. Having a reel-to-reel in the house proved to be the catalyst in learning his craft as playing and practising on this enhanced his dexterity to the degree he could make smooth transitions with the records fading in and out seamlessly. His neighbour on the floor below had a set of turntables and a mixer which naturally further fuelled his desire in being a DJ. At high school he met a kindred spirit in Chi hip-house hierarchy Tyree Cooper and  they both ran neighbourhood parties along with Hugo H. – who featured on WKKC show Friday Nite Audio with Isadore Pink aka cult hip-hop hero PinkHouse (RIP). Anyway, though Tyree was securing sets at hotel parties such as Lil’ Louis’ stronghold The Bismarck, the trio would run parties for the the kids that couldn’t get outta the hood to the hallowed house turf of the Music Box or the Power Plant. 

They had a huge following playing at joints like The Courtyard where Mike would bring his drum machine and reel to reels playin’ off the cuff. Though many were inspired by DJ deities Frankie Knuckles and Ron Hardy plus WBMX wizards the Hotmix 5, Mike was down with local legend Leonard “Remix” Rroy (a resident at The Rink Zone) who despite never getting the credit or recognition he deserved outta town he has still earned a place in Chicago House folklore with his turntable wizardry. It was only later Mike checked out Frankie and Ron – even if just hangin’ outside the Music Box and gettin’ a party started armed with some rush, acid and a Ron Hardy tape. Though Tyree had the first major breakthrough in ’86 releasing ‘I Fear The Night’ on DJ International subsidiary Underground, a year later Chris “Bam Bam” Westbrook snapped up Mike’s debut production ‘Dance You Mutha’ for his eponymous stable that he just launched after hearing  the track on WKKC. Get into the Dunn debut here…

Though it took Mike a few years to make the natural transition from DJing to production, he’d always been a hardcore hardware enthusiast even as a kid taking apart record players and building them again – instead of just using or playing he would deconstruct and read the manuals inside out so he could understand how and why the equipment did what it did. This curiosity and enthusiasm for engineering made him the go-to-guy for any production needs and ’88 proved to be a busy year on all fronts. His next release on Westbrook was the Windy City weapon ‘So Let It Be Houze!’ which featured the B-Side bomb ‘Magic Feet’. You’ve all heard the house fable ‘bout that one ain’t you? Well, ‘Magic Feet’ was inspired by ‘The Original Video Clash’ that Marshall Jefferson originally recorded with Kym Mazelle back in ’86. 

Mike and Tyree may argue with this alleged version of events but the story goes that Lil’ Louis who used to hang at Marshall’s was present when he recorded the track in his living room. Lil’ Louis was playin’ at Future and The Bismarck so he insisted on having a copy for his sets as Marshall usually gave his rough demos to Ron Hardy. On getting a copy Lil’ Louis edited the track removing Kym’s vocal in the process and it became a staple in his sets sending his crowd crazy. As Marshall was focusing on producing his major-label projects with Ce Ce Rogers, Kym Mazelle and Ten City, Tyree and Mike Dunn released versions of ‘Video Clash’ without his consent. Tyree’s rough’n’ready version which retained the original’s more primitive nature was called ‘Video Crash’ and was released on Rodney Bakerr’s Rockin’ House Records – which was bootlegged in New York as ‘Acid Crash’ adding to the confusion. Mike Dunn’s interpretation was ‘Magic Feet’ which in contrast to the stark original he injected a dose of atmospheric acid and sinister synths to proceedings. Lil’ Louis was upset that the track had been ripped off and approached Marshall in releasing ‘The Original Video Clash’. Though concerned that the record had already become saturated in its various guises, Marshall reluctantly agreed to Lil’ Louis releasing the record though on its release on Dance Mania neither Marshall or Kym were credited on it – standard Windy City Wild Mid-West practice that typified the era. When all the versions are that good who gives a f**k anyway it was nearly 30 years ago time to let it go – have listen and decide for yourself…

Movin’ on from that house hullabaloo (tell me a Chicago cut from the era that hasn’t had a degree of controversy…) and in the same year under his MD III moniker Mike released ‘Face The Nation’ on Rocky Jones’ DJ international offshoot Underground which was a platform for the house institution’s rawer releases. This EP showcased Mike’s dexterity with the 303 with acid overflowin’ on both sides – choice cuts gotta be the title-track (featuring Tyree on vox) plus the bubblin’ acid of ‘Set Me Free’ complete with Mike’s yearning larynx elevating it above the identikit 303 rhythms that were synonymous with the era. As well as his own productions he mixed Marshall Jefferson’s mystical masterclass ‘Open Our Eyes’ and was the Rockin’ House remixer de riguer on joints like ‘House Girl’ by Mystic and ‘Muzik’ by Tyree’s sister Myoshi Morris. 

That year also proved pivotal as he hooked up with his brutha from anuth mutha Armando (RIP) and released some historic house hotplates on Armando’s legendary label Warehouse – home to Ron Trent’s debut 12” ‘Altered States’. The label’s legacy includes chief cut ‘Land Of Confusion’ which in contrary to hallowed house myth actually came about via a pre-set 303 bassline. Though the original was released via Bam Bam’s Westbrook all about the Warehouse pressing with Mike’s mixes – transcending the primitive productions of the era this one still a mind trip and will work in any set anytime, anywhere… Next up Mike and Armando collaborated on the Todd Terry styling of ‘100% Of Disin’ You’ with that hook sampling Salsoul soulstress Loleatta Holloway – you ain’t gonna fail to jack to this one! Time to get into some MD ’88 here…

The following year in ’89 Mike and Armando joined forces and founded Muzique Records which would be a vehicle for more of their productions they would hook up on. The label’s probably best known for Steve Poindexter’s punishing debut ‘Work That Mutha Fucker’ which has Mike Dunn’s DNA all over it but there was also ‘Falling’ by 3 2 6 (aka Dion Williams) with Mike’s mix sounding like it’s sailed over Lake Michigan from outta the Motor City. Other recommended releases include ‘Madness’ by Mike’s main man Terry Hunter and of course, this week’s House Hunting find ‘The Tracks That Move Ya’ LP by Mike himself. As well as including the aforementioned ‘Magic Feet’, his debut LP features seven more raw joints with my choice cuts being the b-side bombs whether the killer keys of ‘Piano Houze’ or the acid-drenched ‘Soothe My Soul’. There’s also ‘The M Rules’ that has some of that Gherkin flava sampling the Gherkin Jerks’ ‘Acid Indigestion’ which some of the acid auteurs may find hard to digest but can’t beat that added bass pressure. 

As well as Muzique Mike went alone and set up Dance Mutha Records with a trio of releases with some hip-house flow featuring Gershon Jackson – my advice forego the vocal versions and head straight for those New York instrumentals for some of that CHI x NYC flava… He also deviated to Larry Sherman’s Trax via the Housetime offshoot with the eloquently-titled ‘Pussy Is Good’ under his Bowel Movements guise. As well his own productions he kept rinsin’ the remixes as a man in demand whether on Ten City’s ‘Devotion’ returning to the Warehouse on Armando’s ‘We’re On The Move’ or heading West Side to Ray Barney’s Dance Mania on Da Posse’s soul-inflicted ‘Searchin’ Hard’. Time to get into the Muzique here you muthas…

At the turn of the decade Mike’s prolific production output showed no signs of slowing. He went back underground revisiting his MD III moniker for the hip-swinging ‘Shake That Body’ and collaborated with fellow Chicago House hero K-Alexi on ‘Don’t Cha Want It?’ plus released his ‘Free Your Mind’ LP on London’s Desire Records which features Marshall Jefferson and Dance Mutha mainstay Gershon Jackson. As well as all his 80s productions for me his choice cuts are his releases on Rocky Jones DJ International subsidiary Rhythm Beat records which housed his more obscure aliases. To launch the off-shoot he released ‘On A Journey’ which is reminiscent of Mr Fingers’ ‘Can You Feel It’ but with that inimitable MD flow complete with ‘Let’s Work That Mutha F___’ which is a reworking of Steve Poindexter’s debut on Muzique. However, it’s all about the X-rated lust and submerging squelches of ‘I Won’t Hurt You (I Swear)’ which ingeniously lifts the disco loop from Carl Bean’s ‘I Was Born This Way’ leaving you in a steamy house haze proper sweat on the walls… Also under his QX-1 guise he released ‘Love Injection’ complete with a myriad of mixes – though most heads will opt for the ‘Inject Me Love Mixx’ personally for me it’s all about the deep majesty of ‘The State Of 727 W.’ mix proper spine-tingler and ethereal end-of-nighter… Another alias is The Jass Mann in which he released ‘Jass Yo Azz Off’ with both sides being bombs whether the percussive ‘Tribal X MIxx’ over on the flip or my fave the deeper ‘Mello Groove Mixx’ proper warm-up weapon… 

Though approaching the mid-90s most of the Chicago House old-school lay dormant in house hibernation Mike kept releasing records whether returning to Underground as MD III to let off some steam with ‘The Pressure Cooker’, releasing his ‘Da Track Dummies’ LP on Trax (‘Late Night Sex’ the choice cut on this), and of course his ubiquitous anthem ‘God Made Me Phunky’ as The MD X-Spress which if you ain’t heard I don’t know where you been… As it crossed over into UK Funky and Garage even my staff used to play this on the shop playlist proving regardless of genre a good tune is a good tune even if this one has more commercial sensibilities… Anyway, we probably don’t need to hear that one again so let’s raid the Rhythm Beat catalogue…

Fast-forward to the present and Mike’s still goin’ strong whether hookin’ up with Murphy Jax for ‘It’s The Music’ and Alden Tyrell on ‘Touch The Sky’ on Clone’s label love letter to the Chi Jack For Daze (who incidentally reissued ‘Face The Nation’ and ‘So Let It Be Houze!’ via their Clone Classic Cuts series) or becoming a mainstay on Mark Potts’ Moreaboutmusic stable releasing some more uncompromising acid via the ‘Acid Chaser EP’ and ‘I Wanna B House’ 12”. S**t I nearly forgot his freaky Mr 69 joint ‘Phreaky MF’ on Phil Weeks’ Robsoul Recordings which was another one of his later records that was a proper crossover cut.

Moving away from the production-side of things and let’s not forget Mike is also a serious selector who was a resident at the second incarnation of the Warehouse (not to be confused with Frankie’s stronghold) on 738 W. Randolph. The second generation Warehouse was launched by Joe Smooth, Julian “Jumpin” Perez and Rocky Jones on Halloween in ’90 with Frankie opening the first night and handing over the torch. After a guest set, Mike was offered a permanent residency and as his night took off he was offered programming duties so naturally brought in his house posse that would include Armando, Hugo H and K-Alexi. In his twilight years Ron Hardy checked Mike out down the Warehouse and gave him his seal of approval so if the Chi DJ deity has dubbed him his natural successor you know he’s serious…  Check out his ‘Classic Chicago House’ mix he recorded for Ransom Note featuring a host of House Hunting heroes such as Duane Thamm, ESP, Farley, Fingers Inc, Jamie Principle, Jungle Wonz, Master C&J and more – no doubt a throwback from his wizardry at the Warehouse…

So I think that’s my love letter to the main man DUNN! Hit me up with a house holla if I’ve missed any of his choice joints but I think I done him justice… Anyway, as it was Frankie’s birthday the other day I’ll leave you with Mike’s Boiler Room set live at Chicago institution Gramaphone Records from last year which was a tribute to the House Godfather – Rest In Paradise Frankie…

House Hunting Herald

So as I touched upon earlier in the piece my main man Miles is jettin’ Mike over for a rare UK gig at choice club night Thunder next week on Friday 29th January – fresh from his European exploits headlining at Panorama Bar’s Klub Natch, London institution Fabric, Sub Culture in Glasgow and ADE Festival in Amsterdam. Event details for this one on the FB page  and you can cop tickets HERE  - just a tenner to get down to Mike Dunn so don’t hang about see you down the front…


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