Thunder Picks #012 – Dance Mania Ghetto Traxx Special


When Chicago house is mentioned, three labels spring to the minds of most people with even a passing interest history of house music Trax and DJ International and probably to a lesser extent, Dance Mania.  But long after Trax and tried to reinvent itself as Saber and DJ International had packed up shop completely, Dance Mania continued develop its sound and to release music, demonstrating far more longevity than Chi-Towns two better known labels. In fact, in its first incarnation, it ran for almost 15 years, from 1986 to 2000. Originally set up by record store owner and distributor, Ray Barney, as an outlet for the music coming out of the nascent house scene,  you will probably be familiar with lots of the labels output in its early years, from artists such as Lil Louis, Housemaster Boyz, Da  Posse, Hercules aka Marshall Jefferson, Vincent Floyd, Victor Romeo and Robert Armani.


Then, after a brief flirtation with hip house (always disappointing when you find an old Dance Mania you dont know in a second hand bin only discover a half arsed rap on it), as the Chicago house gold rush began to lose momentum, Ray Barney reverted to what he knew best and the labels focus once again became tracks. The international market for tracky Chicago house records was shrinking rapidly as major labels and studios got their teeth into the world-wide phenomenon, apply a high sheen gloss to music that had once been gritty and underground, and with that came a more inward focus for Dance Mania. Tracks by local kids for local kids. And the local kids were into rawer music than that which was making the charts across Europe. Producers like DJ Rush, Tim Harper, Glenn Underground, who soon gave way to Paul Johnson, DJ Deeon, DJ Funk, DJ Milton, DJ Slugo, Jammin Gerald, Wax Master Maurice and Victor Romeo who became plain old Parris Mitchell, as rough disco cut-ups melded with the ghetto house sounds that began to hold sway in the parties in Chicago –  a sound that was a million miles away from the sort of music the Godfather of the scene, Frankie Knuckles, was now playing New York.


If youre unsure about what ghetto house is, check this short documentary, which has the main players in the scene describing it far better than I ever could.



To be honest, Dance Manias output is patchy and by their own admission, some of these guys started flooding the market with releases to build their profile and quality control is always going to suffer when that happens. The good stuff is sublime and bad stuff? Well theres only so many times you can listen to tracks about girls bootys and the fact she has crabs (seriously) that sound like they were made in 10 minutes on a four track.


Because of its very nature, this music was never going to take over the world but it did prove to very influential in some quarters, not least with Daft Punk who built their early careers around the sound. In recent years, theres been a bit of resurgence too, which has led to Ray Barney teaming up with Parris Mitchell to re-launch the label. Watching the video below, which was filmed in Ray Barneys Basement (I must warn you, is proper crate digger porn!), really raised hopes but the first two releases have been overpriced (18 for the first one, a Parris Mitchell update) and accompanied by crappy, glossy packaging and artwork, which kind of misses the point.



Hopefully theyll sort it out, because as a lengthy discussion in the Thunder Group on Facebook recently demonstrated, people still love the label.


Dance Mania Tracks


Here are about 20 tracks that I like and are worth checking. It isnt meant to be a best of list or anything coming close to comprehensive, Dance Mania were so prolific at points through the mid-nineties they make L.I.E.Ss release schedule look pretty tardy, and moreover, many of the releases contained 4-6 tracks. You could fill this page just with Parris Mitchell, Deeon, Milton, Funk and Slugo releases, so this is very much the tip of the iceberg. If you cant be bothered with trawling through the YouTubes video, I know its not everyones cup of tea, then skip to the end and theres very a handy downloadable mix for your iPod.


Houz Mon Fear the World

This currently my favourite Dance Mania track. It actually first came out on the Houz Mons own label Beat Boy but that is so rare it isnt even worth thinking about. Fortunately it got a re-release on DM092. Its simply house music in its purest form, heads down, smoke machine, basement dancing music. His Getto Houz EP is well worth checking too, especially 101 RX.  



D.J. Deeon House-O-Matic

From the Funk City EP which was the record that broke Deeon. Simple but effective. The comments on YouTube seems to suggest that Ricardo Villalobos has been playing this and for some reason I cant explain, that makes me quite  annoyed anyway, the whole EP is strong, definitely check Da Bomb too, he really does drop it.



DJ Deeon 2 B Free

Massive Loose Joints Is It All Over My Face cut up and one of the stand out tracks on Daft Punks legendary Essential Mix from 1997 (see Thunder Picks #004). Actually, essential describes this pretty well.  



Parris Mitchell Ghetto Booty

Parris Mitchell aka Victor Romeo now runs Dance Mania with Ray Barney but he is also one of labels the most prodigious producers, knocking out early acid house gems like Acid Rain and then a loads and loads of ghetto house classics, such as Ghetto Booty, Work It and another Daft Punk fav, Ghetto Shout Out with Waxmaster. Now regular readers (hi Mum!) of Thunder Picks will know I have a love-hate relationship with Daft Punk and as touched on above, it could be argued that Homework is a just a load of watered down Dance Mania records made palatable for consumption by the masses. That might be a little harsh but apparently they sent Parris a gold disc of Homework as thanks for the inspiration or something, which was a nice touch.  



Tim Harper Toxic Waste

From 1992, this record is on the cusp of the transition from the old Dance Mania to the newer tracky, ghetto house Dance Mania. Produced by Tim and Glenn Underground its one of my favourite Dance Mania releases full stop, coming on almost like Detroit techno. I dont how they managed it, but unfortunately it sounds like it was mastered onto an old sock and then pressed onto a supermarket carrier bag. Physically, it is one of the worst made records I have ever heard, you pretty much cant use it. And I dont think theres a decent copy in existence. Still worth owning though.  



DJ Rush Reactor

I love a bit of DJ Rush and this is one of the first records he ever made. Its really basic, minimal even, but minimal in the way Robert Hood is minimal, with power in the space. Not sure about timing though, it seems to drift during the drop outs towards the end, which is fun. Great record though and one probably either get or dont.



Herman Orphey Hot Wax

Typical Dance Mania banger but with a cut up jazz sample, in fact it sounds like the same sample Pal Joey used for Soho Hot Music. Anyone know what that is?  Answers on a postcode to the usual address please.



Drewsky Fabinating

Classic disco sampling boompty Chicago business. In fact this whole EP is strong, with my personal favourite being the Made In The U.S.A. Melodies cut up, which is imaginatively titled Modern Melodies (by modern I think they mean we stole your song, cheers, which is pretty modern I suppose). Anyway, Chiwax or one of those label has reissued this on orange vinyl so its dead easy to pick up.



Drewsky Wigged Out

Nice little Earth, Wind and Fire sample accompanied with a slightly less sledge hammer approach to drum programming than is evident on many Dance Mania releases, in fact those snares are mid 90s New York than Chicago. Rawax/Chiwax/etc havent re-released this one yet but it might be nice if they did!



Strong Souls Twinkles

More evidence that Dance Mania werent just about ghetto house bangers, this is deep house in the truest sense. Or should I say, brilliant deep house. Club Scene and Hums on this EP are also excellent. Youtube em!



Tyree Of Love Mystery

Tyree is a name most people know from the original days of Chicago house but he had a good run during the second wave of Chicago house too and is still going strong today. Most people also know a track off of this EP, the ubiquitous Nuthin Wrong which was re-popularised by Ben Klock before being re-released by Mojuba a couple of years ago. Thats a great track but this whole EP is really good. The bassline in this one reminds me of an old progressive house record by Acorn Arts for some reason but with those razor sharp Windy City drums.



Housegang Shake Your Body

Youre probably thinking This better not sample Shake Your Body Down cos that would be really cheesy, well the bad news is it does, but the good news its ace. Again, like quite a few others listed, this doesnt even sound like it comes from Chicago let alone Dance Mania in 1994. That sax sounds like it belongs on a ID Productions records actually they are from Chicago. You know what I mean though!



Wax Master Maurice Going Down

You want to know where Thomas Bangalter got his inspiration for his Trax On The Rocks series? Listen to this. Apparently Daft Punk sent him a gold disc too.



DJ Milton Ride Me Baby

Just love this, its a rework of Traxmen and Eric Martin track by the same name (DM do this a lot) but is so basic, so raw, those Casio RZ-1 rimshots, bit of a DJ tool I guess, but chuck this over something with a decent melody and RIDE ME BABY!



Paul Johnson I Want You To Ride Me

The mighty Paul Johnson, (he of hunting rifle accident, wheelchair, and really fucking annoying Ibiza anthem fame) finesses the Ride Me theme a little, if you can finesse something implores young ladies to rock that big ass back and forth.



Paul Johnson Freaks In Front

No shouting about girls backsides in this one, just solid deep, slightly jazzy house. Something Strange on this 12 is also brilliant. And if youre struggling with the lack of booty action, check Dont Stop Movin That Ass on the flip!



DJ Slugo Wouldn't You Like To Be A Hoe

As well as having one of the best DJ names ever, along with Funk, DJ Slugo is one of the arch proponents of proper ghetto house on the label and it doesnt get much more ghetto than this. Not one to play to your Mum.



DJ Funk Video Clash

Difficult to know where to start with DJ Funk because he put out so much music. Im going to go with this though, because I loved Lil Louis original but this rework is so driving and has so much energy, its simply irresistible.



DJ Funk House The Groove

DJ Funk loves an obvious sample and this one is yet another recycled Dance Mania sample, this time from the first wave and House Nation, but used intelligently and with great effect. Check that bassline.



DJ Nehpets Na Na Na

This is a one of the later releases Ive included but Ive done so for 3 reasons. First, Nehpets or The Backward Named Dee Jay Nehpets as he was known for early release has to the silliest DJ names ever. If all you can come up with is spelling Stephen backwards probs best not to draw attention to it with an even more ridiculous prefix, although in his defence, he makes good records. Secondly, like many of these later Dance Mania releases, this is bloody hard to get hold of and costs a bomb. I guess interest in these records had waned by 1997 and then distribution deals went the same way? Thirdly and finally, its a massive PUMPER!



The Dark Side of Dance Mania Mix


Rather helpfully, around the time the Dance Mania re-launch was announced, San Francisco DJ Vin Sol pulled together this mix of some of the ghetto releases in the labels back catalogue. Whilst it doesnt really explore some of the more subtle productions on the label, its a great listen. It also has one of favourite later DM releases, which is bloody hard to find… and no, Im not telling you what it is!



My thanks go out to Domenic Cappello, Simon Fullerton, CK Boognotic and all the Thunder Group Ghetto House Headz, for their help with this edition of Thunder Picks.


You can catch Domenic (and Neville Watson) playing at Thunders 2nd Birthday Party on Friday 6th September at the Dance Tunnel. There are literally a handful of tickets left here.


Miles 'Thunder' Simpson