Even if you know nothing about house music, I guaran-damn-tee you’re familiar with the song “It's Time for the Percolator.” That tune has been the staple of non-house DJ’s house music sets for around 20 years now. It’s one of those songs that house-heads vilify for its popularity and “played out-ness,” yet still jack their bodies to it when it’s played at a party. The man responsible for that anthem, DJ/producer (and former chemical engineering major) Green Velvet (aka Cajmere), will be spinning at Dharma Lounge on July 30 … this is what he had to say for himself:
Creative Loafing: What makes a chemical engineering student decide to quit school and do music?
Green Velvet: Well, my love and passion for music is mainly what won me over. I did the chemical engineering because I was good in math and wanted to make some money. But at the end of the day, I talked to the Lord, and I said that I just want to do what I really love to do … thank God it worked!
How did “The Percolator” come about?
The version of that song that really took of was the third version I recorded called “Coffee Pot.” I was in the studio, and one of the studio owners would come into my sessions. He liked what I was doing because it was a little more abstract compared to all of the other stuff they would have recorded there. I was remixing an EP that I had out, and when I got to that song, he “Wow, that sounds like a percolator!” And the rest …
What is it about Chicago that makes the artists or the music there so unique?
It’s the roots of the music that was being played here in the urban community, where house music came from. We have a long tradition of jazz, blues, funk and gospel, and the majority of people here in the city are used to hearing a good mixture of those sounds. And those sounds were the things that sort of set the stage for us when we started to make this music. House music really comes from the disco stuff, but disco was heavily gospel influenced. And I think that’s the main reason why it was a little bit different here than in other cities. And of course, we were influenced by the Italo house [Italian house/dance music]. We listened to Kraftwerk, to Georgio Moroder and everything … we embraced it all.
George Clinton and Prince created offshoot groups and pseudonyms to get more music out, like you have. Did you find that necessary in order to fully understand you?
For sure. When I was doing music initially, I was doing everything under “Cajmere,” that was the more vocal house stuff. But I wanted to keep pushing boundaries. So I came up with “Green Velvet” for that material.
Which DJ has influenced you the most?
Being a born-again Christian, is it challenging to do the music that you do and still be around the same people?
Well, I didn’t have a choice, I just took a leap of faith. Sometimes when people hear that you’re a Christian, it turns them off — but I just had to because I knew the truth. I was at a party, smoking weed and doing mushrooms and … this is the first time I’m telling this story on the record … but what happened was, somebody spiked my drink. And it was a hard thing for me to think that someone would do something like that. I had a moment like “Lord, if you help me out, I won’t do this again” and I didn’t. And I don’t have any hard feelings. I know who did it. But I think the lesson to be learned is, when you’re out in a club environment, you just have to be careful. It’s unfortunate, but there are these types of people in the world.
What can expect from your performance?
A good mixture of me DJing, and I’ll probably do a little singing … but it’ll be all fun.