The latest edition of our Waveform mix series sees Matty Harris, AKA The Narcoleptic, swing by with a sensational summer mix of feelgood house music. The Waveform Transmitter‘s Ste Knight chatted to the Chicago legend about his beginnings as a DJ, the Chi-Town scene, and working with Derrick Carter.
It is always interesting to converse with an artist as enigmatic as Matty Harris. We dare you to try and find an interview with The Narcoleptic – you’ll be hard-pushed, so this is quite a rarity! The Chicago DJ and producer has been active since 1986 (that is over 30 years, for those who are as poor, mathematically, as this writer), and has worked alongside some genuine legends including DJ Sneak and Derrick Carter, and his output as a DJ and producer has always been of an incredibly high quality – check out his Waveform mix; proof, if any where needed, that this is a man who has immersed himself in the Chicago scene and championed the sound from the off.
Fresh off the back of slaking our thirst for new house music with his Way Back EP (included here in our Editor Selects column) on Cassy‘s Kwench Records, Matty has taken time out to record us an exclusive session, featuring tracks from Farley Jackmaster Funk, Cajmere, and Romanthony. You can find the tracklist for Matty‘s mix at the bottom of the page, but rest assured it is crammed with bumpy house nuggets that genuinely represent the Chicago sound. Hit play and take a look at what went down when Ste Knight took time out to chat with one of the legends of underground house music.
Waveform: Hi Matty, thank you for joining us! So, two monumental events took place in 1986. My sister was born, and you started out DJing. While I’m sure our readers would be fascinated by stories about my sibling, lets dodge that and talk about your fledgling career. What made you take the step towards becoming a DJ? Did you find that you developed the basics quite quickly?
Matty Harris: I was fascinated with the radio and music at a young age (10 or 11). Especially when I heard music in STEREO for the first time. my earliest encounter with music was on a cassette recorder. I would record everything – radio transmissions, people talking, whatever. Then eventually tuned into WBMX and discovered The Hotmix Five. I picked up basic mixing skills rather quick. At 12 or so I began buying records. I would record my new record on tape and play it back and then would practice matching beats, phasing and flanging the two songs. All this was done on my very first home stereo, with no pitch, just fingering to keep the songs on pitch. Then I acquired two belt driven decks. My life changed…
W: Soon after you started DJing you moved to the city in Chicago. Was that the point at which your sound and the music you were spinning became most influenced by what you were seeing and hearing around you? Who or what were your main influences prior to your move?
M: Yes totally. When I was living in the suburbs all of the other DJs I hung around in high school were Filipino, and they introduced me to new wave, industrial, freestyle and house.music. Also, scratching and early turntablist antics. Those experiences with those peers definitely made me work at BECOMING a DJ. All we did was practice at home then show off at parties.
W: What was it like to be part of a burgeoning scene like Chicago house? It must have been an incredible experience to have been there ‘when it all began’.
M: I was rather young when it all began. The first club experience I had was at the Music Box. I was 15 years old or so and all I remember was pounding music and one single strobe light. I did not stay that long because I was with my elder cousin and he was dropping someone off and we were invited in. Really surreal experience. From there on I was becoming more enticed by what this music could do to people. All I remember was hearing people screaming and yelling and the music getting rinsed heavily through the crossover. The sonic apocalypse I heard that night was almost frightening. I had never heard music EQ’d the way until going to The Music Box. I did not know who was playing nor did I care.
W: What do you feel are the most notable differences between the scene in Chicago when it first sparked into life, and the scene in Chicago now?
M: Firstly, nothing ever stays the same. I never dwell on the “good ol’ days”. When I was first getting in the circuit of residencies and afterhours, there was a party or a place to boogie almost every night of the week. I mean quality gatherings featuring great DJs and door hosts. Most of the fun occurred on week nights. As little as I do go out these days, I find most parties happening Thursday to Sunday. I understand it’s a new day. You have to work more to stay ahead of the curve, leaving you with four days of hedonism, if that’s your thing.
W: You’ve played alongside the likes of Derrick Carter and Sneak during your 30 years+ DJing career. You must have some tales to tell…anything anecdotal you’d like to share with us?!
M: Well, If I had anything to share about Mr. Carter it would be that he is a very giving individual. He has given me records straight from his record bag after asking what it was that he just played during our residencies. Or giving me his portion of his fee to me at the end of the night we were playing. Mind you I had not asked or implied needing it either. Sneak was always a character. We played parties but then he bounced to Toronto. Then one by one people started to leave the city. San Fran, LA, NY, Miami, Europe. DJs were leaving Chicago. I stayed and got into my music and DJ’d here and there.
W: Onto production, you produce under numerous guises, both solo and collaboratively. How do you feel the sound differs between each alias?
M: The Narcoleptic is and always will be straight forward house music. The Evolving Doors was an experiment. I work with Hawk (vocalist) making tunes rooted in electro, house, ghetto tech, downtempo – are all involved.
W: So, what does a typical session in the studio look like for Matty Harris? Is there a particular time of day that you are at your most creative? Are there any little rituals you follow before you sit down and start recording?
M: Mornings are best for me. My mind is most sharp during this time of day. Sometimes I will listen to jazz or soul or whatever , then I ease into the session.
W: You recently released your Way Back EP on Cassy’s Kwench imprint. What were your inspirations for the record?
M: Jimmy Castor Bunch. They recorded a song called Troglodyte. I found a 7” pressing of it a few years back. At the begging of the studio session I played that tune and decided to make my one and only “Back in the day” house tune. I absolutely hate records that declare their allegiance to house music. It’s so passé. I hated “You can’t stop the house” when I was a kid.
W: Regarding your sound in general; as it developed, were there any other artists who influenced or even mentored you?
M: Derrick most definitely. I would pick his brain about compression and shit like that. I’m always learning.
W: What about forthcoming releases? What have you got in the pipeline?
M: An EP on Demuir’s imprint Perveyor Underground. Along with a remix project I cannot mention as of now.
W: Thank you for recording us an outstanding Waveform session. What was your thinking when putting the mix together? Do you approach a recorded mix in the same way as a live DJ set?
M: No problem, thanks for representing me. No thoughts at all. Pick some tunes, new and old. Press record.
W: We’ll finish on a tough question…What are your top three tracks to ignite your audience?
M: A mysterious edit of ‘Brighter Days’ by Cajemere. Anything by KiNK. I’ve been digging Intr0beatz as of late too.
W: Thanks again Matty, for joining us, and best of luck with your future releases – we look forward to hearing them!
M: Thank you very much!!!
Who Loves The Sun (Let It Be Naked Remix) – Nu & Jo Ke Acid Pauli
Take Down NYC (Original Mix) – Kenneth Graham
Jack Me – Tom Trago
Farley Knows House – Farley Jackmaster Funk.
Think Love, Not Hate – Le Knight Club
She Taught Me How To Love – Rimbaudian
Burnin’ – LOG
Everything – (Timmy Regisfords retouch) Arturo G edit.
Beat Your Feet- Cassy
Get Up Off Me -Cajmere feat. Dajae
7 Hills (Original Mix)-Black Loops & Nikos Haropoulos
You Got Me Started- (Catz’n Dogz remix) – Zoe Xenia
In Out Thru- The Narcoleptic
Everybody Be Somebody-(Masters at Work Style Mix)
Party Time- Pal Joey
Let Me Show You Love- (Gerd’s Crooklyn Full Vox Mix)- Romanthony
Unknown with Janet Jackson acca.