In a lengthily career, he has worked under many pseudonyms: Tone Theory, The Unknown and DJ Bang amongst others. He runs several revered labels - Classic Music Company and Blue Cucaracha. One based on either side of the Atlantic. Previously, he’s held court at his hometown’s legendary Smart Bar. Widely regarded as house music royalty, you will know him as Derrick Carter.
First and foremost, he has an ear for a mix - moreso than his contemporaries. Seldom touching the EQs, it’s something more innate where Derrick Carter is concerned. It’s as if he refuses to manipulate the record before what is put in front of him. That using effects might in some way sully his skill. He is not a technology-obsessive who yearns for the latest gadget or gimmick to take the art of DJing to dizzying new heights. He’s more content with mastering the basics principles. And mastered them, he has. But that isn’t to say he hasn’t moved with the times. Over the decades vinyl changed to CDs, which later gave way to USB sticks. The medium changed, but the output was never compromised. And, tellingly, Derrick’s meticulous method of cataloging his tunes never changed although the format did. He’s also one of our favourite twitter users in the industry. Risque and fearless with a unique sense of humour and scene analysis. (Who remembers “derp house”?) But to really understand one of dance music’s modern messiahs, let’s go back to the beginning.
Even before he had reached teenage years, a young Derrick Carter absorbed himself into the world of local radio. Or, more often than not, had friends record from it onto cassette for him to listen back. Later, as he gained more independence, he would make the pilgrimage to the city’s record stores. A self-confessed product of his environment, Derrick was resolutely “Chicago” in those formative years. Arguably, he still is. Hailing from the Windy City’s western suburbs, he began entertaining extended family at gathering and functions. At this point, the house movement being ironed by the likes of Frankie Knuckles was still taking shape. Though Chicago would be the epicentre.
While the obsession of DJing began in the bedroom, it was his fondness of radio that saw him pick-up a slot on the college airwaves. During this stint, Mike Servito was a fellow presenter. Slowly gaining a name for himself, he would gradually get his face known on the circuit, managing to play various venues before he was even old enough to legally frequent them.
In the early days, as he emerged in a competitive Chicago scene, he would utilise hip-hop and soul acapellas to set his sets apart from his peers. It is not a million miles away from the current trend of sampling well-known vocals, only it had one major difference: it was original. At the time, it made sense. When house emerged, producers were more concerned with playing with drum machines and creating loops, than working with vocalists in the studio. And more than likely, they couldn’t afford it anyway. It meant that lots of incredible, futuristic music was being made that was purely instrumental. Pioneers like Derrick, who had come from disco, was aware that the dancefloor would need lyrics to maintain interest.
The other thing that stylised those early sets, was Derrick’s penchant for long transitions. In many cases, he was creating on-the-cuff bootlegs of two tracks. This prowess soon garnered him attention, as listeners were convinced he owned records that nobody else did. The reality was, he was merely more experiment and aggressive his mixing technique, that led to this assumption.
In the modern scene, Derrick Carter cuts somewhat of a bygone relic. A persona who despises uniformity, mundanity and playing it safe. This thought process might seem alien in a 126bpm tech-house age, but it means that no two Derrick Carter sets will ever be the same. He’ll keep the dancefloor on its toes. You get the impression he likes the element of surprise as much as the crowd.
Today, he sits amid an elite group of DJs. Maybe not quite an originator, but yet still a torchbearer for a sustained run that shows no sign of ending. Even though he has three decades worth of activity under his belt, his original output is modest. He is definitely part of a dying breed of artists who have experienced success primarily as a DJ, with production taking the back seat.
Amongst his most anticipated sets, as the frequent forays with Derrick Carter Does Disco - which does exactly what it says on the tin. His next UK appearance in this format takes place on Saturday 24th August when he lines-up alongside Todd Terje, 2manydjs, Detroit Swindle and Inner City for the inaugural One Day at the Disco festival on Three Mills Island.
Early bird tickets are on sale now.