You would imagine DJ Rashad to be very twitchy. The man breaths Footwork and his blood must run down his veins with 160 BPM. Instead I talk to a completely relaxed Rashad, who probably has his feet kicked up as he answers my questions. It comes as no surprise that Rashad seems satisfied: With a little help from UK-producers, Footwork has arrived in clubs all over Europe. Rashad has been with Footwork from the beginning. When he entered High-school he already is a well-known dancer (back then Rashad, who was born in Chicago, lives in the south of the U.S, in Callumet City). Quickly he learns how to dj and produce and gains a reputation by putting out Ghetto-House-mixtapes. When Rashad meets DJ Spinn in 96 it is the beginning of an era. They start to produce together and dj parties with legendary Dancemania-DJs like DJ Deeon, Jammin Gerald, DJ Funk & DJ PJ. In 98 Dancemania releases RJ Rashad »Child Abuse«/DJ Spinn »Motherfucker«; it‘s their first vinyl-release.
Now, 15 years later, Rashad and Spinn still sit in the studio together and Rashads new album »Double Cup« was just released on Hyperdub. This is an interview with a man, who talks about Footwork, as if it would be his child which he joyfully watches growing up.
How did you develop from being a dancer to becoming a producer? Well, it was like I caught interest in it because the music so good. I don‘t know the music man, just made me wanna be a part of it. I wanted to play the music as well. And then once I became a DJ, I wanted to produce as well, like: Man, I wanna make some of this good music too. So it kinda happened like that.
Back when you started djing and producing, you partied at house-parties, school events and clubs in Chicago. Now you tour through the clubs of Europe…How has the party-culture which is closely connected to footwork-music changed?
(laughs) For me the change is, that people get older. That‘s the change! No, but for our kind of parties it changed, because the locations and shit, a lof of places we where going, a lot of locations closed down – I‘m speaking for Chicago right now. And our kind of parties where we would go through was just house-music all night long. But now you might get an hour of that, an hour of that…45minutes of Reggae, 1hour of Rap. It‘s mixed up. That‘s the difference between now and back then, when we were djing and dancing.
So, »Douple Cup« is your third release on Hyperdub. How did the connection with Kode 9 came together?
It kinda happened over the years as me and Spinn been touring. The first show we did with him [Kode 9] was Koko a couple years back. And then stayed in touch with him, sent him music. So one day he asked, was we down for a release. And we sayed: Yeh, of course. And never looked back.
So Footwork and UK-Bass music exchange musical influences too it seems..
…Yeah, especially Jungle man. It just makes sense! The scene they got over there, it first was underground, just like some of the shit we do over here is kinda underground. It just makes sense to collab. The stuff that we got going on is almost the same shit that they got going on: just different terminology.
It seems like you are a big influence for artists like Machinedrum, Africa HiTech, Addison Groove. Do you sometimes feel like, you should get this fame?
(laughs) Nah, not at all. I‘m actually a big fan of those guys myself, so I‘m not upset. I respect what they do. It‘s cool. Shout out to the whole cast.
It‘s crazy to see, that footwork been so long and it was already hot in 96, but…
… Yeeah man!
..but just know it seems to explode. What‘s your explanation for that?
I don‘t know, man. I guess the connection with Mike Paradinas [founder of Planet Mu] and everybody giving their credit over to our side. Late is better than never, so it‘s cool. It feels good to be a part of this and watch it grow.
Do you never worry about, what would happen to the genre you helped to build if it reaches the mainstream?
(laughs loudly) Nah, I‘m not too worry about that. If it does, we‘ll have to see. But at the moment we‘re just riding the wave and enjoying ourselves.
Let‘s go back in time then. Your first release was a Dancemania-Release. What role does Dancemania still play for you?
DJ Rashad: For me it plays a big role in what I do. They were putting out a lot of records that influenced me to do what I do today. I heard they opened back up. I think they putting new releases out, but I know the‘re releasing all the old stuff they used to do. Yeah but, I would never heard of all the people that I respect and admire, if it wouldn’t be for Dancemania. Such as Little Louis, Paul Johnson and all these guys. And I still listen to all this.
Could you explain how the fast pase of the Footwork- and Juke-Songs developed?
DJ Rashad:You know the regular shift was 130, 140 [BPM]. Really the dancers speaded the music up: »man speed it up a little bit!«, so they could do their moves faster. So we went from 140 to 150 to 160 (laughs).
And the Footwork-Dance-Culture is still working?
DJ Rashad:Definitely. I wish we could still bring guys with us, cause that‘s an whole other part to the music that we‘re doing, that used to be seen as well.
Is Europe getting it?
DJ Rashad:I don‘t quite know it they‘re getting the dance but they‘re getting the music.
It seems like not only the pase of the songs is fast but also the time it takes you to produce a beat…
Yep, normally we do [produce fast], but lately we been a bit slower than normal. Due to I been taught to record in proper ways, so it takes a bit longer. But it‘s well worth it now, compared to the shit that I was doing a couple of years back. But in the end the track could be from 2 minutes to 5 minutes but it won‘t take us longer than like a day to finish a project.
Is your changed way of producing one thing that lead to »Double Cup« being a really chilled record compared to earlier releases?
DJ Rashad: Yes, that was the image that we [him and DJ Spinn] where going for, instead of the same hyped up thing, we thought we would do more of a smooth side. Still got hyped up jams on it as well. But you know, just switch it up a bit.
Footwork is instrumental music in the first place: but when there is vocals, how do you decide on which samples to use or what to say?
DJ Rashad: (laughs) Well, pretty much we just say a whole bunch of shit. Or we ome up, write some shit down and just say it, record it and choose the best take out of all the parts we wrote down. And then chopp ‘em up and go for it.
So if there are vocals envolved in one of your songs, is a message ever important to you?
DJ Rashad: It is important as far as dancing at the party goes: We want you to shake your ass.
But if we talking about for instance »double cup, have a sip« it doesn’t mean, we want you to take a sip.
Would you like to produce for other people?
DJ Rashad: Oh, definitely. Singers and rappers.
What would that sound like?
DJ Rashad: You know what, I would the artist come in and I would build it around what they do and hopefully it would come out good (laughs)
Any artists you already have in mind?
DJ Rashad: Probably Freddie Gibbs, he‘s the main person right now. Other than that Chance The Rapper, too…probably would try to get him in the studio. Shit, anybody. I think it‘ll be dope to get Juicy J too.
»Drank, Kush, Barz« sounds like it could be Juicy J already.
DJ Rashad: (laughs) Yeah that was Spinn. I can see why [you think they sound similar]: We get into the same shit.
What about Danny Brown?
DJ Rashad: Oh wow, yeah, I would love to get a hold of Danny Browns vocals. But that‘s why I say anybody, really I just love to try to flip it our way.
What to you think about the whole Chicago-Drill-Rap-Scene?
DJ Rashad: It‘s dope. I love it (laughs). I‘m not mad about it, I rock with it. Some of the lyrics, like on all rap shit, could be a little bit better. But it is what it is.
So there is really nothing I can get you to hate about….
DJ Rashad: (loud, raspy laughter, even from Spinn in the background) Probably not! (even more laughter)
Isnt‘ that beautiful?!
DJ Rashad: You hit the right subjects.
DJ Rashad: I would probably hate on my government. That‘s probably the main shit to me. It‘s stupid man, that kinda shit pisses me of. Politics…that shit is just all fucked up.
Why not have a Footwork-Street-Dance-Parade to protest against the shutting down of the government as an homage to »Dancing In The Streets«?
DJ Rashad: Fuck no, the police will shut that down. And I‘ll be probably locked up (laughter). I wish it was that easy but it ain‘t. You can‘t even through parties regularly… so imagine that!