There have been various views of who is the inventor of House music. For example, Leonard Remix RRoy asserted that he had given birth to House in May 1981. LRRoy was a remarkable and much respected DJ. He also claimed that he had invented the term "House music" in the spring of 1981.
A person who regarded himself as a creator of House music in March of 1985 was Chip E. Yet, there remains a third founder, for he produced "Love Can’t Turn Around", one of the biggest selling "House" records. His name is Farley "Jackmaster" Funk.
In fact, this big House "cross-over" hit was written, produced and arranged by Jesse Saunders. Jesse, however, did not call himself the creator of House music, but rather used the term "originator", which did not mean that he had invented or created the genre of House music.
By "originator" he meant that he "started and/or fused a sound with a lot of different ingredients". Generally speaking, one can say, that there was not just one creator or inventor; on the contrary, House music evolved through the means of collaborative efforts of a few people like Frankie Knuckles, Vince Lawrence, Farley "Jackmaster" Funk, as well as the promoters and labels that made easy the distribution of early House.
The original disco-mixer Walter Gibbons, a white DJ, had a new and immediate impact on the development of Chicago House music. His independent 12" record called "Set It Off" immediately became an underground club anthem. The "Set It Off" sound was primitive House, haunting, repetitive beats ideal for mixing and extending.
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Much of the basis behind the current state of DJing and electronic dance music came from the first generations of raves. Starting with a Roland TB-303 in Chicago, growing to undergrounds in the UK, and creating all manner of subgenres along the way, the story of the rave scene and the DJs who built it is fascinating. Check out the full story inside, including an exclusive interview with the father of acid house, DJ Pierre.
Raves began as an underground movement, where a group of like-minded people would get together and dance (in an enhanced state of consciousness) to all types of electronic music. Raves created a magical environment where people could dance for hours.
Rave was founded on groundbreaking electronica and innovative DJs, but the scene encompassed more than just that. Laser lights, fashion and open-minded attitudes helped to build and spread the scene. It was only natural that a movement so magical would grow to epic proportions.
Early Origins: Acid House Parties
Chicago in the mid-to-late 1980s was the birth place of house music. After years of ‘jacking’ a new sound emerged: acid house. The sound of acid house was created on the Roland TB-303, a bass line generator.
The machine could sculpt sounds using an array of buttons and switches. The company only produced 20,000 units and by 1985 could be found in second-hand shops for bargain prices. The young Nathan Jones (DJ Pierre) found one and used the 303 in an unconventional way to produce the squelchy sound of acid house.
This new sound began with a record produced by Phuture, a group founded by DJ Pierre, Earl “Spanky” Smith Jr., and Herbert “Herb J” Jackson. Newly turned on to the unique sounds of the TB-303, the trio released a demo of ‘Acid Tracks’.
DJ Ron Hardy played the track at the famous Chicago club Music Box; he reportedly once played it four times during a set before the crowd responded favorably. After numerous spins, it became a dance floor sensation. ‘Acid Tracks’ became the defining sound for the new acid house sound coming out of Chicago.
DJ Pierre: It found us! This machine had been around for years […] before we got to it no one actually tweaked the knobs and used it the way we did. It was created to simulate a bass guitar. It was not created to do what it did when we got a hold of it. I was at my homie Jasper G’s house and I heard a bass line and I wanted to know what machine he used to make the bassline. I loved the texture of it. I was excited when I heard it.
He showed it to me and there it was…the 303. I said to my friend Spanky, who is the other member of our group Phuture, “Yo…we have to get that!” He found it a second hand shop for 40 bucks. Describe the acid house club scene in Chicago in the late 80’s – where were the parties, who were the DJs, what was the experience like?
DJ Pierre: The scene was created after Acid Trax was released. It didn’t exist before then. Other artists like Tyree Cooper, Fast Eddie, Armando and Marshall Jefferson followed up with classics of their own. Chicago is funny because there was not one particular scene for a style of house. House was just House and you heard everything mixed up in a DJ set. [..]
The scene took off in Europe and Acid House is credited for the start of the rave scene in London. It was so big and filled with so much energy that the Queen herself called acid house by name and banned it.
DJ Pierre: Drum machines like 808s and 909s and of course 1200s were used for vinyl. We would use GLI and Urei mixers as well.
What are some other important acid house tracks (from the 1980’s) that we should all listen to?
DJ Pierre: “Acid Trax” because it is the beginning. “151” by Armando. “Land of Confusion” by Armando. “We Are Phuture” by PHUTURE.
How did acid house impact the rest of the rave scene that followed?
DJ Pierre: It gave birth to it. Because of the excitement and ‘high” at these acid house parties, the UK banned them. […] So you know how it is, if mainstream says “no!” then the general youth consciousness says “yes”! It went underground. The underground rave scene and secret parties paved the way for the commercial rave scene you see today. Acid house was behind that and the UK played a huge role.
Any advice for new school DJs and producers from your experience developing the acid house scene?
DJ Pierre: I always say study the history of the music you produce now. [..] In general, study the creators and founders. Studying the origin will give you a richer, more vibrant meaningful outcome. […] You will be inspired by listening to what came before to create your own vibe and feel.
In the late 1980s, Chicago’s house scene suffered a crackdown on events by the police. One of the only radio stations in Chicago, WBMX closed down, which meant house records were no longer heard on the radio. As a result, record sales began to slow down. However, the house and acid house scene was just starting to take off in the UK.