A Sit Down With DJ Kerri Chandler

Not many deep-house producers have a sound as distinct as New Jersey’s Kerri Chandler; his muscular basslines, dopamine-activating chord progressions and, most of all, badass kick drums stand out in a genre that can sometimes seem a bit monotone. He’s been working his unique style since the late ’80s, but Chandler’s star is as bright as ever, as evidenced by his constant gigging in Europe’s clubs and festivals, including a residency at Ibiza’s famed Circoloco party.

Speaking to his penchant for producing something ex nihilo, Chandler is an innovator in every sense of the word. He was doing live streams long before Boiler Room broke onto the scene, and he incorporated holograms in clubs years ahead of Coachella’s light-reflected resurrection of Tupac. In fact, he possesses such inventive instincts that he is sent prototypes from the likes of Native Instruments and Pioneer in order to offer his expertise in the development of their products.


“I`ve gone to places and there are people that come up to me and they cry. There are tears in their eyes either from release or joy or something, and I love it.”


How did you get into house music?

I was interning in studios from when I was 14 years old. People would come in off the street to rent studio time, but it was just the average Joe who thinks he can make a record and has no idea of the process. A lot of rappers and a lot of R&B singers. We didn’t have too many musicians coming in. They didn’t have a producer, didn’t have a track… Being a kid, I was like, ‘OK, I’ll make you something.’ After a while I found myself producing for people. They’d bring in a record that they wanted to sound like and I knew the sound so well because I’d actually watched people like Kool & The Gang in the studio and I knew exactly what they used. I was only supposed to be an engineer but I found myself being more of a producer. Eventually I thought, OK, if I’m doing all this I might as well make a few things for myself. I had another job on the weekend DJing at Club America, so I’d make edits and records to play there.

You started releasing music not long after that time, in 1989—and even on your debut release, the Super Lover EP, the Kerri Chandler sound was pretty distinct. How did you develop that sound?

I’ve always liked basslines, and I’ve always liked heavy rhythms. And I really loved breakdowns, too. There weren’t that many records that had all that at the time, so I would make edits of things that I could play in my club that would have those things.

What was the breakthrough for you in terms of getting serious with house music?

Around ’88 I made an edit and one of the singers gave a copy of it to Tony Humphries. I didn’t know Tony well but he started playing things I’d done on the radio. I realised there was a buzz around it and everything started to fall into place. I met Merlin Bobb who I was a long-time fan of for doing stuff on BLS along with Naeem Johnson. I didn’t realise that he was the head of A&R for Atlantic. When I went to Merlin’s office I met another person who’d go on to become a long-time friend, Jerome Sydenham. Jerome was Merlin’s assistant at the time and we instantly hit it off like brothers. The first time I went there me and Jerome were wearing the same exact clothes – same colours, same shoes. Someone said, ‘Is this your cousin?’ I just laughed and said, ‘Yeah.’ Ever since then we’ve been inseparable. It’s just been an ongoing ride since then, and that’s where the whole Jersey thing comes in.

So were you DJing from an early age?

Yeah, thirteen or fourteen playing at parties. I’m thirty three now. He came in one day and caught me mixing on his set-up at home. He told me I’m either going to be mixing or he was going to crucify me if I don’t know what I’m doing up there. I started playing and he was standing there going “Oh wow you can actually mix!”

You’ve seen lots of trends come and go, but it must be heartening for you to see how people—technoheads, dubsteppers and others—have come back to deep house over the past half decade or so.

Absolutely. But it’s always in cycles. People get a bit older after a while, and they begin to want to hear melodies and songs, not just some electronic noise. And a lot of producers who started making tracks a few years ago are maturing as well, and they’re starting to learn how to make tracks properly. They’re figuring out what the machines do, how the software works and why things sound a certain way. They’re even figuring out how to record vocals.

A lot of people venerate, and even try to re-create, the club scene in the New York area during the late 80s and early 90s. What do you think is so timeless about the music produced then?

I suppose that if you weren’t there, hearing the stories about the Loft, Paradise Garage, Warehouse, etc its all very nostalgic. We had a great time then but I love everything that is going on now as far as a revival- its great. But it’s missing the vocals. There should be more vocal tracks, more singers and more live performances in my opinion. I really love that people are being creative and using so many different avenues to create but I feel that a lot of newcomers are missing out on an opportunity to really take it to the next level by learning how work with singers and work with vocals.

What’s been the most satisfying record you’ve done so far?

Honestly I think….I have a lot of favourites but the most recent one was the one I did for my daughter Kerri. It’s called ‘My Daughter Kerri’ !! HA! So far its one of my favourites…. its just so heartfelt.

Are there any things haven’t changed since you began DJing and Producing? Are there constants?

Obviously we’re enjoying more options as DJ’s in the booth – the technology has become more portable and more powerful. I work very closely with Native Instruments and recently released a production pack for their iMaschine App. Its something I was using a lot in airport lounges, planes, trains and…automobiles. I can then transfer it over to my computer once I get back to the studio. In terms of musical style, I simply play the way I always have – I play what I feel, whatever my mood dictates at the time and hope that the crowd enjoys what I do.

What is your advice on the topic of “longevity”?

Love what you do, be true to yourself and what works for you, play what feels good.

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