[Artist Profile] When I started Musicis4Lovers.com, one of the first people I thought to interview was Three. To me, it is obvious that Three is one of those rare breeds of DJs that has continued to move forward with the progression and development of electronic music. He has demonstrated true competency in his mixing ability and his prowess in musical selection for decades. Having the opportunity to delve into the world of such an artist is truly something special for us and deserves to be shared with all. The interview we conducted with Three gives us an idea of what it takes to be considered a house music icon and glimpse at the inner workings of such an artist.
In addition to the interview below, it is our pleasure to release the first episode in his new mixtape series of vintage recordings. The mix he has provided is Three – Live @ Soulhouse from October 1998. This is one of several recordings to be released that were taken from the years 1993 to 1999 and showcase house music at its purest. Press play below and find out more from the American house music legend, Three.
Interview with THREE
Can you tell us about your moniker Three? Where does it come from?
Let’s skip the origins of “Three”, but the main thing with having a moniker was that I was always intrigued by the mystery projected from names I’d see on records like Flood, Dr. Avalanche, The Latin Rascals, Rave, Mayday, Mantronik, The Edge and so on. You’d see Flood’s name on a NIN record, but also a U2 record… Depeche Mode. So it’s like who’s this guy Flood who has his hand in all these records…. and this name… “Flood”?! That added an air of mystery to my already piqued curiosity. So I liked the idea of creating interest or excitement even just by way of a name because of how i encountered that type of thing myself. The idea of separating the person from the artist appealed, too.
Where are you from? How did that influence your musical path?
I was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, but it’s my home life as a child that influenced me rather than being from Pittsburgh. My father had an immense sound system in one room of the house … took up a whole wall. Luxman direct drive turntable, two Crown reel 2 reels tape machines, Dolby compressors and EQ’s, Rectlinear III Hightower speakers. There was a Steinway baby grand and a stand-up bass … oh and Hammond organ with a massive Leslie speaker in the living room. No right or wrong way in the household in terms of playing an instrument. My father played piano only by ear and my mom played only by reading music. I ended up playing third chair clarinet through junior high school, but never really properly learned to read music… I played by ear. The piano became my favorite instrument, but I have no natural dexterity as a piano player. I can bat out what’s in my head with a couple fingers pretty quickly, though.
I moved to Florida when I was ten and the hip-hop and NYC dance culture at the skating rink became the biggest influence ever I think. Old school, proper electro and New York freestyle was what pushed me instinctively toward club DJing cause it was getting mixed properly at the skating rink. At age 13 I was hearing really upfront music by the two main DJs there. When i saw the movie Beat Street and the DJ scenes I lost it and went back to the rink and forced myself into the DJ booth to actually watch what was happening. Every kid in Florida back then was from the Northeast or Midwest — nobody was born in Florida in the early 80′s — so into my teens I would collect DJ Red Alert mix tapes and other New York mix shows from them and any others I could get my hands on. The Electrifying Mojo from Detroit made it to my hands once or twice, but it was mostly New York mix shows and listening to the older kids from New York tell me stories about Jellybean Benitez at the Fun House and they would give me tapes of stuff… John Robie and Arhur Baker produced freestyle and electro it mostly was…Lime, Jenny Burton… very much New York dance music.
So I’d make my own “pause button mega-mixes” with two tape decks and a turntable my sister sent to me while in the Army in Germany cause you could get stereo stuff cheap there in the Army. I guess even now she probably doesn’t know how much she helped realize the idea of me becoming a DJ by sending her Technics SL-D3 turntable to me. I’d make pause-button mixes all the time taking tracks from mix show tapes into one tape deck recording, and then add records from the turntable. You’d make segues by editing one or more noises over and over — pause, record, pause, record. The idea of editing like that must sound completely alien to anyone in their 20′s!! One day around ’87 this kid from Chicago picked me up and had this tape playing and I was way intrigued because the beat was always the same 4/4 beat which was pretty alien to me coming from freestyle and electro. The music seemed the same otherwise, but the beat made it more… hypnotic… with this seamless flow and momentum rather than the quick segue mixing style i was used to hearing. He said “it’s called house music” and had stories to tell like he came from another world.. kids going out dancing at parties playing this stuff. No talking about knowing producers or anything like that, but just stories about what kids liked to listen to and did in Chicago! Crazy to think about this stuff now. You’ve got me tying this all together to the present! Crazy.
The next big thing that pushed me over the edge towards house and techno when I was 19 was of course rave culture, but keeping with the question of how where I grew up influenced me… this part must also be told. Turns out a lot of these kids who moved to Florida from Chicago had tons of house records and they could care less, really. They had moved on to whatever was happening their lives musically in Florida then, which was usually radio music. You need to keep in mind in Chicago when they were younger kids the radio played house music. You know records were selling 10,000 plus within the city of Chicago alone in the latter half of 80′s so that’s what they got into then. It was a Chicago thing thriving on the radio I guess. So you’d meet these kids who had like…what’s now my all-time favorite Chicago record Master C & J “Dub Love” on Trax Records and on black label before Trax started using red labels. Mint condition! Chip E’s – “Like This” and every other Chicago record you can think of. They would just give them away and thought it was funny to hear samples of that stuff in this “rave” music that was coming out! I also ended up being a dance buyer at a great shop called The Alternative Record Store for most of the 90′s, which was huge thing for me.
Can you tell us about the music scene in New York? Do you find that living in New York influences your music? If so, how?
Like everywhere in America I think it’s the best its been since the turn-of-the-century. No doubt about it, really. What’s gone on in NYC in the last 5 or 6 years is really impressive on an underground level. There are great smaller venues like Cielo. And yes, New York has a huge influence on me still to this day. Looking back from the mix tapes I mentioned collecting as a kid in Florida… then for a while I had an airline hook-up in the early 90′s and I would actually fly to NYC literally for one night to go to the original Sound Factory and then fly straight back to Tampa on Sunday afternoon. And now the most amazing thing to me is having actually been a part of the city’s dance culture as a DJ from the Twilo days until now. New York dance music culture is hardwired into me. To kind of trace how long this has been in my life in whatever ways in these questions is pretty awesome. Was not expecting this!
Can you tell us about playing the Blkmrkt parties?
We’ve been really fortunate to share some memorable experiences when I’ve played for them. There’s a mutual respect there that continually grows, and I appreciate that. It’s easy to recall many amazing moments playing for them. They work very hard and I especially like that they are quite eclectic. They’re as dialed into NYC as they are with the rest of the world and it shows.
You seem to be touring constantly. What are the best things about being on the road? Worst?
Honestly, it’s best when the parties are magic. That tends to make almost anything ok. You try not to take for granted the fact that you are traveling around the world, but sometimes you don’t see much short of the airport, club and hotel. The worst things usually just come down to bad logistics, but no matter what’s going on with you personally or at the gig you gotta step outside of it and try to make some magic. Why else would you do it?
Tell us about your record label Hallucination Limited. When did you start the label and what was your motivation for starting it?
2003. I’d been a part of Hallucination Recordings through the 90′s and after an amazing ten-year stretch it had slowed down. DJ Monk had left Rabbit In The Moon and things were changing in terms of how the industry worked. Lots of changes. I was really happy to see Sean Q6 and I’s Second Hand Satellites release getting the reaction it was continuing to get. It was one of the latter Hallucination releases from like 2000 or 2001 and I wanted to start something that kept the aesthetic and eclecticism of where Hallucination had been, but with my vision. Keeping the label in the family via the Hallucination name just felt like the right thing to do. But, like many labels distribution shutdowns derailed us quite a bit, and notably right at the peak of the minimal trend. In hindsight, I think that was a blessing because what i was releasing then was more appropriate for right now anyway. Proper house and techno came to the forefront again like it always does, and always will after a major trend in music. Having Cassy put five tracks from the catalog on last summers Sound Of Circo Loco / DC10 Mixmag cover CD was both flattering and validating because thats the main goal we always had —- to release music that would always sound and feel relevant. So now going into 2012 the label is set to be more visible and with more regular output via our relationship with Word & Sound distribution… and of course just by putting out great music. Time to finish what i started.
How do you go about selecting the releases and artists for your label?
For me it’s about serendipitous experiences with friends, peers or new acquaintances and how the music weaves its way into those moments. Based on what I’ve lined up for 2012 I think maybe I’ve subconsciously sought out a lot of US based artists. While its not a matter of “civic pride” it does feel pretty good to have gotten together the music I have from so many US based artists… both known and much less known… because I truly think its amazing music.
Any forthcoming releases in the near future?
A sampler featuring amazing work from Alland Byallo, Andrew Grant, Sunshine Jones (Dubtribe) and Reverse Commuter which is the new project from Ken Gibson of [a]pendics Shuffle that is going to turn a lot of heads in 2012. And following Zev’s – Queen Of Hearts vinyl is a 12″ from Gadi Mizrahi which much like the Zev 12″ features both his strongest and his most adventurous dance floor cuts yet.
Any forthcoming ‘Three” releases or collaborations?
People know not to hold their breath on that front with me, but….. stranger things have happened.
What is your drink of choice?
I’m aggressively looking for a bottle of 1995 Calon Segur.
Lastly, can you tell us about the mix you given us?
Yes I’m really excited about it, actually! So this is an hour set from October 1998 at The Soulhouse in Gainesville, Florida. Two turntables and a mixer. No CDs. No FX processors. I’ve been known for being notoriously hard to find recordings of through all my years. Recently, I uncovered a stockpile of cassette recordings and a couple DAT tapes made during the 90′s spanning from 1993 to 1999. I’ve salvaged a handful of 60 minute mixes and a couple 30 minute mixes. All live recordings and mostly from the most influential place in my growth as a DJ… the once globally reknown Simons in Gainesville, Florida. Simons was a place where everyone from Larent Garnier, Derrick May, Sasha, Danny Tenaglia… Italian legends like Daniele Davoli, Chicago legends DJ Pierre, UK legends like Farley and Heller and many many more made their first Southeast appearances from 93 onward until the 2am curfew was established in 2000. It was here I was able to learn to play marathon sets.
So this first mix is from the after hours place that was down the street from Simons…. The Soulhouse…. and the music is of a raw house vibe. Simon himself bought this old house that used to be an Italian restaurant and converted it into an after hours club. He bought all the other old houses and buildings on the entire block so there would be no noise complaints! Simon was a visionary and while most of Florida was known for Trance and what not if you knew what was really up in Florida for techno and house chances are you experienced Simons and Soulhouse. Keep in mind these mixes will be mostly pulled from cassette so the audio reflects that ….and on some more than others.