Last weekend over at the Feelings Summer Fate all dayer MEOKO had the pleasure to witness one of the pionners of the game Mike Dunn in action. Moments before his set we were allowed to pick his brains on subjects past and present to find out how the chi town godfather still keeps it so funky fresh after 20 years and counting.
I want to start off by asking you what’s new with you at the moment, I know that you have had some remix deadlines this week that are you working on?
Yes a couple of things, a Jill Scott joint that is by Terry hunter and myself. We also have a new project that we are working on called “House in HD” the HD sign is like (HD) TV but it also means Hunter and Dine so its house in HD which means its clear, that house music is real clear when me and Terry are involved.
So are you working on more soulful remixes at the moment?
I’m working on some with Terry, Terry and I are production partners. I let him handle the more soulful side and I go to some the more challenging stuff like afro and acid sounds, back to my roots.
I know you grew up in a house with lots of different styles of music, your Mum was deep into disco and your Dad was into all kinds such as blues and rock like Jimi Hendrix a real mixture of everything, but your Mum was the one that really brought you into disco is that right?
Yes, yes Totally. My mum loved disco because she loved to dance and my father he was very eclectic. My mum listen to some of that stuff too but her main thing feeling good dancing and that was what disco was about. I can just remember my mum buying 12″ records and she would always take me and that was really instilled in me was a little kid.
Is there a song you remember from you childhood that stays with you now?
On the disco side I think I saw her really dance hard to the Anita Ward 12”. I can just remember ‘Ring my bell’ that one sticks out the most. Back then it was 45’s and then if the artist didn’t do an album then it was the long version what we call the 12” she would always buy the long version of the song she liked and I would put ‘em on and listen to them for hours over and over.
Did that shape the way that you began to play now or make music?
Yeah when I used to play reel to reel and I would do my edits what we now would call remixes, so I would do my edits, chop them up on the reel to reel and extend them out. When I first started DJing I would set up on the dinning room table and if I would see my mum dancing to what I was doing I knew I was doing something good. Then I started to branch out to being with my friends we ended up all coming together and became a little squad which was Hugh H and Tyree Cooper, so all of us would go hang out all the time and we started practicing together.
Do you play many live sets nowadays or do you incorporate that into your sets?
Well I’m going back into that I’m actually preparing for that now. I sold a lot of my analog gear which was a mistake so I’m buying a lot of the old stuff, some you can’t find or they have re issued them but its different. The stuff I had is astronomical now to buy I had original Juno’s, I mean my studio, (smiles) I had two of everything they used to call my studio the Noah’s arch because I had two of everything and having two I now know that I only should have sold one. I sold them because I saw the new thing I’m a big tech head, I’m a geek when it comes to technology so when I saw new things like plugins I would buy them, they made life easier. They are getting real close now (with the technology) but at the beginning it just wasn’t the same.
How do you feel about technology now, seeing it evolve and using it for production?
Me, I love technology because that means the world is growing and the world is changing. Some people may knock it and for good reasons but me, I like moving forward and I can then bring my old technology into the future. I’ve been using all analog gear now, there are only a few plugins that are my go to plugins but I been using a lot of analog gear.
Do you have a favourite toy at the moment?
The Korg Minilogue aww… its awesome man and the Arturia Mini Lab then I have my Move miniature so I’m going back to using those, but the Korg is just uh…
I’m really looking forward to hearing what you produce now bringing the old and the new together with 20 year of knowledge.
There’s a lot us doing that Dennis Ferrer, Kenny Dope, Louie Vega, Terry Hunter we’re all been just been kinda easing back towards using that technology there’s just something about fatness and the warmness of analog gear that you just can’t (replicate), excuse me when I say this but the anolog gear, it has large cojone’s man. (laughs)
I want to go back in time with to your first residency at the second warehouse does it hold fond memories for you, did you form a lot friendships and do still have those friendships today?
Oh yeah, yeah the warehouse was a very special time for me, one it was it was named after my mentor named after my mentor’s club Frankie Knuckles and he has the first warehouse which was 206 bump Jefferson and actually the warehouse that I was spinning at that was the third warehouse. Everybody thinks that was the thinks that was the second (warehouse) but it was actually the third and that was owned by Rocky Jones, Julien Perez and Joe Smooth.
I want to ask you how you about God Make Me Phunky (1994). How do you feel, it must have felt great having it re released after all that time? People including me we get down to the ground to that song its still so loved.
Yes, on defected. Some records are just timeless I guess. If you listen to Mike Dunn productions, all of my productions the melody lines are key to me because if the melody sticks in a persons head they will say the song goes, like for instance with the line ‘life goes on’ (he sings) if you have that one line that feels good, that infectious melody hook then you’ve got the one and with the right melody line people are going to remember and they are going to continue to love that song.
Now I have to ask you about Mr 69 and Phreaky MF. When I hear that play in a party the place erupts, its like it turns into an orgy!
My alter ego (laughs). How Phreaky MF came about, I was playing at the warehouse when I made that track. So every Saturday would I need something new to play, if it was a new edit or a new song something had to be new that night in the club and different from any other night or different to how it usually is. I was in the studio and was like let me put something together real quick so I started playing around with samples and one of my favourite funk bass lines is ‘Backstrokin’ by Fat back band. I was short of time so I just when into the booth and started saying stuff there was nothing written down whatever comes out comes out. Most of my good songs are songs the ones I didn’t waste anytime over doing. The songs that you do in say 30 minutes to and hour, they can become the best ones because your rushed for time and you don’t spend to much time over doing anything.
What I would call a prophecy in the classic ‘Let it be house’ has come to light, how do you feel about that?
Yes 1988. At the age of 15 I moved in with my grandmother because she was living with my Uncle and he had passed and I didn’t want her to be alone so I went and moved in with her so that I could take care of her and she wouldn’t be in a home. She would take me to church with her I was a church boy and one of my favourite movies is the Ten commandments so I took that and made it into house music… So let it be written… So let be house. So let it be written… So let it be Dunn.
Do you sleep much?
No inside this head its always active. I lay down and something pops into my head and I gotta get up. That’s what I tell people that don’t understand, I don’t know if music is a gift or a curse. I hear music all the time.
What kind of music are you into?
I don’t listen to radio much but when I do its something classic, I take so many things from it I’m always listening to whats going on in the back of the track. Its those little subtle things I hear that I pull out make into the dominate part of my tracks
Do you have a record that you carry around with you all the time? How do you prepare for your sets?
No, I don’t prepare. For me that’s not authentic because you never end up sticking to the gameplan. I’ve never been a DJ that says I’m gona play this, because you know of out of 40 songs I say or think that I’m gona play I may play one or two. You may go to the party and think they (crowd) are on ‘this’ when actually its different. The vibe of the party has to dictate what you do and the direction you go in.
Your connect with the crowd is flawless, what’s your magic?
I learn that from Frankie (Knuckles) rest in peace. His thing was always that you’ve gotta connect with your crowd. You have to give the people you but you also gotta look at them an give them what they want. I’m not a one sided DJ, now I don’t go in and play some crazy stuff but I know how far I can go with it. That’s why I always get to a party half an hour early you have to figure out what’s going on in that the room and soak up that energy.
I want to ask you about going back and making an album of your unfinished work?
It’s also almost finished. I just wanted to got back to when house was good like in the late 80’s and early 90’s to when house was really good, that little section when house was incredible. Now its more about whos playing the newest and hottest stuff and the way the system set up now with Beatport, track source its like the record has no time to develop and grow.
Yes, I do feel that people like to hear something familiar when in a party, a connection to the music?
People like to hear something familiar that takes them back to a time when they remember when something click (in their head) a fun time you know so me, I have incorporate those songs into my sets.
For my last question I want to ask you how you feel about the closure of Fabric?
For one my heart bleeds for Judy the manager. My connection with her from my understanding is that she worked there for 15 years and never took a day off, what do you do after that. Imagine you work all your life then poof one day its gone. More clubs will open and people will shift to that but the people that are connected to Fabric what do they do? What the government does not understand is that some people are not going recover from this. If they understood clubbing, house music, the whole nine, you know its like my record ‘We are born to be house’ it takes a different kind of person to be in love with house music. We are different from the hip hop and R&B or any other culture of music and we, when I say we love our music, we LOVE our music and what l also love is that the kids now follow the history. A building is a building but when those people shift then what happens? Fabric is a building but the name Fabric and the people that are associated with Fabric that is an institution. House music never dies no matter what they try to do, they won’t do it to house music. We will never stand for it.
Mike and MEOKO Journalist Tiffany Allen
Follow Mike Dunn on Soundcloud
Photos: Ayden Whitfield
Words by: Tiffany Allen