Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addressed the State of Michigan after a plan to kidnap her and other Michigan government officials was thwarted by state and federal law enforcement agencies. She started by saying thank you to law enforcement and FBI agents who participated in stopping this [...]
Derrick Carter doesn’t like doing interviews. The Chicago DJ – one of the city’s house music majors in the ’90s – hasn’t given one like this in over five years, he says. And that’s just fine with him.
“I don’t really do interviews because I don’t like to talk about music,” Carter says – making that all the more clear by keeping tight-lipped about what he’s currently working on in his downstairs home studio. “I like to make music. I don’t want to do another music magazine and answer these boring, pedestrian questions that I’ve been asked a thousand times.”
Good thing we already know the basics: Carter broke into music as a 9-year-old “bedroom jock” living in Chicago’s western suburbs. He released his debut single, “Love Me Right,” just after college in 1987 – and many albums since. Ricky Martin used him for a “Livin’ La Vida Loca” remix. And he’s gay – Carter, that is.
Not “Glee” or Lady Gaga gay. Just homosexual, the term he prefers – and uses – when referring to his sexuality.
“I don’t really gay it up. I’m not really a part of that community in that sense,” Carter says with trepidation, worried that he’ll get the gays fired up over that. “I’m also not part of any other community. I’ve got some friends that I really like, some family that I really love and some dogs that I adore.”
That’s not to say he cares if you are. He just doesn’t subscribe to any scene. He still loves men. Hell, he was with one for seven years. And if you handed him tickets to see Lady Gaga, he’d go. With eyeliner on, no less.
“I like to get freaky, but see, I have to keep it in check because if I don’t it could just go way overboard and end up in the wrong zone,” he says, breaking into a big laugh. “It always feels five minutes from crazy.”
For this year’s Movement Electronic Music Festival, that sounds about right. Carter knows what he’s in for when he plays from 9-11 p.m. on Sunday, May 30 at the Vitamin Water stage, but that doesn’t mean he’s particularly fond of it: “I’m not a big fan of giant gatherings; I don’t like being in them. I don’t mind that they exist or anything like that, but it’s just too many people.”
Somewhere around 100,000 revelers unite for this massive Motor City party, but for someone like Carter, who’s happy with the low-profile life he’s led so far, that’s probably a few thousand too many. Even as a pre-teen, he’d isolate himself in his family’s basement (calling himself a “bedroom jock,” though rather loosely, he admits), one side of which was finished with a bar and a family room. On the opposite end, where the water heater, furnace and washing machine resided, is where Carter would make music. He was years away from the club scene, so Carter played family reunions and birthday parties.
His Southern parents listened to blues and Motown, but Carter – who worked at record stores – gravitated toward club music almost like an epiphany, he says. It felt rebellious and liberating. “It wasn’t the music of my parents; it was my own thing. And that’s how I got my own style, because my mom was like, “Uh, is that that bumpty-bump shit again?”
It was – and still is.
Music has evolved since those “bumpty-bump” days. Digital media is devouring record stores, opening avenues for up-and-coming artists via social-networking sites and personal web pages. And now there’s more “shit,” too: Without all these paths to cross to make a record, anyone can set up shop, hop on a Mac and cut an album. Carter’s not so cool with that.
“It’s a bedroom revolution, and it’s gone back to the very places where we sleep; people have ‘studios’ that are really a laptop and a soundcard and a controller,” he says. “It’s made it a lot more accessible, but in some way it’s diluted it a bit and now there’s a house or dance remix to everything and nothing. I actually liked having these sort of rights of passage where in order to get to a certain point you had to be able to do certain things in a certain order.”
Carter, through a mischevious laugh, says he’s full of theories, some that he worries could get him picketed. When it comes to the gay community, his belief has probably been proven: “There’s always been a feeling of alienation, people who just kind of exist on the outside looking in. Having these clubs is where you get this music and it lends itself to a natural kind of abandonment, like I can get away from all that and not have to worry about any of that because I’m here in this special place.”
Clubs, and the music they’re known for, offer an exclusivity that allows followers, especially gay ones, to bask in that feeling. “It’s decadent and glam and there’s something that’s kind of indulgent about it because it’s not your average run-of-the-mill thing that your parents listen to; it’s far from it,” Carter says. “Vocals are being sampled and looped and repeated. It’s like a language that you learn to speak musically, and by being a part of this and learning this language you can kind of create your own insight and your own group of people.”
If house music is a language, then Carter speaks his own and rarely shares its inner-workings with anyone else. Not us. Not even big names – none of which he’ll drop – who’ve pursued him for mixes.
“I’ve turned people down all the time, because that’s not what I do,” he says, pausing. “OK, I think it’s because I’m extremely selfish, but I also have a pretty decent actualized life that functions in a way that’s manageable. I do things because it’s who I am and it’s what I do, not necessarily for fame and recognition and all that.
“I don’t want to be a flavor of the month where you blow up and then nobody cares come summer.”
Carter only mixed the mega Ricky Martin hit because, at the time, he figured it was a “campy-ass song” and he wanted to have a little fun. Not because it was Ricardo Martino, as he calls him. He’s more concerned with the six dogs running around his pad. How he’ll feed them. Heck, how he’ll feed himself.
“The best version of me is the one that’s sitting on this stool right now in this kitchen. My goals are to maybe even find a little part and tweak that and make a better version of me, not have a lot of shine on it. Just make it look good.”
Go easy on the eyeliner then.
Noon-midnight May 29-31
Derrick Carter: 9-11 p.m. May 30
Hart Plaza, Detroit
For a full lineup, visit http://www.movement.us