Anyone who's read through the weighty account of Chicago's House Music history will know all about the legendary figure that is Boo Williams. Boo first stepped up to the turntables and started DJing in 1981 having been hugely influenced by, Ron Hardy who is widely described as "the only man who can test Frankie Knuckles' status as Godfather of Chicago House Music." As well as taking influence from the originators of the scene, Williams himself is cited as being part of of the second wave of producers leading the Windy City's movement in the heat of the mid to late nineties along with the likes of Gemini, Derrick Carter, Paul Johnson and most fundamentally, Glenn Underground. It was Glenn after all, that first got him into producing after meeting at the formative parties in Chicago hosted by Lil' Louis way back when he was harboring a historical rave culture and just when Boo was starting to build a reputation for himself and is still doing victoriously to this day.
Just pick up a copy of the simply outstanding production of Williams' '98 release 'Mortal Trance' which Boo revels in our interview below that he made in just fifteen minutes and play it next to some of his latest output for Rush Hour and Contemporary Scarecrow and you'll find that it still sounds as fresh as ever. So, what astonishes us when speaking to Boo about his ease and flair for beat making is that he tries his best to remain humble to his achievements because he didn't think for one second this would all come about.
We're honored to share this exchange of words and history with Boo Williams here on the blog before he brings a proper Chicago stompathon to Room Three on 25th May as part of the Jaunt Music takeover and you can download this fantastic soul lifting Strictly Jaz Unit (the project he shares with Glen Underground) Mix below, all before Boo shows us why he's still one of the biggest ball players in house today.
When was the last time you played in London, and how are you looking forward to returning here in May to play Room Three?
That's a good question. Well I can't remember the last time I've been to London but its been too long and I like the UK a lot and look forward to coming back and playing again for the people.
Take us back to your earliest memories of music if you will. What were you listening to at home as a kid?
I listened to what my parents listened to and that was Soul, Funk, Blues and Jazz.
How did the first generation of house producers like Frankie Knuckles, Gene Hunt and Ron Hardy influence you during the eighties? What were some of the records and parties that stand out from this era?
Well I was influenced by Ron Hardy more then Frankie because I went to see Ron play more at the Music Box 326 Lower Wacker Dr. It's what really made me go out a lot besides other places to party in Chicago. Frankie Knuckles parties at the warehouses I couldn't go to because I was too young and so I didn't get a chance to go to the Power Plant but I went to a few Gallery 21 parties.
The musical comradeship you share with Glenn Underground has been well documented in your career history and in your biography it says he first got you into music production. What did you see in Glen Underground, or what did you see in each other, that made you think this is going to be something great?
Well it's funny how me and Glenn hooked up. I used to see him at LiL Louis parties back in the 80's and wherever I went to a party there he was there. We had respect for each other. I would see Glenn at a lot of parties because he used to dance really good but at that time I didn't know he did music until one day Steve Poindexter told me that "your buddy Glenn makes really good music" so one night I was DJing in Power House and Glenn said, "here play this track I made." So I put it right in my altracks tape deck with a pitch control on it and as soon as I mixed it in people went crazy. From that point I was smiling because the crowd was slam dancing. Ha! That's a Chicago thing! I was amazed because I didn't know that Glenn made music like that.
One night Glenn played at the Power House and he asked if he can he use my tape deck and I said go right ahead because I wanted to hear more of his music he made. He ripped the party apart, after that we became very good friends. One night I was at the new warehouse, Randolph & Halsted and Glenn needed a ride home. We talked and when we got to the front of his house he said "Boo man if you ever want to come by here you are welcome because we could work together on some music." I didn't know how to make music but I had one drum machine it was a Yamaha RX7 that I would make drum traxs off, and so Glenn had seen a little talent in me.
After that I would go over his house almost everyday until night fall to work on music, then I would start to spend the night over his house making music all day and night. One day, Glenn showed me how to make music with a keyboard and I was very excited to learn how to do this. I will say this I respect Glenn Underground for his knowledge and passion to do the kind of music he does from his heart.
Tell us some more about the project you share together as ‘Strictly Jaz Unit.’ In this video you compare making music together, like baking a cake. Is it really that simple?
Well the projects we did together as Strictly Jaz Unit was Glenn's idea to do something together and to feature me or whoever else he added to the project. He was just thinking of family more like his crew of buddies that he felt should be heard also besides him. As far as making music it's not a easy thing to do unless you are born to do it or you have a God Giving talent, also if its in your family blood line. I said music is like baking a cake because to bake a cake you have got to have all the right ingredients to make it and it's the same way with music.
You’re cited in Chicago house music history as part of the second wave of producers representing the scene next to the likes of Gemini and Paul Johnson. Did you always know you’d be in this game still two decades and more down the line?
No I didn't know because I just love what I do and I do this for personal gain so to me it's still hard to believe where people put your status at. I just try my best to be a humble man and I didn't think for one second this would all come about.
You’re repertoire stretches back to 94' and yet your music has always been ahead of its time. What’s the vision you have for the music you make?
It's really hard to answer this question. Every artist producer has his or hers style that represents them so I guess I just make music the way it feels to me as Glenn has shown me when I first started making music. I just have my own style of music that comes very rooted from the likes of Larry Heard, Robert Owens, Lil Louis, Marshall Jefferson and Glenn Underground, just to name a few. When you listen to a Chicago artist back in the day that sound can not be copied and it's a trade mark of a life time - so that's why my music is ahead of its time.
With that in mind, we’ve randomly selected four of your productions (a couple of which we have great memories of hearing out in fabric) and as a reference we’d like you to tell us some of the inspiration behind them and how they are special to you?
Moon Man - Moon Patrol (aka Boo Williams) – Cajual Records
Moon Man was really me just trying to do more different styles of music using another name because sometimes you like to vent out and do other things with music so people won't think you can only do one style of music. I came up with Moon Man because when I'm making music it's like I am on another planet beside earth creating more styles and added it to my original sound but it was just me being in my own zone.
Flashback- Relief Records
Well this one track was just supposed to be a peak hour runner, I guess I did not know any of my tracks could make people feel they was they do, it's a surprise to me really.
Mortal Trance – Rush Hour
This EP came out on Residual Records first and the way I made this track back in 97' was like this. One day Glenn was working on a track with the Yamaha keyboard and he made this sound that was amazing so he had to run to the store to get 'some' and when he went to the store I started playing around with what he created on the Yamaha and I made 'Mortal Trance' in 15 minutes then saved it on a floppy disk, so when Glenn got back he never knew I made it! This track did real good for me and is still doing good and there's that little bit of history behind it.
Moving Rivers – Rush Hour
This was my first EP coming back from a 2 to 3 year lay off because of what I was going through in my life but it's me again trying to get back to the basics of where I left off and getting back to a certain point in my music.
Congratulations on 25 + years of music. I'm sure there have been many but can you tell us about some of your favourite moments?
My favourite moments are just being being apart of music history when I first came about the music scene. The Music Box, The Ascott Hotel, Mendel High School, Leo High School, The Power House, The Reactor AKA'S..C.O.D, The Humming Bird, The Candy Store, The Pleasure Complex, Medusa, The Racquet Ball Club, Edge Of The Looking Glass, The Hotel Continental Hotel, The Bismarck Hotel, The Power Plant, The Gallery 21, The New Ware House.
There's too many clubs to name in Chicago! Also I share my favorite moments with these DJs I have played with - Glenn Underground, Ron Hardy, Pharris Thomas, Chris Underwood, Terry Hunter, Lil Louis, Farely Jackmaster, Armando, Gene Hunt, Leonard Remix Rroy, Mike Williams, Mike Dunn, DJ RUSH, Paul Daniels, Frank, Washginton, Derrick Johnson, Elvis Armstrong, Eric Wade, these were my favorite moments in my past.
How does it feel when you hear that the young UK artists like Ben UFO are playing your records out today in the clubs, warehouses and festivals?
It feels good to know anyone is playing your music these days, it's hard for me to say about younger producers because I don't keep up with any of them when I know they are out there I just have so many things I am dealing with and I never really had time to see who's coming up - no disrespect to the younger producers.
How did you first become involved with Rush Hour and what are your thoughts on their lovingly curated reissue schedules?
Well the owner Antal booked me for a gig a while back and we have been cool ever since and he shows me a lot of respect and I respect him also.
What's your opinion on the current state of the music scene?
The music scene is not the same as it was. I think it has lost a lot of its identity and mainly its roots, mostly everything is real commercial. I remember when it was real pure and I guess this is the new thing but it lacks the fundamental of its true origins. Some people will disagree with me and some will agree with me but that's just my opinion and to a lot of folks it means nothing to them but I'm content with that because it is what it is for now.
When you're working on music what gear are you using? How has it changed from when you first started making music?
Well compared to back then I still have a lot to learn. I use Reason 5 right now and I'm still learning that necause Glenn showed me the basics and I can just get it to do what I need it to do for me and create new music. Glenn is the master mind of any gear, I just have to work at it as he does but his mind set is far on another level than mine when it comes to music and I humble myself to say that cause it is the truth.
Finally, what would make for the ultimate Boo Williams party experience? Pick the DJs, the venue and the guests and paint the scenario for us?
Honestly I could not even think about doing that! I am a simple guy and I try to keep it simple. But if I could have it my way it would be me and Glenn having our own club and running it the way we see fit and just give the masses nothing but pure service in the music we make and play and help other good artists we know that can play good music as well.
Thank you all for your time, love and support from Boo Williams - it's all about the music.
Boo Williams lands in Room Three for the Jaunt Music takeover on 25th May. For more info and tickets go here.