Kerri Chandler: “I feel like I’ve been reborn”

With an extensive catalogue of records stretching back to the late ‘80s, it seems there’s no slowing down Kerri Chandler. When inthemix gets the house trailblazer on Skype at the tail-end of 2012, he’s buzzing about the year just gone. Over the European summer, Chandler returned to his post at Ibiza’s Circo Loco, a party that’s become a “family”. Then there’s his other family: the artists he mentors on the MadTech Records imprint, including Citizen, Voyeur and Kashii. After such a distinguished run in the game, there’s not a trace of cynicism in his temperament. This New Year’s, Chandler arrives in Australia at last, and he’s buzzing about that too…

In Australia, we’ve been waiting a while for this tour.

I’ve been waiting a while too, man! It seems like a never ending thing; I’ve been trying to get there for years. I’ve heard so much about it, and I finally get to go. It’ll be great to play with some old friends too.

The European summer this year looked like a special one for you – not just Circo Loco, but other parties and festivals as well.

Yeah, I can’t tell you – these last few years have felt like I’ve been reborn. I’ve got to meet so many interesting DJs, started the label; it’s just been a whirlwind. I’m glad everything is happening in this positive direction.

What was the philosophy that the Circo Loco guys came to you with, when they first signed you up?

I thought that was the most interesting meeting I’ve ever had in my life. The club had been closed down, and they said they were going to open it back up. It was odd – I was doing a party in Italy, where the Circo Loco guys are from. I was like, what do I have to do with Ibiza? I don’t know that whole style. I didn’t want to bother with any of it. I thought, what does Ibiza really have to do with house? It’s all bottle service, glamorous decadence; it has nothing to do with music. That’s what I thought. But then I kept hearing those guys wanted to change the music in Ibiza. I didn’t want to believe it. But then they hired Tony Humphries to do a night at the club, and that made me pay attention. I thought, if Tony did it, that immediately gets my eyes open.

So when I went to their office and one of of the owners Andrea had these original Keith Haring prints and pictures up of Paradise Garage. I was like, OK, you know New York culture. Then he started explaining the club to me. He says, “Kerri, we’re starting the club again, and we want to change the music policy.” I didn’t know what the music policy was to begin with. Then he said this, which is what got me: “First thing is, we don’t hire anyone ‘commercial’. They can’t even pay us to play there. There is no bottle service. Just three great rooms and big sound. There’s no light show. Nothing flashy about it. And the room is red.” I said, “The room is what?” ‘Cause I’m all about red light, so he just caught me. I’m thinking, a great room, great sound-system and I can play whatever I want, that’s wild.

So he said, “Come do the closing party, I think you’ll be very pleased about it.” I went and did the closing party. I started playing the craziest, deepest stuff I could find. I think I played [Mr Fingers’] The Sun Can’t Compare and I dunno what happened, but the sun came out, everyone’s hands went up, and I was like, this is sick. The farther I went with what I played, the more they got into it. Next thing I knew, I was part of that crew. It felt like I’d known all of them for years; we all had this connection. We all stuck around for each other’s sets. We bring the best out of each other. It’s family. I love that, because my two closest friends are always on tour so I don’t get to see them much anymore, Dennis [Ferrer] and Jerome [Sydenham].

Even beyond DJing, we became close friends. There’s a party in the booth. It’s never like, I’m coming on now to kick your ass, it’s my time! My favourite party was the after-party on the beach because we all came together and played music. No set times, nothing like that.

It seems like this renewed energy has played into your label, too?

Yeah, and that’s the reason I did it, because I hear all these people on the road, these younger DJs doing warm-up sets for me, and some of them are really amazing. They’re playing their own productions from little labels they’ve started that might not see the light of day. When I started, I didn’t really have that break and I figured that I would help the next generation develop. That was always important to me; to give back.

Who offered that kind of help to you when you started out?

I got really lucky early on, and I’ve got to say, it was Merlin Bobb and Jerome Sydenham at Atlantic Records, and then Mel Medalie at Champion Records, because he took me in and showed me how labels work. Now, I make sure these kids know how the business works. At the London Boiler Room takeover, I start for like an hour, and all the other MadTech DJs come after me.

How about your own DJing? I know something you pride yourself on is that ability to take your set in any direction.

Oh always. I go in early to listen to the other DJs, feel things out. Especially new places. I always have a wonderful time, and I feel blessed to have…I won’t say ‘pull’…but there’s always an open-minded crowd there ready to party.

Kerri Chandler tour dates:

Monday 31 Dec – Adelaide, Sugar

Tuesday 1 Jan – Melbourne, Let Them Eat Cake

Tuesday 1 Jan – Sydney, Space Ibiza Festival