Photography AJ Esquire
As with all the posts on this blog I am not attempting to provide definitive articles or be a magazine. There are far better places you can go for those, and if you want to read the best and most in depth interview with Chez Damier then I recommend you try the Resident Advisor interview by Dave Stenton. There is no point rehashing his history which is well covered there. My Basic Vision blog is about my own personal experiences, there are some that were not covered in the RA piece. As I mentioned in the previous entry, Save The Robots - NYC, I first met Chez in New York City the first time I visited the Sound Factory in 1992. We became friends and recording partners in a project called Chuggles. There were a total of three releases under that name - Thank You, I Remember Dance and Deep Alarm. We also made a one off track called A Dedication to Jos that came out on Serious Grooves.
They are all among the favourite productions I have been involved in and it's good to see they have kept their value over time. Chez named the Serious Grooves release in memory of my girlfriend of the time, Jocelyn Higgin, who died in a car crash on March 12th 1993. Stacey Pullen also had his first ever release on the record with his track 'Forever'. Our track on the EP was recorded at Square Dance Studios in Nottingham and was produced by Martyn Watson. All the other Chuggles records were recorded at The Farm in Rothwell Leeds, and produced by Carl Finlow although I'm sure the 'Made in Detroit' tag on the record did us a world of good.
Chez left house music in 1997 after his partnership with Ron Trent in the Prescription label broke up. I also lost contact with him. I did hear that he was doing some music with Leroy Burgess in 2004 but our paths didn't cross. This little foray back was exactly that - just a foray and Damier continued to be off the radar. In 2008 Chez was invited to play in Manchester at Joshua Brooks and he accepted. The night was packed and Chez told me he played one of our productions 'I Remember Dance'. As the record peaked he had a 'moment' where he remembered exactly why he was inspired to make records in the first place.
A year later Giles Smith from secretsundaze asked him to play at a private Loft party in London and they got talking. It culminated in a NYE 2010/11 show alongside Space Dimension Controller and Chez joining the Secret Agency. In June 2009 Damier released his first new track 'Why' since 2004, alongside two re-issues on the Time Visions EP on Mojuba records. Since 2009, in a very similar fashion to Greg Wilson's highly successful comeback, he has been producing, touring and re-invigorating his label Balance Alliance. It didn't take long before he also had a new club hit under his belt with In My System co-produced as The Gathering with Jef K and Chris Carrier.
I watched Chez's comeback from the sidelines but I didn't rush to join the crowds. I knew that at some point it would be the right time to meet again without forcing the issue. It actually took longer than I expected. I was visiting Tristan Da Cunha's Waxwerks record store in Leeds on a day when Brawther was hanging out. Brawther is a Balance Alliance artist and was talking to Chez on skype, he put me online totally unexpectedly. Time is a very funny thing - if you think about a large block of time since you've seen someone, it seems far bigger than it felt actually living it. People are amazed that I've played at back to basics for 21 years but for me it has just passed week to week and many of the moments seem like a few days ago. I spoke to Chez and immediately connected in the same way we had in 1992. We both realised that it was the right time to meet and start working together again.
We had already booked Chez for the back to basics 21st birthday party and also for our 2020Vision Xmas party in London so rather than just talk about it we made firm plans to set aside some time while he was over to go in the studio. So that's what we did. It seemed fitting that we played on the same bill for the first time in 15 years at back to basics; firstly because that was where we first played together and secondly because that was also the name of Chez's night at The Music Institute in Detroit with Alton Miller.
While Chez was in my studio we spent a lot of time catching up on music. After all it had been a long time and people change. He dropped loads of new music on me and I liked nearly everything. I find it bizarre that we came from such different cities, families and lives but we share such similar taste in music. I was lucky enough to get unreleased material from him forthcoming in 2013, notably a two part series on Balance called 'Purpose By Design' but the one that really grabbed my attention was simply called Chez 0000 and has been made for Mojuba. Damier often left tracks untitled or simply with catalogue numbers in his early work, including one his best known works 'Untitled' or KMS 049. It makes sense that this new addition to the family has taken on the persona of a new child with the title being simply '0000'. It is a stripped down, hypnotic groove that marks a fitting continuation to Damier's more dub sided productions. It will be one of those records that stands out from the crowd without you really knowing why. Here is a quick blast of it
Chuggles was a very special collaboration but I'll be the first to admit that the most important partnership Chez made was with Ron Trent. Chez n Trent trailblazed their way through the early and mid nineties with a distinct and pioneering sound that producers still attempt to copy today. You could call it deep house but it was really something very different from the music you hear listening to the deep house chart on Beatport today. For me it's magic was created by fusing the diverse elements of three cities and their sounds; Detroit techno, Chicago jack trax and New York house. It was interesting to read the story behind the making of Morning Factory to understand how important Damier's trips to the Sound Factory were. The fact that he took Ron along to witness it himself shows how much he wanted his partner to 'get it'. The pair lived and moved between the three cities on various occasions and they were influenced by the different music that emanated from the streets and clubs. The pair fell out badly and the partnership ended in 1995. The two have hardly spoken since then. So it is an exciting new development in this story that they will finally play together for the first time since the split in Japan on New Years Eve 2012/13 in Tokyo at Club 11. There will be some electricity in the air that night for sure.
Here is a taster of what to expect from a Chez Damier live set. Exclusive to the Basic Vision blog.