Acquiring the reputation of being one of the most respected names in house music is not something that is achieved easily. For many, Marshall Jefferson can be regarded as important a figure in house music as the late Frankie Knuckles who was widely regarded as the ‘The Godfather’ of genre. In the 1980s the coast of lake Michigan was to be home to a wealth of innovative artists crafting a new sound that was soon be widely known as Chicago house. One of these artists was Marshall Jefferson. The Chicago producer’s reputation was firmly cemented thanks the success of his 1986 release Move Your Body (House Music Anthem) which is still widely received as one of the most pivotal tracks in the genre today. Along with his own productions which continue to push the genre into new directions, Marshall lent his hand to craft the sounds for artists such as Cece Rodgers whom he has continued to collaborate with for more than 20 years.
Next month Marshall will be demonstrating how he has built such a reputation as he takes to The Warehouse Leeds for the Shine Easter Sunday special. Ahead of the event, we caught up with the man himself to talk new labels, Chicago and living in the UK.
Hi Marshall, how are you doing?
I’m doing ok, I’m still here!
How was your 2015? Was there anything in particular that stood out for you?
2015 was very eventful towards the end of the year, some great stuff creatively and also reality checks……I got to record my good friend Sleezy D for the 1st time in over 30 years and got 23 songs recorded. I also started my first Kickstarter campaign, however, I cancelled that campaign when I saw one on Colonel Abrams, who was homeless and diabetic, and told everyone to support him instead.
The USB Records label which you run along side CeCe Rodgers has been active for almost 10 years now. How would you best describe the ethos and sound the label tries to give off based on its releases?
The label’s sound is true to every artist. We hardly release any remixes as we try to let each song stand on its own. I also have a new label called Freakin 909 and Sleezy’s album is set to come out on that.
Are there any interesting releases on the label coming up that you would be able to tell us a little bit about?
On Freakin 909 we have the Sleezy D triple album which will be coming out on Vinyl.
Tracks such as Move Your Body (The House Music Anthem) have played a big part in you gaining a reputation as one of innovators in house music. How do you feel about being labelled with such an accolade?
I feel it more as a responsibility to up my game each time I play out to show people the spirt of House Music.
Having been producing house music for the best part of 30 years, how have you noticed your style and sound changing over the time? Has developments in technology such as drum machines had much on of an influence?
I try not to have a style and try new ideas all the time. The problem however is we’ve gone from 25 new dance records a week in 1985 to 70,000+ releases a week in 2016.
Chicago was pivotal in paving the way for the birth of house music in the 1980s, a movement which you were an integral part of. How do you view the city’s current contributions to the genre? Do you think the city is still a big innovator when it comes to house music?
I don’t think you’re going to hear the innovators because if someone does something REALLY different you’re not going to hear about it. No DJ will play it because most of them are stuck playing one sub genre all night.
Are you still currently living in Manchester over here in the UK? The city’s electronic music scene is widely regarding as one of the strongest in the country. What is your take on it
Manchester is great and always thinking of new things. Mike Pickering and Graeme Park just put together something where the Manchester Symphony Orchestra plays over some House classics. I couldn’t make it last weekend because of work but I plan on going this weekend.
Next month you will be in Leeds at The Warehouse for Shine’s Easter Sunday special alongside your long time collaborator Ce Ce Rodgers. What is about your relationship that allows you to collaborate on such a consistent basis?
Trust that has been gained from 28+ years of friendship. I didn’t sign him to a production deal, he handled his own money, and he was in control of his career, which I’ve done with everyone I’ve worked with and why I’m still friends with everyone I’ve worked with.
Finally, what can we expect from you when you get behind the decks at the Shine Easter Sunday Special?
Hands in the air House music all night long!
Thanks for talking to us Marshall!
Interview by Elliot Ryder
Photos courtesy of Mn2s