While the Detroit-based saint trinity of Techno is often cited, history often forgets to mention one of the most influential players in electronic music, and father of House. You might have seen him in an after-party on a sunny Parisian Sunday on a barge called Concrete or possibly at the Weather. A pioneer of these new sounds, known for having first handled turntables at the tender age of 12, and gaining recognition by 17, son of a jazzman and artist, it’s clear as day that Lil Louis was brought to this earth to grace us with House music. (After all, house is no doubt influenced by jazz). Rhythm runs in his blood and seems to keep him forever young. 54 years of age and you see this dude without a shirt, ripped like an athlete, sure-handedly composing unique hours-long sets and imposing the combative mentality that the pioneers of the genre are known for. An artist who views his stage time as a musical challenge as well as a physical one, to better convey his vision of music, a sexy and relentless beat. We feel privileged to have done this interview and we just had to share it with you.
Jacker / I read you started using a pair of decks by the age of 12, so what’s your own story of that ?
Lil Louis / I started DJing in ‘74, and it wasn’t something that I planned. A lot of people I guess, dream of DJing, I had the dreams, but I think this was something that was meant for me, designed for me, so even now I try to do other things, but once I started it launched. Five years after I was playing some of the main dock clubs, in the city, was around ‘76 I was, you know, not the biggest DJ in Chicago. But it happened very quickly.
J / You’re the author of some classics like the most famous French Kiss, which has been diffused far beyond than just the club scene. What’s your own vision of the music, and I mean, is it through your father that you get your taste of rhythm ?
L / Naw, I’m sure that I got a big part from my dad, and my mom too. My mom was very creative and my mom is one of the best people on the planet, she’s my best friend, she’s a real Queen, she has taste for music. You know my dad was, serious, he was a serious musician but my mom was a great singer too, she was the first one to know French Kiss was gonna be popular. So it was like that and it was also a lot of new school influences, from rock to blues, you know it’s a classic, so when you hear my productions... I began as a drummer, that’s the first thing that I did when I was a little boy, playing bongos and kongos, and then I graduated to real drums. So when you hear my music it’s just a mix of a bunch of things.
J / I read some things I didn’t understand, like you made the decision to stop Djing ?
L / No no no.. what happened was I realized that I wanted to direct films, I want to become a film director, and when I did a little bit of research, I learned that you couldn’t do that part time. So I couldn’t DJ, produce music and learn how to become a film director, it just wasn’t possible, you know.. So what I decided to do was just take a break, but I didn’t want to tell anyone, because at the time, I was one of the top DJs in the world, so everyone around me they thought I was stupid and crazy.. so if I would have told them I’m retiring to become a film director, they would have looked at me like I was even crazier. So I just kept quiet, you know, I took courses, I learned about directing, did everything proper, did learned everything, acting, every single dimension of directing, and then a few years later I made an announcement about the films, so that’s why I took the hides.
J / Who would you like to collaborate with as a film director ? Who’s your favorite ?
L / I don’t know if I would like to collaborate with anyone, but I can tell you a couple of directors that I looked to as my future. There’s people that I’m going to work with, behind the same standards, Martin Scorsese. People who come to mind.. I like the way George Lucas tells stories, Oliver Stone, I also like Quentin Tarantino, so my films are going to be at that level. I mean this film that I’m doing, “The House that Chicago Built”, is not going to be what people expect it to be, it’s much bigger than that. We’re aiming for the spring. That’s why I’m not sleeping. You understand when you have deadlines.. So I’m working around the clock, you see, I’m doing the soundtrack for the film too.. I can tell you this is gonna be the best album that I ever made in my life. Better than everything I’ve done. I know that people are gonna think it’s a bold statement, given what I’ve blasted, but I made those records and I know it’s better. Do you know what I mean ?
J / What do you think of the Parisian scene and the Weather Festival ?
L / The Parisian scene is one of my favorites in the world. I identify with the passion that comes from here and that ignites from here, and I feel that there’s a connection, and that connection has been a long time coming. What I like about the people in Paris is that they know what they want, but they’re still open, because I don’t play like anyone else and I’m never going to play like anyone else. I approach music the same way I approach sex, the same way I approach love. I don’t want to put myself in a box, you know, I can operate outside of the box in Paris. By the same talking, I think that people here are very smart, very smart. They know good music, they just know when something is right, and they know that I’m giving them everything. Right now I feel terrible, I haven’t slept, but I’m so excited to play tomorrow. And I’m not going to sleep tonight, I’m going to keep on working on something, so I’m giving them something fresh, giving them something new. I really want to give them something new.
J / I also read you encountered a problem with your hearing, because of some asshole playing with a speaker machine in Manchester ? So you lost hearing, how do you feel now ?
L / [Sighs] I have permanent damage in my left ear, but you know my music comes from my soul, it never came from my ears, so he did no damage to my soul, my spirit is stronger than ever, as young and strong as when I was 16, you know, everything else is working, you know what I mean..
J / OK very nice. So through your career, what’s the best souvenir/best experience you’ve had ?
L / Wow.. You know I’m not one to reflect too hard on my past accomplishments.. Like I’m kind of strange, and people talk about French Kiss, and clubs, and songs, it’s beautiful but the sooner as I’m finished like the second that I finish a record, the record is gone. It’s gone to me. I think my biggest moment is tomorrow and now I’m onto the next, the film, then once the film comes out, there’s going to be a soundtrack, and a soundtrack to whatever, until.. I breathe no more. You know.. I’m all about the next day.
J / Very nice. So, let me understand one thing, you’ve been in the scene before most of the guys in Detroit came out, right ?
L / Before them. I mean you know, Derrick is in the film, Kevin is in the film, so I have a real high love appreciation for what they’ve accomplished, I have over 1080 DJs, icons, and cele- brities in this film, so we have a cast that has never been done before this film, I have the last interview of Frankie before he passed away, so, that’s it, my whole thing has been appreciating art over myself, and when I play I’m not just playing my music..
J / As you may be like one of the first guys to hit the scene, what do you think of the evolution of the electronic scene since the very first days ?
L / I think it’s incredible. You have lot of people in the scene because you have more tools to work with, but that doesn’t make you a better producer. I think it’s important for younger producers to stay focused on what they’re trying to say, and I think one difference between now and then is a lot of DJs and a lot of producers really know what they’re trying to say. They’re listening to people like myself or someone before and they’re working and I think there’s a lot more for producers to say.
J / So do you think there’s a lack of message ?
L / No no, I just..
J / Oh OK like the way they get their messages out ?
L / Yeah, ‘cause if you look in a record store, out of hundred records there would be 30 of 40 records that are good records, then from that, there are 20 records that are incredible, and from that there would be 10 records that you have to have. I’ve listened to thousands of records and I can only pick 3, or 2, and after 2 I don’t know if I love them.. I like them, but I don’t really love them. Now does that mean that producers are less talented ? I don’t think so, I just think we’re trying to get things too quickly, we’re trying to be finished too quick.
J / Yeah, from the staircase to first class..
L / Exactly. Marvin Gaye didn’t make an album over night. My albums must have taken a lot of time, you know I don’t make a lot of music, but when I put songs out..
J / It’s proper.
L / Right. I think a lot of producers might want to try to do that. Take a little bit of more time because you’re gifted. You know if you’re doing it you have a gift, you know, like you have a gift in riding, doing magazines, but you can’t just rush it. If you rush it, it’s gonna show.
J / It would look like shit.
L / That’s exactly it. It’s like if you don’t have talent, you don’t have patience. And I think I have a loooot of patience. That’s why I’ve been in this over 40 years.