Representing Chicago, the birthplace of house music as we know it, we’re pleased to be able to welcome the singular entity that is Derrick Carter. Regarded by the cognoscenti as a truly innovative and special DJ since the early 90s, Carter has ridden his reputation as a hell raiser, both behind and away from the decks, through a myriad changes in style, fashion and trends of house music. Though his ride may have been a boompty one in his formative years, Derrick has mellowed with age and he is a responsible parent to some 6 miniature dogs at home these days. He now prefers to let his wild side be shown only through his music, which stands proudly apart from much of what else happens in house music.
Carter’s style is unmistakable – but check DJs like Sneak, Mark Farina and Joshua to hear his influence. Whereas some DJs are billed due to studio abilities (which Carter also possesses), Derrick is primarily known as a DJ. And as one of the best. He plays tracks nobody else plays and he plays them like nobody else could; melding and mixing are taken to a new level of creativity with this man – several discs are combined simultaneously, creating new music, an ever-evolving, spontaneous groove, growing playfully, sometimes psychedelically around us, as we dance and feed it.
With his similarly singular record label Classic now back as a living, breathing concern (its catalogue is available to download thanks to new partners Defected), it seems that a resurgence is in full swing for Derrick Carter – not that he ever stopped charming dancers with his sassy sets and immaculate attire, he just did it somewhere else while the UK was sending itself to sleep during the desert years of minimal and electro house.
When we asked Derrick to launch our exclusive feature series on the new website, we decided not to ask him the same old questions he’s been asked a million times before, like “Where’s your favourite place to DJ?” We thought it would be more interesting to take a peak into the day-to-day life of this Chicago DJ/producer, finding out a little of what it’s like to be away from home most weekends and what a little of his home life in Chicago is like. Marc Rowlands spoke to Derrick in December 2011.
Does one hotel room differ from another?
Aesthetically, yes. Amenities, yes. Sometimes the beds are more comfortable. Sometimes the internet is spotty. It depends on the place. It’s mostly little things but when these rooms become your home away from home, you really notice them.
When you travel, are there any places you go where you stay in places that are not a hotel?
I always prefer to stay in a hotel. It gives me a room where I can close the door and be in my own private space. Also, hotels have concierge services and are usually pretty much up to date on any info I may need. Like places to find dinner, or any personal items that I may find myself in need of.
Are there similar parts of the culture that you like to sample when you visit other places and do you make a point of seeking stuff out if you have some free time?
That depends on whether or not I speak the language. I often like to just walk out of the front door and have a look around. Get some air and check out the feel of the place.
Are there any places you really look forward to visiting because of the food?
Brazil has awesome BBQ. Italy has great food, in general, as well. I like certain parts of Texas and going to NYC as I have some favourite restaurants which I really like. A lot of time I just end up with a club sandwich at the hotel or something simple which would allow me to get fed and still leave time for a nap before my gig.
Are there any places you really don’t look forward to visiting because of the food?
Not really. I can usually find something which suits me. I’m particular but not excessively so.
What kinds of foodstuffs do you miss out on?
I don’t really give it that much thought. In my mind, there is always tomorrow. I can find something to get me through the day and if it becomes an issue, I can go without a meal for a few hours or whatever. It’s not a huge deal for me.
Is it difficult to maintain a balance between food that is good for your body and food that is good for your soul?
Not really. I’m never gone for weeks at a time where things like that become an issue. I’ll be back somewhere soon enough where I can get myself sorted.
Do you like cooking?
I like to cook at times. Sometimes, I am way to tired to get involved in prep and the like but generally, I’d rather shop and get what I’m in the mood for and then prepare it myself. Usually it’s something simple involving chicken and veggies. Or some pasta. Baked, tossed, whatever.
And if we were lucky enough to be invited to yours for dinner, what would you do about feeding company?
I’d have it catered so I could concentrate on getting the house straightened up and being a good host.
Aside from food and people, do you miss any other comforts from your actual home (as opposed to home city)?
I love my shower! I miss my bed and my very comfortable couch. I miss driving. I miss having my records and equipment nearby. I miss some of my local shops and the routine that I have when I am at home. Simple things really.
Do you trust hotels to do your laundry?
I would but I’m usually not away for long enough to worry about it. I am gone a lot but I am also home a lot. I usually try to keep my trips confined to the weekends with as little spillage as possible.
Aside from your loved ones – family, friends and pets – what do you miss most about Chicago when you are away? I guess I’m asking what Chicago means to you. What do you love about it?
I love the pace of the city. I love that anything I need, I know where to go to get it. I like the natural feeling I have when I’m in Chicago. I love the look of the city and the way it’s laid out. I love me some Chicago!
I know you’ve spent time in London, is there anywhere else you could live do you think? If yes, where and why aren’t you living there?
I like lots of places. Melbourne, Paris, NYC and San Francisco being the ones that instantly spring to mind. And it’s a proper logistics issue. I have a great place which is set up and works for me. Studio and music rooms downstairs, entertainment areas upstairs and good old fashioned living space in the middle. I could ship my entire studio and everything that makes home, “home” to another place but then I’d be in utter disarray for far too long to justify it. Plus, I like Chicago too much. The winter can be a little brutal but I manage.
You own dogs. How many have you got, what breeds are they and what are their names?
I have six. At the moment. There are two French Bulldogs (Gaston & Bertrand), two Miniature Pinschers (Endicott & Tribena), A Brussels Griffon named Herman and a Chinese Crested named T’Erykah. They actually have names which are more regal and kind of nonsensical but that’s the short talk. I am thinking of getting number seven. He will be named Cooper.
Is it a handful having so many?
Of course it is, but I do love them and they love daddy. I don’t mind things being a little complicated or involved.
Do you walk them all at the same time?
Yup! We go out en masse and do our little parade three times a day when I’m home. Usually we just work the neighbourhood or hit the park. There’s a gated area behind my place where we can go for playtime but I like the walks. They get exercise which I get as well plus, I also get a little time to check out from my other life and just be daddy for a while.
Why are they all small? Is it a space issue or do you particularly like these breeds? Wouldn’t it be better to have two big dogs?
They’re small because they are. I’m not into “gross poundage” or anything like that. I just happen to like the dogs that I have so those are the ones I got. Plus, I think that having big dogs in the city, without a proper place to run around, doesn’t really suit.
How do your dogs differ in terms of personality? Are these differences related to their breed or their individual natures? Would their traits be noticeable immediately to a stranger, or would you have to know them for a while to spot some things?
Herman is absolutely mental. He is also epileptic so there may be a correlation. T’Erykah is a princess and doesn’t really care about what the others are doing. Endicott & Tribena are really quite calm for MinPins and they just like to sit in the window and watch the world. Gaston is a sweetheart and is really calm. Bertrand is actually Herman’s dog and does whatever he tells him to do. It all becomes pretty evident after a couple of hours of hanging out.
Who looks after your dogs when you are away?
I have a “nanny” & a “manny” that come and watch the house as well as takes care of the animals. When they have other things going on, I take them to a place where they are well cared for.
Are they all neutered or do you not mind them getting a bit of action?
All spayed and neutered. Nobody gets action here but me.
Are they allowed anywhere and everywhere in your home?
Everywhere and anywhere, except for the dining room.
What do your dogs eat? Do they all eat the same food?
They are all on the same diet. In different quantities according to their size and requirements. It’s a simple lamb and rice dry formula with a little venison and yogurt mixed in for texture. I also give them supplements and such for their well being.
Do you keep in touch with your dogs while you are away?
Not even. I trust that they’re taken care of.
Which of your dogs do you think misses you the most?
Herman & Gaston. But they are pretty calm and don’t go through any separation anxiety.
Which of your dogs do you think misses you the least? In other words, which one do you suspect might actually be a cat?
That would be T’Erykah but she’s in her own world anyway.
Do you keep any other animals? Do you like cats?
Just the dogs. I’m allergic to cats.
Do the dogs all react the same when you return?
Yup! They go crazy. I love it.
Do you think any of them are aware that you may be gone for a while when you leave the house at the start of a trip?
Not really. I’m in and out a lot and we always go on pretty long walks so I’m sure their concept of what’s happening is limited to the now.
Do your dogs share toys or does each have its own?
They share, and fight over toys like any other siblings.
Do you regularly buy gifts for the dogs that you present on your returns, or do you save that stuff for birthdays and Christmas?
Sometimes I get them things. A new winter coat or a toy that I think that they’ll like but they’re not very materialistic. A two litter bottle with some pebbles or pennies in it works just as well as any toy I’ve found.
Are any of the dogs keen on wearing clothes or accessories? If so, which dogs, what have you bought for them to wear and what do they love to wear?
Keen on it? Probably not. But it is a necessary thing here in Chicago during the winter. It gets really cold and often the snow that’s been plowed to the side of the roads is higher than they are tall. Also, they salt and grit the streets and sidewalks and that can get in their paws and dry them out so much that they crack which I would assume to be very painful so, in addition to coats, there are booties to put on when the weather is particularly bad. I call it the ritual of the twenty four shoes.
In Family Guy, when Peter looses his mustache in a fire, he is so distraught he decides to replace the lost facial adornment with Brian. Which of your dogs would you most like to wear as a mustache?
Probably Herman. He’s halfway there already…
Check out Derrick’s latest studio outing here, a rework of Azealia Banks’ infectious ‘212’.