Gene Farris Celebrates a Century at the Wheel

Chicago house music legend Gene Farris celebrates his record label’s century of releases with a superb 14-track compilation featuring some serious house heavyweights. The ‘Farris Wheel 100 Compilation’ showcases the esteemed underground talents of Sonny Fodera, Demarkus Lewis, DJ Mes, Samma Lone, Chuck Daniels and of course, the main man himself, Gene Farris.

A firm fixture on the undergrounf Chicago circuit since the early 90s, Gene held residencies at both the legendary Power House and infamous Boom Boom Room, not to mention a 4-year stint at Jimmy Woo’s in Amsterdam. With a close working relationship with Cajmere, aka Green Velvet, we can also expect to see a new album out on Relief Records this year featuring the likes of Loco Dice, Jesse Rose, Mihalis Safras and Kevin Saunderson.

We took a minute to speak to the Chicago house legend about his hometown history and the scene today, his love for all things Star Wars (just check out the studio!) and of course, the new commemorative compilation, as Gene Farris Celebrates a Century at The Wheel.

Congratulations on your 100th release on Farris Wheel. When you first started the label, did you ever envisage hitting your century?
Thanks so much guys, it’s a heck of a milestone in the industry for sure! I never dreamed we would be so lucky and blessed.

The celebratory compilation features some fantastic producers and DJs. How did you get them together?
Luckily most of the guys, in fact all of them, are my friends and were previously on Farris Wheel. It wasn’t too difficult, thank goodness.

Are there any tracks that are particularly special to you on the compilation?
‘The Spirit’ is very special to me because it was kinda the record that gave me respect from my peers in the 90s. To be able to come full circle and deliver to the people of today and the 90’s a brand never version of this song was very important to me.

How and why did you start Farris Wheel?
I started Farris Wheel Recordings in 1998 and with a very simple idea of giving myself and my close friends a space of artistic freedom without having to change my artistry in anyway. To deliver it as it was intended to sound by the artist who created this music. Over the years, the label has evolved into something else but the central nervous system is the same; to allow us to fully be ourselves.

Did the change from vinyl to MP3 affect your label in a big way?
We began as a vinyl label in 1998 and the transition was difficult in the beginning because the people didn’t want to change. It was seriously effecting sales, but luckily for all of us things are bouncing back nicely and we are all adapting.

What release on the label are you most proud of?
I think Farris Wheel ‘001’ because it was the first of many and it was the foundation of Farris Wheel and also did very well for us.

Your studio is a real homage to Star Wars; it’s dope! What did you think of the recent movie?
I loved it! I thought it picked up perfect from Episode 6. I’m excited for Rogue Squadron in December and episode 8 December 2017!

Which Star Wars character do you most resemble?
Hmmm, I would be a cross between Mace Windu and Blade, I think!

Tell us a little about your upcoming album on Relief Records?
It’s gonna be a really good album for DJs and party people. A lot of artists try to get away from that, my question to you is, why? This is who and what you make it for. If you wanna make a artist ‘piece’, that’s fine, but this isn’t that! This album will feature some of the best producers of today like Loco Dice, Cajmere, Sonny Fodera, Jesse Rose, Doorly, Nathan Barato, Mihalis Safras, Kevin Saunderson, just to name a few. Get ready!

How has the Chicago house scene changed over the years?
Oh, what a great question! That actually had two answers. In most areas that party and do house music, yes it’s changed. But some areas and scenes in Chicago refuse to change and don’t really want to let go of the past, or are really open for current new music. I liked to say ‘pre-programmed’. For the majority of Chicago, our future is bright.

What was your favorite Chicago spot, both today and back in the day?
Back in the day, I’m sorry my favorite place to party was Bismark Hotel to hear Lil Louis! He was my favorite hands down. My favorite club back in the day were two The Power House and Medusa’s.

Who is your favorite Chicago DJ of all time?
Lil Louis. No question.

How do you rate the current house scene in Chicago?
7.7 outta 10. We are solid!

You’re playing at The Grasshopper Underground in Michigan and Beta Nightclub in Denver this weekend. Have you played at these venues before and what are they like?
Grasshopper, yes a few times. It’s a small sexy spot and I love playing there; it’s always a nice crowd and it’s the D! Beta, I’ve been wanting to play there for years, and now I’ve finally invited to play, I’m gonna do my best to leave a lasting positive impression!

What kind of set can both crowds expect from you this weekend?
House and Tech with a sexy splash of vocals.

Where is your favorite place to DJ outside of the States?
Rio in Brazil and Toronto in Canada.

Do you have any major plans away from music?
I’m excited to see my son very soon and the start of golf season!

Where do you see yourself in 10 years time?
Still doing what I do just bigger and better. That’s if you guys let me stick around! ha

Farris Wheel’s 100 VA Compilation is Out Now – Exclusively on Traxsource.