066 – Jamie 3:26

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The words ‘legend’, ‘Chicago’, and ‘House’ are invariably heard in the same sentences these days, but when you’ve been DJing for a quarter of a century with the passion and determination of our next guest, there’s no arguing his legendary status within the Chicago House realm. Jamie 3:26 is one of Chicago’s lesser celebrated jocks, but this seems to have only motivated him to push forward to eventually share his unique spin on disco and house music on a global level. As he makes his first venture to Australia for gigs in Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide this weekend, we felt it was the perfect opportunity to have Jamie lay down a ‘session’ as he calls it, and what a session it is!

We caught up with Jamie to talk about his 25 year long journey, Ron Hardy and Partehardy Records, The Basement and the late Donna Summer. Enjoy!

After being behind a set of turntables for more than 25 years now, you’re obviously someone who understands the craft more intimately than most. How would you describe your journey as a DJ, which has taken you to where you sit today as one of the most respected figures in Chicago’s house scene?

It’s been a long, wild ride. Sometimes I look back on how much I have gotten to experience in regards to being a DJ and what shaped me as a DJ. I was blessed enough to get beat down by some of the musical gods. That experience alone really shaped me. I just always wanted to mix. It was a part of the culture of my city in the early 80’s. Everyone took a stab at being a DJ and learning how to mix. It was the shit to be a DJ and make tracks. I was a natural, but I didn’t have my own equipment. I wanted top of the line shit and my family was like ‘sorry son’….I had to wait to get my own equipment, which was in 1991. I got two 1200’s, a Numark PPD mixer, and two huge MTX speakers.

That’s when my mobile work really kicked up. Prior to that, I was down with a few cats. Some from my hood and some I went to school with. I was doing all kinds of sets – school parties, house parties, whatever. I just wanted to play.

Fast forward some years and some choice situations and I ended up being a resident DJ for The Way We Were Promotions for 4 years. I learned a lot from those events I played and I earned my chops the hard way. If you can make it in Chicago, you can make it anywhere, because we are rough on DJs…which is why some of the best originate from here.

As some might know, you have in part devoted your career to sharing the magic of the late Ron Hardy with new generations of house lovers, even your name 3:26 draws reference to the legendary Music Box. Can you tell us about your own experiences of seeing Ron Hardy play back in the 80s, and how his music and style has shaped you as an artist?

I am a huge fan of Ron Hardy, the guy was a superstar DJ before the term even existed….So much so that I was star struck and would freeze up whenever I would see the cat…especially in record shops. One of my buddies who I used to help promote with hired Ron for an event at this spot AKA’s…and that’s how I finally got over my awkwardness with him. I ended up checking him out on the regular at AKA’s when he did Saturday nights there. He was breaking lots of new jams, like Earth People, and many east coast jams mixed in with disco and other stuff…but he ended up quitting because management had him doing shit like making announcements and all other kinds of shit.

I know some folks weren’t feeling that and stopped coming…I didn’t…I was a sponge and soaked up whatever I could. I learned timing from him. Ron Hardy was a cat who could tap into folks’ emotions and create madness…and frenzy. I was a weekly jacker at the 2210 location of the Muzic Box, which was formerly [Frankie] Knuckles Powerhouse. This was our Muzic Box…what I mean by that is the older heads weren’t feeling that space, but there was a generation of us that had our own connection with that spot.

Ron was just a genius and raw. He was the streets….

What can you tell us about Partehardy Records and your connection with the label? It feels like some time since your hugely well received edits The Basement Edits Vol 1 and 2 saw their releases on the label. Will we be seeing more of The Basement Edits on Partehardy anytime soon?

Partehardy Records is Bill Hardy’s baby and I’m down with him like 4 flat tires. We used to cross paths at a lot of jams but didn’t link up until the 2000’s….and it was an instant connection. When Bill first approached me with the idea of dropping some edits, I was hesitant….then after him telling me that I better get down, I knew what that meant…[laughs].

The concept of the label originally was to present some of Ron’s stuff to the masses, not in an average white label boot. The wild thing is, there have been so many folks who have ripped off Ron’s legacy, and it’s down right shameful. There’s a series out under Ron’s name and folks believe Bill had something to do with it and actually hit him up and ask for copies…when he had nothing to do with it.

“Ron was just a genius and raw. He was the streets…”

There’s not many more exclusives to be dropped, because everyone’s either copied and re-created shit and dropped it under Ron’s name or just released anything that he didn’t even touch…just put his name on it and release it.

I would like folks to know that there’s plenty of folks who pimp Hardy’s legacy for their own good. Even painting him out to be someone he really wasn’t…to make themselves look good.

My goal is to work with Bill on getting a proper Compilation/Tribute to Ron Hardy released…because he influenced a whole entire generation of DJs. There will be another Basement Edits volume dropping…..soon.

Touching on your time at The Basement and your many DJ residencies over the years, can you tell us about which nightclubs you’ve built the closest relationships with, both in Chicago and further afield? Do you think having such strong and varied residencies have helped you grow musically?

The basement was mine and Reggie Corners (The Way We Were) baby. I recall seeing the raw space and couldn’t even fathom a damn party happening there…[laughs]. He turned that space out and we built it from the ground up. Went from old school music parties to me eventually developing my own sound and style.

Reggie trusted me as a DJ and had my back… I had to learn how to rock a room all night by myself…and it was a rough transition, but I eventually came into my own and I thank him for that. It helped shape me to become the jock I am today. I dealt with mad drama….because there hadn’t been a spot with one resident DJ for some time. Folks here were like ”Who the fool think he is?” “He’s not THAT damn good..” [laughs]…

It toughened me up and made me step my game up. Funny thing was most of the drama came from DJs…not patrons. One of the best things I ever did was go experience house in other cities. It broadened my mind and it helped me expand and see the world outside of Chicago. I wouldn’t be on the level I am now if I had stayed in a little box here at home…musically or mentally.

We noticed your passionate response towards the recent passing of disco diva Donna Summer, how would you describe her influence on your work and what kind of legacy you think she has left?

I loved Donna…was a huge fan and she was one of the first women that I considered sexy and [made me] notice what sexy was. I used to have to sneak to play Love To love You…because my grandmother wasn’t having that moaning shit man….[laughs]. Then the LP covers were sexy as shit…just had a lot of great times associated with her music…and I play her music all of the time. Just really loved her.

What can you tell us about the mix? How and where was it recorded and what was the idea behind the mix? Who are some of the artists featuring?

Man, this mix is just something I hit record on. I don’t plan out sets or mixes. I may have a general idea of how I want to start, but it just all seems to come together and it sounds so much more natural when you just let things flow…there’s a lil bit of this…like Floating Points, some Theo, some Chicago, some Shelter jams…just good music…

What are you most looking forward to in your long awaited tour of Australia in June? Will this be the first time you’ve been out here?

I’m excited and nervous at the same time… Just ready to have a good time and give folks an experience. This is my first time down under and I’m ready to give it to ya.

And finally, what else do you have planned for the remainder of 2012?

I just want to continue to be able to play music and have folks enjoy what I do. This beats a 9-5 any day.

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