GLENN UNDERGROUND with ADAM KHAN and DALE ARSENAULT at Studio 99 (99 Sudbury), Saturday (January 3). $20. firstname.lastname@example.org Rating: NNNNN
Authenticity in art is a tricky issue. Chicago house DJ/producer Glenn Underground (aka Glenn Crocker) brings up the subject of realness, and of the importance of not "faking the funk" often during the course of our conversation, but you get the sense that the meaning of these ideas is vague even to him.
"I just want to tell the people in Toronto that it's important to continue to support the real house music, no matter where it's made. I got over the Chicago gambit a long time ago. This is a world music now, and real house music can come from anywhere."
That may be, but the rest of the world is very interested in Glenn Underground because being from Chicago gives him an aura of authenticity as a house music DJ. This is so despite the fact that there hasn't been much of a scene in the genre's birthplace for a long time.
"The house scene is missing realness these days. There's no one doing really original stuff," Crocker claims, although he's also a producer rooted deeply in tradition. He insists on recording with analog equipment and loves the sound of a vintage Rhodes electric piano.
"I don't mind DJing with CDs - it's better than spending $70 for an acetate dubplate that you can only get 30 plays out of before it wears out. For a club performance digital is fine, but for recording I wouldn't recommend it to anybody. Tape just sounds better."
Similarly, the music that he loves most is from the era of his childhood. His parents' records made quite an impression on Crocker, and that feel of the 70s is something he keeps close to him as an inspiration.
"I'll listen to jazz, underground hiphop, Led Zeppelin, even Metallica, but mainly 70s soul music. That's what I want to do as a band - that Herbie Hancock, Roy Ayers, Gil Scott-Heron sound. Even electronic music in the 70s was made like live music, with class and realness."
It's always seemed like there was potential for Crocker to put together a band. He plays the keyboards and sings on much of his work, and while the beats are electronically generated, they still reference live music more than techno. He's currently trying to put together a live free-improvisation band with his new collective, Urban Heirs. He's also got a full-length album in the can, slated for a February release on the Japanese label Lifeline.
Expect a long, soulful DJ set from him this weekend, ranging from disco right through to unreleased Urban Heirs material.