House Music’s Accidental Star

JOHNNY FIASCO at System Soundbar (117 Peter), Saturday (April 20). $5 before 2 am, $20 after. 416-408-3996. Rating: NNNNNJohnny Fiasco.

JOHNNY FIASCO at System Soundbar (117 Peter), Saturday (April 20). $5 before 2 am, $20 after. 416-408-3996.

Rating: NNNNN

Johnny Fiasco sounds like a guy at the top of his game. And why shouldn’t he?

The Chicago-based house DJ is respected the world over for his chunky, funky, dynamic DJ sets and his warm, human production touch. His new mix CD, Cycles, is an accomplished DJ mix as well as an eye-opening documentation of his impressive back catalogue of releases. And the promo of his new single for OM, Things That Go Bump In The Night, got played at almost every party at the Miami Winter Music Conference.

Fiasco got his start DJing in Chicago’s early underground scene, but in those days being an international DJ wasn’t a possibility. There weren’t any jet-setting DJ/producers, and the life of the club DJ was far from glamorous.

He made his name as part of the second wave of Chicago house in the early 90s, releasing influential discs on Trax and Green Velvet’s Cajual label. Within a few years, the British discovered Chicago acid house and the music industry changed forever.

“I had no fucking clue whatsoever that I would be doing this for a living,” Fiasco confesses from the Chicago office of Viva Recordings. “My whole rationale for playing in clubs was that I had all these records and my boys weren’t throwing parties any more. They wanted to retire from it.

“I thought to myself, ‘I’ve got 3,000 records I’m going to get me a job.’ So I went to work at Smart Bar in 86 and ended up doing that for four years.”

That time spent paying his dues, playing every week in the same club, allowed him to develop his own style but also impressed him with the importance of peaks and valleys in extended sets — not just as an essential technique for keeping crowds interested, but also as a way to keep himself interested.

“If you’re going to spend more than two hours in a club, you definitely want to be taken from one place to another — I guess because I’m a little older and I’ve been clubbing in general for well over 15 years. I mean, would you really want to listen to just drums and bass for six hours? That would drive me fucking bananas.”

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