Chicago Spotlight: A Conversation with Gene Hunt!

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One of the true representatives of Chicago House Music, Gene is one of the top artists to emerge from the city, with a career spanning back to the initial wave in the early 1980s. As a teenager, he played at many of the key touchstones of the first generation of House Music spots, including the Warehouse, The Playground, and The Music Box; he's been best known in the last few years for a series of tracks made then with the legendary Ron Hardy.  As a producer, Gene Hunt's first EP was Living in a Land, released on Chicago's Trax Records and co-produced by Armando Gallop. From an early age, Gene imprinted his stamp on his musical style with an alteration between soulful, vocal recordings and harder, rough techy tracks. By 1999 he had more than enough releases on his belt for a "Greatest Hits" double LP (Gene Hunt Classics, Dust Traxx). In the years following, Gene Hunt released some of his best records on labels including Dope Wax, Track Mode, Got Soul and Unified, and delivered a tour de force in 2011 when noted Dutch label Rush Hour released Gene Hunt Presents Chicago Dance Tracks, a collection of some sixteen unreleased records from the likes of Larry Heard & Marshall Jefferson, Steve "Silk" Hurley, Farley Jackmaster Funk, Lil Louis and Ron Hardy. As a follow-up, in early 2012 Gene released an original two-track EP, May The Funk Be With You, also on Rush Hour, with a remix from Theo Parrish. (written by Terry Matthew)

I had a chance to speak with Gene Hunt about starting in the business at such a young age, what it was like to be mentored by legends, and what the future holds for him now.  I hope you enjoy this insightful and in-depth interview full of house history.

FROM PRODIGY TO LEGEND...

Black Widow:  When was the first time you discovered house music and what did you love about it? What drew you to it?

Gene Hunt:   I was always around a bunch of older guys so I was exposed to it hanging with them at the Playground and The Music Box.   I was about 12/13 years old and I asked them what this was, and they were like this is “House Music”.  I knew about tracks and WBMX and the radio stuff but once I went to an actual house party, it was the way people dressed. It was a fashion statement.  It was so different.  They had the clothes and box haircuts and stuff. I thought it was amazing. The style, the way they danced, the different dance groups, it was a huge culture. That sparked a flame in me.  I was in high school and a lot of the high school kids were in tune and everyone had their crew.   You used to bring tapes to school and it would be recorded over and over and passed around to different schools.  It was so different back then.  

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Black Widow:  How So?

Gene Hunt:   It would have been great to have generations expose house music and culture to the younger generations the way we experienced it.  If house music was still in the schools the way it was for us back then, these younger generations would have gotten a grasp of it.  I think house music would have been consistent here. For a while, there was a pause in the industry where it broke off for a while.   This is the mecca, but it should have been more nurtured and not neglected.  I think we would have a stronger commodity if we had nurtured it right. 

“People knew we had something powerful, but they found a way to market it and transformed it into something else.”

Black Widow:  You play everywhere in the city.  What do you think when people start to stereotype the different sides of the cities when it comes to house music and house parties?

Gene Hunt:  If you go north, it’s a different feel with the rave kids and rave parties and some of the hipsters.  They always say the south side only likes disco but that’s not true. They love new stuff if they are exposed to it right. 

“I tell people all the time I think a disco chick got together with a rave dude and procreated and gave birth to a new thing … It created a new scene.”

This is music created by the black culture on the south side.  We had a sound like no other with drums, live bass & guitar, playing on synthesizers and programming a drum machine but now it’s these different subgenres…house, EDM, etc., but at the end of the day it all came from something and that’s US!   You know what I’m sayin?   It was formatted into these different parts that made it more commercial.  It became a globalized business that people capitalized on, but the truth is this genre of music started in someone’s basement with some speakers and dancing.  It grew and became so many different forms because of social media, technology, and just the natural advancement of things.  It started to grow and organizations were formed like the Hot Mix Five and the Chosen Few.  You got to see the progression, but you also saw a winding down. It used to be massive!

Black Widow:   When you say massive what do you mean?

Gene Hunt:  The market is different now. It’s not as massive as it used to be here.   The scene has changed. It’s only so many people and so many places to go. I remember playing Operation Push, The Athletic Club, The Riviera or AKA’s and each party would be packed. It’s not like that now. I can go to a party south but it’s another club right around the corner doing something so you split the market.  Some are going there and some are going to the other place.  The Bismarck used to have 500-600 people; the Athletic club would have about 1000 kids in there.  We definitely still have a scene but we don’t have those numbers because it’s split up so much.

Black Widow:   Is that because those kids who were listening to that music just got older or do you think it’s something else?

Gene Hunt:  Sure, it’s a smaller group of individuals because we all got older.    If we had passed the knowledge down more, I don’t know if it would be like this. The kids now listen to this suicide loving music and house is nothing like that. It’s a gentle flower compared to what’s popular now.  I came in the game in '86, but the cats I hung with were in high school.  They would give me mixtapes and I’d bring them to grade school and folks would ask me, what’s this? The loved it!   I remember saying this is house music!!!  We were spreading the word while in school and that got to other schools and so on.  Farley used to come to the underground clubs listening to Frankie and Ron and go copy it and put it out on BMX. There were different ways of how we got the word out about this music. That’s how we kept it alive and growing.  Even record shopping, we’d take our cassette to the record store and ask “what’s this right here” and they’d point you to the record at the shop.   Now all you gotta do go online and click! Back then you really had to do your research. You couldn’t just go online and shop all day long from the comfort of your own home on a computer.  It didn’t work that way back then.  That’s the new record shopping. 

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To me, everyone should love house music in Chicago because this is where it comes from just like stepping music.  You have to realize Chicago didn’t just create music, we’ve created cultures!  We created our own style and music. Nowadays, the city is closing clubs left and right, we gotta support our cause and what we are doing to keep it alive.

Black Widow: True, but it’s not us shutting those clubs down.

Gene Hunt:  Absolutely!  It’s not the house community shutting these clubs down. We want to hear some music, enjoy some cocktails and jam.  House people aren’t like that, you have your exceptions and lines get crossed sometimes, but mostly, we just want to party.   The elements and fabrics of what we created are still here it’s just not as massive. We can’t stay out all night long going to marathons because we got kids and jobs.  [LAUGHTER] The average age now is 35+ so that after work thing sounds good to some. You can come out, get your groove on, have a couple of cocktails and still get up in time to get the kids to school, then hit a spot on the weekend. Hell, we couldn’t have marathons here in the city now if we wanted to. We had more options for young people back then to party and kick it. 

Black Widow:  I can admit I wasn’t around at the time of these massive parties.  The scene as it is now is the only scene I know.   It’s often debated that house music shouldn’t be played in small clubs, lounges, etc., do you think there is a relationship between the music and where it’s played? Does it change the experience if you are in a small club or lounge vs a bigger venue?

Gene Hunt:  No, it doesn’t change the experience. It’s still good music and people dancing and grooving to it.  We had massive parties back then because we had the people and the venues.  Now we still have dope parties, it’s just more controlled and contains limits.  People aren’t staying up like we used to. We used to party until noon the next day. We’re grown now. [Laughter] We have responsibilities.  This scene in Chicago is still very much alive.   It just doesn’t have the numbers like we used to because we haven’t brought in new generations. That’s what I mean when I say we must keep the culture alive, especially in our community.    What happens next?  Are their new house heads being cultivated? I’m speaking of our culture specifically.  Other races especially overseas are thirsty for information.  They are on social media, YouTube and things like that learning and seeing what this really is.  I see it when I travel.  They love Chicago House music and our sound and what we created. They crave it and I get so much love overseas.   Technology allows generations to see how things were vs how things are and keep that spirit and culture alive.

Black Widow:  What does it mean to you to be an artist that represents Chicago around the world?

Gene Hunt:  That’s the beauty of being an artist in this genre.  To come from the mecca of house music and get an opportunity to travel and see how our music has been cultivated and interpreted through the world. People want to know how we create music and how we cultivated this culture. Chicago has a distinctive sound and people want that.  It’s the way we record music, it’s in the history books; our drum programming, deep baselines and such.  We would play abstract tracks with disco.  When you evaluate it, we still have a pulse.   We are consistent in putting out dope music.  When I think about it, WOW!   It’s so funny, I was a kid doing parties in high school in 1986, and negotiating contracts…I’ve been in the game for a minute…

Black Widow:  Yeah, I remember Terry posting a contract you guys had for Whitney Young back in the day on Facebook.

Gene Hunt:  [LAUGHTER] Yeah, I’m a packrat so I found that and sent it to him.  I was 16/17 negotiating contracts.   Terry was my buddy.  I was always around older cats like Ron (Hardy), Frankie (Knuckles), Robert Owens, Fingers Inc., so when I met Terry (Hunter), I was happy because I wanted to be around some cats my age too! [Laughter].   I was always the baby and wanted to hang around someone I could relate to.   One night I was playing at La Mirage and he introduced himself and said he was a fan of my work.  I told him to stay up here and kick it with me.   We became friends. Whenever someone hired me, he was my right-hand man. I remember he would drive my car because I was scared to get on the expressway.  It was Terry who got me over that fear. He’d drive my truck and tell me, come on man…you about to learn how to do this! [Laughter] I’m telling you, I’d take the side streets everywhere!  Terry never had problems doing stuff like that. I’ll never forget, one time, I was scared to get my money for a job I did.  It was at “The Fort” and that was with the El Rukns gang and Jeff Fort.  I played a party there. I had to get paid but I was scared to go in and get my money.  Terry was like “man, whatcha scared for?   I’ll get yo money… I’ll be right back! [LAUGHTER] Terry said they were asking where I was, but I wasn’t going in there! [Laughter] Terry had no fear and got my money! [Laughter] I gave him some of it too!  [Laughter] We became good friends and when I had a gig, I’d put him on the party with me. 

Black Widow:  I can see Terry doing all of that! [LAUGHTER]

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Gene Hunt:  He wasn’t scared to do shit! He was my dude! He would carry my records in the clubs; you know we were doing what we had to do to get on. That’s why I’m so proud of him.  He’s on that extraordinary level and he’s always been level-headed and a good guy but you know...he put in that work.  Now that I’m starting to get my feet wet with this label, it’s cool that he can extend his hand to me.   That’s the budding relationship that’s about to take place and it’s gonna be amazing.   With me starting my label and being under the direction of T’s box, it’s gonna give me a good opportunity to see how it’s run efficiently instead of begging someone to put my stuff out there.  He’s showing me how to do it and how to do it the right way!   I’m gonna put records out and folks gonna be hyped because it’s from one power source to the next.  These types of things create a power structure up amongst professionals and legends and it continues the tradition of us putting out quality music.  Its history and it sparks the flame of what Chicago needs.  It’s exciting!  It’s funny how those tables turned.  I took time off and Terry kept at it and soared!

Black Widow:  Why did you take time off?

Gene Hunt:   After Ron Hardy passed, Frankie Knuckles moved to NYC and Lil Louis got the French Kiss deal, I moved to LA and was doing hip-hop and production.   I was working with Eazy and Dre, Snoop Dogg and Bone Thugs in Harmony.   Terry stuck with it and by the time I came back to Chicago, Terry was a super commodity and doing his thing. It’s Amazing!  

Black Widow:   So what made you come back to Chicago and to house music?

Gene Hunt:  It was a couple of things.  My grandfather was dying and I had some personal stuff I needed to deal with regarding my kids.  My grandfather’s dying wish was for me to get back into DJ'ing again.  I knocked the dust off and came out of my self-imposed retirement.  It’s so interesting now because I’m getting ready to really jump into the production thing and start my label and Terry is taking me up under his wing the way I did with him back in the day and we are going to build something special.

Black Widow:  That’s so dope.  It really contradicts a lot of stuff you hear online and such about collaboration and mentorship in this scene. I love it.

Gene Hunt:  Yeah, it’s a lot of cats that get online and talk about how they haven’t been given a chance to spin and stuff like that, but you don’t really consider all the work we put in for decades.  It was blood, sweat, and tears. We built these names over decades; Mike, Terry, Andre, etc. It’s crazy; you got folks crying on Facebook about not getting a chance.  It’s a lot of talent but the reality is we don’t have enough people to accommodate for every DJ to play or spin.   In some respects, you let weeds come in and they are trying to kill the flower that is house music.   The market is oversaturated so it’s not enough to be a good DJ, you must be versatile.  When I see people feeding the same toxic bullshit it’s annoying. 

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“I can do a rave party, I can play on the southside, I can play with the hipsters, and I can do an after-hours spot. It doesn’t’ matter.  Some people can’t do that. They can’t go north and south. I’ve trained my skills to adapt to different environments.   It keeps me challenged. I must find ways to evolve. “

Black Widow:  It’s a bigger picture don’t you think?

Gene Hunt:  Hell yeah!   You gotta realize people are capitalizing off a sound made by us.  All these spots that we have parties at, they are giving folks 15% of the bar but somebody else is making the money.    You are making someone else rich. We got to build capital to recreate and rebuild.  We need to cultivate and nurture our own culture. 

Black Widow:   That came up in my interview with Craig Loftis, the need to own our own spots that embodied what it used to be and where we can control the environment.  He mentioned it was a huge reason why he wanted to start Club EXP. 

Gene Hunt:  Right!  That’s the shit that feels like home. You got to build a place called home. The Power Plant, The Music Box…all these places, I’m telling you, it brought us all together.  You had the bougie kids with the project kids, the gays with straight people, white people and black people; it was all races, ethnicities, and backgrounds, it didn’t matter.  Nothing was going down in those spots; we just wanted to hear some music and dance.  Relationships were formed, friendships were made and it was a vibe. 

Black Widow:   It was a community….a real community.

Gene Hunt:  Yes, exactly.   You gotta create a home base within a home because that’s what gives people comfort.  It all goes back to cultivating this scene and nurturing what we created.  Chicago doesn’t have a 24-hour radio station where you can hear house music all day; we don’t have a vessel or even venues. We are so hooked on the bars and lounges and other people’s spaces, no one has stepped up to create a space of our own.  Everyone wants a statue but not a platform.  Where can you go in the city that’s not a lounge, small club or a bar to hear some house music?   If I’m older and just want to hear stepping music or something after work, I don’t want to share a spot with house music.  We need these locations, so we can have that experience. We are lacking when it comes to that.  Sure, we have a few spots that we rent out and such, but where can you pull out a membership card like Craig’s spot and really get that experience?

Black Widow:     Why do you think the Chicago House scene diminished so much from its peak in the 80s?

Gene Hunt:  If we could all take a page out of Craig Loftis and get about 2 or 3 more spots that we own and control, that would be perfect.  I want to do that once I solidify my license deal with my headphones.  We need to have more control of our stuff instead of grabbing others to capitalize on our hard work.   Even with Craig’s spot, we should be supporting it 100% and he should make sure he’s supporting the community with his spot so then he can run his business without any outside issues.  He can’t worry about if the cat up the street is gonna call the police on his spot because he doesn’t have anyone in his club and stuff like that.  You can’t worry about jealous people. You gotta make sure the community is straight and invest in the community, link up with the alderman and such. We are getting better but it’s stagnant in some areas, especially when it comes to unity.

Black Widow:    When you say unity, what do you mean specifically?

Gene Hunt:  You know the DJ drama and even the promoters.  Take now, for instance, we have parties coming up for the holidays but everyone is trying to cancel each other out with their events but the reality is you are splitting up the crowd to a certain degree.  If everyone takes a week out the month, we would have a good thing going but instead, everyone wants to cut one another’s throats and part these few hundred house heads into different segments.    If we could come together, we could create some really dope events that are huge!  It’s like the 2 for $1 chips in the gas station.   Everyone has their hand in a little bag of chips, but every hand can’t fit in one bag. Someone is gonna prosper, someone is gonna suffer…

Black Widow:  And someone is gonna be mad…

Gene Hunt:  That’s it!  It’s always gonna be an issue. Lack of venues, oversaturation of the market etc., folks are always gonna be mad.  Even with the DJs, people are always saying, “They always hiring him… They always hiring Terry. They always hire Gene…They always hiring Alicia…Mike, etc.  Well, that’s what happening. It’s nothing I can do about that but there are people bringing it on a powerful and consistent level. It is what it is…all you can do is step your game up and watch your movements in public and online. It’s all important.

Black Widow:  That’s very true, as a patron and living in a city with so much talent, we have so many choices.  Skill, personality, how you handle yourself….

Gene Hunt:  D… it all matters! It’s so important and I don’t think people really understand how important it is.  It all plays a major factor with fans!

Black Widow:  I stick with people who are consistent, professional, those who act like they care about their brands, play dope music and have events that make me feel good!  I know so many other house music lovers feel the same! 

Gene:  That’s right!  That’s right!   I do my job, punctually and professionally. I’m approachable and laid back, but I’m passionate about the direction of this scene.  What we need to do to keep this culture moving forward.  What you are doing is a prime example of what is needed now.  This website is essential because people need to know how much this music and this culture mean to us.

Black Widow:  I appreciate that so much!  That was my intention from the beginning. All The stuff that happened in the 80s, I wasn’t a part of and didn’t get to experience it.  I always love seeing old photos and videos of the parties from back then but it isn’t easy finding it.   I think about my own kids and wonder if they wanted to know about the Gene Hunt’s, Terry Hunter’s, Mike Dunn’s…the singers, artists, or our parties, where would they go to find information? Videos? Photos?   If we don’t document our history, our culture, we allow someone else to tell our story and it’s not always accurate.  It needs to be told by US.   That means a lot to me.

Gene Hunt:  Exactly! And the kids now don’t realize how privileged they are.  They have so much.    Back in the day, we didn’t have CDJ’s and CD players because that stuff wasn’t even invented yet.  We would carry crates of records. We had a reel to reel with a pitch control and tape deck with pitch control. That’s how we would play our exclusives. These kids have iPads, social media, and the internet.  We kept the music going and the culture moving forward on a grassroots level.  It was word of mouth, hanging posters on light poles at night, and passing out flyers in high school.   Now you just create events on social media and get everyone to share it!  What’s beautiful about the technology is that it allows you to do your research and learn about the history and find out what this music consists of.    We didn’t have that back then.  If I want to know about Black Widow, I can type your name in and see a performance, or find your website from anywhere in the world.  Your visibility is increased because of the advancements in technology.  I use it to learn and as a networking tool.

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Black Widow:  You literally were a teenager when you started your career and were mentored by legends like Frankie Knuckles and Ron Hardy.  What were some of the greatest lessons they taught you?  

Gene:   I remember when I met Ron for the first time.  He came up to me and said, “What are you doing here?” [Laughter] I told him I was getting ready to play and he was like, “Oh really?” [Laughter] He was sarcastic at first, but he told me that he had heard some things about me and I was like, OH WOW!

 

“It was Ron Hardy about to watch me play!  I was young and intimidated.   I started to play, and he came up behind me and said, “Hmm...I see I just made a new friend today!”  I was like OHHHH YEAH!!!  I’m telling you it was like when Magic Johnson talked to Dr. J”

I started hanging with him and then I met Frankie.  Frankie would give me music and tell me to play stuff when I was out and tell me not to give it to anyone.   They took me under their wing because I was so young, but I was also hungry and ambitious.  Once I was exposed to it, I knew this was what I wanted to do.   I was consistent and always practicing, working on drum machines and stuff. I didn’t have my own equipment at the time.   I would put stuff on layaway and start buying equipment and records once I started doing parties.  Craig Loftis sold me my 1st set of turntables, some techniques and Frankie gave me the Bozak.    I remember Craig told me he wanted me to play his birthday party at Sauers.  I’m like this is Craig Loftis! He played with Frankie!!!   I’m telling you I was amazed! I’m like 14/15 and I’m on the flyer with these cats!!!   That’s when I first met Andre Hatchet.

I’m telling you, I was aggressive. Every time I saw the flyers with the phone numbers, I’d call and bug the hell out of them!   Let me open!  Let me do this...let me do that…whatever it took because I knew this was what I wanted to do.   I remember telling my mom one day I wanted to quit, and she couldn’t’ understand why because I was making some moves.  I was young and wanted it to happen all at once. I wanted it to happen fast.   I didn’t understand it was a process.

Black Widow:  You were paying your dues…

Gene Hunt:  Yeah…Exactly!  I would go to other folk’s houses to practice because I didn’t have my own equipment. A buddy of mine had turntables, and his family owned a video store. I would go up there work in the store then get to use the turntables to practice my skills and blends. I stuck with it.  Ron was really helping me with my skills too back then…

Black Widow: How So?

Gene Hunt:  He was showing me how to edit and how to play certain tracks. He would tell me to play certain tracks at gigs and I would be saying, but the crowd ain’t dancing or the crowd is leaving! He’d say, don’t worry about that, play it! Then he’d tell me to play it again! He’d tell me not to pull the record off so quickly.  He was right, I’d play it again and some folks would come back dancing, then some more! He taught me how to break records and make stuff hot, not just playing the latest and hottest stuff.   I realized the power I had to teach music on the dancefloor.  He taught me how to take things people weren’t familiar with and integrate it onto the dancefloors.  Skill level, accuracy, timing…Ron taught me a lot.  I remember we were at La Mirage once and he said he wasn’t feeling well and told me to play. I freaked out.  I was like RON I don’t know your records! I was shook but it was a test. He was trying to teach me to always be ready!  I had to always be on point because you never knew when you were going to be needed.  I remember the record went off on me and I was embarrassed, and they teased me about it for a little while.  I’ll tell you this though, the next time I was called to play, I was ready.

Ron was hard on me and it was more psychological. I asked him once why he was so hard on me he said, I wasn’t hard on you, I was trying to make a better me.  Its something about you that’s different and I want to give you what I got because I’m not going to be here much longer. I want to teach you as much as I can.  That always stuck with me. There were times when he would ask me to make him a tape and I felt pressured.  Why does Ron Hardy want me to make him a tape?  Next time he was at COD’s, he was playing the records from the tape in his set! [Laughter] He said, I told you I liked the tape!

When he heard me on the radio on WBMX, he would call me and say I’m proud of you boy, you are sounding good! He became a fan.  He was seeing all the things he wasn’t in me.  I remember I had a party at Sauer’s and Ron had bought me the old school brick phones. He called me and told me to come to AKA’s when I was done.  I got there and started to play, and he got up and was dancing in the corner getting his life by a speaker! 

Black Widow:  Wow! What a memory to have!

Gene Hunt:  He was like a big brother. He’d take me to school and pick me up from school.  He’d be at the house. My grandma would cook for him; he loved his two liters of Coca-Cola! He would stay at the house and work on music. We’d do editing and work on tracks. It was a big brother/little brother relationship. It was a remarkable and incredible friendship.   The relationship I had with Ronnie and Frankie… they gave me the missing pieces that made Gene Hunt.  Not to be like them but to become a better me.  In hindsight, I realize they were training me. Ron would have exercises for me to do and Frankie would too but it all makes sense because they were sculpting me and making me into this prodigy.   They would give me criticism and I knew it was making me better; they gave me advice about timing, record selection, and execution.   It affects how I spin now…I can scan the room and knows what needs to be played and how it should be played.  They taught me that. They taught me timing and accuracy. 

Black Widow:  How would you describe your DJ Style?

Gene Hunt:  I use my will as my force, my soul and spirit guide me on what I’m going to play. It’s never programmed.  It flows naturally. It’s a blank canvas and I create from that canvas as I go.   If I were to program anything, its gonna feel unnatural.   When I play, it’s always spontaneous and we get to share that moment together.  That’s been my thing my entire career. I love being unpredictable.  I’m my worst enemy, I have to challenge myself. If I don’t know what I’m gonna do, they don’t know what I’m gonna do.

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" When people come up to me and say, "Gene I know you gonna beat it tonight!" All I say is I'll do my best.  That's it. I try to stay humble because staying humble brings clarity and makes you strong. I’m not standoffish, I’m very open, laid back and I have a helluva personality! " [laughter]

Gene Hunt:  I’m always able to give people advice or inspiration because I was taught. My job is to pass on what I’ve learned to those who want to be a part of this.  My youngest daughter will be 6 tomorrow and says she wants to be a chef and a DJ, so sometimes she’ll come to the picnics with me and I’ll let her touch the CDJs and she’ll bust a move on em! She isn’t scared. [Laughter] My other kids are grown and love music too, but they don’t want to DJ. [Laughter] 

Black Widow:  How did you balance raising your kids with your career?

Gene Hunt:  I got custody of my older kids when they were young.  I was in LA about to sign a deal with Death row records (thank God, I didn’t) but I came home, got custody of them and promised my granddad on his deathbed, I’d get back into DJ'ing again.  With my youngest, I do field trips and take her to school. I’m really into my kids.  I love what I do but I’m a pop and a grandpop, that’s my thing!   I raised my older kids and they’ve stayed out of trouble; no jail, no drugs, everyone is good, and I did that by myself until I met my youngest daughter’s mother.  Sometimes it was a sacrifice but I family is something I hold dearly. 

Black widow:  So let’s talk about your headphone line. What was the motivation to start designing headphones?

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Gene Hunt:   I would always see one-sided headphones and thought they were cool. My friend Vaughn Woods would take old headphones and make them.  I started doing my research and figuring it all out.  I had to learn how to wiring and figure out how to make the speakers work and paint and design.    I’m self-taught.  I would go to Radio Shack and buy switches, gizmos, gadgets and soldering gun (I can’t tell you how many times I’ve burnt my fingers in the beginning). I figured out how to make them and started using them.  People would see me using them and ask me where I got them. I’d tell them I made them and they would ask me to make them one.  That’s when it became a business.   I just started getting creative with it. I was using bike handles, I was making chrome ones, see-thru ones, superhero ones…I was learning how to customize them.  That’s how I became a designer, but it took me a nice amount of time to make it look professional.    Now I will take about 3 days to make 2-3 lollipops. I just sit in my workshop and put on my favorite shows and get to work. I’ve messed up some nice clothes working on these headphones so now I have a workshop outfit tho! [Laughter] I’ve done Dolomite headphones, blinged out, pimped out style lollipops.  I love the challenge of creating! I’ll sketch it out in my mind and customize stuff.   I’m glad I’m able to solidify a design people love. I have customers all over the world.  Right now, I have a couple of companies that are showing interest in taking my product and mass producing it. I took them with me to Coachella when I was playing with Roy Davis at the Heineken stage. 

Black Widow: Oh, I didn't know you did Coachella?

Gene Hunt:  Oh yeah, I had a 3-year contract with them.  They saw photos of me DJ'ing and in the photos, I’d always be drinking a Heineken.  One day they hit me up and asked me if I wanted to play Coachella on their stage. I was like HELL YEAH!!!! [LAUGHTER] it was a good feeling. That led to a gig with Absolute Vodka who was affiliated with them.  They saw me at the Heineken stage and asked me to the Absolute party. So I was booked the entire Coachella festival.  That felt good!  I was able to integrate and do things on a larger scale.  When I had the headphones at Coachella, they were buying all of them. Guys gave me old broke ones and were asking me to hook them up with my joints. 

Black Widow:  What does 2018 have in store for Gene Hunt?

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Gene Hunt:  The website, finishing the album, working with T’s Box and getting my label, Jack in The Box Records off the ground and taking my headphone business to the next level.   

“I want to continue to be an inspiration in this scene. To aid and assist as many as I can from young to old. I want to be an inspirational voice. I’m thankful to be in this position and to have the longevity.”

The website will have a store with shirts, lollipops, mixes, some parts of my catalog and you can book me through the website as well.   It’s important to have your social media stuff on point. A lot of folks will hire you based on how the package looks. When it all looks so fresh and professional you can get gigs from that!  The entire package has to be in order! Folks have to remember that.  Your website, social media…all of that. It’s can change the scope of your career.

Black Widow:  What are some things you still want to learn and accomplish?

Gene Hunt:   I’m learning to be more aggressive and more confident with the material I’m making. When I play it, it makes me feel more at ease.  Once I make this move with Terry and see the results of what I did and the anticipation of people embracing it, I think it’s gonna take me through those emotions.   It’s just…WOW…it’s been a minute and the stuff I plan to put out is gonna shake it up a bit!  It’s a different side of myself that people will get to see.  I want to learn and have Terry school me on the record business and the administrative stuff. I get a chance to have that one on one time and learn how a company is run the right way!  That’s a blessing.  2018 is about making dreams come true and making my dreams come true! To be a nurturer, teacher, and an inspiration.  I just want to continue my journey, staying blessed, being humble and working hard…it’s an exciting time in my life. 

Black Widow: As an artist who has traveled the world, what does it mean to come home again and play?  

Gene Hunt:  There’s no place like home. The feeling of exercising my skill at my home base is unmatched. It gives me room to be more creative and try new stuff out.  It also allows me to do what I love to do with music but still have time to do be “Pop and Grandpop”.    Chicago is my sanctuary and I can showcase my skills while still getting paid to do what I love.   There’s no place like home. 

Black Widow:  That’s a great place to end the interview!   Thanks so much for speaking with me!

Gene Hunt:   Anytime, it was my pleasure!

You can catch Gene Hunt this weekend in Chicago. Friday at the Debauchery Ball and Saturday at “Tis the Season to Be House” party and on NYE getaway in Rosemont, IL.  Click Here for Details!

You can also find Gene Hunt at the following:

  • Facebook:  Gene Hunt Chicago
  • Instagram:  @genehunt7691
  • Twitter: @mrgenehunt
  • Website: www.mrgenehunt.com (coming soon)
  • Sound cloud:  Gene Hunt
  • Mix cloud:  https://www.mixcloud.com/gene-hunt/

As Always, See you on a Dance Floor!

Black Widow

 

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Black Widow

D.Sanders, a Chicago native, is a devoted mother, blogger and writer who is passionate about her family, friends, women's rights, living authentically and telling her story.   She is also a spoken word recording artist under the name, Black Widow. She has been writing and blogging for over 15 years providing commentary and expressing thought on life, love and relationships. Her artistry can be heard on two house music singles, “Rough”, and “Gruv Me” released by Grammy Nominated Producer and CEO of T’s Box Records & T’s Crates, Terry Hunter under the production of Mike Dunn and Dee Jay Alicia. . Both singles reached #1 on Traxsource’s Afrohouse and charted top ten overall as well reaching the top ten in their year of release.  She splits her time blogging about the Chicago Dance Music Scene on www.blkwidowmusic.com and on her book’s website, www.thesumofmanythings.com.  She is excited about her debut book, The Sum of Many Things, scheduled for release in June 2017.   She wears many hats but refuses to be placed in a box.  She believes that women are "The Sum of Many Things".  Embracing all of her roles as a woman, she firmly believes in breaking free of preconceived notions of womanhood.   She believes it is her mission to define her own life experience, femininity and sexuality and not have it defined by society.  She openly shares her story with hopes that women understand their worth, power and place in this world.