Steve Maxwell, Chicago South Side East native, is a DJ/remixer whose star is rising in the Chicago House scene. He likes to say he started his deejaying around 1980-81. Having his skills inherited from his brother Jerome Maxwell who Dj’d parties with Tony Hatchett, Andre Hatchett, Bryon Brayme, Jesse Sanders and Wayne Williams. Before ever touching a set of turntables he started remixing disco and R&B mixes which was known as “pause button” remixing.
Moving from the Pill-Hill area to Hyde he met others who influence him get started like Nick Stricklen, Geafro Roby, Keith Fobbs, Richie Smith and Steve Hurley. Known for all the intense pause button mixes, Steve started Dj’ing Hyde Park mansion parties, The Blue Gargoyle, Hyde Park Racquet Ball Club (before it was called Bally’s) and most of the Kenwood parties starting the Dj group name “Unique Sounds”. His current influences are likes of Joe Clausell, Louie Vega, Glenn Underground, Vick Lavender (Sophisticado Recordings), Dj Cheez (Universal Dance Music), Terry James, Sadar Bahar-Lee Collins (Soul in the Hole), JR JAM (PS Entertainment), Jamie 326 , Jihad Muhammad, Ian Friday, Peven Everett, Jamiroquai, Osunlade, Incognito, Ambrosia, Roy Ayers and the list goes on and on…He’s been a resident and guest DJ at many venues in Chicago such as Red Dog, Sonotheque, Betty’s Blue Star, Brando’s, and is currently the resident Dj for Arise Radio 89.3 FM WNUR f/k/a The Groove Temple along with Jozana, Black Terry and Tobi G. I recently got a chance to speak with Steve about his love of house music, house culture and his rising status on the Chicago house scene.
Interview with Steve Maxwell
Black Widow: Hey Steve, thanks for taking some time to chat with me today!
Steve Maxwell: Oh no problem. It is my pleasure. Thanks for talking with me.
Black Widow: What are you listening to nowadays? Who are you digging in House music right now?
Steve Maxwell: OH wow…that’s hard. It’s so much. I love soulful house music. I’m really digging Sean Ali and what he’s creating right now, DJ Beloved, Mark Francis from Shelter, Mike Dunn is hot, Manoo and of course Josh Milan.
Black Widow: Who are some of your musical influences?
Steve Maxwell: My brother, Jerome of course. Frankie Knuckles, Ron Hardy, Andre Hatchett, the cats I grew up with as well like Derrick Brown, Sadar, Dj Cheez, Ozman and Jozana
Black Widow: What about them inspires you?
Steve Maxwell: I went to the box when Ron Hardy played and his edits were just so crazy. His innovation, his creativity. He was just so different. Frankie Knuckles had a style I related to. He was laid back and had this finessed playing style. Then, Andre Hatchett….man… when I was coming up he was the man. He was the smallest guy on the decks but he had the biggest skills. His blends, his skills…he was just a master. His style was impeccable.
Black Widow: How do you approach DJ’ing? Any personal philosophies?
Steve Maxwell: Dare to be different. Be yourself but stay humble. Don’t ever disregard your audience/your crowd. You have to respect your crowd. It’s a balance. You have to have personality. Your presence is so important. People gravitate to you when you show humility and authenticity. You got to interact with people but separate yourself from the mess.
You know it’s such a balancing act. I love to introduce new music but I also have to read my crowd. That’s really when your talent comes into play. You can use whatever equipment you want but if you can’t read a crowd, it really doesn’t matter. You gotta know how to read a room.
Black Widow: What inspires you?
Steve Maxwell: The parties inspire me. You know back in the day there used to be parties that really created an atmosphere. There were decorations and balloons. It was those small details that would set the mood. That’s becoming a lost art. I love the energy of a good party. When the people are having a great time, dancing, and feeling the music, I am inspired by that. The goal is to give the dancers a party experience. That includes all those details.
Black Widow: How would you describe your playing style?
Steve Maxwell: I love disco classics, soulful house and rare grooves. I love my Chicago roots and try to incorporate newer stuff. Introducing new stuff reaches out to younger generations. That’s why I like to do mashups. I can take something popular and still make it sound fresh and different.
Black Widow: What do you love about being a DJ/Remixer from Chicago?
Steve Maxwell: Chicago, you know it’s the birthplace of house. It’s my home forever and I love my city. The talent here is just unmatched. Chicago is a gold mine. I really believe we have the most talented DJs in this city.
Black Widow: Ok, last question. So…you are playing the Chosen Few Festival this year. How did you learn about that and what was your first reaction?
Steve Maxwell: Wow…I’ll be honest. I never thought I’d be playing at the Festival. It’s so funny because I had been in conversation with CF DJ, Alan King about having a few of the Chosen Few on my radio show. So he sent me a message, saying he would be in touch and I thought nothing of it. Next thing you know, CF DJ, Terry Hunter, calls and said…”Hey Steve, what are you doing July 1st”? I was like….umm let me check my calendar! (Laughter). I’m like OF COURSE I’M FREE! You know then he said they wanted me to play and were complimentary of my style and that was that. It was really cool.
Black Widow: So how did that feel?
Steve Maxwell: It’s such a high honor; you know…these guys are just at the top of their game. After I got off the phone I was geeked and called my close friends who were supportive and happy for me. It’s just so humbling.
Black Widow: I can’t even imagine! What has it been like since the announcement?
Steve Maxwell: It’s been cool you know. For the most part, people are excited and happy for me but you know you get some of the haters but I don’t pay any attention to that. This year is exciting. It’s full of Chicago DJs and the diversity of music that will be played is just incredible.
Black Widow: Have you thought about your set? Any ideas of the direction you are going?
Steve Maxwell: (Laughter) no! Not yet! LOL
Black Widow: Well I appreciate you taking time to speak with me and can’t wait to hear you play at the Festival.
Steve Maxwell: I’m really looking forward to it. Thank you so much!
My interview with Steve Maxwell was so enjoyable. He’s truly a DJ that plays with soul. His personality is so laid back and humble, he’s hard not to like. I hope you enjoyed this week’s edition of the spotlight.
Until next time,
See you on a dance floor!
*Don't forget to check out Chosen Few Guest DJ, Steve Maxwell and a host of other Amazing DJs at this Years Chosen Few Festival, July 1st & 2nd. For tickets and information, go to www.chosenfewdjs.com or click the flyer! *