Chicago Spotlight: A Conversation with Chicago DJ, Torin Edmond

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Growing up in Chicago, Torin was influenced by the House music scene. Beginning as a DJ in the early eighties, Torin was introduced to House Music in its infancy, and has grown with it ever since. He’s held several different residencies around the city at clubs like, Sonotheque, Sinibar, Subterranean, Dark Room, Chant and Bassline and successfully ran the legendary Deep House Page.  Today on the Chicago Spotlight, I talk to Torin about his career, DHP, his future and how he’s managed to maintain consistency in the house music scene. 

BW:  What was your introduction to house music and when did you start DJ'ing?

Torin:  I started DJ’ing in 8th grade.  The Powerplant and Music Box weren’t even a thought for me at that age, so I was listening to the radio and the Hot Mix 5. That was my first real exposure to the music.   I thought it was amazing. I was glued to the radio Friday and Saturday night listening to Farley and those guys.   From the time I graduated high school and all throughout college, I was the main DJ.  I was doing most of the parties.  I had a setup in my dorm and it kind of started from there.

BW:  What made you decide to learn to DJ?

Torin:  I was intrigued by what DJs were doing and how they were doing it. Back then, they were scratching and doing tricks. They were doing all of that stuff on the fly. I had a chance to go to a few parties and saw guys doing it and I was hooked.  I had a DJ setup in my bedroom trying to scratch. I’d listen to the radio and try to emulate the tricks I’d hear Farley or Steve Hurley doing.   I borrowed a turntable and bought another raggedy turntable and mixer and did my best with what I had. The equipment definitely wasn’t the best but I was a young kid so it wasn’t a lot money for DJ equipment. 

"I literally had a turntable with no pitch, my mixer and a cassette deck. Every record I’d buy, I’d record it to the cassette deck then mix between the cassette deck and turntable"

BW:  So you are self-taught?

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Torin:  Yes I am.  I didn’t have friends that were DJ’s so it wasn’t until I got to high school that I began to see what DJs were actually doing. I remember a friend who went to one of the big high schools in Chicago invited me to a party at her school.  They had the Hot Mix 5 and that’s where I saw how people were reacting to the music being played.  You had a gym full of teens jacking. I remember being mesmerized.  Then another moment happened at Mendel Catholic.   A lot of people remember the parties at Mendel.  They were a school that always had the top DJs at that time. I went to a party where Frankie Knuckles played and I remember walking in and it was a gym full of kids and he played, "Your Love" by Jamie Principle and the kids rushed to the stage and off the bleachers and started dancing. People were shouting, screaming and jumping up and down.    I remember seeing it and I knew I wanted to do that. I wanted that reaction. That was a turning point for me.

BW:  How so?

Torin:  It took me away from the jacking style of music to the more melodic, throbbing base, rhythmic, constant beats that is deep house.   It was a transition from what I was hearing on the radio with the scratching and tricks to more of an underground and deep house sound where the sets had more progression.   I got serious about it after that; saving my lunch money for and going to Imports on the Northside and finding music.  That’s where it really got serious.

BW:  Do you prefer a style of house music? If not, what are your thoughts on the different categories of house music?

Torin:  I don’t have an issue with the different genre’s or labels but at the end of the day good music is good music. It’s natural for people to try and put stuff in categories but I don’t concern myself with that. 

"I love underground, deep, soulful, disco, afro, and Latin rhythms. I just like what I like."

BW:  Talk to me about Deep House Page. How did that come about? You know its all legend to me…I’ve heard… but I don’t know… [Laughter]

Torin:  [LAUGHTER] I think that’s why I’m drawn to what you do.  As social media evolved, I envisioned it to be similar to what you are doing now.  I spent a lot of time on DHP engaging in conversation on the message boards for a few years. Then since I had my own website and an educational background in IT, the guy who ran the site, G-Man, asked me to be an administrator for the website.  DHP had a huge Chicago and the East Coast audience on the message boards. Sometimes it would get ugly and I spent a lot of time being the message board police. It was almost a badge of honor to get banned from DHP. [LAUGHTER]  It was really the only place you could go and find out what was going on. The promoters would get their flyers to me to help promote their parties.  It was an opportunity to get insight on what was going on in the scene and I wanted to contribute. It was a lot of drama but it was also a lot of comradery. 

BW:  So I’ve heard {laughter}

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Torin:  Yeah it was like a fraternity actually.  If someone new joined, they’d get hazed, if you didn’t introduce yourself properly, you were going to get a hard time.  It got serious.  It was definitely a culture but it was nothing but love and fun for me. It brought us together from the east coast, across the pond and such.  We would do DHP parties too. I’d work with a lot of the DJs who were on the page on a regular basis.  We did the DHP parties for a year or two that were very successful. It was a way for us to get together and connect.   It was a community.  Once the guy who owned it decided he didn’t want to do it, Timmy and I took it over and ran it together for a while.  We had very notable DJs who were regular contributors to DHP;  David Mancuso, Alan King, who was often the voice of reason, Lil Louis, Francois K, it was a lot of legendary DJs who would come in and drop knowledge. Overall, it was a great experience.

BW:  How do you approach your sets creatively?

Torin:  Like most DJs, I have crates. It’s about what I’m feeling and what I enjoy playing. It starts there.  However I’m still one who loves to dance so when I think about the music, I think about are the people going to dance?   I can hear a song and visualize the reaction I want the crowd to have.   I usually know the first few songs I’m going to play but then it evolves depending on what moves me and how the crowd is reacting.  Honestly, that’s really what inspires what gets played. I have my music organized and how I want it to go but it’s always inspired by the energy exchange between me and the crowd. I ultimately want the crowd to have a good time. That’s my primary goal.   It’s important to connect with your audience so you have to be in tune with the vibe of the crowd but I have to feel it too. 

BW:  It’s a balance of playing what you like but keeping your crowd engaged.

Torin:  Yes it is.  It’s a give and take and I’m getting better at that.  It’s about the experience I’m trying to create.  I think what’s lost now is the lack of residencies in our scene now. I’ve been fortunate to have multiple residencies over the years and I consider them successful.

"Residencies allow you to build and because you have people who are coming to hear you on a regular basis, they get to know you and your style. That allows me to stretch creatively" 

I can introduce something new that they may not feel the first time but the 2nd or 3rd time they hear it, it becomes “their song” and they know the words and now want to hear it all the time.     Even with my latest residency at Chant. I’ve been doing that for six years, people get it.  Even if it’s a new audience, I feel like people are still discovering me and that’s cool too.  It’s about selecting songs I enjoy and songs that I think will connect and resonate with the patrons. It’s a fine line between playing new and giving them a sense of familiarity.  I want to present who I am to people and ensure they have a good time.

BW:  What artists are you enjoying right now?

Torin:  Quite honestly, I’m really enjoying the music coming out of Chicago.   There are so many artists here that are creating good music.   I play my local artists not because they are from here but because the music is good. We have Grammy award winners, nominees, artists traveling all around the world… there is .so much talent in the birthplace of house music. It’s still the mecca and people come all over the world to witness what we do.  

"I believe Chicago is still pushing the envelope musically...From producers, vocalists, and DJs, there’s amazing talent here and a scene that is flourishing. "

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BW:  What do you love about this scene?

Torin:  I have a tremendous amount of respect for DJs and artists in Chicago.  The music brings us together but you really have to be good people. We aren’t always talking about music.  We can hang out, we can have a drink but the real relationships I’ve formed over the years are what really matters for me.

BW:  What does the future hold for Torin Edmond?

Torin:  In the mid-90s, I worked with Steve Silk Hurley for 3 years doing productions. Doing remixes for Tina Moore, Janet Jackson, and others, I got to watch him create and he really taught me how to produce.  I’m starting to get back into that space.  I’ve worked on a song with Vick Lavender and DJ Cease so I’m really putting myself out there as a producer.   I’m focused more on my brand as a DJ, putting myself out there in a larger way and pushing my production work.   I want to focus on what I’m doing in Chicago but I want a more global presence. That’s what’s next.  I’m excited about it.  It’s definitely more to come!

BW:  Torin, thank you so much for speaking with me today!

Torin:   Thank you! I’ve enjoyed speaking with you as well.   I really appreciate what you are doing.  What you do for the scene is special.  It’s really a selfless kinda of thing you are doing and you really care about this scene and want to put a positive light on it.  I’m appreciative of that.

BW:  Thank you so much for saying that!

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You can catch Torin Edmond this Friday Night at Bassline! 

You can find Torin Edmond on the following

 

 

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Come Hear Black Widow Live!!

Weds, March 21st at the Renaissance Bronzeville

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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.