In 1986, three young DJs began making music on a 4-track recorder in a Baltimore basement studio. Little did they know at the time that more than 15 years later they would be viewed as pioneers of American dance music. The original Basement Boys Production team was Jay Steinhour, Teddy Douglas, and Thommy Davis. Davis left to pursue other ventures in 1989, about the time DJ Spen joined the team. The Basement Boys have been responsible for some of clubland's biggest anthems.
Following the success of their debut single, "Love Don't Live Here", signed to Jump Street Records by Cynthia Cherry, the Boys rose to commercial prominence producing Ultra Nate's debut album "Blue Notes In The Basement" for Warner Bros., as well as her 2nd album "One Woman's Insanity". Meanwhile, they were quickly becoming underground club faves with their singles "Searchin'" (under the guise 33 1/3 Queen on Nu Groove) and "Tonite" (recorded as Those Guys on MCA Records). In 1991, they reached Gold Record status as the production team behind Crystal Waters, with her global smash hit "Gypsy Woman", and in 1994 with "100% Pure Love", from her gold Mercury LP-"Storyteller" (her second album). In 1992, they produced the debut album for R&B duo Mass Order on Columbia Records, spawning the international club hit "Lift Every Voice (Take Me Away)".
With their studio wizardry well documented in the charts and on dance floors the world over; high profile artists began seeking the Basement touch for remix projects. To date, the Boys have remixed songs such esteemed acts as Michael Jackson, Erykah Badu, Angie Stone, Lenny Kravitz, and Paula Abdul. However, even with mainstream acceptance, the Basement Boys have remained true to their DJ roots, remixing underground artists like Shaun Escoffery, Bob Sinclair, and The Shamen. In addition, they continue to expose and nurture new talent on their own label, Basement Boys Records, which was established in 1995. Over their 15+ year career, the Basement Boys have always had their ears to the future of music, with a knowledge, respect, and love of the past. Their solid disco, soul, R&B, and even rock roots have given them an open mind and ear for discovering fresh sounds and talent. The production team is always looking forward and expanding beyond the DJ booth. The Basement Boys currently consists of DJ Spen, Karizma and Teddy Douglas.
DJ Spen began his career at the age of 13, producing mix shows for WEBB AM in Baltimore. Even at that young age, Spen founded one of the area’s first hip hop production groups, the Numarx. In 1986 they wrote and recorded a track called ‘Girl You Know It’s True’ which was later covered and made famous by Milli Vanilli. Spen’s production talents lead him to Basement Boys Records in 1989. He has created remixes for some of clubland’s biggest names, such as Diana Ross, Everything but the Girl, Ann Nesby, and Shaun Escoffery. While at Basement Boys, Spen partnered with Teddy Douglas, Thommy Davis and Karizma to create works that are still considered house anthems. With a career span of more than 20 years and his famous studio and production work, Spen has become one of the most sought-after DJs in the U.S. Today, Spen can be found jetting off to gigs at some of the premier clubs around the world while juggling his demanding studio work and family time. He plays regularly in the UK, as well as France, Italy, Japan, and Australia.
Karizma is an award winning international DJ, and music producer known for his wide variety of music production in deep house, techno, hip hop and jazz. Karizma is a Baltimorean who has been DJing since he was 13. He has many productions/re-mix credits to his name including work with the Basement Boys, Black Vinyl Records, Manuscript, Ricanstruction, 83 West, Objektivity, R2, Ben Westbeech, Peven Everett, Blaze & many more. Karizma remix on Louie Vega's track "Till I Found U" (Manuscript records) was #6 in Top 200 Traxsource Classic House 2017. In April 2017, he released “Work it Out” which became an instant hit was chosen for the global digital and TV Campaigns for Google Chromebook. In addition to creating and releasing music, he is constantly touring around the world as a DJ.
Teddy Douglas is a key figure in the development of Baltimore's club scene; Teddy Douglas began his professional DJ career in 1983, with a residency at Odell's nightclub and the Club House (Washington, DC). In the mid-80s he began working at the city's most influential DJ shops, helping establish dance music in a city that was virtually void of underground club culture. It was through one store, Music Liberated, that Teddy met both Thommy Davis (DJ and fellow record salesman) and Jay Steinhour (DJ and record buyer), whom would later form the Basement Boys. With a fifteen year production resume that has elevated him to legendary status, Douglas still maintains an active DJ schedule. He stays true to his Baltimore roots by hosting a monthly party in the city the first Saturday of the month is "The Garage Work Party" at The Paradox. In addition, Teddy plays regularly throughout the US, Europe and Asia. His travels have led him to DJ booths in the UK, France, Germany, Japan, Australia, and Italy, at some of the hottest clubs in the world. Teddy is head of A&R for Basement Boys Records, as well as the associated labels. Teddy is also the major creative force behind Basement Boys Productions.
I was fortunate enough to interview Teddy Douglas from the Basement boys about his career, love of music and what it means for the Basement Boys to play as guest DJs at the Chosen Few Picnic and Music Festival this year.
Black Widow: What was your introduction to house music?
Teddy Douglas: I used to work at a record store in the 80s thru the early 90s and that’s when I started seeing those types of records coming thru the store. It was a new sound. People talk about what New York was doing vs. what Chicago was doing, but the records coming out of Chicago were different. They were stripped down versions of disco records with drum machines and you could really feel them. That was around 1983/84 when Trax and DJ International started releasing records during that time. That was when I first started hearing it.
Black Widow: You were DJing as well while you were working in the record store?
Teddy Douglas: Oh yeah! I was at a club called Odell’s. I also had a residency at a bar called, Hatz and was guest DJing at a spot called “The Club House” in Washington D.C., all while working at the record store back then.
Black Widow: What was the Baltimore House scene like back then?
Teddy Douglas: Odell’s would be the equivalent of The Warehouse or Paradise Garage back then. That’s where DJ Wayne Davis was the DJ. We had a scene that was primarily playing disco and such. As we started to come out of the disco era, this Chicago sound was being introduced. This new music, house music, with the drum machines and more electronic sound was getting played more and it just grew from there but yeah, we definitely had a scene here already.
Black Widow: How would you describe the Baltimore house sound?
Teddy Douglas: It’s definitely very soulful mixed with gospel and the 4/4 beat! That’s pretty much the Baltimore sound.
Black Widow: How did the Basement Boys come about? How was this DJ Collective formed initially?
Teddy Douglas: Jay Steinhour, myself, and Thommy Davis were the original members and we were local DJs who all worked in record stores. Tommy and Jay were doing tracks and I heard what they were doing and I brought the element of the song to the mix. I started to write songs over those tracks; bringing in musicians and singers. From there it blossomed to this production unit, kind of like what Motown was doing back in the day.
Black Widow: I always say when you get group of creatives together, it can be great or it can be like oil and water because creatives have so many different ideas. How do maintain a positive relationship where everyone’s ideas are heard, valued and you all still produce quality music?
Teddy Douglas: [LAUGHTER] that’s so true!!! You know… we all had a role. It’s like any sports team, as long as everyone knows their role it runs smoothly. I did the song concepts, Jay was the engineer, Tommy was the master of the drum tracks and even now with Spen and Karizma; we all play to our strengths. Everyone does what they’re best at. Karizma is good with the beats and I’m good with song format and it all works out well.
Black Widow: What’s your creative process? What inspires you to create music?
Teddy Douglas: Oh man…in the studio it’s one of two things: People are usually inspired by the song and melody or drum tracks, it depends. The melody is what excites me! I can build from there. The melody inspires me to go further with the song. As far as DJing goes, all the years of being a club kid inspires me. I draw from those memories a lot!
Black Widow: As a writer, I’m always inspired by what I see. I love to watch people especially people in the club.
Teddy Douglas: Oh definitely! I remember being a club kid at Paradise Garage and those places. I remember all of that and it’s still inside of me.
Black Widow: What would you say is the greatest lesson you’ve learned in your career?
Teddy Douglas: [LAUGHTER] as a DJ I learned to always bring women to the floor!! If you do that, you will always have a dance floor! If you get the women, the men will come!
Black Widow: [LAUGHTER] Well that is true!
Teddy Douglas: Louis Armstrong used to say that. Old jazz musicians used to say that all the time and it’s true, it works!
Black Widow: The house and dance music scene is changing so rapidly right now, what do you see as far as the future of house music is concerned?
Teddy Douglas: I feel like we have to keep making music. People like me, Terry Hunter, Louie Vega and all those guys. We have to inspire a younger generation or the genre will go away. Hopefully it will continue. There are some that are doing it but it's more EDM. That’s the younger generation.
Black Widow: But there are younger guys coming up that love playing house music. Even in Baltimore, a young guy, DJ Ameer is making waves. He played here and had a full house dancing! He was really good! It’s there. We just have to keep them interested.
Teddy Douglas: Well that’s true. You know, as long as we keep making great music, we can inspire a generation. That’s the only way it can sustain itself.
Black Widow: I don’t think it will ever become this massive commercial type of thing, but it will always be around.
Teddy Douglas: It will if Beyoncé decides it’s cool to do it on her next record! [LAUGHTER]
Black Widow: Well as a card carrying member of the Beyhive, I’m definitely here for that! [LAUGHTER]
Teddy Douglas: It will take something like that or a Kendrick Lamar to make it cool!
Black Widow: Well you had Drake with the Superman song on one of his last albums right?
Teddy Douglas: That’s a classic example! [LAUGHTER]
Black Widow: [LAUGHTER] so what does the future hold this year for you and The Basement Boys?
Teddy Douglas: We have a lot of touring planned and I’m going to put out more records this year. I’m working with Barbara Tucker, Brian Stingley, and Rochelle Fleming. I have a lot of projects that will drop this year, so it’s going to be a very interesting year!
Black Widow: What does it mean to play the Chosen Few Picnic & Festival? What are you most looking forward to?
Teddy Douglas: Wow…I’m honored. When we got the call, I was really honored. I’m looking forward to having thousands of people vibing to what we are doing! We are really looking forward to it!
Black Widow: Well I’ll definitely be one of them! Thank you so much for speaking with me. I look forward to meeting you at the Picnic!
Teddy Douglas: It’s been a pleasure! Looking forward to it!
I hope you enjoyed this interview with Teddy Douglas. Check him and the Basement Boys out at this year’s Chosen Few Picnic and Festival! To learn more about the Basement Boys, Teddy Douglas, DJ Spen and Karizma, check them out at the following:
Until next time,
See you on a dance floor!