As the beat of house music blossomed below the mainstream’s radar in warehouses and clubs in Chicago, New York and London in the ’80s, Basement Boys were defining their own indelible sound in Baltimore. They presented their soulful ethos on groundbreaking albums in the early ’90s for Ultra Naté and Crystal Waters as well as remixes galore.
Thirty years on Basement Boys have stood their musical ground, and they’ve clung to their positive, uplifting sound, never wavering in the face of fleeting fads and fashion.
Co-founder Teddy Douglas and DJ Spen (who joined in 1989) celebrate their amazing legacy on the sprawling double-disc mix Groove Odyssey presents House Legends Vol 1 – The Basement Boys, a collection of their favorite productions and remixes.
Douglas and Spen sat down for a chat and asked each other about production, technology and the future of the music industry.
DJ Spen Interviews Teddy Douglas
The Basement Boys were one of the first production company to have three production deals with three different major labels. What was that experience like?
Teddy Douglas: That experience was crazy and exciting all at the same time. What we were able to achieve was unheard of. There were three LP deals Crystal Waters, Ultra Naté and Mass Order at the same time. It’s probably why you got a position at the company. Your songwriting and producer skills were definitely needed.
What is your favorite Basement Boys production to date? Why is it your favorite?
“Makin’ Happy” by Crystal Waters. This song reminds me of the early days when making music was really fun!
Do you miss producing music in an analog setting? How difficult was it for you to make the transition from analog to digital production equipment?
Producing music these days is very different. Yes, I miss the analog days. I miss my tape machine. The transition was painful. I had to apply the way I like to make records to the digital application of today. I am good now but it was difficult.
Producing or remixing? What do you think is your strong point and why?
Producing for sure! I’ve never been the remix guy, unless I really like the record. Remixing does not allow me to create something from the ground up. I like to build the song from scratch. Hence that is why I gave all the remix work to you and Karizma.
You come from a time in the music industry where a producer/remixer could actually earn a great living. Where do you thing the industry is going/
In my opinion there isn’t much left to the music industry. The business of the music industry has declined significantly. With streaming, file sharing and digital downloads, along with the closing of all major brick and mortar stores HMV, Tower Records, etc., the business has suffered greatly.
Teddy Douglas Interviews DJ Spen
Who are your biggest inspirations or influences in the studio and the DJ booth?
DJ Spen: My biggest studio inspirations are: Quincy Jones, Gamble & Huff, Ashford & Simpson, Curtis Mayfield, Chic, Pete Rock, and Dr. Dre and DJ Premier.
My biggest DJ inspirations are: Jazzy Jeff, Cash Money, Wayne Davis, Thommy Davis, Karizma, Louie Vega, Tony Humphries, Timny Regisford and of course Teddy Douglas.
Where do you see music industry in ten years?
I see the industry changing completely. I believe downloads will no longer be in existence, and people will be able to just think about what songs they want to hear and they’ll just pop up out of thin air. In many ways I see this as being great, but in many ways I don’t know if the music industry in the classic sense will exist.
With all the technology, do you feel it’s easier now today to make records than before? Has that hurt the creativity?
It is definitely easier to make records today. If you have a computer, a music program, a laptop, or iPad, you can make music. I don’t think it has hurt creativity. I just think it’s made it easier for people who really don’t have a heart to do music to do it. Technology has made it so that if you think it, you can easily replicate it in the real world. So I think that takes a lot of imagination. I do believe that it was much more difficult for us to do it back in the day which gave us an appreciation for the process. Without an understanding of the process, it is more likely that we will have many one-hit wonders. People will be making records, but will never be able to make lightning strike twice.
What advice would you offer an aspiring DJ/producer?
Follow your heart. If music is what you’re supposed to be doing, then you should do it. If you have any doubt about whether or not you should be doing music, you probably shouldn’t be doing it. It’s a tough industry, and having the basic desire to do it will help you get through it.
Name your top 5 LPs of all time.
- Superfly soundtrack
- Chic’s Risqué
- De la Soul’s Three Feet High and Rising
- Michael Jackson’s Off The Wall
- Ashford & Simpson’s Send It
House Legends Vol 1 – The Basement Boys is out now on Groove Odyssey.