Hailing from the Beverly area on the South Side of Chicago, Jamie 3:26 has garnered recognition in his own right, and poised to unleash a barrage of hot music on the populous, Jamie 3:26 is fast becoming a music phenomenon. Driven by the desire to allow people to loose themselves on the floor and forget their problems, Jamie keeps his irons in the fire. He always seeks out new and fresh sounds. It could be a song from 30 years ago or a new jam, as long as it has a great groove, he’s interested in it. When he plays, his main goal is to connect with the crowd. He feeds off of their energy. He has the uncanny ability to read a floor and switch the groove without losing them. Directing them to places he wants them to go is what sets him apart from many other DJ’s.
You’ve been doing this for quite a while. How were you introduced to House Music?
I was introduced to this from my family. My uncle was really into disco, my cousin loved funk and my mom loved disco, funk and soul. We would have a lot of parties at our house. I would play a lot of music at those parties. It was at one of my mom’s parties that I actually saw a DJ mix. I was exposed to this in the 70s. Then in the early 80s, I was listening to the radio mixes on WBMX, WKKC, and other college radio stations. I remember seeing John Mason, who was a DJ from my neighborhood mix, Disco Don and Clever Clear from High Fidelity Productions. They were the first guys I saw mixing and they would DJ a lot of the house parties in the neighborhood. Eventually, I began sneaking out to some of those basement parties. That’s when I started really getting into going to the parties and dancing. That was around 1985.
What made you decide you wanted to DJ/Mix?
I was taught how to operate and use DJ equipment at a young age by watching those DJs I mentioned before. I’m self-taught. No one sat me down and taught me how to mix. I learned from studying mixes on radio and watching DJs mix and seeing what they were doing. I was able to just soak it up. I started mixing in 1985, but I took it very seriously around 1988. That’s when I began really studying this craft. I would always try to get as close to the booth wherever I was at. I would hang out at the Music Box/Powerhouse on 22nd and Michigan. When they would DJ downstairs, Ron (Hardy) would let me get in the back and check him out. I would want to check out as many DJs as I could. Around 1988/1989 I would go out and study Andre Hatchett, Lil Louis, Disco Don, Ron Hardy, Pharris, Gene Hunt, Terry Hunter and Mike Williams. Those DJs were the ones I was following and studying. I learned a lot of things from them individually. It took me a while to get it all together but learned so much from studying and watching them.
During the time when you are learning, what were you doing to expose yourself and get your name out there?
Our crew (The Lust Corp) started throwing our own events, picnics, parties. We went from doing that to doing our own event at AKA’s in 1990. I remember it was John Hunt (Gucci Promotions), Galaxy Promotions, and CSP Productions doing college nights at AKA’s. We would hire Chris Underwood, Terry Hunter, Ron Hardy, and Pharris and others. It was a 21 and up club but we were all under 21 putting on these events.
Did word just spread about who you were?
Yea we were a pretty deep crew. We had the gift of gab and would talk our way in. That’s where those relationships started with some of those DJs. We ended up doing a lot on the college party circuit, especially at Northern IL University. Even if we weren’t actually playing at the event, we would set up the sound system and one of us might DJ as well.
When did you decide that this was more than a hobby? When did you decide this was something you wanted to do as a career?
It started in 1989 and came from doing a lot of house parties for people from my old HS, Morgan Park. I started my own mobile DJ Company and I was DJ’ing homecomings, sock hops and such. It kept growing from there and I knew I wanted to do this. I got my own full setup and sound system in 1991. My grandmother helped me get it. If it wasn’t’ for her, I wouldn’t’ be where I am today. She believed in me.
Back then people were digging in crates, looking for music. It’s not the same now. Your musical style is so varied. What was your process for choosing music and has it changed now that so much of it is digital?
You didn’t have the power of the internet so everything wasn’t at your fingertips. There are a lot of records that I initially thought may have been one title and I would buy it and discover it wasn’t the one I wanted. That was before they had listening stations and the people who worked at the record store didn’t want to open the record and play it. I have a lot of records that I bought that ended up being something I didn’t want or something I thought I didn’t want. That’s just how digging was back then. We would listen to music and be like, “Aww that sounds like something Frankie would play or Ronnie may play”. We were looking for that gem, something to set you apart that no one had. I also learned this music from listening to mix shows on the radio, especially the Sunday show with Bobby Q Bobby on WKKC. You also had to go out. If it was a certain sound that you were into or wanted to get turned on to, then you checked out certain DJs. Back then, everyone mixed and DJ’d what they could. A lot of DJs got their start off their parent’s record collection. That’s how it was with me. I would find records and go through them and find my own groove. We would dig and discover music. Nowadays, with technology, you don’t really have to go out to hear and discover new sounds if you don’t want to, but I’m still a student and a fan of new sounds and music.
There are certain DJs that really know music. I’m not just talking house music, they know music, the history…you know they are the ones who would actually read the album covers…
Yes…that’s exactly what I did!
I think that’s reflected in your musical style. When you are starting out you are obviously influenced by other DJs, but when did you get to the point where you knew who you were as a DJ and identified your personal style?
It boils down to having musical balls. Back in the day, if you were an opening DJ you were limited to a certain degree, especially if you were playing with certain DJs. It was almost an unwritten code. You weren’t supposed to play all the hits or the hot shit. You were supposed to keep it at a certain tempo, etc. The opening DJ was supposed to keep it mellow and they didn’t really build it up. Back then, it may have been 2-3 DJs max for a certain event. Now it may be 5 or 6 DJs for a 6 hour party and you have every DJ trying to out bang each other because they want a chance to play. They want to make the most out of the moment. The problem is it becomes a pissing contest because everyone is trying to outdo each other. The result of that is the party suffers. What I learned and what I was schooled on from my elders like Robert Williams is that it’s about the party first.
Let’s talk about your evolution as a DJ. What are some of the greatest lessons you’ve learned in your career?
Oh wow… I’d have to say first I had to realize that although this culture and music started in Chicago, its way beyond Chicago. I always knew that because I was into certain sounds but I had to experience it. I remember being humbled during my first trip to NYC around 2000/2001. I went to my first Shelter party. Of course, I was familiar with the place, the sound and the parties that happened there but when I got there it was such an eye opening experience. At the time, it was one of the biggest clubs I’d ever been in with one of the most amazing sound systems. I was there just watching all these people from different backgrounds getting down. They were breakdancing to house music. I mean it was a dude spinning on his head to house music!!! I remember just looking at all of this and had to sit down. I was overwhelmed. I was like well DAMN! It was so much more than what I thought it was.
You know coming from Chicago, we can be a little cocky because this genre started here but that entire experience changed me in a lot of ways. I realized the music was global and I finally experienced it on that level outside of Chicago for the first time. That was some powerful shit. It made me want to see it and experience it from everywhere else and that’s exactly what I did. I heard about the festivals and WMC and things like that but it was important that I experienced it as a patron, not a DJ. It wasn’t about going to these places so I could DJ. I mean, of course that was part of it, but it wasn’t the main objective. I was going to check this shit out. It sparked something in me and it shaped me and made me start playing differently. I got it. This shit was worldwide.
Being a DJ, producer, etc., isn’t just about being creative anymore. You have to learn this business. What lessons did you learn along the way about the business of making music?
Own your publishing!!!!! Have your business set up, have an attorney to overlook documents. Don’t sign anything without looking at it. If someone offers you an advance, that’s usually all you are going to get.
What does the future hold for Jamie 3:26? What dreams do you still want to accomplish?
I want to release an album of original music and continue mentoring younger DJs of color abroad.