Founder of the chicago based label Tetrode Music. Curating us with some timeless deep cuts through out their releases and their sessions and more importantly, putting quality over quantity, Tetrode Music has been showcasing talents of his founder and Specter. Damon Lamar is man of few words so we’re very happy he took some time to answer our questions.
There is very few information about you around, can you tell us how you first got into producing music, and releasing your first 12” on relief records? How important was your relationship with DJ Sneak in your introduction to producing and releasing records?
I first got into producing during my high school years. This was around 1987. Gear was crazy expensive so there was no studio at home. Fanon Flowers was the first guy that got me hooked on gear. I think he had a 505 and a 303. He later introduced me to Jay Denham, who at the time, had just released material on Fragile. When I went to Jay’s house, I was like wow!!!! Seeing the gear and how it all works was inspirational. I then hooked up with another high school buddy D-Knox, who was Jay’s cousin. He had a studio at his house and this is where I got my chance to start messing with gear.
My second home was always Chicago. I had been spending my summers here since 1979. I officially moved to Chicago in 1991 after finishing school. From there I started networking through the record stores I would shop at. I knew Sneak from shopping at the record store he worked at. Sneak was always cool with me. One day I’m in the store and he asks if I want to stop by his crib to check out this new joint he was working on. The track was “Work It.” So from then on I started hanging at Sneaks learning some tips and buying gear.
My first setup was very limited but I made it work. I started working on tracks and would bring them by Sneak’s house to listen. Sneak was like, “yo, Cajmere would like this stuff.” Then he told me to come down to Cajual so I could play the tracks. I’ll never forget that day. I’m liked charged cuz this in Relief and I got my foot in the door.
There’s this guy on the phone handling business and another guy sitting at a desk. Sneak has me hand the tape over to the guy at the desk and he’s nodding his head. He then tells me he likes the material and we can work something out. So later, Sneak and I leave and Sneak tells me “I told you Cajmere would like it.” I’m like “what are you talking about?” “Cajmere was on the phone the whole time, he didn’t even hear it.” Sneak then laughs and tells me the guy at the desk was Cajmere. Opps. The gentleman on the phone was actually Chez Damier.
Were you already collecting records and DJing before?
Yes. My step-dad was a local well-known dj. So my first borrowed collection came through him. I started buying when I was 12, which was around 1984. I would hit up the local Chicago shops like Rush, Loop Records and Importes. As far as djing, I mostly played at home practicing the craft. But I didn’t really start branching off until I did my releases for Relief.
Your first releases were almost all through the Baby Pop and 8088 monikers, and were quite up-tempo and dance floor oriented. Under the Damon Lamar guise your tracks seem to have a more laid back and deep vibe. Is each moniker an outlet for a special mind-set and emotional touch?
I guess. For me, it’s just a point where I was in life. As I have gotten older, things are more on the chill side for me. I still like to do all kind of music, but I’ve always had a heart for deep stringing music.
We find the Damon Lamar tracks very intriguing, as we cannot tell right away when these pieces were produced, and which type of audience is targeted. Let’s take the example of Large Crowd: what kind of listening environment did you envision for this track when you produced it?
That track has a special feeling with me. I think the vocal says it all. It was more of a personal thing than me envisioning it played somewhere. I’m just glad the track finally got released. It was originally supposed to be realised on a compilation for Dan Kurzius label. However, the project never happened and the track just sat. I had produced it 10 years prior to it coming out on Tetrode. Eventually I decided it was time to put it on wax. But I should have released it a lot earlier.
How did you and Andres Ordonez (aka Specter ) decide to create your own label? Was it way for you not to have to submit yourselves to other people’s opinion to release records?
I met Andres through a job we worked at. Our first connection was through djing. Some years later Andres started growing an interest in production and picking up pieces here and there. He would let me hear his demos and I was digging his sound. At the time, I was in the process of pressing another Tetrode release. His sound just felt right for the label. I call it the “Yin-Yang.” Andres had the deep jack sound and mine was more laid back. So we felt it was a perfect combination. But yeah, the reason for Tetrode was for us to be true to our sound. We didn’t want the hassle of material not being fast enough or the “beat of the week.” But I’m really proud to see the progress Andres had made. I knew it was only a matter of time.
How influential is the second wave of Chicago House Music labels like Defiant or Relief on the sound of Tetrode Music? What are the other labels that influenced the most your vision and the direction you gave to the label?
Answer: Well the Relief/Cajual thing was a god-send. The label was huge and the world started focusing on newer Chicago artist. From that aspect, I guess it showed me that it could be done. There are however, too many labels to name that I think helped influence Tetrode. We were listening to a lot of the Detroit stuff, Chicago stuff, As One, B12, Stasis, Black Dog, etc. Just good music.
We read in an interview you and Specter gave to the good morning post blog that you guys try to make timeless music, not the beat of the week. What do you exactly mean by that?
Well, we try our best to make music that will last. Of course, all records get recycled and at some point they will end up at the local used record shop. However, for that new buyer, I hope that the music still sounds good today as it did when it was released.
The Downbeat Crew from Madrid are the only “outsiders” on Tetrode Music, how did you guys meet and how close do you feel to their artistic touch?
The Downbeat Crew are some deep soldiers. I first met Jose Rico through “Myspace.” He was a fan of Tetrode and was planning a trip to Chicago. He wanted to connect and inform us of the label Fon, Urtzi and him were starting. He was looking for material and Specter gave them an outstanding E.P. I feel Downbeat and Tetrode are very similar because it’s about the music and not so much “beat of the week material.”
Are you guys planning on branching out a bit more to other artists, or do you want to keep the label as an outlet for your own music? Are there any releases planned on the label for the future?
Well our outlet has always been for Andres and me. However, we have made quite a few connections through the years. Who knows; there may be some folks we approach, in the future, for some material.
Looking at today’s electronic music scene, are there any artists or labels you would like to collaborate with in the future?
Never really gave it much thought. But I always like to leave things open.
When we met Kai Alcé a few months back, he told us there is a KZR/Damon Lamar collaboration planned on NDATL. Can you tell us a bit more about it?
Well I have something I will be releasing on NDATL. Kai has been very patient through this whole process.