"You never know what's gonna happen": Kerri Chandler on the 'Spaces and Places' that made him
Gemma Ross talks to one of dance music's most enduring figures following the release of his first full-length LP in 14 years
It’s been a little while since Kerri Chandler last put together a solo LP... 14 years, to be precise. In the time between 2008’s ‘Computer Games’ and his most recent ‘Spaces and Places’, Kerri’s characteristic sound has persevered — but the 53-year-old producer has grappled with a new wave of musical stylings forming around him. Consisting of 24 tracks inspired by his appearances at legendary clubs all over the world, some might argue that ‘Spaces and Places’ is Kerri’s magnum opus. A nostalgic house record devoted to a lifelong career as one of dance music’s greatest, paying homage to some of the best night spots on the planet. The "spaces and places" where Kerri Chandler, as an artist, was made.
“If I have nothing to say, I don’t say anything at all,” Kerri muses when contemplating his first record in nearly a decade and a half. “I was supposed to have this album out a while back, but then COVID came. I didn't want to put it out during that time because it's entirely related to clubs,” he adds. The idea for ‘Spaces and Places’, Kerri says, came after the demolition of New York’s Paradise Garage, which ensued in the opening of one of the city’s most influential clubs. It was here that Kerri would go on to create an eponymous track 'The Shelter', taken from the club’s name, made in the venue itself in 1992 - a track that has gained classic status over time.
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Two decades later in 2013, Kerri took that same approach on a second track, if not by accident. “I had a remix deadline for this Kate Simko track called ‘Your Love’, and I just so happened to be in Germany in this really incredible club that had one of the coolest soundsystems I’d ever heard - it was set up like a studio,” Kerri explains. “I asked my friend if I could mix the song in the club because I had to meet this deadline the next day. So we're standing in the middle of the room, and I'm making stuff up on the keyboards. I emailed it over to the guys, and they were like, ‘this is exactly what we wanted!’,” he smiles.
Kerri and I are chatting over one of the famed keyboards in reference, a piece of kit he brought all the way from his native US to London’s new club HERE at Outernet where, tonight, he’s due to play one of his biggest UK shows in 2022. At this new central London venue, currently sitting vacant bar the few riggers and stagehands, he’ll debut his new album for the first time to a British crowd while testing out a whole swarm of new live visuals across his six-hour set. “We thought it would be a good idea to host the event in a brand new club. I was told, ‘you’d have a field day in here. Use your imagination!’. I have a really big imagination, so I'm looking into everything possible.”
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Tonight marks the launch event for ‘Spaces and Places’, an album that plays on the long-contemplated concept that Kerri keeps coming back to over the years. “I was having so much fun with all the clubs, and I have a strong relationship with a lot of them,” he explains. As the record progressed, Kerri utilised his friendships with promoters and club owners in every part of the world: Manchester’s Warehouse Project, Helsinki’s Kaiku Club, Ibiza’s DC-10, and even further afield. “There was one club in La Baule, France, called La Grange where we’d do all-night parties, and you never know what to expect. It’s me and my friend Nadir, who’s a saxophone player,” he says. “The song on the album is called ‘Morning Heat’ because it was always such a hot, steamy club, no air. By the time you're done in there, you have to have a change of clothes.”
The 24-track album, which sits at whopping three hours long, even infused elements from each club into the track’s individual sounds. “When I was at Sub Club, I had the ceiling rattling with different notes that I was playing. Then outside I recorded the train that goes past in the middle of the night, you can actually feel it rumbling the building,” he laughs. “These are elements that everyone knows if you’ve ever been in that club - you know what it is. If you hear someone call ’83!’, you know that’s the bingo hall next door.”
Sub Club is just one of many clubs that Kerri boasts a solid connection with, a venue he’s been a regular at since ’93. Ministry of Sound is another sentimental location for the New Jersey DJ: “it was the first place I ever played abroad in ’91 or ’92,” he says. “They all have something special, and they’re all clubs I have a connection with”. During his time making ‘Spaces and Places’, Kerri notes a few highlights and some unforeseen collaborations that would happen along the way. “Rex was one of my favourites,” he says.
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“I played with one of my best friends, DJ Deep. He has a son, Gabriel, who at the time was around nine years old. He loves guitar - blues and all that kind of stuff. I said, let him play his guitar on this track, that’d be really cool,” Kerri remembers. “He'd never been to the club before, but that was where I met his dad, in Paris’ Rex. Now his son is sat in the middle of the room playing the guitar with his grandad and mum.”
For the most part, the featured artists on Kerri’s new record are “mostly friends”, he explains. In each location, the producer chose native artists as contributors, some even last minute in true ad hoc fashion, much like the production of the record itself. But there’s also an enormous team behind each track - most of which wouldn’t have come to fruition without his “on-the-road family”. “Different places, different teams,” he says. “It's good to say hello to family on the road, there are certain people I really trust. It’s been nothing but perfect so far,” he says. Those teams allowed Kerri to use each venue for days on end, and continue working on a track until its completion. “I could have the club for as long as I needed, so I was usually just there all night.”
The record was then mastered in Dolby Atmos to give it a fuller feeling, something that Kerri would have to take into his own hands. “They were like, ‘you can mix it’,” he says. “So I had to sit at home learning - I did the whole album, all 24 tracks!”. As a result, ‘Spaces and Places’ retains a full-bodied, atmospheric sound that compliments the ambitious show that he’s attempting to pull off tonight. The show will see the introduction of “holograms” in a first for his live performances. “It’s a completely different animal,” he says.
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40 years into his impassioned career, Kerri manages to consistently up his game and keep life a little spontaneous. Tonight, he’s hoping to bring out Tom Misch, a friend and collaborator who he’s yet to meet in person. “I put all my friends on the spot,” Kerri smiles. It’s all in the surprises, he explains, and it seems as though that impromptu way of life has kept the producer riding the wave all these years. “We’re in the right place for a fun time, plenty of surprises. It even surprises me sometimes! I'll just find things and kind of wing it, I never know what's gonna happen.”
Kerri Chandler sets off on a four-week residency at London's KOKO in February. Find tickets here.
Gemma Ross is Mixmag's Editorial Assistant, follow her on Twitter