Music by VICE

Tommie Sunshine Talks Tropical House Haters, the Whitewashing of Dance, and his "Chicago Disco" with Chocolate Puma

From Chicago to Miami, Tommie Sunshine speaks the truth as his new single drops.

by Tommie Sunshine
Mar 16 2015, 11:20pm

I was so beyond lucky to grow up 40 minutes Southwest of Chicago from a one year old to well into my twenties. I got to watch house music hatch out of an egg. Experiencing an urban gumbo of house, industrial, punk and disco was precisely what saved me from myself as a teenager. I knew from the first time I felt House Music wash over me that it was a a musical revolution that would both change and heal the world. I seriously never doubted that initial thought for one second. I'm still both a believer and an evangelist to this day.

What's hilarious to me is that "Tropical House" artist Bakermat was quoted in an interview recently saying that because of my comments about Kygo, I and those like myself who dare to critique the next wave of music must "feel threatened and are afraid of change". Nothing could be farther from the truth. Everyone I know who is an artist and any good at it has consistently evolved over time. I have evolved from playing house to techno to electroclash to the rock remix sound I had in the 00's to electro to #EDM. When I get the chance, I still play House and am doing so again at Ultra's 20th Anniversary Party in Miami alongside Shiba San, Amine Edge & Dance, SNBRN & Chris Lake. I'm not afraid of change, I just call bullshit when I hear it. I refuse to let the word "house" be used next to Jack Johnson in Avicii's clothing, which is essentially what I feel Kygo is.

As our culture grows bigger (and it has only just begun), there will be growing pains. I feel like the biggest obstacles are some of the booking agents, venue talent buyers, record label A&Rs and even some of those throwing festivals that have either no vested interest in this music, simply don't care or are in this just for the money. In time, all of those who don't really connect with the culture will fall off and their fans will see them for who they really are. Those who work behind the scenes of the industry who are faking it because they smell money will be replaced with those who really want to make a difference. What's amazing is how many people there are who really do deeply care about the music, the culture and its preservation. For every critic of this culture there are a dozen people curious to see it and experience it for themselves. We've only just begun to tap into Pop Culture and show so many people how much positivity and salvation there is to be found with your eyes closed on a Saturday night dance floor.

One thing I'd like to note is in the past year I have become quite an activist and protestor for freedom. I have stood tall alongside the #BlackLivesMatter movement and feel very strongly about a particular aspect of its connection to House Music. House Music and Disco before it came from the struggle of Black & Latino, Gay culture. If you want to say you love #EDM and how it saved your life then I don't see why you would particularly need to stand up for this movement unless you felt so inclined. HOWEVER, if you say you love House Music and how House Music saved your life without acknowledging and supporting the #BlackLivesMatter movement then you are simply a hypocrite. Without Black music & Black culture there would be no House Music; this is a simple fact. It should be noted that since the USA was essentially 20+ years late to the House Music party (Steve "Silk" Hurley's 'Jack Your Body' went #1 in the UK in 1987, 28 years ago) the moniker of #EDM was the rebrand so everyone felt like it was something new. Plus they had to whitewash it so the Black and Latino, Gay roots faded away and they could sell this idea to Middle America. I can't imagine a festival that was perceived as a celebration of Black and Latino, Gay music would be held in Georgia and accepted with open arms. Those who know and those who know how to use the internet know of House Music's roots, how far they go back to Disco and to spite many tries to hold it back and destroy it, House Music always comes back stronger than it was before.

"Chicago Disco" is a love letter to where I'm from, both geographically and spiritually. House Music is church to me and it always has been. It's also a love letter to Ron Hardy and Frankie Knuckles, the Chicago architects who took the clay of Disco and molded it into the blueprint of House Music. Frankie played the songs that lifted you up while Ron played the tracks that took you to the edge of your mind. This yin and yang dynamic brought all the pieces to the table and the two of them should be acknowledged today and every day for what they took part in creating. To be honest, I always felt draw more to Ron than to Frankie as Ron was more dangerous and rough around the edges. Anyone who says you can't hear any Chicago in my music simply doesn't know all sides to the Chicago musical spectrum.

Alongside Frankie and Ron, alongside Marshall Jefferson, DJ Pierre and Armando are the second wave of House artists Derrick Carter and Spencer Kincy, who left an indelible mark on my musical brain. Also I would have to mention Mark Farina, Terry Mullan, Bad Boy Bill, Miles Maeda, Diz, Mystic Bill, Lego, and Johnny Fiasco for how much they influenced me as well. Even later in the Nineties came Felix da Housecat, Cajmere/Green Velvet, DJ Funk, Traxx and Paul Johnson. My time in Chicago spent in lofts like 1355 N. Milwaukee, 1471 N. Milwaukee, 500 W. Cermak, 3333 W. Grand, the Sunday night Seth Love parties and the Life parties thrown by Wade Randolph Hampton and Patty Ryan are endless musical memories.

Talking about all of this and mulling over the memories attached reminds me why I chose to do what I do for a living. House music is my life; it was from the first time I heard it and it will always be. It makes perfect sense that today I release a house track on Steve Angello's label alongside Chocolate Puma, one of the most accomplished duos this music has ever had. We are three men who have house music in our veins. We know no other life. We are happy to be able to make something that spreads so much joy. This is what house music is all about and in a time where the world is in so much chaos, to be able to make people in all cultures, all over the world smile and shake it on the dance floor, together in unison, is no small accomplishment.

Working with Chocolate Puma was a dream come true. One of the most striking memories I have on a dance floor is hearing one of their earliest productions, The Goodmen 'Give It Up' for the first time. I thought to myself, "THOSE DRUMS!" and, 24 years later, I can confidently say that no one else except for Todd Terry can program such incredible drums. These guys are legends and possibly the kindest and most hilarious humans making dance music. When we get together its beyond a good time and we keep making amazing music each time we meet each other in the studio. Working in their Amsterdam studio, they handed me a mic and without any thought I just said, "How Chicago is your Disco?", into it. We all looked at each other, I put the mic down and I knew right then we had lighting in a bottle. BOOM!!! I knew there was nothing whatsoever I could possibly say that would be better than that and I still don't I could've topped it. What a direct question; no, seriously, how Chicago is your Disco?

Buy "Chicago Disco" on Beatport. and peep this playlist Tommie's made that traces his influences through Chicago house:

Find Tommie Sunshine on Facebook // SoundCloud // Twitter
Find Chocolate Puma on Facebook // SoundCloud // Twitter

Peep the flyer for the Ultra 20 year bash in Miami: