Chicago house veteran Felix da Housecat has been cautiously watching the mainstream electronic music industry unfold and explode for over 26 years. Kids who didn't know about his 1987 EP Phantasy–or his strange 2005 acid house track with P Diddy–have still likely shaken their asses to Felix's product at some point or another.
Yet the house legend's dip into commercialism helped him regroup for his first new solo material in four years: Sinner Winner. The debauched, club-ready EP opens with a fire-and-brimstone sermon and leads you straight into the belly of a coked-out warehouse. We dragged Felix out of the studio and asked him about it.
Tell me about Sinner Winner.
Sinner Winner is about a hypocritical preacher who lives in the Bible district. In the club he just rants and rants and then he feels the spirit of the music and becomes a raver in a sense. Most religion to me is hypocritical. I don't like being preached at. To me, experiencing going to church when I was a kid, I would see women in short skirts dressed up in makeup, high heels, trying to find a man. They're trying to get laid! I couldn't make sense of it. So this preacher starts clubbing and checking girls out...
This has been billed as a comeback. Is it?
I've been touring a little bit in the last four years but not putting out anything fresh. Three years ago, I was manipulated by my managers. I don't wanna get into it but I was manipulated by the system and the industry. I've known will.i.am for years. Me and him were always talking about doing something together. So with all the red tape, the decisions, people seeing it as a money-maker... It just got cheesed out. Eventually my personal life was down the drain, all screwed up. I just had to take a step back. I was becoming a product of the environment. I was being consumed and I didn't even realize it. I don't wanna be on the cheese train! [laughs]
It's come to the point where things are too polished, there's too much bottle service in it. When you've got machines trying to generate money music... I mean, the same thing happened in hip-hop, it's nothing new. I can't blame someone for wanting to go out and have a good time and party if that's what they wanna do, but to have promoters feeding shit to the kids with these massive festivals... And then there's those who jump on the bandwagon who say 'Ooh, this is a good movement! This is so good for electronic music!' Fair enough, it's good, but how many times are you gonna hear the same sounds, the same riffs, the same chords? It's worse than trance to me. I don't wanna come off like I'm ranting, though. But maybe I am ranting.
Speaking of crossovers, you were one of the first people to use hip-hop in electronic music, even though David Guetta is credited a lot.
No. no, don't quote me using names. But we always did the electro-black thing. Puff was one of the first guys to embrace electronic music. What we did was dirty, dark, and nasty. We weren't trying to exploit it. It's not marketable. You either love it or hate it. My first EP was like a Chicago vibe, and what I've been doing for 26 years has been upgrading.
What are the first memories that come to mind when you think about the original Chicago house scene?
When I made my first record, Phantasy,I was a freshman in high school. I had girls running up to me and signing autographs. It was very confusing. I was 14 years old, and we wore these Miami Vice suits. Oh and I had my little Red Bull Cherry edition in the studio. I don't drink Red Bull now, but back then it was new. Oh, and I was into graf. Sorry, I'm not into the romantic sweet story. I'm in that killa beats mode.