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Interview: DJ Rush on his collab with Adam Beyer, the sound of Chicago and more

A talisman of Chicago techno history, we got up close and personal with DJ Rush following his recent release on Drumcode – Restore My Soul.

As far as techno royalty goes, Chicago’s Isaiah Major – known better as DJ Rush – has to be way up there. A mainstay in the genre from 1991 onwards, he has continued to be an evolutionary tastemaker and advocator of one of the world’s most sought after and widely respected electronic music scenes. 

His latest body of work – Restore My Soul – comes with much appeal for many reasons. Not only does it find its way to us via Adam Beyer’s revered Drumcode Records imprint, but it is Rush’s debut on the label. But it doesn’t stop there, oh no. Restore My Soul is a collaborative effort from Rush and Adam, stretching across four tracks and providing an insatiably indulgent stream of rough and ready Chicago-inspired darkened Techno.

Rush is a legend and icon of the techno scene and his music in the 90s / 00s was pretty inspirational for me. I always admired his unique DJ style too. He’s also a really cool guy with a great energy about him, so it was a pleasure to collaborate with him on this EP. This is a powerful EP with four distinctly different flavours that I think all Drumcode fans are going to love. I just hope we have the chance to play them out live as soon as humanly possible.” – Adam Beyer

To celebrate the release of Restore My Soul, which landed earlier this month, we caught up with none other than DJ Rush himself – as we vowed to dive deep into the mind of one of Techno’s most remarkable chronological talents. Here’s what he had to say:

Hey, Rush, thanks for joining us. News recently broke of your upcoming EP project – Restore My Soul – with Drumcode boss Adam Beyer. Has this been long in the making & how did it all come about?

First off thanks for having me. Well, it was a spur-of-the-moment decision. I contacted Adam about an early release he produced to see if he still had a copy laying around. From that point on we kept in contact and decided to collaborate and try to come up with something. I feel there’s a time when music brings people together, our collaboration is proof of that.

What makes a track ‘Chicago’, and how does it differ from a lot of the techno today?

What makes a track Chicago? It’s all about that bass and groove, you gotta have that soul in it as well with the right amount of swing to it. Most Chicago artists don’t do anything – just boom boom boom. We have that boom with a little off-boom with a little hump, boom with a touch of funk, sometimes we will throw in a vocal here and there. Techno today is more about the old school rave sound or straightforward with no swing, everything feels computer controlled, copy paste etc. It works for the generation today, but you still have that audience that can appreciate that slightly offbeat, off tone and a touch of swing.

What advice would you give aspiring artists that are trying to break onto the scene?

What’s important is to enjoy what you do and do it for the love of it. Once you have this foundation all will fall into place. You will be able to have your own identity, create your own sound and be true to yourself. You will have some ups and downs but be patient and don’t let someone tell you you can’t do something or you shouldn’t play what you love. When you’re confident in your abilities the world will see it.

Describe a typical DJ Rush performance in three words.

Energy. Entertaining. Explosive!

If you could collaborate with any artist from any genre – past or present – who would it be and why?

Grace Jones, because her talent is raw, a pure entertainer on and off stage that did not hold her tongue. She is like walking art with so much musical talent. She follows her own rules and doesn’t apologize for being herself. I feel I am like this in some ways.

Name three records that have influenced your life musically, and tell us why.

That’s really a hard question, some might think that’s an easy question but it’s not. I have come across so many tunes that had an impact at a certain time and some not so strong but still had some influence. It’s really hard to pinpoint something.

Many people may not know this, but you have a degree in computer operations as well as anger management. Have you applied these skills to your music career in any way?

When it comes to computer operations, that side of me was left behind and to be honest I don’t even think I had the chance to apply that to music since that was decades/years ago *smiles* before computers made a big impression on making music. But Anger Management is another story because you can feel my thoughts in my music and the lyrics, speaking about everyday life, having self-control and letting the music guide you and not control you. I even had the chance to talk to people one on one about life when they felt like they had nowhere to turn and my music gave them hope, so I was able to apply my knowledge and wisdom.

Some may say that techno has gone ‘mainstream’ in recent years. Do you feel the message of techno music has changed much since you started?

Mainstream depends on what scene you choose to be on. I never considered what I do or play to be mainstream because I stayed true to myself. My followers and supporters stuck by me. The music that is considered mainstream never was a part of my culture. I feel what is considered mainstream is what already was in that direction in the first place. Techno music comes in so many forms, and each style has its moments. It has to change, nothing stays the same, and if it does, it becomes boring. We have a different generation coming up and presenting their take on techno music, and it is refreshing to hear this; it keeps you motivated even if it’s not your taste. As a DJ/Artist, you should be listening to all genres of music. It doesn’t mean you know how to play it. It just shows that you are willing to open your mind and also learn and be inspired.

Do you have any studio rituals or essential items?

The only ritual I follow is to make music when the feeling is there. If I have an idea, then I head to the basement and try to work it out, and if it doesn’t move me after 30 minutes or so, then I switch off the lights and head back upstairs. My go-to machine (essential item) is my beloved Yamaha RX7. That’s my baby; she has been in the family since the mid-’80s.

Name a record you can listen to five times in a row without getting bored and explain why.

Love Having You Around by First Choice. I can hear this song on repeat and let it go on forever. I love songs that have a meaning to them, and this song makes me smile because she is speaking about having someone around that she loves, and she just wants to thank them.

And when the day is through
Nothin’ to do
I’ll spend all my time just lovin’ you
And I say it ’cause I love having you around

What more can I say?

DJ Rush & Adam Beyer’s ‘Restore My Soul’ on Drumcode is out now on all major stores and streaming platforms.

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