Bad Boy Bill is Bringing His Chicago House Tunes to Green Label Live: Las Vegas This Weekend
Bad Boy Bill is a Chicago legend. As well as being a producer and label head, BBB is renowned as a DJ, known for his mix shows on WMBX, WCI, and B96, one of the first DJs to ever put his material on mixtapes throughout the early ’80s. His first venture, IHR (International House Records), was created when he was only in high school. He is also a founding creator of Beatport and has won numerous DMC championships. His newest EP, Respect The Technique, has just been released and he’ll be spinning the latest at Green Label Live: Las Vegas this weekend at LAX at the Luxor. (For more details and tickets, see here.)
I was able to chat with Bill about his early career, his entrepreneurship, and what to expect from his upcoming show.
For someone who has been in the scene for over two decades, you’ve seen the industry grow from its very beginning. You also started mixing on the radio earlier on in your career and currently have your own monthly podcast, Behind The Decks, and DJ frequently on B96, the station you deejayed at back in high school in Chicago. Do you think radio still has as much relevance now as it did back in the day?
Radio will always have a special place in my heart. It was where I was first introduced to the art of mixing by The Hot Mix 5 on WBMX, which inspired me to become a DJ. I think there are many ways people can hear the music they love now, but I still believe radio stations like B96 are a very important piece of that puzzle.
Interestingly enough, I just interviewed Jump Smokers and know that they are involved with B96, and that they are also members of SKAM Life. What is your relationship with them and the rest of the SKAM crew?
Jump Smokers are my boys! Very cool and talented guys. As far as SKAM, I have been friends with Sujit since before he started the company, so the SKAM Artist crew will always feel like family to me.
Your style and set have evolved throughout the years. What was that like for you? How have you managed the dichotomy of the scratch, DMC style you’ve built your career on and the appeal of a more digital style with younger fans?
I think I have evolved with the times while still keeping true to the art of real deejaying that I initially fell in love with. I think it’s important for up and coming DJ’s to really understand the important parts of deejaying, mainly reading the room and programming your music properly. It’s not about jumping up and down and spraying Champagne on people.
As a Chicago native, your style is known to reflect the city’s House roots and also its place in hip-hop culture. You’ve won the DMC championship multiple times and often feature scratching in your live sets and routines. How important is it for a DJ to be in touch with their DJ roots in 2015 with the switch over to digital? What are your thoughts on the disconnect between newer DJ’s technology base and traditional styles of deejaying?
For me it’s important because that is the fun part of deejaying. Remixing songs on the fly, cutting in and out of songs, etcetera. The newer DJs are going to have to decide for themselves the way they want to express themselves behind the decks.
You’ve also had history with many labels as an entrepreneur under your own company, Mix Connection Multimedia. You were also a part of the creation of Beatport when it first started. With your experience in being involved with so many projects, do you have any advice to give to younger DJs and producers?
My advice would be to work hard and be nice to people. You have to become obsessed with music and the creation of music. Your goal should be to become really amazing at your craft because when the opportunity for you to shine comes, you will be ready. My entire experience with Beatport was amazing. I am extremely grateful to be part of a company that revolutionized the way DJs buy music.
You actually had a residency in Germany for a while, I would have never guessed that. How did that opportunity come about?
I wouldn’t have guessed it either, until one of the biggest club owners in Germany came to Chicago looking for me, found me at a club I was deejaying at, explained to me his love for Chicago House music, and wanted to fly me out there to DJ. He also brought many other House DJs and artists to his club to perform, and the German people really loved and embraced House music.
What can you tell us about your new EP, Respect The Technique?
“Respect the technique” is a slogan that I have been using to basically say “respect the art of deejaying,” but it can be applied to the technique of any art form. Whatever you do, whether it’s mixing music, mixing drinks, painting, martial arts, etcetera, respect the art. Don’t hack your way through it. Learn the history. Embrace the skill and honor it. I remember when I first started out I had so much admiration for DJs and what they did that I practiced for hours and hours to be the best I could be. This EP is also about me going back to my roots, not just the deejaying side of it, but musically as well by bringing more of a funky House sound that I started out with early in my career.
Lastly, I decided to release the EP on my first record label, International House Records (IHR), which was on a hiatus, but I thought with my tracks having a Chicago House sound it was the perfect time to bring the label back and relaunch it.
Criticism is unavoidable when transitioning from such an extensive history with House’s early roots to a more big room style sound. I’ve always found that dance music has one of the biggest but most divided fan bases in all of music. How have you handled detractors over the years?
Criticism comes with being an artist. Some people are going to love you, some are going to hate you, especially if you don’t stay in the box they want to put you in. I have always followed one rule since I started deejaying: I only play music I love because at least someone is going to like it—me. I also musically have changed with the times, because new sounds and new production techniques are exciting to me. I am always on the lookout for innovative music from up and coming producers.
What can we expect from your Green Label Live: Las Vegas show? What’s your favorite thing about Vegas?
I always love playing in Las Vegas. First off, the city is amazing because it can become anything you want it to be. If you want to chill, you can have a relaxing day. If you want to rage, there is always a party. Great restaurants, world class service, it’s unlike any place on Earth. As far as the crowds, they come from all over the globe, so that keeps it interesting as a DJ. You have to make sure you have a variety of dance music ready to go and keeping the crowd moving is always my main goal. I will be playing the tracks from my EP, as well as some of my new upcoming songs that will be released later this summer. I’m really looking forward to it!