Made in Detroit, raised in Chicago and then perfecting his art in London there are few bigger names in music than Felix Da Housecat. There are even fewer who are as committed to ensuring people have a good time. Quite simply he loves to make people dance and it’s this passion that’s seen him forge a legacy as one of the most important house acts of the last two decades.
After a short hiatus from the scene dealing with an unhealthy love of mescal Felix is back and back ‘hardcore’ to continue entertaining the masses with his own inimitable style. So with a new album and several EP’s on the way ahead of a triumphant return to touring we caught up with Felix to chat about the past, the future and his phobia of cats! We kid you not…
Hi Felix, Now I know you started off particularly young in getting involved in electronic music so If I could take you back to the beginning and ask you about your first foray into the scene. How did it all come about?
Ha! Mr. Reiss! Well it all started in Chicago when I was like 14. I was always musical, like I played clarinet and I’d be listening to Purple rain and shit. Then I started listening to this real cool radio show on WBMX and their Hot Mix 5 and that introduced me to these new cool sounds and I was like woah. I used to listen to that every Saturday and people like Farley Jackmaster Funk and Mike Hitman Wilson and I mean their shows were insane! And at that point this was only going on in Chicago. We didn’t have no internet to make all this easy to get to what they did was put it out there.
Then there guys I knew who were like man acid is the shit, you gotta listen to acid trax! So we started listening to that and I started making tapes for fun- yeah tapes man. You can actually mix with tapes as you could slow them down and speed them up. Then my friend gave my tape to DJ Pierre, we made Phantasy Girl, it ended up a hit and it all snowballed from there man. I was 15 years old.
It must have been crazy to become known at such a young age with so many influential characters around…
Hugley man. I mean there are so many influences like DJ Principle, Robert Owens, Frankie Knuckles– I got a track referencing Frankie dropping this summer man. He’s still influencing things man. It’s important to be in a friendly scene together. Like those guys did some real cool stuff man. Before I heard house I wanted to be a graffiti artist or draw cartoons but once I heard their shit I was like dude this is what I gotta do!
Then you moved to London at quite a young age, I know quite a few people consider you a honorary Londoner…
Yeah thanks man. I feel like I grew up as an artist in London. I became a man in this city. As I left Chicago as everything was getting shut down and considered New York but again DJ Pierre was like lets move to London man- shit is happening so I did and had a great, great time. You had the acid movement all over the UK, and the great musical history you guys have. I mean like Joy Division, post punk and the new wave bands and all that cool stuff like Radiohead so then I really started taking my music real seriously. My wife is British too and I’m back living here so yeah this place is really special to me.
You’re known as quite the showman. Have you always been naturally confident?
I don’t really know about that because what people thought was confidence was probably that crazy truth juice Mezcal talking! Man, when I thought I was the mezcalteer you think you can do anything. I thought I could go do anything. These days I don’t touch that stuff and sure I get nervous before sets but not like scared, like I really wanna do well man and for people to have a good time and get their funs worth. 4 to the floor I just wanna destroy the dance floor – I get that do or die feeling every time I play. I wanna do my best for those good people to have a good time.
You spoke about being the Mezcalteer and leaving all that behind. Was that the reason we didn’t hear a great deal from you in the last few years?
Yeah def man. It got bad and I mean real bad. I was looking at myself in the mirror and not recognizing who I saw. People around me that I care about didn’t feel like they knew me and I thought this has gotta change. Work wasn’t music work became partying and it nearly consumed me. I mean really nearly consumed me. I got 3 kids and I just thought I gotta chill. It was the mezcal and fly, land, fly, land. Party. After party. Even my music wasn’t right because I wasn’t right. I was manipulated by a machine I had built but had no control over. It was like speeding up on a car with no breaks and then being like I need to get off. You gotta do it for those you love.
So what inspired the lifestyle change?
Well partly as I heard some terrible music getting danced too and I was like ‘What? Really? This shit? And I realized that hearing some of the terrible stuff when mixed with mezcal made me get a little lazy. I mean when your drinking that stuff every song is a hit! You know what I mean. Some promoters would book me just because of my party rep and some wouldn’t purely on that too as they were afraid I’d get crazy! So to escape that lifestyle and cheesy sound I thought yeah I gotta get back to London! And I’m really happy here. It’s not all about selling bottles in London, Paris, Barcelona and Berlin. These places have movements. You do have that in the US but it’s very underground and hard to find. It’s all about the music man. I’m loving life here.
That’s good to hear Felix. Are there any particular processes you go through when track building? We’re looking forward to all the new content you’ve got planned.
Yeah. You just need to be in the right state of mind and around the right people. Like when I made Sinner/Winner I just made that for me to listen to. I was so brainwashed by what everyone else was doing I didn’t think it’d be popular. Then my brother heard it and he was like ‘Felix, put that shit out.’ and I was resisting. So I left it then a friend heard it playing in the studio and he was like ‘Yo, you gotta put that out.’ I was still like saying no way. So he asked if he could he play it out and I said sure. It got a real good crowd reaction so I tested it myself and then when people loved it I was like ‘Wow. I should really just do what I do. I just have these songs in my head so I go down to the studio to get them out!’.
Now you’ve been known for some A list collaborations. Do you have anything up your sleeve for the future as to working with other artists?
Definitely. I’ll be working with Lee Scratch Perry which I’m looking forward too. Then we’ve got some Green Velvet stuff and a few secret bits I’ll be putting out under my Afrohead name. Oh and there’s some stuff I’m gonna keep to play for myself!
Is there any underground talent that’s really grabbed your attention recently?
There’s a guy called Eagles and Butterflies. One guy. Who warmed up for me and I was like ‘Damn’. You gotta warm up for me every time! So check him out.
You got several EP’s and an album coming up so you’ll be extensively touring. How do you decide where to play?
Man it’s wherever they want Felix to play. I’ll come and start a party. If my agent says Brazil, I’m like sweet lets make it happen! So you’ll be catching me all over man. There are some real cool places like when I got asked to go to Dubai, I was like I want to spend some time there I don’t want to just see a club and the airport! You get to experience so many different cultures and I thinks that’s real cool.
Looking back again to when you first started does it feel weird to be a globally recognized house veteran?
Yeah def man. Like once I was playing and the guy after me was smashing it so I thought if I take my glasses off and walk out nobody will recognize me. That whole superman/Clarke Kent thing. But it didn’t work and it surprised me how many people still knew me! I mean they still play ‘Phantasy Girl’ at my high school and I really like that. If that inspires just one kid living in South Side Chicago that’d be awesome man.
Thanks for talking to us Felix, finally could you tell something we probably don’t know about you?
I’m have a phobia of cats which people find amusing. I just don’t really like them. A few time we’ve had photo shoots and they’ve wanted to use a cat and I’ve been like ‘Hell no!’. Oh and I just wanna thank any fans reading man. The reason I wanted to come back hardcore is for you guys man. Peace.
For the latest news of all things Felix including release and tour dates head over to http://www.theefelixdahousecat.com/