Jan 18, 2023
3 min read
Gray Area and Spotify Launch New Series of Dj Mixes
The mixtape is as synonymous with dance music as the kick drum. Through every era of dance music, DJ mixes have acted as a form of cultural capital and communication, a vessel of artistic expression, and a map that led listeners toward unique sonic sojourns. And while the medium has morphed from physical tapes to CDs to no physical form at all, the mixtape still reigns supreme as one of the DJ's most potent storytelling devices.
In 2021 Spotify ushered the mighty mixtape into the streaming era by introducing DJ Mixes to the platform. They said it was, "a way for artists to connect with fans and further expand their global audiences." But every dance music fan who fondly remembers the joy of exploring the twists and turns of their first mixtape (mine was a Christopher Lawrence mix from 1999) knows that it's so much more than that.
We understand that every mixtape holds deep meaning to a true fan. And the promise of discovery, surprise, and joy. With that in mind, Gray Area joined Spotify in welcoming some of our favorite artists to curate mixes that capture the spirit of being handed a cassette tape at a dusty warehouse. And over the coming months, we'll reveal a series of ten mixes from some of our favorite artists. And we couldn't imagine anyone better to head up the effort than DJ, producer, and Farris Wheel Recordings founder Gene Farris.
Gene has been a part of the dance music community almost since its inception. A bonafide legend of the storied Chicago scene, he's gone from rocking the decks at warehouse parties in the early 90s to becoming a staple of the global club and festival circuit with appearances everywhere from Ibiza and Amsterdam to Miami and Sydney.
He started his label, Farris Wheel Recodings, in 1996 as a platform to release his own music and since has expanded it to be one of the preeminent tastemakers in house music featuring a wide range of artists from Mark Farina, Paul Johnson, and Sonny Fodera to John Summit, J. Worra, and Eskuche.
His mix—made entirely of Farris Wheel tracks—features a who's who of tech house, including MISS DRE, Baby Weight, Max Low, Sacha Robotti, Casmalia, and a pre-techno Will Clarke.
We chatted with Gene to find out what his first mixtape was, how he put the mix together, and what this new iteration of the mixtape means for the future of dance music.
You've seen every iteration of the mixtape as a DJ. So what's impactful about being able to do one on a platform that has the potential to reach so many people?
All I've ever wanted was the opportunity to touch everyone, and this gives me that opportunity, and that's really cool!
Do you think having mixes on streaming platforms has the potential to create new dance music fans?
Absolutely! You're tapping into people who probably wouldn't normally go to the club randomly and find this DJ. With this platform, we come to you!
Your label has releases from a broad range of established artists and up-and-comers. How did you choose who you featured?
It's really just a matter of quality control, to be honest. Whoever has the hottest track gets featured at that moment in time.
What about putting this mix together was different from other mixes you've done in the past?
All the tracks are released on my label Farris Wheel Recordings. I picked my favorite tracks, and there are loads of new music from the label. I love the whole mix.
Do you remember the first mixtape someone gave you?
Yes. It was Frankie Knuckles Live at the Warehouse.
What's your favorite old-school mixtape? Why?
Ron Hardy Live at the Music Box is my favorite because Ron was the GOAT! I've studied his mixes quite a lot, and he was one of the most innovative house music DJs of our lifetime.
How does your mix capture the spirit of old-school mixtapes?
I'm not sure that it does, to be honest. I can only aspire to be that cool.
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