Known for his House classics such as “Donnie” (The It), “Time Marches On” (Jungle Won) and “Distant Planet” with Fingers Inc, Harry Dennis is one of Chicago’s original House music pioneers. Written, Producer and Artist Harry returns with the new deep house opus “Infinitely” due on JuJu Muzik on Friday September 29th 2023.
Dennisrecently released “Black Magic Woman” with Ron Trent on the sold’-out vinyl “The Revisions EP”, having worked previously with Trent on the Future Vision World, Music and Power and Rush Hour Record labels. Harry also released “Press Reset” with Producer & DJ Julian Garnett and hugely supported by Terry Farley, Colin Dale, Graeme Park and SA’s Nutty Nys. It’s available on the JuJu Muzik Bandcamp page and digital stores.
Harry is also making a rare UK appearance at “A Night With Harry Dennis’ alongside Special Guest, Colin Dale and DJs’ Julian ‘JuJu” Garnett, Damian Charles and more at Clapham’s Lit Club, and also taking place on Friday September 29th 2023. We catch up with Harry ahead of his London show next Friday.
Who first clued you up to House music and what was the first House record you ever heard and when?
I first got into House Music when I went to school on the north side of Chicago. At Senn School it opened up a whole new world to me. I was from the westside of town known as K Town – the get your butt kicked part of town…we didn’t play – and the Northside was calm,cool, no static and I had some friends that were gay going to this place called The Warehouse and they always came back to school on Monday talking about the great time they’d had there, and they always used to ask me to go out with them someday and I would always say one day, one day until that one day happened. The club made me a believer that night! The music was unbelievable played by a man who would one day change the world with this new thing called House Music. That guy was Frankie Knuckles, who would later become my mentor as well as a whole lot more, so I could say my friends clued me up or Frankie. I would also have to say the track “On and On” by Vince Lawrence and Jessie Saunders.
What are your favourite nightclub memories and experiences of the early days of house music?
My memories are all good memories meeting new faces and pioneers wanting to make a name for themselves in the music game. From The Warehouse to The Music Box, to the Playground to Coconuts to the Garage to Zanzibar to Studio 54 and a few I forget but I have seen or been to almost all the hot spots at that time period. I met Run DMC, Curtis Blow Loleatta Holloway, Jocelyn Brown, Robert Owens, Marshall Jefferson, Chip E and of course, Ron Hardy and Frankie Knuckles. I may have forgotten a few as it can get a little fuzzy over the years.
Did you start making music before House, and was your family and friends excited for you and supportive of you?
I never played music but music was all around me growing up on Maxwell Street in Chicago. I never made music before House and my friends when I started didn’t take me seriously. My Mom’s always had my back good or bad and Father just wanted me to work and be the best that I could Be in anything. God and family kept me pushing.
What was the very first track you worked on and was it in a professional studio or someone’s home, and who with?
The first track I ever did was ‘Donnie’ with my group called ‘THE IT’, who were Chip-E, Larry Heard, Robert Owens, Ron Hardy and me! It started out in my home then on to the studio when the DJ International label got wind of it.
Did a lot of the Chicago House legends live in the same area and are you still in contact with any of those artists who you collaborated with back in the day? Any special friendships stretching across the years?
A few stayed in the same areas but we were spread out across Chicago but we travelled and met up over House Music or studios and most of my friends from back then are still with me today. They are all special to me and we’re still putting out some of the greatest tunes today with the younger in-crowd.
Which artist was the most fun to work with in the studio, and which track felt the most exciting while in the process of making it?
Ron Trent, Marshall Jefferson and Larry Heard all are fun to work with in the studio. They keep you writing and your mind moving to come up with memorable lines for our songs. Still today I think the most memorable song for me is “Time Marches On” that Marshall and I did back in the day.
What is your most memorable studio session, who was it with and where was it?
When Ron Trent and I did a studio session recording “Black Magic Woman” at Ron’s mom’s house. It had all changed as the studios and the session musicians at that time that were for hired to play on tunes got mad at us because we didn’t use them anymore. We could do it in the crib and cut out the middle man and that’s why House Music never got the push it deserved.
How many countries has House music taken you to, to either perform or promote music at? I know you came to the UK with Larry Heard to promote the ‘On Top Of The World’ album (on Big Life / Black Market Records). When was that, and do you remember much about your visit to the UK? Any memories of London etc.
Mainly London and Amsterdam as I like to be mysterious and come out every now and then. Larry Heard and I came to London in the 90’s did an album with videos called ‘On Top Of The World’ for Jazz Summers at Big Life Records and we also recorded some tunes with Rene Gelston for his Black Market label. What sticks in my minds the most is the English pound being a lot more than the US Dollar and of course I had to try Fish and Chips, and Tea and Crumpets !
What song, other than House music, holds a special place in your heart and why?
“That Same Thing” by Muddy Waters because my mother use to play it a lot way back as it was her her favourite tune and I liked it as well.
Who has been your most trusted House music label to work with and which label owner do you still hold the most respect for?
Out of all the labels I have worked with a lot have been good pay masters but there’s also been a lot of sneaky stuff going down The most trustworthy has been JuJu Muzik, as he keeps you in the know about music sales and marketing etc and I must say he is a genius at what he does and I respect honest people!
Peace. . .Harry.
‘A Night With Harry Dennis’ featuring Harry Dennis Live plus Special Guest, DJ Colin Dale joining Julian “JuJu” Garnett, Damian Charles, Pollo, Simon Drysdale, Festa and Nigel Butcher takes place on Friday September 29th at Lit, Clapham.