There are some artists in the dance music world that need no introduction. And Chicago’s Steve ‘Silk’ Hurley is one of them. Four times Grammy Nominated, responsible for some of the most beautiful music to ever grace a dancefloor…and one of the best DJs on the planet. All rise for King Hurley…
Steve, a huge welcome to DMCWORLD. A living legend in the DMC house! Like so many of our legends from the 80s, your entry into the world of DJing began at the picnic with a boombox and making cassette pause tapes. Early Hurley was born!!! Who were the artists and tracks you were cutting up back in those early days?
Hey DMC! Kikrokos – “Jungle DJ” beat juggled with a drum machine looped under it, Isaac Hayes – “I Can’t Turn Around” (the vamp), Patrick Adams and Phreek “I’m A Big Freak” are just a few.
It was Herb Bertha, a legendary DJ from south side, who first noticed your potential and gave you a slot in your first DJ Battle at The El Panama Club…which led to battles at The Penthouse on Roosevelt Road, and finally the big Battle at Sauer’s for Dave Risqué’s Gucci Promotions. Iconic days! Back then, was music the only career you wanted to do? Nobody could envisage that five decades later we are still riding this house music wave?
Originally, I thought I wanted to be an Electrical Engineer since my Pops was a Civil Engineer. The college level Math and Science changed my mind about that so I was still figuring my life out. DeeJaying became a skill for me through all the practice in my parents basement, but nobody would give me the opportunity to play at the parties. Once I won all 3 DJ battles, I became a resident for Dave Risqué at Sauer’s, which was the place to be for teens to groove to house music. I just wanted to be the best DJ I could, and by creating new tunes and edits for my crowd, I stumbled upon becoming a producer, songwriter and remixer. It has been a great journey because as the technology changes and you embrace it, new things evolve. When you remain humble and eager to learn, it becomes a fulfilling learning experience. No matter how many accolades you receive, there’s always room to learn in any industry.
Can you remember your first paid DJ gig? How many dollars hit your hand?
Yes, it was a party at a friend’s house from my neighborhood, and I received a whopping $25 while toting speakers, an amplifier and my 2 Technics SL-B1 turntables and Gemini mixer. However it was one of my best experiences because someone saw value in what I was doing behind the decks.
In major news for house music, the UK’s Hard Times celebrates 30 Years in Miami on Saturday night. You are joined by Tony Humphries, Heidi Lawden, Roy Davis Jnr and many more. What are some of your favourite Hard Times memories over the decades?
Because of my insane studio schedule, I’ve mostly only toured as a DJ between my production and writing projects. I remember the Hard Times event that I played several years back and the educated crowd that was excited to hear quality music with a soulful vibe. I’m looking forward to playing with all the well-respected DJs on the bill, including those that laid foundations before me and those that are carrying the torch forward every day. This is actually the first time I’m rockin’ with Tony Humphries, who actually booked my group JM Silk to perform at least 8 times at his legendary Club Zanzibar. We were there as a singing group, so this night should be a magical one to go full circle to the art form that I love the most.
When you discovered that Hard Times founder Steve Raine was one of the UK’s biggest sheep farmers – what did you think? And have you ever visited his farm?
I was pretty amazed by it initially but it actually drives home the point that house music is loved and embraced by so many people from different walks of life.
What music genres turn you off? The dance music has over 300 sub genres now…or is all music good music?
I tend to not judge different genres in a negative way. House music was a new when we launched it. I think that you can always learn something new from a genre when you are exposed to it. I play several sub genres of house music but I may only choose one track to play of the dozens of tracks that catch my ear. And I might play one particular part of a track rather than the whole tune…like I did in my earlier days with the vamps of disco tracks. DeeJaying is a creative art form and exploration of new things make the process exciting and new.
Okay let’s get up and close personal with you for a moment. What is the last GREAT…
Film you saw?
Haven’t seen a lot of great ones lately, but plan on seeing what I’m sure will become one of my favorite ones soon…Creed 3. I love all of the “Rocky” and “Creed” films.
New album you heard?
Ten City and Marshall Jefferson – “Love Is Love “ is a really good album that needs to be heard. Byron Stingily and Marshall always put quality first, and they didn’t disappoint here. There’s also an all-star cast of producers including Chicago’s own Terry Hunter, Maurice Joshua, Emmaculate, and Shebazz Curtis, who was a producer in my Silk Entertainment camp in the mid ‘90s. Byron has an immediately recognizable voice and is so prolific as a songwriter and storyteller.
Exciting DJ you danced to?
During the birth of house music, I used to also go to the Music Box and The Underground just to hear the late Ron Hardy. His energy was on a different level and he took chances as a DJ. Ronnie and the late Frankie Knuckles (at The Powerplant) both played my 4-track cassette demos from reel to reel for their crowds and their residencies became testing grounds for my releases.
Of course since those early days, I have grooved to many of today’s great DJs. I’ve been super impressed by Honey Dijon, Heather and Colette, Derrick Carter and so many more lately.
Studio toy you bought?
Most of my studio toys are software based nowadays. Plug-ins are king, and I sometimes need to feed that addiction! My most important piece of hardware would be the Universal Audio Apollo, which helps to expand or plug-in choices and saves a lot of bandwidth on our computers. We have 3 of those.
You have remixed every legend on the planet from Michael Jackson to Prince to Mary J Blige. What Remix are you proudest of and is there a track out there you’d still love to get your paws on?
Of course Michael Jackson’s “Remember The Time” is one of my favorites but Jomanda’s “Got A Love For You “ was probably the one that I transformed the most, with a completely brand new track, and rearrangement of the vocals. I never knew that record and Roberta Flack’s “Uh Uh Ooh Ooh Look Out (Here It Comes)” would become pioneering remixes that would help redefine the word “remix.” I think I’m most proud of the fact that it became my blueprint for years, and it is still the norm today.
What is coming out next from your mighty S&S Records?
We all have idols. Have you ever felt honored stepping inside a DJ booth to play with one of your heroes?
I have so many fond memories of playing sets with Lil’ Louis, Farley, Ron Hardy, Kenny Jason, and so many other house music pioneers in Chicago. Also one that stands out to me was when I played Body and Soul in NYC with Francois Kervorkian. I knew his music before I knew him.And I’m sure it will be an honor to finally play with Tony Humphries at the Hard Times 30th anniversary this year!
And finally. One track you will take to heaven with you…
Minnie Ripperton – ”Inside My Love”…