The various Wamdue outfits that appeared in the mid-’90s on labels like Acacia, Strictly Rhythm, Sounds and Peacefrog breathed fresh air into deep house, bringing back the essence of past masters like Marshall Jefferson, Wayne Gardiner and Larry Heard and in the process pushing the genre forward. I interviewed Wamdue member Chris Brann on the phone while he was in his home city of Atlanta, Georgia. I loved many of their releases and hammered quite a few of them out on the decks. It was a pleasure talking to Brann and getting some idea of his influences, ideas and creative process.
Chris To The Power Of 3
Even Though Wamdue Kids Have Only Been Around Since ’94 Their Music Has Certainly Made An Impact. The Reason For This Rapid Arrival On The Scene Is Due To Their Evolved, Melodic, House Sound. XLR8R’s Chris Orr (The Fourth Chris…) Has A Chat With ‘Em.
Wamdue Kids is made up of Chris Brann and DJs Deep C and Chris Udoh. Their sound reflects a deep love for quality house and good old Detroit techno. The Wamdue sound fits in with the current wave of deep, abstract, but ultimately melodic house and techno. This is nothing new, but will surely soon be tagged by some near-sighted music journo. In fact, the Wamdue Kids’ music is a furthering of the legacy of the early house music innovators. A phone call to Wamdue HQ in the Olympic city, and chief knob manipulator Chris Brann, threw more than a few beams of light on the subject of their sudden, but welcome, arrival on the scene.
Brann claims that his outfit’s sound comes from a wide variety of influences. “I am into dance music, but dance music is a by-product of so many other things. If you’re completely entrenched within your genre I really don’t think you can further your genre. My influences are varied, I like the rhythms, harmony and counterpoint of Steve Reich, I’m influenced by very musical stuff. To be really specific my influences are Derrick May, Marshall Jefferson and Larry Heard. These are all people who were doing this ten years ago and then it got lost, things got weird for a while, house music became very popular and then you had the whole techno exploitation thing. Right now that sound is resurfacing very nicely.”
“To me our contemporaries in this sound are people like Charles Webster, I really like Jedi Knights and Global Communication stuff that’s coming out now like “Chicago Chicago” by Secret Ingredients. To me the house sound has gone full circle. In our music everything is there, I mean I love a lot of unadulterated r ‘n’ b, I listen to mainstream r ‘n’ b as much as I listen to the most avant jazz stuff. At the moment a lot of dance music is drawing from seventies space jazz (Lonnie Smith, Dexter Wansel) and you can hear a lot more dub influences now. Records like “Expansions” by Lonnie Smith are a blueprint for a lot of stuff that’s happening right now and that was released nearly 25 years ago.”
The sound Chris Brann and his partners Chris Udoh and Deep C (all three members of Wamdue are called Chris) have honed is very much what you would call proper house, a return to the intricacies inherent in keyboard driven music. If that is one remarkable aspect of their work, the other one is the volume of their work, the Wamdue boys are very busy. By the end of this year they will have put out four albums on four different labels as well as several singles. This all proves that Chris Brann is an audio workhorse, but he claims it is because he is a musician, not a DJ. “The whole idea of DJs thinking musically has decreased over the years, being a great DJ means being a great musician, whether you technically realize it or not. You’re talking about having a great musical feel. All the work I do is practice, at the moment, I don’t want to be legendary, I just want to do a lot of good stuff. What I’m doing right now is just kiddie play, I want full-on budgets to make great albums.”
In Chris Brann’s opinion, house is the center of gravity for Wamdue, not house as a technical entity, but house as a feeling. “House is a feeling, that may be a cliché, but it doesn’t matter if it’s jungle or any other form of dance music because it’s coming from that line of tradition that house comes from. I feel that no one needs to splinter off another fucking section of house music. People have referred to our music as old school but that has no bearing on me, OK it’s old school in the sense that it is traditional, but when I do a track it’s an experiment in sound. People will say that the “Deep Dreams” EP sounds like Marshall Jefferson; I never intended it to sound like that”
Personally speaking I found that “Deep Dreams,” like the work of Charles Webster, has a strong, perhaps not intentional, Mediterranean feel, the essence of classic deep, Italian house. Chris seems flattered by this utterance on my part, but I am not indulging my sycophantic side, merely stating the obvious. “Well the Italians have a great sense of disco that some of the more European stuff didn’t absorb ’til later and the first wave of Italian house is so disco oriented.” Like the Italians Chris also appreciates the legacy of disco and the importance of depth and texture in a track, regardless of how minimal it may be, even though his ambition is to produce a very full, well-produced, house sound.
“The whole thing about being a mature producer is knowing when to lay off trying to achieve a full sound and opt for something more minimal. However, people say to me that a lot of our stuff is too deep, that they can’t feel the music because there isn’t enough ear candy in it. However, in order to push the boundaries of house you have to know the history, listen to something like “E2 E4” by Manuel Gottsching, it’s a blueprint for techno, for house. House music isn’t just a groove and that isn’t just contained within the drumbeat. In order to truly create a groove you have to release textures and sounds within it.” Chris’ ambition is apparent in any one of the Wamdue tracks and also in the bulk of material he, Chris Udoh and Deep C have produced. In September there will be a full-length CD release from Wamdue Project called “Resource Toolbox’ Vol. 1,” a diverse collection, with the “Deep” EP taken from the album and a set of remixes yet to come on vinyl.
As a closing shot I ask Chris if their work on Strictly Rhythm is a return to the classic Strictly releases of ’90 and ’91. Before I even complete the question he enthusiastically retorts “I am not doing this consciously…Gladys Pizarro…I really respect her because she is going out of her way to bring that sound back again, she has completely taken a risk by doing this and she’s doing it with us.” Chris sees their sound as a continuation of the timeless house released on Strictly by people like Wayne Gardiner (Logic), Roger S and Andrew ‘Rags’ Richardson and goes on to say that the first track on their upcoming and very diverse album on Peacefrog (released at the same time as the Strictly album) is very influenced by Wayne Gardiner. By the end of ’96 Wamdue will really mean something to a lot more people, with three albums in September alone, an album coming up on Woody McBride’s ‘Sounds‘ imprint and another project called “Inflight Entertainment,” which is Chris’ music for air flight.
The sound on these releases will encompass everything from jungle to Detroit techno to Loft-style disco tracks. Chris Brann certainly knows where he comes from and if he takes time off from his schedule he might even think about where he’s going. By the time he thinks about it he’ll probably already be there and Wamude will be taking true house music into the 21st century.