By Jef With One F
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Houston house producer-remixer DJ Jake Childs has a lot going on. His label, Uniform Recordings, is moving into a warren of offices behind Atomic Music on Montrose. Artists and labels from London to California are picking up his jazzy, plush deep house tracks. The national and international dance music press has called him the "man of the moment" and dubbed his music as "right up there with all the usual suspects." He just signed a deal with San Francisco's Om Records, one of the most respected labels in the electronic music field. He's also got a two-leg European fall tour coming up that will land him in nightspots from Croatia to Brussels to Ireland. At this year's Winter Music Conference in Miami, Childs was extremely gratified to hear his records being spun by the world's top DJs at America's biggest dance music event. Like Paul Wall, he's "got the Internet goin' nuts": Google "Jake Childs" and "playlist" and you get more than 2,000 hits -- on American, British, German, Croatian, Italian and Belgian sites.
A few years ago, Childs told everybody who would listen that it would happen this way, but most people just blew him off. "A long time ago, I went into his bathroom and he had written the labels that he wanted to go after on his mirror," says local DJ and dance-music maven Gracie Chavez, who serves as his informal, quasi-publicist. "I thought, 'Wow, this guy is driven!' But back when he first started putting his music out there, he was always saying, 'Oh, I'm gonna get my stuff played on here,' a lot of people doubted him."
"They all thought I was a bullshitter, man," says Childs with a smile.
"You talked about it so much, but finally when it started happening, it shut a lot of people up," Chavez says. "He has a love-hate relationship with most of the producers and promoters here."
"I don't blame the doubters," Childs says. "They're just being human. You can't blame 'em for being human."
Neither can you blame Childs for gloating a little, but that's not what he's about, at least not today. Right now, he's more interested in showing a reporter his budding music complex, the place where his dream to raise Houston's house scene to another level is taking place.
Here's an office where his Agenda Media public relations, bookings and management firm soon will set up shop. (Inland Knights is his prime bookings client right now.) There's where the label business will be conducted, and not just that of Uniform. Paul Dyne's Heights Music and Chello's Housetown Records also will be based here.
"I'm trying to get a bunch of people fired up," Childs says. "I can show them the tricks of the trade. Well, not really tricks, but stuff like distribution. I learned a lot -- I've had Uniform for a while, and I've learned the ins and outs."
Over here is the studio control room, complete with mixing board and computers, not to mention keyboards, guitars and a trumpet. Childs, the adopted son of a father who was a trumpeter in a navy jazz band, can play all of those instruments.
"My dad taught me how to play them," he says. "I'm not the best at each one, but knowing them gives weight to my productions."
And weighty his productions are. Each of his Uniform releases comes out on one of three color-coded imprints -- Black, White or Gray -- that clues listeners in on what to expect.
"The White is pure and jazzy but with organic elements," he says. "Black is also jazzy, but it has synthy elements. And Gray is totally off-the-wall, trippy stuff. I wanted everything uniform, in black and white."
Each style fits under the house umbrella, though, and this tripartite label reflects the many shades of house. In much the same way that KTSU touts its programming as "jazz in all its colors," Childs says the Uniform name is meant to convey that there are many tones to his music.
"There's a house music uniform," he says. "People have different ways, but if we all like house music, that's our uniform."
Childs moved through a bunch of other outfits before finding his current, well-fitting gear. As a child in Austin, he was into "cheesy rock -- stuff like Quiet Riot and Twisted Sister," he remembers, and adds that more death-type metal bands like Slayer and DRI were next in his musical bio. A gangsta rap phase followed, and then, after he moved to San Antonio, he got turned on to techno.
"This girl I was bangin' gave me a techno CD, and I was really into it, because I was really into her," he remembers. Soon thereafter, Childs was a fixture on San Antonio's underground rave scene.
One thing all those song forms have in common is a high level of aggression. Childs says that was how he felt at the time. "I'm slowly, surely calming down," he jokes, but he still possesses more nervous energy than a hummingbird pumped full of sugary espresso.
Childs moved to Houston to attend art school, and it was here that he discovered MK Ultra, the KTRU radio show hosted by Houston's rave scene godfather, Chris Anderson. Childs also discovered Houston's then-young house scene, which once had an important outpost in a southwest Houston underground warehouse club called Middle Earth. "I was like, 'What the hell is this?' But I started getting into it, and it was a really good time."