A Chat with Sharam Before Tonight's Show at The Mid

The summer is here, the weather is hot and Sharam has arrived in Chicago to make you dance. The house DJ has been shaking dust off the walls for more than two decades, and extends the streak tonight with what's sure to be an excellent set at the Mid.  Putting in more than 15 years as one half of house-duo Deep Dish, Sharam hits the road solo as well, continuing to build upon his formidable reputation as a master of the 1+2's. He's also celebrating the recent release of his new project Retroactive, an album finding the perfect groove between careening force and a light step. We caught up with the DJ and asked some questions about music, Chicago, and making people dance half your life. Don't forget to buy tickets! 21 plus.

These Days: What does live performance mean to you, as a DJ?

Sharam: If a basketball player doesn’t play 82 games during the regular season, they probably won’t perform to the best of their abilities in the playoffs – even if they are super talented. DJing on a regular basis is a way to hone your skills and when you go on something like an album tour, all that ‘training’ and experience pays off as you are able to put on a great show for the fans.

TD: You were a member of Deep Dish for more than a decade. How does your solo material depart from your work with Deep Dish? And how has the adjustment to being a solo artist been?

S: My approach to making music doesn’t change a lot. I let the ideas brew and try to finish what’s in my head based on how I envision the track. I don’t pay too much attention to the genre it ends up being in. When you are working with someone else, naturally there will be two sets of ideas and inputs, and the back-and- forth’s and compromises you make produce a unique sound. Regardless of composing solo or with Deep Dish, quality is always the most important thing. I’m always mindful not to go the generic, cookie-cutter direction. Focus is always on innovation and pushing the boundaries.

TD: As a house DJ, have you drawn inspiration from any older Chicago House artists?

S: Of course! Over the years I’ve been influenced heavily by the Chicago sound. I love the warehouse vibes of Trax records, Steve ‘Silk’ Hurly, to stuff like E-Smoove and Maurice Joshua records. I draw on those tunes a lot still. Who knows, maybe my next project will focus on the late 80s Chicago house sound, since the idea of Retroactive has become a theme in my work. :o)

TD: You’ve had a couple of songs explode. How do you handle the massive popularity of one track and moving past that?

S: I get past it very easily, because to me all records that I make are the same. Their popularity makes people think a certain way about me, which creates expectations for me to do the same thing again and again. That is the part that ultimately becomes a topic for conversation. I don’t lose sleep over it. I enjoy having a prolific portfolio of music regardless of their success or genre. I usually move on to the next record I’m making without trying to replicate a past success.

TD: You’ve got a track “Crazi Flute” with synth pioneer Giorgio Moroder on your new project “Retroactive”. How was working with him, and any other notable artists you’ve worked with in the past, or that you would like to work with in the future?

S: Giorgio is one of my musical heros and to be able to have him on my album was a dream come true. He paved the way for electronic music as we know it. A great deal of influences on this album go back to the Italo-disco sound of the 80s. I was heavily into those records and I always wanted to incorporate that sound into my music. I was able to tap into that sound for tracks like Same, Blind, Over You, Arpi, and of course Crazi Flute. As far as wanting to work with others, my dreams pretty much came true by having Giorgio’s name appear next to mine on that track. In my life I’ve been fortunate enough to realize a few great collaborations. For example, I did a record with Patsy Cline (long time dream of mine) and added Kid Cudi to it for good measure. It was called She Came Along. I’ve done a record penned by Chris Martin called Fun. I did a record with Puff Daddy – actually two of them; one myself and one with Deep Dish, and I had my name next to Rick James. What else can you ask for? I’m doing OK in that department… I can die happy.