Photo courtesy of Erich Williams and EROC Productions.
Chicago\’s very own interest group aimed at bringing house music to the people of Chicago granted me the awesome opportunity for a Q and A with it\’s two creators: Marco Sgalbazzini and Elwin Ried.
You can\’t go to a festival or EDM show in Chicago without seeing someone donning some sort of House of Chi apparel. Whether it\’s cute girls atop guys shoulders waving their flag to the beat or a guy head bobbing in the crowd while sporting a pair of their shades, HoC supporters are seen everywhere.
Through the expansion of HoC since it\’s inception in January 2012, they\’ve networked their way around town to be able to offer free or heavily discounted entry into the hottest shows for their followers. They also have tickets to our amazing hometown festivals (Spring Awakening, Wavefront and North Coast) at a no-fee-included face value cost.
With a name like \”House of Chi\” (which couldn\’t be more perfect) and discounts to the best shows, I was immediately drawn to what this group was trying to do: bring house music lovers together to talk about the music and shows we love and make it cheaper for everyone to enjoy. Simple. Genius.
I had to learn more about the people who came up with such a great idea that benefits every EDM lover in Chicago. Through a friend of a friend–you\’ll notice the beautiful pattern of people helping people that surrounds HoC–I was able to get in touch with Elwin and Marco and obtain direct insight on who these guys are, what House of Chi is and where they plan to take it in the future.
How did you two meet?
We met through mutual friends at the end of 2011 and we immediately started going to shows here in Chicago. It was definitely the fact that we spent time going to shows together and that we shared a passion for electronic music that helped build our friendship.
Marco moved here from Milan, Italy. Marco, what brought you to Chicago?
I moved here 3 1/2 years ago to pursue a degree in business and I am currently less than a year away from graduating at DePaul University. I chose Chicago because I had visited before and loved the city. Turns out it was one of the best decisions I have made in my life.
Marco, can you talk a little about the difference between the house music scene in Europe vs. the U.S.?
The dance music scene overall is very different in Europe, but that doesn\’t necessarily equate to it being better. Truth is house music was born right here in Chicago and techno only a 5 hour drive away in Detroit. Somehow America lost its way somewhere but the music has done a full circle and returned back on this side of the Atlantic and I think that is a good thing. While there has been a boom of genres such as British-born Dubstep, trap and moombah, there are more and more people embracing the revival of real house, techno, deep house and other underground sounds. There are great festivals both here and in Europe and the US has some amazing and unique clubs. Although there are some unimportant differences, the main thing I noticed here in the US is the strong sense of camaraderie and real togetherness in every show. Something that seems to be unequalled anywhere else. I have met life-long friends on dance floors both here in Chicago and at festivals across the US. To give you an example, my current roommate moved from New York City to Chicago a couple of months ago. I had met him at Ultra Music Festival in Miami in March 2012 and we immediately became friends. When he decided to pursue his master\’s degree he chose Northwestern University in Chicago because when he visited and got to meet the House of Chi crew, he couldn\’t see himself anywhere else.
Where did you get the idea for House of Chi?
A friend of ours had started a Facebook group with the aim of staying in touch with people he met at shows and festivals and to serve as a hub for people to post info on festivals and new tracks they ran across. From this, we got the idea to make our own little group based solely in Chicago and that\’s how it started in Jan 2012. At first it was just a handful of people and soon enough we began adding strangers who we met on dance floors across the city with whom we were building real friendships with outside of club walls.
When did HoC begin?
By the time May 2012 came, the group had grown exponentially to numbers we never imagined when we started the group. Best of all, the interaction within the group was huge, with tens of daily posts and a lot of participation. Marco was already involved in promoting for another company when we started the group and he had been using his passwords and connections in the industry to give group members discount deals and entries to shows. It just came to a point where it had grown so much that it seemed like the right thing to do to take House of Chi into our own hands and provide a service to our friends independently of other existing companies.
Was HoC ever almost named something else? If so, what?
No, from the get-go it was named House of Chi. We chose the name to represent house music in Chicago (the birthplace of house) and it fit well as we intended the group to be a home for our friends and friends of friends to find the latest news in the electronic dance music scene in Chicago and beyond.
How many people would you say are directly involved with HoC?
In addition to us two, we have one other club promoter who has been working under us for a while now. We also have a street team of three additional people who work on promoting and marketing the various festivals we work at. Yearly we work with Spring Awakening Music Festival, Wavefront Music Festival and North Coast Music Festival in marketing their events and selling tickets in large quantities for a reduced price.
We are however looking to expand and to add members to both our club night promotion team and our street team. Our contact information will follow.
What kind of people make up the core group of HoC?
Mostly it\’s a group consisting of friends and friends of friends. All of whom share a strong love for dance music. It is natural that within the group there are aspiring DJs, some of whom have began recently and others who have been working in the industry for longer. One of these DJs for example is Jeff Roehl, who goes by the name of Xonic. We met Jeff when he was at an early point of his career and decided to work together beginning with our first party, which he headlined. We have continued to work with him since. Throwing several parties and mutually supporting each other as House of Chi and his career took off. It has been great seeing him rise to where he is at now: after opening for several big names at the Mid he played Da Main Stage at Spring Awakening Festival, played at Wavefront Music Festival and is slotted to play at North Coast Music Festival.
Are either of you DJs?
No, neither of us are actually.
What are your favorite genres of EDM? Favorite DJs currently?
Elwin: I will listen to everything. I have a pretty diverse taste in music but Trance is my favorite. Again, while I like a large range of DJs, I would say Above & Beyond are my top DJs.
Marco: I have gone through a little bit of a music transformation as far as my taste is concerned. I began listening to dance music 13 years ago when I first heard Armin van Buuren\’s \”Communication\”. While Trance has always been my go-to genre, I have embraced underground sounds more as the years have passed. Right now I listen to a lot of techno and Marco Carola is my favorite producer and DJ, but I also particularly enjoy listening to anything from the Life & Death and Hot Natured labels such as Tale of Us, Mind Against, Jamie Jones, Lee Foss and more.
What was the last show you attended?
We are out at The MID and Spybar every weekend and last week we hosted Tim Green, Simon Patterson and Dzeko & Torres at our nights. We have also both attended Movement Detroit, EDC Chicago, Spring Awakening, EDC Las Vegas and Wavefront Music festival so far this year.
How did you get clubs around town to give free or discounted entry to shows?
It really began with the fact that Marco was already promoting at some of the clubs in the city. We used his connections and friendships with club staff to approach them about House of Chi and create deals that served our group the best.
Do each of you handle different aspects of the business?
Yes, Elwin handles more of the back-end part of the business such as accounting, merchandise, legal functions and ideas for marketing/promotion and expansion. Marco mainly works on being the face of House of Chi: promoting, marketing and networking with both our group, new people and the clubs/festivals we work at.
It seems like HoC started as a group of friends who seemed to all know each other, but is now open to the public. Can you talk a little about the decision to open it up to anyone?
It really was just a natural progression. We saw how large the group had become, we were already working on hooking up our friends with deals, so it only made sense that we take the next step.
What do you want House of Chi to become? Where do you see yourselves in 5 years?
As of right now we host club nights and work for the major dance music festivals in the city. We also provide a group for people to meet and interact on a daily basis on matters relating to the scene. The group has grown to over 300 people and still generates a large amount of daily interaction and we feel that is the key to House of Chi being different.
In this first year we established ourselves in the city and achieved our goal of learning the business, making important connections in the industry and getting our name out there to create an important fan base. In this next coming year we want to move on to organizing bigger events where we are first-hand promoters as well as to expand into hosting our own festival and owning our own club.
It must be a really awesome feeling when you\’re at a show and you see the HoC flag go up in the crowd or walk past someone you\’ve never met with a pair of HoC shades on. Can you describe the feelings of seeing your idea flourish like that?
Yeah it is always amazing to see that at festival. Or better yet to have people come up to us because they recognize the logo we are wearing on the merchandise we created. We never envisioned something like this when we started, but the \”House of Chi\” name and logo is something a lot of people can not only relate to but find as a true representation of the amazing scene in this city.
Any new merch going to be available in your store?
Yes, we do have plans to revamp our store and bring out a whole new merchandise line. The idea is to have it ready for the beginning of the Spring 2014 festival season!
After chatting with Elwin and Marco all of my suspicions were true: they really are as cool as you would imagine and they really do embody what EDM is all about. Their main goal is to bring Chicago house music lovers together to enjoy good times and great music. Everyone I\’ve ever met that\’s associated with their group are exactly the kind of amazing people you want to meet. For instance, a friend of mine was going to go to a show alone once because he couldn\’t find any friends who were down to go out that night. He posted on the HoC Facebook wall that he was looking to find some people to hang out with there. Someone responded, they met up at the show, had a great time and are now good friends who continue to go to shows together. I have since then met this friend, had an awesome time at shows with him too, and now consider him a good friend of mine. All thanks to the platform HoC has brought our EDM community in Chicago. People helpin\’ people–it\’s powerful stuff.
Please take the time to \”like\” House of Chi on Facebook and follow them on Twitter. They keep you up to date on all the hottest DJs coming to town as well as provide you with discounted rates to clubs. Their \”HOUSE OF CHI\” password works at The MID on Thursday and Saturdays, and at Spybar on Fridays. They host private events and are currently selling North Coast Music Festival tickets with no extra fees. They can also be reached via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.