Gearspace was barely 5 years old back in 2008 when we were graced by the presence of Marshall Jefferson for a super cool Q&A. The Chicago-born, UK-transplanted musician/producer is considered to be THE 'founding father' of house music and practically invented the genre which would cross oceans and fill clubs around the world for decades - not to mention sell a LOT of records. His debut 'Move Your Body' is ubiquitous, being not only famous in clubs but also having featured as a sync in more than a few narrative films, documentaries and TV shows. He talks in-depth in this article about that famous cut, drum machines, DAWs, effects units and much more! It was great to have him around and we hope you enjoy reading it!



[top]Move Your Body has got to be one of the most influential (and most sampled) house records in existence. Can you give us some detail regarding the inspiration that led to the production of the track and what gear was used to both perform and record it?

Also, how do you feel about the fact that so many people have sampled snippets of your tracks to incorporate into their own productions (Jeff Mills' "Shifty Disco E.P." comes to mind)? Do you regard it as a homage to your work - or do you feel that it is a violation of your copyrighted material? - Teknosmoker


The inspiration? I heard a tune in my head that actually had female vocals, not with the Move Your Body words but other words. Come to think of it now, I think I'll write a tune with those words. It came to me while working the graveyard shift at the Chicago Post Office (12am-8:30am) on a letter sorting machine. From there I rushed home to get it down.

I programmed the drums, piano, and bass there, then scheduled a session at my friend Lito Manlucu's Tascam 8 track studio. I called all my friends at the Post Office-Thomas Carr, Rudy Forbes, and Curtis McClain, and told them I had a song i wanted to do at the studio, and they came. I still hadn't written vocals though.

Prophet 2000

Everybody got to the studio, and I wrote the verse and the chorus in the studio. I added a string line by playing half the piano line through a Prophet 2000 string sound. Prophet 2000 was also used for the piano. Roland Jx 8p was used for the bass. Now I know technically better piano sounds have come and gone since that old 32kHz Prophet piano sound but none of them sound better to me.

Anyway, we finished mixing the tune and I looked at the guys like I'd just written the greatest song of all time. They thought it sucked. They weren't too excited about it. Studio time recording and mixing took about 3 hours.

That night, I took the song 1st to the Sheba Baby club, where my friends Mike Dunn, Tyree Cooper, and Hugo Hutchinson were DJ'ing. This was before they all had records out, and I was known as Virgo. (loved that nickname!) They loved the song and I gave them a cassette copy, but they said it wasn't House music because of the piano. From there I drove to the Music Box to give Ron Hardy a copy. Outside in the car I played it on my car system for some friends (One was K-Alexi) and I don't think they were too impressed. I'd had about 15 unreleased songs playing in the Music Box at that time and they thought some of my other stuff was much hotter. They also said it wasn't House Music because of the piano.

After that, I went into the Music Box and gave DJ Ron Hardy a copy while he was playing. I didn't expect him to play it right away; usually I just gave him a copy and he'd listen to it later and maybe play it the next weekend. This time he put it in the cassette machine right away. I saw his head quickly go into a violent bobbing motion and I knew he liked the song. He immediately put it on and played it 6 times in a row, putting on a sound effects record while he rewound the tape.

From there it became the biggest song in the Music Box. Ron told me not to give it to anybody else, and I held off for a while, but there were other DJ's in the city that wanted it and finally I gave in when Frankie Knuckles, Ron Hardy's biggest rival got a copy of it. Prior to that, I took it to Trax Records to press it up on my own label. At that time Larry Sherman, the owner, considered himself a House music expert because he'd previously put out Jesse Saunders stuff and also 4 of my records. He hated the song and said it wasn't House music because of the piano. I didn't care and paid him to press the record up.

13 months passed before he finally pressed it up, but there were some things that happened before that......................

After Frankie Knuckles got a copy of it, it seemed the flood gates opened. I had to give Lil Louis and Fast Eddie copies, because Eddie lived 2 doors down from me on my block and Lil Louis lived on the next block. Mike Dunn, Tyree Cooper, and Hugo Hutchinson already had copies. Pretty soon it seemed like every DJ in Chicago had copies................some really bad and some passable, but crowds freaked every time it came on.

International DJ's played it to and this is how I tracked down how they got copies, after talking to the DJ's and members of the press:

1. Frankie Knuckies got his copy from my friend Sleezy D.
2. Frankie Knuckles' best friend was Larry Levan from New York's Paradise Garage. At that time, DJ's from all over the world would fly to New York to hear what Larry played, because whatever was popular there became hits.
3. Somehow DJ Alfredo from Ibiza got a copy of it, and started playing it in Ibiza.
4. English DJ's Paul Oakenfold, Danny Rampling, and Jazzy M got copies. Pete Tong and Paul "Trouble" Anderson got copies too, but I'm not sure if they got it at the same time as the 1st 3 or not.
5. Once the English DJ's started playing, things got weird, because the press got involved. England was quick to jump on a new music trend and got on it right away. "Move Your Body" had the words "Gotta have House music, all night long", and with that "House" music, you can't go wrong!" so naturally, the next task was finding out what house music was and getting the full scoop.

I started hearing English accents asking me for interviews when I answered the phone. I thought it was my friends screwing with me, but damn, those accents sounded authentic. I did a few phone interviews and suddenly, a whole herd of British Press all flew to Chicago to interview any and everyone involved with House music. They sat in on sessions and took loads of pics. Of course, Larry Sherman considered himself the resident expert on House Music and offered to take all the press around to all the House music clubs in the city. At that time I'd tried everything to get Larry to press up Move Your Body, but he hated it and said it wasn't House Music. It was because he said it wasn't House music that I called it "The House Music Anthem". I even paid him with my own money to press it up. And he still hadn't done it.

Well, when Larry took the press around to all the House clubs, Move Your Body was the hottest song playing at every single club-on dirty cassettes. The day after he took the press around to all those clubs, Move Your Body was finally on vinyl.

When "Move Your Body" got released, it wasn't released on my label, it was released on Trax records. Larry did a last minute hack job because he was so excited , and didn't even bother to recut or remaster it, he just scratched out my label number (OS2 for Other Side Records 2) on the mothers and added his own (Tx 117) to this day you know you have an original pressing if you see where he scratched out my label number.

Another thing that gave me grief was he put down "Marshall Jefferson" as the artist. I had been using the nickname "Virgo" for more than a year and it was my 1st nickname. All my life i wanted a nickname but never had one, the song being so popular totally blew Virgo to the side and I haven't used it since. The artist on "Move Your Body" was supposed to be "On The House"- my friends from the Post Office, Curtis McClain, Rudy Forbes, and Thomas Carr, and putting it mildly, when the record came out as "Marshall Jefferson", they weren't too pleased.

They stormed over to my house and asked me wtf was going on. I told them Larry Sherman put it out on his label instead of mine without my consent. They didn't believe me and I gave them the address to Trax Records so they could go and talk to Larry and straighten it out.

Well, when they got there Larry basically told them that Marshall Jefferson was the name on the label and they could kiss his ass, before telling them to get lost not very politely. They came back over to my house and told me how Larry was a crook and all that. Somebody came up with the idea of me signing an affidavit that they sang on the record and that's what I did.

They then took the signed affidavit to Larry and Larry told them that they were really great singers, and he'd given me $150,000 and put my name on the song because I'd signed a contract. They stormed back over my house and asked me for some of the $150,000. I told them that he hadn't given me $150,000 and in fact I'd paid him $1500 to press up 1000 copies on my own label, but they didn't believe me, even after I showed them the receipt. They said they were going to sign a contract with Trax Records because Larry was going to put their names on records and pay them a lot of money. I tried to talk them out of signing a contract, but the lead singer Curtis said I was trying to keep him from being as famous as I was and I was jealous.

Now please understand when you hear your record playing on the radio, and you have friends and family putting pressure on you, sometimes things get irrational. This is what I put it down to and I tried my best to talk them out of signing a contract, but they did it anyway. To make a long story short Larry gave them no money, but he did put their names on 2 records.

I have been fighting to get the rights back for "Move Your Body" for 20+ years. This is why people have sampled the record with no consequences. Todd Terry did it 1st, then had the nerve to sue Jungle Brothers for sampling his sample of me. The floodgates seemed to open after Todd did it, it seems like everyone started doing it after that.

My feelings on it? At firstI was pretty pissed off. I've never sampled another artist because of that. And also I discourage anyone I've ever worked with from sampling. I play all my keyboards on all my records myself, and I started out not knowing how to play anything at all. My technique? When I first started, I would play stuff at 40-60 bpms into the sequencer and speed it up to 120+. Easy. I couldn't understand why everyone else couldn't just play whatever they wanted the same way.

All my friends saw how I did it, and started doing it too. This is why almost all of the original Chicago guys have their own sound: it's because we played everything ourselves. Now something got lost when other areas started making it and they assumed we were all hiring keyboard players. I considered sampling other peoples music the absolute bottom of the barrel. The sampled people had paid to hire full orchestras, some 50+ musicians, and some kid at home had the nerve to just sample it and call it his own. Sorry about feeling this way, but I did and still do.

That's not even including what I saw then about the industry wide ramifications: every single person on the planet now had the ability to make a record. This had been started with sequencing, I'm living proof of that. But this was different. I thought within 50 years, there would be no more musicians. Why would there be? Who would sit at home for hours practicing when their friend next door sounds great right away by sampling something? I could easily see releases going from 20 a week to 20,000+ a week-and it's happened already!

As I got older, I stopped getting mad about it and told myself, if they're going to sample me, make sure it's the best quality, because they're starting to get 4th generation samples now; dance music has no history now because of the flood of releases. They don't know that their sample is DJ X-who sampled DJ Y-who sampled DJ Z-who sampled DJ O, who got his sample from Masters At Work. If they sampled Masters at Work 1st then the quality would be almost acceptable. But we're starting to get really crap quality now, and people are thinking everything in dance music has ****ty quality.

I want House music quality to be great because if it sucks, that wipes out everything I've spent my whole music career trying to do-improve the quality and perception of House music.


[top]One of my favorite house tracks of all time has to be 'Your Only Friend'. Marshall, I read somewhere that the idea for the sinister voice on that track was very much your idea. How did you get that sinister sounding voice - was there a Harmonizer or pitch shifter involved? Am I even close? - Barilla


And a cheap harmonizer at that! It definitely wasn't an Eventide and I forgot which one it was because it was the 1st and only time I used that studio.

Spanky wrote the words for it, I came up with the "this is cocaine speaking" because I thought the high folks on the dance floor would have trouble making the connection. If they were sitting at home I'm sure they'd get it, but out on a night out it's kind of tough



Roland TR-707

[top]Just wondering whether you still use the old Roland drum machines (ie. tr-707, TR-808)? I haven't heard any of these on your recent material. I particularly loved your TR-707 drums on the early stuff. I read somewhere some of your early acid tracks given to Ron Hardy and others were never released. Is that correct and do you still have the tapes? You should release them if you do. Call it the lost Marshall acid tapes...Your melodic work speaks for itself (The Anthem, Feel Me, Mushrooms etc) however I'm a huge fan of your early percussive acid stuff and would love to here more, new or old. - Kikumotoallstars


A lot of that unreleased stuff I gave to Ron Hardy on cassette...............I would estimate it's at least 15 tunes......I suppose I could round some of them up, but it would be horrible quality.......they were all demos that I recorded on my Tascam 4 track.

About the drum machines............all my early equipment was stolen because I toured so much. 3 different places I lived, 3 robberies that cleaned me out while I was away. My 1st TR-707 was stolen and sold to Bam Bam and that's how we met. It got damaged and BAM told the thief he wanted it fixed. The thief said he was sorry and took it back-then sold it to someone else.

Roland TB-303 Bass Line

My TB-303 was the only piece that wasn't stolen and I sold it to BAM for $1000. I'd only paid $150 for it and and I thought he was nuts for paying that much for it, but he made me sign my name with a permanent marker and I think it's worth much more now.


[top]Could you tell us a little bit about some of your favorite gear, some classic pieces of gear from the past and also about your current setup. - Tom H


I use Logic. I tried Cubase but it revolted against me, I couldn't figure it out. I'd click record and it wouldn't record. I bought Logic and I wrote a song 15 minutes after it was installed. So, I use Logic because it was easier for me to figure out than Cubase. Drums I use are Stylus, Guru, and BFD. Guru has the best timing. I use Liquid Mix and Waves V Series for EQ/compression. Audio interface is Apogee Duet. On the road I take the Liquid Mix, the Apogee Duet, and my laptop and I can remix anything with what's in my laptop bag.

I've had a Roland Jx 8P for 23 years. Roland U220...Drum machines Roland 707, TR-727, TR-909, TR-808, Roland R8. TB-303, but I sold it to Bam Bam. I've used an MPC60 and MPC3000, but never owned them. Other keyboards I've owned were Casio FZ1, Prophet 2000, Korg ex 800, Ensoniq Mirage, Korg O1W, and Ensoniq Esq1. That's pretty much it, I like to stay with keyboards for years and years.


Roland JX-8P


[top]I was wondering if you might be able to share with us your techniques for creating kick drums. - Fishy1500


Try combining 2 or 3 kicks, or maybe even 4. If physically combining them in a sampler doesn't work, try playing the same midi file through them all simultaneously.


[top]Tell us the chain of events of how a MJ track usually comes alive. :-) - perx


I usually see multiple elements before I even get close to a keyboard, so I just start with whatever I feel 1st.......................but bassline and drums are usually last, with the exception of the kick, which I'll put down for timing. The keyboard parts are much easier for me than the drums, which need a lot more micromanagement.


[top]Where would you spend most of your time if you were starting out, what would be your path of focus to get out there and be able to contribute on a professional basis and make an impact? - Strobian


I would do what I did back in the day: find out who was successful in my area, then either join them or learn from them. Find out how you could contribute to their situation and how it could benefit you in the long run.

The focus for yourself should be artist development and a finished album. If you're not the artist that you feel a label would be interested in, find a great singer that you vibe with.



Ensoniq Mirage

[top]I'm curious about the recording of Video Clash. I'm interested in the sounds you used. Was it just a distorted JX-8P and a TR-707? It really has an incessant tone and still blows minds whenever I play it. - Kikumotoallstars


No, I used an Ensoniq Mirage for the drums, "rock drums" sound to be exact, and it was banging. So banging that the keyboard was stolen 2 weeks later. Keyboard sound was JX8P with the drum pattern playing through it.


[top]Can you describe what happened to the artists from Chicago? Can you share some experiences/lessons from both people who have made mistakes, and people who did not? - Levonvincent


One of the top producers of the 80's got ripped off for millions. He'd signed a publishing deal with one publisher for 50,000. He got 3 huge hits out and got offered another deal for $600,000 by another publisher. His manager made a deal with the publisher that the producer would write all new songs for them-under the manager's name. The producer agreed to this because he hadn't received any publisher checks yet from the 1st publisher---his manager told him he was getting screwed.

Since the producer thought all he would see from publishing was the advance amounts, $600k seemed like a good deal. Well, the producer started getting huge checks from the 1st publisher for the hits he wrote for them-way more than the 600k advance he got from the 2nd publisher. He had written 3 top ten hits for the 1st publisher, but 15+ ton ten hits for the 2nd publisher.

He not only got no checks from the 2nd publisher, he also got no statements. Why? the publishing deal was in the manager's name. He fired the manager, but the manager still owns 100% of the songs to this day, and the producer can never sue because that would be admitting he committed fraud against the 1st publisher.


[top]What is your vision of house for the future? - crufty


We just need a change of focus. House artists have always concentrated on the music almost exclusively. Most rappers I meet already have an idea of what's going to be in their 1st video, how many babes they'll have in it, how they'll present themselves as artists, etc etc.

Most House/Dance artists have absolutely no idea what they're going to do, especially the DJ's. DJ's don't talk nowadays, so they draw a blank on stuff like music videos. The Dj's need to stay in the background now and promote the artist.


[top]On a couple of the Virgo tracks (Free Yourself & My Space) you used a really nice phaser / flanger on those 707 hats, can you recall the effect / unit used?
Can you recall the consoles used on the early records? I read an interview circa 1989 how you didn't like the SSL consoles and preferred Neve. What about compression? - kikumotoallstars


Free Yourself I used an Eventide 949 on the hi hat. "My Space" I used a friend's guitar pedal phaser on the hat, it was recorded at home. Most of the early records like "Free Yourself" and "Move Your Body", Seven Ways To Jack", "Acid Tracks'' were recorded and mixed on a 16 channel Tascam mixer and 8 track Tascam half inch machine. The 1st Ten City album was recorded and mixed on a Soundcraft board and Studer 2 inch. All the backgrounds and live instruments were sampled with a Casio FZ-1 (yeah, I know!) I hovered over the engineer and fought compression on everything, I hated the 160's, but I tolerated the Drawmers. No 1176's in sight.

I moved up to SSL for the Pet Shop Boys, Dina Carroll, and Big Fun, and also some Kym Mazelle stuff and hated it. I quickly switched to Neve for the Tom Tom Club, the 2nd Ten City album, Richard Rogers, Open Our Eyes, etc.


Eventide H949


[top]In one of the deleted threads you wrote about the way you use (or not use) compression. Maybe you have the chance to give some inside info again? - duvalle


I prefer to avoid compression at all costs-I figure any that's added during mastering is enough. Of course that's my personal preference. I know that there are some sensational compressors out there, but the most transparent one to my ears is no compressor at all.

Absolutely no compression on kicks. Vocals sometimes with a very dynamic vocalist. But I prefer no compression on vocals. It used to be a lot more work in the old days because we used to do fader rides to even out the levels. This would take about 3 to 5 hours. Today with Logic I can do it by myself in less than 30 minutes. It's really easy with Logic automation because I can see the waveforms and just pull drag the levels up.


[top]“Someday”, the track you made with Ce Ce Rogers, has to be one of my favorite house anthems and songs ever. Could you tell us a little bit about the production of the track? Also I really like the positive message this track has, what were the deeper thoughts behind the lyrics? - Tom H


Someday, I wrote after watching the news one day. It sat around for a few months because I didn't know who I was going to get to sing it. Curtis McClain was usually my 1st choice for songs, but we were constantly at each other's throats while touring for Move Your Body, and I didn't want to do him any favors.

A promoter named Billy Prest had taken really good care of us while touring the East Coast and asked me if could write a song for his singer, Ce Ce Rogers. He gave me a cassette of Ce Ce singing and I gave it a quick listen and told him I'd do it. I just "happened" to have Someday lying around and gave it to Billy. Made me look like a genius coming up with a song so fast instead of the screwup I actually was.

Billy immediately flew Ce Ce to Chicago to sing the leads. I had the music all recorded when he got into the studio. Billy had specifically instructed Ce Ce to not play keyboards around me, because he didn't want me to get intimidated. Ce Ce was a Berkeley grad and an awesome keyboard player. Ce Ce is also a born showoff and absolutely the most competitive person I've ever met in my life, and of course within the 1st minute of him getting in the studio he found a grand piano and was playing so great he could have intimidated Rachmaninov.

Didn't phase me a bit and I told him when he was done to get in the vocal booth and sing.

I recorded Ce Ce's warm up and told him to go back to his hotel. It was absolutely phenomenal. Ce Ce panicked and asked to re sing it. I said no at 1st, then finally gave in, but my mind was made up. I told Steve Frisk, the engineer to record him while I went to Macdonalds. When I came back, Ce Ce seemed a bit more satisfied with the second vocal. I took it home and listened to it, but the second vocal seemed a bit contrived compared to the 1st.

My next trip to the east coast, I let Merlin Bobb at Atlantic hear it and he signed it immediately. He also played it on the radio the night he got it.

Ce Ce panicked again and asked Billy and Atlantic to send him to Chicago to sing it one more time. Ce Ce flew to Chicago and re sang it, but this time I had Merlin backing me up that the original vocal sounded better and that's what went on the record.

Ce Ce Rogers is absolutely, positively the greatest live performer I've ever seen in my life, period. No artist should ever follow his performance, I've seen singers totally destroyed after watching him sing. I've seen him sing to an audience of 3 and had them all standing with their hands in the air and screaming at the top of their lungs.

Anyway, he greatly helped record sales and what went down on record was a performance in the studio, not a production. It was an honor just to be a part of that session and watching him let loose like he did.



Sennheiser HD 595

[top]So What Kinda Soft Synth's do you use in Logic? Also do you mix everything 100% in the Box or do you use a Summing device?

Also What kinda advice could you offer when it comes to arrangement and building a track? Do you use Templates? What are your thoughts on working with a vocalist? - Miamimusicman


All my mixes are done 100% ITB. On Headphones - Sennheiser 595's. I don't use templates, always empty projects. I just add tracks as I see fit. I use all of Logic's soft synths but sometimes I also use my Roland Jx 8P.

Working with vocalists I have one philosophy-adapt to the voice. I remember working with Byron Stingily of Ten City, he was a huge guy and I knew he had power somewhere, but I couldn't find it, he always sang very softly. Well we were working on a song called "I Can't Stay Away", and I told him to go up higher for the build at the end-and I found his diaphragm. It wasn't in the lower register, it was in the high notes. From then on every time we wanted "hands in the air" power we knew to go high.

Some singers freeze in the studio and need you to guide them through every line-even if they're fantastic vocalists. Others screw up if you try to guide and are better left alone. The most emotion vocal I've ever produced was Ce Ce Rogers' Someday, where I recorded him warming up.


[top]How do you feel about Beatport? What can a label/artist do to survive during this transition/ the death of vinyl as #1 format? - Levonvincent


I went CD last summer and I was one of the last to do it. Not going to go laptop because there's not really a need. And people watch me too closely when I'm playing for me to just sit back pushing buttons.

Reason I went CD is because my classic vinyl was getting scratched up going through baggage claim and I couldn't find replacements for ANYTHING. Record companies are now doing runs of 200-300 copies and the one copy you get is usually the last one you'll ever see.


[top]The Baltimore sound, or B-More, what do you think of that? - Darm


I know Basement Boys and DJ Pope are from Baltimore, Pope just did a slammin mix on "Someday" for me. Baltimore has always been on the House music from the very beginning, since Club Odell days.