Mystery and excitement

Interview with Three

Mystery and excitement

18-09-2014 | 12.14

"Who I think has got the best record collection? DJ Three for sure. Also Danny Howells and Derrick Carter. If I saw their collection I would be floored! I admire them so much anyway, but they really have a record collection."

It's not only Cassy that talks with high praise about DJ Three (otherwise known as just Three). Quite the contrary, because many have named him as one of the true innovators in the US scene today. Real name Christopher Milo, he's been a household name in the American underground dance scene for decades and a key player in New York’s vibrant techno scene, in part as a former resident of the infamous club Twilo. He recently announced the end of his Hallucination Limited and the launch of a new label, Hallucienda. We're glad that he took the time mid-flights to answer some of our questions we send him in anticipation of his performance at this Saturday at Ratio?

All over the internet, people call you one of the legends of the underground in New York. This must flatter you quite a bit, I can imagine?

"Of course, it means the world to get any positive commentary on what you do and even more so to be appreciated in places you've called "home"."
Before Moving to NYC in 2002, your career under the moniker of DJ Three started in Florida in the early 90's. What was the Florida party scene like at that time?
"Pretty damn crazy, but I imagine it being that way everywhere at the beginning of US rave culture. While in Tampa we threw arguably the first warehouse raves in the Southeast, I'd say Florida rave culture was really cultivated in the clubs. Everyone really got away with a lot of craziness in the clubs early on both in a good way and maybe not so good. Eventually Tampa, Florida was the first city in the US to have a late night law drawn up--a "rave ordinance"--limiting how late clubs could stay open. Obviously, there were some careless promoters along the way and eventually a community is going to do whatever it has to do to combat something it does not fully understand."  
This week you'll play next to Melon, and Doc Martin. I've read that you're a big admirer of his work. What is it that sets Doc aside from other DJs?
"I'm happy to finally meet and dance to Melon especially on his home floor. As for Doc, I think I was the first person to bring him to Florida for one of the previously mentioned raves and we have been stuck with each other ever since! Doc is literally one of the cornerstones of the foundation of San Francisco and Los Angeles rave culture and he was the quintessential rave DJ that bridged the gap from raves to house music in the US. We keep each other honest, but it’s probably him keeping me that way the most!"
You are a former resident of the legendary NY club Twilo. What made that club so special?
"For me, the fact that it was in the same building that was the Sound Factory. The Factory was quite basic and rather traditional in its lighting which made for a wicked underground vibe. Twilo definitely added a lot more modern lighting and white and mirrored walls that I honestly thought might take away from things, but the room was just magic. The sound system fit perfectly to the room. I had a great relationship with Mike Bindra of Made Events. He and I got along great, especially geeking out when I learned he worked at the Factory as well. In 1999 or the year and a half or so before the residency in 2000, I played a handful of times. If there was a last minute cancellation, Mike would call me and fly me up from Florida on the spot to fill in if I was available. It was amazing to have that kind of relationship with the club. The stories you hear about DJs putting on a record and running out to the dance floor to it listen are completely true!"

Your stage name Three sounds quite enigmatic. Got me quite curious as to where to origin of the name lies. Could you tell me a little more about that?
"It was really about reading the fine print on records as a teenager and seeing all these monikers. Flood, The Latin Rascals, Dr. Avalanche, Richard 23, The Edge and so on. The mystery and excitement that would really stir emotions up, you know, like who the heck is this guy Flood that is on both a U2 record and a Depeche Mode record? So, I liked the idea of separating the artist from the person with a moniker. Why I chose Three is another story."
Three has been a household name for decades now. What's the number one motivation that keeps you doing what you do?
"Apart from an unflagging need to be in and around the music, it’s simply the reaction from people. It’s been a long, steady ascension for me and I feel very fortunate for that to be my story's arc, so far."
Your label Hallucination Limited has been putting out records in a steady pace for quite a few years now. Why did you start the label and what's the plan for the next couple of years?
"After my involvement with Hallucination Recordings in the 90s it was just the next step to start my own sister label. It ran 10 years and with the same old story of the distributor going out of business in the middle 00s. Yet by 2011, I was hearing the music still getting played by all sorts of DJs and Cassy put a handful of cuts on her Mixmag "Sound Of DC10" cover CD. I decided to regroup and start a new imprint called Hallucienda which still continues the lineage of the previous two imprints. We'll continue to be vinyl-centric, but also do compilations and artists albums digitally. The first releases are a digital compilation called Phono Obscura which comes out in a couple weeks and then the first two vinyls contain benchmark works from Doc Martin and Peter Van Hoesen."
You mostly perform in The States, although you steadily received more gigs in other parts of the world. How do the scenes in Asia, Europe and The States differ from one another in your experience?
"I think it’s mostly just down to what's socially acceptable in each country’s society. Clearly a place like Berlin is overtly open minded. Other places not so much. That said, I think no matter where you are it’s on the dance floor where the experience can become uniquely singular when the vibes are magic, and that alone is why we do this, right?"

What are three tracks that shaped your sense of music which you play today?
"From my teens to my early 20s it’s always been the most urgent of grooves that spoke to me the most. So, I'll pick three tracks over the course of that time period.    
C-Bank - “One More Shot” -- and pretty much any John Robie production -- was huge for me as a teenager at the rollerskating rink. Then on the cusp of rave culture the soundtrack of the clubs in Tampa was very similar to clubs like Medusa's in Chicago mixing industrial stuff with things like “This Is Acid” so something like Skinny Puppy - “Assimilate” was a huge part of the more alternative electronic sounds getting played and that track was also the inspiration for an eventual favorite of mine Freaky Chakra - “Black Light Fantasy”. Then I think most influential to how I play and my favorite Chicago house record of all time, also well before US rave culture happened, is Master C & J - “Dub Love” on Trax Records."