Ken Christensen’s recent move to Chicago is garnering him a diverse share of gigs, as the D.C. native spun an opening set for Common several weeks ago at the House of Blues.
“Chicago seems to churn out talent in all realms,” he says, working from his studio in Uptown. “[There is] something I have always admired about this city and I am happy to be a part of it now.”
Not that Christensen needed much boost. He began his DJ career in 1987, thanks to a pair of turntables he inherited from a cousin in New Jersey. By 1996 he was DJing six-deck sets with Juan Zapata; the duo’s ten-year partnership as East Coast Boogiemen would go on to shape the underground club vibe of D.C. in the late nineties and early two-thousands.
“The sets sound crazy with all the layering and we could flip through records much faster creating a lot more energy on the dance floor,” he says. “We also did tricks, turntablism, doubling up records, flares, scratching up all that jazz—we had a nice little show.”
Despite a string of successful residencies—including a monthly at the seminal Tracks Nightclub in D.C.—splitting time in the studio proved harder than playing. Christensen churned out tracks under the ECB moniker, with occasional collaborations from Zapata. By 2006, ECB called it quits, but Christensen continued his groove. Shunning genre-defining labels, his production style runs the gamut of rock, R&B and house.
“I am predominately known for house music of course, and I do not have a style. I think those who classify themselves as funky house DJ or jazzy house DJ would probably bore the shit out of a crowd,” he says.
Christensen keeps tracks equally engaging on his Alphabet City label, a European label distributed by the Belgium-renowned N.E.W.S. Distribution. He and partner Aaron Sparks operate both the label and a forthcoming online house-music boutique.
In his own production, Christensen has no creative limits. “I am doing a mid-tempo jazzy break track with Vancouver’s Ingrid Hakanson on vocals…it’s got a ‘Bugz in the Attic’ sort of feel to it,” he says. “I also did a hip-house track with her called ‘No Fries with My Shake,’ [which is] still in the works.”
What works for him? Live sets at intimate venues. “I think the perfect situation is when you have a big system in a club that holds 300 people or less,” he says. (Jenn Danko)
Ken Christensen of East Coast Boogiemen joins the Sound Republic at Grizzled, with resident Karl Almaria at Lava, 1270 North Milwaukee, (773)342-5282, February 2, 9pm-3am. $5.