Housecat, Felix da
Housecat, Felix da
Felix da Housecat
Disc jockey, producer
By the time Felix da Housecat (born Felix Stallings, Jr.) was 15 years old, his path to stardom was already being paved. As a teenager in Chicago in the mid-1980s, he embraced house music from its infancy and listened to it boom from warehouses in Chicago and resonate overseas into the clubs of Europe’s urban centers.
With his musical experience of playing clarinet in his school marching band, Stallings taught himself to play keyboards and was soon twiddling with rudimentary electronic gear—a drum machine and a synthesizer—and assembling ragtag acid house tracks in his bedroom. Although his sound was raw, it was enough to attract DJ Pierre, a preeminent house DJ and a friend of a friend, who took Stallings under his wing and used Felix da Housecat’s roughed-out backing track for his own hit, “Fantasy Girl.”
“I was a freshman in high school when it came out. And it was such a hit in Chicago that it was still on the radio when I graduated. Girls in the hallway would be like, ‘Can I be your fantasy girl?’ It was a trip,” Stallings told URB’s Michael Endleman.
Soon he was producing tracks by the bunch and his popularity grew immensely within the tight but insular Chicago scene. Still, Stallings’s strict parents were rather disapproving of his chosen lifestyle and ordered him to attend Alabama State College, where he all but forgot about music.
When he returned from college, he found that the house music community in Chicago had dwindled greatly during his three-year absence, with many of its producers and DJs making the jump to New York or over the Atlantic, finding kindred spirits in the clubs and studios of London, Paris, and Berlin.
Stepping into this void, Stallings immediately started making tracks and passing them to his old friend, DJ Pierre, who was now in New York and recording for Strictly Rhythm Records. Soon, Stallings also felt the bite of Chicago’s uninspiring emptiness, and he found himself in Europe with growing frequency.
On one such trip to London, he and Pierre met with William Orbit, at which point Stallings signed off his track “Thee Dawn” to Guerilla Records for £3,000 (about $5,000), a fortune in his mind. It was definitely a red-letter day in his recording career.
In addition to his deal with Guerilla Records, Stallings began releasing music on Strictly Rhythm Records, Nervous Records, D-Jax Up, and Chicago Underground. Taking note of his success on these labels, he quickly set up his own Thee Black Label, Clashbackk, and Radikal Fear imprints, on which he released his own music as well as that of DJ Sneak, Armando, and Mike Dunn.
Born Felix Stallings, Jr. in 1972 in Chicago, IL. Education: Attended Alabama State College.
Produced “Fantasy Girl” with DJ Pierre, 1986; released “Thee Dawn” on Guerilla Records, 1992; released Metropolis Present Day? Thee Album! on Radikal Fear, 1995; released Kittenz and Thee Glitz on Emperor Norton, 2001; released Excursions, 2002; released A Bugged Out Mix on Emperor Norton, 2003.
Awards: Muzik magazine, Album of the Year for Kittenz and Thee Glitz, 2001; Spin, Best DJ, 2002; URB, Best Dance DJ, 2002; Rolling Stone, Critics’ Pick for Best Dance/DJ Artist, 2002.
Addresses: Record company—Emperor Norton Records, 102 Robinson St., Los Angeles, CA 90026; phone: (213) 427-1580, fax: (213) 427-1588, website: http://www.emperornorton.com. Management—X-Mix, 561 Windsor St., 3rd Floor, Somerville, MA 02134, phone: (617) 628-9649, fax: (617) 623-8086.
Curiously, by this time, Stallings was still reluctant to take on the role of DJ; he was content to simply produce tracks for others to play in the decadent dance clubs of the world. At the urging of his manager, he finally took up the art of mixing, and with a little practice he soon demanded respect—and earned gigs—on the worldwide club circuit. Later, he would release an incredible series of mix CDs, including 2002’s Excursions and A Bugged Out Mix in 2003.
It wasn’t until 1995, however, after much self-reflection, that Stallings began to focus on making a full-length artist album. His first was Alone in the Dark, followed shortly by Metropolis Present Day? Thee Album!
Again, Stallings was building momentum, remixing artists from the Pet Shop Boys to Diana Ross and eventually inking a deal with London/FFRR and releasing 1999’s I Know Elektrikboy! as Thee Maddkatt Courtship, just one of a number of aliases under which he has recorded.
Elektrikboy brought together influences from all over the musical map, starting at disco and working its way through new wave, acid, soul, and house. Despite the record’s European success, though, complications with Warner Bros., the U.S. distributor, caused the disc to never have an American release.
Felix’s frustrations with the industry and all its trappings led him back into the studio in 2000 with a reformed sense of self and a decided change in direction. “I was so bitter and angry that I just said ‘F**k it, I’m gonna make an album that goes off and makes fun of people, I don’t give a f**k about nothing!’” he commented to Endleman.
It was around this time that the Electroclash scene was taking off, and New York bands like Crossover and Fisherspooner were performing at events thrown by Brooklyn impresario Larry Tee, events that bore the genre’s copyrighted name. On the other side of the Atlantic, however, Caroline Hervé and Michel Amato—a.k.a. Miss Kittin and the Hacker—were brewing up their own blend of hedonistic, shticky electro-pop. Hervé soon became the most recognizable voice in the genre.
While Stallings was on tour in Switzerland, he met Hervé at a festival in Geneva. They immediately struck up a friendship based on their mutual respect for one another’s music, and the very next day they recorded “Madame Hollywood” together at Dave the Hustler’s studio. After a quick call to Stallings’s friend in Chicago, Tommy Sunshine, lyrics were written and the entire track was produced in a mere three hours. Felix da Housecat and Miss Kittin also recorded “Silver Screen (Shower Scene)” at this session, and thus the foundation for the award-winning Kittenz and Thee Glitz was laid.
Kittenz was first put out by U.K. label City Rockers in 2001 and shortly thereafter released in the United States on Emperor Norton Records. The record, a tongue-in-cheek look at the pretentiousness of club life, was showered with critical praise, and, not surprisingly, embraced by the very culture that it lampooned.
NME’s Stephen Dalton said of Kittenz and Thee Glitz: “This is not some coldly conceptual retro-homage, more like a natural manifestation of techno’s constant traffic between past and future, pop and underground, Europe and America.” He went on to praise Stallings by saying “Electronic music needs madcap, open-minded mavericks like Felix, his feet in the official story of Chicago house, his head composing alternative versions of pop history.”
The record was awarded Muzik’s Album of the Year Award for 2001, and Spin’s Year in Music 2002 special issue hailed Felix da Housecat “Best DJ” while simultaneously bestowing Kittenz the honor of being one of the year’s top albums. As well, “Silver Screen (Shower Scene)” was chosen as one of the magazine’s top singles of the year. The praise didn’t stop there. URB, the American authority in the electronic music press, gave Felix da Housecat similar accolades, choosing Kittenz as one of the year’s best and voting him Best Dance DJ. Rolling Stone echoed those sentiments, as Stallings picked up the Critics’ Pick for Best Dance/DJ Artist for 2002.
Aside from the numerous awards he received, one of Stallings’s proudest moments came during the production of the video for “What Does it Feel Like?” that featured one of his childhood heroes, Adam Ant. “I went up to him and said, ‘I’m so happy to meet you, because, you know, I don’t drink, I don’t smoke.’And he said, ‘What do you do?’ It just made my day,” he told Rolling Stone.
Stallings’s crowning achievement, however, came in 2003 when he was nominated for a Grammy Award in the Best Remixed Recording, Non-Classical, category for his remix of the Rinocerose track “Lost Love (Felix Da Housecat Thee Clubhead Mix).”
(As Thee Madkatt Courtship) Alone in the Dark, Deep Distraxion, 1995.
Metropolis Present Day? Thee Album!, Radikal Fear, 1995.
Transmissions, Vol. 2, Virgin Music, 1997.
(As Thee Maddkatt Courtship) I Know Elektrikboy!, London/FFRR, 1999.
Kittenz and Thee Glitz, City Rockers, 2001; reissued, Emperor Norton, 2001.
Excursions, Obsessive, 2002.
Rocketmann!, Pias America, 2002.
A Bugged Out Mix, Emperor Norton, 2003.
URB, March 2003, p. 64.
“Felix da Housecat,” All Music Guide, www.allmusic.com (June 4, 2003).
“Felix da Housecat,” Emperor Norton Records, www.emperornorton.com/mod/artistpage.php3?artist=felix (June 5, 2003).
“Felix da Housecat,” RollingStone.com, www.rollingstone.com/features/featuregen.asp?pid=492 (June 5, 2003).
“Felix da Housecat and Kittenz and Thee Glitz,” NME.com,http://www.nme.com/reviews/8402.htm (June 4, 2003).
Additional information was obtained from Emperor Norton publicity materials, 2003.