Not everyone gets to be Carl Cox, who thanks to the closing of Space and a brilliant, ballsy attitude, is genuinely bigger now than ever before. But plenty of house DJs/producers from the 90s are still cutting it now: the secret is never to lose your passion and never, ever take a gig at a retro event coupled with the phrase ‘back to 88/98’. It’s also about attitude, an ability to stay relevant through new music and occasionally let rip in a way that no-one else can. That’s true of everyone on this list, from Sasha and Derrick Carter to DJ Heather and arguably the biggest and baddest on this list, DJ Harvey. Check the full list below, alongside a recent mix from each DJ showcasing the peak of their powers.
Let’s start with someone who’s truly finding her groove right now: Heidi Lawden. Her first paid gig was at The Gardening Club (“way back when!”) but when she got stuck in the US a few years later, she was forced to take gigs at local bars and at house parties “just for fun… really, it was others who said why the fuck don’t you do this more?” Now the proud flag bearer at DubLab in LA (arguably the best American online electronic station around), she’s since played everywhere from Panorama Bar to Pikes and in 2018 she was able to complete her first EU tour. In terms of punch and panache, the only person who can beat her is…
This one goes without saying but DJ Harvey is a renaissance man. He’s also a surfer, a reader, an aesthete and something of a bona fide musical genius when it comes to curation. From his Ministry Of Sound beginnings to his current spot at the very top of the DJ tier, it’s clear that every generation coming through wants to be around Harvey: from obscure Chic classics to smooth Balearic chill, he’s the best DJ at Pikes and like Goldie’s debut album: he’s ‘Timeless’.
In house and techno, the only other DJ at a similarly legendary level is Laurent Garnier, because we’re leaving Coxy to another day. Laurent for years would only play Oval Space when in London, and that’s because LG does precisely what he wants, when he wants. But his music – from ‘Man With The Red Face’ to ‘Crispy Bacon’ and remixes aplenty – also doesn’t age. He’s the original Hacienda DJ done good, and of all the Frenchmen in house, he’s arguably the most fun and impressive of all.
Erick Morillo, like his original production mentors Todd Terry and later, Louie Vega – has always been a DJ capable of making music that could blow your socks off – see the Strictly classic ‘Reach’ – but as a DJ, his ability to send those socks into space beats almost all his peers. Behind the decks, he just doesn’t stand still. A recent show in Manchester for Elrow proved that he’s still got the magic.
Harry Romero (formerly ‘Choo Choo’) is in the middle of a particularly purple patch right now. He’s the house DJ’s favourite house producer and recent remixes from Honey Dijon and an incoming Josh Wink remix both attest to that. But his sound, like Honey’s, has never been more in vogue and a new collaboration called ‘Where Do We Go’ with Weiss will be bigger than anything he’s ever done.
DJ Paulette has been breaking down boundaries since the 90s. She was The Haçienda’s first female resident, and right now is playing all the right house music parties in Manchester, Paris and across the board. Also great in this day and age: her Twitter points to her skills as “DJ – Coach – Writer – Wizardbitch – Does Not Take Requests.” Strong.
King Britt is literally now a professor but from the mid 90s onwards, he’s steered a path from deep house through to 80s-inspired electronica and soul-fused productions, not forgetting that utterly incredible remix of Josh One’s ‘Contemplation’. And last year he remixed Calvin Harris, as well as working with Cassy on her album for !K7. He’s also starting a new course at UC San Diego called Blacktronika, teaching music production and recording techniques as a professor.
Of course, Detroit is the home of OG techno but we couldn’t not give a nod to one of those cats who straddle the fine line between house and techno, so we’re going to give a nod to Carl Craig, whose purple Prince-shaped productions have kept him a part of the Cocoon family for years. Those house fueled remixes for Pet Shop Boys and DFA Records have helped keep both him – and them – current.
Peggy Gou’s recent link up with Maurice shows you how closely tied the original house hero is with the current vanguard: their collaboration on the ‘Earth’ EP most definitely bangs, and if it sends you back to his productions from the late ’90s and 2000s (we’re especially thinking of Mu’s ‘Paris Hilton’ here), then all’s well and good.
There’s two things that always show that you should still be a part of this list in 2020: and those are being a guaranteed ticket seller, or being sampled by Kanye West, and Larry Heard is of course both. He’s another example of a producer who every house producer admires, and his recent live show in East London reminded us how spine-tingling his soul remains.
DJ Heather may have been born in Brooklyn but there’s no denying she’s Chicago through and through. She epitomizes house music with the spirit and verve with which she rolls out sets, and she hasn’t lost an ounce of that energy through her long and illustrious career.
He’s been making music since the late 90s (with Adolf Noise and with Fischmob) but as his continued dominance of quality floors across Europe and Australia will attest, DJ Koze is at the peak of his powers. That’s because his weird and wonderful style behind the booth is a delight for young and old, and his productions and remixes for Pampa keep the pressure and quality on.
Sasha’s an OG for Mixmag. He’s been on the cover several times in the 90s and 00s and still features now, and that’s because his dedication to his art has kept the aura and the music alive. Recent collabs with Kolsch and remixes for Hot Chip also haven’t hurt.
If you’re The Black Madonna or Harry Romero, the artist and DJ you most admire the most is probably Derrick Carter, and that’s also true of Honey Dijon, who constantly name-checks DC. He’s never lost that groove and he’s also funny as fuck: what’s not to like?
15COLLEEN ‘COSMO’ MURPHY
From Boiler Room and Worldwide FM to Classic Album Sundays, Colleen Murphy, alias Cosmo, is an American radio broadcaster, club DJ, music producer, remixer, record label owner and all-round good vibes merchant. As a result, her sound and attitude has never gone out of style, as her very fresh In Session mix attests to.