Mike Dunn's brand new album 'My House From All Angles' is out now on Classic Music Company, download and stream here.

If you wanted to bury a time capsule that would help future generations understand this thing called house music, you could do a lot worse than gather together Mike Dunn’s discography. A Chi-town original, a constant throughout the genre’s 30+ years, producer, engineer, vocalist, and man of many pseudonyms – and as his latest album says, it’s House From All Angles.

However, being a Mike Dunn completist is no easy task. It’s not just the myriad artist names he has recorded under (though the letters MD often feature somewhere as a clue), it’s the fact that from day one Mike and his studio skills have been in-demand for many of Chicago’s finest, so his credits as a studio sidekick are as endless as his lead artist ones.

This goes back to the early days of house in the 1980s. Mike was fascinated not just with what all the new technology of the time could do, but how it did it: “I was and still am a very inquisitive kid, always taking things apart to look inside and then the challenge of making it better and putting them back together to see if it worked”. Consequently, there was always a queue of eager young producers at Mike’s studio door, as they knew he was the man who could help translate the sounds in their heads onto wax. 

This mindset was also taken to parties, where as a DJ Mike was one of the pioneers of using reel to reel tapes and drum machines to augment his vinyl selections. “I found it easier and quick to get my edits, my own and unreleased tracks in my DJ sets than a cassette player, so I would bring 2 Pioneer RT-707s with me most of the time.”

When Mike reminisces about those days, it’s like you’re eavesdropping at a party for house music’s top table, a stellar cast of jackmasters taking in the likes of Marshall Jefferson, Armando, Hugo H!, Hula, Tyree Cooper, Bam Bam and more. 

It was Bam Bam who would release Mike’s debut on his Westbrook label, 1987’s jackin’ masterclass Dance You Mutha:

The track that cemented the Mike Dunn name in many heads has a confused back story. With the fledgling but furiously energetic Chicago house music community of DJs and producers constantly sharing studio time, tapes, acetates and, crucially, ideas, there were often numerous tracks floating around that to confused house heads seemed like variations on a theme. In this case, diggers can seek out releases from Marshall Jefferson, L’il Louis and Mike’s long time compadre Tyree Cooper that have a similar starting point to our next featured cut – Mike takes up the story: 

“The reason there were so many was because Lil’ Louis was the only one playing the original one, so everyone thought it was his and he never gave a copy out for any other DJ to play. So, Tyree, myself and a few others made our own versions of it to play at our gigs. Years later after speaking to Marshall Jefferson, we found out that he was the one that actually did the track. Louis did release it under his name, but no mention of Marshall.”

Magic Feet certainly struck a nerve in the UK and Europe, at a time when labels in these territories increasingly wanted to license in Chicago creations for compilations showcasing the nascent house scene. Mike’s next Westbrook release So Let It Be House also benefitted from this added exposure – and crucially helped establish Mike as a master of spoken word house tracks:

In this fertile period for both house music and Mike Dunn, numerous releases also hit the record racks which had the stamp of the MD studio all over them. Mike formed a particularly close working relationship with Armando. Their mastery of the 303/808 combo produced classic 1988 acid tracks such as Land of Confusion (another Westbrook release); and this:

151 was released on Warehouse, one of three labels Mike and Armando were involved in together as they tried to ensure new tracks could get into the marketplace as quickly as possible. Warehouse was Armando’s label with support from Mike; Dance Mutha was Mike’s with Armando assisting; Muzique was a joint venture.

Muzique made an instant impact with its first release, Steve Poindexter’s Work That Mutha Fucka… but arguably the second cut on the 12”, the eerie Computer Madness , credited as ‘mixed by Mike Dunn’, has stood the test of time better (like so much of Mike’s work):

Whilst Mike’s involvement in a release was quickly becoming a byword for quality for fans of acid, he could still expertly turn his hand to other styles that caught the heady spirit of 1988, most notably with his mix credit on this deep house classic from his friend and collaborator Marshall Jefferson: 

“Marshall was the producer in house music I looked up to the most. One because his grooves were rocking the Chicago underground scene like crazy. I needed to know how he was putting all these great tracks together. He started working on Ten City’s album at the house owned by Sherman Burkes aka House Sarge that Bam Bam & I lived in as well. After I saw how I was blown away. He would slow the sequencer down to about 80 BPMs and do all the music and then speed it back up after he had all of his ideas down. At the house we would tease him for only using three fingers to play the piano… He’s truly the KING of the Triads in house music!”:

Through the 1990s, Mike remained a constant on the house scene and global dancefloors, releasing on respected labels such as Maxi, Trax, Sub-Urban and Caus-N'-ff-ct. However, the track that made the biggest splash in that decade, and arguably became his signature tune, was a one-off released on short-lived Italian label Nite Stuff. Not only that, it also started life as a B side – well strictly speaking, a D side, as Mike labelled the two sides M and D rather than A and B – there is no doubting, however, that it was the flipside!

Just before we get to that, however, let’s check out the A / M side, a trademark dark MD floorshaker that should not be overlooked:

…and so to the bona fide genre-defying classic that is God Made Me Phunky. Its opening few seconds are led by a moody synth pad that brings to mind one of Mike’s collaborations with Marshall Jefferson, until Mike intones “d’ya know, God made me phunky”. An irresistible piano riff kicks in, and for six minutes, Mike channels his inner George Clinton with a lecture on phunkiness. Simple, brilliant.

Picked up by Ministry of Sound’s Open imprint in the UK, and licensed worldwide, the track has had a life of its own, not only loved by house heads, but also seen as hugely influential in the UKG scene. In 2008, it was revived by Defected and brought to a whole new audience.

“It’s the kid that you never thought would grow up and be the one that would take care of you later in life. I did God Made Me Phunky as a track filler for The Welcome To The Club EP. Thank God for Tony Humphries, he broke that record in the clubs.”

The 21st century has seen Mike Dunn remain at the fore, increasingly recognised for the originator and house master he undoubtedly is. Many labels have continued to showcase his unique style, including Defected:

Perhaps his most notorious 00s cut was Phreaky MF. Initially hard to find, then bootlegged, it officially saw the light of day in 2008. “It was released on a compilation on Hula Mahone’s label Club House Records, but only on CD so most people missed it. Years later RobSoul wanted to release it on vinyl.” Instantly a standout on the dancefloor due to its slower than standard bpm, once Mike starts nonchalantly intoning his insanely salacious lyrics over a funk-fuelled backdrop, it’s a once heard never forgotten moment. Thankfully in the era of streaming and Shazam, no one has to go into a record shop and ask, “have you got that one that goes…”

With the My House From All Angles album, Mike brings his aliases under one roof and triumphantly demonstrates his mastery of house music with an extended snapshot of his style. Of course there is plenty of prime acid on show with cuts like Acid Rush and Let’s Go; and Mike’s inimitable vocals are also present and correct (the hypnotic Move It, Work It; the elastic funk of the wonderful If I Can’t Get Down). However as promised, other angles also come into play, be it the deeper jazzy stylings of This Beat; acid tinged vocals on You R; the MD X-Spress moniker revived on the groovesome DJ Beat That Shhh; nu disco gets a look in with Have It 4 U Babe regenerating the Jass Man moniker; and Phreaky MF reappears in remixed form. 

“I just wanted to do all of my pseudos’ that I’ve gathered over my career under one house nation over a groove, U DIG! I hope that I accomplished that and people get it.”

We dig! Mike Dunn – the epitome of House Music All Life Long.

Mike Dunn will be joining us at Defected London FSTVL, tickets available here.

Mike Dunn's brand new album 'My House From All Angles' is out now on Classic Music Company, download and stream here.