Pioneer of Distinctly Chicago Dance Music
Cornelius ‘Corky’ Ferguson, aka Traxman, is a DJ and producer whose name needs no introduction. But for those of you who haven’t been paying attention for the past 20+ years, here’s a brief refresher. Traxman’s involvement in Chicago’s ghetto house, juke and footwork scenes spans decades.
All of these genres have a distinctly “Chicago” sound. They all use minimal 808 and 909 drum-machine tracks to create a hard, sometimes solely percussive beat. Footwork is a hyper-fast style of dance originating in Chicago’s south side neighborhoods and typically takes place as part of a “battle” similar to breakdancing.
Traxman has countless releases on prestigious labels such as Ghettophiles, BTB, Moveltraxx, Planet Mu and the acclaimed Dancemania Records, establishing him as one of the pioneers of Chicago dance music. 1AM sat down with Traxman to talk about his first musical influences, the current state of footwork and what he has planned for the future.
Beginnings and Evolution of Traxman
1AM: What was the first musical experience that really got to you, and got you interested in music?
Traxman: My mom and my dad. My mom played a lot of Delphonics, Blue Magic and The Temptations, but my pops played a lot of Led Zeppelin, Bob Marley, Hendrix and a lot of stuff like that. [My experience] started really when I was a kid, I actually was record shopping for a while before I started mixing. The first records I ever bought were in like 1977. My uncle was really the first person that helped me get established and taught me to beatmatch. He used to get records from different record shops; stuff they were playing in the 70s [like] disco. By ’81, that’s when I started, and the first records I ever bought to mix were LPs like “Kraftwerk – Computer World,” and “Weeks & Co. – Rock Your World.”
1AM: So it’s clear you have a lot of influences that you draw inspiration from, can you speak to any changes that influenced your music when you were just starting out versus now?
Traxman: Kraftwerk for one. It was just something about “electronic” music, even then; how it was done, formatted and how beautiful it was. That was the point I knew I wanted to start mixing. I was very curious about the sound. When Chip E., Farley, Jesse Saunders and all the guys within house music came along, they just gave another spin on the sound and that’s what made a difference for me.
1AM: So there’s some noticeable difference in your work as Traxman versus your tracks under your other alias, Corky Strong. As far as influences go, could you shed some light on the difference?
T: Traxman is a more in-your-face, anything goes type style of dance; the ghetto house, juke, footwork, or even if it’s hip-hop. Corky Strong on the other hand, that’s the partier, the club kid from the late 80s and early 90s who digs disco, house and the hardcore sounds of Chicago’s old school beats.
1AM: How have you been approaching making music lately?
T: You know I haven’t made tracks in 2-3 months. I don’t need to! But I’m hungry like a wolf to make music, I have like thousands and thousands of tracks [and I’m] just picking through them. People don’t know whether a track is new, or a year old, or 10 years old, y’know?
1AM: A lot of people have been adopting a style pioneered by artists such as yourself, RP Boo, DJ Spinn and the late DJ Rashad. What are your thoughts on the global footwork community as a whole?
T: Oh, wow. You know what, I never imagined it and I never even thought about it happening. Maybe because I’m a little bit older, it’s so different! It’s something about the fans. The fans are so spectacular. They come up and talk to me, whether I’m in Europe, Asia or here in the States. I just want people who follow the sound to know, if you love the music, follow the history. It goes all the way back to house music; without house music, footwork would never exist!
1AM: What new artists have you been enjoying lately?
T: There’s a couple of people; of course I love all my brothers from Teklife to Tekk DJ’z. I listen to a lot of DJ Fulltono, he’s one of my favorite producers, whenever I’m out there in Japan it’s just like family, man. The crowd is so gracious, they’re beautiful people. All the Polish juke guys, and over here in the states DMY. My homegirl DJ Cuenique, she’s got heat.
1AM: And now the million dollar question, what is post-footwork?
T: Still to this day, I don’t know what that is. People need to get more educated about footwork. Let’s not get it twisted, it’s been around forever as a style of dance. You can footwork to house music, you can footwork to beat tracks, because that’s where it came from! And from the beginning, it just advanced and got deeper. Everyone was just doing these tracks for fun at the beginning.
1AM: What’s coming up in 2016 for Traxman?
T: You’re gonna hear about me all year ‘round, that’s all I gotta say. I don’t know if it’s safe to say that Da Mind Of Traxman Vol.3 might be dropping this year. I think this one is really going to turn a lot of heads. Thinking about the differences of music and what can be done, this one really pushes the envelope. Every album tells a story, from “Da Mind of Traxman Vol. I” all the way up to the “Slashtime” album.
1AM: Lastly, are there any shoutouts you’d like to give?
T: Shout out to the entire GETO DJ’z organization, celebrating 25 years. Big shoutout to the Teklife organization; DJ Spinn, DJ Earl, DJ Manny and DJ Phil. My man Lucky, big shoutout to my man AG, my man Eddie, DJ Mel Gibson, Tripletrain in New York, Mystic Styles, all my family, Just Jam family in London, the Tekk DJ’z, Cuenique, Bobby Skills, Crossfire, DJ AC, Jamming Gerald, DJ Q, man that’s a lot of people. Everybody in Chicago, DJ Clent, Ghetto House Bangers DJ Spaulding, DJ Magic Mike, JLinn, can’t forget about the wizard RP Boo. Last but not least, it’s about to be two years, and still to this day, I miss him, the infamous DJ Rashad.