Photo courtesy of Emmett V. Nicholas
Music is one man’s expression to the world. As a DJ, we convey that message to the masses.
Greg Gray was exposed to a variety of music at a young age. Growing up in the ‘70s, Disco, R&B, Funk and Blues were the foundation from which his love of music would be built upon.
Greg started playing records at age 12 and has been playing ever since. As mixing became more popular in the ‘80s, Greg began to take DJing seriously. While in high school, the mixes he would hear at parties turned him on to the music scene. With his DJ crew, Greg began playing at high school events and house parties. “We weren’t old enough to get into the clubs, but we would get tapes from some of the older heads who were regulars there.”
When asked about his style, Greg would say his style of playing music was influenced by Frankie Knuckles (R.I.P.), Ron Hardy (R.I.P.), and Farley Keith. “Farley’s skills on the tables were unmatched when it came to DJ tricks. Ron Hardy was awesome. He could play for days on end, cut after cut after cut. I was a Box-Head (Music Box regular) until I met Frankie Knuckles. I was fortunate to spend two summers as an intern at Frankie’s club the Power Plant while I was in college. I give much love and respect to Frankie because he showed me how music could touch a person’s soul.”
As president of the Attic Music Co. (AMC), Greg was able to establish himself in the industry as a DJ, sound engineer, and business owner. Armed with a crew of DJs, Greg and his AMC crew provided complete package of DJs, sound equipment, and producers at a moment’s notice. As one of the founding members of the Nu Bang Clan/Nu Bang Collective, Greg was recognized as one the 100 Most Influential DJs in Chicago. Live musicians, percussionists, tribal rhythms, broken beats and electronica are all a part of his musical sets.
As a DJ, Greg has played in a number of venues around the country and overseas. In addition to Chicago, Greg has played clubs in New York, New Jersey, Miami, Atlanta, Phoenix, Baltimore, as well as Manchester in the UK to name a few. In addition to his travel schedule, Greg has hosted a live 3 hour mix show every Wednesday night on Cyberjamz Internet radio since 2005.
GO BANG! Magazine: When and how did you first get interested and bit by the DJ bug?
DJ Greg Gray: I would say around 1975-76. My older cousin would make tapes from the stereo and play them. I liked the response he got from that. I wanted to get that same response from people.
GO BANG! Magazine: Please describe the DJ Greg Gray sound to our readers and what separates you from other DJs?
DJ Greg Gray: My “sound” is all over the place. I grew up in Disco, lived the House years of the 80s, found new music in the 90s and never looked back. I have a diverse playlist from Classics to Tech-House. What I feel separates me from other DJ’s is my ability to cross genres fluently while I am playing. I can go from Soulful to Disco to Deep to Afro seamlessly. Good music is good music. Why can’t I play it?
GO BANG! Magazine: Who are your mentors, who inspire you and who motivates you?
DJ Greg Gray: My musical mentors were Frankie, Ronnie, Farley and Lee Pearson. I studied under Frankie for a few years during the Power Plant days. Frankie taught me how music can touch people. We have the power to impact lives through music. Ron Hardy was a master at what he did. Ronnie was unafraid to take risks and somehow he would make that shyt werk!!! Farley was the DJ everyone wanted to be back in high school. He knew all the tricks, could scratch mix and all that stuff. He was unmatched in that arena. Lee Pearson introduced me to the Classics. He has been a mentor for most of my DJ career. We still sit and talk today about where the industry is headed, how we as DJs fit in and what’s next on the horizon. He is a great friend.
What inspires me? Music inspires me. Let me catch a tune that grabs my attention, I wanna play that! I also get inspired when I hear a DJ play a blazin’ azz set. It’s not to try to out-do anyone, not at all. A hott dj set will make you want to get up and connect to that vibe and want to be a part of it!
I am motivated by the people who support and love what we do just as much as I do. We are a community of House music lovers who convene to share our experiences on the dance floor. I am just honored to be able to share what I love with like-minded people.
GO BANG! Magazine: While you were in college, you had the opportunity to spend two summers interning with the late and great DJ Frankie Knuckles at the legendary Power Plant. Please describe how that opportunity came your way, what you did as an intern, how Frankie treated you and lastly, what you learned from that experience.
DJ Greg Gray: I was home for the summer in 1984. I was in Importes Etc. buying records. I met Craig Loftis, who was the sound engineer at the Power Plant. I was bugging him about what type of equipment they were using. He invited me down to check it out. I fell in love with 1015 (Power Plant). They couldn’t keep me outta there. I was helping out running some speaker wires, Frankie asked Craig “Who was that?” Craig said I was “the summer intern.” My primary duty was to help Craig with the sound system repair/maintenance and provide support to the lighting system. On party night, my job was to monitor the door to the DJ booth.
Working with Frankie was a once in a lifetime opportunity, you just don’t realize it at the time it is happening. I have learned so much just from observing how Frankie played such as, when do you bring in the mix to get maximum WOW factor? I got to see how music can really touch people and allow them to release their energy on a dance floor. That is what we DJs are always looking for. That energy from the dance floor when we drop something that’s hott and the crowd goes crazy!!! That’s what we live for!!!
GO BANG! Magazine: You’re not only a DJ, you’re an entrepreneur, as president of Attic Music Company (AMC). Please describe AMC to our readers as well as your role in the business and the goal of the company.
DJ Greg Gray: I started the Attic Music Company (AMC) back in 1991 with my business partner, Olumide Olupitan. AMC is essentially a musical consultant company. We provided DJs, performers, sound engineers, event planners to clients in the Chicagoland area. I manage the day to day operations of AMC and our other ventures. These days, AMC is more of a parent company. As we continue to expand globally, AMC will still hold the reigns.
GO BANG! Magazine: You’re also one of the founding members of the Nu Bang Clan/Nu Bang Collective. What exactly is this organization and who are some of its members?
DJ Greg Gray: Nu Bang Clan and Nu Bang Collective are both networks of DJs, artists, dancers, planners, and performers. Originally, we were 10 DJs here in Chicago who liked to play the new soulful music at the parties. We took the name because we were a “Clan” who like to “Bang” the “Nu” music. We currently have members in the US, Canada, Jamaica, UK, South Africa and Japan. We are striving to become a global entity.
GO BANG! Magazine: Over the years, you’ve worked with quite a few well-known DJs. Are there any DJs that you would love to work with now that you haven’t?
DJ Greg Gray: Sean Ali, Terry Hunter & Eric Welton, Jihad Muhammad, Big Logan
GO BANG! Magazine: You’ve experienced the House community as a DJ, from various cities of America and abroad. Could you please describe the House scene here in Chicago and compare and contrast the scene to other locations you’ve been?
DJ Greg Gray: As for other cities I have traveled to, I would say there are a lot of similarities. A lot of cities are saturated with DJs now. There is a lot of new competition out here now and they are getting some looks too. There are DJs who appear to get all the work in each city. There are vinyl vs. digital debates in each city. We are all passionate about our craft and we are expressive by nature.
The difference I see is that when we visit a city, we are only there for a day or two. We do our thing and then we are gone. We had a good time and we left. We didn’t get bogged down in the conversation about “how dead the scene is here.” We were too busy rocking your party to notice!!
GO BANG! Magazine: Please describe how you incorporate live musicians and percussionists in your musical sets.
DJ Greg Gray: If the percussionist is someone I know or have worked with before, we pretty much have a good understanding of each other’s boundaries. I will strip back a few of the songs so they can get some solo time. I don’t need a bongo solo over every song I am playing. I will give you some space to get loose and do your thing. Let’s compliment, not battle each other.
GO BANG! Magazine: In conclusion, the COVID-19 pandemic has caught the world off guard. How are you dealing with it?
DJ Greg Gray: I have been doing my best to stay safe. Trying to find a little piece of happiness to connect with and share with the world.
YOU CAN FOLLOW GREG GRAY AND NU SOUL COLLECTIVE ON SOCIAL MEDIA AND CYBERJAMZ INTERNET RADIO
Pierre A. Evans is a freelance writer of Entertainment, Music, Art, Culture, Fashion and Current Events, and previously for SoulTrain.com, NDigo.com, ChicagoDefender.com, EmpireRadioMagazine.com, and UrbanMuseMag.com, an author, singer/songwriter, actor, model, poet, dancer, and DJ. He is also the owner of Pinnacle Entertainment Productions. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and on Instagram