Discovering DJ Kerri Chandler’s reel-to-reel set in London

Okay so I’m a bit late to the party on this one – a year late to be honest! But sometimes things hit your radar when they hit your radar and they’re worth sharing anyway, even if the ‘hot’ moment has passed.

Kerri Chandler

The moment in question here was in November 2021 – when Kerri Chandler, the US-based house DJ and founder of labels MadHouse, MadTech and Kaoz Theory, put on a unique one-off show in London: a six hour reel-to-reel live show.

Actually, the show was announced as far back as December 2020, so I’m pretty much two years late! (In my defence, I’m not much of a house fan, so I guess it’s not surprising my radar wasn’t tuned into this one.)

Chandler was recently described by Billboard magazine as “an out-of-the-box thinker who doesn’t see limitations, just new frontiers”. But what’s a guy who was one of the first people to represent Dolby Atmos in a club setting, doing with reel-to-reel?

“The reels are a lifelong love of mine, they are temperamental and hard work, but the sound quality that comes from them is like no other format,” Chandler explained in an article for The Vinyl Factory.

Going back further still, to February 2020, Chandler showcased a reel-to-reel DJ set in an RA session (Resident Advisor, the online platform for electronic music). Apparently this was his first-ever public performance using R2R, and in it he used four machines. RA wrote, “Reel-to-reels run in Chandler’s family—he’s dedicated this set to the memory of his father, whose birthday was February 27th. They also loom large in his musical education. Seeing Frankie Knuckles and David Morales mix on them was one of his formative experiences. Most DJs would only use one alongside their other gear, but Chandler likes using a few—”one for loops and effects and the other sets for songs and content.” Mixing on them isn’t easy, but if you feel so inclined you can do a set completely on reel-to-reels.” In this 70-minute recording at RA’s London office, Chandler does precisely that:

Fast forward to November 2022, and Chandler premiered an hour-long livestream showcasing his reel-to-reel set-up in New Jersey. This was a few weeks before the main London gig, as a preparation for that gig. You can catch it here:

The main event then took place on 28th November 2022: a six-hour gig at The Roundhouse in London, featuring custom projection mapping designed to fit the venue’s round shape (which was apparently the official debut of this kind of technology, developed by Panasonic). Vocalists for some of the songs Chandler played also appeared in the form of holograms.

The first video below is a short interview with Chandler about the event, and in the second you can view two hours of the set, both via exclusive footage from DJ Mag.

If you’re a fan of house, Kerri’s new 24-track album, ‘Spaces and Places’ – his first in more than 14 years – is out now, with the vinyl version due to launch on 11th November. The album is a celebration of global club culture and Chandler created it on location at twenty four clubs across the globe over the course of two years.

As for reel-to-reel shows, I haven’t seen any mention of any more, but the press for the first one referred to the show as ‘debuting’ at The Roundhouse – so maybe that’s a hint that there could be more in future? Just don’t count on me to spot them in good time! Maybe drop me a line if you hear of anything…