It’s not an exaggeration to say Felix Da Housecat got his big break while still in high school.
Born in Detroit and raised in Chicago, the artist born Felix Stallings Jr. developed an early interest in house music, having been influenced by the first wave of the city’s house giants including Ron Hardy, Frankie Knucles and DJ Pierre.
It was Pierre who recruited a then 15-year-old Felix to work on the 1987 track “Fantasy Girl,” with the song giving the teenage producer — who dubbed himself Felix da Housecat in homage to his genre of choice — his start in the scene that would become his home over the next 30-plus years. Even Felix’s high school algebra teacher asked him to sign a copy of the single.
Since then, Felix da Housecat has become a fixture of the global scene, finding success in his native Chicago and points well beyond, including London and Ibiza, where this summer he holds down a Monday night residency at the club Lío. A one of a kind personality with a sound that’s evolved across 11 studio albums and a dizzying number of mix albums, singles and edits for artists including Madonna, Kylie Minogue, Pet Shop Boys and Britney Spears, Felix da Housecat’s latest track is the the pummeling peak time heater “Go Hard,” out Friday (June 17) via his own own Founders of Filth label.
Here, he talks about coming up in Chicago, his love of Prince, how Radiohead has influenced his work and why, he says, “I’m kind of always feeling my best.”
1. Where are you in the world right now, and what’s the setting like?
Right now I am in San Francisco, I say “San Frandisco.” Nice setting, I’m across the street from Oracle Park, got a show tonight at Audio, great club; shout out to them.
2. What is the first album or piece of music you bought for yourself, and what was the medium?
Great question. First record I ever bought was Rod Stewart’s Tonight I’m Yours, because I think “Young Turks” is on that album and back then you had to buy the album to get the 12″. It was a store right around the corner from my house. I was like a shorty. I don’t remember my age. That was the first album I bought with my own little money, before I was making DJ money, and it felt good to just walk record store. This was before Felix da Mother-f—ing-housecat. This is when I was just a kid.
3. What did your parents do for a living when you were a kid, and what do or did they think of what you do for a living now?
So my mom is a teacher, got here master’s, her bachelor’s; she’s decorated in education, and she wanted me to be a doctor or a lawyer. I was like, “Mom, I can’t do this.” My dad was a saxophone player. He got me into music when I was like, 13. I was first chair in band. I was playing clarinet, and he wanted me to get on the saxophone after that because he played sax. He was doing his thing; basically he’s a hustler. He was always a hustler.
He worked at Ford Motor Company, but I’m just now learning that he was like, a street hustler. He was in them streets hardcore. That’s probably where I get my rebel side from. I knew I was stubborn like my dad. I can’t even talk about some of the s— he was doing, but my dad was in them streets southside in Chicago, one of those most hardcore ghettos in the world. My dad was in them streets, then he had to raise us, and he had his side hustles.
What do they think of what I do now? It’s so funny, because when I made my first record at 14 with DJ Pierre, I didn’t even tell them I made a record or had a record out. I kind of kept all of that to myself. They found out when the song was being played on the radio. They knew I was making a record, but when it blew up, “Fantasy Girl” with DJ Pierre, they were kind of like, “OK, cool!” My brother and sister would tell them what I was doing… To this day I don’t really say too much. I think they just find out. I’ve always been low key. My algebra teacher asked if I could sign his “Fantasy Girl” record, but I never walked around with my chest out.
4. What’s the first non-gear thing you bought for yourself when you started making money as an artist?
When I was in high school, I let this guy borrow one of my drum machines and he let me borrow his Juno-106 [synthesizer]. At this time not many people were using the Juno-106. Larry Heard was using it, but I didn’t know he used it on “Can You Feel It.” So I had his Juno-106, but the dude never brought my drum machine back, and he came for the 106 and I was like, “No bro, this is mine, you ain’t getting this back.” So I still have that same Juno-106. There’s a key missing on it. It’s like a little trophy. I didn’t own it; I had to repo that s—.
5. If you had to recommend one album for someone looking to get into dance/electronic music, what would you give them?
I’m a huge Radiohead fanatic, a huge fan of Thom Yorke, and people don’t know this, but Kid A inspired me to do Kittens and Thee Glitz, like “Runaway Dreamer.” So I’m thinking anything like anything from Radiohead and Thom Yorke’s electronic side, I would recommend that, because they on some other s—.
And then anything by Prince before Purple Rain. Like Dirty Mind, Controversy. Because you can find elements with guitars and lyrics, you can still get inspired, it doesn’t have to be electronic; it can be the energy and vibe that comes out.
6. What’s the last song you listened to?
Damn! That’s like asking me the last time I blinked. S—, what was the last song I listened to? Let me go on and look at my Spotify. I could be all Kanye-esque and say I was listening to me, because I’m working on my new Aphrohead project, which I was. So yeah, I was listening to some of my old stuff just to see where I was in my head. I was listening to “Resurrection” on the Aphrohead album.
7. You were born in Detroit, but raised in Chicago. If you had to choose between Chicago house and Detroit techno, what would you pick and why?
I always joke with Carl Craig and Juan Atkins and all of the Detroit guys about what would have happened if my dad had stayed in Detroit. Because my dad went up to Detroit wanting to make music, and it didn’t work out, and I was born and he went back to Chicago. So he left Chicago, went to Detroit, got my mom pregnant, I popped out, Dad was like, “We’ve gotta go back to the Chi.”
I was born in the same hospital as Carl Craig, came back to Chicago and I got birthed right into house, like ’84/’85. So I believe everything happened the way it was supposed to happen. I’ve gotta stay loyal to Chicago. I love my Detroit brothers, but I’m going to go with my Ron Hardy, my Frankie Knuckles. Now mind you, all of the Detroit guys, they used to drive to Chicago to go see Ron Hardy at the Music Box. They drove to get inspiration and ideas. A lot of their records were broke by Chicago DJs, like “Strings of Life” and all of the Inner City s—. We’re like brothers; I love all those guys. I’ve gotta pick my hometown. Love Detroit, but I’ve got a roll with Chi City. Chi til I die!
8. You launched your Founders of Filth label in 2017. What’s your guiding ethos when selecting tracks to release on the imprint?
Founders of Filth was pretty much inspired by my wife’s dad, rest his beautiful spirit; he came up with the name. And I just wanted to do something where I didn’t feel like I was locked in a system. “You’ve gotta do this. You’ve gotta do that.” I was just so tired of that s—. So over the majors, you know? I was over the rules. I was over “the release has gotta be this or that.” Even established artists have gotta deal with that bulls–, so Founders of Filth made me feel free. It even helped more that my wife was my muse. She’s still my muse!
I just wanted freedom, you know? I got tired of dealing with s—. I had to move to England, because when Chicago went off the air with WBMX, people didn’t really have an outlet. I went to New York, they didn’t like my sound. So I went to London, and London f—ed with me. That’s the birth of Felix Da Housecat. That’s where it all kicked. So I wanted the spirit of Founders of Filth like that, like the ’80s of Chicago and the spirit of England. That was the vibe.
9. I understand you were in a Prince cover band when you were younger. What’s your favorite Prince song? Did you ever get to meet him?
I almost got to meet Prince like, two or three times, and I freaked out, because I was afraid if I met him I was gonna be freaked. I kind of like to keep that illusion, but the artist who went hard is Prince’s DJ, Lenka. She used to tell me that Prince liked my music. She told me Wendy and Lisa liked my music. Apollonia hit me up a week ago and I almost fainted when I saw that. I talk to a lot of the Prince family in clearing samples and all that stuff. There was a song I wanted to do and Prince’s staff cleared it, but Stevie Nicks blocked it, and I was like, “Damn Stevie Nicks, why are you gonna block that s—, Prince did the whole song!” But that’s another story.
My favorite Prince song is “Girl.” And “Controversy,” of course. “Joy In Repetition,” “Pop Life.” And “Something In the Water (Does Not Compute)” is my number one. I like all the new wave Prince, when Prince was on all this new wave s— with Wendy and Lisa, they put him onto that s—.
10. What’s the best place in the world for dance music currently? Why?
London for me is the mecca. Chicago was the mecca in the ’80s, and then London, thanks to Pete Tong, was getting all of the imports from Chicago. But now because of social media, s—‘s all over the place. But for me, where I am right now in my life, I would say Ibiza is the mecca of dance music right now. You’ve got people coming from all over the world. You see all your friends who are DJs, you can just link up, talk s—, take shots, vibe, see each other and just let loose.
I get a lot of inspiration from Montreal too. Montreal, the club culture there is out of control. That’s where I feel most inspired and creative, but when it comes to living that life as an artist, when it comes to that glitzy side, it’s Ibiza. When it comes to that creative side, getting that muse and vibe, it’s Montreal when it’s freezing and you’re locked in, and you don’t have nothing else to do but lock in.
11. Do you have guilty pleasure music? Would we catch Felix Da Housecat listening to country or pop or trance?
Ugh. [Laughs] I’m not a trance fan, but I can appreciate the melodies of trance, and I can appreciate the hard work and the hustle when it comes to the marketing of it. I’m not a hater, it’s just not my thing. Do they even call it trance now? It’s like progressive house. But a lot of my friends are on that tip as an artist and I love them and respect them.
What’s my guilty pleasure music, though? I really don’t have one. I don’t get down with country, but I can appreciate it. At the end of the day, good music is good music.
12. Your new track “Go Hard” encourages listeners to “do a stupid dance” if they’re feeling down. What kind of pick me up dance do you do when you’re not feeling your best?
Shoot, if you see my play, I’m always doing my dance, shaking my booty up in the DJ booth. Lenka wrote that lyric, so we’d have to ask her that; it just kind of resonated with my spirit. But you’ll see my pick me up dance when I rock that Chicago bass, I’ll be shaking my tail feather real good, and I’m kind of always feeling my best. Music always picks me up anyways, but I’m pretty much good. Only when I’m hungover, but then I turn that s— around real quick.
13. Your output always has a really playful vibe. Do they think there are sectors of the dance music world that take themselves too seriously? Which genre has the most fun?
Damn. You know, I take my music serious, but I don’t take myself serious. I just do what hits me from the ether. God puts it in my spirit, and I just roll from there and I don’t really think too much. I just like having fun and catching a vibe. I want people to be on that same vibe. You can’t take that s— too serious. Which genre has the most fun? I think now everybody is having fun after being locked up for two years. I think people are just happy to be out partying, but electro, new wave ’80s, I think they had the most fun. The glam, the glitz, the makeup, I just think they had fun being out there letting loose, dressed like nobody’s watching.
14. The most exciting thing happening in dance music currently is _____?
I guess that’s the same answer: everything. We free again now!
15. The most annoying thing happening in dance music currently is _____?
You ain’t gonna set me up! You’re not gonna have people hitting my pager like “why would you say the most annoying, this is that s—ty a– manufactured filtered tech house that everyone plays the same with the filters rise!”
16. Are there causes or charities you’re involved with that you’d like people to know about?
We used to have an AIDS charity online. Nothing right now on my radar, but my heart always goes out to any charity I can be a part of.
17. What’s your favorite place to listen to and experience dance music?
My residency in I-beeth-a on Monday. That’s where you will experience the best dance music. Me, myself and I!
18. What’s the best business decision you’ve ever made?
I started making music when I was 14, so I learned really young about the business. If I’m still doing this s— 30 years later, I think I made pretty decent business decisions.
19. Who was your greatest mentor, and what was the best advice they gave you?
You know, my wife is my mentor, my manager is my mentor, my sister is my mentor, my mom, dad, brother, sister, Prince, his music, DJ Pierre, Marshall Jefferson, the list goes on. I’m like a sponge and whatever advice, I’ll take it. I”m stubborn sometimes like, “F— your advice” and then I bump my head and come back like, “You was right.”
20. One piece of advice you’d give to your younger self?
I’d be like, “Yo, buckle that seatbelt motherf—er, because this s— about to get crazy!”