Chicago House Is Alive and Well in Miami With Mystic Bill

Miami's Mystic Bill Torres.
Miami's Mystic Bill Torres.
Photo by Shanna Doherty

Miami's hometown heroes of electronic dance music are in the habit of ditching us for greener pastures once they blow up internationally. Take heavyweights like Maceo Plex and Danny Daze, who skipped over the pond to stake their place in Europe's more lucrative club and festival circuit.

One artist reversing this trend, however, is "Mystic" Bill Torres. Though he spent a significant number of years in Chicago, the born-and-bred Miamian recently returned to the 305, where he's surreptitiously reemerged on the local underground dance scene with DJ residencies at Gramps and the Electric Pickle. 

Mystic Bill's Miami homecoming also coincides with his comeback as a consummate producer with a discography stretching back a whopping three decades, including era-defining releases on Chicago's seminal Trax Records. After all, classic Chicago house is Bill's flavor, and "U Won't C Me," his new record on Berlin's Snuff Trax label, is a slab of delectably deep Chi-Town jack that promises to catapult the talented local back to international heights.

On the occasion of his auspicious new release, we caught up with Mystic Bill to chat about Miami's old-school scene, the golden age of Chicago house, and his new works in progress.

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New Times: You grew up in Miami. How did the local scene shape your musical sensibilities? Despite your affinity for Chicago house, do you consider Miami's homegrown music styles like bass and electro formative?
Mystic Bill: Well, growing up, I was always into many different genres of music — even now, I still am. The electro and bass sounds were definitely formative. It was part of my youth, and I still appreciate it today.

How did you first get into DJing and music production?
During the early '80s, I had a cousin who was a disc jockey. He taught me the basics of beat matching, and would let me go through his collection of post-disco, funk, and roller-boogie music. I started producing in 1989. It was after I met Lewis Pitzele, who was responsible for breaking a lot of the earlier house records overseas. Lewis introduced me to a guy named Karr Krash, and together we worked on remixes for Larry Sherman of Trax Records. Sadly enough, there were several times when our mixes were not credited properly, or someone we worked with would take credit for something he or I produced. But that story can almost be an interview in itself.

What prompted you to move to Chicago? And what are your impressions of the time you spent there? How meaningful was it for you to actually live in the birthplace of house music as a house DJ/producer?
My first visit there left quite an impression. It was 1986, so Chicago was still celebrating that first wave of house music. You could almost go out any night of the week, and there was always somewhere to go. After giving it some thought, it only seemed logical for me to move there. It was a special time, and I knew one day I'd look back in retrospect and appreciate what I experienced.

So what brought you back to Miami? And can we count on you sticking around for a while?
I had reached a low point in my life. I had completely stopped making music, and kept getting myself into all sorts of trouble. Moving back here was the best I thing I did. I really enjoy being back. I seem to be more focused here, and travel often enough to where there's never a dull moment. Plus there's so many day and evening things to do in Miami. It's a great town. 

What are your impressions of Miami's current dance music scene when compared to the early days?
There are a lot of cool things related to dance music happening here now, but just as cities like NYC and San Francisco, Miami had a thriving scene in the '70s and '80s. I was too young in the '70s to witness anything, but what I did experience in the '80s is hard to compare to anything now.

How did you get the nickname "Mystic" Bill? Is there a story behind the name?
It was sort of given to me by a group of hippies that I traveled with. They were into Sufism and whirling like Dervishes. I had read a lot of poetry by Rumi and was fascinated by these people. To make a long story short, they were the ones who named me that.

What can you tell us about your creative process in the studio? Are you partial to house music's traditional analog gear, or do you use digital tools as well? How has your production M.O. evolved since your earliest work in the '90s?
I switch it up at times, but I mainly use an Akai MPC60 to sequence, along with various synths and drum machines. I use DAWs [digital audio workstations] mainly for post-production, or when I'm hired to do a remix and I'm working with stems. As far as my production M.O., I feel like it has definitely evolved. I learn something new every time I work on a song, so it's pretty constant.

"U Won't C Me" drops this month. How did this particular production come about?
Well, the idea for the song came together in the late '90s, but it was never completed. The Snuff Crew had reached out to me about putting out some of my music, and so I decided to go back and finish "U Won't C Me," and they really liked it. I'm pretty overwhelmed with the response so far, so definitely excited for its release. There's an instrumental version, a remix, and another track called "Like A Dream In The Night." It'll be out soon on Snuff Trax [vinyl] and Strictly Rhythm [digital].

And what can we expect from you next on the production front? Any new projects or releases on the horizon?
Coming Soon: the rerelease of "Take Me Back" on Invade Records out of Belgium, with remixes by Ricardo Villalobos and Ilario Liburni, my remix of Scott Fraser's "No True Word" on DX Recordings, and my new EP on Crimes Of The Future.


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