We sat down with Step to talk about the mix, the culture around football, and what it means to be the ‘Music Director’ of a MLS club.
Cooper: How did you become the Music Director of the Chicago Fire?
DJ Step: It was kind of a spontaneous thing. I’ve played soccer for years and moved to Chicago for school a while back, and during that time I always hit up Fire games with friends on a semi-regular basis. Last year my big brother gifted me season tickets and I made this Hot Mix Routine that incorporated Fire or Heat related samples. I asked two of my friends to help shoot and edit the video of me performing the mix, and then just put it out there not really expecting anything to come of it.
It caught on really quickly in the MLS community and the club approached me about making this happen on a regular basis. The rest is history.
What makes the Fire different from the other professional sport franchises in Chicago?
Other teams in Chicago may have followers that have been affiliated with their team for longer than the Fire has been around, but literally no one in Chicago has fans like we do. The passion and support for the team — and really the amazing banners, signs, chants and DIY attitude — is something that is unique to the sport of soccer, and particularly phenomenal here.
What are the most exciting parts of being involved with the Fire? What are some of the challenges?
There’s a lot of things about working with the Fire that make it special. But I love mixing different types of records — Chicago house, latin music, rock, hip-hop — and being able to watch people’s reactions during the lead up to kick off.
Challenges? I think when you have a season like the Fire did in 2015, and 2014, it’s always gonna be a battle — but staying positive throughout the course of season and riding out rough patches with hard work is the way I’ve tried to keep at it.
What does your schedule look like on a matchday?
The match-day experience is almost holy to me. I wake up early and normally get a run in and listen to Fire Weekly — the local Fire-centric talk show. Then I hop over to stadium early and set up. I always stop by the tailgate and say hey to folks and make it a point to check in with friends before I DJ. It’s a good way to remember each individual experience.
I’m on the decks for the hour leading up to the kick-off. Then, during the five minutes before the team takes the field, I stop and they play the video I created this past year to celebrate the team. I also am the guy that mans the goal siren for the stadium — so I am always looking forward to slamming that control for a Fire Goal. Other than that I cut it up at halftime and am the man behind your exit soundtrack as you leave the stadium.
What is the concept behind the “Major League Mix” and what was your inspiration for it?
The concept was simple: This year marked 20 years of Major League Soccer in a country that most felt would never entertain the beautiful game that is so widely played all over the globe.
Honestly, I was inspired by spread of street culture and soccer. The game isn’t played just on a green grass surface — it’s everywhere. And I get inspired by magazines like by Eight by Eight that create this intersection of culture and sport.
Twenty years from now I want to be able to see MLS kits and streetwear the same way I see Chicago Bulls and Blackhawks jerseys and memorabilia around town. It’s a fabric of your personality and I want people to get excited as I do about the game.
What was your favorite part of making this mix and why?
The research really, and finding little bytes of sound from every team. It’s pretty much an audio puzzle for lack of a better term. The little details are what counts.
Where do you see football culture going in the US as the sport continues to grow in popularity?
It be crazy to think anything but bigger and better. My one hope is that no matter how big or popular it get’s we don’t lose the little details, we don’t lose the grassroots art and DIY support and passion. That’s the stuff that keeps me getting out of bed in the morning.