20 Questions With Green Velvet: ‘I Don’t Feel Legendary, Because My Best Work Is Yet to Come’

Whether you know him as Green Velvet, as Cajmere, as one half of Get Real or as one of his other aliases, the fact is that Curtis Jones’ productions are as vital now as they was when he started making house music back in the early ’90s.

The Chicago-born artist scored dance world hits early in his career, with Cajmere’s “Percolator” and “Brighter Days” — both released in 1992 — becoming club staples (and in the former’s case, also a jock jam essential.) Both of those songs were also played during Beyoncé‘s 2023 tour behind Renaissance, an album Green Velvet contributed to the as the co-producer of “COZY.” His hefty catalog includes collaborations with a spectrum-spanning collection of dance artists including Chris Lake, Patrick Topping, Flosstradamus, Walker & Royce and many more.

Jones’ most recent release is “The Greatest Thing Alive,” a characteristically funky collaboration with Mark Knight and James Hurr released via Knight’s longstanding label, Toolroom. The last two months of the year will find him playing gigs in the U.K., Mexico, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Arizona.

But before all that, we found him at home in Chicago. Here, Green Velvet talks about how Beyoncé helped deliver one of the proudest moments of his career, his respect for Prince and why – after so much success — he doesn’t yet feel like a legend.

1. Where are you in the world right now, and what’s the setting like?

Right now I’m home in Chicago working in my studio, and the setting is peaceful and inspiring.

2. What is the first album or piece of music you bought for yourself, and what was the medium?

This is very difficult for me to answer, because with my father being a DJ and working in my aunt’s record store I grew up around music. My favorite album, however, was Parliament’s Funkentelechy vs. the Placebo Syndrome.

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?

My father was an electrical engineer, an entrepreneur and DJ.  My mother was a dietitian. My father passed away more than 10 years ago.  He was very proud of what I was doing. My mother still wants me to go back to school to get a PhD so we will have a doctor in the family.

4. What’s the first non-gear thing you bought for yourself when you started making money as an artist?

A tacky, used, stick-shift red sports car.

5. If you had to recommend one album for someone looking to get into dance/electronic music, what would you give them?

Prince’s 1999. The man was a genius, and he knew how to bring synthesizers to life.

6. What’s the last song you listened to?

My upcoming release with DJ E-Clyps and Dajae, ”Hot N Spicy.”

7. The word “legend” is associated with your name. Do you feel legendary?

No, I don’t feel legendary, because my best work is yet to come.

8. Your latest track is “The Greatest Thing Alive.” What, for you, are the greatest things alive?

Babies, puppies and people with love in their hearts.

9.  The song is also very much about feeling yourself. In what moments do you feel like the greatest thing alive?

When I am helping others.

10. You’ve been doing this for more than three decades. What’s the key to your longevity?

God blessing me with creativity and wisdom to make music that continues to resonate with fans, young and old.

11. And in those 30 years you’ve obviously seen the dance world change a lot. How does this moment compare to 10 or 20 or 30 years ago?

Now it is pop culture, where in the past it was underground.

12. You’ve talked before about your religious conversion after having your drink spiked with GhB roughly 20 years ago. How do your faith and your career intersect?

I have always been religious, and a lot of my music reflects that. After by the grace of God I survived my drink being spiked, it made my faith even stronger.

13. What’s the best city in the world for dance music currently? Why?

The music is really global now and one of the results of the pandemic — especially with the internet and streaming — is people have learned to have a good time no matter where they are in the world.

14. The most exciting thing happening in dance music currently is _____?

The return of oversized clothes.

15. The most annoying thing happening in dance music currently is _____?

People having their cell phones stolen at music events.

16. Do you have guilty pleasure music?

My guilty music pleasure is listening to classical music.

17. What’s been the proudest moment of your career thus far?

There are actually two. Hearing “Percolator” on the radio in 1992 and having Beyoncé play “Percolator” and “Brighter Days” during her Renaissance Tour.

18. What’s the best business decision you’ve ever made?

Leaving graduate school at the UC Berkeley Department of Chemical Engineering for music.

19. Who was your greatest mentor, and what was the best advice they gave you?

My music career has been influenced by many people and experiences, but unfortunately, I didn’t have a mentor.

20. One piece of advice you’d give to your younger self?

Get your own drinks and never leave it unattended!!!

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