Everyone’s dancing, the music is bumping, temperature is rising… Unlike most other parties one finds at the University of Chicago, Meter Room had no lulls in energy or lack of enthusiasm. On Friday nights, the boiler room of a Hyde Park apartment building turned into a five-hour house music hub. Adam Raphael and Daniel Chavez, the boys behind Meter Room, talk about their experience as DJs and their involvement with some of the staple parties at UChicago.
From suburban Michigan, about half an hour from Detroit, Adam ‘always knew’ about the techno scene found there. It wasn’t until middle-school and high-school that he really got into it. With a musical background in the guitar and bass, and some knowledge of the basics in keyboard and drums, he learned about DJ-ing and producing mostly through YouTube tutorials and messing around with the software. Daniel, from Charlotte, North Carolina, said he first was exposed to electronic music through his dad, who listened to the electro station in the mornings to wake up. From there, he got ‘deeper and deeper’ into it, going to Ultra Music Festival at 16, and exposing himself to different kinds of house music. With no musical training whatsoever, Daniel just taught himself with software and mixers, eventually saving up to buy turntables.
Photo by Sam Royall
By the time they both arrived at the University of Chicago in 2015, they were both at similar stages in their DJ-ing experience.
They met on a Facebook page about clubbing, where people looking to go out to dance-clubs would connect, but didn’t become friends until the end of their first year. Adam, a now-Hallowed barista, met a former barista named Max, a DJ who threw a party in one of the lower-level penthouses in Logan Arts Center. Once connected, Adam and Max started to play together, producing songs and DJing. Max, then a fourth year, apparently had the legitimate set up: turntables, mixers, samplers, and ‘the craziest’ wall of vinyl records. Adam and Daniel then re-connected at a meeting their spring quarter; Adam introduced Daniel to Max and together the three began DJing all together. They were ‘stoked’ to be friends with a guy who already had experience DJing at parties around Hyde Park and who had access to such great equipment:
Once we met him, we though ‘oh, wow, we should start DJing together and play together’; he had already played around here at apartment parties, and we started like that, at the apartment right across Obama’s place. We were carrying huge speakers up and down, we thought we were so cool. The first big one we did was for a music publication called Shuffle that had a magazine release party, and the people there were going nuts for our sets so we thought ‘we should keep doing this’… (Daniel)
Yeah, people loved it, everyone was together and dancing; we were super into techno and tech house back then, more than anything else, but if you give someone a space to dance in and music to dance to, with a not too intimidating environment… people just wanna dance and feel good and we were able to do that. (Adam)
Photos by: Sam Royall
Despite their success with parties, Adam and Daniel’s plans to press a record fell through. Frustrated, they decided to take matters into their own hands and start their own label. With a bunch of cassette tapes and a tape deck, and a bunch of paper and ink from the Regenstein Library, they created Lake Shore Drive:
Yeah, first year we had planned to put something out but it fell through and we were very frustrated. We were sitting on all these tracks but none of us had the time or money (as most of our other friends were fourth years) so it was super hard to get it together to get a record pressed. So, we thought we should buy a ton of cassette tapes, and just put out tapes and do something ourselves. The lo-fi scene was pretty big back then, so it made sense. Adam had a tape deck, so we could make the tapes ourselves. We first released Adam’s Basement Tapes. We spent all summer designing the logo, thinking ahead about how to send stuff out. Second year we had the Basement Tapes release party at Adam’s apartment, our first solo party. It was super cool because on the Facebook page more people said they were coming to our event than some big artist who was playing downtown, Kaytranada or something, so we were one of the most popular events in Chicago aha. (Daniel)
After releasing some of their own stuff and posting tracks they had made, Daniel met a guy at Gramophone, a record shop in Chicago, who said he made music. After listening to it, Daniel decided they might as well put it out: from there, the label became a way for them to release music for other artists. Later on that year, they got connected with Chris Good, another student at the University, who was making music at the time. His work, whose cover art Adam and Daniel say was one of the best they’d seen, was one of the last releases they did, as the operation became very time consuming. Making the cassettes, printing the art, assembling the tapes, and shipping them out became an unsustainable hobby when paired with the tremendous workload all UChicago students have.
To be able to put out someone else’s music… it was super cool. It’s so much more fun to release someone else’s art to the world, to be able to let them release their best version of something, the version they intended it to be and the way they wanted to express themselves. I love being exposed to new music and showing it to people, I’m always looking for the next thing the next sound, and Lake Shore Drive was a way for me to do that. (Daniel)
Yeah, we do still put up edits, its ours so we can put up whatever we want. We put up tracks we wanna do edits of, and we can play them at parties, and some are really silly but they’re so fun to do. Like we one-time made a Christmas edit which was super fun. But a year later after we released Chris’s music, we check back to see who had bought our stuff, and we checked and saw an order from this pretty well known DJ, who’s got an international presence, and he had ordered our cassettes. And we were like, ‘We messed up… we don’t make any of these tapes anymore!’ So we hit him up on Facebook and apologized and refunded him but, wow we messed up. He actually thought we were cool at some point. (Adam)
Lake Shore Drive, however, was not only the starting point for their music releases; it was the opening reception for their first set of tapes (Basement Tapes) which made them want to continue throwing these DJ parties themselves. After successfully hosting one at Adam’s apartment, they ran into the problem of finding a location able to sustain a regular event. With the help of Chris, they found a basement spot in Hyde Park… more precisely, the boiler room of someone’s apartment building, with meters all over the walls. After a fun Wednesday test trial, under the presumption of being a bar-night pre-game (or post-game), they moved the event to Fridays so more people could show up. The events were fun, lively; the place was packed, people were playing their own sets, and everyone was dancing.
Not many people came the first one, but then we did them on Fridays, since a lot of the brothers who host bar-night wanted to come to our event too. We ended up moving the booth around and got a table, and Max came to set us up with the whole sound system. One time we invited our friend Alejandro to come play, who works at a record shop, and we all thought he was the coolest guy. He also has a label and a track coming out, so we got him to come play and it was one of the best parties we threw. Even he said it was incredible, he couldn’t stop talking about it after and was just saying the nicest things. He had just come back from opening for CBD in Los Angeles and he said that our party was ten times better than that one, so we thought, ‘Man, we really gotta keep doing this!’ After that it really picked up, to the point that so many people would show up we’d have to tell them to walk around the block one time before letting them in! (Daniel)
Yeah the best part about it was that everybody loved this kind of music even if they hadn’t heard it before. Everyone was just dancing to the stuff, no one was trying to front or look cool. it was so packed and so much fun. Just dancing to music with your friends. (Adam)
Photos courtsey of Daniel and Adam
After multiple successful events, the problem of space resurfaced. Throwing a regular party for up to two hundred people puts a strain a lot of things, not limited to just location, apartment tenants, and those in charge of the event. Friday afternoons had become entirely devoted to setting up for the night; lugging speakers to and from the event, coordinating sets, putting up the sound system… usual annoyances, like forgetting the keys and being locked out, turned into setbacks that left someone sitting outside guarding the speakers for hours. At the end of their second year, they felt the strain was too much; so, moving away from their regular location, they threw the last event of the year at Adam’s house.
It was just becoming too much of a strain, especially on the people who lived in the apartment. So at the end of the year we had our last party at my house. It was an all-day event, everyone was coming through and playing for an hour or so and just having fun. We wanted to go out with a bang, and we did, having a blast just mixing and performing with our friends. Now every time we get a chance to throw a party we love to. Some people in Alpha Delt love our stuff so we get throw parties there sometimes. They’ve got a great basement space that’s perfect, we don’t have to worry about noise or crowd control or anything. (Adam)
Photos courtesy of Adam and Daniel
Meter Room continues, though less regularly than it used to. It’s defined by its energy, a constant crowd moving to music and having fun, not taking it more seriously than it needs to be taken. Dance music, whether you know much about it or not, is meant to be enjoyed at events like these: surrounded by friends, and, as obvious as it is, actually dancing. Though neither one really feels like they identify with the Chicago House scene, they definitely attribute a lot of their experience to the young crowd of university students in Hyde Park. The boys behind meter room found success by creating a space where college students can enjoy house music as its meant to be enjoyed, and got to share their music in doing so.
Dance music has been one of few genres where you can be in scene and interact with it without having to be in the industry. After all, we are still primarily students, but if it works out that this is something more, then it works out. Most house-music people have day jobs; this path isn’t the most sustainable or reliable. It’s all strictly for the love of playing music. A lot of people here make no money off this stuff, even though there are a lot of people in Europe now who are. (Daniel)
Yeah, I love dance music, but I also love a lot of other kinds of music, and would love to get into other kind of stuff. Daniel loves to put out other people’s music, and learn about them, he’s always collecting record and finding the next new thing. I’m glad to be able to do this while being a student, to make music and throw parties, because in the end dance music is meant to be listened to this way. It’s a social music, easy music, some of the best songs are just simple. All you gotta do is make a track people can dance to and bring people together, and just have fun with your friends. (Adam)
Keep an eye out for the next Meter Room, and check out their stuff in the links below! Temperature’s rising…
Recording from set at Alpha Delt
Article By: Carlotta Verita
Based on Interview By: Carlotta Verita, with help from Joao Panicali, Joey Libertin and Pablo Luchau
Cover Photo: courtesy of Daniel Chavez and Adam Raphael
Audio Clip and Videos: Carlotta Verita and Andrea Tabora