The birth of our underground brand, Factory 93, not only brought on an adrenaline rush reminiscent of the renegade warehouse-era of raving—on which Insomniac was founded—but it also had us thinking back to all the people, places and parties that made this whole operation possible. And with that came a burning desire to crack open our collection and dust off the classic records we couldn’t live without. Through our From the Crate series, we’ll be breaking out both seminal and obscure cuts alike, imparting some knowledge in the process.
Bonkers. Deranged. Insane. Loco. Mental. Meshuga. Nuts. Unhinged. Before “crazy” and its synonyms became de facto descriptors for our current political quagmire, they were being applied to green-mohawked Chicago DJ, producer and label boss Curtis Alan Jones, better known as Cajmere or Green Velvet. Through his twin personas, sister labels (mainstream Cajual and underground Relief), and lysergic tracks like 1992’s synapse-popper “Percolator” and belter “Brighter Days,” Jones was undeniably leading the third wave of Chicago’s house legacy, triggered by Frankie Knuckles’ early-‘80s post-disco edits and amplified by Phuture’s late-‘80s acid tracks.
By the time Green Velvet’s “Flash” dropped in 1995, Jones had already taken us to church on 1993’s incendiary “Preacher Man” and dropped several jacking Underground Goodies essentials, many featuring Dajaé’s powerhouse vocals. Despite his notorious track record and the infamous hook on “Flash”—“Cameras ready, prepare to flash”—night crawlers worldwide were blindsided by the track’s gobsmacking squelch and stutter.
Over a steady opening stomp, Green Velvet delivers a cheeky warning in a blasé tone just this side of cunty: “Good evening, parents/Tonight I’m gonna take you on a tour/Where the bad little kiddies go.” As a punishing flutter of panning snares fades in, Green Velvet guides listeners through Dante-esque circles of clubland, pointing out a litany of debaucheries—joints here, smuggled booze there, nitrous oxide balloons everywhere. As we dive deeper into the night and the track, “Flash” adds face-melting acid effects while Jones, Frank-N-Furter–like, encourages tourists to document the demimonde’s atrocities. The goal is ostensibly to blackmail the children into behaving, but of course, it only encourages them to misbehave further.
When it was first released, “Flash” got the remix treatment from fellow Chicagoans, including Boo Williams, Paul Johnson, and DJ Sneak. Williams turned up the circus vibe with helium-filled vocals; Paul Johnson cranked up the swing rhythm that typified Underground Goodies releases; and DJ Sneak punctuated his take with mind-warping synth stabs. In 1998, Danny Tenaglia gave it his tribal, bottom-heavy touch, and Timo Maas flipped it into a chugging, Euro-flavored, dirty dub. As recently as this summer, Eats Everything reworked it into an alien transmission accented with early house synths, Loco & Jam gave it a cavernous tech house vibe, and Albert Ruiz kicked up the manic machine-gun rhythm on his stripped-down take.
These are just a few of the official reinterpretations that testify to the enduring influence of “Flash” on dance music more than 20 years later. Countless unofficial bootlegs and edits abound and will undoubtedly continue to proliferate as new generations fall through the looking glass in the future. Maybe our judgment is biased by nostalgia, or something in “Flash” infected our DNA, but nothing we’ve heard so far can match the euphoria of the original. Hopefully this won’t stop anyone from trying.