Chicken, waffles, and some of Chicago’s finest underground rappers – what more could one want? Not much, if you ask me. Saturday I had the pleasure of sitting down with Shawn Childress, the mastermind behind the Waffle Gang – and now, Waffle Fest – to discuss the importance of professionalism, childhood inspirations, and what goes best on a waffle.
ASHLEIGH DYE: So first off, can you tell me about how the Waffle Gang got started?
SHAWN CHILDRESS: Well I used to go to after hours at Late Night Thai and Hollywood Grille and eat waffles and anything like crazy. So then we’d go to these restaurants and they’d be like it’s the Waffle Gang! Everybody was just like “Waffle Gang, Waffle Gang Waffle Gang!” And I thought-man that’s catchy. We got up to about 24 members and everyone was just doin’ their thing. It was like Purple Ribbon with Big Boi, just a group of artists playing shows together and having fun. Now we’re down to four, but it doesn’t matter because we’re still getting work.
AD: How long has Waffle Gang been going on?
SC: Three years, we actually just had our three-year anniversary. And let me tell you, from doing all the groundwork from the very beginning-it’s been a rocky road.
AD: What do you like most about a collective of people? Do you think it’s beneficial to bounce ideas off other people?
SC: If you’re professional. You can work with ten guys or whatever, but when you have people with hidden agendas and just trying to boost their thing, then you know it’s going to be a wreck. You know the people that mean it. It feels good to have a team unit but if it doesn’t work, then it doesn’t work.
AD: What motivated you to start Waffle Fest, the event? Was it just a way to showcase what you and other artists have been working on?
SC: You know the SxSW’s and the Pitchforks, what you see is that certain artists are always on the bill. So with Waffle Fest, it’s like, let’s give people you haven’t heard a chance; who don’t really get a lot of shows, because people hadn’t heard of them. I didn’t like that and I really like SxSW and I thought-we can do that in Chicago.
AD: How do you choose who gets to perform? Is it anyone who is interested can or do you hand select them?
SC: The first two I had people submit music. But this one was personal invites.
AD: Ah I see, so now you gotta know somebody who knows somebody.
AD: What’s your favorite part of Waffle Fest?
SC: Hmm…When it’s over!
AD: What’s the most stressful part of organizing the event?
SC: You know, most promoters get a hold of people the day of an event. But I gave people set times three weeks ago. People are hitting me about today like “what’s my time slot?” Did you even read your inbox? Some people aren’t used to professionalism. And they get it in their heads and get all stressed out like “I don’t know what time I’m up” when it was in their inbox the whole time.
AD: What inspires you to make your own music?
SC: Big Daddy Kane. My mother played a lot of Stevie Wonder; she wanted me to be a drummer like my father but that didn’t work out. Then I realized, I could put my words together, pick out my beats; I started in 1988, got on stage in 1989, preformed at the House of Blues by ’92. So my “career”, indie-wise, went pretty crazy. I worked on a lot of stuff, little stuff that people don’t really know. But it all started with Big Daddy Kane.
AD: So I have to ask, what’s your favorite Waffle topping?
SC: Aaahh-Syrup, just plain ol’ syrup. I’m the kind of guy who gets Pad Thai and takes the peanuts out. I’m picky. But if I had to do something it’d be strawberries and blueberries.