Think back to that internship you had in college—did it help you realize all your hopes and dreams? For Chess Hubbard (a.k.a. DJ Mother Hubbard), the answer is yes, thanks to a life-changing experience at the Metro. Seriously, when the Lakeview venue responsible for discovering bands like The Smashing Pumpkins and Urge Overkill suggests you DJ a set for a punk rock night at Smart Bar, you better grab that turntable and make magic happen.
Between gigs at Lollapalooza (twice!) to keeping up with the collection of tattoos on her petite frame, she's certainly leading a colorful life—figuratively and literally. Basically, her look is as eclectic as the music she plays. But trendsetter she is not. In fact, the spinstress prefers to avoid specific trends and rely on a few key items—like a solid jacket or bag—regardless of what's in season. Basics are great, but we heard this and our wheels started turning. So, we tapped the lovely ladies at Sofia boutique to use their amazing sartorial style and craft four inspirational ensembles that encompass everything about Miss Chess' spirit. From a super hot dress that satisfies her love for slits to a go-to jacket and shades, her look is as eclectic as the music she plays. Oh, but don't get too used to her Mother Hubbard moniker. This mama has a new pair of shoes—but you'll have to read on to see where they are walking.
Photographed by Heather Talbert
Tell us about your style and some of your fave looks.
"Parts punk and goth with a dash of preppy? Practical chic? That's a good question! I don't really follow trends and try to avoid specific looks, but regardless of what is in fashion, I always rely on a few key items: boots, jeans, jacket, bag, sunglasses, and scarves/gloves during the winter. Those are the only items I will spend a chunk of money on since I wear them almost every day."
"Most of my wardrobe is comprised of solid black and grays because they are easy to mix and match. Also, I have a fair amount of colorful tattoos, so I try not to wear patterns or colors that compete with them — they are my permanent accessories! In general, I am a fan of asymmetrical zippers/buttons, cutouts, slits, stripes, leather, mesh/fishnets (in moderation), short skirts, and all types of hosiery."
Chess is wearing M2F skinny fusion wash jeans, a Rebel Yell football tank, Doma leather jacket, Koolaburra wedge sneakers, Neff beanie, and Neff sunglasses.
What is something you'd never be caught dead wearing and why?
"Anything that features a huge designer logo/brand name. If it's not part of a bigger design or pattern — and is just to show people you are wearing that particular brand — it's beyond tacky."
You have a loyal Chicago following, but many people still may not know how you got your start. How did that happen?
"I was interning at the Metro years ago while I was in college and would make mix tapes for people in the office. One day, Joe Shanahan (owner of the Metro) suggested I DJ a set for a punk-rock night they were having at Smart Bar. There was no mixing or beat matching or even dance music involved!"
Did you always want to be a DJ and is it your full-time gig?
"I always wanted to be involved in art and music in whatever capacity possible. DJing fell into my lap and really just started as a fun hobby. It has evolved over the years and can be a full-time job at times. But my schedule varies a lot because I am also involved in events, marketing, and promotions with UR Chicago (online zine/blog) and a music/art collective called Dead Fame."
Chess is wearing a Bless'd Are The Meek cut-out blouse, Sauce heart leggings, and Madison Harding wedge booties.
Who do you admire musically and why?
"I absolutely love Björk. Everything about her — from her amazing music and artistic vision to her quirky style...just perfection to me. The list goes on and on, but Björk is number one."
Whose style do you admire and why?
"I am a fan of Marlene Dietrich. I know she was around before my time, but if I had the means, I would attempt to dress like her. Gown, tuxedo, uniform, suit, feminine, masculine...she pulled it off flawlessly."
Are you a makeup gal? If so, what are your go-to prods and why.
"Makeup can be a lot of fun. I don't wear much normally, but I do like experimenting every now and then. My go-to products would be Make Up For Ever Full Cover Waterproof Concealer (I have the worst under eye dark circles), L'Oréal Double Extension Beauty Tubes Mascara, Shiseido's eyelash curler, and Ben Nye Neutral Set Colorless Face Powder — it helps set makeup, gets rid of shine, and it's super cheap!"
Did you ever do anything wild and crazy with your hair? If so, did you regret it?
"My hair has been every color except green, and I even shaved it all off once. I try my best not to regret what I do with my hair since it always grows back. I have been able to try so many different colors, lengths, and styles by having that attitude! I do regret shaving my eyebrows off when I was 18 and having to pencil them in until they grew back. One word: HIDEOUS."
Does your style vary from when you're DJing to when you're just hanging out on your own?
"It really depends on the type of gig and the venue. Corporate solo gigs generally require a more elegant, dressy, sophisticated look whereas if I am DJing for my group CENOB1TE or Moneypenny, I tend to focus on my hair and makeup and just wear clothes I can jump around and sweat in."
Chess is wearing a Stone_Cold_Fox gown, Messeca pumps, Luv AJ x 4th and Bleeker septum cuffs and rings, vintage Fendi arm band, and a vintage Chanel belt.
What neighborhood do you live in now and what do you like about it?
"I live on the border of Wicker and Humboldt Park. I like the location a lot because it is easy to get anywhere in the city by car or train. I can also walk to the six corners and all the restaurants and bars in that area. A couple of my favorite places are Joey's Shrimp House and Lockdown Bar and Grill."
How many tattoos do you have? What are some of your favorites and the significance of them?
"I have a half sleeve and then eight other pieces. My favorites would be the WWII half sleeve on my left arm (for my brother/father) and the magpie and dogwood tat on my right arm (for my mom). I could go into their significance — but it's a bit involved!"
What are some of the sickest gigs you've ever played at and why?
"I have performed at two Lollapaloozas now, and they were both amazing. Getting to spin parties at the opening of the Hard Rock Resort & Casino in the Dominican Republic for a week was also glorious. Spinning a John Lennon Imagine benefit in Hollywood and getting to be on stage with Ringo Starr was surreal. But DJing my brother's wedding was also one of my best gigs!"
Any plans to play in Lollapalooza again?
"We'll have to wait and see...I hope to!"
Chess is wearing Courtshop high-waist flare jeans, Topshop sweater, Madison Harding Travis bootie shoes, and an Ember Skye bag.
If you could play at any gig in the world, what would it be and why?
"There are a lot of amazing EDM (electronic dance music) festivals in Europe. Iceland Airwaves and Roskilde are both on my wish list. The EDM scene in Europe is a lot more diverse and rich than here in America. Playing those kind of festivals would enable me to also see some of my favorite DJs/producers that don't play here in the states, too."
What is DJ Mother Hubbard up to these days?
"I am actually going to be retiring the Mother Hubbard moniker soon! Life During Wartime, an indie dance party I started with my partner Chris Baronner, will be having a final blowout bash in the first half of 2013 after 10 years of parties and events! The name Mother Hubbard started with that party, so when it is done, I think it is fitting that I retire the name, as well."
"I am in two groups: Moneypenny and CENOB1TE. Moneypenny is my electro/indie pop group with singer Jessica Gonyea (formed in 2009). Jessica sings and I play synths live, and we DJ together as well. CENOB1TE was born last summer as an experiment with my partner Graham Geren. We just released a collab track, "Sentinel," with Midnight Conspiracy on Ultra Music and have a new single, "Hyperion," coming out in a couple weeks on Rottun Recordings."
Where can we see you next?
"I am actually going on vacation to Mexico this month, so, for the first time in years, I am not DJing any holiday/NYE parties! I'm FREE! I'll be back in action in 2013."
Keep up with Chess on her CENOB1TE and Moneypenny Facebook pages.