- Matthew Dear – Portrait
The artist is coming to Detroit for a gig at Marble Bar tomorrow. Focus on his musical career was influenced by many genres, including Detroit techno. This led him to a hybrid electronic genre that made his popularity grow.
Matthew Dear was born in 1979 in Texas but grew up in Michigan where he quickly became hooked on the electronic sound. Techno already started to spread in Detroit when Dear was a teenager, and the artist submerged himself in the city’s musical culture. Although he was already into music before moving to Michigan, he explained in the UK media in 2012 that Detroit brought him something more: “Before I moved to Detroit, I already had really good influences from my elder brother, so I had electronic music, I had new wave and industrial from a very young age; say, like, eight or nine years old. But I was surrounded by Texas, and that was rock, folk and country. That was all there was on the airwaves, and there was no culture for dance music, or even hip-hop. It was a very guitar-based culture. So at sixteen, when I moved to the Detroit area, that’s when I got the electronic injection, you know, I’d hear everything on the radio, listening to WJLB in Detroit, which is all ghettotech and booty, real Detroit club music. All of a sudden, being inundated with that culture, it was a great juxtaposition to the rock that I came from, and it opened up a whole new world. This was the late nineties, so it was also the first big rush of UK and European dance music artists – Chemical Brothers, Daft Punk, that was all happening in the States for the first time. So, all of a sudden, I’m in Detroit, I start hearing about these parties in warehouses… It was the perfect time to have the left side already full, and now the right side opens up to all this electronic stuff.”
While attending the University of Michigan in 1998 and a few parties, Dear met Sam Valentin IV who grew up in the suburbs of Detroit, also fascinated by the musical heritage of the Motor City. Sam Valentin IV was into music at a very early age, buying his first pair of decks at 15 and starting to think critically about the scene that needed an independent electronic music label less characterized by one musical genre, in his opinion. That’s how Ghostly International was born, from a collaboration between the two who were looking to create a hybrid in electronic music. As they describe it, “Ghostly International label is a unique force in American independent music, balanced carefully between pop culture, leftfield experimentation, and studied artistic tradition”. The first single of Matthew, Hands Up For Detroit, is released in 1999 on the label, followed by others like Mouth to Mouth under the pseudonym of Audion. His first album Leave Luck to Heaven released in 2003, pursued the musical hybridity that is in the heart of Ghostly, and is seen as an interesting fusion between minimal techno and pop music.
After several releases, Matthew Dear released a fourth album in 2010 called Black City, where he imagines a futuristic metropolis that never sleeps. Here you can see the influence of the first waves of Detroit techno artists on his music, this concept of a futuristic metropolis being inherent Detroit techno. He describes the album in the same interview: “Well, there’s a kind of timelessness to it in the sense that I don’t want things to run on a 24-hour clock. It seems like a city that’s always awake, maybe always dialed-in electronically, and cannot be turned off. It’s this imaginary weird never-sleeping town. But yeah it’s full of lust and love, and dark shadows. Weird things around the corner…” After living for quite some time in the Big Apple, the best incarnation of a metropolis that never sleeps, Dear decided in 2012 to live in the forest, close to nature as he explains to Pitchfork: “The goal of living in the woods is to immerse myself in all forms of music. It’s a preemptive strike, without a doubt. Could I live in Tokyo tomorrow? Yeah. I still have desires to have a fast-paced life; by no means am I saying that I’ve reached a poetic, stagnant time to just be quiet. I’m looking ahead and I’m realizing that now is the time where I can afford to do it. I’m thinking about the future.”
Matthew Dear definitely made a name for himself in the electronic music scene by creating music at the crossroads of many influences, including Detroit techno. By being heavily influenced by other genres, the artist became famous for his own sound, a blend of cultures that also allows him to explore more metaphysical questions: “It’s the central question of consciousness – what is real? It’s just what I think about all the time. My songs are just my anecdotes, my brutal way of dealing with those questions, which everybody asks themselves. I’m not special, everybody thinks about these kinds of things. I use my art and my music as a way to have fun with those ideas. I’m not looking for the golden truth, I don’t think that they’re going to tell you the answer, but I think it’s a good way for me to experience some sort of release.”
- DJ Qu – Portrait
DJ Qu is coming to Detroit on Saturday for his first gig in the city. This is the perfect occasion to introduce you to this iconic DJ from New York.
Native of New Jersey, DJ Qu has a unique sound that became one of the most appreciated in Europe. With his fellow artists Jus-Ed, Levon Vincent and Anthony Parasole, they proudly wear the NYC colors and developed a sound that is inspired by the huge clubbing history of New York, with a twist of contemporary vibes.
Naturally – maybe because of this clubbing history, Qu started by dancing, urban dancing, then DJing. It’s only later that he came to produce as he explained in an interview for Fabric: “It was more of an urban dance type of thing, think of b-boy or break beat I’m sure you know what breaking is, it’s an urban cultural dance that we did but we did it to house music and it was a club thing. Dancing was my way in and I would say I started DJing in 1989, with producing I only started in 2002 so I was a DJ before I was a producer.”
1989 was the golden year in NYC for clubbing, although the heyday of Larry Levan’s Paradise Garage was over, there were still plenty of clubs to go and dance in the Big Apple. Disco was almost done, house music already on its way and New York was the perfect place for it: “In the late ’80s, early ’90s, in this area of New Jersey and New York, [house music] was everywhere. All you had to do was go outside. You couldn’t run from it. I’m sure there are old records from that time that I’d play now for my mom and she’ll remember those songs, just from hearing them on the blocks. People would be riding past in their cars, playing it out. You were kind of dragged into it.”
During the 1990’s, while going out and discovering more music, DJ Qu developed his DJing technique before starting to produce in the early 2000’s. His first record was released in 2005 and the artist has released two LPs since then, one in 2011 and one last June, as well as many EPs. His artistic career is a good reflection of his sound, as DJ Qu does things the way he intends, without having to placate any outside interests. His deep house is rich, sometimes soulful, sometimes more energetic but with this knowledge he feels the crowd and gives the dancers what they want. His record label, Strength Music Recordings, is the perfect musical tool for his creativity and his liberty. The label compiles most of Qu’s recordings and we invite you to check it out to learn more about the artist and his sound.
In Europe, these past few years – almost decades, DJ Qu and his New York friends became a unique sphere of the New York sound to which people love to listen and dance. When Fabric asked him what the difference was between them, here’s how the artist answered: “We all have our own distinct sound but how much does it have to do with them? We met each other within the last decade and we all had the same stories when it comes to how we all got into the music so that’s our connection, the love that we had for this music. And it just made sense. Thanks to Jus Ed for connecting us all together, he was the connecting point for all the artists.
But I would say you know that’s what my music has in connection to theirs and vice versa, is that we had the same singular story even though we do walk different paths, but when it comes to the music that’s the connection. Music brings people together from all walks you know.”
DJ Qu will play his first Detroit gig at TV Lounge this Saturday, invited by one of Detroit’s deep house legends, Delano Smith. Detroit artist Haz Mat is joining the lineup and will play his analog show live.
Find more information about the party here.
- Blake Baxter – Portrait
Deep Space Radio inaugurates a series of portrait of electronic music artists with Blake Baxter.
The American techno musician is a part of the very first wave of techno music, alongside artists like Juan Atkins, Derrick May, Kevin Saunderson and Eddie Fowlkes. Although he is an absolute reference for techno history, Blake Baxter still remains underrated today. However, The Prince of Techno – nickname that came from his fascination for Prince and their musical similarities, especially in the vocals referring to love, sexuality etc. – marked the history of techno music.
The electronic musician starts by mixing records then recording himself in the mid-80’s. As he explains in a rare interview in the magazine Spannered: “I was working on music since I was sixteen and my first track came out when I was nineteen. It came out in Chicago because I was really influenced by that sound and I was commuting back and forth. I wanted to do a combination of Giorgio Moroder and Prince, but with a poetic influence.” The same poetic influence that led him first to write poetry, “from political things to things about love or whatever. I used to go to bars and write and recite poems.” Among his musical inspirations, he cites Prince, Barry White, Unlimited Orchestra, Giorgio Moroder and Teddy Pendergrass. Parliament/Funkadelic, as with many of the Detroit techno artists, were one of his main musical inspirations to create electronic music, mostly for their brilliant and huge use of keyboards in their songs.
Blake Baxter, Get Laid
Blake Baxter recorded some of his early tracks on Chicago record label DJ International. As he recalls,“the thing about that was Detroit was always commuting to Chicago because they had a better scene than we did as far as their underground Chicago style house.” He then recorded on legendary Detroit record label KMS Records, Kevin Saunderson’s record label, or Underground Resistance. His 12-inch “The Prince of Techno UR-06” is still considered today as one of the most iconic releases of the UR repertoire. Blake Baxter also became an iconic figure of the Majestic at this same period, an historical music club in Detroit. Dan Sicko, author of the reference work on Detroit techno in this book “Techno Rebels” describes: “More established clubs like the Shelter and the Majestic kept techno flowing through their sound systems into the early 1990s. The Majestic was home to Blake Baxter, a skilled DJ who painted a broad palette of dance music styles for the equally diverse Friday night crowd. Everything from acid house and S’Express to Section 25’s hazy industrial classic “Looking from a Hilltop” bounced around the Majestic’s cavernous interior.”
While techno was becoming more and more famous on the other side of the Atlantic, it “brought new life to careers of many Detroit artists” for Sicko, who explains: “Santonio Echols, Eddie Fowlkes, and Blake Baxter were among the club’s first bookings. Tresor, the label, was also built on a few dozen releases from Detroit, starting with the 1991 X-101 project from Underground Resistance.” Blake Baxter toured Germany and released tracks on the emerging record label, Tresor. Underground Resistance played a role to introduce Blake Baxter in the European electronic music scene, although the artist has always had a more housey sound than the techno collective. As he recalls, “If it weren’t for them… They got me over to Germany. Dimitri [Hegeman, Tresor’s boss] was doing a UR-tour and they hired me to DJ. If I had wanted to I could have done more projects, but I wanted to be a solo artist and do more housey stuff”.
The Prince of Techno UR-06
The artist is living in Los Angeles, and is playing less than in his heyday. Although he totally dropped the techno sound, Blake Baxter is still playing and loving house music, so for the newest techno generation, we can still hope to see him play in Detroit or in Europe, where his popularity continues. He also does a weekly radio show on Deep Space Radio, Wednesday’s at noon US/ET.
- Detroit is Alive
Detroit is alive… Rejuvenated, and building on its roots at an awesome pace. From urban developments in the downtown area, to an exploding food culture spread throughout the metro-area. Equally as lively, is our music scene, and namely… the electronic music scene. Once a beacon of light that birthed the country’s first sounds of what would eventually be known as Techno, it is now re-defining itself, as another wave of cutting-edge artistry emerges from the ashes of a once-forgotten city.
To highlight the happenings of this bubbling cauldron of culture, we ventured out into the night to experienced some of the magical gatherings happening here. Parties, as we used to call them, have mostly moved into the clubs and out of the warehouses, but that doesn’t stop Detroit from cultivating that gritty industrial vibe we are so fond of. Dark spaces, grinding rhythms, and giant rooms filled with sweat-soaked bodies once again rule the land of the motor city. The Detroit Techno House staff visited a few spots and found just what we needed to feel the energy of a city ripe with desire.
One of the most recent events we attended was an amazing show put on by the Texture crew. Bringing out Gunnar Haslam from New York, and involving Interdimensional Transmissions founders BMG and Erika, this party was a prime example of the special vibration that is resonating through Detroit right now. The venue was decked out in billowy drapes that made the entire space feel like a portal to a different universe. No straight lines or defined edges caused for your mind to rely less on sight, and more on sound. It was perfectly matched with a subtle and intuitive lighting display, projected high above the crowd on soot-covered walls. The presentation was, clearly, as important as the programming, and it showed in a masterful manner. Shigeto of Ghostly International also played this show, and took us through a myriad of styles with a very rare set of faster-paced electronica that perhaps only he could define precisely. Two floors of people filled this party with an energy that was palpable. Everyone in the building could feel what was happening, and we all knew it was special. It’s a symbol of Detroit rejecting its “new” labeling and taking back the true essence of our community. Also on the bill that night were Shady P of How To Kill, Rawaas of Lobster Theremin, Jaos of Paxahau and Jacob Park. The texture crew has another event planned on November 4th with Route 8 doing a live set along with a host of other amazing acts.
We recently also visited a full moon party entitled “Wicked Moon” That featured the sounds of Monty Luke, Marshall Applewhite, Keith Kemp and Jerry Downey Jr. This event had all the feelings of an old school Detroit party and the music could not have been better. Serious selecting from Monty Luke, coupled with precise mixing and a command of the rig made for a night when it was impossible not to dance. The space was an expansive multi-room establishment that tugged on the heart strings of the nostalgic raver, and offered a cornucopia of stimuli for the advantageous. Deep into the morning we communed and awed at the spectacle that is the Detroit artist community in this new era of existence. The party seemed to happen effortlessly, not too crowded, but very well attended. It was not for everyone, and that’s what made it so perfect.
This post is not about one party, or one genre, it is about a community… A community of people that have grown up influenced by the pioneers of this scene, and bleed respect for the culture it birthed. We are children of the sound, and our parents will never expire. As long as kick drums vibrate our bodies and melodies soothe ours souls, the origin of this magical science will endure. To be a member of this community is truly a badge of honor that creates a unique awareness that can be applied to every aspect of life. Having an appreciation for this music and this culture seems to equate a certain particularity with the rest of existence that we choose to involve ourselves with. Techno-Snob is not a term I fully embrace, but the sentiment is well appreciated, and at times a fair assessment of the people who truly “listen”. The moral of this story is that Detroit as we know it is gone, but the “new” Detroit is not some gentrified clone of American consumerism. It is an intelligent and cultured product of a past that is beyond comparison, and a future that will recklessly embrace change, while never losing sight of where it came from. Fuck a $3000 apartment in mid-town… Give me a dark room and some dance music, and I’ll die a happy man.