We have been practicing being everywhere at once. Time-traveling into the past has been fun, lingering in the power and the glory of Detroit’s vast musical underground; less so the near-future, where we alternately bite our fingernails and try to chill as we count down the hours, days and weeks until Fuse-In ’05. But we find our greatest comfort here, in the present, with all of you, continuing the conversation that never stops about the culture that never sleeps.
We were wide-awake for a recent Motor City Music Conference panel called “Pulling In,” about keeping this same conversation alive and kicking. The panel was moderated by WDET’s Liz Copeland and included promoter-Dorkwaver Jon Ozias, DJ-producer Stacey Pullen, Rob Theakston (Thinkbox-Dorkwave), Ghostly International head Sam Valenti and Clark Warner of Minus/Plus 8.
One of the highlights included a lively exchange about what Ozias called the “the crest and decline” of the dance scene: “The music was [so] tied in with the [club] experience that ... it did not work without that experience,” Ozias said. Ozias brought international DJ talent to Motor during the club’s peak period, 1999 to 2001. “We used to be able to book anyone at Motor and fill it. But the novelty wore off.”
Theakston said, “In the late-’90s, it was packaged as wallpaper for a futuristic jet-set lifestyle. Then the major labels dropped it for emo, or some other fad du jour.”
Valenti: “Kids are more facile on computers and know about more music than I did at their age ... but they’re not throwing sweatbox parties anymore. [The United States] is afraid of disco. This is not a dance country.”
Ozias asked Pullen, who started performing in 1985, “How many people that used to come out to see you [back then] are still coming out?”
“None,” Pullen said. “In America, it doesn’t happen. In Europe, people are nurtured on club culture from day one. It’s different.”
“The live show is embedded in us as Americans,” Theakston added. “I went to concerts before I started seeing DJs: you can’t compare the experience of seeing Fugazi with a DJ.”
Warner, who manages the labels that feature international star Richie Hawtin (aka Plastikman), said his challenge is to convert people who consume the experience of Hawtin the DJ into consumers of his mix CDs and Plastikman’s studio work. “We have six or seven major markets in North America, with Detroit still the top-selling. But it’s hard to grab the youth of America — to translate that club experience. We have to convince people that experiencing a great DJ is the same thing as seeing [Sonic Youth’s] Thurston Moore masturbate with a guitar. It’s all about the moment of inspiration.”
Say it: Awe-tek-er
Some of the harshest critics of Sean Booth and Rob Brown, who record together as Autechre, say the two Northern Brits have been masturbating with analog synths and modular interactive software programs (like Max/MSP/Jitter) since the early 1990s. Others regard the textured, non-linear, electronic programming that Autechre pioneered and came to be known as IDM (intelligent dance music) as the closest techno gets to heavenly sound art.
The group is closely associated with Warp, the UK-based label that helped put the tech-savvy music of the clubs into mobile headphone units, home stereos and personal computers. Warp released a series of 12-inchers, EPs and full-length recordings that spread Autechre’s influence first across Europe and then North America. The obscure titles of the albums (Incunabula, Tri Repetae) and individual songs (like “Ipacial Section,” “Pro Radii” and “Augmatic Disport” from the new LP, Untilted) signal the listening challenges that lay within. The fans of Autechre’s music are legion; their 2001 performance on the DEMF’s Underground Stage could be heard but hardly seen for all the bodies smashed up against the concrete. Expect bursts of crunchy polyrhythmic beauty when Paxahau brings Autechre back to the Detroit stage May 12, at the Masonic Temple’s Crystal Ballroom (500 Temple St., Detroit; 313-832-2232). Also performing: the splendid UK micro-tech-house group snd (Mille Plateaux) and DJ Rob Hall.
Turning the love around
Nearly 20 years ago, the European dance scene woke up to Chicago house via Farley “Jackmaster” Funk’s 1986 club hit “Love Can’t Turn Around.” But many Detroit artists, notably Derrick May and Carl Craig, were already there before the record first dropped at Manchester’s Hacienda. Detroit Techno was cued into Chicago house via the Hot Mix 5 — five DJs who mixed house music live on Chicago radio station WBMX. The five were Mickey “Mixin” Oliver, Scott “Smokin” Silz, Ralphi Rosario, Kenny “Jammin” Jason and Farley Funk, who also ruled at legendary Chi-town clubs like the Warehouse and Music Box. As influential as Detroit’s on-air kingpins, the Electrifyin’ Mojo and Jeff Mills (aka The Wizard), the Hot Mix 5 schooled a whole generation of Detroit producers on the pounding, stripped-down beats that defined Chi-town’s underground house and disco scene beginning in the late 1970s. Catch up to the past on Saturday, May 7, when Farley plays Mixwork’s Fourth Anniversary Party at the Centre Street Lounge. Playing with the “Jackmaster” are D. Wynn, Buzz Goree and Mike Servito.
Thursday, May 5: Silicon, Gary Martin, Iowsh, Jan D., Israel Vines, Kit Geary and 2DG (Dave Gregory) at The Works (1846 Michigan Ave., Detroit; 313-961-1742).
Friday, May 6: Twonz, Punisher, Adam X., SubK, T. Linder at The Works (1846 Michigan Ave., Detroit; 313-961-1742).
Thursday, May 12: Keith Worthy and DJ Genesis at Centre Street (311 E. Grand River Ave., Detroit; 313-963-1300).
Friday, May 13: Raybone and Rick Wilhite at Porter Street (1400 Porter St., Detroit; 248-967-9904).
Saturday, May 14: Kevin Reynolds, Carlos Souffront and Mike Servito at Oslo (1456 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-963-0300).
Saturday, May 15: DAT Politics at Foran’s (612 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-961-3043).The Subterraneans is a biweekly column devoted to dance culture. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org