Mike Dutkewych is a tall and well-sideburned gentleman who you've seen around town — at shows, at record stores, or perhaps DJing your friend's wedding. He also runs a down and dirty monthly soul dance party in Wyandotte. Soul Deep happens every third Friday at the Rockery.
Last month, the night celebrated its lucky seven-year anniversary, so we caught up with Dutkewych, who grew up Downriver, who "was a musician in a former life," and fell in live with soul music when he heard "Heat Wave" as a teen (a story he relayed to us last month when we posted a list of top dance-floor movers from his night).
Metro Times: How did the night get started?
Mike Dutkewych: Soul Deep actually started by accident, as the best things often do. My friend Marybeth was bartending Sunday nights at this dive in Wyandotte. It was her slowest shift so she invited me to come play some soul records, so long as I promised to drag all of our friends out to her bar. That was January 2010 and what was supposed to be this one-off soul night has been going on in Wyandotte ever since. In 2012 I moved from that shithole dive bar to a way cooler one a few blocks away called the Rockery, where I host Soul Deep every third Friday.
MT: What kind of music do you play at your night?
Dutkewych: 1950s and '60s soul, rhythm and blues, early rock 'n' roll. Some garage. Of course, a lot of Motown. All played at glorious 45 rpm.
MT: Why did you choose that name?
Dutkewych: I put basically zero thought into the name. It's actually not in reference to the Box Tops song, but a BBC documentary series on black music I'd seen a few years earlier. I just needed a title for that first Sunday night so I could promote it, and somehow "soul deep" was the first thing that came to mind. I had no idea it would even go 'til last call, let alone seven years and counting. I might've chosen a name more carefully.
MT: What separates your night from other soul nights?
Dutkewych: First, let me say I'm really happy to be a part of this tight community of music enthusiasts and collectors in Detroit. How lucky are we to live in a place that was not only ground zero for some of the best, most important American music of the 20th century, but one that still has multiple events every month dedicated to showcasing and celebrating it? Pretty lucky, I think. So, shout out to Stoke-on-Campau Soul Club and Motor City Soul Club. Richie and Adam from Stoke play records with me at Soul Deep quite often. Brad and Erica from MCSC have too.
As far as what makes Soul Deep different, I think the key component is Downriver. It's hard to explain the singularity and steely charm of that area, especially to people from other parts of town who wouldn't normally drive that far south on 75. Downriver is no frills. The working-class, underdog thing just permeates everything — even a bar full of twentysomethings dancing to some dude's soul record collection. After having grown up there and escaped it, I've developed a more romantic perspective on the place. The things I love about the MC5 or the Bad Boys-era Pistons are the same things I love about Downriver.
And I hadn't really considered this before, but I think the records I play at Soul Deep are a total reflection of the environment it's grown in over the last seven years. You hear a lot more down-and-dirty, one-wailing-sax R&B at Soul Deep than you would at one of the other soul nights in Detroit. I don't play much Northern Soul. Not a lot of pretty strings or polished horn sections on my records. I mean, that stuff is great, but it doesn't often hit me on that primordial level, so I usually don't reach for it. My playbox is Downriver as hell.
MT: Are DJs musicians?
Dutkewych: Well, let me make one obvious distinction: Even though what I do falls in line with the traditional definition of a disc jockey — selecting and playing recorded music for an audience — I think now the term applies more to hip-hop artists, turntablists, etc. I would definitely consider those DJs to be musicians. Me and my friends, not so much. Having good taste in music and the equipment to play somebody else's song in front of a crowd doesn't really make you a musician.
MT: How does your work in the field of archives relate to music work for you?
Dutkewych: By day I work for Wayne State University Libraries, where I recently earned a master's degree in information science. I landed there in large part due to these extracurricular pursuits in music. Very quickly, collecting records expanded into a serious interest in preservation, particularly the digitization of analog formats like vinyl and magnetic tape.
Even though these days most anything is a few clicks away online, there is still an immeasurable amount of audio history that is sitting locked on old media that is rapidly deteriorating. Tape in particular is reaching the point of no return, not only because the physical artifacts are degrading more with each passing day, but because there are fewer and fewer people who can operate and maintain the obsolete equipment required to play them. So digitization is vital to the long-term preservation of this material.
For me, there are few things as fulfilling as being able to contribute in some small way to the protection of these cultural works that I find so much value in. Preserving them and making them accessible to people who couldn't have appreciated them otherwise, it's a great feeling.
It's the same feeling I get watching a bar full of strangers dance to my favorite forgotten soul records.
Soul Deep dance parties take place the third Friday of every month at the Rockery; Starts at 10 p.m.; 1175 Eureka Rd., Wyandotte; facebook.com/souldeepsunday; no cover. The next one is this Friday, Feb. 17.