Artists

Electronic music pioneers of the USA III.

(Part 3.)

I started working on this blog post years ago. Originally, it was meant to be an interview with a Chicago-born DJ and producer. Unfortunately, it never got finalized due to personal circumstances.

During this interview, I realized that while I was quite familiar with some of the most important European electronic music pioneers, I knew way too little about the American pioneers of electronic music.

The interview took place just a few months before I started experimenting with electronic music production. Getting into producing also meant that I wanted to learn the roots, and I wanted to know more than just some names and some tracks. I wanted to know the entire story. I wanted to know how it all happened…

There are many artists around the globe and many sources that wrote about them extensively, but I wanted to do a blog post that summarizes the most known ones in one place. This is Part 3. – because even though there was a selection that had to be made, the list got too long for my computer’s CPU.

As said before, I am not inventing anything new here – simply attempting to summarise what has already been written.

The primary sources used for this blog piece were the biographies of the artists from Discogs, Wikipedia, some other journals and blog articles, and sometimes the artists’ websites. These sources are always mentioned or linked throughout the blog.

This piece is for everyone who is not yet familiar with how the electronic music scene started and developed overseas in the United States.

Part 1 about ‘The early pioneers’ you will find here, and Part 2 about ‘The House and Acid pioneers’ under this link.

PIONEERS IN THE FIELD OF ELECTRONIC MUSIC IN THE USA [Part 3]

The Detroit techno & electro pioneers

The first wave – The Belleville Three

Juan Atkins

“The 1982 electro track Clear“, recorded by Atkins and Rick Davis as Cybotron, is often considered the first ‘proto-techno’ track. Continuing to experiment by fusing the extra-terrestrial funk of ParliamentFunkadelic with the futuristic rhythms and hard math of Kraftwerk and the progressive dance theorems proposed by Giorgio Moroder, the Model 500 12″s on his own label Metroplex laid the blueprint for Detroit techno.

Along with the tracks made by two schoolmates from the grade below, Derrick May and Kevin Saunderson, Detroit techno quickly made its way across the atlantic and immediately sparked the emerging rave culture and soon after the entire global dance community.

Moving through the later 1980s as Model 500, Atkins continued as one of the most prolific and sought after producers of electronic music throughout the 1990s.” (Source: Discogs)

Kevin Saunderson

Kevin Maurice Saunderson was born in Brooklyn, New York. He spent the early years of his life in Brooklyn before moving at around age 10 to Belleville, Michigan, a rural town 30 miles from Detroit.

Saunderson first met Derrick May when the two were fourteen and both were attending the same school. May had decided not to pay Saunderson after losing a bet and, one day at school, Saunderson punched May in the face, knocking him out cold and giving him a concussion. After the altercation, the two became best friends.

During high school, Saunderson and Belleville High School classmate Juan Atkins became fans of DJ Charles “The Electrifying Mojo” Johnson. Atkins and May soon became serious about mixing others’ music and creating their own, but Saunderson pursued other goals first, studying telecommunications and playing American football at Eastern Michigan University. Atkins had begun recording with Cybotron in 1981, but it was not until 1987 that May followed suit and made a record. Initially concentrating on becoming a DJ, Saunderson was inspired to create his own music after watching the six-month-long process as Atkins and May completed “Let’s Go.”

Derrick May

While May’s musical influence on other producers and DJs cannot be doubted, due to an article published by DJ Mag in November 2020, this blog piece does not cover his legacy. May was accused of sexual misconduct (dating back 2 decades) committed against four women. (A number that later increased to seven.) Several publications covered this topic thoroughly: The Guardian, Selector, MixMag, Resident Advisor, Dancing Astronaut, VICE, Pitchfork, and EDM.

The second wave

The Underground Resistance Collective

There were two major collectives of American artists who are the most closely associated with the birth of Detroit techno as a genre, and one of them is the movement of the musical collective ‘Underground Resistance‘. UR was founded by Jeff Mills and Mike Banks in 1989, later joined by Robert Hood. (Source: Wikipedia)

Their style was reflecting “a synthesis of the type of dance music they have encountered in Chicago, combined with the mechanical sounds of groups like the above already mentioned Kraftwerk, with elements of political and social commentary on the economic recession of the post-Reagan era, “producing uncompromising music geared toward promoting awareness and facilitating political change. UR wanted to establish a means of identification beyond traditional lines of race and ethnicity.” (Source: Wikipedia)

Jeff Mills

Jeff was definitely a key figure to the Detroit scene as it was known that he would often drive as far as Toronto or Chicago in order to purchase newly released music for his sets that took place in empty, suburban warehouses around Detroit.

He also had a nightly radio show called The Wizard at WDRQ (hence his alias), where he would highlight local techno artists, giving light to the first wave of artists, the so called Belleville ThreeJuan AtkinsKevin Saunderson and Derrick May.  These three individuals were high-school friends who started producing electronic music in their basements. Just like Mills, the Belleville trio, too, “often made trips to Chicago to investigate the house music scene which was a natural progression from the disco music genre.”

Mike Banks

Michael Anthony Banks, better known as “Mad” Mike Banks, is an American record producer. As mentioned earlier, he is the co-founder, along with Jeff Mills, of the record label Underground Resistance and was a key player in the “second generation” of Detroit techno. (Source: Discogs)

Banks is a former studio musician (bass/guitar), having played with Parliament/Funkadelic among others. He worked in the second half of the 1980s with the collective Members of the House, releasing several 12″ singles. Banks and Mills, along with Robert Hood produced most of the label’s early releases. After Hood and Mills‘s departure from UR, Banks headed the label himself, releasing material from acts such as Drexciya and Sean Deason in addition to his own productions.

He is also co-founder and co-owner of Submerge Distribution with Christa Robinson since 1992. Submerge, along with Underground Resistance, is an independent record label that distributes Detroit-based techno worldwide.

Among Banks’s early influences were Juan Atkins and Marshall Jefferson; his later work shows his increasing interest in acid house and industrialBanks has hewn strictly to an ethic of the underground and refuses to be photographed in public as part of this ethic. His releases often deal with elements of political and social commentary, which have made him a controversial figure within the Detroit electronic music scene. Banks quit playing live shows in the late 1990s due to continuing problems with bringing electronic equipment through customs agencies but began doing live shows again in the mid-2000s.

After Hood‘s and Mills’s departure from Underground Resistance, Banks headed the label himself, releasing material from acts such as Drexciya and Sean Deason in addition to his own productions. (Source: Wikipedia)

Robert Hood

Robert Artis Hood is known to be committed to minimal Detroit techno with an emphasis on soul and experimentation over flash and popularity. Hood started Hardwax in 1991 (Robert Hood’s first label prior to forming M-Plant) and he owns and operates the M-Plant imprint (including the two sub-labels Drama and Duet) through which he has released the bulk of his solo material. Next to his own labels, he also released on labels such as Metroplex, the Austrian Cheap label and Jeff Mills‘ Axis label.

Hood was a founding member, along with Jeff Mills and Mike Banks, of the Underground Resistance label, whose influential releases throughout the early and mid-’90s helped change the face of modern Detroit techno and sparked a creative renaissance. Infusing elements of acid and industrial into a potent blend of Chicago house and Detroit techno, UR‘s aesthetic project and militant business philosophy were (and remain) singular commitments in underground techno.

Hood left Detroit (and UR) with Jeff Mills in 1992, setting up a shop in New York and recording a series of 12″ EPs. Through the mid-’90s, Hood focused on his solo work, setting up M-Plant in 1994 and releasing singles such as “Internal Empire”, “Music Data” and “Moveable Parts”.

Although his desire to remain underground has been replaced by an urge to reach a wider audience, Hood remains fiercely critical of artistic and economic movements destructive to inner-city communities and has combined his musical enterprises with outreach and social activist ends. His debut album “Point Blank” took Hood‘s hypnotic minimalism to entirely new depths and territories, whilst his latest album “Wire To Wire” takes his productions onto new levels of musicality and sophistication within the world of electronic music. (Source: Discogs)

The collective that included two labels (Underground Resistance and Somewhere In Detroit) was supported by Milton Baldwin, aka DJ Skurge, or James Pennington, aka Suburban Knight, two crucial figures on the outskirts of Detroit techno since the mid-’80s. Pennington became a mentor for Mike Banks and the Underground Resistance crew with the rise of Detroit’s second wave in the early ’90s.

Electro pioneers

Drexciya

“For long time, Drexciya was considered a mysterious electro unit from Detroit, Michigan that combined a faceless, underground, anti-mainstream media stance with mythological, sci-fi narratives, to help heighten the dramatic effect of their music.

In this respect they were similar to artists within and close to the Detroit collective Underground Resistance. After the tragic passing of one half of the duo, James Stinson was identified posthumously in 2002. Officially, he is the only identified member of Drexciya, but it was considered an open secret that his partner was Gerald Donald, who is until today active in the scene.” (Source: Last.fm)

“The duo’s name referred to a myth comparable to Plato‘s myth of Atlantis, which the group revealed in the sleeve notes to their 1997 album “The Quest”. Drexciya was an underwater reign populated by the unborn children of pregnant African women thrown off of slave ships that had adapted to breathe underwater in their mother’s wombs.” (Source: Last.fm)

The beginning of 2019, the Drexciyan mythology was expanded upon in ‘The Book of Drexciya Vol 1.’ – an anthology in the form of a graphic novel that told further the story through original imagery drawn by Abdullah Haqq.

“The majority of Drexciya‘s releases were in the style of dance-floor oriented electro, punctuated with elements of Detroit Techno, with occasional excursions into some other genres (industrial or ambient).” (Source: Last.fm)

Gerald Donald until today releases under several aliases (Heinrich Mueller, Arpanet) and is active in different formations such as Dopplereffekt (which has several different members, amongst them his wife, To Nhan Le Thi.

When Gerald Donald was asked about his involvement in the Drexciya project in an interview, he only replied:

“Well, I will not directly indicate my involvement in any project. I will leave this question open to the observer’s interpretation. The most important thing has always been the music and concept itself. I adhere to this philosophy. People spend way too much time engaging personalities rather than the music that’s accompanying that personality. Thus, a proportionally inverse relationship is established, and in most cases, the personality acquires the larger value.”

– GERALD DONALD

Dj Stingray

Sherard Ingram, aka DJ Stingray, is the founder of Urban Tribe and is an associate of mythical Detroit electro duo Drexciya. Urban Tribe was started in 1991 by Ingram, with productions released on compilations from Retroactive and Planet E, and a debut album released on Mo Wax in 1998. (Source: Discogs)

As a DJ and producer, Ingram specializes in futuristic electro, preferring fast tempos and inventive beat patterns to more accessible, club-friendly rhythms. When asked to describe his style of electronic music, he prefers to classify it as techno. Taught how to DJ by Kenny Dixon, Jr. (Moodymann) in the mid-80s, he gradually developed and perfected his dense, high-speed mixing style, DJing at biker bars such as The Outcast in Detroit. Slipping bits of techno tracks in with Miami booty bass and West Coast electro and hip-hop. (Source: Wikipedia)

In the late 80s, while working in the record shop Buy Rite Music, he met the late James Stinson of Drexciya and eventually became friends. Shortly thereafter, Stinson asked Ingram to be the opening DJ for Drexciya‘s tour. This is when the name DJ Stingray was given to Ingram.

“Did I feel like a stingray? Never. But I wasn’t going to argue with James Stinson. I felt it and I understood what he wanted, because I understood the Drexciya legacy. I was Stingray from that day on.”

– Sherard Ingram

This is also when he started to use his signature balaclava, which at first was supposed to be the same Underground Resistance mask used by the rest of the crew. Ingram quickly switched it out for a SWAT mask since it was more comfortable.

Unfortunately, the tour never happened due to founding member James Stinson’s untimely death. When Ingram was asked by Hyponik about his impression of Stinson, he said: 

“James was a no-nonsense, hard-working man who was always pushing the envelope and had a vision and meaning behind his music. The brief time we spent working together had a strong influence on me and opened doors creatively and on a professional level.”

– Sherard Ingram

More artists of the second wave

Octave One

The group ‘Octave One’ was formed by brothers Lenny Burden and Lawrence Burden from Detroit, Michigan. Siblings Lance BurdenLorne Burden and Lynell Burden also contribute to the group’s productions. (Source: Discogs)

Their first single, I Believe,’ was released on Derrick May‘s Transmat in 1990. In the same year, together with their brother, Lynell, they formed the record label 430 West Records to release the EP ‘Octivation’. In the year of 2000, they released their most commercially successful recording, Black Water, on their own 430 West label. It stayed their biggest hit, selling over one million copies. Octave One have remixed recordings for Massive AttackDavid Russell Lee, DJ Rolando, Steve Bug (label owner of German minimal house and techno label, Raw Elements, Poker Flat Recordings and Hamburg-based Dessous Recordings), Johnatan ‘John’ Thomas (French techno producer, owner of Ethique Recordings), The Trammps, and Inner City (a Detroit house and techno group formed in 1988, composed of producer Kevin Saunderson and Chicago native Shanna Jackson aka Paris Grey). 

In 2002, ‘Blackwater’ was remixed by the band with a reworked live string arrangement performed by the Urban Soul Orchestra in London, England. The single was re-released by Concept Music (UK), Ministry of Sound/Voidcom (Germany), Vendetta Records (Spain), and Tinted Records (Australia) in the same year. It peaked at #47 (February 2002) and #69 (September 2002) on the UK Singles Chart. (Source: Wikipedia)

Octave One is still active (2022) and tours the world regularly, doing LIVE electronic music performances. They belong to the second generation of Detroit Techno artists.

Mike Huckaby

Michael Hucakby (1966 – 2020) was an American DJ, producer, and sound recording teacher from Detroit, Michigan, USA. Huckaby was widely respected in Detroit’s electronic music landscape, known for his distinct, deep and soulful house music and impeccable selections. He devoted his life to music, beginning to collect records as a child and buying his first studio and DJ gear as a teenager. (Source: Attackmagazine)

“Tons of the music we sold was made right down the street; we were the epicenter of a lot that was happening during the most formative and busiest years for Detroit electronic music.”

Michael Himes (Record Time’s founder)

“Between 1992 and 2005, he worked at the well renowned store, Record Time (Roseville, Mich.) alongside Rick Wade and others where a separate space within the shop was dedicated solely to House, Techno and Hip-hop 12-inch singles.” (Source: The NY Times)

“According to Alan Oldham, a.k.a. DJ T-1000, a Detroit-born DJ, the store was doing a lot of mail orders, too and Hucakby was dealing with foreign buyers and fans as well — he was an ambassador and tastemaker all over the world, particularly influenced the club scenes in London and Berlin. He was a library of house and techno knowledge, always eager to share.” (Source: The NY Times)

“People would come to the store and Huckaby already had records in a bag, their name on the bag. They wouldn’t even listen to the records. They’d pick up the bag and head to the register. If Huck pulled it, they bought it.”

– Rick Wade, co-worker and close friend of Huckaby

From the mid-90s onwards, he toured extensively around the world, spending much of his busy schedule setting up lecturing camps around the globe offering basic and advanced synthesis, sound design, and production skills in software such as Native Instruments (Reaktor, Maschine) and Ableton. An influential figure for young, aspiring producers and DJs, Huckaby led production workshops at YouthVille Detroit and beyond, with innumerable DJs and electronic artists counting him as a mentor. One of Huckaby’s YouthVille students, Kyle Hall, has gone on to an international DJ career as well. (Source: The NY Times)

“He’d even give me rides home afterward. He was like an uncle figure, a real kind dude.”

Kyle Hall

Kelli Hand aka K-HAND

Kelley Maria Hand (1964-2021) was a musician and DJ from Detroit, Michigan (US), known professionally as Kelli Hand. She was widely credited with opening the door for Black women’s participation in the previously male-dominated techno and electronic music communities during the 1990s and was known as the “First Lady of Detroit techno” – a prolific DJ with an “impossibly deep catalog”. (Source: Discogs)

Hand immersed herself in New York’s club scene during her youth in the 1980s, especially frequenting the legendary Paradise Garage when Larry Levan was playing as well as Club Area. She purchased her own equipment and began teaching herself to produce and DJ in her bedroom before eventually starting to play in clubs and landing a residency at Detroit’s Zipper’s Nightclub.

In 1990, Hand founded her own label, initially named UK House Records, but quickly renamed to Acacia Records after a Detroit street she had previously lived on. Her debut release was an EP under her Etat Solide alias, Think About It.

In 1994, her single, Global Warning, was released on the British label Warp Records. In 1995, her debut studio album, On A Journey, was released on Studio !K7. By the year 2000, seven further albums were released on the labels such as the Berlin-based !K7 Records, the French label founded by Jean Karakos called Distance, Tresor, and Ausfahrt.

Hand’s imprint Acacia Records continues to release new vinyl records and re-releases of Hand’s back catalog. She continued to produce and perform music up until her death in 2021.

Her track ‘Flashback’ released in 1993, bears some similarities to Joey Beltram‘s ‘Energy Flash’ released in 1990. Beltram himself took other samples, too, when making ‘Energy Flash’, for example, from ‘Rock To The Beat‘ by 101 – a Belgian New Beat act – released in 1988. This was done a lot at the time.

Kenny Larkin

Kenny Larkin, Detroit techno producer, DJ, and remixer since 1990. He is considered to be part of the second wave of Detroit techno, along with people like Carl Craig. Larkin (who also releases as Dark Comedy) has been described by AllMusic as “massively influential” on American, British, and German techno. (Source: Discogs)

Larkin was born in 1968 and raised in Detroit, but did not participate in the early years of Detroit techno because he was serving in the military. Upon his return, he began producing, influenced by Juan Atkins and Derrick May, as well as the Chicago house music scene. His early single releases, “We Shall Overcome” and “Integration”, were issued on Plus 8, a label overseen by Richie Hawtin and John Acquaviva; later releases appeared on Buzz and Warp as well as other labels. His records have seen more success in continental Europe than in the U.S. (Source: Wikipedia)

In 2021, he reissued via his own Art of Dance imprint his Metaphor album. Originally released in 1995, Metaphor is described as an extension of Larkin’s “techno soul agenda,” imbuing Detroit techno with futuristic synthesizers. (Source: The Vinyl Factory)

Alan Oldham

Alan Oldham – the Detroit’s Renaissance Man, a true Motor City original.

“Jeff Mills is quintessential. He’s the gold-plated standard of what we all want to be. I had known Jeff since high school. One day he told me that he had hooked up with this guy and combined his studio with him. And that they were making some new shit. That guy was Mike Banks. I ended up working for them for a while too. I was doing PR for UR. I got to see how Jeff was able to formulate things, how he came up with concepts and ideas. He was always trying to reach above himself.”

– ALAN OLDHAM (IN AN INTERVIEW FOR RESIDENT ADVISOR)

From his beginnings as a member of Underground Resistance (replacing Jeff Mills), to seminal releases on Tresor Berlin, BPitch Control, Third Ear, Suspected, Elypsia Records (under his Detroit Rocket Science alias), his own Pure Sonik and Generator Records label (and many others), to his legendary artwork for such labels as Transmat, Djax-Up-Beats, New Religion, Houndstooth, Dark Entries, and more, Oldham does it all.

Under his stage name of DJ T-1000, Oldham has crisscrossed the globe rocking dancefloors from Amsterdam to London to Rome to Tokyo to Shanghai to Mexico City to his native Detroit and back to his current home in Berlin, where he holds down residencies at Tresor Berlin and Suicide Circus.

As an illustrator who started out in the indie comics scene of the mid-1980s, Oldham leveled up to canvases and has had successful international gallery shows in Amsterdam, Vienna, Paris, Stettin (Poland), Detroit, and Berlin, with more to come. Over 25 years in the game, and Oldham remains at the forefront of both art and music.” (Source: BPitch)

I doubted whether to feature Carl Craig after I came across this article published by Annabel Ross, an award-winning investigative journalist who wrote numerous articles for Mixmag, Resident Advisor, The Guardian Australia/New Zealand, and NME - just to name a few.

Carl Craig

Ross wrote the following:

“Carl Craig banned me from reviewing Movement Festival this year, held in Detroit nearly three weeks ago. I wasn’t sure if I was going to go public with this information, but after what happened this past weekend, I felt I had to.

I was supposed to be writing about Movement Festival for Mixmag but a few days ahead of the festival I got a call from my editor. Movement had told him I could no longer review the festival. Craig had given the festival an ultimatum — him or me.

If I was allowed to review the festival, he wouldn’t perform. Craig had a headline slot on Saturday night on the Detroit Love stage he hosted at the festival that day and another slot on Sunday night playing a B2B set with James Murphy.

Craig has been intimately involved with Movement Festival since its inception back in 2000, when it was known as Detroit Electronic Music Festival. He is one of the most celebrated figures in Detroit techno. 
Craig banned me from reviewing Movement because of the two investigations I wrote for Resident Advisor in November 2020 and January 2021 detailing the allegations of sexual assault and sexual harassment against his friend and mentor, Detroit techno pioneer Derrick May.”

– ANNABEL ROSS

This is, of course, a huge dilemma, given Craig‘s legacy.

While it is understandable that when someone hears such news about his long-time friend and mentor of 40 years, it must be shocking and many just want to ignore it, as it sounds almost impossible for them to believe. Even Ross acknowledged this in her article:

“I can understand Craig wanting to support May, especially given the impact he has had on Craig’s career and life trajectory and in trying to defend the Detroit techno legacy they are both integral to, a legacy that has historically been obscured by the rise of an overwhelmingly white electronic music industry. I can understand why fans would want to believe that May is innocent, or to downplay the allegations. Ignorance literally is bliss when it comes to our musical heroes and being able to dance freely to the tracks that have brought us so much joy.”

– ANNABEL ROSS

However, she goes further:

“But I can tell you that the women who claim to have been abused by May can’t hear “Strings of Life” without being reminded of their trauma. I can’t enjoy his music anymore either, and Carl Craig lost me as a fan after our Twitter spat nearly two years ago, just a fortnight after I’d visited his Party/After Party sound installation at Dia Beacon museum in upstate New York.

It’s not surprising that Craig and Smith would want to support May, a trailblazing Black musical icon whose success paved the way for their own, but to do it so publicly and mockingly is a slap in the face to survivors of abuse everywhere. It’s a damning display of toxic male solidarity in a scene where women, trans and non-binary people are used to coming last.

a sincere apology from May would have gone a long, long way, coupled with genuine contrition and a commitment to seek therapy for his behaviour. But we’ve seen nothing of the sort; just denial, offensive attempts by May to cast the allegations as racism and a defiant campaign to try and resurrect his tanking career.

It is possible to celebrate Detroit techno and at the same time to demand accountability from the figures in the scene who have abused their power. Without it, their legacy is threatened, but that’s not my fault, nor the fault of the women who bravely chose to share their stories. The only people they can blame for that is themselves.”

– ANNABEL ROSS

The reason why I decided not to delete the part already written about Craig is so that people can see what a life trajectory he had and how many artists he has collaborated with, and yet, he decided to act with such a careless and toxic attitude as Ross described in her article. I personally found the Instagram posts and reposts by him and Omar S the most shocking and disappointing. It is truly nothing else but toxic male solidarity. That is the reason why I introduce him at the end of this blog piece.

    Born in Detroit in 1969, Craig was first exposed to the Detroit techno scene in the late 80s via a cousin that ran the lighting for Jeff Mills. After early collaborations with his “first wave” mentor Derrick May, Craig struck out on his own in the early 90s. (Source: The Wire UK)

    Recording as 69, BFC, Psyche, Paperclip People, Tres Demented, and under his own name — as well as a slew of other aliases and collaborations — Craig developed an instantly recognizable (and oft-imitated, if rarely matched) style, at once lush and economical, bursting and streamlined.

    While known principally as a Techno artist, Craig‘s musical journey hasn’t stopped there. The 1992 track Bug in the Bassbin‘, recorded by his Innerzone Orchestra, is widely credited as sparking a revolution in breakbeat-based music, while his Detroit Experiment brought together artists from Detroit’s jazz and hip-hop scenes; more recently, Craig recorded with Wendell Harrison, Phil Ranelin, and other members of Detroit’s fabled jazz label Tribe for an upcoming Techno-jazz fusion project.

    He also had a hand in Urban Tribe‘s The Collapse of Modern Culture, a groundbreaking downtempo collaboration between Sherard Ingram (aka DJ Stingray), Kenny Dixon, Jr. (aka Moodymann) and Anthony “Shake” Shakir, and his one-off projects range from participating in Ricardo Villalobos’ improvising laptop collective Narod Niki to performing on industrial designer Harry Bertoia’s sound sculptures.

    In 2020, before the pandemic hit, Craig had planned a few days downtime after his live set with Moritz von Oswald at New York’s Dia Beacon; the opening celebration of Craig’s sound installation Party/Afterparty, a commission that developed over the course of five years. As Hannah Ongley wrote for Document Journal, “The installation is unnervingly prescient. In Dia’s post-industrial basement level, the darkness glows neon green, and modular synths steadily build up to a euphoric club beat—the sound of collective fervor right before the inevitable comedown.”

    When talking to the German ‘Kaput’ magazine, Craig described Detroit the following way:

    “I see these buildings every day. For me they represent the history of Detroit, the history of a place once a blooming industrial city – and now no longer is. Such ruins are monoliths, but to me they mean the same as the debris in Rome or Greece: it is all about the process of remembering of what has been a culture. Those fabrics tell us from their former greatness – and now they are just framework. No other city on this planet is like Detroit. It was here where Henry Ford invented the assembly line – and where Berry Gordy took the concept and came up with Motown from there. Gordy wanted to produce and publish music in an ongoing process, just to have enough to offer for the demand out there. And once the car industry changed over from humans to robots, that affected Juan Atkins. You see, both were inspired by the system of Ford. I deeply believe that there is no other place on this planet as Detroit this all could arise. I talk bout the idea to recharge something that cold with soul.”

    – Carl Craig

    To be added: Milton Baldwin aka DJ Skurge, Kenneth D. Dixon Jr. aka Moodymann, James Pennington aka Suburban Knight, Terrence Dixon

    Electronic music pioneers of the USA II.

    (Part 2.)

    I started working on this blog post years ago. Originally, it was supposed to be an interview with a Chicago-born DJ and producer. Unfortunately, it never got finalized due to personal circumstances.

    During this interview, I realized that while I was pretty familiar with some of the most important European electronic music pioneers, I knew way too little about the American pioneers of electronic music – known for their groundbreaking work.

    The interview took place just a few months before I started experimenting with electronic music production. I found it important to learn the roots, and I wanted to know more than just some names and some tracks. I wanted to know the entire story. I wanted to know how it all happened…

    There are many artists around the globe and many sources that wrote about these pioneers extensively, but I wanted to do a blog post that summarizes the most known ones in one place.

    This is Part 2. – because even though there was a selection that had to be made, the list got too long for my computer’s CPU.

    As said before, I am not inventing anything new – simply attempting to summarise what has already been written.

    The primary sources used for this blog piece were the biographies of the artists from Discogs, Wikipedia, some other journals and blog articles, and sometimes the artists’ websites. These sources are always mentioned or linked throughout the blog.

    Moreover, I have also added SoundCloud, Bandcamp, and YouTube links to the artists when they are mentioned in the text so that you can listen to their sets and productions right away.

    This piece is for everyone who is not yet familiar with how the electronic music scene started and developed overseas in the United States. Part 1, which is about ‘The early pioneers of electronic music’ you can find here.

    PIONEERS IN THE FIELD OF ELECTRONIC MUSIC IN THE USA [Part 2]

    The Acid and House music pioneers

    Larry Levan

    Larry Levan (born Laurence Philpot, Brooklyn, NY) was an American DJ best known for his decade-long residency at the New York City nightclub Paradise Garage, which has been described as the prototype of the modern dance club. He developed a cult of followers who referred to his sets as “Saturday Mass”. Influential post-disco DJ François Kevorkian credits Levan with introducing the dub aesthetic into dance music. (Interesting fact: Robert Hood used the alias, Dr. Kevorkian, for his ‘Suicide Machine’ EP.) Along with Kevorkian, Levan experimented with drum machines and synthesizers in his productions and live sets, ushering in an electronic, post-disco sound that presaged the ascendence of house music. (Source: Wikipedia)

    In the 1980s, he also DJ’d at Club Zanzibar in New Jersey, home to the “Jersey Sound” brand of deep house or garage house (with residents like DJ Tony Humphries best known for his shows on Kiss FM, and Kerri Chandler mostly known as the founder of Madhouse Records, Inc. and Kaoz Theory.)

    Before his residency at the Paradise Garage, Levan used to attend the parties at David Mancuso‘s Loft in Manhattan. The crowd invited by Mancuso and the music both had a mixed nature (ethnicities and sexual orientations) – an aspect that Levan welcomed.” (Source: Socialdiscoclub)

    “It was also the New York City black gay bar scene where Levan was introduced to Frankie Knuckles by a drag queen who went by the name of Gerald. The two became well known on the club circuit and by 1972 had worked their way into helping out DJ Nicky Siano with setup at The Gallery. (Source: Socialdiscoclub)

    Larry Levan also began to hang out at Continental Baths and had managed to obtain a regular DJ gig for the Baths‘ small dancefloor. In 1974 the Continental Baths shut down, and Frankie received a resident gig at SoHo Place, a new club modeled after David Mancuso’s Loft parties.” (Source: Socialdiscoclub)

    The Stonewall Inn and David Mancuso’s Loft

    According to Dan Freeman, who wrote two articles for the Brooklyn Digital Conservatory about the origin of Disco and House music – Part 1 about Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards and Part 2 about Larry Levan, “modern DJ culture was born” in clubs like Manusco’s Loft and the Paradise Garage during Levans residency. But before The Loft and the Paradise Garage opened their doors, there was The Stonewall Inn

    The Stonewall Inn (often shortened to Stonewall) is a still operating gay bar, a recreational tavern, and a historical landmark in the Greenwich Village neighbourhood of Lower ManhattanNew York City, as it was the site of the Stonewall riots of 1969, which is widely considered to be the single most important event leading to the gay liberation movement and the modern fight for LGBT rights in the United States.” (Source: Wikipedia)

    The Stonewall Riots

    “On June 28, 1969 a social revolution began in Greenwich Village that would profoundly effect the city’s cultural life, among other things.  The Village in the late 60’s was a hotbed of the social and political movements that had emerged over the past decade – African-American civil rights, the counter-culture and the anti-Vietnam movement.  It was also the heart of New York’s gay and lesbian community. In 1969, New York had strict laws prohibiting homosexuality in public and private businesses and the New York Police Department used undercover cops to entrap gay men in bars, parks, restrooms etc.  The few gay bars in the city were ‘owned’ by the Mafia who were able to pay off the police – and who made money by blackmailing wealthy patrons who didn’t want to be publicly outed.” (Source: Dan Freeman, BDC)

    “On that fateful night in June, the NYPD decided to raid the Stonewall Inn, a Mafia-owned gay club on Christopher St in the West Village.  Except this time as they arrested the patrons of the bar and brought them out, a crowd gathered outside the bar.  When the police began to violently abuse some of those arrested, the crowd rioted and for several days afterwards violent confrontations took place between crowds of gay, lesbian, bisexuals and trans people and the police. The Stonewall Riots sparked the birth of the gay liberation movement in the United States and within six months, two gay activist organisations and three newspapers were formed to promote gay rights in NYC.  The first gay pride marches were held a year later on June 28, 1970 to commemorate the anniversary of the riots.” (Source: Dan Freeman, BDC)

    One of the first demands of New York’s gay community after Stonewall was to establish spaces where they could celebrate and be free from the oppression of the NYPD and the Mafia owners of gay bars.  In 1970, David Mancuso then a hippie audiophile obsessed with high-end sound systems who who loved playing records for his friends began throwing regular private parties at his huge loft at 647 Broadway, right north of NYC’s Houston St.  The parties were by invitation only and mainly catered to a gay crowd and there at the Loft, they could dance together without fear of police harassment.  In his loft, Mancuso built one of the best soundsystems in the world and he DJ’d the parties, playing everything from jazz to rock to classical, and built an integrated light show as well.” (Source: Dan Freeman, BDC)

    Frankie Knuckles

    Francis Nicholls aka Frankie Knuckles was an American DJ and producer from South Bronx, New York City. Due to his importance in the development of House, Knuckles is often remembered as “The Godfather of House Music”. His accomplishments earned him a Grammy Award in 1997. Knuckles had been long time friends with Larry Levan, they had had their musical upbringing together from going to clubs like the above already mentioned Loft and The Gallery.

    Knuckles was the DJ at the Warehouse nightclub in Chicago from 1977 to 1982. It is widely accepted that his style of Dj-ing and his selection and the appeal of the Warehouse gave house music its name, although, in the beginning, the word ‘house’ was used only in Chicago to denote something ‘cool, hip, or fresh’.

    In 2000, the city of Chicago got a notorious reputation in the dance community around the world for passing the so-called ‘anti-rave ordinance’ that made property owners, promoters, and deejays subject to $10,000 fines for being involved in unlicensed dance parties. In 2004, with the help of then Illinois state senator Barack Obama, a stretch of street in downtown Chicago was named after Knuckles, where the old Warehouse once stood, on Jefferson Street between Jackson Boulevard and Madison Street in Chicago’s West Loop. On August 25, 2004, the city renamed the block “Frankie Knuckles Way” and declared August 25 to be Frankie Knuckles Day. (Source: Wikipedia)

    The Warehouse

    The Warehouse was a hub for the people of Chicago, specifically for the gay community. It was often compared to a religious and spiritual experience. At the time, many gay black men felt excluded from the religious communities that they had been raised in. This contributed to the culture created at The Warehouse. It was a place where people could be open and this sexual openness enabled the club to be unusually free of aggression.

    The Warehouse was a place that allowed house music to flourish as a continuation of disco under Frankie Knuckles. According to Simon Reynolds, an English journalist, Chicago house was a specifically black gay genre in many ways for many years, and The Warehouse was a specific space that safely cultivated that scene. (Source: Wikipedia)

    “Black music was at the heart of the disco era, and it is impossible to separate the roots of disco from the disenfranchised queer people of color that flocked to it. House is connected to disco in that “it mutated the form, intensifying the very aspects of the music that most offended white rockers: the machinic repetition, the synthetic and electronic textures, the rootlessness, the ‘depraved’ hypersexuality and ‘decadent’ hedonism.”

    Simon Reynolds

    It continued the tradition of making music for the club, for people to truly feel and to create a holy dance atmosphere and experience over just trying to make something that could get hits on the radio or top 40 charts. The stomping four-to-the-floor kick-drum would become the defining mark of house music. Knuckles also used to alter songs by adding synthetic handclaps, special hi-hat patterns and bass loops. This way, he pushed the boundaries of how a track is supposed to sound and how it could be manipulated to fit a club setting. (Source: Wikipedia)

    After the Warehouse doubled its admission fee in late 1982, it grew more commercial. Knuckles decided to leave and start his own club, Power House – a place to which his devoted followers followed him. In response, The Warehouse‘s owners renamed it to ‘The Music Box‘, hiring a new DJ named Ron Hardy, who became quite influential in the development of house music himself (Source: Wikipedia)

    Ron Hardy

    Ron Hardy was an American, Chicago, Illinois-based DJ and record producer of early house music. He is well known for playing records at The Music Box, a Chicago house music club. Decades after his death, he is still highly recognised for his edits and mixes of discosoul musicfunk, and early house music.

    While Frankie Knuckles at the Warehouse (and later the Power Plant) had a smooth style of playing, Hardy was different. He had less regard for sound quality and would play with manic energy, mixing everything from classic Philadelphia disco classics, Italo disco imports to New wave, Disco and Rock tracks. Hardy also pitched records up way more than Knuckles. One Detroit pioneer of The Belleville Three remembered having heard Hardy playing a Stevie Wonder cut with the speed at +8!

    “Ron Hardy got up there like, “I’m the king of this b*tch!” All of those mixes he did were done on the fly, with no edits. He moved faders up and down, using all f*cking ten fingers on ‘Move Your Body’. Did the whole thing straight through, four f*cking passes.”

    Marshall Jefferson

    Hardy opened his nights with Welcome to the Pleasuredome by Frankie Goes to Hollywood, and used to play electronic body music acts like the British EBM project, Nitzer Ebb.

    Midway through the 1980s, many Chicago DJs and club-goers started experimenting with creating their own rhythm tracks. DJs would play these homemade tracks, and (in short) this is how House music was born. Hardy was no exception, often getting the hottest acetates and tapes. Chicago producers including Marshall Jefferson, Larry Heard, Adonis, Phuture’s DJ Pierre, and Chip E. all debuted many of their compositions at The Music Box.

    Hardy played many of the same tracks his DJ peers in Chicago played. However, his combative DJ style, loud volume, experimentation with new music and the general atmosphere of The Music Box makes him to be considered a pioneer within the house music genre. (Source: Wikipedia)

    Phuture

    Phuture – a Chicago-based ’80s group, founded in 1985 by Nathaniel Pierre Jones aka DJ Pierre, Earl ‘Spanky’ Smith (1965-2016) aka DJ Spank Spank, and Herbert ‘Herb J’ Jackson. Their love for House music started back in the early ’80s when friends Pierre, Spanky, and Herbert Jackson got to hear the innovative DJ Ron Hardy play at the infamous Music Box in Chicago and would get lost for hours on end in Hardy‘s sound.

    “Not that I didn’t like Frankie Knuckles – I was just a Ron Hardy guy. It’s almost like a gang. When it came down to talking DJs, people would knuckle up if you said the wrong DJ in the wrong part of town.”

    DJ Pierre

    Deeply inspired by Hardy‘s style of Dj-ing, they decided to start their own group and founded Phuture. In 1985, Spanky came across a Roland TB-303, which was at the time written off. Unaware that they would go on to make history when they created a new type of sound that came out of the 303 bassline synthesizer. Tweaking the knobs at the same time the patterns were playing they used the 303 for something different than what it was originally made for. This was the beginning of a new era, creating first the sub-genre “Acid House” and more…

    “The first night Ron Hardy played our acid track at the Music Box, he played it at least four times. Hardy had the heart and the guts to play something like that and to play it first. He trained the people in the club that night to like that song, and it worked. The fourth time he played it, they lost their minds. I actually saw a guy doing a handstand, dancing upside-down in a corner. It’s like, ‘I want to do more than just dance. I want to do something crazy.”

    Earl Spanky Smith

    Tony Humphries

    Tony Humphries – American electronic musician and DJ, born in Brooklyn, NY, in 1957. His father, Rene, a Colombian immigrant, was also deeply into music, being a salsa performer himself, and encouraged his son’s involvement with music from a very early age. So it comes as no surprise that Tony began collecting records at the age of ten.

    Humphries began DJing at college and got his first professional gig in 1981 at the then new, New York station KISS-FM following a chance encounter with Shep Pettibone. His big break was in 1982, when he was asked by Pettibone to fill in for a mix show on WRKS 98.7 Kiss-FM in New York and soon afterward, he became a regular contributor of the station’s master-mixes — extended and remixed versions of popular tracks — a process that had been pioneered on the station earlier by Pettibone. In the same year, Humphries got a residency at the already mentioned Club Zanzibar in Newark, New Jersey. Humphries and Club Zanzibar, alongside the Paradise Garage and its resident DJ Larry Levan, are considered to be the main driving forces behind the creation of Garage house music.” (Source: Wikipedia)

    He is considered, together with Levan, as one of the earliest proponents of House music and has been instrumental in spreading the genre on both sides of the Atlantic. He also has two established record labels, Yellorange and Tony Records. Humphries‘ work encompasses studio production and remixes, radio slots on WRKS 98.7 Kiss FM and Hot 97, and DJ residencies at clubs including Club Zanzibar (Newark, New Jersey) and Ministry of Sound in London, UK.

    Kerrie Chandler

    Kerri Chandler – American electronic music producer and DJ known best for his contribution to House Music as the founder of Madhouse Records, Inc. and Kaoz Theory. Kerri‘s father, Joseph, was a DJ himself in New York.

    “All we had was music, pretty much. We made a lot of something out of nothing growing up.”

    Kerrie Chandler

    He is also well-known for his House EP, ‘Super Lover’, on which the track ‘Get it off’ was dedicated to his girlfriend at the time, Tracy, who he lost under tragic circumstances near the club he resided at.

    As already mentioned earlier, Club Zanzibar was a place in Newark, New Jersey, “that was noted for its influence on house music and garage house genres and scene. Club Zanzibar, along with other gay and straight clubs in the era, was both a straight and LGBT black and Latino nightlife destination.” (Source: Wikipedia)

    In an interview in 2019 for XLR8R, Chandler described himself as being innovative and technical as he had modified almost all of his analog equipment in the past to get them the way that suited best for his sets – from his TR-808 and TR909 drum computers to his turntables, etc., and until today, for the very same reason, companies like Native Instruments and Pioneer ask for his expertise and involvement when designing products.

    Next to that, he also feels responsible to do an extensive sound check before every gig he performs, according to the XLR8R article.

    “I’ll go through each speaker in the room, and I’ll listen. I’ll listen to all the crossover points. I’ll listen to the range of the room. I’ll listen to the noise of the ceiling vibrating. I like to know the room very intimately — and then I try to get the best sound I can out of that place.”

    – Kerrie Chandler

    “If he sees that a rented mixer or turntable has an issue, he tries to bring it back and have it changed, or sometimes he takes them apart and fixes what he can. If he finds blown-out speakers, he tries to re-EQ the room by changing the drivers or fixing one of the amplifiers in the venue. He is very dedicated to finding a solution and ensuring the best sound possible for the night.” (Source: XLR8R)

    “It’s not just for me… I might be one of the DJs there, but I want to see everyone do well. I don’t want people to just say: ‘Kerri was great,’ I want everyone to say: ‘That night was wonderful.’

    – Kerrie Chandler

    Farley ‘Jackmaster’ Funk

    Farley Keith Williams (Chicago, IL) first become known as a DJ when he started broadcasting on Chicago’s WBMX-FM as a member of the Hot Mix 5 DJ team (together with Mickey “Mixin” OliverRalphi RosarioKenny “Jammin” Jason, and Scott “Smokin” Silz).

    Farley also appeared at the Warehouse club and then began a residency at the Playground. Known as Farley Keith or Farley Funkin’ Keith until 1984. He then adopted the name Farley “Jackmaster” Funk and together with Jesse Saunders, created the first house single to reach the UK charts. His anthem Love Can’t Turn Around (cover of Isaac Hayes‘ I Can’t Turn Around) made the Top Ten in mid-1986. By the late ’80s, he had lost his DJ residency. His recorded output during the ’90s was relatively small, preferring to concentrate on performing on the global DJ circuit. (Source: Wikipedia)

    Jesse Saunders

    Jesse Saunders, a House music pioneer, wrote and recorded the 1983 single (released in March 1984) “Fantasy” for Mitchbal Records as an addition to the band Z-Factor.

    Next, he founded his own record label Jes Say Records, and released “On And On” (in January 1984), which is said to be the first House record ever. Many years prior to this, Jesse had been editing and recording on reel-to-reel tape machines. He was also founder of Chicago’s Dance Mania before handing it over to Raymond Barney in 1986. He maintained his legend status in Chicago despite leaving for the West Coast where he closed a major-label production deal with Geffen Records by 1986. In 1996, with the release of “Take Me Higher“, he formed Broken Records. Through Broken Records he has released the timely hits “What’s This FX”, “On & On 2003“, “I Hear House Music“, and “Now That We Found Love“.

    Marshall Jefferson

    Marshall Julius Jefferson, too, from Chicago, Illinois. Jefferson started first as a producer. Together with  David Dee and Chauncey Alexander, he is one of the founders of Open House Recordings – a Chicago-based label. Jefferson gained global recognition as a deep house DJ with his song “Move Your Body”, an anthem which, more than 30 years later is still played in clubs. He also contributed to the increasing popularity of the acid genre by working with Sleezy D on the track “I’ve Lost Control”.

    His sets are a mix of house, funk, and due to the fact that he was inspired by rock, glam rock and scythe pop, his is known for featuring classical instruments in his sets, too, such as the piano, trumpets and heavy drums. Jefferson also worked together with KennethCece” Rogers and Sterling Void and is known to be one of Mike Bank‘s early influences. In 2015, Jefferson started a Kickstarter campaign to press his new, 23-track on a triple / quadriple vinyl album – with guest appearances from Full Intention, David Torte, Tyree Cooper, Rhythm Masters etc. (Source: The vinylfactory)

    Curtis Jones 

    Curtis Alan Jones, is an American singer, producer, and DJ from Chicago, Illinois, also known as Cajmere or Green Velvet, was raised by a father who was an amateur DJ himself.

    Curtis had plans to become an engineer, but life got in the way. Inspired by the early house tracks from Chicago, his sound often features monotonous, or sometimes humorous (from an answering machine to monologues) lyrics on a mid-tempo house track, music created for late-night, hardcore party-goers. (Source: Wikipedia)

    In 2001, his music faced major change with the release of his second album, Whatever, in which he ditched the repetitive lyrics to talk about political themes such as racism, fighting against the system, and drug use. His mixes became more industrial and punk-leaning. (Source: Wikipedia)

    Derrick L. Carter

    Derrick L. Carter – one of the most important pioneers of House music in the 1990s. Carter used to work in the famous Gramophone Records store in Chicago and until today, he is considered as one of the best House music DJs in the world. Carter‘s sets are firmly rooted in Afro-American music of the 1970s with some hints to old-school discosoul, and jazz. In 1989, together with Mark Farina and Chris Nazuka as the group Symbols & Instruments, they released the Mood EP, which had a strong influence on the flourishing ambient techno movement in England.

    Even though the record wasn’t a big commercial success, it established Carter as an international artist in the underground House scene. In 2006, according to a survey by a free weekly newspaper, Newcity, Carter was named #53 in the 100 Most Famous Chicagoans. (Some other well-known people on the list were Felix da Housecat #21 and  Frankie Knuckles #41).

    Steve “Silk” Hurley

    Steve W. “Silk” Hurley is an American club DJ, pioneering house-music producer, songwriter, and four time Grammy Award-nominee.

    Hurley gained worldwide fame as a DJ on the Saturday Night Live Ain’t No Jive Dance Party on WBMX in Chicago in the mid 1980s. Hurley stood out because his mixing style differed from most radio–nightclub DJ who played house music on WRKS in the early 1990s, since his style of club mixing incorporated (and involves until today) advanced DJ tricks only done by hip hop DJs such as scratching, cutting, drop outs, back spins, and beat juggling.

    He released songs under the stage name of Steve “Silk” Hurley and, with vocalist Keith Nunnally, had many hits on the Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart as J.M. Silk, including I Can’t Turn Around” which hit Number one in 1986. His song Jack Your Body was the UK’s first house-music chart topper, reaching number one for two weeks in January and February 1987.

    Larry Heard aka Mr. Fingers

    Aliases: 2nd AvenewAce “Smokin” AmyBlakk SocietyDisco-DFingers Inc.Gherkin JerksLarry HeardLoosefingersThe HousefactorsTrio Zero

    The DJ and producer Larry Heard, widely known as Mr. Fingers, was another important figure in the 1980s Chicago house music scene. Born on the South Side of Chicago (Illinois), Heard grew up hearing jazz and Motown at home, and just like some other pioneers, he could also play several instruments from a young age on. Before beginning his solo musical career in 1983, the 17-year-old Larry was the drummer in the band Infinity (a jazz fusion cover group that included Adonis). He began producing music in 1984 after purchasing a synthesizer and a drum machine. He recorded solo under various names, but most notably under the name Mr. Fingers. Only into a few days with his new gear, he had recorded three tracks that would later be regarded as some landmark tracks of house music: Can You Feel It?“, “Mystery of Love”, and “Washing Machine”. He is also regarded as a pioneer of deep house music – bridging the gap between the futurism and “posthuman tendencies” of house and the lush, soulful sound of disco.

    Despite initially not having a connection to Chicago’s club scene, he eventually met singer and DJ Robert Owens at a party and the two formed the group Fingers Inc. along with Ron Wilson and released in 1988 the album Another Side which was the first long-form house LP. Heard also began releasing solo singles as Mr. Fingers on Trax Records and DJ International. At the end of the decade, Trax released Amnesia, which compiled Heard‘s early tracks – unfortunately, without Heard‘s permission. In 1989, Heard contributed to the debut album by producer Lil’ Louis.

    Lil’ Louis

    Born in Chicago, Louis was the son of guitarist Bobby Sims (Rotary Connection) and grew up with nine siblings, played both drums and the bass guitar as a child, then began DJing in the mid-1970s. He earned his nickname after appearances at the club River’s Edge while still in middle school).

    By the end of the decade, he had his own club called The Future, where he began working on his editing techniques, thanks to a cassette deck and later a reel-to-reel recorder. By the 1980s, Lil’ Louis was hosting the biggest house parties in Chicago, and he began recording his productions around that time as well. His first single “How I Feel” appeared on his own label, and he began collaborating with Marshall Jefferson on several tracks, including “Seven Ways To Jack” by  ‘s “I Can’t Stay Away”.

    In 1987, his new single “French Kiss” became a local hit, then a platinum-selling international classic after being licensed to CBS and FFRR. The success triggered a major label contract through Epic, and the release of his debut album “From The Mind Of Lil’ Louis” (1989).

    Roy Davis Jr.

    Roy Davis Jr. started Dj-ing and began producing after being turned on by legendary acid-house pioneers like DJ Pierre, DJ Spank Spank, Herb J and Lil’ Louis.

    Before setting up his own record label, Undaground Therapy Muzik and becoming an A&R scout for the Strictly Rhythm imprint in NYC, Roy Davis Jr got known in the house scene after joining for a shorter time the above already mentioned acid house group, Phuture.

    Davis rose to fame when he teamed up with Peven Everett and together they produced the single Gabriel. The single sold over 200,000 copies and was played in nightclubs all around the world.”

     Celeste Alexander

    DJ Celeste began her career in 1982 as one of the first female DJs in the Chicago scene which was heavily male-dominated, debunking the myth that mixing was gender specific.

    She has collaborated amongst many other DJs with the above already mentioned Ron Hardy, Frankie Knuckles, Steve Hurley, but also many other artists part of the Chicago scene, such as Andre Hatchett, Craig Loftus, Boo Williams, Farley “Jackmaster Funk”, Terry Hunter, Gene Hunt, Ron Carroll, Mike Dunn, Chip E, Tyree Cooper, Glenn Underground or Pharris Thomas.

    In this Industry as a DJ, I would just like to think that I have and will continue to inspire other women in this field, to continue to shoot for it and understand that if you love this, you don’t have to compromise because you are a woman. Fall in love with the craft for yourself, not for what you want it to do for you. There are NOT many things more I LOVE to do than play music. It’s one of the things in life that brings me the most joy.”

    Celeste Alexander

    She was also part of the 1980s all-female collective, The Fantastic Four, which was created to empower women in the industry. Celeste was the first female to play the world’s largest one-day event in house music, known as “The Chosen Few Picnic“. In 2009 she joined forces with Vick Lavender and Steven Stewart to become co-owner of Sophisticado Recordings, which is now one of today’s most known quality labels in the industry. Her currently ongoing podcast called “The Celestial Odyssey” is still one of the top ranked shows on Cyberjamz Internet Radio.

    To read the last, third part of this blog piece that is about the Detroit techno and electro pioneers, click here.

    Special note: While writing an update for this blog article in 2019, on the streets of the United States of America, the #BlackLivesMatter movement started. To many of us in Europe, seeing the news felt like the USA was on the verge of a civil war, because the acting (racist) president decided to use federal agents against unarmed civilians, protecting the status quo and his own interests.
     While the #BLM protesters were silenced with teargas and bullets, the movement that started during those days will never stop: "Until we all are free and equal".
    Yuka electronic music producer and DJ

    Introducing: Yuka

    Electronic music producer and DJ: Yuka (Russia / India)

    The very first time I came across Yuka‘s name was a few years ago, when I was scrolling around on YouTube, searching for Boiler Room videos.

    At that time, there wasn’t any movement yet, sweeping across the electronic music scene in order to lift up deep-rooted barriers for a more balanced industry where equal opportunities are granted to everyone and where no discrimination occurs on the grounds of sex and gender. I remember wondering myself, how many female DJs and producers there are in the scene and I remember that I was particularly happy to find someone at the time whose ambient productions felt so pure and close to me as hers. Therefore, I have decided to contact her and asked her, whether she would want to contribute to my starting project. She agreed to it right away, but since this blog is just a one person initiative, it took me years, till I was ready to contact her again to finish off this interview. I felt extra lucky, when our paths crossed and I had the chance to get to know her in person during an artist dinner, right before her set at TRESOR Berlin. We had a long talk about the scene and her current life, full of adventures and beauty, but also full of difficulties.

     

    LC: You were born and raised in Bratsk, Irkutsk Oblast (Siberia), located on the Angara River. You described it once as an uncomfortable place to live due to air pollution. I was wondering though, how was your life there as a young child? 

    Yuka: I remember that during the winter, there was lots of snow and that was a lot of fun – you could do so many things, from ice skating to tunnel digging and sledging from the hills and so on. During the summer time, we’ve been traveling with my parents and my sister all around Russia to visit relatives (my family is big). I liked it very much and perhaps because of that, I’m still traveling a lot.

    LC: Which was the coldest winter and the warmest summer / or most memorable winter or most memorable summer that you remember having experienced as a child in Siberia? Which was your favourite season as a young child?

    Yuka: Every winter in Siberia is cold and really long. I remember days when it was -50 C. But on the other hand, it’s also sunny and beautiful – everything is white and sparkling because of hoarfrost. I especially liked winter because of New Year’s Eve. I loved to decorate the Christmas tree! We never celebrated Christmas – the event around the 24th-25th-26th – in the USSR, but we always had a tree that we decorated. The colourful small lamps on the tree were creating a very special atmosphere in the room and me and my sister liked to play with them making elf kingdom on branches. 

    Russia Siberia winter landscape period snow ice scenery steppe Siberian field roads sky

    The hottest summer was when it was +45 C. Dry and sunny. Days during the summer periods are usually very hot, but the nights are rather cool. Sometimes we were unlucky, because the entire summer was cold and that was heartbreaking. But I loved summer anyways, because that was the time for us to travel. We almost never spent the summer school holidays in Bratsk, but somewhere far away, visiting relatives. One of the most memorable summers to me was close to the place where my mother was born. It’s a village next to Chinese and Mongolian border and my uncle gave us horses to ride. We did it from early morning till evening, every day. We rode great distances on the steppe and climbed the hills. It was such a great experience as a child! 

    LC: I have recently read about another Russian born producer who now lives in Denmark. She has mentioned classical ballet as being her first encounter with music. What was your first connection as a child with music?  Did you learn to play any instruments?

    Yuka: I played the metallophone in the children’s orchestra in kindergarten when I was 5. That was folklore music for kids. At the age 6 my mother sent me to music school and it was my first encounter with classical music.

    traditional indonesian instruments metallophone metal russian orchestra music instrument

    LC: Any musical instrument consisting of tuned metal bars can be called a metallophone which is struck to make sound, usually with a mallet. Metallophones have been used for musical performances in Asia for thousands of years. In this way, it is similar to the xylophone; however, the xylophone’s bars are made of wood, while the glockenspiel’s are metal plates or tubes. ]

    LC: I watched once a documentary which talked about the fact that Western music was forbidden in Russia during the Soviet era and yet, people took prodigious risks, just to be able to listen to their favourite tracks. Did music play an important part in your parents’ lives when you were small? What types of music did most people listen to – was it radio or more classical music on vinyl, or how did in general people get in touch with music?

    YukaAt home I was mostly listening to music from “The Who” and “The Beatles”, because my father liked it and also to some Russian and Italian pop from TV and radio, because my mother was listening to it as usually most of the people do. Later on, I preferred underground music like rock’n’roll and punk – genres which were illegal in  the USSR. I made recently a re-post on Facebook about the list of illegal music in Russia around 1985 – all famous punk and rock bands are on this list. My personal favourites were Pink Floyd, Sex Pistols, Janis Joplin, Jethro Tull, Can, Jefferson Airplane and King Crimson. Somehow we managed to have all this music at home, since my father was listening only to illegal music! We were making copies from cassettes or bobbin tape, and some of my friends even had them on vinyls. There was always a way to get it somehow. Either on the black market or sometimes somebody (like relatives or friends of someone’s parents) went to other countries like the GDR to work and brought some records from there… I never had the feeling that it was something really dangerous, but to tell you the truth, not many people were listening to this sort of music – music that was not easy to find around the time. As for me, to a teen, it was definitely cool to have it! I didn’t like any popular music or music that was played in the radio everywhere. Until today, I still prefer it that way – I love searching for good music which is not known and therefore, special. The habit, you know, I don’t trust anything that is easy to find. 

    LC:  At the age of 17, you moved to Irkutsk and then later on when you were 24, to Moscow. You have mentioned that it was in the capital where your music career started when you became resident DJ at a club. May we know which club it was and if the club still exists? Did the club have its own equipment that were needed for the artists to perform?

    Yuka: That was a big club for rock concerts and night parties, called “Tochka”. It doesn’t exist anymore. It was a professional club with good sound system and all needed equipment.

    LC:  What kind of music did you play at the time? Was electronic music already in or was the scene for it still only developing in Russia? Did you get to listen to music from other countries that inspired you regarding your productions?

    Yuka: That time my preference was deep house, house and so on. Most of the music I’ve played were from my small collection that originated from the UK.

    LC:  What were your most cherished records you had with you when you’ve started your residency at “Tochka”? How did you stock up on records? Which were your favourite record shops, do they still exist and can you recommend any record shop now, if someone would want to go digging in Moscow or St. Petersburg?

    YukaI honestly don’t remember anymore what they were… Probably something from the Glasgow Underground scene…

    Back in that time, we were unable to buy music online. We had only one record shop and a couple of record dealers in Moscow – some guys who had connections with European records stores. Somehow, they could make orders and receive parcels by post. It was not easy to travel outside Russia, so around that time, I’ve never got the chance to leave the country. Then the USSR collapsed, but the law was still the same. Once in a month, all DJs went to visit these dealers to buy new records. We had the option to listen to what they had purchased and to choose the records we wanted to buy, but our supply was limited as these guys chose music according to their own tastes and we could only get our hands on records from their collections. In those days, I was always selecting music by listening to the records first, never according to producers or labels. I’ve looked at the author’s name as last, usually when the music impressed me a lot. Most of the time, it was enough for me just to remember how the art on the cover or how the label itself looked like. That is why I don’t remember one name from that time. Nowadays, I remember many names because I play digital format and the only way to remember every track is to remember the names. 

    The fact that we could choose out of their pre-selection was also the main reason, why my “golden collection” of records started growing only a bit later – when I finally had internet access and could order my music from the shops directly. Nowadays it is so much easier to search for new music, using the internet and the situation is also better now in Moscow and St.Petersburg as we have also more shops, but I’m sure that record digging is still better to do at Space Hall or Hard Wax in Berlin.

     

    LC:  Recently you’ve become a citizen of India and during the dinner you told me that you spend nowadays more and more time there, traveling. Where and when do you get to produce music and  how do you manage to get some studio time? 

    Yuka: Whenever I get to stay in Russia or in Berlin, I spend my entire time with producing music. In India, I do it less. The life in India is different from my life in Russia or in Germany and I prefer to spend more time with things like yoga and meditation which are also very important to me: for my mind and my health. These help me to feel balanced and to stay happy.

    LC: Now you are able to travel around with an artist visa. Is Berlin your favourite European city? 

    Yuka: I love Berlin. It’s a very international place, full of creative people. I don’t know any other cities with such a big and interesting night life. There is so much art, so many festivals, performances and so on. The city has its own, special, attractive atmosphere, even if the architecture is more industrial than classic.

    LC: I would love to hear more about that collaborative project with that throat singer from the Altai area that you mentioned in a previous interview. (Do you have any music material left over that we could share about this experiment of yours?) bolot bairyshev altai throat singer siberia

    Yuka: The name of the singer is Bolot Bairyshev (Болот Байрышев). Around that time, we wanted to record something together because he really liked my additions to his singing which I made for our performances, but we didn’t have enough time to go to a studio together to record anything. DJ-ing was not my main job then and I was busy at my work. (That period was so intense, that I even had to give up DJ-ing for a while). So, unfortunately, there is nothing left from that experiment and it was such long time ago that I don’t think we would ever be able to pick up where we left that project.

    LC: You mentioned that currently, the scene is more varied in St. Petersburg than in the capital, and you enumerated some experimental artists who in your opinion are really talented, but because they are not well-known enough in Europe, and because of the distance, they rarely get booked.

    Did you do any collaboration with any of them / or is there anything planned? How did you get to know them?

    Yuka: Egor Sukharev (Khz) is a resident of Fullpanda Rec, too. He is a great musician, a professional sound engineer, sound designer and collaborates with artists for exhibitions or video/movie projects and he also works for theatres. Time to time he is DJ-ing or does live sets. He is also a very good friend of mine and he helps me with mixing and premastering my productions. Roman Korablove kindly lets us to use his amazing studio with special equipment when we need it. He is a good producer and has many interesting projects.

    [ LC: Roman Korablove has a slow electronica project with Anton Kubikov, Ilya Shapovalov and Sergey Sapunov called ‘Raw Code’. ]

    Yuka: Then, I would mentions Stef Mendesidis and Alex Unbalance. I know them personally and we share our music with each other from time to time and have honest discussions about it. I know also Snezhana (Rzeng) and Andrey Svibovich personally, because sometimes we perform at the same events in Moscow and in St. Petersburg. 

    [ LC: As described by the artist, Snezhana herself with her own words: “Technically, “Rzeng” is a manipulation of the prepared effects of analog synthesizers in real time, and occasionally, an experimental modelling of the sound space using some digital effects. Stylistically, “Rzeng” is a synthesis of such musical directions as: IDM, Electronic, Glitch, Noise, Jungle, Techno, Breakbeat, Broken beat, Ambient, Industrial, and Experimental.”

    Andrey Svibovitch is an audiovisual artist “currently based in Saint Petersburg, Russia. He was born in Kirovsk, a town beyond the polar circle in the Khibiny mountains on the Kola Peninsula. Nevertheless, the contrasts of the nordic nature had a profound impact on Andreys artistic vision. He received mostly private education, studying the theory and practice of contemporary dance, fine arts, music, sound engineering, sound art and visual programming. The experience of various practices led him to a synaesthetic approach in art: the combination of graphics, light, sound and motion into a common audiovisual structure, where each element is essential.”

    (Synaesthesia is a condition in which someone experiences things through their senses in an unusual way, for example by experiencing a colour as a sound, or a number as a position in space). ]

    Yuka: Oleg Makarov has always amazed me with his music. Actually, all of these artists I got to know through their music first and only afterwards in person. They are all such great musicians! I would really like to collaborate with everyone, but it’s difficult because most of the time I’m not in Russia.

    LC:  You are a resident producer on the label of Dasha Rush at Fullpanda Records who you’ve met after you have invited her to Moscow to perform on an internet radio station. Which radio station was it and is it still up and broadcasting? Are there other (internet) radio stations / radio programs that you would recommend us to follow to get to know the scene more in Russia?

    Yuka: First Dasha‘s live set was on Megapolis FM which is a popular radio station in Russia (but it is not an online radio station). I couldn’t listen this program, because I didn’t have a radio receiver, that’s why I invited her to play on RTS FM where I was a resident and yes, both of these radio stations still exist! 

    [ LC: RTS.FM Moscow is a unique internet radio with audio + video stream and live shows from Moscow, Berlin, Budapest, Bucharest and Riga ]

    LC: You mentioned that you are also a resident DJ at “All You Need Is Ears” which is an event series of Fullpanda. Is there anything planned for 2019 with the label?

    Yuka: Yes, there are some plans for the summer 2019. So far, most of the events took place at Tresor Berlin, but for the next event series anything is possible due to some changes. Anyways, the night will be great as usual, I’m sure! 

    LC: Do you produce a lot with analogue equipment? Do you have some favourite ones? (Russian synthesisers are amazing!) 

    Yuka: I don’t use a lot of analogue equipment for producing, because I can get only ideas for my music when I’m alone and never at a limited time, f.e. when I’m at my friends’s studio. I can use it and sometimes I do, but to get a track ready, it’s not enough. But I use it for mixing and premastering. Honestly, I would love to have my own studio full of analogue equipment and expensive modulars! I could spend days / months / years discovering new amazing sounds and rhythms, but it’s not possible with my life style – I’m moving all the time and I don’t have any permanent address on this planet. Maybe in the future, when I get old and decide to ground myself and grow roots in one place, I will create my own studio! (*laughing) For now, I use programmes like Reaktor and LogicPro, plus I use a lot of pre-recorded sounds. For example, during my travels, I always have my Zoom recorder with me to catch interesting sounds. I believe that it’s doesn’t matter, which instrument you use to make music – talent and inspiration are more important. 

    Russian synthesisers are amazing, indeed! I love Polivoks ever since I tried it for the first time (which was 25 years ago) and Alisa (because of its crazy sounds).

    The Polivoks

    The Polivoks (also occasionally referred to as the Polyvox (Поливокс) is a duophonicanalog synthesizer manufactured and marketed in the Soviet Union between 1982 and 1990. It is arguably the most popular and well-known Soviet synthesizer in the West, likely due to the uniqueness of both its appearance and sound. It was intended to appear and sound similar to American and Japanese synthesisers from companies such as RolandMoog, and Korg. The Polivoks was engineered by circuit designer Vladimir Kuzmin with the appearance of the instrument influenced by his wife Olimpiada, who took inspiration from the design of Soviet military radios.”

    Polivoks Pro: “The one and only Vladimir Kuzmin, creator of the original, worked on this spectacular 21. century recreation – which, now with more consistently reliable parts, finally really gives that original genius its due deserved place in the studios.”

    The Alisa 

    “The author of the Alisa-1377 was Eugeny Tjurlenev. The “Alisa – 1377” electronic musical synthesizer intends for signal’s design of audible range of band with a possibility to play solo musical compositions. It can be used to create audio effects if connected to the outward acoustic device. The synthesizer can be used as a non-standard electric signal’s source for scientific and educational needs.

    The synthesizer “Alisa – 1387” (Luberetskiy factory of musical instruments) has 3-octaves keyboard, a modulation wheel and the control system (regulators and buttons). The instrument consists of the following main blocks: tone generator, filter, contour filter, signal contour, modulation, sound mixer and output.

    “Alisa-2500”: This instrument was made in a single copy at the Luberetskiy factory in 1984. Alisa-2500 is the development of Alisa-1377. It was used with success by well-known Soviet musicians in the course of their studio and concert activities. The device was not put in quantity production because it would have been fraught with enormous financial and labour costs. The author and the developer of the project was Dmitry Isakov. Tjurlenev, the creator of the Alisa-1377,  also took part in this project; he developed analogue frequency multipliers x2, x3, x5, ripple filters (“pseudo overdrive”).”

    LC:  I have seen that recently you’ve dived into tattooing. How does one start with it? (I’ve always wondered myself. Got one tattoo for now, but since that I am planning to have more…)  Is it true that people use pig skin first to practice?  Or does one immediately start tattooing family and friends? Where do you get your inspiration from?

    Yuka: I’m Siberian and tattooing is in our culture historically. Many tribes of Siberia were making tattoos for many reasons, for example for healing, for protection, or to show social status, or belonging to a specific tribe or family. For me it was always interesting.  Since I was a student of an Art Institute, I’ve learned ornaments, stylisation, design and also about the meaning of Siberian tattooing. When I got all the needed tools and inks, I started practicing on my own skin. I never used animals skin for practice, because I know how to draw and the technic is not so difficult. Soon my friends began trust me, so I started doing it for them. My inspiration is in my roots and in the works of other great masters.

    (Instagram: @yukatattoos)

    The Pazyryk people

    The Pazyryk people were described in the 5th century BC by the Greek historian Herodotus as a nomadic tribe. The Siberian permafrost, a natural freezer, have preserved many burial sites (known as kurgans), where during archeological expeditions, next to valuable archeological findings, the mummified remains of a young female shaman and two male warriors have been discovered and dug up. On their bodies, the permafrost beautifully preserved certain parts of their skins and therefore, some of the very first tattoos in human history dating back to the Iron Age (2500 years BC) could have been revealed. The intricate reconstructions show us an entire language of animal imagery. The Pazyryks believed that the tattoos would be helpful to their owners in another life, making it easier for the people of the same family and tribe to find each other after death. Moreover, they also defined one’s position both in society, and in the world. The more tattoos were on someone’s body, it meant that the longer the person lived, and the higher was his or her position. The remote Ukok Plateau, now a UNESCO world cultural and natural heritage site has been since declared a ‘zone of peace’ by The Altai authorities, so no more scientific excavations can take place.”

    LC: And at last, but not least: what are your plans music wise for 2019-2020? Can we expect more productions / releases from you?

    Yuka: I’m preparing some new releases for many different labels simultaneously. Out of own experience, perhaps it is better that I do not say too much about them, before everything is done. A remix of mine for the Swedish label, Mountain Explosion Device was released this February 2019 (track: Dadaab on the EP titled Lönnmördare Fick Betalt i Frimärken’). There is another track coming out on vinyl soon for AboutBlank (ab007).

    LC: Will we see you more often in Europe? 

    I hope you can see me more often in Europe this year! There are plans for some interesting festivals and gigs in the summer. One of these is a Finnish festival called Visio where Dasha Rush is the curator of the Saturday line-up and she has gathered some very cool artists. I’m preparing a special set for this day!

    promoting Visio festival banner date visiofestival july 2019 Finnland(SAT
    Dasha Rush (RU) | Curator
    Korridor (SE) | LIVE
    Samuli Kemppi (FI) | LIVE
    VRIL (DE) | NEW
    YUKA (RU)
    Rasmus Hedlund (FI) | LIVE
    Trevor Deep Jr. (FI) | Curator
    Lando (US)
    Wewerka (DE) | NEW
    Roberto Rodriguez (FI) | Curator
    Vesu (FI) | LIVE! 
    american woman electronic music pioneer wendy carlos

    Electronic music pioneers of the USA I.

    (Part 1)

    I started working on this blog post years ago. It was meant to be an interview with a Chicago-born DJ and producer, but unfortunately, it never got finalized due to personal circumstances.

    During this interview, I realized that while I was very much familiar with some of the most important European electronic music pioneers like Daphne Oram (UK) – the inventor of a drawn sound technique, the Oramics, Eliane Radigue (FR)Delia Derbyshire (UK)Dick Raaijmakers (NL) (aka Kid Baltan) and Tom Dissevelt (NL) from the Philips Laboratories (Natlab), or Mika Vainio, I knew way too little about the American pioneers of electronic music who should be widely admired for their groundbreaking inventions and work.

    The interview took place just a few months before I started experimenting with electronic music production. As a fresh producer, I found it very important to learn the roots. I wanted to know more than just some names and some tracks. I wanted to know the entire story. I wanted to know how it all happened…

    There are many artists around the globe and many sources that wrote about them extensively, but I wanted to do a blog post that summarizes the most known ones in one place. Of course, it is not possible to mention every one of them in this column, so there was a selection that had to be made, but the list is long enough.

    I started my research with some of the inspirations mentioned by my interviewee (Juana). By following that path, each name I researched led to many others.

    The primary sources used for this article were the biographies of the artists from Discogs, Wikipedia, some other journals and blog articles, and sometimes the artists’ websites. These sources are always mentioned or linked throughout the blog. I am not inventing anything new here – simply attempting to summarise what has already been written.

    This blog piece is for everyone who is yet unfamiliar with how the electronic music scene started and developed overseas.

    PIONEERS IN THE FIELD OF ELECTRONIC MUSIC IN THE USA [Part 1]

    The early pioneers

    Louis en Bebe Barron

    Let’s start this journey with a couple – husband and wife, Louis en Bebe Barron – who are credited with writing the first electronic music for magnetic tapeand the first entirely electronic film score for the movie Forbidden Planet (1956). 

    Magnetic tape is a medium for magnetic storage, made of a thin, magnetizable coating on a long, narrow strip of plastic film. It was developed in Germany in 1928, based on magnetic wire recording.

    Devices that record and playback audio and video using magnetic tape are tape recorders and video tape recorders respectively. Magnetic tape revolutionized sound recording and reproduction and broadcasting. It allowed radio, which had always been broadcast live, to be recorded for later or repeated airing. Magnetic tape begins to degrade after 10 – 20 years, and therefore is not an ideal medium for long-term archival storage. Source: Wikipedia

    Clara Rockmore

    Clara Rockmore (together with Robert Moog) were the pioneers of a very unusual electronic musical instrument, that was controlled without physical contact, the ‘etherphone’ or as later named, the Theremin. Clara Rockmore was one of the most famous ‘thereminists’ touring around the USA.

    Lev Sergeyevich Termen

    The instrument (which was originally known as the etherphone) was invented in 1920 and it was named after its inventor, the Russian Lev Sergeyevich Termen (known in the West as Léon Theremin). After a lengthy tour in Europe, Termen moved from the Soviet Union to the United States, where he patented his invention in 1928.

    However, after the Second World War, the theremin fell into disuse as newer electronic instruments were introduced that were easier to play. Nonetheless, a niche interest in the theremin persisted. 

    Robert Moog

    Robert Moog, who began building theremins in the 1950s, while he was a high-school student, stayed enthusiastic about the instrument and he credited the theremin experience as leading directly to his groundbreaking synthesizer, the Moog.

    Wendy Carlos

    Wendy Carlos, best known for her electronic music and film scores in Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange and The Shining, was one of those overseeing the development of the Moog synthesizer.

    Annette Peacock

    Once the Moog was on the market, the experimenting had begun. The very first person who tried to combine her own voice with one of the first Moog synthesizers in the late 1960s was artist Annette Peacock.

    Laurie Spiegel

    The Chicago-born Laurie Spiegel, who worked for the Bell Laboratories in computer graphics, is known primarily for her electronic-music compositions and her algorithmic composition software called Music Mouse.

    Pauline Oliveros

    Another internationally acclaimed American composer, performer who has explored sound for four entire decades was Pauline Oliveros – forging new ground for herself and others through improvisation and combining electronic music with rituals and meditation.”

    By clicking the following link, you can navigate to read Part 2, which summarises the American House and Acid pioneers of Chicago and New York.

    Farron Shaw Cuts electronic music producer, live performer and label owner of Shaw Cuts

    Introducing: Farron

    Electronic music producer, live performer & label owner: Farron (DE)

    About a year ago, on one summer night, I was sitting backstage at Shelter Amsterdam with Niels L. aka Delta Funktionen. I’ve been a vinyl addict for a while and a big fan of his vinyl-only sets, so when I’ve asked for it, he allowed me to go through his records that he prepared for the night. I went through quickly the bag of records, while trying to memorise all the artists that were new to me. Among them, I have come across the name of Farron. When I got home, I could remember perhaps 3 names out of the 30 and his was one of them, so I’ve checked out his Bandcamp account which resulted in the immediate purchase of 2 records (‘Legend of the Bat and Death Duel). Shortly after that, I have decided to contact him and asked him for an interview and luckily for me, he agreed to it.

    I have talked to Farron a bit less than a year ago about the origins. How he got involved into the electronic music scene, which were his first releases, live acts and why did he decide to create his own label, Shaw Cuts.

    PART 1

    Farron: I grew up in a little suburban town around 45 minutes drive away from Munich, Germany. When I was really young, music didn’t play a big role in my life. I was mostly playing outside with my friends from the neighbourhood and my older sister till the sun went down. There wasn’t anything particular that caught my ears until one Christmas eve. I was around seven, when I got my first CD-Player and together with it Michael Jackson’s double CD ‘HIStory – Past, Present and Future, Book I’. I can still remember putting on that CD in the kitchen and dancing around to tracks like ‘Billy Jean’ or ‘Thriller’. In the following months I was listening to that whole album at least hundreds of times. I really fell in love with it.

    LC: Any further childhood influences that guided you towards music?

    Farron: My older cousin also had a huge influence on me. I was really looking up to him and admired him a lot in many ways. He was a real Hip Hop head and a skate guy in my teenage years and I just wanted to somehow be like him. I wanted to wear baggy pants, big hoodies and skate shoes like him and wanted to listen to his music collection. I think I was around 8 or 9 years old when he showed me some stuff from the Wu-Tang Clan, from Gang Starr, NAS, some 2Pac and Biggy stuff etc. Also German rap music started playing a bigger role in my life, but I have to say that what particularly got me was the Wu-Tang Clan with ‘Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)’. When it came out, I immediately had to buy the album and got even more fascinated the more I’ve listened to it. The whole raw and dirty vibe combined with all these versatile rap styles totally blew my mind and looking back on it, I think that this album influenced me and my own music a lot. I became a teenager with some sort of music addiction from that point on. I’ve always used my headphones in any moment that gave me the possibility to listen to any music and to build my own soundtrack of the world.

    Then when I turned 14, I’ve started skateboarding which has also changed my musical taste. I was getting more into (post)-punk-rock and a lot of music that was used in all of my favourite skate videos and so I started visiting a lot of underground punk concerts with my friends. Skateboarding is also very connected to the hip-hop culture, but that went a bit in the background around at that time.

    ta_farron_scenery.jpg

    Farron: I got to know Marco Zenker a bit better through skateboarding and we were also on the same school in the same grade. Electronic music was not really a thing for us at that time, but the years went by and I opened up for other musical genres as well.

    When I was around 17 years old, I started hanging out with Marco on a more regular base and we became really good friends. Since we both had pretty much the same taste in music, we’ve listened to a lot of things together and one evening we thought about doing some music, too. We picked some classic Hip Hop beats and started writing lyrics that we recorded later. And damn, we were pretty whack! Marco was rapping in English and I was rapping in German and also in French (even though my French was pretty bad at the time). Making music together was much fun.

    LC: So how did the two of you got involved into electronic music in the end?

    Farron: Who ‘brought me home’ was actually my sister. She was the one who was into electronic music and was visiting raves regularly at the time. She sometimes told me about her crazy nights out at the legendary Ultraschall.

    [ In the spoken language mostly only referred to as U-Schall or Schall was one the most significant clubs of the 90’s techno scene in Germany, next to some other clubs like (the well-known) Tresor and E-Werk in Berlin, the Dorian Gray and Omen in Frankfurt, the KW – Das HeizkraftwerkNatraj Temple, the Millennium and the (still operating) Rote Sonne  – all Munich-based clubs which opened after the Schall. ]

    Farron: She also showed me some electro and techno mixes and tracks. Some of this stuff sounded kind of okay to me, but none of them had really touched me deeply at that time.

    I did not know Marco’s brother Dario, until Marco told me once that he is a producer and DJ and that he was playing in the same clubs my sister was going to. When I’ve heard that, I thought ‘mhm’, maybe this could be something interesting to see and experience some day.

    One night, Dario was playing at the old Harry Klein club in Munich and we took the train to join the party. This may sound a bit cheesy, but that night turned out to be a game changer to me. I’ve never experienced something like that before. The vibe, the sound in such an environment, the open and crazy crowd, the dancing and the impression of freedom – that everybody can do their own thing there was mind-blowing. From that point on we have become regular visitors to Munich’s clubs like Harry Klein, Rote Sonne or Die Registratur. We danced almost every weekend and than usually slept at Marco‘s father’s flat or took the morning train back combined with hitchhiking to our suburban places.

    Because of these club-nights, I’ve started to listen to a lot of electronic music at home. Rhythm & Sound (another alias of Moritz van Oswald / MaurizioBasic Channel (together with Mark Ernestus), Ricardo Villalobos, Deepchord, Burial and several other artists got a lot of my attention and excitement. But since there was a connection to Dario, I was really amazed by his own music and his label Hometown Music – the forerunner of Ilian Tape.

    Farron: Marco immediately got into making his own music and I followed him in that some months later. I was using Ableton and some crappy computer speakers in the beginning. Not to mention the computer I was using at that time. It didn’t have the power to play more arranged channels at the same time, so I always had to edit the arrangement, bounce it, check it and then edit it again, bounce it, check it and so on. Looking back at it, it was a nightmare, but at that moment, it did not matter to me at all – as long as I could produce. I was mainly just experimenting around with sounds, trying to build some loops, arrange them and then try to start the next one – probably the same way how everyone else has started. I chose spontaneously an artist name “LaChriz” which was maybe not well-conceived enough, but in that moment that was the least I cared about.

    LC: When did everything start becoming more serious?

    Farron: While I was still experimenting, Marco was already doing some solid music that lead to his first digital releases on his brother’s label, Ilian Tape. Seeing that pushed me a lot and so I got more into it with a more serious approach.

    There was always a musical exchange between me and Marco and so one day, Marco sent a track of mine to Dario. He kind of liked what he heard and contacted me via Skype telling me that I should keep on doing what I do and that I can always send him new stuff. Some weeks later he got back to me and told me that he is planning a digital remix compilation of Marco’s ‘Namibia Dub’ EP and gave me the opportunity to contribute with a remix to the project. I was working my ass off on that remix and somehow got it signed on Ilian Tape. I cannot even put in words how happy I was about that.

    But before the remix EP came out, Dario has already asked me if I was interested in a digital solo EP with several tracks and I’ve sent him some newer stuff. This is how I got my debut with the ‘Purple Mountain Meadows’ EP on Ilian Tape. Looking back it is pretty weird and also amazing to me. I don’t know how I was able to do it, cause my technical production abilities were not on point at all. I didn’t even know how to correctly use an Equalizer or a Dynamic Processor. But Dario heard something in my early stuff and I’m still thankful for that till this day. I was able to do another digital solo EP and two appearances on digital compilations on his label and I’ve totally felt like home with them. Ilian Tape was everything for me and I could have never imagined to release somewhere else.

    Farron Technocity.Amsterdam TA

    LC:  After your releases on Ilian Tape, what motivated you to start performing?

    Farron: Shortly after the label’s financial recovery, Marco had got his first vinyl release on Ilian Tape. He was already playing live in some clubs at the time and got a residency at Harry Klein. That was another big push for me, so I started building up a live sets, too. I didn’t really expect to get the opportunity to play live at any club, but shortly before Marco‘s birthday in 2010, he asked me if I would like to play live at his birthday rave at the new Harry Klein. Of course, I’ve said yes, but I was also sh*ting my pants. Preparing the live-set for weeks, the excitement and tension grew like crazy. When the day was finally there, I was an emotional wreck. I was so nervous, not being able to eat almost the whole day and even secretly puking in front of the club. But right after the first five minutes of playing, the nervousness was gone and I knew that everything’s going to be alright. I also think that it was the perfect setting for a first gig: the club was pretty crowded, I had lots of really supportive friends there, the vibe was great and Harry Klein was generally a place I was familiar with. I have a lot to thank to the Zenker Brothers.

    Due to a lack of routine in playing in front of a crowd, I’m still struggling with the nervousness a bit. It’s not as heavy as it was in the past, but it’s still somehow there. I wish that it wouldn’t be that intense before playing, but I guess that I’m not the only one with these issues. I just have to trick my mind and then I’m usually fine.

    PART 2

    LC: Which was the next step or milestone in your music career?

    Farron: In order to study, I had to move to somewhere else. The city I was living then was pretty boring. There was nothing really going on there and I was far away from Munich. Fortunately, I was lucky with my neighbours. To them, making music all day was no problem at all. I was already having some analogue synths and drum machines and so I’ve jammed a lot in my free time there. I was able to finish another digital EP on Ilian Tape called ‘Belmont High’ in 2012.

    Right after that Ilian Tape stopped doing the digital-only releases and so I was trying to maybe get a vinyl record on Ilian Tape, too. I can definitely say that I wanted it so bad that I got stuck and tensed. I was feeling pretty lost with my music and that feeling lead to frustration, desperation and disaffection. That may sound too harsh, but being such a big fan of the label itself, the Ilian sound and the people behind it, I wanted to take part of it on a bigger scale. I was craving for this relief of seeing my name on an Ilian Tape vinyl record. Unfortunately, it never happened. Only when I looked back at it some years later, I understood it better, what has happened. It was a lesson for life, but it was a good lesson that an artist might need.

    Farron Technocity.Amsterdam

    LC: When did you get to release finally something on vinyl?

    Farron: In these past years due to networking in the music industry I was able to make several new connections. I was able to release my first vinyl record on the label ‘Woods N Bass Records’ run by a Columbian friend, that was followed by a record on the label ‘Out-Er Recordings’ with the help of another friend of mine. Right after that I released a record on the label ‘Baud Music’ which was my last record under the old moniker ‘LaChriz’.

    LC: And by now, your artist name is Farron and you are a label owner yourself. How did you get to this point?

    Farron: I’ve started thinking about having my own label already two years before I really started doing it. At first, I had only some few ideas that popped into my mind here and there. And all these ideas and thoughts about it got more and more intense during those two years. I’ve had several nights laying in my bed for hours, brainstorming about it if I should really make that step. I was intimidated by it and I was also asking myself a lot of things: Do I have the time and energy to do it? Is the time right for it? Will I be able to handle it? Do I have enough knowledge to do it? Do I have the money to do it? And how shall I even start with it?

    In the end, I came to the conclusion that all these questions will never stop. If I keep on thinking about risks and not doing anything, I will never get to know the answers to these questions and they will just keep circling around in my head. I wanted to create a platform for my own music, but also for the music of other artists who come close to my ideas and my musical vision. Driven by the desire to get more independent, things started to become more specific.

    LC: How did you come up with the label name? Why did you need a new alias?

    Farron: One of my biggest influences are old martial arts movies. Especially the ones that got produced by the company called ‘Shaw Brothers’. I simply love that kind of stuff! That influence became the main concept and aesthetic to my label. The reference on these movies and the company behind them can be found in my label’s artworks, press texts, the titles of the records, the logo and label name itself and also in the music and sound aesthetic.

    While getting deeper into planning the label, I felt like I needed some more changes and so my moniker ‘Farron’ was born, too. I wasn’t happy with my older name anymore and it generally made sense to change it. ‘Farron’ has no deeper meaning. It’s just a name I was coming up and I thought that it suited better to the ‘breaky’ sound that I was getting more and more into.

    Some years before I started setting up my own label, I used to work for a big studio in Munich where I was responsible for the quality control of DVD- and Audio-productions. There was this project together with a famous energy drink company for a DVD production of their X-Alps event series contest and one contender taking part was a guy called Pawel Faron. I think I had to watch the DVD 10 times and always thought that his name was dope, every time he appeared on screen. Maybe my brain got branded and maybe that somehow influenced me several years later regarding my new moniker.

    Farron: The first release on Shaw Cuts was by me with the tracks ‘Equinox’ and ‘Apo-G’. Jonas Kopp was down to remix the A1, but I wasn’t expecting that he would send me 2 different versions that both blew my mind. I couldn’t decide which one I liked more and so I had to put both of them on the record. This was in 2015.

    LC: Who was the next artist you have chosen to feature on your label?

    Farron:  I’ve always really liked the music of Kaelan (and I still do). I’ve contacted him, we got to know each other a bit more and he was down for my request of him releasing a record on my label. He immediately sent over several great tracks and The Silent Swordsman’ EP was born. Kalean also works under another moniker, 2030. Truly great stuff that he makes!

    Farron: The third record was again my own tracks, this time with four Farron originals. I’ve decided to do a remix EP of that record right after its release that included reworks by Marco Zenker, Poima, Roger 23 and Simo Cell. I always wanted to see Marco’s name on a Shaw Cuts record and I was more than happy that he was down to take part in this.

    Poima is a Russian duo that got my attention several years ago. I was browsing through SoundCloud a bit, got on their profile and really liked what I’ve heard. Especially their Boiler Room live set left me speechless. I’ve contacted the guys and we became friends. They were also running a club called Рабица in Moscow (TA: Rabitza had to close at some point unfortunately) where we were able to organise the first Shaw Cuts label night in April of 2017. Simo Cell, the remixer of my track ‘Par-2’ also was on the line-up at that party and played an absolutely outstanding set there. Simo Cell’s productions are super interesting and fresh and his style of DJ’ing is very special. The fourth remixer was Roger 23, a guy from Saarbrücken who’s music was always very influential to me. After we got to know each other, we had several long conversations on the phone. He is somebody that always had an open ear for me. He’s a special and great person with lots of experience, knowledge and talent.”

    LC: What happened next after the first label night?

    Farron: In May 2017 the SC005 was released which was another solo record from me called ‘Legend Of The Bat’.

    2018 started off with a record by the Russian duo Poima. It was their first solo release ever and I’m super happy that my label was the platform for that record.

    Farron: And it was also nice that Regen and Ed Davenport under his moniker Inland contributed remixes to that one. My ‘Invincible Shaolin’ record have been recently released on Shaw Cuts and also includes a remix by Leibniz and I feel very content with the release.

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    Farron: I will definitely try to keep things going concerning the label. Plus, it is a nice feeling to be able to support other artists. Things like that let me keep going, too. I’m doing this whole thing all by myself. This is my baby and I would love to see it grow and I’m more than thankful for any support, interest and love for Shaw Cuts.

    What I’ve learned in my past few years in the music business is, that often it is better NOT to see it as a business, but more as a passion. It will always stay some sort of business, but you can have your own rules in this cosmos. Maybe because of this principle I took some bad decisions and I’ve also missed some chances regarding my own musical career, but I definitely don’t want money to control everything. All I want is to make music and to play music freely, for people who appreciate it. Because that feeling is priceless.