I love meeting people who are studying electronic dance music in some form in an academic setting. Makes me all excited to merge minds and experiences and approach this music from a vaguely related perspective. Especially ethnomusicologists, whooooo, there need to be more of us coooks out there!
This past weekend was great and it was disappointing. Friday night at Oslo was great with Kelly Pink-O (a boy DJ, not a lady like I thought, but that's cool too!), Brian Gillespie, and Todd Osborne. First off, I should say that Oslo was great and the disappointing part of the weekend was that I ended up being way too tired to go out the next night to see Derrick May, Norm Talley, and Shake! So that was quite a bummer!
Anyway, Family at Oslo was very cool. I had planned to videotape Brian's set, he had given me permission. So I was all geared up to get there - we put the kids to bed, then I had a quick minute to slap a hem on some new jeans I just got, and then gathered my equipment and headed down to Oslo. It was nearing 11pm, and usually that is still early for club events. But I was excited about the videotaping plans and so I was stressing about feeling late and trying to get there in a hurry. When I arrived, of course, there was no one in the room where the dance floor and DJ booth are. There was a small crowd at the bar, no one who I knew, though. Brian, thankfully, showed up a few minutes later and we chatted for a bit. We talked about the club and the crowd. It was a very gay friendly, mod/hipster, young kind of crowd, oh and white. But there were a few people there of various ethnicities. Todd Osborne arrived and Brian introduced us - and now Todd and I get to do an interview!! Very exciting!
Videotaping did not go so well. It's a tight space in the DJ booth at Oslo. I tried really hard to stay out of the way, but I still seemed to impact the set a lot. Brian seemed distracted and he kept apologizing - but there really was nothing to apologize for from his end. I just felt like my presence there with the video camera was not working for him. What I did not realize was that the three DJs usually trade off, so Brian played for about 1/2 hour, then Todd for a while, then Kelly again, and then Brian. So I really only got 1/2 hour of video because the second time Brian got up on the tables, he was pretty over being filmed.
One issue that Brian was concerned about was that I was going to take the video and post it on YouTube or somewhere else on the web. And he didn't want to have a bad set and then have that posted publicly. We had already talked about this and I tried to be clear that I would never do that - I had no plans to publicize the video footage. It was for my own use for my research and I planned to give him a copy with which he could do whatever he wanted. Clearly, its an industry and a culture where mistrust and dishonesty are common - not entirely so, but people are skeptical for good reason. So let me write this loud and clear: I WILL NOT POST ANY OF MY VIDEO OR AUDIO FOOTAGE ONLINE ANYWHERE. IF I WANT TO POST IT ON YOUTUBE OR SOMEPLACE, I WILL GET YOUR PERMISSION FIRST. AND IF YOU DO NOT GIVE ME PERMISSION, I WILL NOT PUT IT UP ONLINE, AT ALL, EVER. Did someone say contract?...Yes, that's a good idea.
Anyway, Brian's set was great, and during the part that I was filming, it was hard not to drop the camera and start dancing. And Todd Osborne - I knew it would be fun to see him play again because I saw his Soundmurderer set at the Movement festival this year and it was fantastic. Well, he was awesome at Oslo, and I thought he was playing records at first. And I tried to pay attention to what he was doing back there, but I kept getting distracted by the music and just dancing. I eventually noticed that he was not flipping through records and he kept turning to the laptop. It turns out he was using Serato Scratch Live, a computer based live DJing software with special vinyl or CDs that the DJ can use with the software to manipulate the songs that are playing through the computer. The Serato website has some really interesting information on this software. So far in my research here in Detroit, I have spoken to DJs who use Serato, and to DJs who don't and are very explicit about their dislike of replacing vinyl with computers. Reasons for using Serato: less to lug around, easier, cheaper, who knows. Reasons not to use Serato: vinyl sounds better, a DJ is supposed to use vinyl - that is part of the instrument, it's a totally different approach to music making - no grooves in each record to follow, not such a warm, full sound, it goes on. So far, DJs who I have seen use something to replace vinyl completely have played sets that were pretty different from a "regular" DJ set with two turntables and a mixer. I don't want to insult anyone, it just sounds different and the energy between the DJ and the crowd is different. But I have to say, Todd's set was excellent - it was really exciting, he played great music, I was not bored, it was clear that his skills were on point.
Okay, one last thing - even though Juan Atkins, Derrick May, and Kevin Saunderson have been interviewed endlessly and anything written about Detriot electronic music has some part on the Bellville Three, I want to talk to them too! I am spending a lot of time interviewing DJs who are active in Detroit now and who have been really significant to the history of this music in Detroit, but who have not yet recieved much attention. However, it would be a real shame if I ended this project without talking to Atkins, May, and Saunderson. So let's get on it!