I was thinking last week about how my blog is reaching people outside of Detroit way more than in this area. I have some international readers and some readers who are bloggers and music writers as well. This new awareness has encouraged me to consider a potentially wider audience for my writing (blog, eventual articles, and [dissertation] book) than I had originally considered. I came here and began this research with a great lack of confidence in the relevancy of it beyond my dissertation committee and a few scholars down the road. Now that’s not to say that everyone who likes house and techno, or Detroit or whatever will eventually buy my book, or will be scrambling for my dissertation on ProQuest, but my current and future audience is much bigger than I originally anticipated. This new awareness has me thinking about new issues. One of which is the debates over who deserves to have their music categorized as Detroit techno, or who is considered to represent Detroit and who doesn’t. This debate is sort of interesting, has a great long history, and is sort of not interesting. For example, the All Music Guide lists Aril Brikha within the genre category of Detroit Techno. First of all, the All Music Guide is not the reigning authority on any kind of music, but there is some useful information there, and some folks worked hard to compile it all in some kind of accessible, educational form. In a general, global debate about Detroit techno’s boundaries, sure, put Aril Brikha in there. He makes good music, he has been inspired by Detroit techno music for a long time, that connection makes sense. However, I came to Detroit because I am profoundly interested in the people who are HERE making music HERE performing HERE, and generally representing Detroit on a global, AND local scale – representing Detroit to itself. I am typically not going to be spending a great deal of time researching, interviewing, or writing about people who are not from here, have never lived here, or no longer live here. There are certainly some musicians, like Alan Oldham and Blake Baxter, who have participated (or have agreed to participate) in email interviews, who do not live in Detroit. But overall, I am primarily focused on this city and it’s thriving musical cultures.
So if you are set on including Aril Brikha, Morgan Geist, or Ken Iishi as members of the Detroit techno cannon (if you accept that there actually is such a cannon), then that’s lovely. I’m not debating those links to Detroit. However, in a project with a strong focus on the history and culture of Detroit as a particular site, or locale, those musicians will not be a part of the research or writing in a major way. Yes, they drew and draw influences from Detroit music, and have certainly influenced Detroit electronic musicians, and that’s as far as their inclusion should be in my study of Detroit techno and house music.
Ultimately, not being a Detroit native, or not living in Detroit, does not entirely exclude a musician from being strongly connected sonically to Detroit techno. If I took a kind of exclusionary stance, then I would have to debate whether or not Todd Osborn, or Ritchie Hawtin, or Terrence Parker were really “Detroit” enough to associate themselves with Detroit music. Just growing up in the suburbs or across the river in Windsor (both of which are pretty large cultural and social dividers) does not equate with lack of understanding or experience with Detroit culture of the 1970s to the present. Radio and TV, here, here, here, here, …and here, reached lots of people north of 8 Mile Road, west of Telegraph Road, and across the Detroit river, in the 1980s and 1990s throughout the formational years of nearly all of the producers/musicians/DJs that I have interviewed. So yeah, I don’t worry too much about who is or who is not “Detroit,” I just formulate my focus in such a way that many underrepresented people and parts of history can be presented on a much more extensive and public scale than they have been previously.
And let me just say, it is so much fun to interview people who have never done an interview before, because, typically, they don’t have as many expectations or preconceived notions and spend so much more time just talking, conversing with me, rather than answering and then waiting, or even cueing me, for the next question. Both are totally acceptable, of course. I love all of the interviews I have done and appreciate any opportunity to meet and talk with someone important to Detroit electronic music. But the free flowing, lengthy conversations are the best!