Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Such a pretty label for Love What You Feel's first release LWYF-001 by Disco Nihilist. This is a new record label by Infinite State Machine's Thomas Cox. I'm going to have to get my white label copy out when I get home tonight and listen to it again...right before I vacuum out my record bag and fill it with vinyl so I can transport it to our new house.
And here's the Little White Earbuds review of the release. I really like what Shuja Haider writes about the DIY spirit of this release, and of dance music/electronic music in general. That's totally here in Detroit, although no one refers to it as DIY, and they don't call it indie either. It just is. People mostly just explain that after brief stints of seeking out help from other local, bigger name artists, they realized that if they wanted people to hear their music, they were going to have to get it out there themselves. This whole region is just ripe with local, independent record labels, many of whom get their records pressed at Archer Record Pressing Plant in Detroit, and then distribute them around the world. Local artists used to be able to get their records mastered by Ron Murphy at Sound Enterprises. Mastering in Detroit is momentarily on hold since his passing in January 2008. On hold, but definitely not permanently exiled. Here's an older post of mine featuring some words on Ron Murphy and vinyl.
First up, Feather Bowling.
(Taken from Wikipedia):
Feather bowling is a game played with wooden balls shaped like wheels of cheese. The balls are rolled down a dirt or synthetic alley towards a feather sticking out of the dirt at the other end. The object of the game is to get the ball as close to the feather as possible. Teams take turns rolling 12 balls (6 for each team) and may knock their opponent's balls out of the way, similar to Bocce. The team with balls closest to the feather at the end of the round wins 1 point per ball. The game is over when one team scores 10 points.
The game was created by American Catey Traylor, who famously murdered magician Dyna-Mike's bird and then played a game of bowling with its feathers. The only place to play the game in the United States is the Cadieux Cafe in Detroit, Michigan. A variant version, called "Belgian trough bowling" is also available at the Bath City Bistro in Mount Clemens, Michigan.
And now here's a link to the Cadieux Cafe
I am going to have to go there sometime very soon!
Anthony Bourdain took a trip through Detroit for his travel food show No Reservations and visited the Cadieux Cafe. Here is a segment of what he wrote about Detroit on his blog:
Detroit. Where just about everything cool originated. As angry as one gets looking at block after block of abandoned row houses in Baltimore and wondering how the hell that happened, it's mind boggling to see how far Detroit has been allowed to fall. But what a truly magnificent breed of crazy-ass hardcase characters have dug in there. Of all three cities we visited, Detroit, oddly enough, even while looking the jaws of death straight in the face, remains closest to being a true culinary wonderland. This is due entirely to the successive waves of migration and immigration from all over the world, when people came to MAKE things in America -- each group bringing their own food and traditions. Detroit IS the story of America, for better -- and worse, and I think we've missed that, allowed ourselves to look away. Detroit, after all, made us who we are. Literally. A country of cars, highways, car culture, upward mobility, rock and roll, rhythm and blues, and what were once, unlimited dreams. Whatever happens next, Motown, Eminem and the Stooges' "Fun House", at least, shall surely outlast the automobile.
Add to that techno and house music. In addition to being a "culinary wonderland," Detroit is a musical wonderland, and I feed on it.
Friday, July 24, 2009
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Interdimensional Transmissions vinyl
Photo by Erika Sherman
the pawn shop years, march 21 2009 @ bankle, detroit
I am so in love with Detroit right now, I am just brimming with delightful happiness for this place, the people I know here, the music I adore here, and it's all courtesy of Brendan M. Gillen of Ectomorph. I met with him last night in his huge historic home in southwestern Detroit. His passion for this place, and it's music and history, is infectious and I appreciate it. He epitomizes the eccentricity, passion, and beauty that thrives in so many artistic circles here. Brendan spoke at length about Detroit's mythologies and the essential role of mystery, anonymity, and mythology in Detroit techno and house music. For some, that gets warped into serious crises of identity, but for others, like Brendan, Mike Banks, and the musicians behind Drexciya and Dopplereffekt, it's a regular everyday approach to music. 'Why do you need to see our faces, just look at your records and then listen to them!'
Monday, July 20, 2009
Ah man, do I really have to do this...okay so James and I went out to The Works on Friday to see DWynn and Nigel Richards. DWynn sounded good, as expected. As for Nigel Richards, I am content to remain an 18 year old fan in 1995. And I got to see Jit Wiggins play vinyl for about 5 minutes. Maybe he played some records before we got there, but while we were there, he played literally a few records and then the front room shut down. They went past midnight in the front room, but not much past. So here, this is my night: I smelled terrible from the smoke machines and cigarettes. I have never liked those smoke machines, it smells terrible and makes it hard to breathe right when you want to breathe the most after dancing so much to great music (that is the ideal situation!). Visuals never got me too excited either, whether there are a bunch of lasers bouncing around, or an actual projection of video. Just give me a dark room with maybe one light and some slamming sound. And I got a headache from listening to "Girls On Film" by Duran Duran emanating from the single wall of speakers, clanking around the brick and concrete room, with the highs so high, and the mids and lows pretty much gone; I cringed and immediately required earplugs. And this is not good Theo Parrish or Rick Wilhite knob twisting. I really did get a serious headache from moments like that. I'm so sensitive...
Alright now, I need to step out of the *standing in a corner with a scowl on my face* role because I don't like it very much. I like to like things. I did have fun this weekend listening on my nice headphones to Carlos Souffront's Movement 2008 set, Soundmurderer's Movement 2008 set, (here's the general link for those sets: http://www.paxahau.com/sounds/mp3/2008_movement.html They are both at the Red Bull Stage, Carlos' is on 5/25/08 and Soundmurderer is on 5/26/08), some Flying Lotus, and Theo Parrish's Yellow Double Lines, Part 2 mix. I'll probably be staying home more for the next while because we have a big move coming up to a new house!! I'm so excited. And I really need to finish transcribing so that I can work through all the "data" I have collected over the past year and a half and get that outline outlined and then get writing. I am still doing interviews here and there, like Brendan M. Gillen of Ectomorph and Kyle Hall this week!!
I never wrote anything about the Dennis Coffey and Recloose event, how terrible!! Well, I did go and it was pretty good. I got there late because we were coming home from a trip and got stuck in traffic on what should have been the last 15 minutes of the trip. They just shut down a highway! That's Detroit for you, no wait, that's Metro Detroit/Oakland County for you, they do major construction on the weekends and just shut down a portion of a highway from Friday night to Monday morning. Not cut it down to one or two lanes, they close it completely!! So once we finally got home, unloaded, got the kids into bed, showered my funkiness off, kissed my honey (babysitter bailed), and then headed out to pick up Whodat, we had already missed a good portion of the Dennis Coffey Quartet. The music sounded so beautiful when we arrived. We caught the end of the Quartet's set. Dennis Coffey, former Funk Brother for Motown and prominent jazz guitarist in Detroit, is such an incredible musician. The way his fingers flowed across those strings was just really stunning and beautiful. Whodat introduced me to Edwin Fabre, local DJ and producer. So we all talked for a while. He actually knew who I was when WhoDat introduced us (super weird). He said, 'was she the one who brought you all down to Indiana?', referring to the Roots of Techno conference. He shared lots of support and positivity for what I am doing here. This past Wednesday, he was a guest on WhoDat's weekly radio show. And he apparently plays at The Bosco in Ferndale on Wednesday nights now. I'll have to go check it out.
Recloose played a nice set. He was throwing it down playing some good rare jams - all kinds of stuff, funk, techno, house. The sound was a little weird for his set, but I think that's mainly because it's a jazz club, kind of like The Green Mill in Chicago. So the bar is an island in the middle and there are two spaces with lots of tables separated by the bar. The sound was low and the lights were bright. The crowd was proper though. There was actually a line for the men's room all night, and that was funny. I guess that points to my earlier post about women in Detroit. I sailed past right into the ladies room and noticed the line, 'there's a line for the men's room, huh. ...There's a line for the men's room!?' And then some quiet laughing to myself.
And now my non-promoter, non-DJ, non-producer self would like to suggest a fabulous Detroit party that I would definitely attend from start to finish. It needs to be at the Bohemian National Home, because right now, that's really my favorite spot in Detroit. It's a really interesting building located in southwestern Detroit near Corktown/Michigan Avenue/old Tiger stadium. It was built in 1914 as a community center for people from Bohemia. There are lots of rooms to explore. It's dark. There's a wooden dance floor, which is always fun. And it's in quiet neighborhood with lots of trees and empty lots. But then sorry to the neighborhood residents for all the noise. And now here's the lineup, and this party needs to go late, like 7AM or something: Todd Osborn and Theo Parrish. THAT'S IT! I know this goes against regular promoter rules of having lesser known DJs play early while the crowds are small, but that ends up forcing all the other DJs who are playing into shorter time slots so that Detroiters never get to experience the journey of a long, intense set by a single person. And if you want one more person added, then I would suggest Minx. But right now, let's just go with Todd and Theo. Todd can play from like 9pm-1am or 10pm-2am or something like that. And Theo can play from 1am or 2am until 7am. I don't care what kind of equipment they have, or whether Todd plays as Soundmurderer, Osborne, or just Todd, but maybe he could bring his vocoder? Shrug? Alright, so there's the idea, someone with money and knowledge can put it together and I can offer to help in anyway I can! Am I dreaming...?
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Jersey City, NJ
So today I have a little story for you all. While on my holiday "up north" on Lake Michigan with the whole big fam, yes there were 9 of us in a single house together, the adults stayed up one night to watch a movie that my brother brought along. Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist. So it's a nice movie, I'm not going to write a review of it or anything. I'm mentioning it here because the closing scene made me remember an end to a party night in 1995 when I was a Freshman at NYU. The final scene of the film is dawn in NYC after a long musically inclined night. It's so much fun to remember partying as a young lady! I had been in NYC for about a month and a half, moving there from rural northwestern Indiana where I spent most of my childhood. The morning after I arrived in New York, as I had planned all summer, I woke up early totally giddy to be in NYC and on my own, headed down to the Antinque Boutique, a vintage clothing store slash designer boutique, to purchase my fuchsia Manic Panic - my hair was totally awesome that first semester! Long, curly, and very pink! Anyway, I only had one rave under my belt by that point. In my search through record stores and cheesy "raver" style clothing stores, I garnished a nice collection of flyers. Sputnik 6 by Satellite Productions was the rave I selected on the weekend of October 6 when my brother and mom were coming up to visit me. I can't even remember who the DJs were for that party. It was in 1995, so I don't expect there to be a whole lot about it online, but I searched anyway. Apparently there were Sputnik parties every year in the New York/New Jersey area for a number of years and we went to number 6. We took the PATH train into Jersey City and gradually found our way to the warehouse. It was a lot of fun, although I don't remember much of it, it was so long ago. We met up with my friend Margeaux who I had recently met at school. In a single night, my super friendly younger brother (who is now a DJ in Chicago, Gregory Dalphond) got to know Margeaux better than I had in the whole month and a half that I had known her. Shy D, yep that's me. So after the party, we walked back to the train station to take the PATH train back into Manhattan. There were two choices, take the train to the World Trade Center or the train that heads farther up toward midtown Manhattan and made multiple stops along the way. We needed to go downtown to the World Trade Center station because my mom was staying in a hotel down there. However, we got on the wrong train and ended up at 23rd street. My fault, I was still learning the city and although I kind of knew how to get around Manhattan on the subway, New Jersey was a whole other story. So we realized our mistake and came up to street level to be pleasantly surprised by the sun gently rising up over the city. The morning was so cool and fresh and the dawn light felt so lovely after a long dark night. We figured out which train to take back downtown and all was well. My sweetest and strongest memory from that night was the dawn light. I didn't go to any more raves in New York after that, I went to a few in Chicago when I was home, and mostly went out to clubs in New York - Shelter was my favorite!! And The Roxy, I loved the wooden floor. The wiki pages for Shelter and The Roxy are interesting. So there you have it, nice memories triggered by the dawn light in a movie that I stayed up way too late to watch trying to drink a beer that wouldn't even fit into my glass because the head was so giant (I think it got too fizzed up on the drive up there). Freaking Arbor Brewing Co. Sacred Cow IPA - tasty and temperamental.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
I’ll just start with what is fresh in my head: last night! I went to the Red Bull Music Academy Producer’s Session at River’s Edge, a grille downtown by the Detroit River. I am so glad I went, it was producer school with freaking Huck and BMG!! Mike Huckaby, producer, DJ, and music production software instructor, gave a demonstration of Native Instruments music production software Reaktor and Maschine hardware. It was interesting to watch him show the transition of a musical creation from a single tone/chord/beat into more complex phrases and layers using all kinds of sonic manipulations available in the software. He also talked a bit about creating your own instruments in Reaktor, which sounded pretty neato. Mike has been producing successfully for decades and is extremely important to Detroit electronic music because of this, but also because of his role as THE buyer for the main Record Time store in Detroit for a lot of years. Many younger DJs and producers in Detroit worked with him at Record Time and describe him as a mentor who educated them and influenced them in profound ways.
Here’s a nice bio from the Red Bull Music Academy site:
Mike Huckaby is a dance music purist extraordinaire. Being an integral part of the Detroit dance scene, he was the man behind the legendary Record Time store and as such gathered an encyclopedic knowledge of music. Mike is one of those rare guys who know all the roots and culture of electronic dance music, who see beyond the hype and divisions in the scene and know exactly what this music is. He is the kind of purist whose love for music has literally had him flown around the globe. Huckaby also produced for labels like Rick Wade's renowned Harmonie Park outfit, London's Cross Section or his own ventures Deep Transportation resp. Synth. Apart from his activities as a DJ and producer, he also works as a sound designer and a tutor for the software company Native Instruments, and Ableton teaching Reaktor and Live around the world, as well as for a special Detroit youth foundation project called "YouthVille". Tune in for a very special classics mix from his vaults in the Motor City...
In light of discussions and debates on musical production using computer software, I would like to make a few suggestions for advocates of this software. But first let me say that my mind is totally open to all the various ways to produce and perform electronic music. As long as I’m moved, I’m good. Now of course, vinyl and analog gear are extremely important to the production and circulation of electronic music. People who buy vinyl need to keep buying vinyl because it needs to remain viable. People who play only vinyl, keep playing that black gold, because you are few and far between, and you help “Keep Vinyl Alive!” I still want a shirt with that on it. Theo Parrish wore that on his shirt at the Roots of Techno conference that I organized in 2006. Okay, so here are my suggestions to computer production software advocates: please don’t repeatedly profess how EASY it is to use. That will just fuel the fire of the staunch vinyl advocates, encouraging them to proclaim even louder that easy does not mean better, and it certainly does not mean better music production. This fact is something that Mike did talk about. He acknowledged that computer software has made it easier for more people to produce music, but he also acknowledged that this often means that more people are going to be flooding our ears and pockets with more mediocre music. Keeping yourself viable and successful means that you must really learn whatever software or gear you are using so that you can really tap into your own creativity and produce important, meaningful music. A lot of talented musicians have told me that same thing here, whether they are talking about choosing a type of computer software, or about analog gear. It is important to acquire a limited number of musical production tools and really learn how to use them well.
Here, just watch this Ghostly video and listen to what Todd Osborn tells ya:
Oh yeah, and one other suggestion, make sure you have zero computer glitches when you are demonstrating or performing using a computer. I know, this is out of your hands for the most part. But still, just do that.
Brendan M. Gillen, BMG of Ectomorph and Interdimensional Transmissions, gave a demo of Abelton Live following Mike’s demo. And wow, he started off talking some trash that had WhoDat and me rolling on the floor. It was hilarious and I’m not sure whether the other folks there just didn’t know he was making jokes or they were just angry that he was being critical of music production software. And he uses Abelton to produce and perform, so it’s not like he got up there just to talk trash about it. He was making a point in a humorous way about how easy it is to make and perform music using computer software, but music that is not so great. This is the same issue that Mike Huckaby was talking about, they just explained their perspectives in totally different ways! So Brendan was up there talking about how he has seen DJs get up and use things like Serato as elementary school iPod DJing. My abilities to retell funny stories and maintain the humor in my retelling are second-rate, so just trust me when I say that it was pretty damn funny. Brian Gillespie, the primary organizer of these RBMA info sessions in Detroit, mentioned that the video of these sessions will be available online sometime soon. If it is publicly available, I’ll post it here and you can watch and laugh for yourself. And then you can go to producer school on your own time.
Brendan also pointed out that sometimes, all it takes is a DJ up there with a pretty lame beat pumping his fist to get the crowd going. He lauded DJs for getting caught up in staring at a screen all night… “It’s called checking email,” he said. He explained that it should be standard for there to be a small camera pointed at the DJs laptop, and even other equipment up there, capturing what the DJ is doing and projecting it up on a big screen so that the crowd can see what the DJ sees and does. One reason for this is so that DJs cannot just stand up there and pretend to be playing live, but in reality, just push play and then dance around. I’m not sure how common this is, but lots of people talk about this so it must happen sometimes. He also wants this to be standard practice so that people who enjoy watching a DJ perform, watching their hands move on the equipment can really understand what is going on during the performance. It doesn’t have to be such a secret or a mystery. I would love to see this happen sometime, because I really enjoy watching DJs perform, no matter what type of equipment or performance tools they are using. Not because I want to keep track of what music they are playing (I like to pay attention to the music too of course), but because it can be really interesting to study how they manipulate the equipment to produce the sounds you are hearing. Brendan explained that if you can’t see what software the DJ is using, then you can’t really understand how the sounds are being produced because you don’t know how the other equipment, like a mixer or drum machine are interfaced or programmed with the software. Brendan had an AKAI APC – it’s kind of like an MPC, but the APC is able to interface with Abelton Live software so that you can manipulate the musical samples that you have set up in Abelton on your computer using knobs and buttons instead of a mouse and keypad. Brendan explained that he likes it so that he can get away from keeping music so visually oriented. He wants to be able to interact with the crowd in a way that he feels he cannot using just a computer.
I really learned a lot last night and tried to write down as many notes as I could just so I could get a grasp of how Mike and Brendan talk and think about music production. There’s a pretty specific vocabulary and if your not actively doing it, like me, then you really have to be tuned in to words and phrases to understand what’s going on. There was one other presentation in the other room of the upstairs at River’s Edge, DJ 2ndNature gave a demo of Pro Tools and Final Cut Pro. It would have been interesting to stick around for it, but Mike and Brendan were both talking outside on the upstairs patio and it would have been a bit nutty for me to pass either one of them up.
Brian Gillespie, local producer and DJ, and RBMA representative for Detroit (official title? Not really sure, I do the best I can…), seemed frustrated with the low turnout. There were fewer people there last night than were at the info session in May. I was surprised about that because this session was so clearly beneficial to local musicians in ways that are just not publicly available in most places in Detroit or anywhere else. I think Brian assumed that people in the area would jump at the chance to learn from Mike Huckaby or Brendan Gillen, two people who obviously know what they are doing with these programs and with music in general. Organizing and promoting events is tough work, and it seems extra tough in Detroit where there is so much local talent, and also a lot of self-directed pride. Yes, pride is good, but not when it keeps you from being open to learning and experiencing new things. It drives me crazy when I hear people say things like, ‘there’s no good music coming out lately’ or ‘I’m bored by most of what people are putting out lately.’ I’m not! Maybe you need to look somewhere else, or just open up your ears and head a bit more. Yeah, I love Detroit, I love living here, I love this whole experience. There’s lots of weird judgmental shit that goes on here, just like every where else. But there’s also lots of beauty and life. I hate it when an event promoter, whether an actual promoter, or a DJ promoting her/his own parties, apologizes or takes a low turnout personally. Yeah, I suppose a small crowd reflects badly on a promoter who is supposed to be responsible for the event. Like Brian feeling down about not enough of a crowd turning out for the sessions. I have even had Rick Wilhite apologize to me because one of his parties had a relatively low turnout. Really? Why apologize? I understand why you might feel that way, but did you know that you’re Rick Wilhite and I think what you do for Detroit is pretty awesome? And I know that everyone wants to be supported in their hometown, particularly if that hometown is Detroit. It seems like people here who are into techno and house music are so used to being here and being around all these artists who receive much attention and love globally that it’s just everyday for them in Detroit. You don’t have to go very far or pay a lot of money to see these DJs play, they’re right here. Maybe that’s why it doesn’t seem like a big deal for someone like Mike Huckaby or Brendan Gillen to talk at length for free about music production and performance. When I first met Pirahnahead last summer at the Belle Isle house music picnic, Kenny Dixon was walking past and he said something like ‘most people think KDJ is a god, but he’s really just a regular guy who lives down the street.’ That’s the general perspective whether you’re buddies with Moodymann, or worked with Mike Huckaby at Record Time, or Theo Parrish is your mentor, or you learned to DJ from Ken Collier. “Eh, it’s no big deal.” It is kind of a big deal, it’s at least important to educate yourself and pay attention to. Anyway Brian, it was totally worth it. Thanks to you and everyone else involved.