|More Electronic Stories|
Aaron-Carl, in memoriam (10/6/2010)
Motor City Five (9/29/2010)
Go deep (8/11/2010)
|More from Lisa M. Collins|
Ode to Kilpatrick (11/12/2008)
A grand visionary (5/21/2008)
Fashion that walks the line (4/25/2007)
Carol Marvin says the Detroit Electronic Music Festival is divinely inspired, that God told her to make it a reality.
In her swanky downtown office, the reclusive DEMF producer sits at a conference table for a rare interview. She gushes that the DEMF is like “God coming on Earth,” and the closest thing to “heaven on Earth,” a spiritual event where people from all walks of life dance together downtown. She compares it to Woodstock and says the DEMF is the best thing that ever happened to Detroit. She says she alone made it happen.
“I decided to do it based on prayer,” says Marvin. “I’m a Christian, and I live my faith on a daily basis in all I do.”
Marvin says she thrives on constructive criticism: “I’m open to that.”
But when Marvin is asked to respond to complaints that she is difficult to work with and that her actions have fractured the local electronic music scene and soured the festival, things get ugly. Marvin becomes angry. She shakes her head at her spokesman, Greg Bowens, and says, “I told you” this would happen.
Apparently, God does not want Marvin to be asked such questions. Neither does Bowens, who insists tape recorders get turned off.
Marvin leans forward. Her green eyes bulge with intensity. She purses her lips and clenches her teeth. Marvin speaks in rapid-fire, sometimes profane staccato and with such emotion that spittle flies from her mouth.
She calls her critics “dregs,” people who “don’t have what I have.” Outsiders can’t comprehend the commitment and toil it’s taken to launch and maintain the DEMF, she says. She has spent countless hours in the chapel praying for its success, and her reward is the enmity of envious people who couldn’t live up to her standards, so she had to get rid of them.
“I’m a powerful woman ... people ride on my coattails,” she says.
When asked about widespread gripes that the schedule of acts for this weekend, DEMF 2002, doesn’t carry the heat of the first two festivals, Marvin is indignant.
“What are you talking about, woman?” asks Marvin. Juan Atkins, a techno legend, and Eddie Fowlkes, one of the genre’s earliest innovators, will perform, she says, and “they’re the biggest stars.” A host of other talented DJs will also play.
“You’re injecting opinion,” she says. “Look at the facts.”
When asked about reports that she has not paid festival workers and contractors on time, if at all, she rolls her eyes. It’s a tiny percentage of bills that were errant, she says.
“Talk to anyone who runs an event this size,” she says. “They’ll tell you that is success.”
As she leaves to take her daughter to an event, she turns and says, “Don’t believe what you read,” presumably referring to the list of DJs and others who have accused her of not paying them for services rendered.
Four have sued over it.
A deep rift
Carol Marvin, a once obscure festival promoter, is perhaps the most talked about woman in Detroit ever since the day last year — two weeks before DEMF 2001 — when she fired Carl Craig, an internationally revered turntable master credited with the event’s raging success. Craig served as artistic director of the first two DEMFs, selecting talent from all corners of the globe to entertain the throngs at Hart Plaza.
His ouster caused a stir, because Craig is considered techno royalty.
A legend in America and in Europe, he released his first recording in 1989 and has steadily gained in influence since then, producing everything from club dance mixes to living-room music to an electric jazz band ensemble at the Montreal Jazz Festival in 1999. As John Bush writes in the All Music Guide: “Dancefloor experimentalist and top Detroit techno producer Carl Craig has few equals in terms of the artistry, influence, and diversity of his recordings. Few others have recorded so much quality music in such a variety of styles than Craig, who jammed distorted beat-box samples into lo-fi electro riggings, crafted epic house tracks … and recorded the most sublime Detroit techno since godfathers Juan Atkins and Derrick May were at their peak.”
His dismissal sparked outrage. Angry fans flooded the mayor’s office with hundreds of e-mails. A Web site called La Resistance sprung up to protest the firing, eventually recording 400,000 hits. DEMF 2001 was marred by protest signs proclaiming, “We support Carl Craig.”
Nevertheless, the festival went on. The city estimates that over two Memorial Day weekends in 2000 and 2001, the DEMF drew nearly 3 million fans from as far as Amsterdam and Tokyo. Attendance is expected to be high this weekend.
In spite of its popularity, many people fear the DEMF has been mortally wounded. The electronic cognoscenti worries that rancor over Craig’s sacking and the boycotting of this year’s festival by many top acts could be the festival’s undoing.
“The integrity is gone ... It’s not the same festival. It started to help the artists and small labels, and it is certainly not about that anymore,” says Nicola Kuperus of Detroit’s Adult., the most talked-about electronic act in America right now.
Adult. played the first year and wouldn’t play this year if asked, she says. With Craig’s cutting-edge music selections, the DEMF “had the potential to be huge, to be probably one of the most massive festivals in the U.S., maybe the world.
“There’s no hope for there to be anything like that here anymore, because of her (Marvin).”
Kuperus, just back from touring Europe, says friends there are disappointed in this year’s lineup and canceled plans to come. People expect to see the highest quality and diversity before coming this far, though Detroit is considered a place worthy of a pilgrimage, she says.
Stories on the genesis of the now famous Detroit electronic music scene abound — from tales of pioneering dancers packing deserted buildings in the ’80s and ’90s to hear new music spun by fledgling superstars to accounts of independent music labels that made Detroit a music Mecca for yet another genre.
Yet none of the stories include the name Carol Marvin.
“She’s the CEO of something she didn’t help create at all. She gets to be the cherry on the cake, and that doesn’t compute,” says Laura Gavoor, a longtime promoter for Detriot’s biggest DJs.
Besides that Marvin controls all aspects of the DEMF and fired Carl Craig, not much is known about her. She has four kids. Her age is a mystery, though it’s likely around 40. Her spokesman says she neither drinks nor smokes, and she has a physical ailment that makes it difficult for her to move her legs.
And now, from her office in a converted downtown apartment, Marvin is working passionately to keep the festival thriving.
Leopard-skin fabric covers the stairs leading to Pop Culture Media, the company Marvin founded in 1993 to produce and promote festivals with an eye toward “art, music, fashion and popular interests.”
“Those are my passions,” says Marvin.
Small rooms showcase colorful art deco, retro and modern style, replete with plush velvet furniture and works by famed Detroit junk artist Tyree Guyton.
Prior to exploding into a rant over questions she found impertinent, Marvin talked calmly about her role with the DEMF. Her petite, almost frail size and girlish red ponytail belie her leonine reputation.
“I believe in bringing people together,” she says. “It’s my life’s work.”
A longtime fan of techno, Marvin says she was never a scenester. The DEMF, for Marvin, was the culmination of seven years’ work promoting Detroit festivals and the belief that a giant, free techno festival could work in Detroit.
In the early days of Pop Culture, Marvin raised money for the Michigan State Fair. In 1994, she was hired as corporate sponsorship director for the Detroit International Jazz Festival.
Jim Dulzo, director of the jazz event during its 1990s golden years, was Marvin’s boss for six festivals.
“I thought she did brilliant work,” says Dulzo. “I think she really understands what marketers want, and I think she’s incredibly tenacious. She took a festival that had very poor or shaky sponsorship and turned that into the exact opposite, into probably the best sponsored event in the region during that time.
“She’s always been into marketing and image. She cares about those two things very much,” says Dulzo, who freelances for Metro Times.
But a jazz festival official who spoke on condition of anonymity says that while Marvin brought in sponsors, she was a nightmare to work with. She was demanding, emotional and caused countless problems with festival employees.
Marvin launched the World Festival in 1996. She says she was “thrilled” about the electronic music event. The festival flopped because sponsorship promises fell through, says Marvin.
“I created it (World Festival) to make the point that this is an international music that’s come to this town,” she says.
The World Festival “was a great learning experience about how to handle things when they go all wrong.”
What seemed like a failure, says Marvin, “was a catalyst for my greatest success.”
With the jazz and world festival experiences under her belt, “I just felt ready” for the DEMF, says Marvin.
She does not speak of Carl Craig when she talks about the birth of the DEMF. The festival, she says, was hers alone.
“I hired him. I wish people would remember that,” says Marvin.
Marvin emerged from behind the scenes at an April 12 press conference announcing the lineup for DEMF 2002.
To an auditorium packed with media and industry representatives, Marvin is soft-spoken. Her voice quavers as she tells of the spiritual beauty of the event.
Then she tells a story.
She was sitting in Starbucks, she says, when she read a quote from Detroit’s new mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick. He proclaimed that Detroit is “God’s city.”
“I cried when I saw it,” says Marvin. “It was very emotional for me.” Marvin says she has always believed that Detroit is God’s city, and furthermore, the festival is “God’s event.”
Starbucks is a sponsor of this year’s DEMF.
At the media event, she admonishes reporters, “I don’t think enough of you take it [the festival] to heart,” adding, “the headlines don’t address the truth, the beauty” of the festival. She thanks the people at Real Detroit Weekly because they “really get it,” promoting the festival without reporting on its troubles. The Detroit Free Press, another festival sponsor, worked hard, she says, to gain a stage sponsorship. A Freep headline the next day, “Staying on the beat: Detroit techno artists aim to keep music flowing — with no politics — at this year’s DEMF,” no doubt was a boon in Marvin’s eyes.
Mike Rubin, senior contributing writer for Spin Magazine and freelancer for Rolling Stone, The New York Times and others, has been anything but impressed with Pop Culture’s media savvy.
Last year, Rubin says, Pop Culture Media questioned him on the circulation of Spin and Rolling Stone and he was asked to sign and provide documents detailing what his story would be about and proving his credentials.
“I shouldn’t have to tell the circulation, to explain Spin or Rolling Stone, who they are, to an American music production company,” Rubin says. “I don’t say that to be arrogant. It just shouldn’t happen.
“It was a lot of frustration and attitude.”
Marvin has a steadfast vision of the DEMF. She says that for the first festival, she fashioned all the quotes in press releases with “bold, bold” statements. “I proclaimed what this festival would be,” she says. “It’s that vision and commitment that made it happen.”
And woe to those who might not share Marvin’s vision. She clashes with members of the media, even when she hires them.
Rita Sayegh knows this all too well. Sayegh and her two partners in Pilot Pictures of Detroit were selected by Marvin to make the official documentary of DEMF 2000. They began filming before the festival and followed up with some 60 interviews afterward, says Sayegh. When editing of more than 100 hours of tape was complete, shortly before last year’s festival, Sayegh and her partners sat down with Marvin to screen the two-hour film.
“We weren’t looking for her approval,” says Sayegh. “In our contract, it says we have 100 percent creative control and we have the copyright. We wouldn’t have done it any other way.”
Sayegh says Marvin wanted to cut out portions of the film in which people gave Carl Craig credit for the festival. One segment was an interview of Derrick May, a famous Detroit DJ, saying he advised Craig not to do the festival, worrying that if DEMF failed it would hurt Craig’s reputation. Another shows a city official thanking Craig and Marvin.
“She was trying to pick and choose what’s in the film,” says Sayegh.
Cordial relations between the filmmakers and Marvin ended when Sayegh refused to remove “interviews that were integral to the story,” and Marvin began sending e-mails requesting information, documents and changes, and copying the messages to her lawyer and the city.
“Her problem was that Craig got all the attention. He was the poster boy for the festival,” says Sayegh.
“By this time [of the screening], she had fired Carl. She didn’t want people thanking him. But this …was us writing history the way it happened. By year two, it was Carol wanting to rewrite history, and take out Carl.”
Of the 60 people interviewed, nearly every one mentioned Craig or thanked him, including big-name acts such as Mos Def and the Roots, says Sayegh.
“Now, we’re not sure if the film will ever come out,” says Sayegh.
Marvin, Sayegh says, is a “difficult person. She has a power issue. She needs to assert herself. She never had a name before this, and I think she wants desperately to be a personality. It’s a difficult relationship. She wants everything done her way. You can’t do that when you’re working with creative people.
“Anyone can be a propaganda machine for Carol. That’s not what we were hired to do. Our purpose was to document what people said, what they were feeling at the time.”
This year, Carol Marvin could not work her magic. She could not find a title sponsor for the DEMF. Ford Motor Co. didn’t renew its sponsorship after spending $435,000 in 2001 to pepper Hart Plaza with the Ford Focus car and change the festival’s name to Focus Detroit Electronic Music Festival.
In Ford’s place, a host of smaller sponsors lined up, but Marvin is not revealing her budget. Last year, she says she brought in $1.8 million.
Meanwhile, Marvin was plagued by reports she didn’t pay her bills on time, leaving some unpaid for nearly two years. She and her spokesman say that less than 5 percent of the total bills are currently unpaid. Four lawsuits were filed demanding payment, including a suit filed by Craig that also accuses Marvin of defamation. His complaint asks for $140,000. He says his costs included $14,000 for artists’ plane tickets and hotel rooms. The case is set for trial in October.
Chris Kime, who painted graffiti for DEMF 2000 and worked on the production staff, setting up tents and the like for DEMF 2001, says he finally got paid last week.
“That was ridiculous, and I’m not going to have anything to do with it this year,” says Kime.
All the festival’s Web sites are owned by other people because Marvin didn’t pay the $35 annual fees to keep the domain names. Electronicmusicfest.com, the official DEMF site, is owned by a Web tech named Jani Anderson. DEMF.org, the official site the first two years, is not working and the domain is rumored to be owned by someone requesting $15,000 for it. DEMF.com takes you to the Web site of Transmat, Derrick May’s record label. May applied in December to trademark the DEMF. He could not be reached for comment on the status of that effort.
Popculturemedia.com is owned by Jason Huvaere, who says he’s billed Pop Culture $2,000 for Web support and e-mail service and
hasn’t been paid.
“It’s so weird,” says Huvaere, owner of Catalyst Technology in Ferndale. “They don’t pay their bills. I could shut off their e-mail, and they are just ignoring me. I’m not going to do that, because I don’t want to hurt the festival.
“Both the first years, they paid me eight months late. Just this year, I acquired their domain because they didn’t pay their bill.”
Drawing the lineup
Kids doing the worm-inspired, post-breakdance thing in Hart Plaza this weekend to the backdrop of the glistening river and Renaissance Center may not notice, but most of Detroit’s iconoclastic DJs are missing from the lineup this year. That includes Carl Craig, Jeff Mills and Claude Young (Mills and Young have never played DEMF), Derrick May, Kevin Saunderson, Richie Hawtin and the cast of highly respected talent at Underground Resistance, as well as Detroit’s Adult.
“I’m not supportive of the festival this year, for many, many reasons,” says Saunderson, a techno legend who is credited with bringing the genre to the masses in the late 1980s. “I’m really for the music and for the artists, and for what’s good in developing our music scene and our artists. But I don’t think this is in the best interest of the music or the artists that worked to develop this scene.
“If this is right, I would know. I’ve been around it long enough. I think (Marvin’s) taken the wrong path. I’ve had to disassociate myself.
“They sent me an offer by e-mail. I declined.”
Dan Sordyl, owner of dance club Motor, says the unofficial boycott has soured the festival. Sordyl pulled out after two years of sponsoring a stage, and after Pop Culture announced that Motor would be involved again.
“There should never be an electronic music festival in the city of Detroit without Kevin (Saunderson), Derrick (May) and Carl (Craig),” says Sordyl.
“Everyone that’s involved in electronic music in Detroit needs to be involved in the festival. And they are not. I think it’s a tragedy that it’s polarized the music community in Detroit. Things need to change.”
Local DJs feel caught in a crossfire.
“It puts the artists in a real bizarre situation,” says DJ Genesis, who played DEMF last year and works at Underground Resistance music label. “You don’t want to go against Carl Craig. That’s not fair. It makes you feel strange to be part of it.
“I hope the festival does well and continues to grow, I just wish Craig could be involved,” she says.
A major source of contention has been the seven artists who stepped up to fill Craig’s shoes, the panel appointed by Marvin to select the artist lineup. The announcement of the panel caused quite a stir in the local and international music scenes.
Regardless, Real Detroit Weekly, an official sponsor of the DEMF, was oblivious to the angst. It pictured five of the panelists on its April 10 cover under the headline, “Common Ground: the DEMF artistic board stands together.” The one-page article said the panelists are cooperating and seeking “pure talent,” as opposed to following a “personal agenda.” The article featured paragraph-long quotes from Marvin, but didn’t even mention Craig.
This year’s lineup actually is less Detroit-based, and certainly less international, than the first two years. All panel members — respected DJs who have made records for a decade or longer but, except for Atkins, never became famous — are headlining. (Craig did not book himself the first or second years.)
Though panelists say they sought artists who hadn’t played DEMF before, each panelist except Alan Oldham played in either the first or second festivals. Panelists Eddie Fowlkes will be playing for the third year in a row, while Juan Atkins did not show up for his first-year performance and headlined the second year.
Marvin says the panel and its lineup are her attempt to “right wrongs,” and to give people who created the music the honor they deserve.
Industry experts aren’t so impressed.
Scott Sterling, associate editor of Urb Magazine in Los Angeles, an electronic music publication and official sponsor of DEMF 2002, says something is missing this year.
“People in the industry are actively distancing themselves from the festival this year,” says Sterling, a native Detroiter. “If you pay for a plane ticket to go to Detroit to see the festival, as a fan or as a journalist covering an event, there’s certain people you expect to see, the big boys. When the big boys of Detroit are not there, it seems incomplete.”
Sterling says some music magazines aren’t sending reporters this year. For fans, as well, there’s a feeling that this year’s festival is “anti-climactic,” he says.
“Firing Craig was huge. It was so huge, and it crippled the whole thing. He’s not the most famous DJ. He could be considered along the lines of a Herbie Hancock or a Miles Davis, an artist whose vision is so far ahead of his contemporaries that it’s often shocking. It’s over a lot of people’s heads. For the intelligentsia of the scene, or from the people that know music, he means the world to people.
“He’s a young black American youth from Detroit who’s more intelligent than the quote-unquote intelligent techno. As an artist, he has so much clout.”
Sterling says he won’t come to Detroit this year.
Mike Rubin, writer for Spin Magazine and Rolling Stone, says he will come, but excitement about the festival is diminished.
“Last year, there was a buzz among music industry people. There were a ton of writers who flew out,” says Rubin.
An Oak Park native who now lives in New York, Rubin covered DEMF 2001 for Rolling Stone. He says he’s heard of only one other national music writer flying to Detroit to cover the festival this week.
“The schedule that’s posted, the official, daytime DEMF festival, there’s interesting things on there but I don’t know it it’s something a writer will book a plane for.
“It’s very true to Detroit and the Detroit underground. But it’s not the artists that necessarily bring people from out of town into the city.”
The best looking shows this year are the unofficial after-parties, says Rubin, and it’s a little difficult to party until 6 a.m. and show up at DEMF when music begins at noon. Further, people attending after-parties must pay to get in.
DEMF panelists insist that this year’s event is better than ever. Kelli Hand points out there are 40 after parties planned this year, compared to five the first year and 10 the second.
“This is amazing for Detroit,” says Hand. “It should go down in the Guinness books.”
Fowlkes, who lives in Las Vegas, sees many positives.
“Certain individuals don’t control the festival. All of us made the scene, not three or four people. I think it’s good that we’re getting the people that never performed in the past. Carol wanted everyone involved.
“I’d be stupid to choose a side. I’m down with anything that comes out of Detroit and is good for the music.”
Alan Oldham says the gripes can be “construed as sour grapes.”
“It’s my sense that when we announced the lineup … we knocked Carl Craig out of the box.
“This year is a straight-up party year. The lack of experimental and IDM (intelligent dance music) is because, for various reasons, they chose not to participate. Which leaves us party DJs and live acts. I think that’s a good thing.”
Many acts couldn’t or wouldn’t participate, Oldham says.
“This thing works in attrition. This is kind of what we were left with.”
Marvin’s spokesman, Bowens, says it’s a shame that people are criticizing the festival.
“There are so few things that are good about our city and so few things that bring people together,” Bowens says. “It’s unfortunate to concentrate on the chattering class that concentrates on the drama.”
A lot of people couldn’t care less about festival politics. Fans will turn out again this year.
“I’m really excited about being out there all weekend, every day,” says Erin Gobeski, 18, of Plymouth. “The minute April came, everyone was like, ‘I can’t wait for DEMF, I can’t wait for DEMF.’”
Nic Larsen of London plans to bring his girlfriend for her birthday. “There’s a lot of public shlogging going on, but at the end of the day it’s going to be a brilliant party.”
A member of the popular 313 Internet chat room, Larsen is among thousands who spend their days musing about Detroit’s electronic music. “It’s going to be a huge experience for us. We’re taking a video camera. I’ve always been a huge fan of Detroit techno.”
For Tommy Ferrera, a 26-year-old Ford plant employee who’s working his way up in the world of DJs, the festival this year is a disappointment. Somewhat of a music encyclopedia, Ferrera’s living room is flanked by turntables and stacks of music magazines. The first two DEMFs were replete with experimental and jazz-inspired acts he was excited to see. But this year’s fest is mainly techno and house music.
“It’s no offense to anyone on the lineup. But I can go see that music any weekend at Motor,” says Ferrera. “For the most part, the lineup isn’t as diversified this year.
“This year, it’s strictly dance music. It kind of bothers me. That was what was so fun about the first two years. I found artists I liked that I never heard about.”
Ferrera’s friend, Jeff Karolski, 29, opened the first DEMF on a rainy Saturday by creating sounds with a small wooden saw. Two janitors walked by and remarked, “Are we going to have to listen to this all day?” he recalls. He was paid $250, one of his best-paying gigs.
He’d do it again if asked.
“I’m in no position to turn something like that down. I have no political weight,” says the Hamtramck native. “People are still coming to Detroit to see this. Experimental music is already underplayed in Detroit. The festival could be another platform for it.”
“The big people have a stake in this,” Karolski says. “We don’t. For us, it’s beneficial all around.”
“We don’t need another failure,” says Karolski. “If this is the last year for this festival, it’ll just be another weekend.”
“It’s kind of scary,” says Ferrera.
“I hope we don’t get too self-obsessed here,” says Karolski. “I think there should be bigger questions asked, about this festival and what it means to Detroit. I hope that people are asking those questions.”
Marvin’s three-year contract with the city of Detroit to produce DEMF ends on May 31.
Negotiations are under way to extend the contract as well as the $340,000 the city pays Pop Culture to stage the event.
“I haven’t decided how I’m going to produce it, exactly,” says Marvin, explaining that such things develop over time.
“We didn’t build the festival and have it change the city just so it could end,” she says. “That’s not a concern.”
The question is, can it go on with her at the helm?
Some industry stalwarts say they will never be involved as long as Marvin is in control.
“We’ve been working on this music for a long time,” says Saunderson. “We finally have something in our own back yard. And all of a sudden, it’s changing overnight. It does sadden you, you know. Who knows where we go from here. There could be another festival, maybe in Detroit, maybe somewhere else. Who knows what the options are now. I’m just sitting back and looking at it all.
“I don’t want it to be a bad festival. I’d rather see it be successful. But she [Marvin] is nobody in this scene.”
There’s talk of the “big boys” such as Saunderson and May getting together with promoters like Barbara Deyo, Tim Price and Jason Huvaere as well as Sordyl from Motor to start a separate festival. “It’s a shame that people at the top can’t get along,” says Sordyl. “It’s just a tragedy. You’ve got to give Carol Marvin credit for making this happen against all odds. The first year they pulled this off, she busted her ass to make this happen.
“But you can’t go alienating the music scene. You can’t alienate the people that have been performing and promoting this music in this city for years.”
Where’s the money?
City officials are mum on the controversy surrounding DEMF. Metro Times scheduled an interview with Recreation Department Director Hurley Coleman, but the interview was canceled at the last minute and all questions were referred to Shannon McCarthy, spokeswoman for Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.
Requests to speak to Recreation Department officials directly about their dealings with Pop Culture were declined.
Left unanswered are questions about DEMF’s revenue. Pop Culture’s contract with the city says the festival was expected to make $50,000 in its first year and that any profits would go directly to the city. The city has the right to review Pop Culture’s books, but McCarthy says she isn’t sure if DEMF makes any profit.
When asked to respond to reports that Marvin invokes city red tape when her bills are late, McCarthy says the city works “diligently” to cut checks as soon as invoices are recieved from Pop Culture.
“I can’t account for the time between when the invoices are submitted to Pop Culture Media and recieved by the city of Detroit,” says McCarthy.
The city sponsors the DEMF, and under a contractual agreement, gives the festival $340,000 a year. All other festivals, except the Downtown Hoedown, “are independently owned and operated and rent space in the city of Detroit,” says McCarthy. The city owns the Hoedown, she says. All other festivals pay rent, and don’t recieve financial support, she says.
Eggs with the Craigs
On Sunday Carl Craig and his wife, Hannah, go to brunch downtown. Over mimosas, eggs and bacon, Craig, just back from a tour of Europe and Japan, laments that an event that started out so good has turned, for him and others, so sour.
“The festival had the potential to become like Burning Man — where people come to worship. Unfortunately, with all the negative, it’s put a dark cloud over the whole thing,” he says.
Most of the major DJs in Detroit have known and worked with each other for 10 or more years, says Craig. His ouster has caused animosity.
“(Saunderson and May) want to see unity,” says Craig. “That’s what we’ve been trying to do all along. The festival was meant to be unifying. But people’s egos got in the way.”
The festival was an idea long in the making, says Craig. May hooked up Marvin and Craig, and the two brainstormed about the festival, he says. Months later, she called him and said the city wanted to do it.
He says he didn’t want to be a part of the “administration” of the festival, because he was busy touring, producing and running a record label. That’s why his name isn’t on the city’s contract, and he was only contracted to work for Marvin.
“I trusted her,” he says.
As time went on, Marvin and Craig, both strong personalities, clashed.
“I don’t think I did anything wrong,” says Craig. “She wanted control over me. She wanted control over everyone.”
The festival, says Craig, was meant to educate people on the diversity of electronic music and to bring the underground genre to the Detroit public. In the second festival, he presented a deeper, harder sound. People got angry with him, he says, for not booking them. Others were angry that Hawtin, a white guy from the suburbs, headlined the first year, he says.
This year, the festival is “a big free rave,” says Craig.
“That’s exactly what we were trying to avoid,” says Hannah.
“If it is tied into raves too much, it’ll never have the chance to be respected,” says Craig.
“There’s no real buildup. It’s all these guys, playing similar styles. That’s what I wanted to avoid. That’s why I took the abuse from whomever” to keep the lineup diverse.
Most of the acts the first two years signed up because of relationships with Craig and his associates, he says. People like Hawtin, one of the biggest names in techno, took 50 to 60 percent cuts in pay to play. Craig’s budget to book artists each of the first two years was $140,000, he says.
“Carl didn’t know people would come,” says Hannah. “Booking big names, that’s how you get 1.5 million people to show up.”
Craig and Hannah recall looking across hundreds of thousands of people dancing in Hart Plaza and the emotions that ran through them.
“We all were standing there crying,” says Hannah.
“Nobody knew it was going to be successful,” says Craig. “Being in Hart Plaza, serenading the Renaissance Center, I remember thinking, ‘This is actually happening.’ It was amazing.”
As for the future, Craig doesn’t see one for the DEMF unless major changes occur.
“I always said it was a good thing for the city. I hate for it to get fucked up like this,” says Craig. “Everyone’s trying to get credit, and the forces you’re working against are so dark. It’s not that I don’t want to see the festival happen. I just think the management needs to be changed to people who really give a fuck.
“It’s everybody’s festival. It’s the city’s festival. It’s not Carol Marvin’s festival.”
Lisa M. Collins is a Metro Times staff writer. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.