ElectronicBy the beat
The Detroit legends
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It’s here, party people: three days of bars, beats and booty. Fuse-In will sprawl over four stages at Detroit’s Hart Plaza, May 28-30. The big names are all ace: They include Mos Def, Richie Hawtin, Terrence Parker and festival producer Kevin Saunderson. But some performers less well-known might be just as good, or better. Here are some profiles of some of them to get you started.
PirahnaHead (Maurice Herd)
From: Detroit (“East Side till I die.”)
Backstory: Mentored in house music by the late Detroit DJ Ken Collier, PirahnaHead cut his musical teeth playing Hendrix-inspired guitar in rock and funk bands like Charm Farm, Dub Culture and Enemy Squad. He’s toured with the P-Funk All-Stars and played with Bernie Worrell, Morris Day and the Time and fellow East Sider Amp Fiddler. Herd says he saw George Clinton play live in 1977 (when baby pirahna was 5 years old) and has been on track to become a career musician ever since. He has affiliations with Detroit’s Women on Wax, Kenny Dixon’s Mahogani Records and the groups Painted Pictures and Nappy Headz.
What does Detroit mean to him: “Whatupdoe? The Electrifying Mojo, P-Funk, Errol Flynn, Nanny Goats, Jingle Boots, ‘N—ga check it in!’ BK, YBI, Coleman Young, Nat Morris, ‘Are you ready to throw down?’ If you don’t know the answer you are not from Detroit. Musical legacies of Black Bottom, United Sound, and we cannot forget Hitsville, USA. Backyard and basement 25-cent parties after we left Skateland, or the Soul Expression. That’s Detroit, man.”
Something about him that only a mother would know?: “As a baby I was terrified at the sight of flowers or grass, but intrigued by the craziest stuff — I felt I could identify with Iron Maiden’s mummy ‘Eddie’ — and I liked Ozzy and Gene Simmons.”
... And something she shouldn't: “She doesn’t know what I know about you and she never will — it’s just our little secret, OK?”
Play the DJ: “Jimi Hendrix, Weather Report, Return to Forever, Sly Stone, P-Funk, Lightnin’ Hopkins, John Coltrane, Louie Vega, Kenny Dixon Jr., Kiss, Black Sabbath, Frank Zappa and the Beatles. Oh, and Philadelphia International and Motown 45s — the B-sides had some serious instrumentals.”
The killer quote: “Know what you know and do what you do, but know what you are doing. Not heeding that quote is Detroit’s biggest flaw — but ya’ll don’t hear me.”
Performing: Saturday, May 28, 3 p.m., Main Stage.
DJ 3000 (Franki Juncaj)
From: Hamtramck, but refers proudly to his family’s Albanian heritage and origins in Yugoslavia.
Backstory: Producer, DJ and founder of the Motech record label. DJ 3000 has released records on Teknotika, Underground Resistance and Submerge, where he works as the label’s sales manager. Juncaj’s blending of Detroit Techno with ethnic Albanian sounds and Middle Eastern rhythms has earned him a cult following in Europe. A new full-length, Grassroots, will be released come fall on Submerge.
What does Detroit mean to him?: “Detroit means home, and I love it. It has a special feeling because of the type of people that are here. Real muhfuckas being real muhfuckas. The fake fools move to other cities to be stars and shit because they can’t hang here.”
Something only his mother would know?: “Can’t say that.”
... And something she shouldn't: “Shit. Too much to list, so I won’t!”
Play the DJ: “The one artist I would play anytime anywhere would be Gerald Mitchell from Los Hermanos in Detroit. He has the techno-house sound like no other artist out there. You can play his music in a club or café and it just touches people in a way that you can’t describe.”
The killer quote: “What you see is what you get. I am a straight-up guy. I say what I want and I don’t sugar-coat shit. I will say one thing about my music: I have my own ethnic-techno style and that separates me from all the other electronic music out there. I don’t try to make something that is cool or something is fashionable. I make what comes from my heart and I put it out there for you to take for what it is.”
Performing: Saturday, May 28, 6 p.m., Waterfront Stage.
From: Detroit (West Side).
Backstory: Classically trained on violin, Diviniti got into house music while attending Mercy High School in Farmington Hills. She had her first vocal recording session with Terrence Parker, who was the DJ at Diviniti’s Sweet 16 party. She met PirahnaHead and Minx in 2003, and began her association with Women on Wax the same year. A new 12-inch, “Love Will Stay,” is set for release this spring. The house diva spends her days teaching at Detroit’s White Elementary School.
What does Detroit mean to her?: “To me, Detroit is home. It’s a place where I feel comfortable and where I feel the warmth of family and friends. Unfortunately, I think the rest of the world sees something totally different. I think people outside the city see Detroit as a washed-up actress: She was fierce in her day, but has lost her way and a lot of her charm.”
Something only her mother would know?: “Only my mother knows how much I have truly grown and matured; especially since I started singing professionally and releasing records. I have learned a lot about music and the ‘business,’ though there is still much more to know. I’ve learned a lot about love and relationships. Mostly, I have learned quite a bit about myself.”
... And something she shouldn't: “Wait … if my mother doesn’t know, you think I’m gonna tell you? Yeah right!
Play the DJ: “Steely Dan, Chicago, Paprika Soul, Maysa, N’Dea Davenport, Incognito, Fertile Ground … my list could go on forever. I love all types of music, but I’m secretly a classic rock fiend.”
The killer quote: “The only limits we have are the ones that are self-imposed. Spend more time finding out what you think of yourself instead of what others think of you. I have loads of cute little quotes; my nickname should be Confucius!”
Performing: Monday, May 30, 3 p.m., Waterfront Stage.
Backstory: Came out to the world on “Mad” Mike Banks’ Soul City label with “Down,” a grinding booty-blaster written from the point-of-view of a boy into licking and sucking other boys. A-C’s vocals include male and female parts sung by the same bitch: him. His records are coveted in France, where he is a step away from becoming a cabaret star. He formed his own imprint, Wallshaker Music, where he drops his new production efforts. His first LP, Uncloseted, was a hard-soft blending of ghetto-grooves and celestial house. A new album, Detrevolution, is out in September. Carl performs his music live, with turntables, a microphone and big chocolate hips swinging.
What does Detroit mean to him?: “Detroit is like a diamond in the rough. Some people are afraid of it. Some people only focus on the negative stereotypes about Detroit. In reality, Detroit has some of the world’s best talent. We (Detroiters) have a certain ‘thing’ about us that you can’t find anywhere else in the world. It shines in our attitude. It shines in our music. We’re like ‘underdogs.’ So when we rise above the madness, it truly is a beautiful thing.”
Something only his mother would know: “I used to idolize Deniece Williams – I thought she was an angel.”
... And something she shouldn't: There’s a sex tape out there somewhere, with my name on it.
Play the DJ: “Anything by Wendy and Lisa, Sade or the B-52s (‘Mesopotamia’ — that’s my shit!)”
The killer quote: “It’s not just a groove; house is a feeling. And when you feel it, you will understand … kiss kiss kiss kiss kiss kiss!”
The killer quote: Saturday, May 28, 5 p.m., Main Stage.
From: Sweden. Raised in Germany, moved to New York City in the late ’80s, and now lives in Barcelona, Spain.
Backstory: Producer, DJ and owner of the Tronic record label (djchristiansmith.com).
What does Detroit mean to him?: “I have a long history with Detroit. When I was a teenager I was heavily into Model 500 and Underground Resistance; both the early Detroit and Chicago house-techno music has had an immense influence on me. Since the mid- to late-’90s, I have performed many times in Detroit, from the Motor to warehouse raves, and made some good friends as well. Even though the scene has gotten smaller in Detroit, I still enjoy playing there once or twice a year. It’s always good.”
Something only his mother would know?: “No idea. I guess my weight at birth?”
... And something she shouldn't:“I don’t have bad vices, like drugs … so nothing really.”
Play the DJ: “Computer Age (Push the Button)” by Newlceus.
The killer quote: “You snooze you lose!”
Performing: Sunday, May 29, 9:15 p.m., Tronic-Underground Stage.
From: Seattle via Cleveland
Backstory: Samuel is one multitasking post-millennial dude. At his day job in Seattle, he designs software for video games; at night, he produces, remixes and DJs. His records have appeared on two of Cologne’s deepest labels, Trapez and Karloff, as well as Daniel Bell’s 7th City and Ann Arbor’s Spectral Sound. His tracks have been remixed by übercool Ricardo Villalobos and Michael Mayer. Even cooler: he claims witnessing a DJ set by Detroit’s Claude Young in 1996 was his inspiration for a life behind the decks.
What does Detroit mean to him?: “A sense of hope in a decaying urban landscape.”
Something only a mother would know?: “I don’t like mixtures of fruit and meat; sorry, Caribbean.”
... And something she shouldn't: “Well I’m not going to tell a newspaper something my mother shouldn’t know, am I?”
Play the DJ: “Anything by Daniel Bell.”
The killer quote: “Ninety-eight percent of all live sets I’ve seen are incredibly boring, and I will not do one until I can figure out a way to be a part of that other 2 percent.”
Performing: Monday, May 30, 6:30 p.m., Paxahau-Underground Stage.
From: Grosse Ile
Backstory: Definitive Detroit Bachelor DJ Keith Kemp is releasing his Learning Sequence EP this summer on West Coast-based Frik:n:Frak, and it’s a clear movement forward in his long history as DJ and electronic experimenter. Raised on industrial records, Alan Oldham’s Fast Forward radio shows and Downriver wind currents, Kemp has graduated from wide-eyed suburbanite to cutting-edge international underground house-techno Next Big Thing. Make sure to check out his work on Ferrispark Records Sounds Volume 1.
What does Detroit mean to him?: "Attitude, motherfucker!"
Something only his mother would know?: "My Boy Scout rank."
... And something she shouldn’t: "Yeah right."
Play the DJ: "Anytime, anywhere? The complete works of Miles Davis could complement any situation, no matter where you find yourself on this earth."
The killer quote: "The future belongs to those who see possibilities before they become obvious."
Performing: Monday, May 30, 2 p.m., Paxahau-Underground stage.
Apparat (Sascha Ring, born 1978 in then-East Germany).
Backstory: Apparat started in music in 1985 playing drums, got into electronic music in the early ’90s and began producing tracks in 1996. He moved to Berlin a year later, calling it the "best decision I ever made." Apparat has associations with Bpitch Control and Shitkatapult, two of Berlin’s most wildly diverse labels. He’s done remixes for Ellen Allien, T. Raumschmiere and Windsorite Kero. His newest full-length, Silizium, was released in 2005.
What does Detroit mean to him?: "Actually, to be honest, and I am always honest, Detroit sounds like ghetto to most of the people over here. I guess there are too many movies about it. But for someone making music there is definitely more about that city. A lot of people say techno was born in Detroit. Even if I wasn’t so much into the American kind of techno I guess I have to agree. When I started DJing, I was playing a lot of stuff from Belgium and those hard Dutch records. Feels a like a long time ago, But I think it all started a bit earlier ‘in the D.’"
Play the DJ: "I guess I have to say that I’m not really listening to techno anymore. I don’t see too much of development and it’s a long time ago an electronic record excited me. I hope to have that feeling again in the future."
The killer quote: "Free Tibet."
Performing: Monday, May 30, 1:30 p.m., MusicLogical stage.
Backstory: Bailey has been a DJ and promoter for going on 20 years. With time spent at Eight Mile’s legendary Cheeks, house nights at Club 246 (now torn down by Mike Illitch and the city of Detroit) and now an ongoing DJ Battle Series at Half Past Three, Bailey has been able to maintain his relevance. This year will be his first appearance at the festival.
What does Detroit mean to him?: "It’s the place where I started it all over 20 years ago. And although my music is played throughout the nation, it’s very important to me and the house music following that I’ve maintained my weekly Detroit residency."
Something only his mother would know?: "I can’t dance."
... And something she shouldn’t: "Trees make music sound much better."
One record I’d like to hear: "Disco Circus" by Martin Circus.
Play the DJ: "Master’s at Work (MAW), Blaze, Larry Heard."
The killer quote: "DJing is the closet thing to being a famous ballplayer or gold record performer. When you drop [that record] in a packed nightclub at 1 a.m. and the crowd releases their vocal emotions there is no other feeling like that in the world."
Performing: Monday, May 30, 1 p.m., Waterfront stage.
A glimpse of Fuse-In international must-sees.
The Detroit legends
The locals who put Detroit on the electronic music map.
A handy idiot's guide to electronic music lingo.
Fuse-In satellite parties.
For information on Detroit artists mentioned, visit www.metrotimes.com/guide/musicians.
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