This saturday (May 18) ele_mental re-emerges with a 20th anniversary event at Kobo to celebrate the continuation of underground electronic music in our city (Event Details HERE). A focus on continuity is so vital, as ele_mental has never really left our community. Sure, they were not planning weekly or monthly parties over the last 5-6 years and many of its core members now live outside the city, but one does not have to be physically present or be screaming louder and louder to have an influence on the shape of our community. Sometimes the best thing a person or organization can do is to do nothing and let the creative pulse and vision one has created reverberate within the community in smaller ripples. Such is the simple way that ele_mental has come to inspire a whole new generation of people to work to keep the scene alive and offer a safe space for artists to explore ways of opening the “eyes and ears and minds” of listeners
In my own way, this is how I came to know and be inspired by Ed Luna, Todd Sines, Titonton Duvante, & Charles Noel and their artistic approach to dance music without even meeting them. I was caught by one of those smaller, barely perceptible reverberations that still echo out from the core years of their time in Columbus, 1991-2003. Even though I wasn’t there, didn’t here the songs, or feel the powerful rhythm of those days, the stories, pictures, sounds, and conversations I had with people shaped by those days influenced me in important ways. It was the high ideals of ele_mental to rise above hype and push art that gave me the courage to push the boundaries of what music was acceptable and to not settle for the genres of acceptability that were in vogue at the time. It was the focus on education and scene history, charted by Ed Luna and others, that gave me a template and background knowledge on which to build. It was their hot burning fire of creativity and the will to build in new directions on the edges of sound that poured gasoline on my own kindling flame and showed me how to harness language as a system to express what was inside me. In short, as I stand on my own two feet, I recognize I walk on the ground built by their actions.
It only seems fitting that ele_mental would re-insert themselves into the conversation in a more direct and pointed way now. After 5-6 years of development, the scene has ramped back up. New clubs have opened in the old spaces. New organizations have arisen to fuse the experimental and dance sides of our scene. New publications, photographers, and videographers have taken advantage of advances in technology to document what people are doing creatively in our community. New faces have mixed in with the old to create a new community. However, the newer members of our community have never experienced an ele_mental event. What will transpire when we all get under the same roof and dance to the same beat? I am, with Ed Luna, hoping for a Chain Reaction. The sort of chaotic, unstable synthesis that merges the ethos of DIY creation and sound barrier bursting so characteristic of ele_mental with the energy of the next generation to give another injection to the most recent wave of underground scene building in Columbus.
In order to get you ready for the show, I gave seven different members of ele_mental and our community the opportunity to reflect, just as I did above, how ele_mental influenced their lives and our city. I hope you enjoy the result. I think it really captures some of the importance of the organization and its ideals for our community. Below you will see the question I posed to all participants and their answers In alphabetical order by their first name:
Its the 20th aniversary of ele_mental and its got me in a reflective mood. How have your experiences with the ele_mental influenced your life, your relationship to music, or your art?
“ele_mental was something that came into my life at the perfect time. In 1990, I was in the middle of an important transition creatively speaking. I was fresh into my 20’s and ready to explore the universe of creativity. I was looking very optimistically and somewhat scientifically into the future. A few years into college, I was banging my head against a few disciplines that I had almost no business messing with, music theory/performance and electrical engineering. The situation was that I wanted to be an audio engineer and at OSU in the 80s they had set up an audio recording degree that was half music and half electrical engineering. I gave it the college try, but really couldn’t hang. I was expected to learn how to play an instrument (a school of music requirement) and get heavy into math and physics for the electrical engineering, but deep down I just wanted to get creative with sound. I wanted to chart unknown sonic territories, help develop new sounds for the future, and contribute to the furthering of the art.
I was pulling inspiration from many areas that were not overlapping much at that time. I had my ear into hip-hop, techno, house, industrial, punk, noise and experimental. In my mind, I wanted to draw lines between all of these and connect a visual aspect that took elements of art and design. This is a very common theme in today’s digital omni-connected world, but nothing you would randomly stumble upon in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Around the time that I came to this realization, I made a connection with some guys who had been hangin’ around in the small but active Columbus underground music and indie art scene. These guys had some of the same crazy ideas that I had, but coming from a different angle.
Looking back on that moment, it was a very odd window into the future. It wasn’t very defined in terms of looking at the past and just doing what you did then but better. We could see elements of change coming. The idea that the rules that we previously abided by were fading away was the fuel for lighting our art-student-collective/event-promoter/dj-producer-label owner fire. A fire had been lit and in a very short amount of time it would grow out of control. I’ll admit that I was along for the ride during much of the original inception, but being around motivated people that are willing to take risk is quite inspiring when you want to get shit done. From the get-go, ele_mental was about things that didn’t actually exist and as someone that had young creative energy who wanted to chart new territory with all that was in reach I was drawn into the collective. Many others where drawn in as well to varying degrees. We were all worker bee’s working toward a greater collective good. Heavy camaraderie came early on as we would learn to pull resources from anywhere in the collective to get our individual and collaboratory ideas into reality. We were all so motivated to teach and learn and to make things happen.
We took ideas and stripped them down to what was important. At that time, everyone was doing the opposite of that, so we stood out. Ironically though, we were not doing something just to stand out, which is a common motivation to do something. We simply followed a creative curiosity that told us to do something because it doesn’t exist and it is interesting enough to put some effort into. That force was responsible for those things that elemental gave to us all; Friendship, friendship on the level that was somewhere between a family member and a significant other, Creative, the idea that every creative step should be taken for a reason and to further the art, Knowledge and Motivation, how to make beautiful things happen when you don’t have enough resources. Networking, find those who inspire you personally and professionally and reaching out to them. ele_mental has given me all of that and so much more. To sum up, elemental gave me life; the means to create things, navigate problems and forge relationships, to keep forward momentum, and do what makes you happy.”
Ed Luna aka Lunar
“For me, ele_mental really allowed me a forum and venue to bring things together not only to benefit my own growth, but to nurture growth in others. I think its impact on Columbus, and other places here and there, is almost undetectable, but is secretly incalculable. No one did anything even remotely resembling what we were doing at the time, and few have even tried since. The reason it didn’t leave much of a visible impact was because it wasn’t really designed to. It lived on (and lives on) in the idea of collaboration and sharing itself, rather than in some need to prove how influential we were. We’ve never lived in the past, or in the need to prove anything, and we’re not about to start doing that now, even as we’re entering a new phase of understanding our own history.
I think this might be the most lasting legacy of ele_mental: it was about asking the right questions at the right time, and manifesting these questions into events and moments that people could participate in. In that sense, it’s as relevant now as it was twenty years ago.”
Jeff Chenault of ten-speed guillotine/circuitry room/Jeff Central:
“The ele_mental events were an important time in the history of electronic music in Columbus, Ohio. Ed Luna had the brilliant idea to bring a diverse family of sound artists, performers and DJ’s together under one roof. Columbus at the time was bursting with so many talented people that it seemed more like a demented family reunion than a concert gig. Steven Wymer, Mark Gunderson, The Weird Lovemakers, Central Inhabitants, Kevin Kennedy, Todd Sines, Titonton Duvante, Charles Noel, Mike Textbeak, the list goes on and on. To say my work was influenced during these times would be an understatement. I learned new ideas from the “new school” of kids as much as I hope they learned from us old farts. I’ve also made friendships that will last a lifetime. There was no egos, no discrimination, no boundaries, and no rules. We were family and the DNA that held us all-together was sound.”
Kevin Kennedy aka FBK, Powerhouse, Sleep Engineer:
“Before meeting the Body Release crew (which was the nucleus of the ele mental crew) in or around 1991-92, I was a crazy kid that was part of an iconoclastic hip-hop group called Poets of Heresy (we were one of the first hip-hop/rap groups to perform regularly on OSU’s campus…playing with rock bands like the New Bomb Turks-who gave us our first show).
I was introduced to Charles Noel by a mutual friend-a bass player named Diego Rivera…funny, I know. Charles and I hit it off quickly, and arranged to trade gigs that summer. I was also invited to some of the early house parties. I spent that summer of 1992 on campus mostly…listening to people like Doug (doughboy) Holmes spin Hardcore and Gabber, charles and others playing Drum and Bass, and becoming very influenced by the new electronic sound (which I was familiar with from my youth as a breaker/wanna-b-boy). I realized that this music had power.
The more Charles and I talked, the more interested I became. Charles actually CHALLENGED me to begin creating dance music. I was in the process of building a ‘home studio’ in the basement of my mother’s home, and started to ask TONS of questions…I started picking up little bits and pieces of gear…by 1994 I was in the beginning stages of doing my first recordings…to which I would annoyingly rush over to the ele mental house (by this time, on 14th street) and play my newest creations. Somehow, I had a level of artistic merit, and began to come along for the ride. I played my first show (a NYE party at the house, playing experimental records before Mark Gunderson took over). I had been into the DMC/battle scene for quite some time…I could scratch, but I couldn’t beatmatch.
Thank goodness that most everyone was occupied or in school at the time…it gave me a chance to come over and play records at a better level than I could at my house…and learn to beatmatch on better decks (I had a pair of Technics D-1s at the time).
Had it not been for the elementals-I’d probably be a frustrated and bitter ex-rapper. The love, guidance, and sheer community of the group was enough to make me a better artist. I thank my lucky stars that I was able to meet lifelong friends like Charles, Todd Sines, TiTonTon Duvante, and Ed Luna….A debt I will owe for the rest of my life.
They brought the world of dance music to Columbus, and to me. And now it’s time to give it back to the world. Can it really be 20 years? Wow.”
“Well I was in Body Release before Elemental existed and left Columbus and B|Re to move to Minneapolis in 1992. Working with Todd, Charles, and Titonton definitely had a great impact on me.
All 3 had great artistic drives to constantly create and I totally identified with that. Also, we all had such unique likes even though we were all basically from the same scene and we all had an insatiable hunger for new music. I remember going through records for sampling one day at the house on (I think it was on 17th) with Titonton and he played me Plight and Premonition by David Sylvian and Holger Czukay and completely blowing me away. I remember Todd blasting AFX “Tamphex” early in the morning while eating cereal and the insane alien sound echoing all the way up the stairs. I ran down and planted my head in the speaker. I remember Charles playing me a cassette of music he was working on solo that was was slow bassy breakbeats back at Todd’s old dorm. I was totally astonished by how cool and deep it sounded. It was such the polar opposite to what we were doing with breakbeats in Body Release at the time.
We all each had pretty diverse taste. Charles had an awesome collection of industrial and also hip hop and breaks records and would scratch them equally well. Todd was always pushing out for new sounds. Like in high school he was always researching new music and exploring new ideas with sound. Titonton was just so absolutely talented at playing and composing music. I remember we would be sitting around and he would just smash out the riffs from 808 State songs for us. He would write songs on his Ensoniq VFX and pound them out manually part by part in long sequence mode without quantize.
It was so awesome that all of us brought these different things with us and then combined it into B|Re.”
Scott Litch of Squared:
“ele_mental was one of my first exposures to the underground electronic culture in Columbus. Their events were always very thoughtful. I remember Ed Luna handing me his “think” article to me at a party. I read it and thought it was really interesting. The ele_mental crew was always thoughtful with their events. They always incorporated a mixture of art as well. This always brought out a really eclectic group. When things started to die down around 1999, I felt that I wanted to create my own production company that kept some of the same aesthetic going. I still continue to work with the ele_mental crew to this day, as we just hosted Titonton at victories a few weeks back.”
Steven Wymer aka tactil vision + djvd:
“For me, in the mid-90’s, the “rave” scene was pretty much where the cutting-edge music was at the time..”techno” became a movement so much to a degree that it even elicited some feelings of contempt artistically, i admit, as i even tried to avoid the trend. So there was both a feeling of being inspired, but also overwhelmed. There was all this music and all these people that had started a movement of sorts apart from the “industry” and succeeding. So when i was starting out, i guess i tried to maintain my own identity to a degree, but the overall feeling of community was indescribably refreshing. The best part, i suppose, it prevented me from being too stuck in my own ideas, or being pretentious starting out…the genre or method is really secondary to the experience of being in front of people and the connection. So it enforced my need to stay true to myself, but also be open to others; the social aspect (if there is any other aspect) of music took root. I suppose then, i took it all for granted…being involved in ele_mental’s events basically was where i first got my opportunities to perform live and eventually i found they knew quite a bit more about the history of electronic music than i, it was more inclusive. They were actually carrying on much of the underground “industrial music” philosophy, with random Coil and Kraftwerk fans, when industrial music was going mainstream. So i was introduced to all these various forms and media, which opened my mind. Obviously, that was the point. It wasn’t a lot about dancing for me, i remember. I was sort-of taking it all in at the time and managing to contribute something remotely interesting. I guess at the time i was becoming a bit of a purist or an isolationist and this seemed to be challenging that; akin to a naive virgin finding himself in the middle of an orgy.
So the scene was broader and more encompassing…i don’t even know how it all happened, i knew a guy that knew a guy, who i don’t even think heard my music, but there i was opening up events with other live acts before the DJ’s took over the rest of the night. I was doing noise stuff. And these guys like Kevin (Kennedy) were basically dragging their studio and equipment out in a garage and doing everything live. DJ’s hauling around crates of vinyl. No laptops then! I don’t remember any computers- everyone was using MIDI. If they were, it was Atari’s or something. People were hacking stuff and hooking up VCR’s for video. I remember Ed having that funky haircut and rarely could i get a convo going with him, because he was mostly interested in the girls, i suppose 😉 So even now by habit, i keep in mind stuff might get dirty or damaged. You might get rained on setting up. Live: be prepared, keep an open mind and meet as many people as you can.
For the most part, i remember the DJ’s having the most impression- using the turntable as an instrument and the skills they had. It was all “street” back then, like the alleys and garages started breeding kids. Actually, in my own work, i guess now i realize where the grittiness and funk comes from that still permeates my own work. I even ended up incorporating a turntable in my own sets. The DIY ethic. There was quite a bit of sampling and cross-pollination. Whether you were into James Brown or Joy Division, it all was in the mix. So right off the bat it was about live performance, trading music with people and diversity. To this day, i still have a hard time labeling tings or getting narrowed-down creatively…after an ele_mental event, you’d come home and your mind would be swirling around, it was almost information overload. Maybe it was a portent of the internet culture to come. So, the experience was everything; the love of music was really the only thing we had to bring us together..it was actually quite genius, really, in the way it tapped into the sexuality and freedom of expression. It was about being a part of a whole, where the individual and the mass had a delicate balance for a time- both physically and psychically. I guess it could even be compared with a modern-day brothel, without the actual fornication. So for the most part, as beginner, i was having some illusions being challenged and such being exposed to that and perhaps even saw myself and others in a different light…”
Todd Sines aka xtrac + A.R.S. :
“ele_mental is simply… just that.
Ed came up with elemental and I thought we should fragment it — just to give it some “space”. What was essentially thought up out of the thin air, without too much thought, ele_mental has come to symbolize the nature of our activities, for work, art, and personal endeavors. It is a permeating cohesion that governs my every movement; the multi, inter, cross and trans-disciplinary nature of what we began 20 years ago has covered my career for + SCALE, my music, my friendships, my relationships. It is seeing the parallels in life; the elementary nature that forms deep, lasting friendship bonds for decades.
As there’s almost a decade + stretch between the various “electrons” of ele_mental, our events in the past decade, particularly since our move to NYC (and New Orleans, SF, Portland, LA, and beyond) have become a family reunion; whether it be a wedding, a group dinner, “waffles at da crib”, or concert & DJ sets in various spots across the globe.
While I wasn’t as focused as I should have been in college, nor siblings; I think I made up for it in the “ele_versity” with fellow student/teachers Charles, Titonton, Ed, Anthony, Chris, the Kevin’s (FBK, MWK, TWK, TSK, FWK, et al), Michael, David, and countless others. They have provided insight, perspective, inspiration and most of all, friendship that is 20+ years strong.
14 May 2013”