Photo Mixing q[photo courtesy of Ray of Hope Arts]

Much of how I judge my connection with an artist is based on the lessons Kevin Kennedy taught me about one’s musical compass. In a candid conversation we had on how we both relate to music, he shared with me an insight that has become a core idea to how I approach music. He said that one knows very quickly if a track or set speaks to them. If the music grabs you and leaves you bobbing your head then you know that you have a connection with that creation. I have carried this insight with me and it has helped me immensely in understanding and refining what I call my musical compass. This inner compass is pretty important in our time period of increased “connection,” screaming NOISE, and endless mounds of “news.” Like the magnetic forces of our north pole has provided a form of navigation through endless horizons of land and sea, our inner musical compasses now guide us through the mounds of information that we all have to move through to find the art and people we connect with most and want to learn from. It was this compass that has led me to a deep appreciation for Tony Fairchild’s work and his desire to take the long, scenic route through the valleys and mountains of skill building rather than the direct route of instant gratification.

Anyone present the the first time I heard Tony Fairchild spin could see how I instantly connected with his work. Prior to seeing Fairchild spin live, I had not heard much of his work. I knew from the little exposure I had with his mixes online that we had a common musical vocabulary and were interested in the same constellations of sound. However, it was not until that set that it really clicked for me. It was not until I turned off all the distractions and just opened myself up to that experience that my musical compass confirmed how much I connected with his vision of the world. From the minute that needle hit the first record, I could not stop bobbing my head and was soon propelled into strange, trance-like convulsions around the dancefloor. However, its not surprising that I connected with his work.

At that time, my musical compass had me exploring the darker spectrum of techno and house, which primed me to look deeply into the imagery behind Fairchild’s set. Fairchild spun a set that weaved together a string of sounds that evoked the dystopian soundscapes that seemed to really be capturing my imagination at the time. The set ebbed and flowed through an exploration of the space in-between precision and spastic syncopation. It moved from propulsive energy to the sort of deconstructed sputtering so characteristic of the music of the past 6-7 years. In this set, I saw the richness of our organized world revealed. I saw the “perfectly ordered universe” of our bureaucratic lives set against a backdrop of the contradictions and dysfunctions of the very human systems we have created. I saw past the rhetoric of how our world worked to see the simple realities of municipal bankruptcies, the convulsions of the world economy, and our inability to deal with simple social problems in a direct and non-partisan fashion. In his soundscape, I saw him revealing simple truths about the nature of our reality and the common space and organizations we share through the synthesis of sound. Quite pointedly, I saw that despite our best efforts to make things work the way we want them to we will always be human and have to adapt to the paths presented to us when life doesn’t go according to plan.

Aside from my connection to his music, it is quite obvious that Fairchild has embraced his own inner music compass and has let it guide him to construct his own path through the sound. His inner compass led him to not shy away from the challenge of embracing vinyl. He has embraced a deep respect for the music format and the lessons it can teach someone. His inner compass guided him to not shy away from making the transition from the “dubstep” that gripped him in the mid 2000s into “house”, “techno”, etc. He took the lessons he learned on how to focus on a single genre that he picked up listening to these artists and applied it to other constellations of sound he had yet to explore.  His inner compass led him to not shy away from the long, scenic route of attempting to master the craft of DJing. In our age of instant gratification, this is a powerful act. Fairchild rejected the seductive lure of building a social media following and its accompanying HYPE. Instead, he invested his time in building a toolkit of skills that would help him express his voice. He took on the never-ending task of mastering a skill, and in that act dropped out of the rat race of EDM. He just followed that inner compass and opened himself to what the experience will teach him. Is that not what all of us should do if we are truly paying attention to our collective soul and seeking to connect deeply with the sacredness of our community and the art we all love?

Photo mixing 2

[photo courtesy of Ray of Hope Arts]

Luckily, Fairchild was kind enough to do an interview and a mix for us all to share some of his art with our community. I hope you have the chance to check out the mix and interview. It really captures the deep respect and reverence Fairchild has for the artform we all love. I hope you too will show this same respect for this mix as more than just another 54 minutes and 6 seconds, but as an opportunity to see what Fairchild is trying to teach and reveal to us. Don’t come at it ready to judge. Come at it with no judgements at all.  Respect the music and the artist and amazing things can happen and you can allow the music to lift your mood, your spirits, and your heart. I know this mix he created has done that for me numerous times over the last two weeks as I let it float into my world. You can connect with Fairchild on his Soundcloud page and through his association with local dance organization Squared. He plays on a regular basis for Squared’s monthly at Victory’s.

Mix:

Interview:

Local Autonomy: How does sound and music influence the way you live and experience life?

Tony Fairchild: There are two sides to this coin. First, music inspires, stimulates and opens my mind to new ways of perceiving reality or giving shape and sound to a reality that may only exist in your head. Dance music, techno in particular, tends to either paint a picture of the reality in which the artist exists or create an alternate reality that the artist has dreamt up. Detroit techno is the textbook example of the first; guys writing tracks about the decaying, technology-driven city in which they lived. The whole minimal-Perlon-Ricardo Villalobos camp really exemplifies the second; guys writing tracks to give shape to some exotic alternate reality or future that exists in their head. Both approaches allow me to experience realities and aesthetics that aren’t my own and open my mind to a bigger world of ideas than the one I naturally inhabit. It’s a great experience to listen to a piece of music that conjures up the image of another time and place in your mind.

On the other hand, music distracts and consumes me. I have a very obsessive personality and the thought of the next record I buy, the next artist I discover, etc. can take up a bigger portion of my thoughts and attention than they should. I have to consciously temper this, otherwise I would have no friends and my only chance of getting a tan would be from the light coming off of my computer from the Discogs home page. It’s a double edged sword.

vinyl

LA: How did you get into dance music?

TF: Listening to a lot of electronic music in high school in and early college. Traditional music production (ie bands) lost its appeal and I sought anything that was produced electronically. At first I listened to a hodge podge of genres, trip hop, IDM, techno, it was all just electronic to me. Around 2007-8 I got really into dubstep coming out of the UK. The sound was so novel at the time. It all sounded like the music for a film noire score. In retrospect it was a good entrance into the dance music world because it was more cerebral than dance floor oriented and that’s the kind of stuff I had always been into. Guys like Skream, 2562, Hessle Audio and Digital Mystikz narrowed my focus to a single genre. Around 2009 as dubstep DJs started to slow their tempos and mix in house and techno, I followed suit and started exploring those genres. You’d heard a DJ mixing a 130-135 dubstep track with an Anthony Shakir cut for example. I loved those blending of genres. Basically I listened to Ben UFO mixes and played whatever he was!

LA: There has been much written about the resurgence of the popularity of people of our generation going back to vinyl. What got you into vinyl and what keeps you loving the medium?

TF: I had a really strong conviction when I decided to start spinning that I wanted to do it the hard way, the way all the old school guys did. I thought that if I took the hard road I would end up being much more skilled in the long run. There was also a gravitas I felt from the DJs I liked that spun vinyl. They had the dubplates and the super-rare old school jams. It showed commitment and I respected that.

Chain Reaction2

What keeps me at it now is the desire to master the craft. That and I am obsessed with buying and collecting records. I get sweaty hands every time I go to the records store. “What goodies will I find this time?” I was up in Toledo this past weekend and found some crazy shit on this German label, Chain Reaction. You can’t find those records anywhere, and here I got them for 50 cents from the back of a used record crate in Toledo! I used to think that you couldn’t find house or techno in Ohio, but its just a matter of digging hard enough and having the knowledge to recognize worthwhile artists and labels. Digs often end up fruitless but finding the occasional gem more than makes it worthwhile. I heard records referred to as the Black Crack lately. I’d say that’s a suitable description. If any of you readers want to unload, you know who to call!

LA: Each set I have heard you spin I hear the presentation of older house/techno tracks right alongside new, which I find extremely gratifying as I feel the music always holds up next to the “new”. What approach do you take to weaving together music of different eras?

TF: Its not really a conscious act for me. It might be a techno record that came out last week or an acid house tune that is older than me. If it complements the track that is playing or takes my set in the direction I want to go, I’ll mix it in. This is very much a Midwestern mentality that I’m proud to associate with. All the old school guys I look up to spin this way. They’ll mix a disco track into slamming techno back into a Kraftwerk tune. The contextualization is fun as a DJ and it usually makes for an engaging, diverse set.

LA: We are both from Toledo. I know that city influenced me in ways that shaped the type of music I listen to and who I am today. Did Toledo shape your tastes in music or your interest in music?

TF: If Toledo is responsible, its only because the Airport Hwy library branch had a copy of Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works that I rented when I was 14! Much more is owed to the friends I had in high school. They were all in a band and I got to hang around while they wrote songs, practiced and shared other music they were into. They turned me onto a lot of the music that would have a large influence on my tastes. Radiohead, Four Tet, MF DOOM. I have them to thank.

Later in life, I have come to have an affinity with Detroit and its music. I actually used to live further up in Michigan, about 30 minute away from the city. It blows my mind that I grew up so close to such a powerful cultural revolution but only realized once I moved away. The Midwest is the birthplace of all the music I love so much and, despite its lack of popularity these days, I am very proud to be from the same fertile lands.

LA: You have begun dabbling in production doing what you term “Sketches”. What has been the most surprising thing you have found in that creative process?

TF: Its embarrassing to even talk about because of how undeveloped and uninspiring my stuff has turned out so far. The biggest thing I’ve learned is that loops are easy to make. Arranging them into dynamic, fleshed out tracks is hard as hell. Also, a lot of work goes into refining your overall sound. Just because you have 909 samples, a Juno and a 303 doesn’t mean its going to sound old school. Regardless, its been a fun experience and I look forward to learning how to use my gear in new and interesting ways. Also, big shout out to Kevin Parrish for all the knowledge he’s shared and patience he’s had showing me how to use my own equipment!

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Introduction: Connections to the Past 

For those that pay attention to this humble little outpost, it may be obvious that I am much more interested in hearing and sharing other peoples ideas than in invoking my own voice.  I rarely ever post my thoughts on our community and my relation to it. I am much more comfortable being the learner and the sharer than being the “voice” of our community. I have too much respect for the music, the listeners, and the community to pretend I speak for all of us. However, every six months or so, I come to a point where my conversations with people from our community prompt me to want to discuss a topic that lies right beneath the surface of all our actions. You all have indulged me in the past as I have explored how I re-found my romanticism for the music in a disenchanted age of fabricated authenticity (Read That Essay Here) and how I believe our scene will live on long beyond the boom and bust cycles of dance music popularity due to the traditions, sounds, and norms that create our common cultural infrastructure (Read That Essay Here). Well, It seems my experiences have come to a head once again, and I am ready to share some more of the ideas floating around our community.

Over the past few months, I have been fortunate enough to speak to some very special people with beautiful, powerful ideas about the SOUL of music and community. These conversations have had a profound influence on me not only as a listener, but also a human being. These ideas of the soul of the music have re-calibrated and fine tuned how I approach this local autonomy project. They have prompted me to move away from discussions of our community infrastructure and our fights with media hype. I am not moving toward a new direction; our collective soul.

When I say I am seeking out our collective soul, I am talking about trying to pinpoint some of the common ideas and values that we all believe in, use to guide our action, and make our attempts to build and protect a community meaningful. A simpler way to think about the collective soul is to consider it as a sort of guiding philosophy that is filled with all the values and attitudes we use to relate to each other, the music, and the rituals in our community. I believe that it is only though the collective soul that we are ever able to get in touch with the the very heart-strings of our community to see the deep meaning in all our actions together. I believe it is only through the collective soul that we are ever able to truly understand the importance of building a thriving, creative community full of sound producers, synthesizers, and listeners. I believe that it is only through the collective soul that we are ever able to understand our community as a sacred privilege to never be taken for granted.   This essay attempts to point out three of the broad values that I believe make up our collective soul in Columbus. It is my hope that by putting these values into works we can get more in touch with the deep beauty and significance of our common action in our city.

One: Mutual Obligation

One key value that unites many people within our community is a sort of mutual obligation and trust between people. There is an unspoken rule in our community that one needs to help and support the other people working within our community if they want to expect that help in turn.  Its not just our common love of a set of frequencies and vibrations that fosters this sort of outward-focused love and loyalty to the person next to us. This does establish a shared vocabulary we all speak, but it goes deeper than this. This mutual obligation and trust is hardwired into us through the fact that in our small community we know we need that person next to us if we are to share the messages and emotions that the music has to offer. As a result, most everything we do to build our community is not for us. It is all centered around a focus on helping others and spreading the message of the music.

Now some of you may scoff at this characterization, but you need to hold up a second. Its too easy to explain this away by saying that people are only rationally motivated and only do things that will help themselves in the long run. This is, in effect, making the argument that all our entire community is held together by a ceaseless stream of ego plays for status, prestige, and money. I am not prepared to make such a statement, because there is not much ego, prestige, and money to be made in what we are doing. Rather, I think we have quite different motivations for doing what we do in Columbus. The value we place on mutual obligation creates a community that transcends these rational concerns alone and instills in all of us an altruistic, love-based motivation to act. It is this altruism that has us asking: “What can we do for our community?” and not “what can I do to help myself?”

When I first entered the community, I was quite taken by the level of trust that develops among people in our community. Building and maintaining a community results in the establishment of deep friendship and camaraderie on an artistic and spiritual level that few common activities can match. You can see the results of this trust and loyalty in the massive events thrown by multiple dance music organizations or the events that bring together multiple “electronic” music communities. You can see it in the generous act of all the people that donated performances and sound to the BLUR event I helped throw for the Fuse Factory. You can see it in the time people take to answer questions and make mixes for this humble project. You can see it in the humble act of someone helping move equipment at the end of the night. You can see it in the willingness to pay 5-10 dollars to go to an event to support the artists that performed. In all these acts, we come to know who we are and who others are by giving of ourselves and experiencing the generosity of others. It is through this core value of mutual obligation that we begin to love one another and protect the community that helps us understand more deeply what it means to be human.

Two: Music As A Teacher & The Fellowship of Learners

The second core value that unites us is our orientation toward the music. We all value the messages and teachings that music has to offer us. We are the sort of self-selecting, deep-sea divers that are not content to just passively listen to music. We have a burning desire to tunnel deeply into the machinations and history of the sound to understand how and why it was created. Through this orientation, music becomes more than just a good beat and collection of synth pops. It takes on a quasi-magical quality that propels our bodies and minds out of  the mundane into the interconnection of history, place, and vibrating sound waves. It becomes a teacher about the human experience and our place in the universe. It becomes a spiritual repository where we look to learn lessons about how to love, rise above, and celebrate being alive. Viewed through this orientation, music is no longer just a hobby for us. It becomes a blueprint for engaged living.

Above our common approach to music as a teacher, we are all united in a fellowship of learning on the path to musical discovery. When we open ourselves to understanding what music can teach us, we are embracing a common path of learning and curiosity. This is a vital commonality, because it shows that we are not just united by what we listen to and are interested in. No, it is much deeper than that. We are unified by our common love of learning and being willing to continually change how we think the world in line with our interactions with others. This is something I have witnessed directly in myself and others. My love of learning overlaps fundamentally with all the other people in this community. How else would I be able to talk to complete strangers about the fundamental importance of music for 2-3 hours if we did not share some fundamental curiosity and membership in the fellowship of learning? How else would a project like mine even be able to get one reader if people were not curious and wanted to learn how other artists in their community approached learning and working with sound? How else would countless others in our community with seemingly different tastes and interests be willing to collaborate and appreciate each others work? Yes, we do share a fundamental belief in music as a teacher, but above all, we also share the fact that we are all but humble learners on this common path of life trying to live an engaged and worthwhile existence.

Three: The Sacred Rituals of our Community

The final core value that I feel unites us is our orientation toward all the practices associated with being a part of our community. Whether we consciously know it or not, we all approach listening, spinning, creating, dancing, and curating events as sacred acts of self expression. We all exude a humble reverence while doing them that shows our deep appreciation for being able to express our singularity and experience others expressions. This appreciation has profoundly altered how many of us approach the world around us. We have let our respect and reverence flow freely into our actions and it has transformed mundane acts in nightclubs into spiritual technologies that help us transcend this world of flesh and bone and burn wildly on fire in the Churches of Soul around our city. Through this perspective, our practices of creating and listening become our common instruments to sing the triumphs and sorrows of living in this imperfect world that is so immensely gorgeous in its flawed condition. What else is there to being human than humbling yourself before a practice that lets you express deeply these fundamental truths of our world.

Beyond the power of self expression, we are all united by approaching these sacred practices as parts of rituals of renewal, healing, and rites of passage. We do not hold these spiritual technologies in such a high regard just because they allow us to express ourselves. This is obviously an important part of it, but they also satisfy a much more fundamental need. We all continually re-use the solemn rites of the dancefloor every weekend with its practices of dancing, mixing, creating, and listening because it nourishes our soul with reminders of the love and beauty that surrounds us and heals our wounds inflicted in the dramas of life.  Even further, these rituals in the Church of Soul help us get over and symbolize us making our transition toward love, generosity, and humble learning. Viewed through this perspectives, each of these practices is nothing more than one star in the constellation of the services of the Church of Soul that we all continually draw on in order to re-fill our hearts for dealing with the troubles of our times. I have felt the power of these rituals in every room and show that I have gone to in our city. I know you have felt it to. Why else would we smile at complete strangers and be willing to trust them to share a very intimate experience of expressing the core of oneself? Why else does time seem to slow and space seem to fall away as we get in touch with that rhythm? Why else would all colors, smells, and sound seem to be more vivid in these moments of ceremonial connection? Why else would getting little sleep and dancing till the middle of the night leave you feeling fully charged and ready to love again? No matter if you are religious or not, we are all united in seeking out the sacred and beauty of life through the rituals of the dancefloor. We are all united in continually seeking out healing and nourishment in these solemn rites.

Conclusion: Breaking Down Division In These Rationalized, Categorical Times

I feel that pointing to and celebrating our unity through the collective soul is an incredibly important act in these rational, categorical times. “Dance music” in our city and all over the world has to some degree fragmented into infinitesimally small groups of people all exploring their own highly specialized category (genre) of music. When we break off into these small nodes and define ourself through sounds we are really closing ourselves off to all that the music and the community can teach us. We are allowing powerful organizations, whose goal is profit, to dictate to us how we will run and act in our community. It was these large-scale promotional groups, blogs, and recording companies that have always saw a potential pay day in twisting very loose, local definitions for genres [which were nothing more than ambiguous labels for people to use to understand the music anyways] into a rigid moral universe of Right|Wrong, Good|Bad, Cool|Uncool to sell us music, experiences, and identities.  When we continue to divide ourselves off by genre, we are allowing these organizations to trap our communities and ourselves in iron cages of genrification and monetization that suck the soul out of the music and community.  Luckily, these iron cages are never welded shut and can be sold for scrap metal if we have the desire.

Our collective soul lies right beneath the surface of most of what we do. Some individuals may be more intentional about how it guides their action, but we are all guided by forces outside the world constructed by blogs, promotional grops, and record companies. We all crave to learn about and get in touch with the ancient traditions that naturally emerged from the foundational moments of our community. We all crave to unify our community and be more in touch with the sacredness of our common practices and rituals. I think the road we can use to get there is a more intentional inclusion of the very values highlighted in our collective soul. Let’s stop falling into the trap of talking about how we are going to push the scene to get bigger and continue to think and talk about how we can all come together better and help each other (Mutual Obligation).   Let’s continue to talk about what we can learn from the music, events, and each other and not just how we can throw a well attended party (Music as a teacher; Fellowship of learners). Let’s continue to use a different metric of success for our community. One that keeps in mind that success can be measured in the degree to which we humbled ourselves before the practices and rituals of our community. One that takes seriously self-expression and finding healing in ritual as key indicators of a good event, production, or set.  It is only then that we can step out of the iron cage and allow ourselves to full express our collective soul. It is only then that we truly embrace the humanity behind all that we do in this city and take back our community for ourselves and no one else.

Musicality flyer

Stop. For real. Just hold up a second. Now Click HERE to go to Whodat’s Mixcloud and press play on her “No Requests Mix” from June 5th. After that, navigate back here and get the full experience of Whodat’s wonderful art. I want you to hear her mixing while you are reading her thoughts and words, because you got to feel her music if you want to feel her words

Whodat is a detroit-based DJ, producer, record store owner of Ya Digg Records that specializes in tapping into the heart of the rhythms and grooves that propel us all forward and give us a reason to live. Sure, that seems like a high billing, and I am sure you want me to tell you what “genres” she spins. But that does not matter. She spins music. She spins hope, love, and an assortment of all the emotions that we all experience in our lives. Just listen to this No Requests Mix I told you to listen to above. Like Jaco Pastorius with the fretless bass during the Jazz Fusion era, she steps right into the pocket and bends these disparate bits of vinyl into an ever-unfolding groove that just grips you and compels you to move, feel, and be human. Her production work is no different. This past March she got her first vinyl release on London based Uzuri Recordsand it shows her incorporating key elements from all those hours listening to and spinning vinyl into new works of art that show her finding her own way to speak to and build on those jazz, house, soul, disco, pop, etc. recordings.

I obviously feel her music is on point, but her art transcends it being just a musical experience. What oozes out of everything she does is a love and reverence for the dance music community, vinyl, and music in general. Now I am being purposeful in the use of the word reverence, because I feel she does more than just enjoy and live her art.  It goes deeper than that. She has a deep respect for the rituals of finding records, mixing vinyl, and creating music, which reveals how she thinks that all these practices are incredibly sacred and deserve to be respected and honored.  What an important and thought-provoking idea to think of all of the actions we take to build our dance communities, share our art, and create as sacred acts that get us in touch directly with what it means to be a living, breathing human on this planet. Are we treating our listening, dancing, mixing, community building as sacred? Are we protecting these practices and teaching others how to do them? These are important questions that whodat’s approach and thoughts bring up for me, and I was struck by how they got me to see the deep beauty in all that we do.

Whodat will be bringing all this goodness to Musicality this coming Friday (6/28) at Double Happiness and I hope you can attend. I know I will be there with everyone else trying to find a little bit about the world and myself in the sacred practices of dancing with others to the same beat. The show is $5 at the door. Support your scene, by paying for the artistic and musical experiences you go to! Event Details can be found on the Facebook. In the meantime, enjoy her thoughts and check out more of her mix work and her originals on Soundcloud.

Interview:

Local Autonomy: How does sound and music influence the way you live and experience life?

Whodat: Music and sound influences everything in my life. While I’m cooking, washing dishes, driving, walking, reading, resting, doing laundry, everything. (LOL) I can even hear sounds while I’m sleeping. I don’t dream much but there are a lot of soundscapes going on. It’s what keeps me going. I don’t know what I would do without it. Music has saved my life. I think music keeps me in sync. When I feel off balance or out of sorts, I just listen to something that will get me back on track.

On decks 2

LA: How did you get into “dance music” (house/techno/etc.)?

Whodat: The Electrifying Mojo, The Wizard and The Scene.

On the decks

LA: I have been listening to the products of your 303030 project on Mixcloud where you did one thirty minute mix a day for thirty days. How has that experience shaped your music production and mixing over the last 1-2 years?

Whodat: The 303030 project helped me learn my strengths and weaknesses. Showed me where I needed to expand my record collection. I found out what tracks I zone out to. I like most of the stuff I have but there are some that just make me lose it. The 303030 Project also let me know there are some tracks that I need to know more deeply because even if I’m not feeling it a certain way, I can hear them in certain way.I would like to understand those tracks better, which just means I need to study andlisten more closely. Also, how putting all of my records and feelings together is going to be lifelong process. (SMH, LOL) As far as production goes, I did not remember anything after I had surgery. So I had to start over. It was extremely frustrating at first because I could remember that I used to do it but could not remember how to do anything. Which turned out to be a good thing, cause I relearned what I use to know even better and picked up somenew things along the way.

Ya Digg

LA: You own a record store called Ya Digg. You spin records. What does vinyl mean to you and the art you create?

Whodat: Vinyl is a treasure. You are always on the hunt for it. It’s played with diamonds and made from petroleum. Vinyl is the longest existing medium for recordings. The frequencies and vibrations that come from the cut grooves of vinyl encompasses you when you hear it. The warmth of it is incredible. Being able to touch what you are hearing. Being able to see that break coming up. Sensing how much time is left on the track just by looking at the grooves. The challenge of mixing, blending or just bringing in a track at the right time every time you put on a record. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. (LOL) There is a ritual for everything that has to do with vinyl. The process of making vinyl is a sacred ritual. Digging, listening, selecting, carrying and playing vinyl are all sacred rituals. When creating art, you should consider your talent as a blessing and develop a sacred ritual for producing your art. Never take it for granted and don’t allow others to take it for granted either.

Personal collection

LA: You live in Detroit, a city steeped in musical history. Now the simple question would be to ask how that city has influenced you, but I want to ask a different question. How do you think the music you and your contemporaries make influences the city of Detroit?

Whodat: Honestly, I’m not sure if it is or how much it is. It’s not very visible in Detroit, you have to look for it. I can see our music influencing people on the outside of the city, state, country but not as much the in city. I see it influencing people that already know about our music. So I guess we have to work on changing that. There have been a lot changes over the years with the decline of radio, record stores and the pressing of vinyl. But I think artists from Detroit need to work more collectively to have our music influence people in Detroit. We need more record stores, venues, workshops and lectures that specialize in what we do. Not just events and parties. We still need those too but there needs to be more than just that.

Restart 3[Photo Courtesy of Ray Of Hope Arts]

Got a treat for all ya’ll today. It is a long awaited interview with three of the core members of the long running Restart House Music crew that has been keeping house music pumping in our city and providing a place for up and coming DJs to play for almost a decade. It seems apropos that this interview come after the interview with Seth Carter a few weeks back, as these folks have been pushing the soul and funk of dance music along in our city for some time. This sort of longevity is vital for our scene as it provides a bridge for individuals from past iterations of the scene to dance and perform alongside newer members. No doubt, such bridges are vital as they allow those seeking to learn more about the history and sounds of our community a conduit where they can learn about the soul of the music and our community’s history.

Soul & historical considerations aside, their devotion to keeping the event alive is truly inspiring. They have helped build the infrastructure for dance music in our city and because of their efforts in the early 2000s they helped keep the scene afloat in a time when the popularity of the music was starting to wane. True, they weren’t the first EDM/dance/etc. event of the early 2000s, nor were they the only show taking place in town. However, their show was an integral part of keeping the scene alive by providing a place to keep house music playing. Its even more remarkable that Sparrow, ORORO, and DiNGO8 have been able to keep it afloat for all this time.  I hope you enjoy their responses and make sure to check out the ReStart House Show tonight (Monday, June 10th) at 8pm at Brothers Drake Meadery in the Short North. 26 E. 5th Ave. (just east of 5th and High) Event Details and Lineup HERE.

June 10 Flyer

Sparrow’s Responses:

Nathan[Photo Courtesy of Ray Of Hope Arts]

LA: How did you get into spinning and creating dance music.

SPARROW: I got into spinning about a year or so after my first Rave in ’99 when I really heard House music for the first time. The first mix tape I ever bought at a party was Terry Mullen live in Toronto, and I played the fuck out of it. It drove me crazy that I loved this music but didn’t know who any of the artists or song titles were. So I started buying records from the local store and a friend of mine let me practice on his turntables. I bought my own decks shortly after that and had my first public performance after two months.

LA: What is it about Dance Music that has kept you so interested over the years?

SPARROW: House music has just never stopped being a source of happiness for me. I couldn’t tell you a specific thing about it that has made it stick. I like that it’s this under-the-radar source of positivity in a world that’s mostly dominated by superficial commercial music made for the lowest common denominator. Good House feels like a genuine celebration of living that’s not driven by any kind of selfishness.

Restart Imagery

LA: When and why did you start ReStart?

SPARROW: Me and Ororo started Restart because we weren’t seeing that many House weeklies any more. When I first started going to parties there was a house night at Northberg Tavern, there was Clockwork Sundays at Red Zone. But by the time me and her met and started doing tag-team sets, you really didn’t see those weeklies anymore so we weren’t really getting a chance to play as often as we wanted to. Drum and Bass was getting really popular around that time and most of the weeklies you’d see were for that. If you wanted to hear House you had to find flier for a party somewhere outside of town. So we were drinking beer together on my front porch one night talking about how we should bring that back again and I said we should call it Restart. We actually picked Northberg Tavern as our spot when we started.

LA: ReStart is credited by many to be the 1st EDM night that existed in the early 2000’s, when there weren’t many clubs nights in town. In such a context, what role do you think the event has played in the Columbus Dance Community?

SPARROW: We were definitely not the first EDM night, but I think you could say we were the most resilient. I don’t know of any other night that’s lasted as long and kept the same level of heart. We never charged a cover and we always did it for the love of the music.

LA: How has ReStart changed or shifted over the years?

SPARROW: While I was still in Columbus the only thing that really changed was our location. Apparently after I left Brian added a shitload of sound equipment. I’ve never seen that many speakers in one car. Jesus.

LA: Where do you see ReSTART in the future?

Sparrow: Hopefully still in smaller dimly lit venues with no cover.

ORORO’s Responses:

Chris[Photos Courtesy of Ray Of Hope Arts]

LA: How did you get into spinning and creating dance music?

ORORO: First, let me say, I don’t create dance music, I just pick the types of music that I like and play it out for people, lol. I got into DJ’ing about 2 years after I got out the Army. I was stationed in Germany for 6 years and that’s where I first heard house music and fell in love with it. The clubs over there didn’t play too much Top 40 (thank God) and house was played there 24/7, clubs, radio, just all over the place. When my time with the Army was over with and I came back home, I didn’t like the music that was being played in the clubs here and a friend of mine (shout out to Fabyan) said I should start Dj’ing. I bought my 1st table from Doughboy, who was doing really dope house nights at RedZone on Fridays, and the rest is history.

LA: What is it about Dance Music that has kept you so interested over the years?

ORORO: LOL…That’s easy to answer. For me, what’s kept me interested in the type of Dance Music that I play are two things…FUNK & SOUL. I guess I’m kind of an elitist when it comes to what I play and what I like to hear, but no matter what style it is, I want to hear either FUNK or SOUL in what’s being played. That could mean a really nice bouncy bass line in a DnB track, that makes me want do, what I call the “giddy up” dance, or a Jazzy jungle track that has a nice flute or Spanish guitar in it, that turns my moves to “fluid”…where on the down side of the music spectrum, the new music craze DUBSTEP, has no feeling or soul at all, and is nothing but noise to me, so I can’t stand it and for me it rates up there with other “top40 noise music” that seems to be really big now days. Something about a really great house beat just gets me moving like nothing else.

LA: When and why did you start ReStart?

ORORO: Sparrow (Nate Rouke) and myself, started ReStart around 2001-02. We were introduced to each other at a party we were on the line up for, noticed that the styles we played worked well with each other and that we had a lot in common. We became friends and started playing out together. One of the main reasons we started this night was because, at the time, we weren’t getting gigs and we really just wanted to play out. What better way to do that than to just start our own night! And because of the problem we had getting gigs because we weren’t established, we wanted to have a place where beginner DJ’s could have a place to come and pay and get used to playing out. We also just wanted a night that was focused on just house music.

LA: ReStart is credited by many to be the 1st EDM night that existed in the early 2000’s, when there weren’t many clubs nights in town. In such a context, what role do you think the event has played in the Columbus Dance Community?

ORORO: LOL….I can’t say that we were the 1st EDM night in the city..lol…I would think that, that title goes to the DJ’s who were doing the Friday nights at RedZone, in the 2000’s..talking about Doughboy, Lyman, Titonton and all those heads. But, I think the role that we’ve played in the community was having a place where you could go and hear great house music and be with great people and not have that “Club” feeling. We created an environment in which you didn’t have to get all dress up in order to get your boogie on. It’s almost a Cheers atmosphere, where everyone knows your name and that’s what we’re going for.

LA: How has ReStart changed or shifted over the years?

ORORO: I don’t think ReStart has really changed, we’re still all about HOUSE music, but we’ve had to shift our stance on a few things. We’re vinyl DJ’s, we don’t use computers or laptops and rarely use cdjs, and we (I) really wanted to promote vinyl dj’s only, but because almost all the dj’s we knew moved to digital, and the DJ pool shrunk, and as much as I wanted to, we couldn’t exclude the laptop dj’s. Luckily, the new DJ’s that we’ve had play out, who don’t use tables, have seen us play, and a few of them have even bought tables and wax of their own and are learning the “ole’skool” way of DJing, which I think is awesome. We’ve also relaxed the “HOUSE MUSIC ONLY” rule, but not by much..lol.

DiNGO8’s Responses:

Brian Sayler[Photo Courtesy of Ray Of Hope Arts]

LA: How did you get into spinning and creating dance music.

DiNGO8: I got into making electronic music out of the frustration of dealing with being in a band. I asked a friend of mine who was into computers (big ups to Marshal Hackworth!) to show me how to use a computer to make music. I started making a punk/trip-hop hybrid, influenced by Portishead and Chemical Brothers. I went to a party and heard House Music and fell in love. I poured myself into learning everything about producing house. Learning about disco, funk and soul records (the source of house grooves). Then I got into spinning as a way to play my tracks to a larger audience. I’m still learning all of the subtle nuances of mixing. I love it.

LA: What is it about Dance Music that has kept you so interested over the years?

DiNGO8: The thing i love about dance music is the lack of pop style vocals. Boy meets girl, break-up, relationship drama junk. Dance music avoids this and gives your mind a better place to be. The vocals are more positive and empowering. Sure there are drama filled songs. “I will survive” is a classic anthem. But it is ultimately about self empowerment and a positive outlook. Nothing gets me going like a jack beat with a cowbell and a polka baseline. it’s so infectious. I also like the aspect of D.I.Y. that electronic music encourages. The future of technology will give kids tools to make some amazing things. I can’t wait to hear it.

LA: When and why did you start ReStart?
DiNGO8: I’m not responsible for starting it. i just can’t let a great thing die. Restart to me is constant undercurrent of what’s really going on in the scene. We don’t play what is popular. We just play good music. Period.

LA: ReStart is credited by many to be the 1st EDM night that existed in the early 2000’s, when there weren’t many clubs nights in town. In such a context, what role do you think the event has played in the Columbus Dance Community?

DiNGO8: ReStart has always been a welcoming place for a dj fresh off the bedroom/house party circuit. That place where you could see dj’s really get into the mix and experience the give and take of the crowd. Especially in the round orange booth (BENTO dayz). We still get kids coming in with demos asking to play.

LA: How has ReStart changed or shifted over the years?

DiNGO8: Over the years ReStart has been through a lot of changes. From the concept of Sparrow and ORORO and their venue change-ups. Then Cut Culprit came on board. Then he moved away and I got the honor of pushing it along. ORORO has been the constant tho. She’s amazing. A naturally talented dj and consistent voice for the underground heads. Plus we had help from Aria and Dr.Spilkus. We’re basically a little family, pushing our child along. Hoping for the best.

LA: Where do you see ReSTART in the future?

DiNGO8: The future… Hmmm. Well we just changed venues. AGAIN. lol. We’re at Brothers Drake. Between osu campus and the short north. It’s a great location and should be a good fit for us. Our opening night was Monday, May 13th, 2013. We’re all really excited to be blessed with another opportunity to continue doing what we do. Bringing Columbus the finest in underground electronic dance music.

Make sure to join their Restart Group on Facebook for all the updates and Be sure to check out their show tonight at Brothers Drake Meadery [EVENT DETAILS HERE].

Black and white

Lucky me, I look in my inbox and I see Single Action is feeling quite generous and has shared another of his wonderful, thoughtful mixes. Now this guy doesn’t get a lot of attention around town (Save for Hawstyle who runs the Bus Bass Show on WCRS), which really sucks because he has a lot of talent.  I really like his his mix work, which is chock full of his own productions.  As I said in my first write up on him around a year ago:

“He weaves a careful web of drum n bass, jungle, and ambient influences into a careful sound tapestry that explores many emotions and themes. He takes you to the highest of highs taking you floating above the clouds and pummels you with barrages of bass that take you crashing back to earth. This is quite the feat with the genres he is playing with, because it is easy to just say I am going to come after you 100% without stopping. I love a good throw down, but I really appreciate the nuance that Single Action’s quiet moments bring in a mix.  The result is a beautiful juxtaposition of styles and sounds that really work well together in my opinion and keep you guessing where the mix will go next.”

Above the crafting of the music and mixes, I like to listen to his work, because he makes me think. Its not all just pop and drop. Its expansive enough to open up head space to think about the nature of the world we live in, but intricate enough to just lose yourself in the sound. It grips your attention and demonstrates he has been digging around for his own distinctive sound for some time. I appreciate this in an age where many people will not look to the back stories of the recently created genre. Consequently, when I hear someone going off in their own direction I just breath a sigh of relief. Anyways. I reposted up his first mix and the new one (Mix 2) on my soundcloud for you all to listen to. Make sure to check out my interview with him from last July HERE to hear him speak about his work more in depth. Embeds are available below: Enjoy.

Mix 1 (From 07/2012)

Mix 2 (New)

Musuem

“If you can talk you can sing
If you can walk you can dance
I believe that rhythm and movement is natural in our bodies
Dance is a primal form of communciation and its very deeply rooted in us
Singing and dancing together is what binds a community together
It is a way of expressing joy, sorrow, and passion

It has been recorded since before the dawn of time
that spiritual leaders and healers were first dancers
And in many cases the dances of Africa are thousands of years old
And I pay homage to the ancestors and elders of this tradition
Traditionally certain dances were used specifically for healing body, mind, or spirit
These dances come from a people that did not separate spirituality from everyday life
African dances were performed for any significant event or rite of passage from birth to death”

“African Healing Dance” — At One Ft Atjazz from his Mix: “If You Can Walk, You Can Dance” (Make Sure To Click the Link Below and Listen While Reading For Best Results)

It was a cold, blustery afternoon a month or two ago when I first got to talk to Seth “Dedikate” Carter, one of the key people behind the forward-thinking Columbus dance and music force Musicality. Strangely, before I even met Dedikate in person, I thought he and I would get along.  I had been listening to his mixes and following the remnants of his Musicality events through pictures and stories. I was truly moved by his music-first approach and his desire to bring our community an event dedicated to giving us a safe space for listeners, dancers, and artists to explore the rhythm of life without pretense or hype.  As I learned more about him, it seemed that he and I walked along a similar path in life and I felt an intense desire to share his story and worldview with our community.

Musicality

I came to our lunch meeting with my regular blinders that were keyed into what I hoped to hear from Dedikate, but, as always, the universe had different plans for the conversation. I had hoped to learn about Dedikate’s historical story and how he has been able to quietly bring world-class talent to our city. Quickly though, the conversation turned away from Dedikate’s historical narrative and his accomplishments toward his spiritual approach to sound, energy, and the rhythm of life:  “I believe there is a spirit and energy in everything. That’s why the trees make noise with the wind blows, we have personalities, and you can hear somebody walking. I am trying to say that energy is just energy. All energy falls into a rhythm if you let it. That’s what makes music so beautiful. It’s an expression of energy.” As that conversation turned toward his deep passion for sharing beautiful, inspiring music with people in our community, it became expressly obvious that the story of Dedikate and Musicality isn’t one of individual striving or accomplishment. The story is explicitly about erecting a Church Of Soul in our city that inspires people to think positively, embrace the person next to them, and keep on walking confidently in the direction of their dreams. Its a story that cuts to the heart of the ideas, values, and morals that we all share in our common endeavors. It cuts to the heart of our Collective Soul.

spoonful

Dedikate’s message has resounded within my daily life to the extent now that I see the Soul of our community and the music everywhere. Looking back on all the people who I have interacted with in our community,  I see the Soul seeping out of every action we have undertaken to share music and collaborate on common events.  From exploring new venues and sounds to reaching out to new audiences, I see Soul. From the creation of flyers and events to the production of music and mixes, I see Soul. From the desire to break out of formulaic rules and the drive to write those rules anew, I see Soul. Through this collective soul we all share, I see the good will, passion, and pure desire of people in our city to connect to and create something bigger than themselves.

Viewed within Dedikate’s powerful perspective, Soul becomes more than just a word. Soul becomes more than just a genre of music. It becomes a philosophy, a way of life, an animating energy of rhythm:  Soul. That immovable force. That power that flows through us and around us and is expressed in our movements. Soul. That unexplainable interconnectedness. That common frequency we all vibrate to on this solar powered jukebox. Soul. That most divine inspiration. That revealer of the path to your dreams. Soul. What we all share. What we all strive to find in our lives. Soul. Meaning. Found right in the place you least expected it. In your next step, word, or thought.

Poster

We are fortunate enough to have an opportunity to directly experience an event curated by Dedikate tonight (Friday, May 31st) at Double Happiness (482 S. Front Street, Columbus, OH) when he spins with Trueskills, DJ Nimbus, & Malik Alston with live percussion accompaniment from Craig Huckaby. (EVENT DETAILS CLICK HERE) Make sure to check out the sounds of this wonderful musician and get in touch more deeply with this monthly event. Until then, check out his interview to step deeper into his world:

Local Autonomy: What does music and sound more broadly mean to the way you live and experience life?

Dedikate: That is a deep question. My life fits in a rhythm to begin with; it’s always been that way, even before I started dancing. You can ask anyone who is close to me and they will tell you that music is involved in anything I do. I don’t even have a television in my house. The minute I come home I start playing music or searching for music or whatever. That is in the physical world, meaning what I see and hear outside of myself. Inside my mind I find myself constantly playing a song (loud) in my head regardless if it is one I have just made up or someone else’s.  My wife tells people the strands of my DNA are made up of musical notes, lol.

A lot of it has to do with my spiritual background. I believe there is a spirit and energy in everything. That’s why the trees make noise with the wind blows, we have personalities, and you can hear somebody walking. I am trying to say that energy is just energy. All energy falls into a rhythm if you let it. That’s what makes music so beautiful. It’s an expression of energy. It’s even better when it’s live and there are four members, for example. Then that makes four elements of energy. The best thing is that we have learned how to record that and replay it over and over again. Because music will say things differently to you over time, depending on where you are at in your life. That’s the best part about it. It’s a way of being able to express to the world what is happening in the moment of now.

dj

LA: We spoke about our common love of the very diverse sounds of Motor City Soul. What is this music and what does it mean to you?

D: Detroit in itself has its own rhythm. I feel like there is just an essence (soul) of the city itself. Also, the music history, in all its genres has been so thick. If you are a native, it’s impossible for that not to have an effect on you. I know people from Detroit who aren’t even musicians and know the same information about music that I do. It is just part of life out there. That’s why I always love learning new stuff that comes out of there. A lot of time I really try to not judge it or classify it as a genre because there is something new coming out there all the time, its just music.

Virtually everyone that has made music in that City has inspired me in some way or another. Aretha Franklin, Jeff Mills, Moodymann, Al Hudson, Donald Byrd, Iggy Pop, Dennis Coffee, Rick Wilhite, Theo Parrish, Marcellus Pittman, Mike and Craig Huckaby, Dilla, Royce, Andres, Kevin Saunderson, David Ruffin, to name a few. That’s not even the half when you consider the people that came through there to record on Motown, Ashford, Birdie, Submerge, Metroplex, Tamla, Sound Signature, Mahogani, Temple, Tribe, Transmat, etc. The craziest part about Detroit is that even after all I’ve mentioned, it still doesn’t scratch the surface of all of the music that has come out of there. I really have a humbling gratitude for that place when I play there.

LA: You came to house, techno, etc. by way of hip-hop and bboying. Walk me through the process of what got you into (for lack of a better term) dance music genres.

D: Well, I have always listened to electronic music. I started going to ELEmental parties when I was 14. They were a group of people that pushed the boundaries for music in Columbus. They threw awesome parties and got people together in the name of music. I grew up going to those parties and I also followed rock bands like the Grateful Dead and Phish from state to state for years. I learned a lot about all types of music from that experience alone.

Breaking

I started listening to hip-hop when I was about six years old. Eric B and Rakim, NWA, Beastie Boys, Run DMC and later on Ice T, BDP, Slick Rick, etc. Hip Hop always remained a constant in my life all throughout my endeavors and I started attempting to bboy in 1996 but never took it seriously until 1999. I’ve pretty much been dancing ever since. Give or take injuries here and there. Through that I learned several other types of dance like house, salsa and freestyle. I would just go to the club and dance forever. During that process I would dig for all the music I heard at bboy jams or house clubs, etc. I travelled a lot so I was always hearing what was brand new and during the time there was a lot of stuff coming out. I would dig in whatever way I could, whether I was at the record store, online, through people and mixtapes, record shows, flea markets, etc. Just to be able to find that music, and when I began taking djing seriously around 2005, everything just fell into place. I began djing bboy battles and people liked what I played so I decided to get more involved and do it somewhat professionally for some time.

Dancing

LA: What does the art of DJing and music production mean to you?

D: Djing to me is like telling a story or giving a description of your experiences in life. All of the music I play I have found a deep personal connection with and I want to share that with the listener. I approach djing also from the standpoint of educating the listener as well. A lot of music was never made popular due to many reasons like poor advertisement, lack of financial backing, etc. A lot of times those artists were truly gifted and had a lot to give to the world. I believe people deserve a chance to hear that. I dig for records to be able to share that music with other people.

Records

I am still trying to find my sound with music production. I also haven’t been able to fully set up my studio as well and it’s killing me. I think music is a universal language and if you come at it with an honest approach, people will relate to you. It has to happen freely, otherwise it doesn’t come out honest, and frankly I haven’t had the time to commit to it, although I plan to a lot in the future. I also think using actual instruments is essential. There is something about how you approach an instrument in the first place that makes your sound unique to you and you only. I have a few instruments I can play mediocrely like a bass, piano, conga, and harmonica. When I get my studio situated I definitely plan on giving a piece of myself to the world, musically.

LA: Your Musicality project has really pushed a Music first approach to shows in our town and has been hosting some of the best talent from around the Midwest–Gerald Mitchell, Rahaan, Terrance Parker, and Rick Wilhite. What is the philosophy behind the project?

D: My goal is to create an environment that is comfortable for everyone to be able to relax and come experience music they may have never heard before. It is very centered in dancing because of my background, but if you come its not a requirement to dance. I really just wanted to create a night that people know that will be a solid stream of feel good music. Music that is undeniably good and expose people to it in a way that is not too “in your face”. My goal isn’t even to make money off of the night, its more so to be able to bring people here that would normally never come and play in Columbus on a regular tour. So far it has really worked out and I have a lot of surprises in store. I plan on throwing special events with some fairly big names in the future. I also would like to expand and bring more people from Ohio in general to my nights. It’s always a good time and I have gotten a lot of good feedback from people. Im definitely not going anywhere and plan on throwing larger events in the future! Hope to see everyone out. 

Check out the rest of Dedikate’s extensive mix back catalogue at his Mixcloudfollow Musicality Columbus on Facebook for updates on their next shows, check out their websiteAND go to Musicality tonight!

flyer

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?

Charles Noel aka archtyp, monochrome, A.R.S.:

archtyp

“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.

Archtyp as poor boyLooking 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

Ed luna

“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:

Circuitry Room7 (1)

“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:

fbk“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.”

Mike Textbeak:

Mike Text“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:

Scott Litch

“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:

Post 90--Tactil Vision

“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.
Todd Sines
14 May 2013”

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