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In the Booth

[Photo Courtesy of Carlos Bell Photography]

Introduction:

We are lucky to have Atlanta based DJ, producer, ndatl label label founder Kai Alcé coming to Columbus to perform this Friday (8/2) at Big Bar alongside many other amazing artists (Event details HERE). Alcé has been in the thick of U.S. dance music for over twenty plus years and has used this pedigree to craft his own and Atlanta’s distinctive house sound. He has his roots sunk deep in numerous cultures and communities, as he came of age in what he termed the Golden Age of dance culture in New York, Detroit, and Chicago. Alcé talked about how he got his grassroots education in sound immersing himself in the dance cultures of these cities in a recent interview with Juno: “Well in New York I grew up in the midst of disco and the emergence of hip-hop, then in my pre-teen years I moved to Detroit and got into the high school party scene. I linked with Chez Damier, we were hangin’ out at the KMS/Transmat/Metroplex building and eventually worked at the Music Institute. I was also travelling back to New York and also checking out Chicago, so I saw the main three breeding grounds of this sound during their golden years. I was seeing Ron Hardy in Chicago one weekend, the heading back to Detroit and checking the MI, and going to New York places like MK’s Red Zone Mars.” It is evident from this statement that Alcé got much more than lessons in dance music. He garnered a PhD in the chemistry of sound, as from an early age he was influenced to synthesize diverse musical sounds and ideas. As he traveled from city to city, his was immersed in teachings on the fundamental elements that each city drew on to create his own distinctive voice and sound. These lessons would serve him well once he moved to Atlanta, as he was able to refashion these building blocks he learned across the country to help build a community and sound that would cement Atlanta’s reputation as a house music destination.

This deep appreciation for synthesizing diverse elements into his mixing and production has never left his work. All of Alcé’s mixes, that are readily available for listening, reveal this fact . Take the mix he did for vice magazine [more mixes of his are available connected to his Juno and Little White Ear Buds interviews]:

Thirty-five minutes or so in, Alcé weaves together tracks from Detroit’s past and present by playing Rhythm is Rhythm right alongside Kyle Hall. Such programming/selection creates a rich historical conversation between two records separated by decades of time. However, rather than showing some stark juxtaposition between the two records, this programming reveals the commonalities that Hall’s music still shares with the founders of the Detroit sound. Not content to end this strain of sound exploration right then, he tops it off with a sizzling track called “On It” from his new ep World Causes [previews here]. You can feel the same energy and ethos coming out of Alcé’s track. Just like Rhythm is Rhythm and Kyle Hall, Alcé lets the track run wild in a sort of controlled creative chaos that tips his hat to Detroit, but carves out propulsive properties all its own.

On the street

[Photo Courtesy of Carlos Bell Photography]

Above the nods to Detroit, his technical chops, his musical pedigree, the real magic I find in Alcé’s music is in his belief and use of the power of music to heal and uplift people. Throughout all his mixes, there are inspiring messages to help us get over in our daily lives. Let’s be honest, life is beautiful, but the obstacles we all face can at times feel insurmountable. When I listen to Alcé’s mixes, the sun starts to crack through the clouds, and I get back some courage to take that next step to just keep going. I can take refuge in his mixes and let them fill me back up with the love and patience I need to go back out in the world and try to make a difference.  However, this isn’t just secluded to his mix work. In his productions like “feeding” or “Willow,” he has created works of art that call on us to think deeply about how we can make ourselves and other people better. What a special quality! I am truly inspired by Alcé’s emphasis on taking the power he has as an artist to share a positive message with other people seriously. I think he  really prompts us to ask a few questions to ourselves: What messages are we sharing with the world? How are we treating one another? Are we a force for peace and love in the world or are we just continuing to perpetuate cycles of fear, hate, and greed?

I think a fitting way to close this introduction is to take an excerpt of the lyrics from the closing track in his Vice mix, Romanthony’s “Hold On”:


“So your thinking that its over. You coming off another put down. Your feeling life is on your shoulders, No love around. You say your in for stormy weather. The sun ducked away behind the clouds. Can’t seem to get your thing together. Can’t get turned around. There is a reason for the madness. Someone got to tell you “It seems all hope is Gone.” There is one thing you might miss “Hold On.” You never know what’s in store for you. You never know what dreams might come true. Hold on you’ll see a brighter day. Hold on and I will show you the way. Hold On.”

Hopefully, this message helps you get through your Wednesday. Just Hold On Ya’ll help is on the way. Friday will be here soon enough and we can all convene at Big Bar and recharge together with Kai Alcé, Jay Daniel, Seth Dedikate Carter, Craig Huckaby, Toby Tope, Aaron Austen, Tony Fairchild, True Skills, George Brazil, Ginsu, Bombay, Jenny Arcade, and Fran Fiction. All the details you need are available by clicking right HERE. In the mean time, check out Alcé’s exclusive interview below.

flyer

Interview:

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

Kai Alcé: It’s probably more the other way around, my life and experiences influence my sound. Hence the name of my label NDATL which stands for New York, Detroit & Atlanta the 3 places I’ve lived (with heavy influence from Chicago as well), have curated the sounds you’ll hear from me & the label.

Local Autonomy: Your track “Feeding” has this amazing spoken word poetry in it. I love the whole thing, but especially this section:
“Who’s feeding the children? Who’s feeding them? Who’s feeding them knowledge and freedom? Feeding them. Who’s feeding them that we are a part of the whole? Feeding them. Who’s feeding them purpose? Feeding them. Who’s feeding them that revolution revolves around itself and evolution is change? Feeding them. Who’s feeding them be yourself? Feeding them. Who’s Feeding them diversity? Feeding them. Who’s feeding them faith? Feeding them. Who’s feeding them spirituality? Feeding them. Who’s feeding them differences and preferences? Feeding them. Who’s feeding them culture? Feeding them. Who’s nurturing what they begin to feed themselves? Freedom. Feeding them. Seeding them as a root of their own.”
These sorts of questions seem so important in our day and age. Do you think House music and music more broadly can provide that sort of nourishment, insight, and courage the next generation needs to survive the world we live in?

[Kai Alcé’s “Feeding”]

Kai Alcé: Those great words are from Kemi Bennings a talented poet/activist here in Atlanta. Good House music by nature should make you feel better so when it’s also accompanied with inspiring lyrics it’s all the better. Something that I would like to see more of not only in dance but in commercial music in general, when you have a voice such as music you shouldn’t take that power & influence for granted.

Local Autonomy: You have been doing a lot of community building in Atlanta around house music with the House in the Park & Distinctive events and your NDATL label. In past interviews, you have discussed how it was special for you to help shape the Atlanta sound. I can only imagine how fun that was to be a part of that. What prompted you to want to help build the house music community and help shape its sound in Atlanta?

[Footage from House in the Park 7 from deephouseatl.]

Kai Alcé: It really came out of necessity, shortly after I moved to Atlanta the only two guys that were playing dance music Ron Pullman & Tedd Patterson moved away & so the an empty slot that need to be filled and so I did, & I also worked at Satellite records store for about 10 years furthering the deep sound.

Local Autonomy: In many of your interviews (Such as the ones with Juno,  We Dig and Little White Ear Buds), you discussed how vital it is for you to connect with the music you play and the crowd around you are playing for. Why is getting lost in the music and connecting with the crowd important to you when you play live?

Kai Alcé: It’s just what you’re supposed to do as DJ is to connect. U have to pay attention to the energy in the room, many DJ’s get caught up in the mix u have to be aware, one eye on your floor at all times. I usually take a stroll on dancefloor while I’m DJ’ng just to really feel what they feel.

Nob Level

[Photo Courtesy of Carlos Bell Photography]

Local Autonomy: You have been creating art with music for some time now with your DJ’ing, Producing, and community building. What do you think you have learned about living life from these artistic practices?

Kai Alcé: That nothing is given you must work for it all.

Lookout for the latest NDATL release “World Causes EP” by Kai “KZR” Alce OUT NOW!

World Causes EP

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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!

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].

For real, If you are not in the building for this show then I really just don’t know what to say to you. There is gonna be some serious bass experimentation going on as Burgle, Heady RuxpinNameless, Magua, Carma & Attak are all gonna  switch up sets the whole night. Not sure what this means? Well let me help you out.. it means utter bass chaos. It means a fractured, ever-changing sonic landscape where these bass heads will change up tempo, rhythm, and intensity faster than you can ever percieve the changes. Its all going down at the home base at Circus tonight at 9pm and runs till 2:30. Event Details HERE.

You curious what directions musically things may go? Well, expect massive deviations throughout the wide gamut of drum and bass, dubstep, juke, footwork, and maybe even some jungle as all the DJs present are well versed and wanting to change up the tenor and tempo of their track selections throughout the night. You may get one of magua’s syrupy hip-hop/dubstep mash ups, or one of Burgle’s trademark Juke throw downs. Expect the best selections in hard hitting dubstep from Heady Ruxpin, Carma, & Attak and continual bass change ups from Nameless. All in all, this event will radically reshape your idea of where bass music can go and show you the typical fun that can be had at a My Best Friends Party Show.

Need More Convincing? Listen to these tracks/mixes that highlight each artists sound to get you stoked for tonight

Magua:

“Winter Babymaking Jamz” — Magua

Wiz Khalifa & TC – Gangbang x Where’s My Money (Magua Mashup)

Burgle:

Eprom–Twerkul8 (Burgle Rework)

“Drug Dealin'” — Burgle (original)

Carma & Attak:

“Down For Whatever Mix” — Carma

“Future Mayhem” — Attak w/ the Dub Terrorists

As promised, I follow up on Wednesdays Track that Started it All feature (Get at that HEREwith Jason Lyman’s full interview. The story Jason tells about the 1990’s and what happened at the height and decline of the scene as we moved into the early 2000’s suggests how the club culture persisted into the early 2000’s downtown. He also provides wonderful background on Quality, his experiences, and where he thinks we are all going. But let me get out of the way and let you hear from the man himself!

LA: How did you get into dance music?

JL: Man, I have always been into dance type music ever since I can remember. As a kid in the early 80’s I was huge into rap and electro. I loved to breakdance. A lot of the kids at my school did. As I got into high school, I dj’d a lot of school dances and would play remixes and b-sides to popular songs. I also started getting into some industrial music as well. Nine Inch Nails, Ministry, Front 242, etc. When I went to Ohio University in 1992, I was introduced to groups like The Prodigy and went to a electronic Dance music night where the dj played mostly industrial and Depeche Mode type stuff. In 1994 I had started hearing about Raves that were happening back in Dayton where I was from, and really wanted to go. I had met some people in Athens who were going, and in 1995 I went to my first rave called Harmony in Akron, OH. Moby played there, along with Derrick Carter. I was in awe. My eyes were probably wide open all night, just taking everything in. After that night I was hooked.

LA: What is it about House Music that captures your artistic imagination so much?

JL: I think that house music just captures everything I love about music in general. House music can be so many different things and elicit so many different moods. It can be jazzy (I love Jazz), it can be funky (I love funk), it can be techy (I love techno)… It can be very musical OR very electronic sounding. And I love it all. I have always had a way of being able to sense what the crowd would like. And when I am listening to new music, that is what I think about. I always wonder how the crowd will react, and honestly I always wonder how my DJ friends and peers will react. House can just be so many different things.

LA: How did you become a part of the Columbus dance music scene?

JL: Back in College at OU, my friends and I had a crew that would travel pretty much every weekend to raves all over Ohio. We mostly identified with the Cleveland/Akron scene as that is where a lot of my friends were from, but we did come to Columbus quite a bit because it was close, and they were doing some great parties here. We really liked what ele_mental was doing with their events and labels and artists, we liked what Collective Intelligence was doing with their parties, and it was always just a good time here. When I graduated from OU in 1997, I decided I wanted to move to Columbus. I did not want to go back to Dayton, although I did have friends there as well. I still wanted to remain close to Athens, but wanted to be in a bigger place. I had dj’ed a few times in Columbus and knew a lot of people here so it just seemed like a good fit. Soon after I moved, I was offered the chance to take over a Wednesday night weekly at a place called Maxwells with my friend James Temple. We renamed the night “Middle” and featured mostly local Columbus djs playing house and techno. Occasionally we’d have a drum n bass guy play as well. Once a month Residual Records (Titonton and Tj’s label) would host one of the Wednesday nights and bring in bigger names. It was a great night full of dancing smiling people. A place where we could try out new tunes and get cheap drinks. We would also host after-parties at this spot for different parties that took place in Town. One of the best was for Tilt. It was during this time that I really got to know Doug Holmes (Dj Doughboy) Jeff Pons, and Mike Poe. These guys were getting ready to become residents at a new club in town, Red Zone. I started playing there with them after a bit and it just kind of grew from there.

LA: How did you get your start DJ’ing?

JL: Well I had mentioned that I dj’d in high school, but that was mostly playing pop remixes with the occasional scratch thrown in. But I always loved being able to drop a song that got people to dance or put their hands in the air. But after I started getting into underground parties, I wanted to really learn how to dj, so that I could play at these parties. I loved the music I would get exposed to every single weekend on these massive sound systems with 1000’s of other people. A friend of mine had turntables and a mixer, and we all just started learning. Initially it was really hard. Not like today where the computer will tell you and show you if you aren’t matching the beats right. My friend James gave me one single dj tip that made everything just click for me. After that we would just have dj jam sessions all of the time. We would have a lot of house parties as well. In Athens there wasn’t really anywhere to play our music at the time. So after a little while, we started hosting a weekly, and a few monthlies there.

LA: Do you remember the first set you spun? What was it like?

JL: I remember the first set I spun at an underground event on the main stage in front of a room full of people. It was in Akron at a place called The Attic. Anyone who went to parties back then knew about the attic. The place was crazy. I was opening for Dj Dmitri of Dee-Lite. I was EXTREMELY nervous. I remember when it was my turn to go on, I put the first record on the turntable and went to put the needle on it. My hands were shaking SO bad I literally had to just drop the needle on the record and then cue it up. My heart was pounding. I told myself I just needed to get through the first mix. Once I did I started to settle in. The crowd was dancing, which was good. At the time I was playing this sort of west coast, San Francisco style breaks and house. Not a lot of people were playing it just yet but it was getting bigger. About half way through my set I look over and see Dj Dmitri standing in front of a speaker dancing and pumping his fist. After that the rest was easy!

LA: What does the act of DJ’in mean to you? How does it make you feel?

JL: Djing to me is more than just playing music. Anybody can play music, especially today with the software and equipment out there. But to me, Djing is about taking the crowd on a journey. There are not many things out there I like as much as djing. Being able to read a crowd and watching them react to what I am trying to do musically. This is why I absolutely LOVE to play for longer than an hour. To really be able to capture a crowd and take them on your musical journey and be able to react to what they do and have them react to what you do is an amazing feeling. Exposing people to new and amazing music, giving them something they didn’t even know they wanted… It’s a huge rush for me. That is why when I am djing, I always have a huge smile on my face, and I am ALWAYS dancing around behind the decks. My favorite djs are the ones who do this… Richie Hawtin, Magda, Josh Wink, etc. These people really know how to capture a floor and hold them where they want them for hours.

LA: You have been DJ’ing in Columbus for a long while. What is it about this city that keeps you here and artistically engaged?

JL: You know that is a tough question. Columbus has always had GREAT people. I have so many friends here and I have been fortunate to always be able to dj. I have a great group of friends whom I consider my family. We have had some world class events in Columbus over the years. I have watched the music I love draw 1000’s of people, and draw 100 people. It’s gone up and down. But the people who have remained are just as in love with the music as I am. I have been to other cities and seen the same thing we have here. Sure it may be on a bigger scale, but it’s the same type of people. I even lived in San Francisco for a year. But I came back and don’t regret it one bit. Right now there is an amazing group of younger guys and girls who are very educated in the history of this music and it is so refreshing! I love seeing these folks out at our nights and digging what we do.

LA: What were the main influences behind creating quality? What made you start your own promotions crew?

JL: I started Quality with a good friend of mine, Doug Black, back around 2004. The main influence was that I was tired of there being no music I liked being played at clubs around town. The bigger clubs had all started to close down a bit as Park Street opened up. Most of what was being played was trance or progressive house. Just not the stuff I was really into. I was still playing here and there, and people seemed to be digging what I was playing, so I wanted to bring those types of artists to town. I had the opportunity to bring Kaskade to Columbus on a Friday night after my a friend of mine who was supposed to host him in Dayton had his venue fall through. Kaskade was nearly as well known as he is now, but he was starting to make a name for himself in the deep house world with the OM Label. The cost was cheap, so I approached Mike Gallichio about possibly hosting the show at Global, in the Long Street district. Mike agreed so we did it. The show was crazy. WAY more people than I thought would show up. We needed about 200 people to cover the costs of the show, and I want to say we have close to 800. After that Doug and I were approached to start doing monthlies at Global, and Quality was born. We had acts that djs knew, but were not really that big at the time. JT Donaldson and Lance Desardi, brett Johnson, Diz to name a few. We had a few bigger names as well like Josh Wink, Doc Martin, Ian Pooley, and Kaskade a second time. It was a great run there. After a while that night sort of faded out and Long St closed. Doug moved to Chicago for work, and I teamed up with Mike Poe and did a series of Quality’s at the Carlile Club (now Mynt). Same concept, different club. Dj’s like Johnny Fiasco, Joshua IZ, and The Sound Republic. I really liked that club. Great layout and incredible sound. After that we did a few events at Spice Bar that went well, a few at Lotus (now Double Happiness) that went well, and a few at Bristol Bar that went well… We took a little time off, and then about 15 months ago Jeff Pons and I got together with Scott Litch and started this most recent incarnation at Basil. The basil thing has just exceeded all of our expectations and is probably my favorite night to promote and dj. It’s just a blast.

LA: How do you see quality? What does Quality Stand for? What do you guys hope to bring to our scene?

JL: Right now, I think Quality is in a really good place. The last year or so has been really exciting for us. The night at Basil has just grown and grown. Every month I see new faces, which is so exciting. We honestly wondered at the start if people would come out to hear this music, because of the rise and popularity of DubStep ad Electro. Those nights were really taking off, which was good for them. But what we found was that people were really yearning for a low-key place to go and hear deep sexy music. We figured out that the people who were coming out to our night didn’t care who the dj was, but they knew the music would be good. So that’s how we’ve done it. We focus less on who is djing, and more on providing a great atmosphere with really good music. And people have responded well. Basil has just made a great venue for this. It doesn’t take a million people to make it feel packed. With the new expansion, it really allows us to grow as well. This next year we are going to try out a few new ideas, but won’t stray too far from what has worked for us. We will be bringing in some new folks to play with us, as we love adding in other dj’s vibes to what we do. As far as what we hope to bring to the scene… Honestly I just want to provide a place where people, including myself, can go and hear the music we play. And I want a place to be able to expose people to this new amazing music. That is what I have always done with Quality. It hasn’t changed. The venues may not be as big as when we started, but the vibe is still the same. There aren’t a lot of nights in town that play what we play. I think that is what makes us unique.

LA: 1990’s Columbus dance music is always talked about as a mythical time in our scenes history. What was it like back then? Why do you think we were so huge?

JL: Honestly, it wasn’t just Columbus. Back in the mid 90’s, the Rave scene in the US just exploded from coast to coast. However, I always felt that the Midwest was a very special place to be during that time period, and that Ohio in particular had a lot going for it. During that time, Chicago House and Detroit Techno were the 2 powerhouses in the EDM scene. Drum and Bass played a part as well later on. But Ohio was so great because we got the best of both of those worlds. So on any given weekend, you had world class dj’s playing to 1000’s of kids from both Chicago and Detroit. I really think this is why I play the stuff that I do. It’s a great mix. I really like very techy sounding things, but at the same time, I love that discoy Chicago type of sound. Getting to Columbus specifically during that time, It was just the fact that we had really good people here, and a lot of them. The university certainly helped that. The early club scene here also helped that. Clubs like Mekka spawned a lot of the early ravers in this city. Then you also had the ele_mental crew that were really into exposing Columbus to this new sound that was coming out of Detroit. But they weren’t just playing records, they were actually making the music too. Columbus just had a big combination of all the right things to produce a very healthy, and varied scene. From smaller house parties to giant raves with 1000’s of people. If I had to pick one party that I felt defined the Columbus scene during that period, it would have to be Metamorphosis. This was the result of different crews coming together to showcase the very best of what Columbus was capable of at that time. There were big parties before that, and even bigger parties after that, but THAT party I felt was the calling card for the Columbus Rave scene. It was right downtown, inside and out, a great line-up of who’s who in Electronic Music at that time, and with the different crews coming together, it was just really really special.

LA: Why do you think dance music in Columbus lost popularity in the late 1990’s?

JL: I wouldn’t say that dance music lost popularity in the late 90’s. Actually, just the opposite happened. I will say that UNDERGROUND parties lost popularity, but that was because of a huge law enforcement crackdown that took place. You just simply could not throw all night warehouse parties in Columbus anymore without getting busted. There were some exceptions of course, but in general the police put the squash on that. But in terms of popularity… We were pulling in 800-1100 people into Red Zone every single Friday night. And we had dj’s like Josh Wink, Stacey Pullen, Derrick Carter, Kevin Yost, Halo, etc who would come and play. The very late 90’s and early 2000’s were great for Electronic Dance music’s popularity in Columbus. It had really just changed venues. Some people didn’t really like going to the club, but I didn’t mind it. I certainly didn’t mind playing there for all of those people on that massive sound system. I was still playing a lot of the same music I was playing before so nothing had really changed for me. Plus, you could buy drinks. I think the music and the scene just grew into something a little different. Some people liked it, some didn’t. Pitch Control Productions also put on the Clockwork Sunday’s parties which allowed us to go until 4:00am instead of the normal 2:30. So these parties were as close as it got to the old warehouse parties. And they were PACKED.

LA: What was it like in those times where dance music wasn’t very big? Were there still events going on?

JL: What happened after a while was that the club scene started to grow. People saw the success that the red zone, and later fabric, had and wanted a piece of it. SO you had all of these other clubs opening up downtown doing the same kind of thing. That was both good and bad. Obviously having a selection of places to go is a good thing; however the crowd didn’t really grow. So you had everyone trying to pull from the same group of people. All this did was cause attendance to decline. Some places remained open, and some did not. I also think that Electronic music in general was declining in popularity. So there weren’t any younger kids getting into it like we had when we were younger, and all of the people who had been in it for a while did other things. So because of that there was a gap. You could only get large amounts of people to come out when there was very large acts in town. Like Tiesto, or Oakenfold, or Sasha, etc. There were always smaller events that went on. There was a group of people who still very much loved the music and did whatever they could do to keep things going. There was a lot of eb and flow for while. Sometimes you’d catch a good wave, like we did at Global with the first incarnation of quality, and then that would go away. For me, I just played whenever and wherever someone would have me. I never changed what I played just to be able to dj somewhere. I just couldn’t. If that meant I didn’t dj for a while, then that is what happened. I still dj’d enough, and was still fortunate to be able to play in other cities as well. Having all of those connections from the early days… I just met some really great people and made some really good friends.

LA: What has it been like being part of the group of people helping to bring Columbus dance music back?

JL: That is a good question. I never really thought about myself, or what we do, as helping to bring anything back to Columbus. I’m just really glad that people are enjoying what we do. I feel like Columbus is in a really good place right now, with a lot of very diverse things to do in terms of nightlife. I have to think that the Sweatin crew played a huge part in bringing dance music back. The MBFP guys have always been around and have really become huge in bringing out massive crowds again, Then you have the Get Right and O-Gee parties, The Juicy parites, roeVy, etc… There is really a lot of different things going on, and everyone is able to be successful to a degree, which is fantastic. Look at what the What’s next Ohio party did… That is fantastic! There are a lot of reasons for that, but I’m just happy to see it all work. I’m glad to be a part of that with our night as well.

LA: With your deep knowledge of our scene’s history and contemporary landscape where do you think our scene is right now?

JL: As I mentioned, I think Columbus is at a very good place. You have a lot of younger people involved again, which is key. We didn’t have that for a long time, and it suffered because of it. There was a period of time where if your bar or club didn’t play hip-hop or banging electro remixes of pop songs, nobody was going to come. You now have a very educated group of younger people who have varied musical interests and help to support ALL of these parties. Most of all, I think the FUN has come back to our nightlife. All of these events are about just having fun and having a good time.

LA: What would you deem the ideal future for the Columbus EDM community?

JL: Just continue to grow and continue to try and get new people interested in what we do. That is important. We are all doing a good job of that right now.

LA: What do you think has to happen for us to get there?

JL: The key is to WORK TOGETHER. Columbus isn’t that big of a city in terms of EDM crowds. When you work against each other, it only means less attendance for everyone. Be inclusive, and work together, and everybody does better.

LA: Do you think it is possible for us to create one cohesive Columbus EDM community?

JL: I think it is already happening in some respects.

LA: What are your goals for the next five years musically?

JL: Honestly, I don’t really look that far ahead. Things can change so fast around here. I just want to keep playing the music I love for as long as I can. If that means putting on events, then I will do that. If it means just being able to dj once every few months, then I will do that. I am really happy with where we are right now. Both the Quality night, and our latest endeavor, GROOVE at Exile. This is quickly becoming my favorite night to play music because I get to play whatever I want and people eat it up. I would say look for that night to get really big over the next year. I am really exited about it.

LA: If you could share any lesson from your experience in our scene to share with the younger generation what would it be?

JL: Just do what you like to do. Play the music you like to play, not the music you think other people want you to play. Put on events that you want to put on, and have fun with it. I do this because its part of who I am. This music is a huge piece of my life. I can’t change what I love. I have been doing this for close to 18 years now… I’ve seen it all. I am most happy when I see people getting down and enjoying what I am trying to do with the music and my events.

Are you excited to hold down your city tomorrow at Quality? Are you ready to explore a new sonic universe that you may have not listened to in a while or haven’t heard at all? Well you best be dancing next to me on the floor at Basil tomorrow at 9:30 when Jason Lyman, Michael Poe, and Jeff Pons start off Qualities infamous after Gallery Hop Party. You know I am gonna go HARD. Event Details are available by clicking the Quality Logo Below. Can’t wait until then? Well hit up their party Groove at Exile Tonight (Event Details Here)

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