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I don’t talk much about ambient music in this project, but it is such a big part of my everyday life. This omission makes sense. I have spent a lot of my life over the past two years discussing the artists, events, and spaces where we have been united by volume, propulsive beats and anthemic chords. Our community was brought to life on the alter of the dancefloor where we all sought to celebrate life and I was there to document it. However, my experience of electronic music and my path to that sacred space of celebration did not come through techno, house, or any other traditional genre of dance music. It came through countless hours appreciating the slow beauty of Brian Eno, Steve Roach, and numerous other ambient artists. Every since listening to Eno’s “Music For Airports” and Roach’s “Structures of Silence”, my DNA has slowly mutated to give me feelings of profound calm and restfulness when I let those waves of soft, reoccurring loops wash over me. Even today, I spend the vast majority of my time in my listening chair exploring the dense sonic landscapes of Brock Van Wey and Tim Hecker or the beautiful ambience of Miles Davis rather than venture out into crowds and noise. So it seems fitting to return to where it all started. It seems fitting to complete the circle and end with an a local artist named Forest Management who has walked this path as well and has created beautiful ambient music.

I still remember when I saw Forest Management (John Daniel) perform live for the first time. It was a year or two back in the Frequency Friday series. He was playing tracks from his most recent album “Transparent” and had a reel-to-reel project set up playing stock footage of an old black and white movie.

The whole experience gave me a feeling of timelessness. Despite their date of creation being separated by vast expanses of time, it was as if all these images and sounds were meant to co-exist together in the same space. It was as if this music had been echoing through our forests, oceans, and atmosphere for all of time and John had somehow decoded the sonic vibrations that connect us to those people of so long ago. I couldn’t help but feel a profound sense of the immense, but still finite, span of human history. So many individual lives all living by the same cycles and routines. So many individuals hearing and responding to the same rhythms of life, but responding to them all in different ways. This is the power of the patient, gorgeous loops in Forest Management’s music. It is a musical rosetta stone that gives us the headspace to explore the unexamined facets of our reality and see the interconnection of all things and time.

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We need meaningful, powerful ambient music like Forest Management’s in these loud and chaotic times. We need music that helps us feel a range emotions. We need music that can offer us headspace and not just fill our empty moments with cacophony. We need music that can help us find ourselves and navigate the twists and turns of life in an intentional fashion and not just add in more statements about how we should be living. We need music that can quiet our fearful and nervous thoughts of the future and let us engage deeply with all the beauty going on around us. In short, we need music that can help us disengage and reconnect with all that it means to be human. Forest Management’s new album “The Contemplative Life” (out now on Cathedral Transmissions) is a perfect piece of ambient music to accompany your attempts to slow down and reflect on the world around you. It is one of his finest works to date and would be a fine accompaniment to any quiet moment that you hope to enjoy at a deeper level.

Interview:

Local Autonomy: What does music and sound more broadly mean to the way you live and experience life?
Forest Management: I’ve always tried to live life through a reflective lens. There is too much meaning and purpose in every moment to just pass off as unimportant, or ignore all-together. In each day there are new things to learn, natural phenomena that we failed to notice the day before, and a freeing uncertainty for tomorrow. For me, music serves as a companion for those everyday moments. This companionship causes me to seek out music and sounds that resonate with my own unique self-reflection and daily life. It’s also a big part of my personal faith, as I see music as valid proof that I’m on this miracle of a planet for a reason.

LA: How did you get into making music?
FM: When it came to recording and listening to music I was kind of a late bloomer, though I had been in my school music program since the fifth grade. I started on the string bass, and didn’t appreciate it as much as I probably should have…I picked up percussion in high-school, and loved it…that’s when I began to call myself a musician. Drums will always be my first love. I started a band with three of my friends called Royal Waves towards the end of my sophomore year. We made post-rock, though it wasn’t extremely intentional – our recordings just came out of whatever was influencing us at the time. It was a nice feeling to stand for something that was different from what the other local bands at the time were putting out, though. I suppose that mode of creating kept developing, and I found myself attracted to the more ‘experimental’ elements of the music that we were into at the time. I kept pursuing that attraction, and it became more and more refined, even to this day. After I graduated high-school my youth pastor gave me a classical guitar, and I started to write songs on my own. I delved in the folk music scene a little bit, and was really into the personal, intimate aspects of independent songwriting. I really didn’t start making ambient music until later…I probably listened to ambient music for a good year or two before I attempted to create it on my own. The first ambient record I bought was Brian Eno’s Music For Airports. I got it on a Friday night at a Barnes & Noble when I was alone and had no real plans for the weekend (which was kind of the norm). I had no idea what to expect…I think the artwork just caught my attention. I still keep that CD in my car, and will only listen to it sparingly…it’s a very personal thing for me and sort of brings me back to that time of my life, a time that I cherish.

LA: What are some of the musical influences that helped shape your sound?
FM: My influences are pretty straight-forward…when I first stumbled upon ambient music I immediately knew it was going to be my niche. It’s that feeling you get when you find something, and you know it’s what you’ve been looking for, what you’ve been waiting to hear. It amazed me that there were musicians who solely focused on these minimal, pure sounds, with no particular ‘catch’ or need for much more. Stars of The Lid is still my all-time favorite collaboration. I’m also very inspired by ambient composers & artists like William Basinski, Scott Solter, David Tagg, Tim Hecker, Sean McCann, and Celer – there are almost too many to name. However, I don’t intend to re-create any of the sounds I am influenced by, and I do listen to a variety of other types of music.

LA: There is a patience and beauty in your music that I often hear coming out of the music of Brian Eno, Steve Roach, and other like musicians. I find profound senses of calm and clarity when listening to the repetitions and slow evolution of your music. What is your approach to recording? How do you find these melodies?
FM: The approach is pretty simple – I decide I want to record music, and I get my computer and synthesizer and find a quiet place where I can concentrate. It usually comes just as that – a natural impulse rather than a planned event. Music For Stargazing was an exception, as I had set a deadline for myself to be able to give the music to a local planetarium. I kind of see that CD-R as a completely different time and phase of writing though, and my friend Adam Miltner and I actually held writing sessions for most of the tracks. Because I use computer software to both compose and record, I end up with a lot of recordings that I don’t use. Usually I’ll try different angles of progressions and textures, and once I achieve a foundation that feels right I’ll start to build upon it. About 90% of my recordings are first-takes, and I just add layers on top. The end product is something that I could have never predicted, and each track really takes a life of its own, since I don’t go back to cut or edit anything. If there is anything I’ve been striving or trying to do lately, it’s having the discipline to keep things simple. When I first started playing out about 2 years ago I would have all of this gear, and it would just become too much…it would stress me out. Now I just use one instrument, and maybe two or three different sounds. It’s what you do with it that really brings everything to fruition.

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[The Contemplative Life Cover]

LA: Your new album is called The Contemplative Life. What were your thoughts behind the title to that work?
FM: One of my favorite parts of releasing instrumental music is being able to tie an idea, or some sort of underlying message along with it, in a way that is not always as overt as in most vocal music. Sometimes it is just one word. With The Contemplative Life, I again was looking through a reflective lens. I work a 9-5 office job, in a suburb that I grew up in and have since moved away from. The location of the office building I work in has always seemed like a very unique, surreal place to me. There is a sense of modern development, but not too much. There is plentiful vegetation and space. I always take a walk everyday from my building through these woods near the back of the parking lot. There is such a preserved peace – it’s as if the architects/investors/developers who were trying to make a ton of money off the property left in the early 1990’s and forgot about the place. Now it’s just there, totally functional but not swept up by the rapid development that takes place right down the street. The word “The Contemplative Life” just came to mind because as much as something like an office building can be a part of a person’s daily grind, there can still be a beauty and a peace within those places and moments. It’s up to us if we are willing to slow down enough to notice it. Usually we aren’t.

[A Running Stop from “The Contemplative Life”]

LA: You have a devotion to releasing your music physically and have a bandcamp to offer digital downloads as well. What are your thoughts on the interconnnection between physical and digital release formats? Do you have a preference of the two?
FM: If I had more resources from the start, I would have released all of my music physically. I first went the digital route because I had music that I wanted to share with others, and wasn’t quite yet turned onto the idea of cassettes and CD-R’s. Once I started hanging out with artists in the local underground scene, it became apparent that in many ways, physical can be a more rewarding and reciprocating way to share music. It’s definitely more personal. The one tape I’ve put out, Transparent, has been such a joy to be able to share with family and friends. I can just grab a couple and take them to shows. There is intentionality in it that is becoming scarcer in today’s music world…

LA: The Cleveland electronic music scene is always doing fun, forward-thinking events/releases/etc. What is it like to be a part of that community? Do you have any collaborators up there you like to work with?
FM: I love Cleveland and I’m here to stay. I owe a lot to the scene that I’m involved in here, as I find myself constantly challenged, inspired, and supported by the breadth of talent in this city. There are some great artists doing some great things. I think of guys like Sam Goldberg, who has made a ton of great music but then also turns around and supports other musicians by booking gigs and putting out tapes. When you say “forward-thinking” I immediately think of John Elliott and his label called Spectrum Spools – if you are not familiar with it you definitely need to check it out. It’s high-quality stuff. The community here may be small in some ways, but it’s tight-knit. My hope is that it won’t just survive, but that it will grow, and that a new generation of like-minded artists will step up to the plate. I’ve had a few jam sessions over the last year or so with some great artists up here, but no official collaboration as of yet. I also just recently began playing drums in a band called Infero – we just finished recording a new LP, and its sounding pretty awesome. Not ambient at all. It’s spectacular. It’s a ton of fun to hang out with those guys.

Links:

Forest Management Bandcamp

Purchase “The Contemplative Life” from Cathedral Transmissions

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KF Signing

[Failure performing with Pink Reason]

There is a street in the SUMMIT.3 sector called smt.1 that lies just off the main thoroughfare of our city. It runs parallel to the streams of people, transportation devices, and popular notions that populate the safety of GRID 1. However, spatially and socially, the sector of SUMMIT.3 could not be more far removed from GRID.1. Its boulevard smt.1 may run to the heart of the city just like the roads of GRID.1, but as one walks down the smt.1 it feels like the segregated zone that the cloud has labeled it to be. There is a quiet to the sector that comes from its social isolation. However, despite the tension that hangs in the air like the humidity on a hot summer day, the sector at least has fewer heat-lock cameras and you don’t have to deal with the pretensions of the folks out on GRID.1.

One thing is for sure, the people who have found there way to SUMMIT.3 don’t seek out the comfort of the orthodoxy. These folks may have found themselves in this sector by ascription or by choice, but the fact remains you can search for ideas, sounds, or object here. That’s why I live in SUMMIT.3. The sorts of things I am searching for aren’t found to be profitable for consumption by the nebulous cloud of global capital that controls 95% of what is produced and sold in GRID.1. If you ask me, things started going down hill when we let an A.I. decide what we needed to produce based on the aggregated yearnings of our social media ramblings. The cloud has created a mainstream culture that has become an endless mirror of itself. A cascading descent into simulation from which there is nothing but slight tweaks on past ideas. For many folks in SUMMIT.3, this is the reason we call this sector home. We are deep-sea divers dwelling in the heeps and mounds of “out-moded” styles, philosophies, and objects that have been cast off as the fat of the empire. We don’t need the cloud to produce for us and tell us what to consume. We don’t need to be spoonfed culture. We will decide what to produce and consume for themselves from the remains of the mainstream. Sure things ain’t as shiny as they are in GRID.1, but at least we have our own path to explore.  At least we have our autonomy from the cloud.

Future Maudit September Poster

[Flyer from September Future Maudit Show]

One of the most exciting developments to happen musically in the SUMMIT.3 sector recently is the work of Kevin Failure and his Future Maudit shows. With some of his contemporaries like Tyrant Manque, they have thrown out the manual on how to throw shows centered on synthesized sound. He and his associates have embraced an inclusivity and no-boundaries approach to shows that is celebrated widely around SUMMIT.3.  It makes sense his approach would resound with the locals. They don’t just give the audience what GRID.1 promoters and performers would give them. There is no polish or packaging. There is no pretense.  He gives them art. He gives them an experience that approximates the reality we all live. He gives them noise, experimental electronics, techno, improvised improvisation. He gives them the musical equivalent to the philosophy that guides their lives. He gives them a rough, unpackaged pieces of art that allows them to explore their own autonomy in a not-so-perfect world. This is all anyone in the SUMMIT.3 sector ever wanted: A haven where they could experience a soundscape that spoke to their lives. A place where all the bullshit of the manufactured simulation of GRID.1 fell away and we were left with the skeleton of human experience.

Savage Quality

In addition to the Future Maudit shows, Failure runs a record label called Savage Quality that releases EPs and LPs from his past band Pink Reason and other assorted projects of industrial and experimental music. Failure kindly passed on one of these records to me and it oozes that same boundary-defying qualities that all of his Future Maudit shows push. It is a sound born of another sector, but it is of and about the SUMMIT.3 sector all the same. It doesn’t try to fit into a niche. It boldly steps out of the niche and begs you to turn it off. It pushes your buttons and makes you bend your ears to understand what it is all about. It features a glitchy sound of technology gone haywire that forces you to confront the inevitable decay of that shiny GRID.1 reality. It forces one to confront the reality that in the age of the cloud all is not made to last.

Future Maudit Poster

Luckily, Failure, Tyrant Manque, and my compatriots THE FALLEN will be throwing another Future Maudit Show in the tonight in the  SUMMIT.3 Sector with glacial23, Kaptin Kirk, and Jacoti Sommes at Cafe Bourbon Street (DETAILS HERE). Next Door at the Summit the comrades CC & Dustin Knell will be playing with Nosferatu, Ethan Eschelon, and Shirtless Midnight at NIGHT MODE (DETAILS HERE). The SUMMIT.3 Sector will be bopping tonight with both of these crews exploring the far reaches of sound that we all want to hear. Hell, maybe even a portion of the GRID.1 element will explore these sonic outposts and convert to the teachings of our rhythmic bible. In the mean time, enjoy this interview I did with Failure in advance of the show:

Interview:

Local Autonomy: You have been in a band for over ten years, program music at Cafe Bourbon Street, and study the history of certain strains of music. What does music and sound more broadly mean to the way you live and experience life?
Kevin Failure: Music is like oxygen, or language. It’s how I live and communicate. It’s my hustle. It’s been that way as long as I can remember. I’ve been in the band I’m in now over a decade, but I’ve been playing in bands for over twenty years now, and have been booking shows for eighteen.
Everything positive that’s ever happened to me has come from music, and music has literally saved my life many times over the years. It’s also probably indirectly responsible for plenty of the bad shit I’ve experienced too, but, what’re you gonna do?

Local Autonomy: What does the future maudit event mean to you (i.e. what is the name supposed to capture in the experience you are trying to create)?
Kevin Failure: Our policy makers, scientists and technology producers are inspired by the same dystopian science fiction that inspires us in the counter culture. While we largely read these books as warnings or prophecies, they read them as instruction manuals. We’re holding a shattered mirror up to our contemporary reality.

Local Autonomy: One of the most interesting parts of the future maudit parties is the open format approach to programming with diverse genres being represented. Why do you think its important to have spaces where noise, techno, experimental, industrial, and punk can be heard side to side?

Kevin Failure: With the exception of punk, I think that the boundaries between the other forms you mentioned were probably defined by media and marketing teams with no real connection or loyalty to the underground. During the 90’s, I’d read about Merzbow in Massive magazine, the midwest rave bible. I’ve seen plenty of Skinny Puppy references in the techno community, in interviews, on records, and a large percentage of the people I know who ended up into electronic dance music and going to parties fell into that through industrial dance music. Techno is an experimental musical form. Some of my favorite tracks are all of those things mentioned at once, and maybe that’s where the punk comes in, is in the attitude and the presentation – not giving a fuck about arbitrary rules and definitions. 

Local Autonomy: I really enjoyed thinking out loud with you about if it was still possible to create new paradigms of music in our world where many people say everything has been done or is a re-hashing of something old. Do you think creating new music, new revolutions in how music is heard and experienced is still possible today? How do you think we do it?
Kevin Failure: These things will happen organically, whether we appreciate the results or not. I just like to keep things fun and challenging, for the artists as well as the audience.

Local Autonomy: We talked at length about the role of dance in communities and cultures across the world. What role do you think dancing and music broadly defined as “dance music” plays for our communities?
Kevin Failure: It’s obviously a primal need shared by humans of all backgrounds. It’s simple: Free your ass… and your mind will follow.

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We can all see the patchwork of floorboards above our heads, as we carry on our lives outside and underneath of the mainsteam monoculture. Those rickety oak 2×4’s arrayed in a weathered blanket over our heads have become our only separation from that poisonous barrage of noise and inconsequential fears that so accompany life on the surface now. Used to be that we didn’t fear being on the surface at all, but that changed some time ago. The incessant ramblings of the decaying, post-industrial society obsessed with inconsequential simulation used to stay out on the edges of our community in Columbus. It was as if those sentient swarms of ideas, sounds, and desires were fearful of entering into a space in our city where its constituent knowledge had been rejected and left for dead. We did not have to hide as much then. The noise remained much like the white noise of electricity; a sort of comforting hum of harnessed power. On the fringes of the city, we did not see this cultural cloud unleash its power on the Columbus metropolitan area with its full force. We mistook that low hum as apprehension and fear when the cloud was just leaving our isolated space for later.

However, like all sentient beings in the age of speed, this swarm of commodified simulations used its intelligence and the vast information tools at its disposal to overrun the barricades of our community. No, it wasn’t the robots or artificial intelligence. It was the very culture we have created to entertain ourselves to death that overran our free zones and made commodities out of our every thought and mode of musical expression.  Its was an ugly swarm of noise and ideas. A yellow, spectral cloud that fed off our need to be visible and be heard. Like a jackal, it stalked across our bombed out backwater seeking the diffuse strivings of human emotion it needed to survive. Unable to move in the presence of this entity, we turned subterranean. We turned to the underground.

Sitting in the fractured light in a dirty, dark space, the sounds of this culture were no longer like white noise. They became a deafening drone of diffuse status updates. Never letting up, the wood ceiling above our heads shook with the information of the 24 hour cycle of self-expression. It was in this hopeless place that we found our remedy to the digital tidal wave. Seeking to clean out our new hallow, we came across a box of unknown records. The only information we had on the music was a strange, earthly iconography shown below, an email address for Labelless Records, and a statement that the label was based in Columbus, OH.

Labelless Logo

What was this unlabeled music from our community? Who was it from? How did it get here?  It was in those initial moments of curiosity that we learned the power of those records. We started to play the records on a tired tech 1200. The music gave us the power to drown out the noise of the information cycle and got us in touch with authentic artistic creation. The music helped us forget about the lost world above our tiny hollow. The music sent us messages about babylon and the promise of tomorrow. The music gave us the power to push back and fight for our space free of speed, noise, and fear. The music called itself jungle. IT WAS JUNGLE THAT CHANGED IT ALL.

Day and night, we played the records. We let the sounds that flowed from the needle of our old Tech 1200 wash over us. Finding a safe space outside of the droning monoculture, we were able to rest in the jungle. With each revolution, we grew more brave as the records sang directly into our hearts and minds. Pretty soon, we no longer felt the vibrations of the monoculture of the surface on the floorboard above. It was a special moment when we all placed our hands on the boards and didn’t feel the unique vibration signature of the spectral cloud. We had replaced it with a rhythm of our own–with the Jungle Rhythm. We found a way out of our nightmare, and wanted to reach out to the members of our Columbus community that helped deliver us from the menace of the cloud; the Labelless Records Crew.  We sent the labelless e-mail address a string of questions to learn more about the music they release in Columbus and its power for our community. Late one night, we received a powerful, inspiring transmission back from them. The answers taught us about jungle music, the labelless records ethos, and the power of vinyl. It spoke of the history of the label runners, their ties to the music, and its importance for Columbus.  I wanted to share this transmission in the hopes that these ideas too can help set you free from the speed, noise, and fear of the times we live in.

Interview:

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

Labelless: Music is a big center for me personally. I have been spinning jungle/ dnb since 1998 and that has encompassed half of my life now. Before I got turntables at the age of 14, I had an Aleis drum machine, a Boss Dr. Groove sequencer, a bass guitar and some foot-pedal effects… I eventually sold all of that for turntables and was forever on the path into the “dj” culture, especially Hip Hop influenced breaks and jungle primarily… Turntablism was a huge impact on me as well, and scratching became a passion I perfected for myself, and continue to push myself with up into this day. Around 2005-2006, I bought an MPC 2500 and began producing again. I haven’t looked back since. Now I own two more samplers, synths etc and try all the time to learn new methods to produce breakbeat dominated tunes ranging from hiphop, triphop/downtempo, jungle, dnb, hardcore breaks etc…. Music is very much a part of me, as well as my lovely fiancee and label mate Jah Killin, who also touches down on the production tip and has been spinning jungle/dnb for a decade plus as well. We even try to get our kids interested. Music is a core to our structure as a family.

Local Autonomy: I cannot help but be attracted to the legacy and continued relevance of jungle. Why do you think jungle is still important?

Labelless: I feel jungle is important and holds such a legacy worldwide and historically in EDM culture, because it is one of the purest forms of old school, loop oriented music. By this I refer especially to the fact it encompasses all of the same exact breaks made famous in early hiphop culture. Jungle just double times them to be faster paced, so as to be geared towards the hardcore raver heads. Therefore, I feel jungle’s affinity to hiphop culture is nearly unparalleled from one sub-genre to another. Not only all the old soul, funk, and jazz breaks made famous by hiphop, but huge amounts of riddims and vocals made big by Dancehall, Reggae, Dub etc. all are just as much a part of jungle as all other elements (and not to mention ALL the countless samples from R&B and HipHop included that jungle works in so extraordinarily well). BUT- this does not stop here, nor does it hardly even begin to elaborate either… The core behind jungle in my mind is essentially old skool UK hardcore breakbeats. This sound is what eventually emerged into Happy Hardcore / Gabber and early jungle / dnb in the early 1990’s. Without those hyper, pitched-up, female vocal tracks, the hardcore techno synth lines, and mentazm stabs, then the earliest sound of Darkside / Darkcore jungle would of never emerged (or whatever names people have referred to the earliest jungle sounds to when it was still in its prototype phases).

All of these factors combines to form the legacy that is Jungle. Because all of these forms of music touched and molded so many different people globally. And years later when they hear it all mashed so seamlessly and sporadically perfect in the form of syncopated beats and bass that is the sound of jungle, they remember that feeling they felt from the original vibes. And so the snake eats itself and the circle continues. Jungle is the natural recycling unit of ALL music! Just like hiphop and house before it.

And this is not to say jungle is reliant on other songs, and doesn’t have its slew of great and original tunes out there. On the contrary however. Because, in my opinion ALL of the best jungle tunes are original creations not reliant on a riddim or hiphop loop; just a phat chopped up break and some vision, style and precision. It is an unstoppable force and a culture that I envision will forever be followed,for I believe it produces a frequency that elevates the mind.

Logo Graf

Local Autonomy: You recently started a record label called Labelless Records devoted to jungle. What does Labelless stand for and what is your vision for the label?

Labelless: When one thinks of labels, it automatically puts a containment on a concept. To me, the jungle sound and culture is something that can never be contained. its constantly expanding, evolving, and recreating itself, synonymous with the ever changing universe. As well, Labels in society cause nothing but segregation, and to me Jungle has always stood for a unification. Its one of the only Genres that call the people who represent themselves in the jungle culture as “Junglists”…for example, you dont see people who rep house music call themselves “housers”…or trance ,trancers…lol… but junglists transcend from a ‘certain sound’ into a way of thinking…. So, in a way, my concept of a music label for the coveted jungle sound and culture surpasses that of just a music ‘label’- but a statement that it needs no label– it grows wild and roughly unconfined just like the depths of any natural jungle…

Labelless doesn’t necessarily stand for anything in the literal sense; it’s not even a legitimate word to be honest. It is a name I have been thinking up for quite some years, and it just sounded very catchy as a label name so it stuck. And after Jah started making all her designs that were so phat, I def had to keep with the name! Because, I know I couldn’t do the caliber of artwork she does, and her designs and creative ideas were so sound and cohesive with the concept of the all jungle label I was envisioning, that the name Labelless just fit. The anonymity of the things I liked about jungle music were all present in her designs, and more things I hadn’t even thought about, that the word Labelless really fit that meaning for jungle music as a whole in my mind. Then, she just went with it and like 20 different designs just poured out of her photoshop files and I gave all creative control of the labels designs up to her. Now I just sort of look over them and give any general ideas I may think of at that time. So, really it all came together like Voltron or something.. Haha, my Wu-Tang joke.. But Labelless is ultimately designed as a label to help ANYONE who makes dope jungle beats get heard. If you make phat jungle tunes that deserve to be on wax, then I would def be interested to hear that music. So, if an artist were to be “label-less”, per say, in the terms that they had good jungle music with seemingly no outlet for it to be distributed, then I suppose that would serve as a good meaning for the word!

Local Autonomy: Though vinyl has enjoyed a little bit of a resurgence of late, it seems that so much of music sales have gone digital. Why did you want your releases only pressed on vinyl?

Labelless: Labelless is a means for all the dope producers of jungle music to get heard and to have their music documented in the proper format. To me that is vinyl format. Music, good music anyhow, should always be cataloged and saved on shelves like books are in a library. Musical history owes a lot to the vinyl record. So, I feel jungle should never go away from that format, as that was its birth format and what made it nostalgic and appealing to begin with.
Back in the day, a dj was a labels proper outlet for the music to be heard. And djs back in the day were not a dime a dozen like they are today. I feel the digital era really opened the door for just anyone to be a “dj” (and in return it now also seems that most “dj”s nowadays have never touched vinyl to mix it, thus not technically being a Disc Jockey as the term DJ states). Therefore, labels that once ran the industry go defunct. It’s a shame in my opinion, as I owe much of my youth and happiness to jungle / drum and bass music; vinyl especially. In light of all that had came before me, and the similar path I was beginning to tread, I wanted to do it right and proper like all the great jungle labels of the golden era, so I had to keep Labelless all vinyl and no digital. For if no real definitive reason but nostalgia and respect for my cultures roots. I don’t verge towards vinyl because I feel this “outdated” vibe about it nowadays is catchy, more so, because I feel the best sound quality to be heard is on a vinyl record. It cannot be duplicated in my opinion, and many music connoisseurs feel the same in regards to this. Of course formats like DAT, reel-to-reel tape recorders, and being heard straight from the source equipment are both formats that parallel, and even excel vinyl a bit in terms of sound quality and that warm, analog feel; yet, those formats are not accessible by everyone and quite expensive. Lastly, and most importantly for this question, I am just here doing this with Labelless to prove that vinyl is important for jungle, and all dance music for that matter. Even if it falls on deaf ears.

Local Autonomy:Your label has been going for some time now. What has the experience been like? Do you have any favorite moments?

Labelless: Wow. Great question. So many different experiences and answers to give. Where to begin? Firstly, being able to get into contact and personally meeting some of the artists featured has been an experience in itself. That to me is one of the most satisfying feelings. I realize everyone is a person just the same as anyone else, but to be understood and even feel akin to some of these guys, people I have personally looked up to on a musical front, is a feeling of self-assurance that what i am doing is being done correctly, and how it is expected to be done. To a big degree I am certain there is much to be learned still as is a trait with any business, yet I still feel that my concept and dream for this music is also the same feeling, even up to the dudes who really run this scene with the music they are making. A big experience that stemmed from these contacts with certain artists was a trip that Jah Killin and I took to Toronto to meet up with sixteenarmedjack/16AJ to celebrate he and I’s birthdays, and all 3 of us played a show as well. It was a really fun trip and he took us in as fam and cooked for us, and showed us a nice time altogether. Big up Odie, one love bro. 😉 Also a big shout out to all the artists I’ve met / talked with / become friends with along the way: Bay B Kane, Default, Dub-Liner, Nickynutz, Dj L.A.B. and Junglord all you guys are my homies for sure. More shouts to the boys of Tactical Aspect, Vinny (Pastaman) @ Satta, Warped Dynamics/ Beat Lab Recs., Vocoda, RickyForce, and all others that I have crossed paths or talked with.

Another moment that has stood out among it all is just before everything was produced onto vinyl I had contacted one of my favorite mastering engineers and made my order. A few days later he personally called my telephone and we had a talk for quite a bit and for me it was like meeting/ talking to a rock star to a degree. He said he was interested in the label and thought the direction and the music involved was quite intriguing to him as he has mastered for the jungle/dnb culture since it has been mastered for vinyl. Those were definitely words of encouragement for the momentum of the label. It has really shaped the way I will approach getting my music manufactured. I will never cut corners, and will always opt for the quality over the quantity philosophy. Especially in terms of mastering.

And to add to this phone call experiences as well, I literally today, was just called by the new engineer whom I am a HUGE fan of his jungle work he used to do in the early nineties under some of the guises such as Intense & Babylon Timewarp. His wife and he run the new mastering studio 1087, and both say they are really interested and happy to hear the music on Labelless I just had mastered there. They called me personally to talk over a few details as well as let me know what they thought etc of the label. It is a great feeling to be reached out to in such ways by people that one admires so much. So i had to let it be known how much of a HUGE fan of his I am. For all others looking for vinyl mastering needs 1087 is a great place to start your search.

More experiences definitely include all the support through bookings, record sales, distribution companies , and especially all the positive feedback from an otherwise unknown fan base. And for that we thank all those people immensely, as they are on a worldwide front, and that means a lot in terms of why Jah & I want to pursue this. In my opinion without the worldwide jungle massive’s approval, interest and support, then a meaning of something like Labelless Records to the jungle community would be moot. That acceptance is key and I feel a sense of pride in knowing that. I am definitely a Junglist for life.

And as I mentioned before, the contacts made between the artists, to the supportive junglist massive as a whole, are all the defining moments as well as the continuing momentum to pursue this endeavor. But the people I have came up with in Columbus are who have intrigued me to go this far in the first place. 614 MASSIVE, we all have the same strive and go for the same feel. I appreciate that; and Columbus has an extraordinary underground scene. Its vibrant, has an extensive history, and tons of talented people within it. I say that humbly and with awe for the city that has bred me. Dj’s like Verge, Caedo, Hawstyle, Shinma, Arkova, Carma, Alina, Gl!tch, Aria, Titonton, Monochrome , Konkey Dong, R-Type, my old school retiree partner ADizzle my nizzle 😉 You helped me learn the scratch tactics for sure bro :), Drastic, Jeff Trasin, John Hammond, and Cliff LeFevre of TGP, Jed, KGB, Baynes, Revolver (or just old school Jimmy Gates as I recall it!!!), Shapeshifter/ Wraith/ or Mister Shifter you still killin it Jack, Rumble, Spastik, What the Bleep , foi oi oi, ALL the mid-late 90’s DNB / house party kids of the ‘BUS, that shit was unforgettable and will never be the same…. Be thankful we were there for it all. Fidgit, Cathexis, Andrew, Brian and the rest of the URU kids, you all keep a constant going, that is quality in its most underground sense. And all others in my hometown, Big up and keep it going for sure! 9Star & DX3 you two gave me and my homies our first taste of playing underground parties, as well as the rest of the Malfunction crew Ryan & Rory. Khaki and Sunnydaze @ All City Beats, you guys were the very first people to book me for an actual show / club event in Columbus and support me as resident for your weekly. And you also paid me for these gigs!!! Every time! In either merchandise from the record store or cash… great way to make the proper impression on how a performing dj should be treated. Dingo 8 & Aurora as well with the Restart night that has been on for a grip. And last but certainly not least… my lovely Jah Killin, I absolutely love rockin’ the decks with you at the shows, clubs, and home especially. I admire you infinitely and am beyond lucky to have you beside me.

Local Autonomy: It seems to me that having local record labels like yours is really important for our scene. What do you think your record label adds to our community?

Labelless: I suppose I am not sure what a record label adds to my community here in Columbus, Ohio. Labelless is certainly not the first or only vinyl jungle label to emerge from Columbus. First on the vinyl label front was the label 21/22 Corp. which had its first two releases in 1994 by Fuzzy Logic aka Monochrome from Columbus and part of the original CBUS raver crew, ELEMENTAL. Both releases were all jungle and the label later verged towards minimal techno, house, acid sounds. Then, for several years local DNB/Jungle – dj’s / producers, Aria & Makku-Da-Kutta operated Clandestine Audio Agents Records with 3 or 4 vinyl releases still available. All productions were by them, which is stellar in my opinion and deserves all sorts of recognition. This was nearly a decade ago. Random Movement is also from Columbus, and as a producer he is pretty huge in the liquid DNB scene worldwide, with releases on a ton of different labels. Also, around the same time as I began with Labelless in late 2011, early 2012, another local vinyl jungle label was starting called Dublinquents, which is operated/owned by local junglist, and a personal friend of mine, Arkova. I think he has an outstanding eye and ear for quality so I am a huge fan and supporter of all that Rick is currently doing! Big up Arkova!!!

As for Labelless’s impact locally, I would really have to say ask the general 614 public, especially the junglists of CBUS, I can only judge myself on how I am judged by my peers. As for the importance of Labelless to our scene as a whole, in terms of worldwide jungle music, then I sincerely hope the Labelless message has been received and accepted. Because like I said, that acceptance is what this is all about. I feel that my intentions are to make people (fans, supporters, customers) satisfied, and for the artists to feel respect from the massive they represent. Its all about the massive, that is what ALL of this EDM music has been about since its inception. A collective of people unified and uplifted by a love for music. I hope all who run record labels devoted to a sound like jungle feel a similar way in the way their label is absorbed by the general public. Just bring a quality sound and approach towards the music you endorse and I feel that is the right path. Thanks also to you Local Autonomy for this chance to express the labels stance.

Also, Labelless is due to release 7 more vinyls by Christmas 2013- New Years 2014 timeframe so be on the lookout for round 2!!! We are having them mastered as we speak by a new engineer to work with the label as well!!! I am extremely excited to announce that I went to Ten Eight Seven Mastering, and am having Beau Thomas engineer these cuts!!! He is a LEGEND in the jungle scene to anyone that cares and I am greatly anticipating to hear the recorded wavs of the masters off each lacquer !!!

Lastly ,if anyone is interested in ordering vinyl we have 7 Labelless vinyls for sale and the entire catalog of Jungle Cat Recordings as well. Also available soon will be a limited edition series of slip mats for all the junglist vinyl junkies!!! There are also stickers, patches, t-shirts, and even more hoodies in the works for the future in the Labelless sales department.

E-Mail contact@labellessrecords.com for orders.

and for my personal productions & dj mixes visit my soundcloud

and for mixes and productions from Jah Killin go to her Soundcloud

Thanks to all, and big love to all the junglists and junglettes worldwide! BOH!

 Labelless Soundcloud

Labelless Bandcamp

Labelless Facebook

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.

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)

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