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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?

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[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.

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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!

In the moment

Dezi Magby, aka DJ Psycho, is a prolific DJ and producer from Flint, MI. He has been honing his craft  ever since he was 11 years old and picked up the turntable as his instrument of choice and started wielding records like sonic weapons. He is affiliated with the all-important Detroit Techno Militia, which has helped carry the banner of Techno music for that city and for all of North America for some time. He is a part of a new collective of artists called Convergent, which focus on sound production and DJing that pushes the boundaries of arbitrary music rules. They also just found out that their releases will be distributed by Underground Resistance/Submerge. Even with this techno pedigree, he is not one that can be so easily put in a box labeled “techno” and placed to gather dust in this genre classification in your brain. He spins EVERYTHING. I do not exaggerate here. In my short time immersing myself in this form of music, he finds connections in beat and sound that I have heard few people even consider. Take this recent mix he put together called “Scenes From The Closed Doors”:

Or take his appearance on Detroit’s Fox2 where he found an innovative new way to introduce people to his sound through the use of the Charlie Brown Theme Song and another very interesting track I will let you hear for yourself:

His sets for dance floors are no different. One listen to his extensive set of mixes on his mixcloud demonstrates he is adept at taking the listener back to a place where disco, house,  jungle, techno, and Drum & Bass were all part of the same musical language not distinct, unrecognizable vernaculars.   Listen to those mixes HERE. ]

Nebula

Entering DJ Psycho’s world of sound is like stepping into an interplanetary portal and being thrown at light speed into an alternate dimension. A dimension that looks, smells, tastes, and feels like the world we are so accustomed to, but where the development of music took a left instead of a right turn. One might say going left wouldn’t have made much a difference than going right, but in DJ Psycho’s universe the result was dramatic. Gone is narrow minded listening according to the limiting rules of genre classification and the hype machine. Gone is defining oneself according to arbitrary definitions of “the cool” created to push product. Gone is that empty motivation of self-aggrandizement and party culture. What remains is the pursuit of art. The pursuit of self-expression and finding ways to link the power of the music in vast interconnected networks via the turntable device. What remains is Soul; that irresistible force that propels us to Live, Create, and “Point Ourselves in the Direction of Our Dreams”. Seems to me that going left is the only way any of us make it out of this existence with any sort of experience of really getting in touch with the human condition.

Flyer

Luckily, this saturday (May 11) you got a chance to take that left hand turn and enter this alternate universe for yourself with a night of sound curated by Squared. Dezi will be playing alongside like-minded local musicians: The Fallen, Lower Frequency, and Beckett. As excited as I am to see Magby spin live, I am equally excited to see how this night of music unfolds with our local support. I am a huge fan of the live PA sets of The Fallen (We are talking creating music on the spot here and not just spinning), the smooth roller coaster ride of Lower Frequency, and the downtempo sounds of Beckett. All the fun starts at 9 pm at Victory’s and there is no cover. Event Details HERE. In the mean time check out the interview with Dezi below to learn more about his art and approach to music:

Local Autonomy: How does sound and music influence the way you live and experience life?
Dezi: I was taught at an early age that everything around U influences U. Good, bad, pleasant, unpleasant. The oddest things influence me. Watching Looney Tunes. Talking 2 my kids. The news. It all has 2 go somewhere…and it locks its way in 2 my subconscious until it gets pulled out 4 some reason or another. Luckily, I keep my headphones on most of the time, so the thing that gets me going the most is what’s in them. I try 2 take in as much as I can in the course of a day and most times at night, because U never know when something will strike U. I’ve woken out of a cold sleep and made things. Still do.

LA: 2.) It took a lot of courage to end the Irrational outfit and start Convergent. What drove you to start a crew that was more like a family?
D: Irrational HAD 2 end. It had no choice. It reached the end of its course by not having a course 2 begin with. The ideas were there, but there was something holding it back. I kinda had this personal dustup over the winter, and when things like that happen, U naturally want 2 take a different course in life just 2 keep U from going insane. I decided at that point 2 ‘dead’ Irrational, since its purpose was muddy anyway, and true irrationality is just an ugly thing 2 witness, and I didn’t want that connotation anymore with what I was doing creatively. Luckily, as the lineup goes, it was already there. Nano Too Hype has been one of my best friends 4 over 15 years. I’ve had his back since he was 17, and I always accepted him 4 being him. Ryan Start and I are as close as it gets. Our philosophies are in sync. We’re both Geminis – he’s a G II, I’m a G III – so there’s an understanding that goes beyond just simple friendship. Dustin Alexander aka Dayda….he and I have been friends forever as well. We like a lot of the same forward thinking music. Kevin’s my best friend on the planet – we have a 26 year history of bashing clubs 2gether on a cerebral level. Me and Kevin bought records from Jeffrey Woodward when we met in ’87, and Jeff was also the first person I heard play house music in my city – outside of me. It goes on and on throughout the entire lineup. All of us have some sort of long LOYAL history 2gether….so when the idea of putting Convergent 2gether came around, the family unit was the BIG thing that I wanted 2 put forth. The name was thought up by family, voted on by family and perpetuated by family. That’s the key. No one man can take on this all alone. Your team is everything. The name says it all. Convergent. All of us individuals coming 2gether and making something that represents our relationship 2 each other.
What’s beautiful about Convergent is that I don’t dare hold any of the members back from doing whatever they want 2 do – any avenue they wanna explore, I say “go 4 it”. Learn something, get good at it. That just means that the next time we come 2gether, no one is afraid 2 say “I got this” or “I think so-and-so has a hot record” or “I think I wanna put this out”. Our lack of fear combined with our respect of each other makes us all better as musicians and DJs and FRIENDS in the long run….and that’s what it should be about anyway, right?

LA: I loved hearing you share some of your philosophy on music creation and group building when you said at the end of a recent interview: “Forward motion. Don’t settle. Try Anything and Everything.” How does this open-minded, present moment centered approach influence your music?
D: If U take a look at my record collection, U realize that I have very few limits on things. I think of music as a gift, regardless of the source. I get as much feeling from a Public Enemy record as I do a Billy Squier record, or a P-Funk record, or a YMO record, or whatever. People take 2 much time worrying about genres and where things are supposed 2 fit and categories and all that dumb stuff. I don’t have time 4 that. When I go 2 a record store, I’m all through the room. My friend Herm that runs Vertigo Music in Grand Rapids, MI kinda makes a game of what ends up in my pile at the end of my trip. Most times, he is flat surprised. Other times, he’s like “I expected 2 see U pick that up.” That’s my philosophy. That’s what makes me tick. If I stayed in one lane, the people who know me best would think I was sick or something.

LA: I loved working through your back mix catalogue. Everytime I thought, “Oh, I get Dezi.” I was thrown a curve ball and you were spinning late 70s prog rock or you would throw in some disco, D N’ B, etc. How do you fit all these musical pieces together into a mosaic? Where do you see the connections?
D: Musically, everything has a pulse….the trick is 2 find it and make it relate 2 U. My influences are so freakin’ scattershot that writing it down kinda confuses even me. U never think of an inner city Black kid with a good set knowledge on The Beatles or Billy Joel or Todd Rundgren….or could talk 2 U about bands like Strapping Young Lad or Santo and Johnny or what have U. All of those things have a pulse that I can relate 2. I’ve always worked on the theory that the only thing that separates good music from working 2gether perfectly is BPM.

LA: Finally, what are some of the place, moments, people, or practices that inspire you to create?
D: I wish I could say that there was an individual time or place. It’s more like this running series of events. Seeing P-Funk at the height of their musical powers at age 9 at the IMA Sports Arena. Seeing Prince as many times as I have (16 and counting). Again…the cartoons. U have NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO idea how much Looney Tunes inspires me. It’s the whole warped sense of humour that I believe that people have lost touch with, especially in electronic music. The history of that music is so vast and so deep, yet people are happy 2 put them in their little categories, shut off their minds and pay attention only 2 that point in time. I have pre-dubstep records in my bedroom that the hardest anti-dubstep dude would lose his mind over. I can pull out Underground Resistance records that would make the nearest electrohouse fan drop a load of bricks in her pants. It’s all relative…and people need 2 see that. Maybe I’m the bridge. I don’t know. I haven’t gotten that far yet, and I’m the furthest thing from being done.
As far as people, my family comes first. My moms, she was all blues, old Stax and Hot Wax stuff, Sam Cooke, Motown and Atlantic sides, James Cleveland…music that spoke 2 the soul. My dad….man!! His taste was wide. Doo-wop, early rock and roll, anything funky, anything DETROIT, fusion jazz. He would bring back records and tapes from his friends at the shop all the time. He introduced me 2 Chicago “IX”, Bonnie Raitt’s first 2 albums and Stevie’s “Songs In The Key Of Life” in the same day. He and I discovered a lot of stuff 2gether – Frampton, Pablo Cruise, Steely Dan. My uncles gifted me with deep jazz, all the funk stuff that was coming out of Atlanta and Florida, Heatwave, Brothers Johnson. My brother and me were all about Funkadelic and Parliament and Kiss and stuff like that. Both parents sung in the choir, as did I and my siblings. I hated my own singing, so I picked up instruments. Of course mom and dad indulged me there. Drum sets, guitars, build-it-yourself keyboards. I got records 4 Christmas all the time. I didn’t care much 4 anything else anyway. The trips 2 my grandparents were big. Dad would flip the radio and keep driving. That brought me pop and rock. My cousin Jessie in Detroit put me on 2 the B-52s and whatever crazy stuff Mojo was playing. My aunt’s now ex-husband was a cabaret DJ in Pontiac, so whatever was hot, I was on be4 my classmates. He gave me lots and lots of records. Ugh. That’s only the first 10 years of my life….
I could go on forever, really, but again, it’s the whole thing about everything U hear, good or bad, or from whatever source U get it from, there’s an effect…and if U look close enough, there’s a tie. There’s a funk in early Andrews Sisters records that’s as hard as any James Brown jawn or in any of DJ Premier’s scratches. The middle finger that’s strong in Dead Kennedys records is united in spirit with Johnny Cash’s Sun Records output. I see as much syncopation in a Derrick May record as I do listening 2 George Shearing’s piano solos….and if U are listening 2 Kraftwerk and don’t hear Parliament’s playfulness, U gotta listen harder and looser, man. The uniting point of all of this great music is right there.

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I was having a conversation with someone last night about music and they asked me: “what do you listen for in music?” The short of my answer was it has to move me. I learned this from a wise soul a bit of the ways back, and it still holds true for me today. I don’t care what genre it is. I don’t care if its hot or no one even know who the hell the cat who made it is. It just has to move me. That sort of movement you feel deep down when everything just clicks and for one short moment the world just makes sense. Those moments for me are what makes music worthwhile and why I share the stories of people from our community and from people abroad.

Walleye‘s music is a great example of the type of sounds that grip me and help me see new facets of the reality I live. He is a guy who used to live in Columbus, but has since moved to another locale. However, his music is steeped in the influence of our city. From the minute I heard his first ep “Everything is Black”,  I was hooked. Beautiful, atmospheric tracks like “Creepers” are perfect music to help you get lost in the middle of the loud world we live in.

 

The Four bonus tracks accompanied the re-release of the EP on Halsteads this past May added some really interesting elements as well. The track that really stuck out was “Hell is Heaven”. It is a eighteen minute journey that successfully shows how beats can ripple and vibrate in the same slow-burning fashion as the tones in the first three tracks. The affect is both comforting and disorienting at the same time, as you never have any firm ground to stand on while listening. As soon as you get comfortable with a ripple, its ripped out from under you and he is onto another beat meditation.

 

Over the past few months he has released a number of other EPs on his bandcamp that really show his exploration of all forms of beatless and beat-driven sound. One of my favorite of these releases is an incredibly honest and beautiful EP of music called “Alive For No One”. The track “This is Your heart, This is my House” is my favorite piece of music he has created. In the track, he fuses the playing of a few chords on a guitar, some sounds I cannot really identify, and his voice to make an incredibly emotionally-moving piece of music. You can hear him breath and singing. You can hear him playing for no one, but for the whole world at the same time. Just strumming and living, as if the guitar was an extension of his being. I can feel these sounds. They aren’t just data particles on my hard-drive. They are a living thing.

 

Lucky for me, he was willing to sit down with me and talk about his music and share a mix he just created with our community. He is such a generous guy. Hope you enjoy the mix and his interview below. Don’t sleep on his mix making. His track selection is always on point and moves through the same beat-driven and beatless meditations as his music. I think it will help you work through some interesting ideas and sounds.

Mix:

Interview:

LA: What does music and sound more broadly mean to the way you live and experience life?
WALL: I think music and sound is the key to living and experiencing the life you live in. Even silence is music. Everything you hear in every place you go creates an atmosphere. Sound is so strongly linked to memory and feeling, and the atmosphere natural sounds create help form how you remember particular moments in your life. It’s important, I think, to pay attention to the way our environment is formed, because the one thing you will always take with you is your memory of an experience. Money comes and goes, things come and go… clothes, people, etc. move in and out of our life all the time. But listening to rain hit your window while you’re trying to fall asleep in a foreign city stays with you, also the sound of trains coming and going as you sip on a coffee in a station waiting for yours to come and take you away to see a loved one. These are the sounds we sometimes take for granted in our life.

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LA: You had a successful mixtape series called SayNoToTrack before you started releasing your own music. What prompted you to make the move from mix-making to original compositions?
WALL: Well, I was making music long before SNtT even started. I started the mixtape series because growing up it was a passion of mine. I remember sitting in my room with my CD’s and tapes strewn all over the place, hitting play and record on my parent’s stereo for hours at a time, listening and carefully selecting songs I wanted to put together. When I was in elementary school my bus driver was one of the only ones that had a tape deck on his bus, and I would bring in mixtapes all the time for him to play on the stereo. I would also make tapes for my family and friends, and then eventually I started making mix CD’s for girlfriends and friends in high school and later. I always had a good response from them, and it made me feel pretty good to introduce people to stuff I liked. I liked that people liked what I liked. It was sort of the first thing I ever felt like I was “good” at. After some time of not doing anything I started having friends ask me if I recommended anything for them to listen to. I decided I’d start a blog where I’d just make mixes a la mixtape-style for people to download, enjoy, discover something new, etc., and I chose this format as an ode to my mixtape days.

As for the music, I’ve been making experimental music since I was in high school, off and on since then whenever the inspiration struck. Each time inspiration WOULD strike, I had already passed some phase in my life where I had to have sold all my gear, and I was stuck with a whole new arsenal of equipment. If you listen to stuff I did back in high school, and then a few years later, and then a few years after that, and then up to what is now the “Walleye” era (and even within it to an extent), you’ll hear different styles and experimentations. This is due to the fact that almost every album I’ve released is made with different equipment, so my thought process and experimentation has had to evolve to utilize whatever I’ve been able to get my hands on. I’m not complaining, it keeps things interesting and fresh for me. Keeps me on my toes.

LA: What are some of the musical influences that helped shape your sound?
WALL: Oh jeez… when I was young I really loved Aphex Twin, Boards of Canada, Autechre, Squarepusher, Plaid, Luke Vibert, Mouse on Mars, etc. It was a big change to what I was normally listening to at the time, and I really liked how different it sounded. At the same time I also discovered Ambient music and instantly fell in love. I realized that there was a time and place to listen to aggressive music, but overall I just wasn’t feeling fulfilled by harsh stuff all the time. Sure I was an angsty kid, but more than anything I just wanted to feel peace, and Ambient music helped me find it. Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works Vol. 2 was my first leap, and then it moved to Brian Eno, Harold Budd, Laraaji, and so forth. With the help of the internet I was able to discover even more Ambient artists like Stars of the Lid, and eventually bands such as Grouper, Aidan Baker, Tim Hecker, Thomas Köner, Shuttle358, and etc.

LA: Your sound moves gracefully through elements of beatless drone, noise, and more beat driven compositions. What are you thinking about as you are creating music and trying to synthesize all these musical forms?
WALL: To be honest, most of my music doesn’t begin with a plan. I’m used to setting up all possible equipment (keyboards, synthesizers, guitar pedals [I’m a huge pedal head], guitars, drums, microphones, amps, really whatever I can get my hands on) and then having at it. I’ll begin my strumming a chord on the guitar, tweaking all the pedals it runs through, moving to a drum machine (or just drums) and starting a beat, go to the keyboard and play a couple chords on there, tweak something else on a pedal or two, and keep going until it feels like it’s time to stop. I try to immerse myself into it as much as possible, because each time I begin to work or create something it becomes a whole experience for me. I become so focused on what I’m doing I lose track of time, where I am, everything. At the end of it I don’t even remember what happened most of the time. It’s as if I blacked out. For me, this is what making music is about. It doesn’t matter if people like it or not, it just matters if I like it or not, and most of the time I do. I just sort of let go, and if I was thoughtful enough to hit the record button at the beginning of the session, I’m able to go back and hear it. There are so many incredible sessions lost because I forgot to hit one little button, and alternately, there are an incredible amount of sessions that will never see the light of day because I just wasn’t feeling it.

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LA: You recently left the confines of Columbus to move overseas. I know you haven’t been there long, but what has that experience been like? Have you found new sources of inspiration?
WALL: Moving overseas was a big decision for me. When I left I was actually very productive with my music making, and in fact I finished Promise and SUM DRONE within the month before I departed. I was trying to envelope myself in as much creative output as possible before leaving because I was selling my gear and I wasn’t sure when I was going to be able to get my hands on anything again for a while. The itch is still there, and I find plenty of inspiration being here for sure, but I haven’t found a good way to really let it out yet. Money is a problem, and the resources for equipment aren’t nearly as available to me as they were in America. But, like I said earlier, it’s about adapting, and I’m exploring every possible avenue to get my hands on what I need to do what I want. I have found a semi-regular gig DJing, however, at a bar just a few minutes away. That experience has been nice, because even though I stopped doing SNtT, I still kind of get to do it live for a whole new mess of people. Sometimes I go for five hours straight, just mixing and mashing together all different kinds of music for the sake of creating an atmosphere for people hanging out and relaxing on a Saturday night. It’s nice, and I’m grateful for the opportunity.

LA: Though you are now overseas, I am sure Columbus did shape your artistic approach in some ways. Can you think of any ideas, places, or events in Columbus that inspire you as a musician?
WALL: The Dube, which was not only my home away from home, but was also part of a family in Columbus which I held very close to me. I had good friends that I collaborated with, like Justin Burkett (of Cat Swallower) and Josh Ganzberg (of dollchimes), that helped me realize some of my musical path. They were an excellent source of support and inspiration for me. Columbus in general is a strange place to make music though… there are all different kinds of people, “scenes”, etc., and every one of them is supportive in their own way. I liked seeing my friends be successful, and whether or not I was on any level is moot, but I liked creating alongside with them in any capacity. It was like being apart of a club, where we got to create and share with each other and the public and it didn’t matter if you liked it or didn’t, you still got props. I remember, however, a friend of mine told me something that stuck with me and I would pass on to anyone else who asked the same question… I had gone through a moment of crisis one time and asked why no one took me serious, and she replied to me saying “because you don’t take yourself seriously”. From that moment on I began to, and I saw the change in attitude from myself and from my peers. It was a great feeling to take pride in what I did, and it might have been the biggest turning point in my creative “career”.

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I was milling around on the internet and compiling links for the multitude of work that has come out of our city over the past few months. Man, I was seriously impressed. There were a multitude of mixes, original production, and live events that just blew me away. I figure I would do the community a solid and put together a rough list of some of the recordings that have been posted online from people in our community. This is obviously not exhaustive, but consider this a first attempt to update the sorely outdated archive. All the listing are in alphabetical order and numbered so you can see that there are 27 unique pieces of music to explore. These numbers do not correspond with a ranking. They are given more so you can see each piece of music as a unique entity and to give you a sense for our overall aggregate output over the course of 2-4 months as an artistic community. If you like someone’s work try to look more deeply into their other releases and go see them live! (Note:  If I have missed you send me a link and I will put you up here. Also, feel free to point anyone in this direction if they are saying that Columbus doesn’t have a thriving “electronic” music community.)

1.) 9star: “Tangible Thoughts”

2.) Aaron Austen: Promo Mix

3.) The Beat Oracle Radio Show: “Saturated”

4.) Ben Bennett: Spoilage (New LP out on Jeremy Bible’s Excellent Experimedia Records)

5.) B-Funk: Thump Show

6.)  Bohno: Sink Deep

7.) Burgle: Jack Shack TV Mix

Burgle 53 Min Jack Shack DJ Set by Jackshacktv on Mixcloud

8.) Conner Campassi: GRVTY

9.) Creamz: Basement Sessions 002

10.) Crucial Taunt: Frito Flip

11.) Dave Espionage: Jack Shack TV Mix

Dave Espionage 51 min Jack Shack DJ Set by Jackshacktv on Mixcloud

12.) DJ Push: There Was Sun

13.) Doctor Zapata: Promo Mix Enero 2013

14.) Doctor X — His latest mix “Ambient Evening” on his Perscriptions Radio Show

15.) Druid Cloak: The Groove EP

16.) Dustin Knell:BACK & FORTH: A LOVE/HATE Mix

17.) The Fallen: “Live at BLUR”

18.) FBK: “Where Their Love Still Exists”

19.) FBK: “In This Deadly Light”

20.) FUNERALS, Druid Cloak, and Others (BOO SRA Remixes):

21.) FUNERALS: Vessel Mix 2012

22.) George Brazil: Jack Shack TV Mix

George Brazil 59 min Jack Shack DJ Set by Jackshacktv on Mixcloud

23.) Hawstyle’s Most recent mix on his Bus Bass Show:

24.) jMac: January Promo Mix

25.) Kevin Parrish: Squared Online Podcast

26.) Lower Frequency: Squared Online Podcast

27.) Midislut:

28.) Mike Shiflet: “Secret Thirteen Mix”

29.) Mike Shiflet: Three Tracks from new LP “The Choir, The Army” 

30.) NetworkEDM: Post Day-Glow Hangover Mix

31.) Ohioan: “Buoy”

32.) Plural: “The Beatings Continue”

33.) Quality: February Live Recording

34.) roeVy: PROXY – Raw (roeVy remix)

35.) Self Help: Jack Shack TV Mix

Self Help 50 Min Jack Shack DJ Set by Jackshacktv on Mixcloud

36.) Single Action: Bus Bass Mix 55

37.) Sybling Q’s most recent mix on his Q Factor Radio Show

38.) Tactil Vision: “savage”

39.) Titonton Duvanté: Live Mix 2012

40.) Todd Sines: Live at Mister H

41.) Tony Fairchild: February Jack Trax

In my post on the infrastructure of the Columbus scene I posted 2 weeks ago (Read That Here), I delved into how people bring our music to life through their interactions with one another and the use of the music and traditions we love. This is an important point to make when you are talking about a music community, because our scene is only the sum of all the individuals that are spinning, producing, listening, or dancing to the music. The problem with this approach is it makes scene analysis a much more complex matter that defies easy categorization.

As humans, we do not like complexity. It makes us feel uncomfortable. We like to feel like we have a handle on the world around us. Psychological research has shown that we seek to try and streamline our interpretation of the world around us by placing things in simple categories. This is an essential coping mechanism for living in our highly mediated, complex world, as we have to be able to put blinders on and easily categorize things in order to carry on the basic tasks of being human. I see this happen in our scene. Its much easier to place the trajectory of our scene in the Right or Wrong box by saying, “Oh, the scene is going in the right directions, because of X, Y, & Z” or “The scene is going in the wrong directions because of X, Y, & Z”. Just as it is also easier categorize the crews that populate our scene in different boxes, “Oh that click’s sets and shows are played out, commercial, and this crew over here is authentic and underground”. (Genres also work in a similar way).  We all fall into this trap since we are taught from a very young age to put things neatly into categories (Race ,Gender, Sexuality operate the same way). By becoming active in the scene, you quickly learn the relevant categorizations you need to be a member of the community.

The problem with these categorizations is that they do violence to the rich complexity of the practices, rhythms, and art we make on an everyday basis.  Our scene is never going in a right or wrong direction. Crews are not commercial or underground. We always exist somewhere in the middle. The scene shifts and evolves as the people in different crews enter,  exit, and re-enter the scene, change their tastes in music, or try to adapt different artistic concepts to their practices in a scene. For this reason, no one person could give an accurate assessment of what the state of the scene is at any one moment, because you just don’t know what everyone is doing at all times.  There will always be another pocket of people working with the same ideas and rhythms in a different way that you didn’t even know existed or have been forgotten.

I seem to gravitate towards these people on the fringe, because I think it helps us understand our scene in a much richer fashion. For instance, there is a rich history of improvisation and experimentation in our music community. Did you know that the individual first credited with creating the mash-up lives in our city? (Trademark Gunderson of the ECC) Did you know our city has housed multiple experimental/electronic tape labels that have released almost over 150 distinct pieces of music over the last 20 years? (GMBY, Exoteque Music). Just as shocked as most people are that their was and still is a thriving dance scene in Columbus, it may be shock to people in the dance community that there is still a thriving experimental scene working with beat-driven and beatless electronic music. I have already delved into this part of our community with interviews with Alison Coleman (director of The Fuse Factory Electronic and Digital Arts Lab), Mike Shiflet (Noise/Sound/Electronic Musician), & Jeff Chenault (Ten-Speed Guillotine/ Noise/Sound/ Electronic Musician). Yet, that was just skimming the surface.

One of the most interesting developments I have been following over the past 2 months is Jeff Chenault’s work to restart his Exoteque Music Label.  When I got to the Blur show in November, Chenault handed me a piece of paper announcing the re-emergence of the label and a list of releases forthcoming in 2013.

Release List

To say I am excited about the re-surfacing of this label is a gross understatement. I think local record labels are such an integral part of the infrastructure of our music scene. Not only do they give local musicians the ability to understand the creative process of putting together cohesive pieces of music and sharing it with the world, but they also send a beacon to the rest of the world that creativity is streaming out of our city. It furthers our artistic dialogue, and enables all people in the scene to have a file or physical object they can hold on to and enjoy. I sent Jeff a few questions, and he was gracious enough to provide me some insight behind the history of the label and where it is going now:

LA: When and how did the Exoteque Label first get started?

JC: Exoteque Music originally started as a DIY cassette label in 1983. It was a release platform for my own music that gradually expanded to include other artists as well.  The label was originally known as the International Terrorist Network, or ITN, but wisely decided to change the name.  Exoteque Music was chosen because it represents my dual interest in exotica and technology.

LA: What is propelling you to bring it back now? Is there something brewing in Columbus and across the country that is inspiring you?

JC: Since getting back into music a couple years ago I have been doing a serious amount of recording, both live and in the studio.  I’ve also joined the Fuse Factory organization to help bring artists to Columbus for their Frequency Friday events.  Exoteque Music allows me to showcase not only my own work but other people’s work that I highly respect and admire.  Columbus has a huge electronic and underground music scene.  It is a virtual hub of creative sound artists.  People like Mike Shiflet, Joe Panzner, Mark Gunderson, Mike Textbeak, Steve Wymer, John M. Bennett and Kevin Kennedy are doing incredible work.  These are the people that inspire me.

LA: Your release note that you recently passed out at BLUR notified the world that you already have a full schedule for releases for the upcoming year. It also said that the releases will be available in various formats. What drove your choice of release format for each of the releases?

JC: I love physical objects.  Records, cassettes, and CD’s were formats that I grew up with.  I loathe the digital download but do see its advantage for people who want portability.  It also helps to preserve these recordings as well.  When I decided to re-launch the Exoteque Music label I wanted to make available any and all formats that I could afford.  Everything released will be in some kind of physical format as well as having a digital download.  

LA: I think it’s a great idea to also bring back past releases from the initial run of the label from the 80s and 90s. How did you make the choices what to bring back?

JC: Over the years I’ve been slowly digitizing some of my favorite releases.  A few things like the Stimulus and Response compilations are simply amazing.  The choices were simple.  If I loved it and deemed it worthy of re-mastering then I’m going to reissue it.  This stuff is too good to let sit in the basement collecting dust.  My most anticipated reissue is a cassette that I never even released.  It was a privately pressed cassette, released in the 80’s, by Paul Steinborn aka/Shame, Exposure.   Paul lost all his master tapes and all that remains are the cassettes that he sold locally and a few tracks he did for the S/M Operations label.   I owned one of these cassettes so we meticulously re-mastered it and gave it new life, all with Paul’s permission of course.  The CD will contain all his known recordings and come with original artwork made by Paul specifically for this release.  

LA: What are your hopes for this run of the label?

JC: Exposing people to new music has always been my hopes for the label.  Some of the best music I have ever heard comes from independent artists.  If I can turn people on to this music, and preserve some of these vintage recordings at the same time, I have fulfilled my goal.

Below is a list of scheduled releases for 2013…..

1)     Shame, Exposure; Werkshau – CD and download

2)     Circuitry Room; Tuned to Tomorrow – CD and download

3)     Best of Frequency Friday Vol. 1 (various artists) – CD

4)     Jeff Central; Primativa – 25th Anniversary Edition – CD and download

5)     The Escargonauts; same, Vinyl LP, CD and download

6)     Jeff Central and Friends – Multi Collaborative LP and download

7)     ZOA / ZOA Mike Textbeak/Paul Von Aphid collaboration – CD and download

8)     Highly Funktioning Kult – CD and download

9)     Jeff Central solo – cassette

10)  Dan Rockwell solo – CD and download

11)  Circuitry Room collaboration with poet John M. Bennett – CD and download

12)  Jeff Central and Hal McGee collaboration – CD and download

There has been much written about the boom and bust cycles of dance music ( i.e. when is the edm bubble going to burst?). The boom happens when certain strands of dance music attract wider “pop” audiences and bring new listeners into dance communities. During this time, audiences swell, more records are sold, and it is “cool” to be associated with that music community. Much like other “pop” fads, these boom-time periods always come to an end. The bust of a cycle results when the luster of dance music fades and many of those new listeners abandoning dance communities. We are entering what appears to be the tail end of one of these boom periods (Its debatable I suppose), and a lot of keystrokes have been spent trying to decide what is going to happen. The resounding answer people give is that it is natural that dance scenes ebb and flow in popularity, but their survival is not in jeopardy.  The problem is that writers often stop there and don’t explain why dance scenes will survive. Looking to how our Columbus scene has weathered these boom/bust cycles in the past provides one way to provide an answer to this question. By drawing on my conversations about our local scene’s recent history, I want to argue that dance music persists in columbus because there is an underlying infrastructure that is kept alive by the people who continue to use the music, ideas, and traditions we all share even when dance music culture is not popular.

Rewind 6-8 years ago. The underground ele_mental parties had ended, other crews associated with the underground had slowed their activities, and many of the clubs across the city had closed. Both the underground and more obvious club oriented activities had slowed from their once feverish pace. Local dance and experimental record labels like 21/22 and Exoteque Music went into disuse. A whole generation of fans seemed to disengage from dance music as its popularity reached a low point in Columbus and across the nation.  At the surface, it appeared as if the scene in Columbus had died.

Yet, I question whether the scene actually “died”. Did all the people so instrumental to dance music flourishing in our city in the 90s and early 00s leave the scene?  Did all the fans “grow up” and stop liking dance music? Sure some people did leave and others “grew up”, but the vast majority of people that held dance music so central to their lives never left. Consequently, all the know-how of how to build record labels, dance music crews, clubs, and build a scene from the ground up was still in the city. The rich traditions of how a scene is supposed to operate were not lost. The love of the music and the artists need to express themselves never waned.

The scene didn’t die in the early 2000s. The infrastructure of the scene just went into a period of dormancy. Dormancy is very different from death. A state of dormancy is characterized by re-grouping and contemplation that naturally comes about after a common routine has resulted in stagnancy. Activities continue, but in a much less pronounced way.  Death is, well, its death. An end of a form of expression or life. Culture doesn’t die. It carries on in the cracks of the system. After some 10-15 years of doing dance hard in Columbus, it was natural for the scene to shift into a slower, more underground phase as the popularity of dance music waned. However, expressing oneself through dance music did not die. The most visible organizations throwing parties became less active and many of the recognized venues had closed, but the infrastructure of the scene was still intact.  All the rhythms, know-how, and traditions were still used by people, but the scene had receded back into the cracks of the city.

Quickly after the disbanding of many of the most visible crews and clubs, other events and crews took their place. By 2006, Sweatin’, Squared nights at Bristol, Restart House, and other underground parties were regular events that gave DJs and fans a space to express themselves. The scene wasn’t filling the newport, Skully’s, or BOMA, but it certainly couldn’t be pronounced dead. A core group of new and older scene members took the lead and brought dance music back to a prominent place in Columbus nightlife. In the short period of 5 years, the Columbus scene went from dormancy to again having 5-10 dance events a week. Our scene is again pushing out in a multitude of directions. New routines have replaced the old. New crews have replaced the old. The dance and experimental electronic music community is again thriving and sharing their music with Columbus and the rest of the world. We have new events, radio shows, record labels that offer you the opportunity to get exposed to new sounds. We have a multitude of innovative, dedicated people still pushing the scene forward into new spaces and concepts. (Check out the links on sidebar to see all the different people working to make our scene great with video projects, record labels, record stores, and events).

What we can take away from this short history?

1.) Well, It is quite evident that dance music persists in Columbus because it matters to us and we want to share it with one another. We are the core elements of the infrastructure that give life to something bigger than our selves: a dance music community.  The boom/bust cycle may affect how many people show up, how many records one sells, or how cool someone may think you are, but there will always be a scene as long as people come together and use the music, ideas, and traditions we share.

2.) Having a scene go into a state of dormancy is not necessarily a bad thing.  Dormancy is vital for weathering those periods when dance music is unpopular in the mainstream and growth is hard to come by.  By receding back into the cracks of the city, we can regroup and find a ways to keep our community together when there is less support in the mainstream. Gauging back the frequency of events can also be really healthy and important for a scene to shed old routines and think about new ways to innovate. It can also help foster community and build the type of committment that is needed to push the scene out of dormancy and back into a prominent part in a cities night life.

I feel these two lessons are important, because they remind us that the scene is in our hands. Its not in the hands of abstract economic, political, and cultural forces. Sure, these influences shape what our scene looks like, but in the end its all on us. These lessons also prod us to have a more realistic assessment of our scene’s development. We do not need to be New York, LA, Las Vegas, Berlin, or London. We need to be the best version of Columbus that our city has ever scene. I for one feel lucky to be a part of our scene. Our community is constructed of a teflon-tough DIY fabric that has endured the tests of the Boom/Bust cycle.  We have done more with nothing than all those many market cities have done with immense financial resources.  Just look at all the dance music related record labels, radio shows, events, and organizations that are now active in our city. If that doesn’t give you faith in our community then I do not know what will.

Trademark G. & Frilly of Columbus based Evolution Control Committee have their own weekly radio show called The Sound of Plaid that airs every thursday. This week they had me on the show to talk Columbus electronic music history and to show a selection of some local Ohio artists I had been enjoying. I think the show is a great saturday morning listen to get you ready for the benefit show BLUR this Evening (For More Info CLICK HERE). We got a great line-up of artists for you including Mike Shiflet & Jeff Chenault, Trademark G., Textbeak, Aaron Austen & DJ Push, The Fallen (FBK & Plural), and FUNERALSEach artist gets around an hour. Each artist is given complete freedom to do what they want. That same spirit also pervades the guest spot I did on The Sound of Plaid. I brought a smattering of experimental, ambient, and dance tracks by local musicians that blur the boundaries of genre to show you and the rest of the world that our city does push musical boundaries.

Tracklisting:

1.) Evolution Control Comittee — Jessiematic
2.) Synek – Paradiba — Rano Records
3.) FBK – Nanofonque — Absoloop Records
4.) Plural – F*** It — Audio Textures Recordings
5.) Burgle – Pounder — Self-Released
6.) Mike Shiflet — Web Over Glen Echo — Self-Released
7.) Forest Management — A Sketch Of The Historical Pattern Of Blue Ocean Creation 
8.) Walleye – This Is Your Heart, This Is My House — Self Released
9.) Jeff Central/Chris Phinney — Thermal Blooming — World Records
10.) The Weird Lovemakers — Quiet Spillage
11.) FUNERALS — Boo Sra — Mishka
12.) OHIOAN — Microscopist — Self-Released
13.) Dirty Current — Anubis — Self-Released

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